Born Brenda Shannon Greene in 1958, Shannon spent her childhood years in Washington, D.C., and New York City's Brooklyn borough. While attending college, she joined the New York Jazz Ensemble as a singer, which led to a chance meeting with drummer Lenny White and some recording sessions. One single, 1983's "Let the Music Play," was issued on the New York-based dance label Emergency as a 12" single with Shannon listed as the artist. Produced by Mark Liggett and Chris Barbosa, the track's heavy upfront staccato beats and synth bass marked it as an early freestyle single. The record became a monster club hit, pumped its way up to the pop Top Ten, and sold a million copies. Shannon's debut album, Let the Music Play, was issued on Mirage in February 1984 and went gold, peaking at number 32 pop in March 1984. Shannon followed that up with the Top Ten R&B hit "Give Me Tonight," as well as "My Heart's Divided."