LaVern Baker

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LaVern Baker
LaVern Baker 1956.jpg
Baker in 1956.
Background information
Birth name Delores LaVern Baker
Also known as Delores Williams
Little Miss Sharecropper
Bea Baker
Born (1929-11-11)November 11, 1929
Chicago, Illinois, US
Died March 10, 1997(1997-03-10) (aged 67)
Queens, New York, US
Genres Blues
R&B
Occupations Singer, actress
Years active 1946–1967
1988–1991
Labels National
Okeh
Atlantic
Brunswick
Associated acts Jackie Wilson

Delores LaVern Baker (November 11, 1929 – March 10, 1997) was an American rhythm and blues singer, who had several hit records on the pop chart in the 1950s and early 1960s. Her most successful records were "Tweedlee Dee" (1955), "Jim Dandy" (1956), and "I Cried a Tear" (1958).

Early life[edit]

Baker was born in Chicago, Illinois. She is occasionally referred to as Delores Williams because of an early marriage to Eugene Williams;[1][2] in the late 1940s she was identified in RCA Victor record company files as "D. L. McMurley." She was the niece of blues singer Merline Johnson and was also related to Memphis Minnie.

Career[edit]

She began singing in Chicago clubs such as the Club DeLisa around 1946, often billed as Little Miss Sharecropper,[3] and first recorded under that name in 1949. She changed her name briefly to Bea Baker when recording for Okeh Records in 1951, and then became LaVern Baker when singing with Todd Rhodes and his band in 1952.[1]

In 1953 she signed for Atlantic Records as a solo artist, her first release being "Soul on Fire". Her first hit came in early 1955, with the Latin-tempo "Tweedlee Dee" reaching #4 on the R&B chart and #14 on the national US pop charts. Georgia Gibbs' note-for-note cover of Baker's "Tweedle Dee" reached #1; subsequently Baker made an unsuccessful attempt to sue her and petitioned Congress to consider such covers copyright violations.[4][5]

Baker had a succession of hits on the R&B charts over the next couple of years with her backing group The Gliders, including "Bop-Ting-A-Ling" (#3 R&B), "Play It Fair" (#2 R&B), and "Still" (#4 R&B). At the end of 1956 she had another smash hit with "Jim Dandy" (#1 R&B, #17 pop). It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.[6] Further hits followed for Atlantic, including the follow-up "Jim Dandy Got Married" (#7 R&B), "I Cried a Tear" (#2 R&B, #6 pop in 1959), "I Waited Too Long" (#5 R&B, #3 pop, written by Neil Sedaka), "Saved" (#17 R&B, written by Leiber and Stoller), and "See See Rider" (#9 R&B in 1963).

In addition to singing, Baker also did some work with Ed Sullivan[7] and Alan Freed on TV and in films, including Rock, Rock, Rock and Mr. Rock & Roll. In 1964, she recorded a Bessie Smith tribute album, before leaving Atlantic and joining Brunswick Records, where she recorded the album "Let Me Belong to You".

In 1966, Baker recorded a duet single with Jackie Wilson. The controversial song, "Think Twice", featured raunchy lyrics that were not considered appropriate for airplay at that time or even today. Three versions were recorded, one of which is the X-rated version with the raunchy lyrics.[8]

Baker and comedian Slappy White were married in 1959.[2] After the couple was divorced in 1969, Baker signed on for a USO tour; she became seriously ill with bronchial pneumonia after a trip to Vietnam. While recovering at the US Subic Bay Naval Base in the Philippines, a friend recommended that she stay on as the entertainment director at the Marine Corps Staff NCO club there. Baker remained there for 22 years, returning to the US after the base was closed in 1988.[9]

In 1988 she returned to perform at Madison Square Garden for Atlantic Records' 40th anniversary. She then worked on the soundtracks to films such as Shag, (1989), Dick Tracy, (1990) and A Rage in Harlem (1991), which were all issued on CD. She also performed a song on Alan Parker's film Angel Heart (1987), which appeared on the original vinyl soundtrack album, but was not included on the later CD issue "for contractual reasons".

In 1990, she made her Broadway debut replacing Ruth Brown as star of the hit musical Black and Blue.[9] In 1991, Rhino Records released a new album Live in Hollywood recorded at the Hollywood Roosevelt Cinegrill, as well as a compilation of her greatest Atlantic hits entitled Soul on Fire. In 1992, she recorded a well-received studio album, Woke Up This Morning, for DRG Records.[9] She continued performing after having both legs amputated from diabetes complications in 1994.[9] Baker made her last recording, "Jump Into the Fire," for the 1995 Harry Nilsson tribute CD, For the Love of Harry on the Music Masters label.

She received the 1990 Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. In 1991, Baker became the second female solo artist inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, following Aretha Franklin in 1987. Her song "Jim Dandy" was named one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll and was ranked #343 on the Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Death[edit]

LaVern Baker died from cardiovascular disease on March 10, 1997, at the age of 67. She was originally buried in an unmarked plot in Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens, Queens, New York, but her grave received a headstone on May 4, 2008, after a fundraiser was held by local historians.[10]

Discography[edit]

Hit singles[edit]

Year Single Chart positions
U.S. U.S.
R&B
1955 "Tweedlee Dee" 14 4
"Bop-Ting-a-Ling" 3
"That's All I Need" 6
"Play It Fair" 2
1956 "My Happiness Forever" 13
"Get Up Get Up" 15
"Still" 97 4
"I Can't Love You Enough" 22 7
"Jim Dandy" 17 1
"Tra La La" 94 flip
1957 "Jim Dandy Got Married" 76 7
"Humpty Dumpty Heart" 71
1958 "It's So Fine" 24
"I Cried a Tear" 6 2
1959 "I Waited Too Long" 33 5
"So High So Low" 52 12
"If You Love Me" 79
"Tiny Tim" 63 18
1960 "Shake a Hand" 13
"Wheel of Fortune" 83
"Shadows of Love" 83
"Bumble Bee" 46
1961 "You're the Boss"(with Jimmy Ricks) 81
"I'll Never Be Free"(with Jimmy Ricks) 103
"Saved" 37 17
1962 "See See Rider" 34 9
1964 "You Better Find Yourself Another Fool" 128
1965 "Fly Me to the Moon" 84 31
1966 "Think Twice"(with Jackie Wilson) 93 37
"Please Don't Hurt Me"(with Jackie Wilson) 128
"Batman To the Rescue" 135

Albums[edit]

  • LaVern (1956)

'Side A'

  1. "Lots and Lots of Love"
  2. "Of Course I Do"
  3. "You'll Be Crying"
  4. "Miracles"
  5. "I'm in a Crying Mood"
  6. "Mine All Mine"

'Side B'

  1. "Harbor Lights"
  2. "I'll Never Be Free"
  3. "Romance in the Dark"
  4. "Everybody Is Somebody's Fool"
  5. "How Long Will It Be"
  6. "Fool That I Am"
  • LaVern Baker (1957)

'Side A'

  1. "Jim Dandy"
  2. "Tra La La"
  3. "I Can't Love You Enough"
  4. "Get Up, Get Up (You Sleepy Head)"
  5. "That's All I Need"
  6. "Bop-Ting-a-Ling"
  7. "Tweedlee Dee"

'Side B'

  1. "Still"
  2. "Play It Fair"
  3. "Tomorrow Night"
  4. "That Lucky Old Sun"
  5. "Soul on Fire"
  6. "My Happiness Forever"
  7. "How Can You Leave a Man Like This?"
  • LaVern Baker Sings Bessie Smith (1958)

'Side A'

  1. "Gimme a Pigfoot (And a Bottle of Beer)"
  2. "Baby Doll"
  3. "On Revival Day"
  4. "Money Blues"
  5. "I Ain't Gonna Play No Second Fiddle"
  6. "Back Water Blues"

'Side B'

  1. "Empty Bed Blues"
  2. "There'll Be a Hot time in the Old Town Tonight"
  3. "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out"
  4. "After You've Gone"
  5. "Young Woman's Blues"
  6. "Preaching the Blues"
  • Blues Ballads (1959)

'Side A'

  1. "I Cried a Tear"
  2. "If You Love Me"
  3. "You're Teasing Me"
  4. "Love Me Right"
  5. "Dix-a-Billy"
  6. "So High So Low"

'Side B'

  1. "I Waited Too Long"
  2. "Why Baby Why"
  3. "Humpty Dumpty Heart"
  4. "It's So Fine"
  5. "Whipper Snapper"
  6. "St. Louis Blues"
  • Precious Memories: LaVern Baker Sings Gospel (1959)

'Side A'

  1. "Precious Memories"
  2. "Carrying the Cross for My Boss"
  3. "Just a Closer Walk With Thee"
  4. "Touch Me, Lord Jesus"
  5. "Didn't It Rain"
  6. "Precious Lord"

'Side B'

  1. "Somebody Touched Me"
  2. "In the Upper Room"
  3. "Journey to the Sky"
  4. "Everytime I Feel the Spirit"
  5. "Too Close"
  6. "Without a God"
  • Saved (1961)

'Side A'

  1. "Saved"
  2. "For Love of You"
  3. "Manana"
  4. "My Time Will Come"
  5. "Shadows of Love"
  6. "Must I Cry Again"

'Side B'

  1. "Bumble Bee"
  2. "Shake a Hand"
  3. "Don Juan"
  4. "Wheel of Fortune"
  5. "Senor Big and Fine"
  6. "Eternally"
  • See See Rider (1963)

'Side A'

  1. "See See Rider"
  2. "You Better Stop"
  3. "He's a Real Gone Guy"
  4. "Story of My Love"
  5. "You Said"
  6. "I'm Leavin' You"

'Side B'

  1. "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes"
  2. "Trying"
  3. "Half of Your Love"
  4. "A Little Bird Told Me So"
  5. "Endless Love"
  6. "All the Time"
  • Let Me Belong to You (1970)

'Side A'

  1. "Pledging My Love"
  2. "Let Me Belong to You"
  3. "I'm the One to Do It"
  4. "Baby"
  5. "Born to Lose"

'Side B'

  1. "Call Me Darling"
  2. "Love Is Ending"
  3. "Baby Don't You Do It"
  4. "I Need You So"
  5. "Play It Fair"

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Marv Goldberg, "Lavern Baker", Marv Goldberg's R&B Notebooks, 2009. Retrieved 25 May 2014
  2. ^ a b "Lavern Baker marries comedian Slappy White". Baltimore Afro-American. 21 February 1959. p. 4. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  3. ^ Deffaa, Chip, Blue Rhythms: Six lives in rhythm and blues, University of Illinois Press, 1996 ISBN 0-252-02203-3, ISBN 978-0-252-02203-6.
  4. ^ ""Black" music gets whitewashed, as Georgia Gibbs hits the pop charts with "The Wallflower (Dance With Me, Henry)"". Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  5. ^ PARELES, JON. "LaVern Baker Is Dead at 67; A Rhythm-and-Blues Veteran". Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  6. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 88. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  7. ^ "LaVern Baker", Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2014.
  8. ^ Jeffrey Morgan (2004). "Pervert's Ball, Side Two". Creem Online. Detroit: Creem Media, Inc. Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  9. ^ a b c d Talevski, Nick, ed. (2010). Rock Obituaries - Knocking On Heaven's Door. Omnibus Press. p. 17. ISBN 9780857121172. Retrieved July 8, 2014. 
  10. ^ Nysac.com

External links[edit]