Bobby Freeman

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For the football player, see Bobby Freeman (American football). For the Louisiana politician, see Bobby Freeman (politician).
Bobby Freeman
Birth name Robert Thomas Freeman
Born (1940-06-13)June 13, 1940
Alameda County, California, United States
Died January 23, 2017(2017-01-23) (aged 76)
San Francisco, California, United States
Genres Soul music
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter, record producer
Instruments Vocals, piano, keyboards
Years active 1956–2017
Labels Dootone, Josie, London, Autumn, Touch Music
Associated acts The Romancers, The West Coast Vocaleers

Robert Thomas "Bobby" Freeman (June 13, 1940[1] – January 23, 2017[2]) was an African-American soul and R&B singer, songwriter and record producer from San Francisco, California. He is best known for his two Top Ten hits, the first in 1958 on Josie Records called "Do You Want to Dance" and the second in 1964 for Autumn Records, "C'mon and Swim".[3]


Freeman was born in Alameda County and raised in San Francisco, California.[2] He attended Mission High School.[4] He started singing in a doo-wop group, the Romancers, in his early teens, and first recorded with them for Dootone Records in 1956. Their recordings included "House Cat", included on several later rock and roll compilations. However, the group soon fell apart, and Freeman started a new group, the Vocaleers (not to be confused with an earlier group of the same name who recorded "Is It a Dream").[5][6]

When asked by a local DJ if he had written any songs, he wrote several and recorded them as solo demos. These included "Do You Want to Dance", which were heard by a visiting record label executive, Mortimer Palitz of Jubilee Records. He signed Freeman to the label and had the original recording overdubbed in New York by session musicians including guitarist Billy Mure. Released on the Jubilee subsidiary label Josie, "Do You Want to Dance" quickly rose to number 5 on the pop chart and number 2 on the R&B chart in early 1958, when Freeman was still only 17.[6][5] The song was covered later (as "Do You Wanna Dance") by Del Shannon, the Beach Boys, Johnny Rivers, Bette Midler, John Lennon, Cliff Richard, Marc Bolan & T.Rex, the Mamas & The Papas, Bobby Vee and the Ramones.[6]

Freeman appeared on American Bandstand and toured with such musicians as Fats Domino, the Coasters, and Jackie Wilson. Several of his follow-ups on Laurie, including "Betty Lou Got a New Pair of Shoes" and "Need Your Love", a ballad, also made the pop charts. He left Laurie in 1960 and signed with King Records, reaching the charts again with "Shimmy Shimmy".[6] However, several of Freeman's later recordings for King in the early 1960s went unreleased, for unexplained reasons. He did not return to the charts again until 1964, after signing for the Autumn label, when he had his second top ten hit with "C'mon and Swim". The song was co-written by label owner and radio DJ Tom Donahue (credited under his birth name, Thomas Coman), and 20-year-old Sylvester Stewart, later known as Sly Stone, and was produced by Stewart. Freeman's final hit was "S-W-I-M", later in 1964.[5]

In 1964, Bobby Freeman played nightly at the Condor Club in San Francisco where Carol Doda performed her topless go-go dancing shows. Mainly supporting himself as a singer in clubs by the late 1960s, he continued to release singles on various small local labels through to the mid-1970s but met with little commercial success.[7] He performed at the Bay Area Music ("Bammy") Awards in later years.

He died of natural causes on 23 January 2017.[2]


Chart singles[edit]

Year Single Chart Positions
US Pop[8] US
1958 "Do You Want to Dance" 5 2
"Betty Lou Got a New Pair of Shoes" 37 20
"Need Your Love" 54 29
1959 "Mary Ann Thomas" 90 -
"Ebb Tide" 93 -
1960 "(I Do the) Shimmy Shimmy" 37 -
1961 "The Mess Around" 89 -
1964 "C'mon and Swim" 5 *
"S-W-I-M" 56 *

Note: * Billboard did not publish an R&B chart during this period


  • 1958 Do You Wanna Dance (Jubilee)
  • 1959 Get in the Swim (Josie)
  • 1960 Lovable Style of Bobby Freeman (King)
  • 1964 C'mon and Swim (Autumn)


  • The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Pareles, Jon & Romanowski, Patricia, eds., Summit Books 1983


  1. ^ Bobby Freeman, Retrieved 31 January 2017
  2. ^ a b c Alec Palao, "Bobby Freeman", Ace Records, 13 February 2017. Retrieved 13 February 2017
  3. ^ Wynn, Ron. Biography for Bobby Freeman at AllMusic Retrieved 13 June 2010
  4. ^ Joel Selvin, "When 'the Twist' took over", SFChronicle, January 26, 2002. Retrieved 1 February 2017
  5. ^ a b c Dik de Heer, "Bobby Freeman biography", Black Cat Rockabilly, 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2017
  6. ^ a b c d Jeff Tamarkin, "‘Do You Wanna Dance’ Singer Bobby Freeman Dies", Retrieved 1 February 2017
  7. ^ Bobby Freeman Discography, SoulfulKindaMusic. Retrieved 31 January 2017
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 265. ISBN 0-89820-155-1. 
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-1995. Record Research. p. 160.