Soul Serenade: The 8th Day, “She’s Not Just Another Woman”

The 8th DayAfter nine years and well over 400 columns, I’ve decided to change Soul Serenade from a weekly to an occasional column. Obviously, there are more than enough classic soul records to fuel a column like this for a lifetime but the truth is that while the column’s title mentions a specific song what I’ve really been doing is telling the stories of the artists behind the songs. And while many artists had multiple hits, how many times can you tell the same story? Are there artists who I’ve never covered? Of course. The 8th Day is one such group and I’ll certainly find more. But the fact is they’re harder to come by on a weekly basis. I hope you’ll continue to join me on this journey albeit on a bit more infrequent basis.

In 1967, the songwriting and production team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland left Motown in an acrimonious dispute with Motown owner Berry Gordy, Jr. The trio formed their own family of record labels that included the Hotwax, Music Merchant, and Invictus imprints. The roster of these labels was mostly made up of groups that were assembled for the occasion. They were either supergroups or lineups that were pieced together for a specific record. Often the members of the groups didn’t even know each other or hadn’t worked together before being called on to record for one of the labels.

The story of the 8th Day begins with another group that was recording for Holland-Dozier-Holland, 100 Proof (Aged in Soul). 100 Proof itself had been assembled by Holland-Dozier-Holland and the lineup included Steve Mancha, Eddie Holiday, and Joe Stubbs (brother of Levi Stubbs). The group had scored an R&B hit with “Too Many Cooks Spoil the Soup” but then scored really big with a crossover smash called “Somebody’s Been Sleeping In My Bed” which reached #8 on the pop chart and sold a million copies of the Hotwax release. The label decided it would be a good idea to release a 100 Proof album to capitalize on the success of the single.

The 8th Day

“She’s Not Just Another Woman” was a cut on the album and anyone with ears could tell that it was a hit. The song was written by Holland-Dozier-Holland but because of their ongoing dispute with Gordy, it was credited to C. Wilson and Ronald Dunbar. DJs started playing the track off the album. The problem was that “Somebody’s Been Sleeping” was still rolling up the charts and the label didn’t want anything, such as a new single by the same group, to get in the way. That’s where the 8th Day came in. It was simply a matter of changing the group’s name on the label of the single and releasing it on Invictus instead of Hotwax. That is 100 Proof’s Steve Mancha singing lead on “She Not Just Another Woman.” Sure enough, it was a hit, reaching #11 on the pop chart in 1971.

There was one little problem: there was no 8th Day. When the second 8th Day single, “You Got to Crawl (Before You Walk)” began to find some chart success, that problem had to be resolved, and quickly. Holland-Dozier-Holland did what they had done so well before and simply assembled a group for the occasion. The lineup included Melvin Davis, Tony Newsome, Lyman Woodard, Larry Hutchison, Ron Bykowski, Michael Anthony, Bruce Nazarian, Jerry Paul, Lynn Harter, Carol Stallings, and Anita Sherman. Now that there was an actual band, 8th Day recorded two more singles for Invictus but while “Eeny-Meeny-Miny-Mo (Three’s a Crowd)” and “If I Could See the Light” both reached the R&B Top 30, it wasn’t enough to keep the band together.

Holland-Dozier-Holland are often credited for their brilliant songwriting and production but it seems that they were also pretty adept at assembling talent and providing songs for their put-together groups to take up the charts.

Soul Serenade: Lavern Baker, “Tweedlee Dee”

Lavern Baker

Publicity photo donated to the Rock Hall Archives

There is no doubt that Atlantic Records played a huge role in exposing a wider audience to the sound of Rhythm & Blues. The label, which was founded by jazz lovers Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson in 1947, boasted a roster of artists that at one time or another included Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and Sam & Dave. But in the beginning, there were pioneers at the label. They included artists like Ray Charles, Sticks McGhee, Ruth Brown, Joe Morris, the Clovers, the Clyde McPhatter-led Drifters, and Lavern Baker.

She was born in Chicago in 1929. Her given name was Delores Baker and she was the niece of not one but two singers — jazz vocalist Merline Johnson, who was primarily responsible for raising Baker, and the legendary blues singer Memphis Minnie. By the age of 12, Baker was not only singing in her church choir but she was leading soloist. It was just five years later, having attained legal status, that Baker began performing in the South Side clubs under the stage name “The Little Sharecropper.” Her rustic schtick proved popular with the record number of black people who were migrating to Chicago from the south as well as the hip city people.

At the time, Detroit had a growing reputation as a center for R&B so Baker headed there. She landed a gig at The Flame Show Bar. The club’s owner, a guy named Al Green, became her manager. Baker’s first recordings were released by RCQ in 1949 with Baker fronting Sugarman Penigar’s band. “I Wonder Baby” and “Easy Baby” proved very popular in the clubs where Baker was performing. But the winds of change were blowing and by the early 1950s big band music was on its way out and R&B was rising. 1952 was a big year for Baker. She dumped the “Little Sharecropper” thing, joined the Todd Rhodes Orchestra, changed her stage name to Lavern Baker, released an R&B ballad called “Trying,” and toured nearly non-stop.

The momentum continued in 1953. Baker quit the band and successfully toured Europe as a solo act. That was also the year that she signed with Atlantic Records and released her first single for the label, the classic “Soul On Fire.” Her true breakthrough was still ahead and it took place with a single that Baker recorded in October 1954. “Tweedlee Dee” was a huge hit all through 1955. The Winfield Scott song, written specifically for Baker, rose to #4 on the R&B chart and #14 on the pop chart. The problem was that there was a despicable practice known as “whitewashing” going on at the time. Many radio stations and record stores would only push records by white artists. So white artists like Georgia Gibbs made whole careers out of covering black hits and getting substantial airplay and sales. The Gibbs cover or “Tweedlee Dee” sold over a million copies and she subsequently cover the Baker hits “Jim Dandy” and “Tra La La.”

Lavern BakerBut Baker didn’t let racism stop her. She continued releasing hits like “Play It Fair” and “Bop-Ting-A-Ling” and made an appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in 1955. As rock and roll began to eclipse R&B, Baker adapted again, releasing rock and roll-styled hits like “Jim Dandy,” “Jim Dandy Got Married,” and “Humpty Dumpty Heart.” Her greatest success, however, came in 1958 with an epic single “I Cried a Tear.” Baker’s string of hits continued into the 1960s with songs like “So High, So Low,” “Saved,” and “See See Rider.” But the river of time kept flowing and the rise of Motown and the appearance of the Beatles on these shores relegated artists like Baker to “oldies” status. By 1965, Baker had decamped from Atlantic and landed at Brunswick records. She had a couple of small hits for the label, “Think Twice,” and “Wrapped, Tied, and Tangled.”

While entertaining troops in Vietnam on a USO tour in 1966, Baker fell ill with pneumonia. She was airlifted to Thailand for treatment and by the time she recovered, the tour had ended and she was left alone in southeast Asia.

“I didn’t know what to do, who to go to,” Baker told biography.com. “The tour was gone and I was in a strange country where telephone service was practically nonexistent. I hitched with farmers on wagons to Bangkok. I’d had to slog through rice paddies in water up to my shoulders in some places to get to Bangkok, so by the time the Marines got me to the base I’d had a relapse.”

Baker was then airlifted to the Philippines where she spent four more months recovering. Her then-husband, comedian Slappy White, used the lack of communication (Baker insisted that she made numerous attempts to contact him) from Baker to have her declared dead and assumed ownership of her catalog.

“For all I know he heard my voice and hung up. Probably did, the no-good &%@S#!!,” Baker said.

Baker decided to make the best of a bad situation. She stayed in the Philippines, running a nightclub for 21 years, before returning to the U.S. in 1988. She got back in time to win acclaim with her performances at the Atlantic Records 40th-anniversary show at Madison Square Garden and in the Broadway production of Black and Blue. In 1991, Baker was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She continued to tour until her death from heart failure in 1997.

Pioneer. Trailblazer. These are terms that we tend to toss around but they fit Lavern Baker like a glove. She’s not called the Empress of Rock and Roll for nothing and if her life had a tragic tinge to it as a result of losing millions of dollars because of the covers of her hits by white artists and being an exile from the country of her birth for more than 20 years, she lived with dignity and unshaken optimism.

“I just did what I had to do,” she said. “Don’t we all?”

Soul Serenade: Rose Royce, “Car Wash”

Rose Royce

 

 

 

 

 

 

A little over four years ago I featured the L.A. band Rose Royce in this column. The focus of my story was their Top 5 1978 hit “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore.” But about a year earlier the band, which got their start in Watts under the name Total Concept Unlimited, had an even bigger hit when their debut single was included on the soundtrack album for the hit film Car Wash. The title track wasn’t the only Rose Royce hit from the Car Wash album either. “I Wanna Get Next to You” and “I’m Going Down” were also Top 10 R&B hits. But it was the “Car Wash” single that ascended to the very top of the Billboard Hot 100 as well as the R&B chart.

Car Wash (the film) was directed by Michael Schultz who was also responsible for the 1975 hit Cooley High. Schultz had the good sense to enlist the legendary Motown producer Norman Whitfield to produce the Car Wash soundtrack. Whitfield was hesitant at first but eventually he was swayed by two factors. First of all, the album would provide an opportunity for the new band, Rose Royce, that he had signed to his own label, TCU, in 1975. The other factor? Well, it was pretty apparent that the film and its accompanying soundtrack would be a financial windfall for those who were involved.

Legend has it that Whitfield had trouble coming up with a title track for the film until one day while playing basketball the idea came to him. It is said that he wrote the first draft of the lyrics for “Car Wash” on a paper bag from a fried chicken place. If you’ve seen the film, and who hasn’t, you know that the title song set the tone perfectly for it. Gwen Dickey a.k.a. Rose Norwalt sang lead for Rose Royce and she was ably assisted by guitarist Kenji Brown.

The “Car Wash” single sold two million copies and held down the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for a week in January 1977. The entire Whitfield-produced album was comprised of Rose Royce songs and also spawned the two other aforementioned hits. That year, the Car Wash soundtrack album won a Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album.

Rose Royce continued to move forward with hits like “Do Your Dance,” “Ooh Boy,” “Wishing on a Star,” “I’m in Love (and I Love the Feeling),” and “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” before releasing their final album in 1979. Dickey left the band the following year and it seemed to mark the end of the road for the band but the other members eventually reunited and had some success as a touring act.

Soul Serenade: The Marvelettes, “When You’re Young and in Love”

The MarvelettesOne year ago in this column, I featured Ruby and the Romantics and their 1963 smash hit “Our Day Will Come.” The record was so big that it cemented the group’s legacy all on its own. But that wasn’t the end of the Ruby and the Romantics output. They were the first to record two other songs that, while they were moderately-sized hits for Ruby and the Romantics, they were even bigger hits for the artists who covered them.
In 1963, Ruby and the Romantics followed up “Our Day Will Come” with the original version of “Hey There Lonely Boy.” The song was a major hit for the group, reaching #27 on the pop chart, and #5 on the R&B chart. But six years later, Eddie Holman changed the gender of the lyrics and took “Hey There Lonely Girl” all the way to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

That wasn’t the end of the story with regard to successful covers of Ruby and the Romantics hits. In 1964, they released the single “When You’re Young and In Love” which was written by Van McCoy and produced by Allen Stanton, the head A&R man at the group’s label, Kapp Records. Again, it was a respectable hit, Top 50 on the pop chart and Top 20 on the R&B chart.

The Marvelettes

Sure enough, three years later along came Motown’s Marvelettes with their cover of “When You’re Young and In Love” and sure enough, they had a bigger hit with it. It wasn’t the most successful Marvelettes single but it did well enough, reaching #23 on the pop chart and #9 on the R&B chart. The backing track on the Marvelettes hit came courtesy of Motown mainstays the Funk Brothers and the label’s top session singers the Andantes flesh out the background vocals. The record also features the sound of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. It was one of the last Marvelettes records that founding member Gladys Horton appeared on although by that time Wanda Rogers was singing most of the leads including the one on “When You’re Young and In Love.” Shortly after the release of the single, Horton left the group to care for her daughter Sammie who had been born with cerebral palsy.

In 1995, the Marvelettes were given a “Pioneer” award by the Rhythm & Blues Foundation and in 2013, they were inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame. They have been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice but so far they haven’t gotten enough votes to gain induction.

Soul Serenade: Diana Ross & the Supremes and the Temptations, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”

The Supremes - The TemptationsEver since I decided to make “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” the focus of this week’s column I’ve been wracking my brain to think of another instance when the full lineups of two huge groups collaborated on a hit record. Yes, there have been supergroups like Cream and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young made up of former members of various bands, but in this instance, we’re talking about the all the members of two groups who were at the top of their game getting together. If you can think of another example, please let me know in the comments.

“I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” is a Motown record, right? Well yes, but oddly its origins are pure Philly Soul. The song was written by Philadelphia legends Kenny Gamble and Jerry Ross, who was Gamble’s mentor. It has been claimed that Gamble’s partner Leon Huff had a hand in the writing but only Gamble and Ross are credited on the record. But the time the Supremes and the Temptations got around to it the song had been a hit twice already.

The original version of “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” was recorded by Dee Dee Warwick and produced by Ross. In late 1966, the Mercury Records release attained the #13 spot on the R&B chart and crossed over to #88 on the Pop chart. Also of note on the Warwick release were the background vocals which were provided by Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson. Although it was not her biggest hit, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” is the record most associated with Warwick because of the hit it later became for the Supremes and Temptations.

In all, Ross produced a total of ten recordings of “I’m Going to Make You Love Me.” Among the others were a 1967 version by Jerry Butler and a cover by Jay & the Techniques a year later. Aside from Ross, what all the versions had in common was the presence of Ashford and Simpson as background singers.

In 1968, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” was offered to Dusty Springfield who demurred but passed it along to Madeline Bell who was a background vocalist for her. In an interesting turning of the tables, Springfield ended up singing in the background for Bell on the record. When the record became a #26 hit, Bell, originally from Newark, New Jersey, got to come home from the U.K. with a hit record.

“It was great to go back to my hometown with a record in the charts. I was so happy to go home a success,” Bell said later.

The Supremes - The Temptations

And so the stage was set for the song’s greatest moment. The Supremes and the Temptations collaborated on an album called Diana Ross & the Supremes Join the Temptations and in 1968, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” became the lead single, although that wasn’t the plan at the beginning. The version of “The Impossible Dream” that the two groups had collaborated on was supposed to be the lead single, but when advance copies of the album hit radio stations the DJs started to play “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me.”

This time the record was produced by Frank Wilson and, wait for it, Nick Ashford. Diana Ross and the Temptations’ Eddie Kendricks shared the lead vocal duties, and Otis Williams of the Tempts contributed the spoken word section. The always-present Funk Brothers provided the backing track which also included the Detroit Symphony.

In case you were wondering, the Supremes and the Temptations never performed “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” together live. When they appeared together on the legendary TCB special in December 1968, they sang “The Impossible Dream,” still scheduled to be the lead single at that point, to close the show. Both groups performed the song live on their own, however, the Temptations on the Ed Sullivan Show, and the Supremes at their farewell performance in Las Vegas.

“I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” was a huge hit for the Supremes and the Temptations, racing up to the #2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1969 and reaching the same lofty perch on the R&B chart.

Soul Serenade: “I Can’t Get Next To You” – Which Version Gets Next To You?

The Temptations - Al Green

 

 

 

 

 

Back in April, I presented you with a poll that asked you to chose your favorite version of “Respect,” the Aretha Franklin cover, or the Otis Redding original. Aretha won that particular vote pretty handily. I thought I’d try the same thing with another song this week, asking you to choose your favorite version of “I Can’t Get Next to You” — the rhythmic, driving take by the Temptations, or the intense, slow-burning version by Al Green.

Let’s talk about the song itself first. “I Can’t Get Next to You” was written by Motown stalwarts Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. The first version of the song was recorded by the Temptations. Dennis Edwards had replaced David Ruffin by that time, but the rest of the classic Tempts lineup was intact, with Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, Otis Williams, and Otis Franklin. Whitfield produced the record, and the always-able Funk Brothers provided the backing track.

The Temptations - I Cant Get Next to You

The Temptations took “I Can’t Get Next to You” to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart in October 1969, and it stayed there for two weeks until it was replaced by the Elvis Presley classic “Suspicious Minds.” The record also topped the R&B chart. Pieces of the Temptations recording were used on other records. The Jackson Five appropriated the bridge for their 1970 hit “ABC,” and the applause that opens “I Can’t Get Next to You” was borrowed by the Temptations themselves for their 1970 smash “Psychedelic Shack.”

There have been a number of covers of “I Can’t Get Next to You” including takes by the Osmonds, Savoy Brown, Annie Lennox, and Toto. But at least in my mind, there is little doubt that the finest of these covers was the one released by Al Green in 1970. The song provided the title of the album Al Green Gets Next to You, and the single reached #60 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #11 on the R&B chart.

Al Green - I Can't Get Next to You

This is not a matter of which take on the song is better. They are as vastly different as the Aretha and Otis versions of “Respect.” Green replaced the muscular, up-tempo group effort of the Temptations with a dramatically slowed down, solitary, deeply felt, down-on-his-knees-begging-for-love, Hi Rhythm Section version. So it’s simply a matter of which one you prefer or maybe even which one you prefer at one particular moment.

This is that moment. Listen to the two versions below and be reminded of the greatness of each one. Then vote in the poll and make your feelings known. The comments section is open to you if you would like to comment beyond your vote.

“I Can’t Get Next To You” – Which Version is Your Favorite?

Soul Serenade: Darrell Banks, “Open The Door To Your Heart”

Darrell BanksWhen you think of great singers whose lives and careers were cut short when they were on the wrong end of a gun, Sam Cooke is the first name that comes to mind. But there was another great soul singer who lost his life when he was gunned down, and that was Darrell Banks.

He was born in Ohio, but grew up he grew up in Buffalo, New York, singing in church before beginning a career in secular music. One of the Buffalo joints Banks sang in early on was called the Revilot Lounge. He hooked up with a producer named Lebron Taylor whose company was called Solid Hitbound Productions, and Taylor decided to use the name of Banks’ favorite club, the Revilot, as the name of the label which would release the first Banks single.

“Open the Door to Your Heart” was written by Donnie Elbert specifically for his friend Darrell Banks. Elbert was on the road when Taylor recorded the song, which wouldn’t have been a problem except that when the record came out, Banks was credited as a songwriter, the only songwriter. Naturally, Elbert wasn’t too pleased.

Darrell Banks

A legal battle ensued, which Elbert eventually won, although he remained bitter about the fact that Banks, who wasn’t a songwriter and did very little to improve the record, was the co-owner of a soul classic. While the original single only carries Banks’ name as a songwriter, subsequent releases list Banks and Elbert. Meanwhile, the single shot up the charts, reaching #2 on the R&B chart, and #27 on the Pop chart in 1966.

The follow-up single, “Somebody (Somewhere) Needs You,” did respectable business, reaching #34 R&B and #55 Pop. It was a Motown song, written by Marc Gordon and Frank Wilson, but it was never recorded by a Motown artist. It was Ike and Tina Turner who recorded the original version of the song for Loma Records. But Banks’ version was successful enough to get him regular work on what was then called the “chitlin circuit.”

At that point, Banks’ Revilot moved to the more prominent Atco Records. Two 1967 singles for the Atlantic imprint, “Here Come the Tears, and “Angel Baby (Don’t Ever Leave Me),” failed to find any chart success. Atco, in turn, moved Banks over to another Atlantic subsidiary, Cotillion Records. Banks recorded one more single for the label, “I Wanna Go Home,” and then departed for Memphis, and Stax Records.

In 1969, Banks released two singles for Stax’s Volt imprint. Neither “I’m the Only One Who Loves,” or “Beautiful Feeling” set the charts alight, although they did sell reasonably well.

Sadly, Darrell Banks didn’t live long enough to live up to his full potential. In March 1970, he was shot to death in Detroit by an off-duty cop who was seeing Banks’ girlfriend behind his back. When Banks discovered the betrayal, he pulled a gun. The cop responded with deadly force, limiting Banks’ career to just four years, during which he released seven singles and two albums.

By 2014, what was thought to be the only extant copy of the original recording of “Open the Door to Your Heart” was drawing bids of thousands of pounds in a U.K. auction. Not only had Banks become a hero in England’s Northern Soul scene, it was widely acknowledged that when EMI won the rights to distribute the single, they had destroyed all of the original copies of the single, all but one. Eventually, the record sold for the equivalent of $23,000 American.

Soul aficionados acknowledge Darrell Banks as one of the greatest singers the genre has ever known. Unfortunately what we’ll never know is how great he could have become.