Saturday, November 5, 2011

Freda Payne

Photos and Interview by Alan Mercer

All Photos:  Alan Mercer      Gowns: LSO Designs

Freda Payne comes from Detroit, Michigan and grew up listening to different jazz singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday.  As a teenager, she attended the Detroit Institute of Musical Arts. She soon began singing radio commercial jingles, and took part in, and won many local TV and radio talent shows.

In 1963, she moved to New York City and worked with many different entertainers, including Quincy Jones, Pearl Bailey, and Bill Cosby. The next year, her debut album, a jazz recording entitled 'After the Lights Go Down Low and Much More!!!', was released on the Impulse! label. Three years later, she released her second album, another jazz effort, 'How Do You Say I Don't Love You Anymore,' for MGM Records.  She also made occasional guest appearances on different television shows including 'The Merv Griffen Show'and 'The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson."

In 1969, her old friends back home in Detroit, Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Edward Holland Jr., persuaded her to sign with their newly-formed record label 'Invictus.'  Shortly thereafter, Eddie Holland offered her a song titled 'Band Of Gold', which he, along with Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier co-wrote with Ronald Dunbar.  In early 1970, the song became an instant pop smash reaching #3 in the US and #1 in the UK.  It also gave Freda her first gold record.  Global sales were over two million.  

In 2011 Freda recorded a duet, 'Saving A Life', with British pop star Sir Cliff Richard for inclusion on his "Soulicious" album.  She also performed with Sir Cliff throughout his tour of the same name last month.  Freda is a long time friend and we talked about her upcoming tour right before she left for Europe.  Along with a couple of new shots I am showcasing some of my favorite work with Freda Payne over the past six years.  This is Freda's second time on the blog.  She was one of my first blog entries in April 2009.  

AM:  Freda I know you must be excited to perform 'Saving A Life' with Cliff Richard on the tour.  Are you singing anything else in the show?

FP:  Well of course I'm singing 'Band Of Gold' which is my signature song.  It is already a long show with six different acts. 

AM:  How did you get on this album in the first place? 

FP:  I got it because of David Guest.  He is a celebrity in England.  I've seen it myself where people on the street stop him and want their picture taken with him. 

AM:  No wonder he lives there. 

FP:  He became a personality there and started bringing in his own shows with people like Billy Paul and Dennis Edwards, Deniece Williams, Dorothy Moore, Candi Staton and myself.  Anyway about a year ago David got to meet Cliff Richard and they struck up an acquaintance.  Last November I performed at a charity event in London and Cliff Richard came and we got to meet.  Then in December David told me Cliff was doing a new album of Soul duets with legendary Soul Artists and I was going to record a song for the album as well.  I told him, "Great. Thanks!"

AM:  Did you  know 'Saving A Life' was going to be the lead single?

FP:  No I did not.  I had no idea.  It was just a cut on the record.  Lamont Dozier produced the majority of the songs.  Lamont's son Beau wrote several of the songs including 'Saving A Life.' 

AM:  What did you think when you first heard the song?

FP:  I loved the song.  It sounds very fresh and young like something Usher or Justin Timberlake would record.  It's very hip! 

AM:  I agree and I love it!!!  Where did you record it?

FP:  Most of the album was recorded in Memphis Tennessee in the month of April.  I spent a whole week there and also performed at a big benefit show at the Peabody Hotel. 

AM:  Didn't Nick Ashford work on this album as well?

FP:  Four of the songs were produced by Ashford & Simpson.  I believe this was the last project he worked on.  He and Valerie worked together but he couldn't sing due to his voice being hoarse.  We didn't know anything at this point.

AM:  When did you hear the finished result?

FP:  They mixed it in June and David called me and told me my song was going to be the lead single. 

AM:  What did that feel like!?!

FP:  It felt great!  Then he put two EMI Executives on the phone and they told me how much they loved the song and it was their favorite on the whole album.  I've listened to the whole album many times now and there are a lot of good songs. 

AM:  It's a good record!

FP:  It's a good record.  There's some great songs on there. 

AM:  It sounds like a wonderful project that is allowing you to have a good time.

FP:  I'm just having a good time and I'm enjoying myself.  I LOVE Cliff Richard. He is a lovely, lovely gentleman. 

AM:  You can tell he is really talented and kind.

FP:   He is and he's professional.  He never says a bad thing about anyone.  You know how with some people, after you are around them for a while, you will hear them be negative and curse, he never does that. 

AM:  I know you have another new song on your own that I love!!!

FP:  Yes I have a couple of songs with Artis Phillips.  One is called 'Free Me From My Freedom' which is a Bonnie Pointer cover. The new one is called 'He Gained' and it turned out great.  It reminds me of something Tina Turner would do. 

AM:  It's a cover of the Angelo Bonds song from the seventies isn't it?

FP:  Yes, it's Angelo's song.  He recorded it but nothing really happened back then.

AM:  I love that song!

FP:  I hope I can get a record deal with these songs.

AM:  Maybe you can get a deal in Europe.  They seem to be smarter when it comes to music.

FP:  For some reason they love American music fiercely.  They cherish music the way some people cherish and value antiques. 

AM:  Speaking of music from the past.  I just got the re-mastered, first time on CD 'Stares and Whispers' and it is fantastic!!!  I'm so grateful for this!  I have loved this album since it first came out.  Do you like having your older work out on CD?

FP:  I don't mind!  It's nice having it out on CD since I don't have a turn table anymore! 

AM:  The CD has that great cut you did with Tavares called  'I Wanna See You Soon.' 

FP:  So the CD is a good deal.

AM:  I didn't realize you were just a teenager when you recorded 'After The Lights Go Down.'   

FP:  I was nineteen.  I went to New York when I was eighteen.  It took almost a year but I got a deal with ABC Paramount.  They had a jazz subsidiary named Impulse so my first album was released as a jazz record. 

AM:  A nineteen year old with a jazz album sounds kind of funny...(Laughter)

FP:  I was singing jazz with big bands in Detroit when was fourteen. 

AM:  You really are one of the blessed ones Freda.

FP:  As long as I can keep doing it I will.  Just remember to count your blessings.

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