Jennifer Jean Warnes (born March 3, 1947 in Seattle, Washington) is an American singer and songwriter. She was told by industry advisers that Warnes was too difficult a name and that she should change it to a more common Warren. This eventually led to confusion with actress Jennifer Warren. So she adopted the stage name “Jennifer” (no last name) briefly in the 1960s, and subsequently returned to her true name “Jennifer Warnes” as her professional name.
Her desire and ability to sing came early and at age seven she was offered her first recording contract which her father turned down. However, she did make a spectacular professional debut. Wrapped in the American flag, and accompanied by 300 accordions, nine-year-old Warnes sang “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium.
After graduating from high school she was offered an opera scholarship but chose to sing folk songs. In 1968 she signed with Parrot Records (a Decca subsidiary) and recorded her first LP. That same year, she joined the cast of the television show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
In November 1968, Warnes (known then as “Jennifer Warren”) signed on to play the female lead, “Sheila” in the Los Angeles, California production of the stage musical Hair.
In 1970 she met Canadian poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen who profoundly influenced her career. She would eventually tour Europe with Cohen’s band as a back-up singer and would record guest vocals for Cohen's albums Live Songs, Various Positions, I'm Your Man, and The Future. Cohen's Recent Songs included a duet on “The Smokey Life”. In January 1987, Warnes released her album Famous Blue Raincoat: Songs of Leonard Cohen.
Her 1977 single. “Right Time of the Night” brought her wide acclaim with the song going to number one on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary Singles chart. The song also plays in the background of one of the scenes from “When Harry Met Sally”.
In 1980 she sang the Academy Award winner for Best Original Song, “It Goes Like It Goes” from the motion picture Norma Rae (1979).
Warnes’ 1981 song, “One More Hour”, composed by Randy Newman and recorded as part of the soundtrack album from the motion picture Ragtime, was nominated for an Academy Award.
The following year she teamed up with Joe Cocker to sing Buffy Sainte-Marie’s song, “Up Where We Belong”. Written for the motion picture, An Officer and a Gentleman, the song would be released as a single and hit number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. In 1983 she and Cocker won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for “Up Where We Belong”, while earning the songwriters (Buffy Sainte-Marie and Will Jennings) the Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
In 1987, at the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles, she sang female background vocals with k.d. lang and Bonnie Raitt for Roy Orbison’s television special, A Black and White Night.
That same year her duet with Bill Medley for “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”, was included on the Dirty Dancing motion picture soundtrack album and reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 as a single. The song won the 1988 Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
She performed many songs for film and sang a duet with B. J. Thomas for the theme song for Growing Pains.