While still in elementary school, Howard moved to Los Angeles with her mom. At the age of 15, she performed in a teen pageant. After the show, she met Side Effect member Augie Johnson, who happened to be in the audience and began working with Howard creatively. After a period of time, Howard became a Side Effect member -- upon the departure of Sylvia St. James. Howard's tenure with the group lasted a few years. During this time, she also had two children by Johnson. In addition to singing with Side Effect, she did background vocals for Wayne Henderson, Roy Ayers, Stanley Turrentine, and several other artists.
After leaving Side Effect, Howard signed a deal with Atlantic. Her first hit for the label was the Billboard R&B Top Ten single "Come Share My Love." She followed that with the remake of Glenn Miller's 1940 hit "Imagination." Her success continued with two more Top Ten singles, "Baby Be Mine" and "That's What Love Is." The latter was a duet with Gerald Levert and was the result of the creative union Howard formed with Marc Gordon and Levert. Howard and Levert later became romantically involved, and that romance spawned one of Howard's biggest hits, "Love Under New Management." The song was written during their brief love affair, but was released after their romance had dissolved.
In 1990, Howard signed a deal with Giant, which facilitated the release of her number one smash hit "Ain't Nobody Like You." Howard's lifeline at Giant was cut short due to an altercation her husband had at the label. She also made an appearance as Billie Holiday in a club scene in the Spike Lee movie Malcom X. Howard continued to issue albums throughout the '90s and early 2000s, a few of them heavy on -- or wholly reliant upon -- covers. Her releases during these years included Femme Fatale (1992), Shining Through (1993), Live Plus (1996), Can't Count Me Out (1997), Three Wishes (2001), and Pillow Talk (2006). ~ Craig Lytle, Rovi