Tag Archives: Black National Anthem

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

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