To The Lady In The Spotlight – A Midsummer’s Nightingale Playlist

There’s a long tradition in vocal stylings in which people aspire to being as great in a field as their predecessors. Notably, years of women that birth’d Jazz loved those Blues and Gospel singers that gave them the extra edge over some people that weren’t exactly naturals to the style. Some of those Jazz singers lent their flexibility to cross over to popular, middle of the road supper club pop. Yet again, some of the ingenues of soul music yearned to have a definitive spotlight number just like the women they idolized on the radio and on vinyl for their full lives.

In the tradition of me taking at least a twice a year detour into Jazz and middle-of-the-road Popular Music, that’s exactly what this playlist is. Where else would The Supremes be trying to be Betty Carter and Kim Weston relishing what she has called herself her ‘Dinah Washington’ moment alongside Dinah Washington? Okay, probably another Playlist I’ve done further back.

hqdefaultHowever, the sweetness and tenderness of these songs span nearly 15 years, yet the sentiment is pretty much a universal one. The spotlight here is definitely on the joy of singing, as an artform of telling a story at an unhurried pace. Most of the women on this list scored at some point in very popular music with some sort of Pop song geared to common consumption. What is surprising is how far some of them may be from their prototypical lane. Martha Reeves is furthest as she gets from “Dancing In The Street” here, yet the gem featured is prominently on the 2nd side of the first full length LP for the Vandellas. Meanwhile, Etta James is actually far closer to the overworked chestnut “At Last” that defines her work for those that only know her in the context of a favored first dance song at weddings.

The opportunities to record as such were highly prized as symbolism of having made it for many Black women. It showed an evolution towards being taken seriously. In any regard it’s a wonderful way to lean into the second half of summer 2019. As always, I hope you enjoy.

  1. Pat Thomas – One Note Samba
  2. The Supremes – The Boy From Ipanema 
  3. Betty Carter – Open The Door
  4. Freda Payne – Sweet September
  5. Dionne Warwick – Wives & Lovers
  6. Shirley Horn – Loads of Love
  7. Blossom Dearie – Love Is A Necessary Evil
  8. Dinah Washington – Relax Max
  9. Pearl Bailey – I Wouldn’t Walk Across The Street
  10. Ernestine Anderson – You Go To My Head
  11. Mary Wells – The Second Time Around
  12. Ruby & The Romantics – Stranger On The Shore
  13. Leslie Uggams – Love Walked In
  14. Erma Franklin – Saving All My Love For You
  15. Kim Weston – Just Loving You
  16. Della Reese – Serenade 
  17. Ketty Lester – But Not For Me
  18. Gerri Granger – So Long
  19. Martha & The Vandellas – To Think That You Would Hurt Me
  20. Etta Jones – I Miss You So
  21. Aretha Franklin – Skylark 
  22. Mary Stallings – Goodbye
  23. Lorez Alexandria – That Far Away Look
  24. Damita Jo – Dancing On The Ceiling
  25. Jean DuShon – I’ll Never Find Another You
  26. Carmen McRae – Nightlife
  27. Etta James – Don’t Get Around Much Anymore
  28. Nancy Wilson – If Dreams Come True
  29. Terri Thornton – Open Highway
  30. Ella Fitzgerald – Smooth Sailing
  31. Georgia Carr – Let’s Close The Door
  32. Jackie Ross – I Had A Talk With My Man Last Night
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