Saturday Night Music Byte
Lynnrockets recently watched the film Julie & Julia about a thirty year old New Yorker who decided to cook every dish in one of Julia Childs’ cookbooks and to blog about it. It was a novel idea so we decided to copy it. No, we will not be cooking in the usual sense (that could start a fire). Rather, we will adapt the recipe a day concept to our nightly music bytes. From now to infinity (didn’t somebody else coin that phrase?) we will post a music video and brief description of the artist or song in a sort of alphabetical order as culled from Tom Moon’s wonderful reference book, 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die (A Listener’s Life List). The book describes both whole albums (remember those) and individual songs from all music genres that are essential listening. Do yourselves a favor and purchase this book. Where the book deals with an individual song, we will post that song, but when an entire album is the subject, we will exercise judicial discretion and post a single song therefrom. So what do you say, let’s get cooking…
Baby Huey and the Babysitters – “A Change Is Gonna Come”
Baby Huey (born James Ramey, January 1, 1944 – October 28, 1970) was an American rock and soul singer, born in Richmond, Indiana. He was the frontman for the band Baby Huey & The Babysitters, whose single LP for Curtom Records in 1971 was influential in the development of hip hop music.
A native of Richmond, Indiana, James Ramey moved to Chicago, Illinois at the age of nineteen, and worked with several local bands as a singer. Due to a “glandular disorder”, Ramey was a large man, weighing about 350 pounds (160 kg). His size contributed to his stage presence, but also to health problems. Nevertheless, he made light of his condition, adopting the stage name “Baby Huey” after Paramount Pictures’ giant duckling cartoon character of the same name. In 1963, Ramey, organist/trumpeter Melvin “Deacon” Jones, and guitarist Johnny Ross founded a band called Baby Huey & the Babysitters, which became a popular local act and released several 45 RPM singles, including “Beg Me”, “Monkey Man”, “Messin’ with the Kid” and “Just Being Careful”.
During the late-1960s, the band followed the lead of Sly & the Family Stone and became a psychedelic soul act. Huey began wearing an Afro and donned psychedelic African-inspired robes, and adding sing-song, self-referential rhymes to his live performances. According to his bandmates, Ramey’s rhymes were very similar in style to those later popularized by rappers in hip-hop music. The Babysitters were a popular live act, but never took the time out to record an album.
In 1969, the band’s agent Marv Heiman secured them an audition with Curtom Records arranger Donny Hathaway. Hathaway was impressed by the act, and got Curtom Records head Curtis Mayfield to sign Baby Huey, but not the band. Although the band participated in the recording of Ramey’s debut album, there were feelings of unease among them, and Ross and Jones quit the band during the recording.
By 1970, Ramey had developed an addiction to heroin, and his weight had increased to over 400 pounds. He began regularly missing gigs or turning up late, and, at the insistence of his bandmates, briefly entered rehabilitation in the spring of 1970. James Ramey died of a heart attack on October 28, 1970, at the age of 26, and was found around noon in his hotel bathroom by his manager. His funeral was held on November 1, in his native Richmond, Indiana.