In the late '80s and early '90s, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds became a stunning force in soul and pop music, writing and producing hits for Bobby Brown, Pebbles, Johnny Gill, TLC, Usher, Toni Braxton, Madonna and many more. By the late '90s, his talents were so established that, when The Tony Rich Project dropped debut single "Nobody Knows," you'd be forgiven for thinking it was Face himself.
But the Detroit-born Rich was something of an heir to Edmonds. He started out as a writer for LaFace Records, the label Edmonds founded with Antonio "L.A." Reid, where he'd work with TLC, Boyz II Men and others, honing his craft as a writer, instrumentalist and producer. By the time he started out as a singer, he was ready to capture everyone's attention.
The plaintive tones of "Nobody Knows," from Rich's heartfelt vocal to the track's gentle acoustic guitar, made the song a heartbreak anthem for the ages. Audiences helped the song soar to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 (kept from the top by Celine Dion's "Because You Loved Me"), and Rich took home a Grammy Award for his debut Words, winning Best R&B Album. (The singer also was nominated for several more trophies, including Best New Artist.)
While Rich never had another single climb the charts as high, "Nobody Knows" will long remain a song that every lover of heartfelt soul does know.