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Thelma Houston (née Jackson; born May 7, 1946, Leland, Mississippi) is an American singer and actress. She scored a number-one hit in 1977 with her cover version of the song "Don't Leave Me This Way", which won the Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
Early life and career
Houston is the daughter of a cotton picking mother. She and her three sisters grew up primarily in Long Beach, California. After marrying and having two children, she joined the Art Reynolds Singers gospel group and was subsequently signed as a recording artist with Dunhill Records. She is not related to Whitney Houston.
In 1969, Houston released her debut album, entitled Sunshower, produced, arranged and composed by Jimmy Webb except for one track. In 1971 she signed with Motown Records but her early recordings with them were largely unsuccessful. Her most notable single during that period was "You've Been Doing Wrong for So Long" which peaked at #64 on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart in 1974. However Houston's vocal prowess on that track secured her a nomination for a Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. In 1973 Motown Productions announced a projected biopic of Dinah Washington which would star Houston; however the project was dropped due to difficulties in getting clearance from Washington's relatives. In April 1974 Houston joined the cast of The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine, playing various characters during the show's skits. The show was canceled in August and for the next several years her work was limited to demo recordings and performing at small venues.
Houston took acting classes and received her first role in the 1975 made-for-television film Death Scream. In that same year Sheffield Lab released "I've Got the Music in Me" a Direct to disc recording by Thelma Houston and Pressure Cooker that went on to become a benchmark vinyl recording for audiophiles. The following year she recorded songs for the soundtrack to the film The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings starring Billy Dee Williams and James Earl Jones. In 1975 Houston appeared on the Golden Globe Award broadcast performing the nominated song "On & On" and also was featured in a tribute to Berry Gordy on that year's American Music Award broadcast singing "You've Made Me So Very Happy". That year Houston's version of "Do You Know Where You're Going To" was being set for single release when it was pulled and the song given to Diana Ross to serve as the theme song for the movie Mahogany. In 1976 Houston sang backing vocals for Motown labelmate Jermaine Jackson on his album My Name Is Jermaine.
"Don't Leave Me This Way" and aftermath
Houston released her third album Any Way You Like It in 1976. The first single released was her version of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes' 1975 song "Don't Leave Me This Way". In February 1977 the track hit Number 1 in the U.S. on the R&B and Club Play Singles charts, then in April 1977 on the Hot 100. "Don't Leave Me This Way" won Houston the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance at the Grammys for 1977. Besides its US success "Don't Leave Me This Way" became a hit in at least twelve countries, including the UK where it reached Number 13 despite the concurrent single release of the Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes original, which reached Number 5. Also in 1977 Houston teamed up with Jerry Butler to record the album Thelma & Jerry and that November 1977 she co-starred in the film Game Show Models. It was announced in February 1977 that Houston would star as Bessie Smith in a filmation of the play Me and Bessie, to be produced by Motown; after an announcement that December that Houston was set to portray Bessie Smith in a biopic to be produced in 1978 by Columbia Pictures nothing more was heard of the project.
The second single from Any Way You Like It was Houston's rendition of "If It's the Last Thing I Do", a standard written by Saul Chaplin and Sammy Cahn; the track had been recorded and prepped for single release in 1973 but canceled. The impact of "If It's the Last Thing I Do" was far less than that of "Don't Leave Me This Way", as the former fell short of both the R&B Top Ten and the Pop Top 40. With the lead single from her 1978 album The Devil in Me: "I'm Here Again", Houston returned to the style of "Don't Leave Me This Way" without recapturing the earlier single's success. Houston did enjoy considerable commercial success in 1978 via the inclusion of her track "Love Masterpiece" on the Thank God It's Friday soundtrack album which sold double platinum but her own album release that year Ready to Roll again failing to consolidate the stardom augured by "Don't Leave Me This Way". The album's second single: "Saturday Night, Sunday Morning", gradually accrued airplay entering the national charts in March 1979 and ascending as high as #34 (#19 R&B) that June. "Saturday Night, Sunday Morning" was issued on a new album by Houston: Ride to the Rainbow but the track's relative success was not enough to forestall Houston's planned departure from Motown.
Houston continued recording music into the 1980s, beginning with the RCA release Breakwater Cat which reunited her with Jimmy Webb who produced her debut single Sunshower and which like their earlier collaboration was a commercially overlooked critical success. In the 22 December 1984 Billboard magazine interview, Houston admitted to "'no real commercial success' since the single 'Don't Leave Me This Way' broke on the Pop charts in late 1976" indicating that the disco backlash had left her with "no real base of audience support" and that her current album Qualifying Heat, executive produced by Houston herself, was a concentrated initiative to restore her as a viable chart presence; the album featured three cuts from Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis - including the single "You Used to Hold Me So Tight" - and production work from Glen Ballard, Dennis Lambert, Cliff Magness and - in his first known recording work - Lenny Kravitz (then billed as Romeo Blue), who each produced a cut apiece. "You Use to Hold Me So Tight" became Houston's most successful post-'70s' release with a #13 R&B peak, but its parent album was a comparative failure - charting #41 R&B - and Houston would not cut another album for six years.
The constant ranking of her '80s releases of the '80s as moderate or minor R&B hits led Houston to concentrate on alternate exposure: having appeared in the independent film The Seventh Dwarf in 1979, Houston made guest-starring appearances into the mid-1980s in several popular television programs including Cagney & Lacey, Simon & Simon - a January 1986 appearance that featured her performing "You Used to Hold Me So Tight" - and Faerie Tale Theatre. Houston also appeared in the 1987 CBS after school special Little Miss Perfect (1987) - as "Prison Singer" - in the 1988 film And God Created Woman.
On the 19 May 1985 NBC broadcast Motown Returns to the Apollo Houston performed "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes" in the guise of Dinah Washington. Houston continued to contribute to movie soundtracks, recording "Keep It Light" for the 1985 film Into the Night and she remade Bill Withers' "Lean on Me" for the 1989 film entitled Lean on Me. Houston also co-wrote and sang back-up on the song "Be Yourself" for Patti LaBelle's 1989 album of the same title.
The fall of 1990 saw the release of Houston's first album in six years, Throw You Down, a long-planned collaboration with producer Richard Perry which briefly extended Houston's career as a minor R&B chart presence. The title song reached #5 on the U.S. dance chart. A remix of "Don't Leave Me This Way" was released, and once again charted on the Hot Dance Club Play chart at #19 in 1995. Subsequent singles include "I Need Somebody Tonight" and "All of That".
In 1994, Houston participated in an AIDS benefit at New York's Algonquin Hotel, performing gospel music with Phoebe Snow, Chaka Khan and CeCe Peniston as "Sisters of Glory". Intended as a one-off performance troupe, the Sisters of Glory remained together - with the addition of Mavis Staples and Lois Walden, and without Chaka Khan - to perform at Woodstock '94. Houston performed with the Sisters of Glory for the Pope in Vatican City and in 1995 Houston, Phoebe Snow, CeCe Peniston, Lois Walden and Albertina Walker recorded the Warner Brothers album Good News In Hard Times as the Sisters of Glory.
Houston provided lead vocals on several tracks of guitarist Scott Henderson's 1997 Atlantic album, Tore Down House, and in 1998 she made cameo appearances in two films: in 54 Houston portrayed herself singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" supposedly at Studio 54, and in Beloved Houston played 'One of The Thirty Women'.
In 2000, Houston toured successfully throughout Australia in the stage musical version of Fame. In 2002 she again guested on a Scott Henderson album, providing lead vocals for two of the tracks on Well to the Bone. Upon returning to the U.S. Houston toured with Nile Rodgers and Chic, and was among the opening acts of the originally intended finale of Cher's Farewell Tour in Toronto on 31 October 2003. Houston regularly performs at Teatro ZinZanni in Seattle and San Francisco.
Her version of "Don't Leave Me This Way" continues to be popular today. In recent years she has been invited to sing this song on dozens of TV shows and specials including NBC's Today Show, ABC's Motown 45 and The Disco Ball...A 30-Year Celebration, and PBS' specials American Soundtrack: Rhythm, Love and Soul, Soul Superstars, and Old School Superstars. "Don't Leave Me This Way" was mentioned by VH1 as being among the greatest dance songs in 2000, and was ranked number eighty-six on the channel's countdown of The 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders. She won an episode of the NBC show Hit Me, Baby, One More Time with her renditions of her own hit and "Fallin'" by Alicia Keys. On September 20, 2004, Houston's rendition of "Don't Leave Me This Way" was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in New York City.
On August 14, 2007, Houston released her first studio album in seventeen years, A Woman's Touch. The album was produced by Peitor Angell and features cover versions of songs by male artists such as Luther Vandross, Marvin Gaye, and Sting that Houston had been inspired by. The first single from the album was "Brand New Day". On August 20, 2007, Houston's 1984 album Qualifying Heat was reissued as an import title in the U.S. with a bonus track.
She sang "Don't Leave Me This Way" on American Idol on April 22, 2009, and on America's Got Talent on September 16, 2009.
On July 29, 2013, a collaboration between Thelma and Los Angeles-based producer Janitor, entitled "Enemy", premiered on Soundcloud. Several tracks followed, culminating in the release of an EP, "Forty-Two", in September. This is the first new material from Thelma Houston in six years.
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Peaches & Herb are an American vocalist duo, once comprising Herb Fame (born October 1, 1942) and Francine "Peaches" Hurd Barker (April 28, 1947 – August 13, 2005). Herb has remained a constant in "Peaches & Herb" since its creation in 1966, while seven different women have filled the role of "Peaches".
Herb Fame (born Herbert Feemster, October 1, 1942, in Anacostia, Washington, D.C.), sang in church and neighborhood groups as a child. After graduation from high school, he worked in a local record store where he met record producer Van McCoy and was signed to Columbia subsidiary Date Records by McCoy and A&R executive Dave Kapralik. Francine "Peaches" Barker (born Francine Edna Hurd, April 28, 1947, in Washington, D.C.), using the stage name Francine Day, started a singing trio initially dubbed The Darlettes and later renamed The Sweet Things after a change of record label to Date Records. Having produced two releases for the trio, McCoy decided to record Feemster/Fame and Hurd/Day together at Kapralik's suggestion. The resulting single, "We're in This Thing Together," was distributed to radio stations but went nowhere for months until December 1966, when a St. Louis disc jockey broadcast the single's B-side, a revival of the 1934 hit "Let's Fall in Love".
The new duo, christened "Peaches & Herb", had a string of successful singles and albums over the next two years such as "Let's Fall in Love", "Close Your Eyes", "For Your Love", and "Love Is Strange". Despite burgeoning success and a media image as the "Sweethearts of Soul", Barker chose to semi-retire from the duo after two years because of the rigors of touring. Marlene Mack (aka Marlene Jenkins), who had sung on the Jaynetts' hit "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" and had recorded as Marlina Mars, replaced Barker on stage, but Barker remained on all of the duo's recordings for Date Records. During this period, the semi-retired "Peaches" also worked as a solo artist using her married name, Francine Barker. She released three singles in total on the Columbia Records label, including "Angels in the Sky" and "Mister DJ".
Fame retired the act in 1970 when, for personal reasons, he enrolled in the police academy of Washington, D.C. and thereafter joined the city's police department. Peaches & Herb lay dormant until Fame decided to re-enter the music business in 1976. In his search for a new "Peaches", Herb again enlisted the assistance of Van McCoy, who suggested that Linda Greene would be suitable for the position. Fame met Greene and concurred, thereby leading to formation of the most successful of the "Peaches & Herb" incarnations to date. Linda's early musical training (while growing up in Washington, D.C.) was at The Sewell Music Conservatory.
Fame and Greene recorded seven albums altogether, including one album released only in Argentina. Their first album, Peaches & Herb, was recorded for MCA Records and produced by Van McCoy, but it generated only one charted hit, "We're Still Together". Peaches & Herb signed with MVP/Polydor and under the management of Paul J. Cohn, released 2 Hot, which went gold. The album's first single, "Shake Your Groove Thing", went gold and peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1979. The follow-up single, viewed as the album's "secret weapon" by producer/songwriter Freddie Perren, was the triple platinum hit "Reunited". This song, evoking the 1960s Peaches & Herb hit "United" (originally recorded and made a hit by The Intruders), reached #1 on both the Hot 100, the Billboard R&B chart, and in Canada. "Reunited" was nominated for a Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1980. Subsequent releases with Polydor produced several more hits, including the lasting wedding staple, "I Pledge My Love". After changing labels again to the Entertainment Company, Fame and Greene released their seventh album in 1983. Scoring only one minor hit, Greene and Fame decided to make no more albums and retired their partnership. Once again, Fame returned to law enforcement and joined the U.S. Marshals Service in 1986 as a deputized court security officer at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Greene returned to her family and, together with her husband Stephen Tavani, went on to release three gospel albums and start the charity WOW (Winning Our World).
While remaining employed at the court, Fame again revived the brand in 1990. For the fourth "Peaches" he chose Patrice Hawthorne, fresh from television exposure on the Natalie Cole-hosted talent show Big Break. The duo appeared infrequently in concerts, and did not release any recordings. Hawthorne remains a Philadelphia bandleader of her own orchestra, CTO Soho.
Due to unpaid royalties, Fame's financial state was far from wealthy despite years of hits and selling nine million records with Greene. Thus, in 2001, Fame and Greene hired attorneys Oren Warshavsky and Steven Ames Brown through Artists Rights Enforcement Corporation. The attorneys brought a lawsuit against MVP Records, then headed by Christine Perren. Perren's testimony at trial revealed a series of contradictions in MVP's defense, with the result that Fame and Greene received royalties, income, and a reaffirmation of their artists' rights. Those rights have since been vigorously defended. Having financial security, Fame would then have been able to leave the court and focus solely on his music career. Instead, he banked significant funds and continued enjoying the work.
A fifth "Peaches"—singer, songwriter, and breast cancer advocate Miriamm—joined the duo in 2002. Miriamm began touring with Herb and was introduced to the world as the new "Peaches" when she joined Herb in the PBS televised "Rhythm, Love & Soul" Fundraising drive. They shared the stage with greats such as Aretha Franklin, Gloria Gaynor and Lou Rawls, among others. Their performance re-introduced Peaches and Herb and their on-stage chemistry was so well received, it sparked another invitation to the duo for the follow-up star-studded installment of the PBS show featuring R&B greats such as Irene Cara, Heatwave, and Anita Ward. Both performances currently air periodically throughout the year. Miriamm currently performs as a free-lance vocalist and has founded a breast cancer foundation, EPW Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., in honor of her mother, Edith P. Wright, providing support to families facing breast cancer.
Wanda Makle subsequently performed with Fame in weekend appearances, and in 2008 they were reported to be planning a recording together. Those plans dissolved, and instead Makle was ultimately dropped in favor of another "Peaches," Meritxell Negre from Barcelona, Spain.
Negre, who was introduced to Fame by producer Bill Davis, is the first-ever non-black "Peaches" and third recording artist to co-record a Peaches and Herb album. Together, Fame and Negre recorded Colors of Love, the first album from Peaches & Herb since 1983. Combined with Fame's classic, zesty tenor flair, Negre's soulful, alto-soprano range seamlessly replaces Linda Greene 25 years after the Peaches & Herb album Remember. Colors of Love was released in May 2009 by Imagen Records, approximately three months after Negre's stage debut as "Peaches".
Fame has since returned to touring with Wanda Makle.