Serenading the charts with his velvet croon and smooth, suave, gooey-eyed, soul ballads, Maxwell's sensual, R&B anthems made him a hearthrob and provided a soundtrack for a generation of wannabe Casanovas. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Gerald Maxwell Rivera grew up singing in local church choirs and performed at small venues around the city for years before signing to Columbia Records in 1994. A breakthrough performance on BET's In Your Ear show helped single Ascension (Don't Ever Wonder) become a big soul-pop favourite and debut album Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite (1996) drew comparisons with Marvin Gaye, Prince and Stevie Wonder. His mellow, romantic grooves and confessional, personal songwriting saw him classified as part of a neo-soul movement alongside the likes of Erykah Badu, D'Angelo and R. Kelly. After an acclaimed session for MTV Unplugged, his album Embrya (1998) shot to Number 3 in the charts. His track Fortunate for the Eddie Murphy movie Life won the Billboard Music Award for R&B Single of the Year (1999) and became a top five hit; and Now (2001) gave him his first US Number 1 album. After that, however, Maxwell slipped away and took an eight year sabbatical from the music business. He returned to the top of the charts with the Grammy Award-winning BLACKSummer'snight (2009) and remains one of America's leading soul stars and an influence on a new generation of artists, including Frank Ocean, Alicia Keys, Chris Brown and Aloe Blacc.