Saturday, February 25, 2017

Momma I want to sing—Doris Troy

Doris Troy…”She’s sung on sessions for clientele that would fill up an entire wing of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  This article from the book “Unknown Legends of Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Richie Unterberger, says she has written songs with two ex-Beatles, Stephen Stills, Billy Preston and others.  Doris recorded on the Beatle’s Apple label.  However, for most of the public musical world Doris Troy is best known as a one-hit wonder for her 1963 Top Ten single “Just One Look!”  [one of my favorites while I was in high school- JGW]  Doris Troy (born Doris Elaine Higginsen; January 6, 1937 – February 16, 2004) was an American R&B singer and songwriter, known to her many fans as "Mama Soul"

“… there have been few other African American performers who have proved their mastery of so many styles – girl-group pop, stone cold soul, gospel, hard rock and more.  She did sessions for Solomon Burke, Chuck Jackson and the Drifters, she was also a songwriter with Gregory Carroll under the name of Doris Payne.  The March 1963 demo issued by Atlantic that made #10.  In Britain, her “Just One Look” became a big hit for the Hollies in 1964.  The Hollies and others, including Faith, Hope & Charity, Major Lance, Linda Ronstadt, Bryan Ferry, Anne Murray, Klaus Nomi, and Harry Nilsson in a duet with Lynda Laurence covered her material, as well.   Troy's only foray into the UK Singles Chart, "Whatcha Gonna Do About It", peaked at #37 in December 1964.   As her solo career peaked, she sang back-up for the Rolling Stones, Humble Pie, Kevin Ayers, Edgar Broughton, Pink Floyd, George Harrison, Johnny Hallyday, Vivian Stanshall, Dusty Springfield, Nick Drake, Junior Campbell and Carly Simon.

Just one look caught a second look by many others…

Doris Troy's version of the song was featured in a 1991 Pepsi commercial starring Cindy Crawford, which was reaired during Super Bowl XXXV in 2001. An updated version of the ad, still featuring Cindy Crawford and Troy's version of the song aired in 2002. In 2015, Troy's version of the song was featured in an ad for Aspartame Free Diet Pepsi. The song was also used in a series of commercials for Mazda beginning in 1979 and continuing into the early 1980s. The song is also featured in a scene in the movie Crazy, Stupid Love

George Harrison, along with Ringo Starr and Stephen Stills contributed to her song writing creations.  Other collaborators included Eric Clapton, Peter Frampton, Leon Russell, Billy Preston, Delaney & Bonnie, Jackie Lomax, and Klaus Voormann.  Later, her celebrity was growing with her work with many British top rock acts that was topped by her vocals on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. 

Since 1984, Doris played the starring role in the Broadway musical hit Momma I Want to Sing written by her sister, Vy Higgensen,( a participant of the West DNA Family) a top New York Disc Jockey. Mama, I Want to Sing! was also made into a motion picture, starring Ciara, Patti Labelle and Hill Harper, which was released on DVD in 2012

She was born as Doris Elaine Higginsen, in the Bronx, the daughter of a Barbadian Pentecostal minister. She later took her grandmother's name and grew up as Doris Payne. Her parents disapproved of "subversive" forms of music like rhythm & blues, so she cut her teeth singing in her father's choir. She was working as an usherette at the Apollo where she was discovered by James Brown.  She took her stage name from Helen of Troy.  Troy died from emphysema at her home in Las Vegas, Nevada, aged 67.

Most of this blog was gleaned from a book “Unknown Legends of Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Richie Unterberger, Miller Freeman Books, San Francisco, CA 94107, copyright 1998; pp. 395-398 that my son Phillip lent me because of the nice article about Doris Troy.  The article was completed with additional information from   Photo of album cover from Wikipedia.  Blog compiled by John G. West

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