Promotional photo by Brunswick Records
|Birth name||Barbara Jean Acklin|
|Also known as||Barbara Allen|
February 28, 1943|
Oakland, California, United States
|Died||November 27, 1998
Omaha, Nebraska, United States
|Years active||c.1961 – 1998|
|Labels||St Lawrence, Chess, Brunswick, Capitol, Chi-Sound|
|Associated acts||Monk Higgins
Barbara Jean Acklin (February 28, 1943 – November 27, 1998) was an American soul singer and songwriter, who was most successful in the 1960s and 1970s. Her biggest hit as a singer was "Love Makes a Woman" in 1968. As a songwriter, she is best known for co-writing the multi-million-selling "Have You Seen Her" with Eugene Record, lead singer of the Chi-Lites.
Life and career
She was born in Oakland, California, and moved with her family to Chicago, Illinois in 1948. She was encouraged to sing as a child; by the age of 11, she sang regularly as a soloist at the New Zion Baptist Church, and as a teenager started singing at nightclubs in Chicago. After graduating from Dunbar Vocational High School she worked as a secretary at St. Lawrence Records. Her first record was released on the subsidiary Special Agent label under the pseudonym Barbara Allen, and was produced by her cousin, producer and saxophonist Monk Higgins. She also worked as a backing singer at Chess Records on recordings by Etta James, Fontella Bass, Koko Taylor and others produced by Higgins.
In 1966 she started working as a receptionist at Brunswick Records' Chicago office, where she submitted demo recordings of some of her own songs to producer Carl Davis. One of her songs, "Whispers (Gettin' Louder)", which she had co-written with David Scott, formerly of The Five Du-Tones, was recorded by Jackie Wilson and became his biggest hit for three years, reaching no. 5 on the Billboard R&B chart and no. 11 on the Hot 100. Wilson then helped secure her a recording contract with Brunswick. Her first two singles for the label were unsuccessful but her third, "Show Me the Way To Go", a duet with Gene Chandler, made the R&B chart. She began writing songs with another Brunswick recording artist, Eugene Record, lead singer of the Chi-Lites; some but not all sources state that they were later married. They co-wrote the Peaches and Herb hit "Two Little Kids", before Record and Davis co-wrote and produced Acklin's first and biggest solo hit, "Love Makes a Woman"; the other co-writers were arranger Sonny Sanders and guitarist Gerald Sims. The single reached no. 3 on the R&B chart and no. 15 on the US pop chart in July 1968 and won a BMI award.
Acklin continued to have a series of hits on Brunswick over the next four years, including "From the Teacher to the Preacher", another duet with Chandler, and solo hits "Just Ain't No Love" and "Am I the Same Girl", produced by Record. The instrumental backing track of "Am I the Same Girl", with piano replacing Acklin's vocal, became a bigger hit when released as "Soulful Strut" by Young-Holt Unlimited. "Am I the Same Girl" was covered in the UK by Dusty Springfield (UK no. 43, 1969). Acklin also released several albums on the Brunswick label: Love Makes a Woman (1968), Seven Days of Night (1969), Someone Else's Arms (1970), I Did It (1971) and I Call It Trouble (1973).
At the same time, she continued her successful writing partnership with Eugene Record. Impressed by the monologues on Isaac Hayes' album Hot Buttered Soul, Record and Acklin wrote "Have You Seen Her", which was originally an album track on the Chi-Lites' 1971 album (For God's Sake) Give More Power to the People before being released as a single. It reached no. 1 on the R&B chart and no. 3 on the US pop chart, and twice made the UK top ten (no. 3 in 1972 and no. 5 in 1975). In 1990, the song became a top ten hit again, when recorded by MC Hammer. Record and Acklin co-wrote several other successful songs for the Chi-Lites, including "Stoned Out of My Mind" (R&B no. 2, 1973), "Toby" (R&B no. 7, 1974), and "Too Good To Be Forgotten" (UK no. 10, 1975).
In 1974, Acklin moved to Capitol Records. Her first single for the label, "Raindrops" was co-written by Acklin and produced by former Brunswick producer, Willie Henderson. It became her biggest hit on the R&B chart for six years (#14) and she released an album, A Place in the Sun. However, later recordings met with less success and she was dropped by the label in 1975. She continued to tour as a solo artist, and as a backing singer for the Chi-Lites, Tyrone Davis, and other acts. In 1980, she made some recordings for Carl Davis' Chi-Sound label and contributed backing vocals to Otis Clay's 1993 album The Gospel Truth.
Acklin later lived in Omaha, Nebraska. She had begun recording a new album in 1998, when she fell ill and died from pneumonia at the age of 55. She had a son, Marcus White, a daughter, Samotta McKeever and a godson, Elliot Myrick.
- 1968: Love Makes a Woman (Brunswick) – US #146, R&B #4
- 1969: Seven Days of Night (Brunswick)
- 1970: Someone Else's Arms (Brunswick)
- 1971: I Did It (Brunswick) – R&B #28
- 1973: I Call It Trouble (Brunswick)
- 1975: A Place in the Sun (Capitol)
- 2002: 20 Greatest Hits (Brunswick)
|1968||"Show Me The Way To Go"
Gene Chandler and Barbara Acklin
|"Love Makes A Woman"||15||3|
|"From the Teacher To The Preacher"
Gene Chandler and Barbara Acklin
|"Just Ain't No Love"||67||23|
|1969||"Am I the Same Girl"||79||33|
|1970||"I Did It"||121||28|
|1971||"Lady, Lady, Lady"||-||44|
|1972||"I Call It Trouble"||-||49|
|"Give Me Some Of Your Sweet Love"||-||98|
- Barbara Acklin at Find-A-Grave. Some sources give a birth year of 1944.
- Obituary by Spencer Leigh, The Independent, 10 December 1998
- The AllMusic guide
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 521. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 5. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
- Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-1995. Record Research. p. 4.