Tanya’s Story


When she first moved to the New York City area, Tanya Diona’s goal was not to record her own album independently. It was to steal her band back from Rick James. True story.

She had worked very hard to earn the privilege of having such incredible musicians in her band. They had just crafted a concert-style live show, and were starting to introduce original material. Her sound was defined by a unique, heavy thumping, Buffalo-Funk style. When several band members, and ultimately her vocal arranger and writing partner, went back out on the road with Rick, she set out on a mission to show that “Rick James” a thing or two. In all fairness, those musicians had worked with him long before Tanya had ever known them, but this set her on the path to New York City. There, she harnessed all her frustration and used it to propel herself towards success, eventually singing for an impressive list of notable artists, producers, and TV shows including Showtime at the Apollo, American Idol, Barack Obama’s televised inaugural ball, the Grammy Awards, and the Oscars.

Upon her initial arrival in New York, Tanya worked as much as she could. She recorded demos, and wrote and recorded with many accomplished producers and writers including Full Force. She marched to label after label, event after event, recorded new songs, worked a day job, studied acting, and sang in clubs and at open mics – all the while honing her craft.

Rick James’s death was monumental. Tanya traveled back to Buffalo for his funeral, where thousands came to pay their respects. She was reunited with countless musicians and friends, several of whom were members of Rick James’s Stone City Band. There at his funeral, she recalls marveling at how the King of Punk Funk had such an incredible influence over her life. The memorial concert that followed became the main inspiration for her song “Family Reunion.” Rick James’s musicians (including those members of Tanya Diona’s own band) played all day long, while Tanya and many other singers and musicians took turns performing with them for a sea of people dancing and singing along. It was a celebration of Rick James’s life and music. For Tanya, he offered hope. He proved that musicians from Buffalo could achieve success. As described in her song, she remembers that concert like a grand family reunion.

Reunited with her musicians and their signature sound, she was inspired to record her own debut album (Nothing To Prove, Something To Say) with several songs giving a specific nod lyrically, musically, and stylistically to Rick James and Teena Marie. That album’s liner notes (released 2010) list Teena Marie first among Tanya’s most inspirational artists, followed by Rick James and others.

Currently, Tanya is thrilled to be a part of performances with members of Rick James’s Original Stone City Band, both as a backing vocalist and stepping forward to sing lead on Teena Marie songs. It is Tanya’s great privilege to pay tribute to both Rick and Teena, alongside Paul Anthony of Full Force, in their own new remake of “Fire and Desire.” Their dramatic and passionate embodiment of this epic soul ballad has been greeted with the cheers and standing ovation of thousands. Their studio recording marks the first release of this iconic song as a single. Tanya is honored beyond words to be a part of this momentous event.