emerged as a prolific, consistently engaging vocalist on the urban contemporary scene. Born in New Jersey, Belle
's early experience was in gospel, though she was also attracted to R&B during her childhood. She studied trombone, tuba, and steel drums, and at 12 won a school contest singing the Emotions
' "Don't Ask My Neighbors." Belle
sang in a New Jersey vocal group, and studied opera and jazz in college. New York disc jockey Vaughn Harper
introduced her to the Manhattans
, and she began working as their opening act. Belle
recorded a duet with them, "Where Did We Go Wrong," that was produced by Bobby Womack
in 1986. She earned a solo Columbia contract in 1987, and the single "Please Be Mine" earned both praise and a number two R&B hit. A follow-up single, "So Many Tears," also made the R&B Top 20, and the hit "Without You," pairing her with Peabo Bryson
, was the only memorable thing about the film Leonard, Part 6
. Her second LP, Stay with Me
, secured her success, and she went on to earn more acclaim. Releasing Passion
in 1993, she returned five years later with Believe in Me
, which was followed by 2001's This Is Regina!
and 2004's Lazy Afternoon
returned to her gospel roots for 2008's Love Forever Shines, and had just begun a career shift to gospel when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor a year later in 2009. She underwent difficult and lengthy treatment, but recovered her health and released a second gospel album, Higher, in 2012.