In the same year, Michael McDonald came into Jaki’s life looking for a female singer to accompany him on the track On My Own for his UK Tour. Michael, who has worked with some of the most influential names in showbiz, personally chose Jaki over a stream of UK female vocalists. After hearing her voice, he was quoted as saying that Jaki was ‘one of the best singers Britain has ever produced’. A deep friendship and mutual respect grew between the two artists and to this day, Jaki continues to be a special guest on the UK legs of Michael’s tours.
Towards the end of the 80’s, sales and figures provided by Billboard magazine had established Jaki as Britain’s most successful black female artist ever. Not surprisingly, Jaki’s success was not limited to the shores of the United Kingdom. People of every culture and language from every corner of the globe loved her natural vocal perfection. The distinct, powerful delivery, coupled with her warm and compassionate ease seemed to melt the barriers of language, colour and creed. Denmark, Germany, Japan, Australia, South Africa – places she had only ever dreamed of visiting – loved her and her fan base grew worldwide.
This marked a turning point and in Japan, Jaki was particularly successful. Her first album Real Life sold more than 800,000 copies in less than four weeks. Furthermore, tickets for her Japanese tour sold out in 20 minutes flat, outselling some of her well known US contemporaries. In true down to earth style, her reaction was simply, ‘For real?’. Real Life gave Jaki many international hit singles and elevated her status further. Ain’t Nobody did exceptionally well in the United States reaching No.1 in the Billboard dance charts for 5 weeks, with its impressive video directed by Antoine Fuqua, also rocketing to the Top 5 in the American Black Entertainment Charts (BET).
Ain’t Nobody, Absolute E-Sensual, Real Life and You Can Count On Me are outstanding tracks which were released in 1994. Jaki had effortlessly slipped into the 90’s era of music and as a result, won over a new legion of eager fans worldwide. Sales of Ain’t Nobody reached gold in Australia, Japan and the USA and her next album Best Shots released only in Japan, responded quickly to her popularity with a greatest hits album. Michael McDonald also contributed album tracks specifically for Jaki, with Through Your Eyes. When Jaki appeared on a German TV show with Boy George, he summed her up completely saying ‘You’ll never meet a harder working artist than Jaki Graham’.
In ‘95, Jaki released her next Japanese CD entitled Rhythm of Life, followed by My Life in ‘96 and Hold On in ‘98. Sweden also took a great interest in her by releasing singles unique only to that country with The Christmas Song and Seek and You Will Find, which are now rare and highly sought after by collectors. During this period, Motown signed the album Kiss the Sky, which featured Jaki on lead and backing vocals, and has since gone on to sell in excess of a million copies worldwide, meaning the girl from Handsworth was now officially Motown!