Solange | Biography, Music, Art, Son, & Facts (2024)

American singer, songwriter and actress

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Also known as: Solange Knowles, Solange Piaget Knowles

Written by

Frannie Comstock Frannie Comstock is a writer based in Chicago.

Frannie Comstock

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Solange

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Also called:
Solange Knowles
In full:
Solange Piaget Knowles
Born:
June 24, 1986, Houston, Texas, U.S. (age 38)
Notable Works:
“A Seat at the Table”
Notable Family Members:
sister Beyoncé

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Solange (born June 24, 1986, Houston, Texas, U.S.) is an American multidisciplinary artist, perhaps best known as a singer, songwriter, choreographer, and actress but also widely celebrated as a visual and performance artist. She began her career at age 14 as a backup dancer for Destiny’s Child, which her elder sister, Beyoncé, helped found in the 1990s. In the 2000s and early ’10s Solange explored a variety of creative pursuits and achieved mainstream and critical success with her 2016 album, A Seat at the Table.

Early life and career

Solange was born Solange Piaget Knowles in Houston, five years after Beyoncé. They are the daughters of Tina (née Beyoncé) and Mathew Knowles (divorced 2011), the latter of whom in the 1990s helped Beyoncé form the musical group Girl’s Tyme, which would eventually be renamed Destiny’s Child. He became the group’s manager and later the manager of the solo careers of members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. Meanwhile, as a child, Solange planned to become a dancer, telling The New York Times Style Magazine in 2018, “My dream was to go to Juilliard.” She spent hours watching the TV series Fame and went to see Lauren Anderson, one of the first African Americans to become principal ballerina in a major company, at the Houston Ballet. When Rowland of Destiny’s Child was injured in 2000, Solange, at 14, served as a backup dancer for the group. When she herself was injured, Solange began writing songs, including the theme song for Disney Channel’s animated series The Proud Family (2001–05). Solange also contributed vocals and lyrics to Rowland’s 2002 album, Simply Deep.

Solo Star, acting career, and marriage to Daniel Smith

In 2002 Solange released her debut album, Solo Star, for which she wrote and coproduced several tracks. The album was executive produced by her father and features songs produced by Beyoncé, Timbaland, and Pharrell Williams. However, the album was relatively unsuccessful commercially, selling slightly more than 100,000 copies. In 2004 Solange made her feature film debut in Johnson Family Vacation, directed by Christopher Erskin. In 2006 she starred alongside Hayden Panettiere in Bring It On: All or Nothing, the third film in the franchise. Between films, Solange married her high-school sweetheart Daniel Smith in 2004 and later that year gave birth to their son Daniel Julez Smith, Jr. The family moved to Idaho while Smith attended college, and Solange cowrote the songs “Bad Habit” (2004) for Destiny’s Child as well as “Upgrade U” and “Get Me Bodied” for Beyoncé’s 2006 album, B’Day.

Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams and True

Solange and Smith divorced in 2007, and she returned to recording music in 2008 with the release of her second album, Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams. The lyrics of the opening song, “God Given Name,” address the public’s comparison of herself to Beyoncé: “Let my starlight shine on its own / No, I’m no sister / I’m just my God given name.” The album was critically and commercially successful, reaching the ninth spot on the Billboard 200 chart. Solange began working on the follow-up soon after and switched record labels. She later described how she experienced panic attacks during the recording of the the EP True, released in 2012. Solange wrote each song on the EP with Devonté Hynes, known for his work under the pseudonym Blood Orange as well as his writing for artists such as Carly Rae Jepsen and Sky Ferreira. However, it did not perform well, hitting only 157 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Marriage to Alan Ferguson and physical altercation with Jay-Z

In 2014 Solange married music video director Alan Ferguson. Earlier that year she had gained unwanted attention when American celebrity news website TMZ.com released surveillance footage of an elevator at a Met Gala after-party showing Solange in a physical altercation with her brother-in-law, Jay-Z, while Beyoncé looked on. Days after the video was made public, the trio issued to the Associated Press a statement saying, “Jay and Solange each assume their share of responsibility for what has occurred. They both acknowledge their role in this private matter that has played out in the public. They both have apologized to each other and we have moved forward as a united family.”

A Seat at the Table

Solange’s commercial breakthrough came in 2016 with her album A Seat at the Table, which reached the top spot on the Billboard 200 chart. That year Beyoncé also had a number one album, Lemonade, and the two became the first sisters to both individually earn a chart-topping album on the Billboard 200. Solange’s album was praised for its examination of the Black experience in America. “F.U.B.U.” stood out for its treatment of police brutality, while “Don’t Touch My Hair” was lauded for its celebration of Black beauty. The album includes vocal work from guest artists including Lil Wayne, Q-Tip, and Kelly Rowland. “Don’t Touch My Hair” and “Cranes in the Sky” both charted on the Billboard Hot 100, at 91 and 74, respectively. The latter won best R&B performance at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards.

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Performance art

In 2017 Solange began experimenting with performance art, creating An Ode To, a piece set to new versions of songs from A Seat at the Table and to her own choreography. The performance took place in the spiral atrium of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum, New York City, and received widespread praise. Her next piece, Metatronia (Metatron’s Cube), premiered at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, in 2018. The short film explores the relationship between movement and constructed spaces. Other performance pieces include Witness! (2019) at the Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg; Bridge-s (2019) at the Getty Center, Los Angeles; and In Past Pupils and Smiles (2019) at the Venice Biennale.

When I Get Home and Play Time

In 2019 Solange separated from Ferguson. That same year she released her fourth album, When I Get Home, and an accompanying 33-minute short film of the same name. The project was heavily influenced by her Texas roots, and, to celebrate the release, Solange hosted nine simultaneous screenings across Houston’s Third Ward, the historically African American neighborhood where she grew up. In 2021 the director’s cut of the film became available to stream on the Criterion Channel. The following year Solange created a jazz score for Play Time, a performance by New York City Ballet (NYCB) that premiered at the 2022 Fall Fashion Gala. She was the second Black woman to have a score commissioned for the NYCB (the first was Colombian musician Lido Pimienta, who composed the score for sky to hold, the prior year).

Saint Heron and other projects

In 2013 Solange founded Saint Heron, an online community whose mission is to preserve and elevate Black and brown voices. That same year she created a compilation album titled Saint Heron, featuring music by artists BC Kingdom, Kelela, and Sampha. Over the years the project grew and began hosting events and lectures as well as staging exhibitions. In 2021 Solange announced that she would expand Saint Heron to become a multidisciplinary platform, studio, and creative agency. Projects done under the banner of Saint Heron include Small Matter Art Objects, a limited-edition glassware collection that Solange released in 2023.

Frannie Comstock The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

Solange | Biography, Music, Art, Son, & Facts (2024)

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