I’ve Got Your Back
My top five favorite back up singers. (in no particular order)
“The Core” has long been one of my favorite I wish I could sing like that chick songs. Levy’s vocals are so completely delicious. It’s always interesting to me that folks often attribute her vocal efforts to Yvonne Elliman and vice versa, when they have completely different vocal styles. Yvonne Elliman vocals evoke more of a Vicki Sue Robinson or Taste of Honey vibe. Levy – who would later become 1/2 half of Shakespear’s Sister, while performing under the name Marcella Detroit – evokes Ronnie Spector/Darlene Love meets Tina Turner vibe.
Fortunately, I was living on the blissful isle of Crete when Culture Club took the world by storm, thus missing out on 94% of the homophobia, racism and the fatophobia (directed at Terry) accompanying the arrival of Culture Club stateside. My mom scored the album for me I would lay/lie on the cool Greek marble floor listening to Helen Terry’s vocals and wishing I could sound EXACTLY like that. Her voice gave me chills, especially on “Church of the Poison Mind” and “Black Money”. Terry is like the love child of Kiki Dee, Dusty Springfield and Martha Wash. It’s really a shame she wasn’t more popular. Fucking sizeism.
We all know Luther was and will all be the man. And you don’t have to be middle aged professional black woman rocking a Condi cut and Talbot slacks to get down on some Luther (though it often helps). During my goth years (1987 – 1993) I listened to tons of Bowie, particularly Young Americans, which should clearly demonstrate I wasn’t really that great of a goth. Oh sure, I could shadow dance with the best of them to an array of craptastic gothie bands, but I mostly into Bowie. And in particular his blue eyed soul period. During this period the other album (oh yes, vinyl) I played smooth was the soundtrack to The Wiz. Luther was on that too. After more sleuthing I realized the Luther of The Wiz was the Luther holding down the fort on Young Americans and in my opinion, YA sounds exactly like a mid tempo Luther cut, like you might find on The Night I Fell In Love or Give Me The Reason.
Like many folks I discovered Lady Yvonne through her disco hit If I Can’t Have You. Before there was wiki and google, one had to perform a lot of shoe leather detective work to find out more about their favorite vocalists. A quick trip to the family record collection yielded a bumper crop of Ms. Elliman’s work, including: Jesus Christ, Superstar and her back up work with Eric Clapton.
Like Terry, Miss Martha has taken a lot of shit for size and I definitely feel it has kept her from attaining the kind of global fame she truly deserves. One of the most recognizable voices in music, I’m not exactly sure how Black Box thought they were going to fool us into thinking the pretty model featured in all their videos somehow possessed a voice, which sounded uncannily like Ms. Wash’s. Wash is a gorgeous woman, evident by the back cover of her It’s Raining Men album where she takes her fabulous Norma Kamali outfits to SCHOOL.