Monday, January 28, 2008

Freddie Scott (1933-2007), the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Singer, Topped the R&B Charts in Early 1967

R&B Singer Freddie Scott Joins the Ancestors at 74

Freddie Scott, singer: born Providence, Rhode Island
24 April 1933; married; died 4 June 2007

In 1963, Freddie Scott cut a demonstration record of "Hey Girl", a new song by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. The intended recipient was the hit-making Chuck Jackson, but he turned the song down. Instead, Goffin and King liked Scott's voice so much that they recorded their own version with him.

Phil Spector heard the results and said, "You've got to put that out. It's a smash." "Hey Girl" was a Top Ten US hit and became a club favourite in the UK, being covered by several beat groups of the time.

Scott was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1933. In his early teens, he sang with his grandmother's gospel group the Gospel Keys, who performed in the UK in 1946. Freddie Scott studied medicine at the University of Rhode Island but gave it up for singing.

He recorded his first solo single, "Running Home", for the small J&S label in 1956 and a succession of singles for independent labels, including "Baby, You're a Long Time Dead" for Joy.

Scott followed his success with the mesmerising, melancholic "Hey Girl" by having R&B hits with a revival of Ray Charles's "I Got a Woman" and the plaintive "Where Does Love Go?" He made the album Freddie Scott Sings and Sings and Sings (1963), which contained a fine ballad which deserved to be a single, "What Do I See In the Girl", written by Goffin with Jack Keller.

Scott moved to Columbia where the producer Clyde Otis dubbed him "the million-dollar baby" and had him crooning on "One Heartache Too Many" (1964). He did show tunes on the LP Everything I Have Is Yours (1964) and was more soulful on Lonely Man (1965). His final singles for the label were prophetically titled "Don't Let It End This Way" (1965) and "Forget Me If You Can" (1966).

In 1966, he was signed by Bert Berns, the producer, songwriter and owner of Shout Records. Berns, an intensely soulful individual, recorded over 100 takes of "Are You Lonely for Me?" with Scott. It was worth it, as the song topped the R&B charts for four weeks.

Then Scott slowed down Solomon Burke's "Cry to Me" for a chart single and had further success with "Am I Grooving You?" He did well with the album Are You Lonely For Me?, but Berns's death at the end of 1967 meant that he was again on the move.

His only further success was with a soul version of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" in 1970. Mostly, he wrote advertising jingles and took minor acting roles, appearing in the film of the Harold Robbins book Stiletto in 1969.

Scott's key tracks have frequently been reissued and in 1989 the rap singer Biz Markie used Scott's 1968 single, "(You) Got What I Need" for his own "Just a Friend". In 2001, Scott released his first album of new songs in 30 years, Brand New Man. On the Van Morrison tribute album Vanthology (2003), he performed "Brown-Eyed Man".

Spencer Leigh

No comments: