Linda Lewis, British Singer Whose Voice Knew Few Limits, Dies at 72
Linda Lewis, a critically acclaimed soul singer and songwriter whose pyrotechnic voice propelled 4 Top 10 singles as a solo artist in her native Britain and led to work as a backup vocalist on acclaimed albums by stars like David Bowie, Cat Stevens and Rod Stewart, died on May 3 at her dwelling in Waltham Abbey, outdoors London. She was 72.
Her sister Dee Lewis Clay confirmed the loss of life however didn’t specify a trigger.
Ms. Lewis drew raves for her hovering five-octave vocal vary and impressed listeners together with her genre-hopping instincts, drawing from people, R&B, rock, reggae, pop and — with greater than a nudge from label executives — disco.
She grew up learning Motown hits word by word, and her first single, “You Turned My Bitter Into Sweet” (1967), was a joyous up-tempo quantity that sounded straight out of Berry Gordy’s recording studio on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit.
After that she joined the Ferris Wheel, a rock and soul band that was standard on Britain’s membership circuit, earlier than shifting on to a solo profession as a guitar-strumming singer-songwriter and signing with Reprise Records in 1971.
“That was a great time,” she mentioned in a 2007 interview with Record Collector journal. “I was living in a sort of commune, and loads of people were popping in and out. Cat Stevens turned up a lot, as did Marc Bolan and Elton John. There was a lot of jamming going on there, some very creative vibes.”
She ended up touring the world with Mr. Stevens, in addition to lending her voice to albums like David Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane” (1973) and Rod Stewart’s “Blondes Have More Fun” (1978).
Her first solo album, “Say No More,” launched in 1971, didn’t make a splash commercially. The subsequent yr she launched “Lark,” an album marked by a California breeziness that acquired robust critiques and contained the track “Old Smokey,” which the rapper Common sampled in his 2005 track “Go!” An American tour in 1973 helped create buzz.
But nonetheless, she wanted successful.
She discovered one that very same yr, with the buoyant, racy single “Rock a Doodle Doo,” which hit No. 15 in Britain (though it didn’t chart within the United States) and confirmed off her vary with vocals that swung from husky lows to shimmering highs, to the purpose that the track may very well be mistaken for a duet.
In the mid-Nineteen Seventies, she signed with Arista Records, whose founder, Clive Davis, selected to bundle her as a disco diva like Gloria Gaynor. That choice paid dividends, at least commercially. Her 1975 single “It’s in His Kiss,” a Studio 54-ready spin on Betty Everett’s 1964 hit “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss),” reached No. 6 in Britain, though it, too, barely made a splash within the United States.
But Ms. Lewis bristled at the compelled profession flip. “I didn’t really stick to my guns, I’m afraid,” she later mentioned. “I saw myself as a singer-songwriter; they didn’t.”
Even so, the album with the one, “Not a Little Girl Anymore,” hit No. 40 in Britain, with Rolling Stone noting that it introduced “this multi-styled English artist into the mainstream of contemporary R&B.”
By the 2000s, her music had crossed over to a brand new era, as she sang on albums by Oasis, Basement Jaxx and Jamiroquai.
Linda Ann Fredericks was born on Sept. 27, 1950, in Custom House, an space within the docklands of East London. She was considered one of six youngsters of Eddie Fredericks, a musician, and Lily Fredericks, who labored as a bus conductor and managed pubs. (It is unclear why the singer selected Lewis as her stage surname.)
Her mom had nice ambitions for her as a performer and enrolled her in stage faculty, an expertise on which Ms. Lewis didn’t look again fondly.
Her compass was set towards music. She received her first style of the limelight in her early teenagers when her mom took her to see John Lee Hooker carry out at a membership and pushed her towards the stage to belt out, with the blues titan’s permission, a rendition of Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street.”
In addition to Ms. Lewis Clay, Ms. Lewis is survived by two different sisters, Shirley Lewis and Patsy Wildman; her brothers, Keith and Paul Fredericks; and her son, Jesse. Her three marriages led to divorce.
While Ms. Lewis angled to flee stage faculty at the earliest attainable alternative, her flirtation with appearing was not an entire waste. She made a quick look within the Tony Richardson movie “A Taste of Honey” (1961). She additionally popped up as a screaming fan within the Beatles film “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964).
She was not the one future musical notable within the crowd of hysterical (*72*). Phil Collins, in his schoolboy jacket and tie, was additionally on set as an as an extra. “Many years later, I bumped into him and said, ‘Hey, we made a film together,’” Ms. Lewis instructed Record Collector. “He gave me a very funny look. I think he thought I was a nutter.”