New Jack Swinger Bobby Brown was born Robert Barisford Brown on February 5, 1969, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Herbert James Brown and Carole Elizabeth Williams Brown and reared in a family of eight children in Orchard Park Housing Projects in the Roxbury section of the city. Brown began singing in the church choir and at 12, he formed an ensemble with his friends Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Ralph Tresvant, and Ronnie DeVoe. Calling themselves New Edition, they—after winning several talent shows—were discovered by producer and talent scout Maurice Starr, who landed them a recording contract with a small label called Streetwise in 1983.
In 1986, Brown left the New Edition for a musical career as a soloist. His first album was King of Stage, which sold modestly. However, the ballad “Girlfriend” peaked at no. 1 on the R&B chart. In 1988, Brown’s second album Don’t Be Cruel peaked at no. 13 on the Billboard 200 Album chart and remained there for 16 weeks. It eventually sold 12 million copies and was the bestselling album of the year. That same year, “My Prerogative” reached no. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1989, Brown scored four hits. “On Our Own” reached no. 4 on the R&B chart, “Rock Wit’cha” reached no. 33, “Roni” peaked at no. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart while “Every Little Step” peaked at no.6 on that chart.
“Every Little Step” garnered Brown “Best R&B Vocal Performance Male” at the 32nd Annual Grammy Awards in 1989 and the album Every Little Step won the Soul Train Music Award for “Best R&B/Soul Album – Male.” In 1990, Brown won the American Music Award for “Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist” and “Favorite Soul/R&B Album” for Don’t Be Cruel.
On July 18, 1992, Brown and Whitney Houston were married in Mendham, New Jersey, at Houston’s mansion. They parented a daughter Bobbi Kristina Houston Brown who committed suicide in 2015. His single “Humpin’ Around” from his third album Bobby was also released and peaked at no. 8 on the R&B chart. It also sold 2 million copies and was nominated for “Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male” at the 35th Annual Grammy Awards.
Houston died in 2012 and later that year Brown married Alicia Etheridge in Hawaii, a Howard University graduate from Culver City, California. The couple had two daughters, Bodhi Jameson Rein Brown and Hendrix Estelle Sheba Brown. Other children from previous relationships were Cassius Brown, LaPrincia Brown, Landon Brown, and Robert Brown Jr.
In 2018, Brown received the “Every Little Step” with an official proclamation from Mayor Bill Edwards of South Fulton, Georgia. And in 2021, Boston’s Acting Mayor Kim Janey dedicated Bobby Brown Way, a street in Roxbury, honoring chart-topping soloist Bobby Brown.