Martha Carmen Josephine Hernandéz Rosario de Veléz (born August 25, 1945 in New York City) is an American singer and actress of Puerto Rican descent. Veléz is the former wife of famous trumpet player Keith Johnson. Her son is performance artist,writer/poet, singer, Taj Johnson. Taj appeared as series regular for two years on Parker Lewis Can't Lose. Her brother is the famous percussionist, Gerardo Velez, who has worked with Spyro Gyra, Patti LaBelle, Jimi Hendrix and Van Morrison.
Veléz started singing at 5 years old and won an opera scholarship at 12 years old, being a mezzo soprano. She studied for 3 years then went to the High School of Performing Arts in New York City. She holds a Masters Degree from Antioch University in Clinical Psychology and a Ph.D. from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Cultural Mythology and Depth Psychology. She is a founding Fellow of the Imaginal Institute of Ojai, California. As a playwright, she wrote the award-winning play, Power of the Powerless. She continues to use her brilliant voice as a singer for good will and social change.
She began her recording career with the prominent folk singing group The Gaslight Singers on Mercury Records. She was the female singer with Earl Mann, Al Alcabes and Jeff Hyman.
Veléz released her debut blues/rock album Fiends And Angels on the Sire/Blue Horizon Records label in 1969; the album also features Eric Clapton. Christine McVie, pianist (Fleetwood Mac) guitarist Al Anderson also worked with her. In May 1975 she travelled to Jamaica for three weeks to record with reggae star Bob Marley. She is the only American artist for whom Marley functioned as musical producer - the results were "Escape From Babylon." Also, producer Craig Leon greatly contributed to this association. He asked Marley about doing the music with her; Marley listened to her composition, "Living Outside the Law" from her 1972 album, "Hypnotized", on the strength of having a philosophical kinship with her along with her extraordinary voice. Marley's very positive response took them into the studio with his earlier producer Lee "Scratch" Perry to work on producing Veléz's album Escape From Babylon in 1976. The album also featured two Marley covers (Bend Down Low, Get Up, Stand Up) and a Veléz-Marley composing collaboration Disco Night. The songwriting credits were given to Rita Marley because of Marley's dispute with his publishers at the time.
After Escape From Babylon Veléz released two further albums, American Heartbeat (1977) and the compilation Angels Of The Future Past (1989), which did not include any songs from American Heartbeat because the masters were missing at the time. She then resumed her career as an actress which began as the lead in Hair on Broadway. She moved on to movies and TV series. She was a series regular in the Norman Lear sitcom AKA Pablo in 1984 and played a recurring role in Falcon Crest (1986). In 1997 she acted in One Eight Seven along with Samuel L. Jackson. She also worked in films with Julianne Moore (Safe), Halle Berry and Patrick Swayze (Fatherhood), Dennis Hopper (Nails),and played a lead role in the (Sundance) winner Star Maps directed by Miguel Arteta produced by Mathew Greenfield.
1969 - Fiends & Angels
1971 - Hypnotized
1973 - Matinee Weepers
1976 - Escape From Babylon
The Lost Wailer's Album of Martha Velez