Vernon Reid was born in England but spent most of his childhood in Brooklyn, New York, where he grew up listening to an electric variety of pop music ranging from Dionee Warwick's hits to the Temptations Psychedelic Shack. At the age 15, inspired by the example of Cárlos Santana, Vernon's career as a guitarist began.
"He was a guitarist who brought his ethnic background to rock and roll", Vernon says of Santana, "he made music that was a distinct hybrid but was accepted as rock music".
Vernon, who attended Brooklyn Tech, had the opportunity to study guitar privately with jazz masters Rodney Jones and Ted Dunbar.
In the early 1980's while working with jazz drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society, Vernon's reputation began to grow. When Vernon was not busy mastering the harmolodic theories of Ornette Coleman as a guitarist of the Decoding Society, he spent his time gigging with a wide array of artists ranging from pop producer Kashif to the jazz-punk-dance band Defunkt.
Living Colour began as a trio in 1984. Around the same time, Reid and journalist Greg Tate formed the Black Rock Coalition.
In many ways, Living Colour is the embodiment of the coalition's stated goal: a new freedom of expression for black musicians.
Living Colour has released four albums: the ground breaking Vivid, released in 1988, the critically acclaimed follow-up, Time's Up, in 1990 Ep, Biscuits, and the latest LP, Stain, released in 1993.
Living Colour has sold over four million records worldwide, they have won numerous awards including two Grammy Awards, two MTV Music Video Awards, two International Rock Awards and several New York Music Awards.
Since the formation of Living Colour, Vernon has appeared as a guest guitarist on the records of a many diverse artists: Jack DeJohnette, Public Enemy, B.B. King, The Ramones, Mariah Carey, Mick Jagger, Tracy Chapman, Eye & I, Family Stand, Carlos Santana, and others.
Vernon has also composed music for the Marlies Yearby Dance Co., and choreographer Ralph Lemon.
Recently, Vernon scored the music for the film "Fresh Kill", directed by Shu Lea Cheang, which premiered at the Berlin film Festival. He has composed for the film by Roberto Longo, starring Keanu Reeves, "Johnny Mnemonic".
Vernon has also composed "Here", a piece for Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company which was presented at the Next Wave Festival at BAM in November 1994.
In January 1995, Vernon disbanded Living Colour in order to pursue several new projects. He has been working with some of the most exciting musicians in New York in a band he called Masque, which Vernon describes as "the place where rock, jazz, hip-hop and technology meet".
Vernon worked also on a multi-media presentation titled "My Science Project" which debuted at the Knitting Factory in July 1995.
In December 1995, Vernon completed work on his first post-Living Colour record, tentatively titled Mistaken Identity, which he co-produced with the renowned jazz producer Teo Macero, long associated with Miles Davis among many others, and Prince Paul Houston, one of the premier producers of hip-hop and rap music, who has worked with De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and The GraveDigga's.
In January 1996, Vernon received a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Instrumental for his composition Every Now & Then, which appeared on the Santana retrospective box-set Dance of the Rainbow Serpent in 1995.