Preeminent soul singer Laura Lee (Rundless) turns 70 today! It's certainly apropos that Laura Lee's birthday falls within Women's History Month given that her hits of the early 70s like "Women's Love Rights," "Love & Liberty" and "Wedlock Is a Padlock" are strongly associated with the Women's Liberation Movement. But Laura Lee's career and influence stretches back to the mid-1950s when as a teenager she replaced the legendary Della Reese in the Detroit gospel group, The Mediation Singers. It was Laura Lee's mother, Earnestine Rundless who in the 1940s founded this "golden age gospel" group that deeply inspired a host of young soon-to-be soul singers of Detroit.
Her secular career was launched in 1965 and after a couple of singles on Detroit's Ric-Tic label, she landed on Chess. She was eventually sent by the label to Muscle Shoals where she recorded some defining late-1960s deep soul records like "Dirty Man,: and "Upright Good Man".
It was during her stint with Detroit label HotWax/Invictus (run by Holland, Dozier, Holland) that Laura Lee struck a chord with Women's Lib Movement. Her songs became anthems demanding gender equality and respect on a number of levels.
Though, my favorite Laura Lee record is from the years just after that period. It's a more subtle Laura Lee, perhaps inspired by Al Green (whom she had been reportedly dating). This is a Holland-Dozier-Holland composition (they too recorded a version of it) and is presumably produced by them. For me, this is the sweetest 70s soul gets. At the time of this recording Laura Lee would have been 34, a bit more worldly and wise, perhaps a bit broken by the travails of love. Her brilliant performance as a wearied women desperate to save a fading relationship coupled with the gorgeous multi-layered HDH production (complete with strings, congas, shimmery keyboards, and a subtle psychedelic effect) make with record absolutely irresistible to me.
While I LOVE and appreciate Laura Lee's previous respect-demanding records, there's something about the vulnerability revealed in this performance that really grabs my heart. Perhaps it's reassuring to know that even seemingly strong women are susceptible to heartaches too, and that's ok.
DJ Action Slacks
I'm excited to highlight some of my favorite records in a variety of genres (soul, R&B, classic country, rockabilly, oldies, garage rock, etc). These won't all necessarily be "dance" records per se. They will all be records that I believe deserve a special listen. I simply love good music, rare or not. Hopefully you will spend some time here and love music right along with me! Lets give this a shot!