Category Archives: Detroit

The Spinners’ Sophisticated Soul

When I think of the best musical groups of the 70s, the Spinners easily come to mind. From 1972 until 1977, the group consisting of Henry Fambrough, Billy Henderson, Pervis Jackson, Bobby Smith and Philippe Wynne were mainstays on R&B as well as pop radio stations. I believe this quintet impacted 70s music, as much as the Temptations dominated the mid to late 60s.

Like the Tempts, they recorded at Motown. Two of my favorite songs from the group’s Motown era are Truly Yours and It’s a Shame. The first song features Bobby Smith’s sweet and easy vocals. The latter one was co-written and produced by Stevie Wonder with G.C. Cameron singing lead. (Cooley High fans will remember his tearjerker, It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.)

In 1971, three things happened that would change the group’s fortunes. First, Philippe Wynne joined the group, replacing Cameron who departed for a solo career. Next, they signed with Atlantic Records. Finally, upon their arrival, Thom Bell asked to work with them. A successful producer, arranger and songwriter, Bell had co-written and produced several compositions for the Delfonics (La, La Means I Love You and Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time) the Stylistics (Betcha By Golly, Wow and You Are Everything) and other acts.

He had some ambitious ideas for the group. According to John A. Jackson in A House on Fire: The Rise and Fall of Philadelphia Soul, in the summer of 1972, the Spinners recorded four songs Bell produced. The first single, How Could I Let You Get Away, was a silky ballad that reminded many of the Stylistics. However, more radio deejays played the up-tempo “B” side, I’ll Be Around, resulting in the quintet’s first number one hit. The next release, Could It Be I’m Falling in Love was another million-selling R&B smash. The fourth song, One of a Kind (Love Affair), was included on the group’s self-titled album released in 1973, and became their third consecutive top R&B record.

Their second album, Mighty Love, released the following year, not only featured the unforgettable title track, it also contained other favorites: Since I Been Gone, He’ll Never Love You Like I Do and Love Don’t Love NobodyAlthough the Spinners were from Detroit, their Atlantic recordings exemplified the Sound of Philadelphia created primarily by Bell and his partners, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, founders of Philadelphia International Records. Meaningful lyrics backed by tight horn and rhythm sections, sumptuous string arrangements and stunning background vocals were all part of the Spinners’ trademark style. It was sophisticated soul.

Wynne was another reason for the group’s popularity. Whether he traded vocals with Smith or performed solo, Wynne was one of the best ad-libbers who ever touched a microphone. Check out the last two minutes of Mighty Love. He whoops, stutters, wails and yodels without missing a beat. Sadie is one of the best tributes to mothers ever recorded and his delivery still tugs at my heart, especially around Mother’s Day. Listen to the live, extended version of How Could I Let You Get Away and you’ll hear Wynne do some incredible impersonations of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Al Green. After he left the group to go solo, things were never quite the same.

Thanks for reading this; please join me in Sounding Off by sharing your favorite Spinners song. I look forward to your response. I’d also like to wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013!

Kimberly Vann

Disclaimers: All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. Sounding Off makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. Unless otherwise noted, Kimberly Vann is the legal copyright holder of the original material on this blog and it may not be used, reprinted, or published without her written consent.

Advertisements

Before Tammi Terrell, There Was Kim Weston

When most Marvin Gaye fans think about his singing partners, Tammi Terrell usually comes to mind. From 1967 until 1969, the duo recorded timeless performances—several of them written and produced by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson—including, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Your Precious Love, You’re All I Need to Get ByIf I Could Build My Whole World Around You, and Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing.

However, prior to being paired with Terrell, one of Gaye’s other musical partners was Kim Weston. Born December 30, 1939, Weston, a Detroit native, had been performing around the Motor City when a local songwriter named Johnny Thornton asked her to record some demo tapes. Thornton played them for his cousin, Eddie Holland, one of Motown’s producer/songwriters who would eventually become part of the label’s legendary songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland. She signed with Motown in 1961.

According to the AMG AllMusic Guide in 1963, Weston scored a minor R&B hit with Love Me All the Way, and, during the following year, recorded her first duet with Gaye, What Good Am I Without You. Unfortunately, Weston turned down a song that later became a smash hit for another Motown act. Gaye and producer William “Mickey” Stevenson wrote Dancing in the Street and offered her a chance to record the song. She said no. Martha Reeves, lead singer of Martha and the Vandellas, said yes and the rest is history. During the summer of 1964, Dancing claimed the number 2 position on Billboard’s Top 100 Chart and is described by the publication as one of the “most potent and enduring dance records of the era.”

It would be another year before Weston would have a top 10 hit as a solo artist–Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While) recorded in 1965. Her 1966 follow-up release, Helpless, was also popular among fans. That same year, she and Gaye recorded the album Take Two which featured It Takes Two and It’s Got to Be a Miracle (This Thing Called Love). I was happy to find the LP on one of my bookcases and was even happier to discover it contains What Good Am I Without You.  I heard it for the first time on the Internet last night and liked the song so much that I unpacked my record player so I could hear it again. It reminds me of Brook Benton and Dinah Washington’s Baby (You Got What It Takes). You listen and decide.

In 1967, Weston left Motown for MGM Records and recorded an album which included a stirring version of Lift Every Voice and Sing. In 1972, she performed the Black National Anthem at Wattstax, a daylong concert produced by Stax Records featuring many of the artists from the Memphis-based label. The event was held at the Los Angeles Coliseum to commemorate the Watts riots that occurred seven years earlier.

Thanks for reading this; please join me in Sounding Off by sharing your favorite Kim Weston song. I look forward to your response. I’d also like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a joyous holiday season!

Kimberly Vann

Disclaimers: All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. Sounding Off makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. Unless otherwise noted, Kimberly Vann is the legal copyright holder of the original material on this blog and it may not be used, reprinted, or published without her written consent.