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Backing singers to the fore

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    Backing singers to the fore

    So, great backing singer performances.... Not band members harmonising with their lead singer, but backing singers who've made good songs great.

    The automatic nominations should be the backing singers on Aretha's Respect (though other Aretha songs, such as "Chain Of Fools" also merit mention), and the great backing groups Elvis had for support: The Jordanaires and The Sweet Sensations. Merry Clayton's appropriation of "Gimme Shelter" is another obvious nominee.

    Motown backing group The Adantes merit nomination for their entire body of work, though what they did (with a few others) on Diana Ross' version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" is quite astonishing. Likewise, The Ikettes.


    Others:
    Carol Kenyon on "Temptation" by Heaven 17
    Michael McDonald on "Peg" by Steely Dan (and several other tracks)
    Dari Lalou, Karen Friedman & Casey Synge on "Walk On The Wild Side" by Lou Reed
    Helen Terry on "Black Money" and "Church Of The Poison Mind" by Culture Club
    Emmylou Harris on "Love Hurts" by Gram Parsons
    Clare Torry on "The Great Gig in the Sky" by Pink Floyd"
    Lynn Mabry and Ednah Holt on the live version of "Slippery People" (among others) by Talking Heads

    #2


    Hilda Harris, Albertine Robinson and Maeretha Stewart on Bob Dylan’s All the Tired Horses, although perhaps this doesn’t count because his Bobness isn’t doing any actual fronting.

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      #3
      The singers singing "Free Nelson Mandela" on the Special AKA song, are they strictly speaking backing singers?

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        #4
        Denise Johnson lifts everything she contributes to. Her best known work is probably with Primal Scream on the Screamadelica and Give Out But Don't Give Up albums and Electronic's Get The Message.
        Last edited by Benjm; 06-01-2019, 18:08. Reason: typo

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          #5
          On Stevie Wonder's Fulfillingness' First Finale album, Deneice Williams, Syreeta Wright, Minnie Riperton, Lani Groves and Shirley Brewer

          Great article on Stevie's backing group and singers on "Superstition"

          https://medium.com/the-brothers/wond...n-3d210fe91e10
          Last edited by Satchmo Distel; 06-01-2019, 14:01.

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            #6
            The Soul Stirrers behind Sam Cooke, in just about everything they sang behind him

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              #7
              Merry Clayton owns Gimme Shelter. No down payment, no gift wrapping, just walks out of the store with it.

              Hilda Harris, Albertine Robinson and Maeretha Stewart on Bob Dylan’s All the Tired Horses,

              Maeretha Stewart also does the excellent scat singing on Dylan's If Dogs Run Free
              Last edited by Amor de Cosmos; 06-01-2019, 17:47.

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                #8


                My Boyfriend's Back, by the Angels. The Allbut sisters, seemingly rough and untutored and slightly off key, underscoring a threat of terrible violence with that harmonic drone that only siblings seem to be able to get. I don't know why but the pitch reminds me of South African choirs.

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                  #9
                  Hadn't realised this before, but obviously heavily influenced by Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers:

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                    #10
                    Originally posted by Alderman Barnes View Post


                    My Boyfriend's Back, by the Angels. The Allbut sisters, seemingly rough and untutored and slightly off key, underscoring a threat of terrible violence with that harmonic drone that only siblings seem to be able to get. I don't know why but the pitch reminds me of South African choirs.
                    This one wins!

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                      #11
                      Actually, fuck all these boybands post 1990's, there were loads of amazing girlbands from that 50's era way beyond the boyband manguster dance move schtick shit.

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                        #12
                        The queen of all backing singers is, of course, the wonderful Darlene Love. Aside from her own sides for Phil Spector she also sang lead, on most of The Crystals hits, and back-up on the Ronettes Be My Baby and Baby I Love You. Besides her work for Spector she sang background on everything from Frank Sinatra's That's Life, to Boris Pickett's Monster Mash.

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                          #13
                          Originally posted by Amor de Cosmos View Post
                          The queen of all backing singers is, of course, the wonderful Darlene Love. Aside from her own sides for Phil Spector she also sang lead, on most of The Crystals hits, and back-up on the Ronettes Be My Baby and Baby I Love You. Besides her work for Spector she sang background on everything from Frank Sinatra's That's Life, to Boris Pickett's Monster Mash.
                          And she's a reason to watch the excellent 20 Feet from Stardom

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                            #14
                            It's a bloody good title for a documentary about background singers, that.
                            20 feet from stardom.

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                              #15
                              Miriam Makeba's backing singers in The Skylarks

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                                #16
                                The Coconuts, especially for “Ono-Ono-onomatopoeia”

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                                  #17
                                  Couldn't let this thread pass without reference to The Fleetwoods from Olympia WA. Gretchen Christopher (on the left in the vid) was the writer of most of the group's material, including their two #1 US hits Come Softly to Me (recorded in her parents' basement with only a set of car keys as accompaniment) and Mr Blue. She was also the first female artist to both write and perform a number one record. She and Bonnie Guitar, who co-owned Dolton Records the groups label, were pioneers at a time when women's place in the music industry, except as performers, was likely to be both tenuous and brief, both are still active today.
                                   

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                                    #18
                                    Chaka Khan on Steve Winwood's Higher Love

                                    All those singers on Chemical Brothers' hits

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                                      #19
                                      A day after I started this thread, one of the great backing singers died: Clydie King.

                                      You'll have heard her on tracks by Steely Dan songs (Kid Charlemagne, The Royal Scam, the whole Aja album), The Rolling Stones (Tumbling Dice and Shine A Light), Linda Ronstadt (You’re No Good and Desperado), Neil Diamond (Cracklin’ Rosie and Beautiful Noise); Elton John (The Bitch Is Back), Judee Sill (Jesus Was A Cross Maker), Arlo Guthrie (City of New Orleans), Leo Sayer (You Make Me Feel Like Dancing), Bob Seger (Still The Same) and the whole Dylan canon in his Christian period, including Shot Of Love (whose guitarist, Steve Ripley, also died recently).

                                      And she sang, with Merry Clayton, on Sweet Home Alabama. Apparently Clayton didn't want to sing about racist Alabama, was persuaded by her husband and King to do so. They put all their anger into it. Afterwards King told Clayton: "
                                      We did our part and this song will live in infamy, Merry. And we’ll continually get paid."

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                                        #20
                                        If you put "Paul Young The Tube" into YouTube I think you find the ultimate example of backing singers upstaging the main act!

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                                          #21
                                          The Carter sisters when they backed Johnny Cash.

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