Brenda K. Starr (b. Brenda Kaplan on 14 October 1966) is a pop/salsa singer from New York City, New York, United States who is best known for her 1988 hit single "I Still Believe". In recent years, Starr has switched her musical genre from pop music to salsa and has been nominated for two Grammy Awards for her salsa recordings.
Starr was born as Brenda Kaplan to a Jewish American father, organist Harvey Kaplan (also known as Harvey Kaye of the 1960s band the Spiral Starecase) and a Puerto Rican Roman Catholic mother.
In the early 1980s, through a chance meeting with Harry Belafonte, Starr landed a role in his 1984 hip hop film, Beat Street. Starr's appearance in the movie garnered attention, leading to a recording contract on Mirage Records, through Arthur Baker, who enlisted the help of two production teams to complete the album: Lotti Golden & Richard Scher, and Carl Sturken & Evan Rogers. The lead single, from (I Want Your Love) Starr's debut album, "Pickin' Up Pieces" written by Arthur Baker and Lotti Golden was a local club sensation and national hit, peaking at #9 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play Charts and on the Maxi Single's Chart. "Pickin' Up Pieces" also cracked the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs reaching number 83.
Starr's eponymous sophomore LP, released in 1987 on MCA, included, what is considered her signature song, the power ballad "I Still Believe", which peaked at number 13 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, becoming Starr's first and only top 20 single on the Hot 100. In 1998, Mariah Carey covered the song, which peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified platinum by the RIAA. The album also contained the club/dance smash "What You See is What You Get". The album peaked at #58 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Starr has had two top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100: "I Still Believe" (which peaked at #13) and "What You See is What You Get" (which peaked at #24 and at #6 on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play.
Her song "Sweet Surrender" was included in the soundtrack for the 1988 teen film License to Drive starring Corey Haim. Her Song "Sata" was on the soundtrack for the 1990 film Lambada. During the late 1980s, Mariah Carey sang background vocals for Starr, and Starr helped Carey secure a recording contract by giving a demo tape of hers to Columbia Records executive Tommy Mottola at a party. By 1991, Mariah Carey had become Sony/Columbia's star attraction, which caused Starr's career to shrink in terms of commercial success. After being dropped from Sony/Columbia Records for lackluster sales of her second album, By Heart, Starr worked odd jobs to support herself and her family for several years, including one at a shopping mall in New Jersey.
Starr successfully reinventing herself as a Salsa/Tropical and Latin Pop artist. After the release of her cover of Herida, (originally by Myriam Hernandez) which peaked at #16 on the Latin Pop Airplay and at #1 on the Latin Tropical/Salsa Airplay chart, she was on top again. Starr continued her success with a string of popular albums and chart hits.
Brenda was also a disc jockey at MIX 102.7, WNEW-FM, where she presented a request program "Under the Stars", from 9 p.m. to midnight on Sunday nights before it changed formats. It appeared to have helped her music career since her concerts have begun to sell even stronger than before. The lead single from her seventh album, Atrevete a Olvidarme, titled, "Tu Eres" earned her a nomination by the Billboard Latin Music Awards in 2006.
Starr has starred in several films, most notably in the 1980s urban film Beat Street, which had her portraying herself as a singer at an open-microphone audition.
In 2013, Starr returned with a bilingual cover of "Yo Te Estraño Tanto" (Miss You Like Crazy) which is a Batacha/Latin Pop song. She continues to be record and tour.