Gwen Guthrie

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Gwen Guthrie
Birth nameGwendolyn Guthrie
Born(1950-07-09)July 9, 1950
Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedFebruary 3, 1999(1999-02-03) (aged 48)
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • pianist
  • Vocals
  • piano
Years active1974–1999

Gwendolyn Guthrie (July 9, 1950 – February 3, 1999)[2] was an American singer-songwriter and pianist[1] who also sang backing vocals for Aretha Franklin, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Peter Tosh, The Limit and Madonna, among others, and who wrote songs made famous by Ben E. King, Angela Bofill and Roberta Flack.[3] Guthrie is well known for her 1986 anthem "Ain't Nothin' Goin' On but the Rent," and for her 1986 cover of the song "(They Long to Be) Close to You."[4]

Life and career[edit]

Guthrie was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey.[1] In school, she studied classical music, and her father began teaching her piano when she was eight years old.[5] By the early 1970s, she had joined vocal groups such as the Ebonettes[1] and the Matchmakers, while working as an elementary school teacher. She was a backup singer on Aretha Franklin's 1974 single "I'm in Love".[1]

Guthrie soon began moonlighting as a singer of commercial jingles, sometimes with her friend Valerie Simpson of Ashford & Simpson fame. A song-writing partnership with then-boyfriend, trombonist/bassist Haras Fyre (professionally known as "Patrick Grant") resulted in Ben E. King's comeback single "Supernatural Thing," an R&B #1 (#5 pop) hit in 1975,[2] and the follow-up, "Do It In the Name of Love (#4 R&B). They also wrote "This Time I'll Be Sweeter" for Angela Bofill, which was later covered by numerous artists. Together they wrote seven tracks on Sister Sledge's 1975 album[2] Circle of Love: "Cross My Heart", "Protect Our Love", "Love Don't You Go Through No Changes on Me", "Don't You Miss Him Now", "Pain Reliever", "You're Much Better Off Loving Me", and "Fireman". She also wrote Roberta Flack's "God Don't Like Ugly".[2]

As Guthrie's solo career developed, she worked extensively with Sly and Robbie on dub-influenced club cuts and began racking up dance hits. She was dubbed "The First Lady of the Paradise Garage," as several of her songs became anthems at that venue, helped by the frequent and dynamic performances she gave there. She soon teamed musically with famed Paradise Garage DJ Larry Levan and recorded her first major landmark hit "Padlock" in 1983 with the Compass Point All Stars in Nassau, Bahamas, which became a club and radio hit two years later. She also sang backup on Madonna's 1982 debut album. In 1984 Guthrie was featured on the club hit Say Yeah with the group The Limit featuring Dutch producers Bernard Oattes and Rob van Schaik. The track reached number 17 in the UK singles chart. Guthrie was also executive producer and singer on the minor hit Naughty Times by Cutty also released in 1984 on Hudson River Records HR 101.

Guthrie is probably best known for her 1986 dance anthem "Ain't Nothin' Goin' on But the Rent", a self-written and produced track that garnered some controversy for its materialistic lyrics such as: "You've got to have a j-o-b if you want to be with me/No romance without finance."[2]

"Ain't Nothin' Goin' on But the Rent" was later sampled by numerous dance and hip hop artists, notably by Foxy Brown in her 1998 song "JOB" featuring Mýa, and by Utah Saints for the original version of their hit "What Can You Do for Me." The song is referenced in the Eddie Murphy monologue "No Romance without Finance" in his Eddie Murphy Raw comedy special. Guthrie also had a hit in 1986 with a cover of "(They Long to Be) Close to You," which reached number twenty-five on the UK Singles Chart the same year.[4]

Her 1988 single "Can't Love You Tonight" boldly addressed AIDS at a time when the disease was a rather taboo subject.[6] Guthrie was an ally of the gay community, and of people with AIDS. Proceeds from the single went to the AIDS Coalition.

Other club hits by Guthrie include the Compass Point All Stars-produced "Seventh Heaven," "Peanut Butter," and "Peek-a-Boo." "Padlock" was later covered by M People, who included it on their 1995 album Bizarre Fruit, featuring vocalist Heather Small.


Guthrie died of uterine cancer on February 3, 1999,[1] at the age of 48,[5] and was interred at Fairmount Cemetery in Newark, New Jersey.


Studio albums[edit]

Year Title Peak chart positions Record label

1982 Gwen Guthrie 208 28 36 Island
1983 Portrait 42
1985 Just for You 55
1986 Good to Go Lover 89 20 99 17 42 Polydor
1988 Lifeline Warner Bros.
1990 Hot Times Reprise
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Extended plays[edit]

Year Title Peak Record label

1985 Padlock 47 Garage/Island Trading Co.

Compilation albums[edit]


Year Title Peak chart positions Certifications Album


1981 "Nothing But Love" (with Peter Tosh) 43 Wanted Dread & Alive
1982 "It Should Have Been You" 27 11 26 Gwen Guthrie
"For You (With a Melody Too)" (Remix)
1983 "Peanut Butter" 83 Portrait
1984 "Say Yeah" (with Oattes Van Schaik) 7 25 17 Love Attaxx
"Love in Moderation" 110 17 Just for You
1985 "Just for You" 53
"Padlock" (Special Mix by Larry Levan) 102 25 22[a] Padlock
"Peanut Butter" (Special Mix by Larry Levan) 75 13
"Seventh Heaven" (Special Mix by Larry Levan) 85
1986 "Ain't Nothin' Goin' on But the Rent" 42 1 1 75 21 6 1 5 Good to Go Lover
"Outside in the Rain" 51 37
"Good to Go Lover"
"(They Long to Be) Close to You" 69 19 9 25
1987 "Friends & Lovers" (with Boris Gardiner) 97
"Ticket to Ride" (Special Mix by Larry Levan) Ticket to Ride
1988 "Family Affair" (Special Mix by Larry Levan)
"Can't Love You Tonight" 83 44 79 Lifeline
"Rockin' Chair"
1990 "Miss My Love" 27 Hot Times
1991 "Say It Isn't So"
"Sweet Bitter Love" 74
1992 "Eyes (You Never Really Cared)" 95
1993 "Ain't Nothin' Goin' on But the Rent" (1993 Remix) 42
"This Christmas Eve"
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


  1. ^ "Padlock" also charted at #13 on the Hot Dance/Disco Club Play chart along with all tracks from the album Padlock.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Hamilton, Andrew. "Gwen Guthrie - Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved August 9, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e Perrone, Pierre (February 14, 1999). "Obituary: Gwen Guthrie". The Independent. Retrieved November 19, 2016.
  3. ^ Johnson, Connie (September 28, 1986). "Juice's Hard 'Rain' Falls On Women". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved March 22, 2012.
  4. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 238. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  5. ^ a b King, Aliya S. (February 20, 1999). "Gwen Guthrie, 48, Dies". Billboard. Vol. 111, no. 8. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 8. ISSN 0006-2510.
  6. ^ Smith, Raymond A. (August 27, 1998). Encyclopedia of AIDS: A Social, Political, Cultural, and Scientific Record of the HIV Epidemic. Routledge. p. 539. ISBN 9781135457549.
  7. ^ a b c d e f "US Charts > Gwen Guthrie". Billboard. Retrieved November 16, 2019.
  8. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Charts Book 1970–1992. Australian Chart Book Pty Ltd, Turramurra, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  9. ^ a b "NZ Charts > Gwen Guthtie". Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  10. ^ a b "UK Charts > Gwen Guthtie". Official Charts Company. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  11. ^ "GER Charts Search > Gwen Guthrie". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved February 8, 2016.
  12. ^ "IRE Charts Search > Gwen Guthrie". Irish Recorded Music Association. Retrieved February 8, 2016.
  13. ^ "British certifications – Gwen Guthrie". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved January 30, 2022. Type Gwen Guthrie in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.

External links[edit]