Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Waters is the daughter of Betty and Junior Waters, a famed jazz musician; her great aunt, Ethel Waters, was one of the first African-American vocalists to appear in mainstream Hollywood musicals. The family lived in New Jersey for a while but they again moved to Washington, D.C.. At age eleven she began writing poetry and took her writing seriously enough to be inducted into the American Poetry Society when she was 14, the youngest person ever to receive that honor.
She studied business and computer science at Howard University, but her creative work dropped off as she found less time for it. After earning her college degree in 1985, Waters secured a job as a computer technician with the Washington, D.C. parole board, making a living that would support her two children.
Waters first approached the music world in 1987 as a behind-the-scenes worker, writing demos for a production team known as the Basement Boys, securing a writing contract with Mercury Records in 1989 and began penning songs for recording artists.
In one of her assignments Waters penned a song called "Gypsy Woman" for dance diva Ultra Naté and recorded a demo cut herself of the song. The producers were so taken by her rendition that they drew up a recording contract with her for that one song, never passing it on to Ultra Naté.
The song became a worldwide hit, memorable for its "la da dee, la dee da" refrain and its often sampled keyboard riff. The track reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100, and found even more success in Europe, reaching #2 on the UK Singles Chart. Scarcely a year after its release, a new version turned up on the Red Hot Organization's Red Hot + Dance AIDS fundraiser disc (1992, distributed by Sony Music), gaining its remixer (Joey Negro) his first real American exposure.
Despite some additional contributions by remixer Steve "Silk" Hurley, Waters' next releases were promoted only in the dance music markets, but she made an unexpected mainstream comeback in 1994 when the song "100% Pure Love" hit #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became one of the longest charting singles on the Hot 100 at 45 weeks ("Gypsy Woman" remained on the chart for an average 16 weeks). Along with the single, the singer released her second album Storyteller, which sold over 284,000 copies in United States.
In 1996, Waters participated in the AIDS-Benefit Album Red Hot + Rio produced by the Red Hot Organization, performing the song "The Boy From Ipanema".
Her 1997 self-titled album included another Top 40 US hit, "Say...If You Feel Alright," but mainstream success in the US has since eluded her. However, Waters remains successful on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play and the Hot Dance Airplay charts with recent hits like "Come On Down" and "My Time," both of which peaked at #1, the latter making top 40 in the UK. "Gypsy Woman"'s keyboard-chord was recently sampled on rapper T.I.'s 2006 mega-hit "Why You Wanna."
Also, as a side project, Crystal Waters wrote and voiced a single called "Right and Exact" under the alias Chrissy Ward in 1998.
In 2007 Waters finally embarked on a world tour, performing sold out shows in Russia, Egypt, the United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico and Dubai, among other locations. Also that year her track "Destination Calabria" hit the Top 10 on the UK Singles Chart.
In May 2008, Waters issued the single "Dancefloor", giving Waters yet another Top 10 Dance hit.
"Never Enough" hit #20 on the US Dance Charts in February 2009.
In popular culture
The song "Gypsy Woman" was parodied in the memorable sketch "My Songs Are Mindless (I Should Be Homeless)" (performed by Kim Wayans) on the television series In Living Color in late 1991. Wayans skewered the song's simple rhythm and melody by singing "Hey look at that it's Fred and the Flintstones! That's a song now, I got a song now: Yabba Dabba Doo Yabba Dabba Da, Yabba Dabba Doo Yabba Dabba Da...." The clip from the comedy show would later sometimes show up mixed into Waters' own composition at gay clubs with video screens, showing Waters had a sense of humor about it.