Singing stories, when you’re great at it, is like making a mini-movie on Vinyl. I write this as I do rehearsals for my first bit of actual stage acting in a good 10 years. There’s so much fun, so much psychology you can dig into when you put your mind to it. The way one can caress certain words, project or withdraw energy, on and on. It’s the reason why I value singers that are great interpreters of lyrics over other technical parts of musicality.
Here’s where I find deep appreciation for the oft-overlooked Ruby Winters. Winters, making her performance debut at the age of 20 in 1966, arrived with a precision type knowledge on how to excavate all the emotions in the words put in front of her in the studio and the stage. It unfortunately didn’t translate into much more than a smattering of R&B Top 40 hits for Diamond Records between 1966 and 1970. Nonetheless, despite the lack of a crossover hit parade, she had some of the finest moments in late 60’s Soul Music.
Appropriate as I run through dialogue, remembering how to portray nuances alongside volume and projection, that I keep hitting replay on her crystalline and desperate 3 act play B-side from 1966. Sounding all the way across town in a tony-supper club from the Wall-Of-Sound imitating A-side, we listen to the heart-wrenching portrayal of love gained and lost in 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Grab a kleenex, this is prime tear-jerker material.