As a journalist for more than three decades, I crossed paths with a lot of compelling characters and more than a few scoundrels, but I have never met anyone more inspirational than Janiva Magness.
Magness is a brilliant, award-winning blues artist who wins universally rave reviews for her CDs and live performances, but she endured so much tragedy and pain in her life that one has to wonder how she survived at all, let alone flourished.
Born 55 years ago into a Detroit family with two alcoholic parents, Janiva felt alienated and deeply depressed from a young age.
By the age of six, she was being sexually molested by one of her older brothers. Three of her four siblings would become serious substance abusers, as would Janiva.
When Janiva was 13, her mother killed herself. That’s when she began drinking heavily, using drugs and hanging out with abusive older men.
Three years later, her father, an ex-Detroit patrolman she still loves despite the fact he often beat her when she was a kid, took his life.
Janiva was now alone in the world. As a ward of the state, she was shuffled in and out of 12 foster homes and three psychiatric hospitals in two years. Read More