Destiny's Child - Biography
By David Downs
R&B girl group Destiny’s Child came out of the Houston rap scene in the early 1990s, logging hundreds of hours dancing, singing, and rapping onstage before signing to Columbia in 1998 and releasing their debut album, Destiny's Child (1998 Columbia). Composed of Texas natives Beyoncé Knowles, Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams, and formerly LeToya Luckett (1993 - 2000), LaTavia Roberson (1993 - 2000), and Farrah Franklin (1999 - 2000), the histrionic girl group produced four albums of original material and sold more than 40 million records. Roberson and Tuckett left in a legal feud in 2000, and group leader Knowles brought in Williams and Franklin, but by that point Destiny’s Child was overshadowed by Knowles luminous solo career as the mononymously famous Beyoncé. Destiny's Child retired after 2004’s Destiny Fulfilled (2004 Columbia).
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles was born on September 4, 1981 to a record manager father, Mathew Knowles, and a costume designer/hair stylist mother, Tina Beyincé. Knowles entered her first talent show at seven with a rendition of John Lennon's “Imagine” and, of course, won. By 1990, Knowles was enrolled in a music magnet school in Houston, and later a performing arts-focused high school. Her parents placed her in a girls group called Gyrls Tyme, adding friend LaTavia Roberson and later Beyoncé 's cousin Kelendria “Kelly” Rowland in 1992.
Gyrls Tyme made their national debut on the television show Star Search, but they lost and Knowles felt crushed. In 1993, LeToya Luckett joined the group and soon the pre-pubescent gang were touring and opening for SWV, Dru Hill, and Immature. By the age of 12, Beyoncé had a boyfriend whom she would stay with for seven years. In 1996, Mathew Knowles quit his day job to manage the girls full-time and they signed with Columbia Records in 1997. Renamed Destiny’s Child after a bible passage, Columbia released their first song, “Killing Time,” on the soundtrack to the film Men in Black. For their full album, Columbia hired Wyclef Jean, Jermaine Dupri, and Corey Rooney. The single “No, No, No” became a Hot R&B/hip-hop Singles number one in 1997 and again in 1998, while the album, Destiny's Child (1998 Columbia), cracked The Billboard 100 at number 67.
Producers Kevin “Shekspere” Biggs, Rodney Jerkins, Dwayne Wiggins, Chad Elliot, Daryl Simmons, and Missy Elliott were all brought in for the 1999 follow-up album, The Writing’s on the Wall (1999 Columbia), which turned up as a Billboard 200 number five with single “Bills, Bills, Bills” again hitting number one on the Hot R&B/hip-hop Singles chart. The song is a retort to men who don’t pay their own way – the first of many hit singles dedicated to female empowerment. Codependent ode “Say My Name” also hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100, but trouble loomed. After growing up together, Destiny’s Child was secretly coming apart.
In December of 1999, Roberson and Luckett tried to fire manager Mathew Knowles. The “Say My Name” video debuted in February of 2000 with two new members, Michelle Williams and Farrah Franklin, in the place of Robertson and Luckett. The jilted members sued in March, but it only fueled interest in the single “Jumpin, Jumpin” (a Top 40 number one) and The Writing’s on the Wall sold more than eight million copies. “Say My Name” went to number two on the Top 40, which was a new peak for the band.
Roberson and Luckett settled out of court and dropped the part of the suit targeting their former bandmates. Both sides also agreed to stop disparaging each other in public. In July, Franklin left the group due to the general negativity and feelings of powerlessness in deciding the group’s future. Beyoncé has said that she settled into a deep depression at this time over her future, and the loss of her childhood friends and boyfriend of seven years.
Still, the group appeared on the soundtrack to the film Charlie’s Angels with “Independent Women Part I” in 2000. The song spent eleven weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, leaving behind any notions of being a mere hip-hop group. Destiny’s Child would never be the same afterward. The recording sessions for the next album were dominated by Beyoncé’s songwriting and production efforts, either co-writing or co-producing almost every song on the record. Survivor (2001 Columbia) was their first Billboard 200 number one, selling more than four million units. The stand-out single, “Surivor,” sounds a lot like an attack on Beyoncé’s former bandmates – so much so that they filed suit against her in 2002. Still, “Bootylicious” became a Billboard Hot 100 number one.
The band threw together 8 Days of Christmas (2001 Sony), which drew less sales than prior releases, but the 2002 Grammy Awards endowed Beyoncé with her first Grammy for “Say My Name.” This Is the Remix (2002 Columbia) only hit number 29 on the Billboard 200 and it was overshadowed by Roberson and Luckett “Survivor” suit.
Williams released a solo gospel album, Heart to Yours (2002 Sony), in April of 2002 and Rowland recorded a duet with Nelly called “Dilemma.” Also in 2002, Beyoncé debuted on-screen as Foxxy Cleopatra in the Mike Myers’ movie Austin Powers in Goldmember, which raked in $73.1 million in its first weekend. She also performed two solo songs for the movie soundtrack and began dating hip-hop mogul Jay-Z after she appeared on his song “'03 Bonnie & Clyde.”
Rowland’s solo debut, Simply Deep (2002 Columbia), appeared in late 2002 and she went on to debut in the horror flick Freddy Vs. Jason. In 2003, Beyoncé solo debut, Dangerously in Love (2003 Columbia), sold 317,000 copies in its first week and the album’s lead single, “Crazy in Love,” spent eight weeks at number one. Beyoncé looked back one last time with Destiny Fulfilled (2004 Columbia), recorded in three weeks and produced by Beyoncé, Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams, and Mathew Knowles in 2004. Beyoncé was the key producer however, and Destiny Fulfilled went to number two while the single “Soldier” made it to the Top 40 number four spot. Beyoncé then married Jay-Z in a private ceremony. During the subsequent Grammy awards, Knowles took home five trophies for her solo work. The ladies played their final show in Vancouver.
#1's (2005 Columbia), a collection of number one hits, made it to number one on the Billboard 200 in 2005. In 2006, Beyoncé released B’Day (2006 Sony), her second solo album. It debuted at number one with the single “Irreplaceable” becoming her fourth number one single as a solo artist. At the 2007 Grammys, she won for Best Contemporary R&B Album.
Among Destiny's Child's more successful side projects, Beyoncé portrayed what ostensibly is Diana Ross in the musical film adaptation Dreamgirls. She also played lead in the MTV film Carmen: A Hip Hopera and starred opposite Cuba Gooding, Jr. in the 2003 comedy The Fighting Temptations. The group has since announced it is reuniting in 2013, already having released a new single "Nuclear," as part of an upcoming compliation.