Girl groups led the Billboard Hot 100 in the 1960s. The Crystals, The Shangri-Las, The Shirelles, and several other all-female vocal groups peaked in the chart’s first full decade of existence. charts – led, of course, by The Supremes, from the powerful Detroit label Motown, who topped the Hot 100 12 times, more than any other ’60s artist besides the Beatles.
But by the end of the decade, most of those early ’60s bands had seen their charts stop, and by the end of 1969, Supremes frontman Diana Ross announced plans to quit the band for a solo career – which she made, with great success, in early 1970. The question of what act, if any, would be able to pick up the torch for the Hot 100 top girl group in the new decade was not an easy answer. Admittedly, few of them would have predicted that it would be The Honey Cone – the trio of traveling women from Los Angeles who actually planted the flag of the ’70s girl group atop the Hot 100 the week of June 12, 1971. , supplanting The Rolling Stones’ “Brown sugar.”
The vocal group, led by veteran singer Edna Wright – who died Saturday, September 12 at 76 – had scored only two minor hits in 1969, “While you’re on the hunt for sugar” (N ° 62) and “Girls, it’s not easy” (No. 68). But although the act was not signed to Motown or another similar big label, they had a hitmaker’s pedigree behind them: Wright had supported chart-topping artists like Ray Charles and the Righteous Brothers, before forming Honey Cone with Carolyn Willis and Shelly Clark after the three backed Andy Williams on a special. Meanwhile, the group’s Hot Wax label was formed by famed songwriting / production team Holland-Dozier-Holland, who had achieved countless hits for Motown artists (including The Supremes) before. falling out with the head of the label Berry Gordy at the end of the decade. (Wright was also the sister of pop / soul greats Darlene Love, who had recorded the holiday classic “Christmas (baby please come home)” and also sang the lead on The Crystals’ Hot 100-topping “He’s a rebel.)
In 1971, the Honey Cone also received a helping hand from the chairmen of the board of directors, a group that had scored one of Holland-Dozier-Holland’s greatest soul hits of the young decade.other newly founded label, Invictus, with # 3 “Just give me a little more time.” While this hit was drafted by the HDH team (under the pseudonym “Edythe Wayne”) with Ron Dunbar, the Chairmen frontman General Johnson also wanted to prove himself as a songwriter and found success at the end of 1970 with the hit Hot 100 n ° 8. “Someone slept (in my bed)” co-written with Greg Perry for the group Hot Wax 100 Proof (Aged in Soul). Perry and Johnson also bonded over another song, heartbroken but playful “Stick Up,” which used theft as an extended metaphor for a fallen lover.
Before this song was recorded, however, Perry and Johnson used a suggestion from sound engineer Barney Perkins and wrote another extended metaphorical version of the song with “Want Ads” – about a dissatisfied woman. describing his plan to literally recruit a new man. through the newspaper as a vacant position. The song was first performed on the Hot Wax Glass House act – directed by Scherrie Payne, who then recorded a new version of it with his sister Freda, famous for “Band of Gold”. Neither version was satisfactory for its writers or performers, so it was given to Wright and his new band. This time he logged on and was released in March 1971 as the band’s first single.Soulful tapestry album, released later this year.
“Want Ads” thrives on sharp writing and performance. With just a single measure of musical introduction, it starts with the command of the entire group “Wanted – young single man and free!“proclamation, followed by some delicious guitar beats (courtesy of a stranger at the time Ray Parker Jr.), then Wright’s sharp follow-up: “The love experience is preferable, but will accept a young intern.” In the first 12 seconds of the song, everything that works about “Want Ads” is established: the smoothness of its pop-funk groove, the clever vanity, and the laugh-worthy detail of Perry and Johnson’s loving lyrics. , and Wright’s perfect delivery, piercing but syrupy, soaring but controlled.
Although “Want Ads” was not a Motown record, it couldn’t quite escape the label’s DNA, as the song carries the obvious musical influence of Motown’s signature hit of the new decade at this point. : “I want you to come back,” first of four Hot 100 No.1s from 1970 for their new family number phenomenon, The Jackson 5. The Honey Cone’s blend of softly bubbling bass, high-fret guitar chops and softly swept strings on “Want Ads” carries strong echoes of Wright’s ecstatic “I Want You Back”, and even majestic groove “ohhhh“The call to launch the song after its opening verse mirrors that of Michael Jackson”uhhh-huhhh“intro to the beginning of” Back “. At times in” Ads “you half expect Tito, Jackie, Jermaine and Marlon to come in with a”show you that i love you” background.
But while “I Want You Back” made the skies soar thanks to the youthful exuberance of its teenage performers, “Want Ads” remains anchored in the Honey Cone’s never-before-seen life experience. Wright’s words express the frustration of her man “playing on the pitch”, leaving her alone at night “crying bitter tears” before returning home with lipstick and perfume on her collar. But her voice – short, direct, and unmistakably bored – stops before she ever sounds hopeless or tired, keeping the song light and unleaded. Instead, she wisely channels her anger in a sense of purpose, “going to the Evening News” to begin the process of applying for a new and improved lover. The end result is funny, painful, and liberating, accomplishing what almost every pop song should go about: finding a new, new and contagiously fun way of presenting extremely relatable emotions and situations.
Honey Cone’s stay atop the Hot 100 was short, just one week before singer-songwriter Carole King’s double A “It’s too late” / “I feel the Earth moving” took over for a five-week reign. Indeed, King provided more of a model for the success female artists would find atop the Hot 100 in the early ’70s than the structure of the Honey Cone vocal trio, as Melanie, Helen reddy and Carly simon would all top the charts over the next two years with songs they wrote or co-wrote, while all-female vocal groups were dropped from the top of the charts. The Honey Cone would reach the Top 40 of the Hot 100 three more times – with “Robbery” (No. 11, 1971), Perry and Johnson’s “Want Ads” draft which the group eventually released as a follow-up, as well as with “A monkey keeps on showing up” (No. 15, 1972) and “The day I found myself” (No. 23, 1972) – but never yet reached the top 10 in the ranking.
However, the girl group as a pop model would return to the top of the Hot 100 in the middle of the decade – coming back to life in large part thanks to the rise of disco, which resulted in groups like The Three Degrees (with MFSB sure “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)” 1974), Silver Convention (“Fly, Robin, Fly,” 1975) and Emotions (“The best of my love” 1977) to work your way to the top of the graph. In the decades that followed, the girl group rose and fell in popularity in the United States, but never completely disappeared, revived at various times by HDH. scriptwriters / producers teams, pop svengalis, reality tv contest, and international imports. We might not have a Hot 100-topper girl group yet in the 2020s, but as The Honey Cone showed us nearly half a century ago, we might not be more than a well-placed ad in the classifieds to find the first.
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