Linda Lewis, British singer whose voice knew few bounds, dies at 72

Linda Lewis, British singer whose voice knew few bounds, dies at 72

Linda Lewis, a critically acclaimed soul singer and songwriter whose pyrotechnic voice propelled four Top 10 singles as a solo artist in her native Britain and led to work as a backing vocalist on star-acclaimed albums like David Bowie, Cat Stevens and Rod Stewart died on May 3 at his home in Waltham Abbey, near London. She was 72 years old.

His sister Dee Lewis Clay confirmed the death but did not specify a cause.

Ms Lewis has garnered praise for her five-octave vocal range and has impressed listeners with her genre-hopping instinct, tapping into folk, R&B, rock, reggae, pop and – with more than one stroke thumbs up from the label’s executives – disco.

She grew up studying Motown hits note by note, and her first single, “You Turned My Bitter Into Sweet” (1967), was a cheerful, up-tempo number that sounded straight out of Berry Gordy’s recording studio. on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit.

After that, she joined Ferris Wheel, a popular rock and soul band on the UK club circuit, before embarking on a solo career as a guitar singer-songwriter and signing with Reprise Records. in 1971.

“It was a great time,” she said in a 2007 interview with Record Collector magazine. “I lived in a kind of commune, and lots of people were coming in and going out. Cat Stevens came often, as did Marc Bolan and Elton John. There was a lot of jamming there, very creative vibes.

She ended up touring the world with Mr. Stevens, in addition to lending her voice to albums like David Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane” (1973) and Rod Stewart’s “Blondes Have More Fun” (1978).

His first solo album, “Say No More”, released in 1971, failed to achieve commercial success. The following year, she released “Lark,” a California breeze-marked album that received strong reviews and featured the song “Old Smokey,” which rapper Common sampled in his 2005 song “Go!” A US tour in 1973 helped create the buzz.

But still, she needed a shot.

She found one the same year, with the dynamic and racy single “Rock a Doodle Doo”, which reached No. 15 in Britain (although it failed to chart in the US) and showed off her range with vocals that swayed from raspy lows to shimmering highs, so much so that the song could be mistaken for a duet.

In the mid-1970s, she signed with Arista Records, whose founder, Clive Davis, chose to portray her as a disco diva like Gloria Gaynor. This decision paid off, at least commercially. Her 1975 single “It’s in His Kiss”, a Studio 54-ready version of Betty Everett’s 1964 hit “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss)”, reached number six in Britain, although barely made a splash. in the USA.

But Ms Lewis bristled at the forced turn in her career. “I didn’t really hold on, I’m afraid,” she later said. “I saw myself as a singer-songwriter; They did not do it.

Even so, the album with the single “Not a Little Girl Anymore” reached No. 40 in Britain, with Rolling Stone noting that it brought “this multi-styled English artist into the mainstream of contemporary R&B”.

In the 2000s, her music passed on to a new generation, as she sang on albums by Oasis, Basement Jaxx and Jamiroquai.

Linda Ann Fredericks was born on September 27, 1950 in Custom House, a dockland area in east London. She was one of six children of Eddie Fredericks, a musician, and Lily Fredericks, who worked as a bus driver and ran pubs. (It’s unclear why the singer chose Lewis as her stage name.)

Her mother had big ambitions for her as a performer and enrolled her in drama school, an experience Ms Lewis has not looked back on fondly.

His compass was oriented towards music. She got her first taste of the spotlight in her early teens when her mother took her to see John Lee Hooker perform at a club and pushed her upstage to sing, courtesy of the blues titan, a rendition by Martha and the Vandellas. “Dancing in the street”.

In addition to Mrs. Lewis Clay, Mrs. Lewis is survived by two other sisters, Shirley Lewis and Patsy Wildman; his brothers, Keith and Paul Fredericks; and his son, Jesse. His three marriages ended in divorce.

As Ms Lewis sought to escape drama school as soon as possible, her flirtation with the theater was not a complete waste. She made a brief appearance in Tony Richardson’s film “A Taste of Honey” (1961). She also appeared as a screaming fan in the Beatles film “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964).

She wasn’t the only future musical notable in the crowd of hysterical Beatlemaniacs. Phil Collins, in his school jacket and tie, was also on set as an extra. “Many years later I ran into him and said, ‘Hey, we did a movie together,'” Ms Lewis told Record Collector. “He gave me a very funny look. I think he thought I was a weirdo.

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