Her otherworldly sweet singing and songwriting brought her one of the most legendary R&B classics from 1963. We celebrate the seductive powers of one Barbara Lewis, who still sweetens things up as she strolls into her 73rd Birthday this Tuesday Evening.
Although a Detroit artist, and sometimes even using Motown’s studios to record in her early days, she was signed to Atlantic Records as a “contract player.” None of her hits or misses had anything to do with Jerry Wexler or Tom Dowd directly, as her manager and former Ann Arbor DJ Ollie McLaughlin shopped around for writers, producers, studios and background singers to raise Barbara’s talents to a national stage.
It took til her 4th single, the seminal “Hello Stranger” that affixed her star to the top of the R&B heap, as she became the first major challenger to Mary Wells’s crown of Pop-Soul Queen of the ’60’s. The lack of direct support and understanding of her talents at Atlantic Records would be a consistent hindrance however. If I remember correctly, I’m not sure if Jerry Wexler met her once, or twice….
Further singles in 1963-64 found various random placements on the Billboard Hot 100, but she staged a mini comeback with 3 Top 40 hits between 1965-66. Granted, by the 2nd half of the 1960’s, Atlantic’s roster was clogged with women Atlantic didn’t really appreciate, including former rival Mary Wells.
Today I’m featuring a staple of my DJ gigs, and perhaps her most Motown-imitative release, on top of her last Billboard Hot 100 entry in the Spring of ’67. This piece of sprightly lounge soul determination is the perfect piece of power pop to go into this evening. We hope Barbara continues to bring us much joy for many more years to come.