Cree Summer, or Cree Summer Francks (born July 7, 1969) is an American actress, musician, and Emmy Award nominated voice actress. Her father is famed Canadian actor Don Francks, and her mother is Lili Red Eagle, a member of the Plains Cree First Nation. Her brother is former Much Music VJ Rainbow Sun Francks of Stargate Atlantis. She was born in Los Angeles, California, but grew up on an Indian reserve in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Summer’s career began in 1983 when she was cast as the voice of niece Penny on the original cartoon version of Inspector Gadget. Her unique, throaty voice was instantly recognizable to casting agents (as well as viewers even today), who began frequently casting her in animated programs. Many of these were part of cult franchises, like The Care Bears Movie and Ewoks. Audiences finally had a chance to put Summer’s voice to a face when she was cast as the afrocentric Winifred "Freddie" Brooks in the Cosby Show spin-off A Different World. She remained a regular cast member of the show from 1988 through its end in 1993.
In all, Summer has voiced over 70 animated characters between 1983 and 2006, many of them African-American girls. Summer has also ventured into the realm of music. In 1990, she sang background vocals on two tracks for fellow A Different World cast member Jasmine Guy‘s self titled LP. In 1993 she released an album (as lead singer) with her band Subject to Change. The album was not officially released by Capitol Records because of creative differences; the records that were produced were distributed promotionally and are considered a rarity. The band, with an aggressive political message and rock-soul fusion sound, remained popular as a co-headlining act with other performers.
In 1999 Summer released the solo album Street Faërie produced by and featuring guest artist (and friend) Lenny Kravitz; The album was not hugely successful. Summer toured as Kravitz’s opening act, but her label dropped her and a planned spot with Lilith Fair was cancelled. The label continued to promote it, however, sending out a four-track sampler to radio and issuing remix singles of the track "Revelation Sunshine" in Europe, with a special single specifically for Austria.
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