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Barbara McNair

Despite a recording career that extended for nearly two decades, including a stint at the famed Motown label, Barbara McNair remains better-known as an actress than as a singer, utilizing both skills as the star of her own eponymously-titled television variety series. Born January 1, 1934, in Chicago, and raised in Racine, Wisconsin, McNair began singing as a child and, after spending a year at UCLA, she relocated to New York City, working as a secretary for the National Foundation of Settlements while fruitlessly auditioning for countless Manhattan nightclub gigs. Impresario Max Gordon finally booked her at the legendary Village Vanguard, followed by appearances on The Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout Show and The Ed Sullivan Show. While performing at Las Vegas' Silver Slipper Casino, McNair came to the attention of famed newspaper columnist Walter Winchell, whose favorable reviews earned her a deal with Coral Records; her debut single, "Till There Was You," appeared in 1958, with the B-side, "Bobby," becoming a hit. That same year, she also made her Broadway debut in The Body Beautiful, later returning to the stage in The Pajama Game.

McNair recorded three more singles for Coral in 1958 -- "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," "Indiscreet," and "Too Late This Spring," respectively -- followed in 1959 by "Goin' Steady With the Moon," "Lover's Prayer," and "Telephone Conversation," the latter a duet with Billy Williams. She also toured with Nat King Cole, appearing in his stage shows I'm with You and The Merry World of Nat King Cole. McNair then signed to the Signature label for three 1960 singles -- "He's a King," "All About Love," and "Kansas City" -- followed by a tenure at Roulette that yielded 1961's "That's All I Want From You," and the following year's "Honeymoonin.'" She landed at KC for "Cross Over the Bridge," and in 1963 made her film debut opposite Henry Fonda in Spencer's Mountain -- she also appeared in guest roles on a number of TV series, among them Dr. Kildare, I Spy, and Hogan's Heroes.

After a one-off 1965 effort for Warner Bros., "Wanted Me," later that same year McNair signed to Motown, scoring her biggest hit with her label debut "You're Gonna Love My Baby." "Everything Is Good About You" and "My World Is Empty Without You" followed in 1966, as did sessions for "Baby a Go-Go," arguably her strongest disc to date -- remarkably, Motown head Berry Gordy rejected the single, however, and it went unreleased for decades, until bootleg copies earned rave reviews from the DJs and dancers populating Britain's Northern Soul club circuit. (Motown finally gave "Baby a Go-Go" a legitimate release on the 2002 compilation A Cellarful of Motown!) McNair's Motown run ended with a pair of 1968 singles, "Where Would I Be Without You" and "You Could Never Love Him"; from that point forward she directed more and more of her energies into her acting career, returning to the big screen in the crime drama If He Hollers, Let Him Go! followed in 1969 co-starring with a role in the Elvis Presley vehicle Change of Habit.

The syndicated variety series The Barbara McNair Show also premiered in 1969, running for three seasons; in 1970, McNair scored her biggest screen role to date appearing opposite Sidney Poitier in They Call Me Mister Tibbs!, the sequel to the Oscar-winning In the Heat of the Night. She also co-starred in the follow-up, 1971's The Investigation, but was largely out of the spotlight for the remainder of the decade, appearing on stage, in nightclubs and the occasional TV guest shot while taking time-out in 1976 to record one last single for TEC, "Because of You." In 1984, McNair accepted a recurring if short-lived role on the daytime soap opera General Hospital, and in 1996 she returned to feature films after a quarter century absence in the little-seen Neon Signs. In addition to her own headlining nightclub dates, she also starred in Sophisticated Ladies, a stage tribute to the music of Duke Ellington. ~ Jason Ankeny
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: The Complete Motown Singles Volume 7

Disc 1

1. Love's Gone Bad

2. Mojo Hannah

3. Love Is Here And Now You're Gone

4. There's No Stopping Us Now

5. Pucker Up Buttercup

6. Anyway You Wannta

7. Chantilly Lace

8. Your Love Is Amazing

9. Till Johnny Comes

10. The Love I Saw In You Was Just A Mirage

11. Come Spy With Me

12. Jimmy Mack

13. Third Finger Left Hand

14. Travlin' Man

15. Hey Love

16. Bernadette (Promo Version)

17. I Got A Feeling

18. Bernadette

19. Gonna Give Her All The Love I've Got

20. World So Wide, Nowhere To Hide (From Your Heart)

21. I Want To Go Back There Again

22. I Love You

23. It's So Hard Being A Loser

24. Your Love Grows More Precious Every Day

Disc 2

1. Just Look What You've Done

2. Starting The Hurt All Over Again

3. Here I Am Baby

4. My World Is Empty Without You

5. Take Me In Your Arms And Love Me

6. Do You Love Me Just A Little, Honey

7. The Happening

8. All I Know About You

9. Got To Have You Back

10. Just Ain't Enough Love

11. There's A Ghost In My House

12. Don't Fool Around

13. Festival Time

14. Joy Road

15. (I Wonder Why) Nobody Loves Me

16. I've Been Blessed

17. When You're Young And In Love

18. The Day You Take One (You Have To Take The Other)

19. All I Need

20. Sorry Is A Sorry Word

21. Ain't No Mountain High Enough

22. Give A Little Love

23. 7-Rooms Of Gloom

24. I'll Turn To Stone

Disc 3

1. Chained

2. Don't Let It Happen To Us

3. Chained (Alternate Mix)

4. For All We Know

5. I Cross My Heart

6. I Was Made To Love Her

7. Hold Me

8. More Love

9. Swept For You Baby

10. It's Been A Long Long Time (A Long Time)

11. I Understand My Man

12. Everybody Needs Love

13. Your Unchanging Love

14. I'll Take Care Of You

15. You're My Everything

16. I've Been Good To You

17. Ain't That The Truth

18. Don't You Miss Me A Little Bit Baby

19. That's The Way Love Is

20. One Too Many Heartaches

Disc 4

1. Reflections

2. Going Down For The Third Time

3. Love Bug Leave My Heart Alone

4. One Way Out

5. Steal Away Tonight

6. For Once In My Life

7. You've Made Me So Very Happy (Promo Version)

8. I've Got To Find It

9. You've Made Me So Very Happy

10. Your Precious Love

11. Hold Me Oh My Darling

12. You Keep Running Away

13. If You Don't Want My Love

14. From Head To Toe

15. The Beginning Of The End

16. Window Shopping

17. California Soul

18. I Got A Feeling

19. You Got Me Hurtin' All Over

20. I'm Wondering

21. Every Time I See You I Go Wild

22. I'm Wondering (Alternate Mix)

23. (Loneliness Made Me Realize) It's You That I Need

24. Don't Send Me Away

Disc 5

1. I Heard It Through The Grapevine

2. It's Time To Go Now

3. I Heard It Through The Grapevine [alternate Mix]

4. I Want My Baby Back

5. Gonna Keep On Tryin' Till I Win Your Love

6. What A Good Man He Is

7. There Are Things

8. I Second That Emotion

9. You Must Be Love

10. In And Out Of Love

11. I Guess I'll Always Love You

12. Honey Chile

13. Show Me The Way

14. Come See About Me

15. Sweet Soul

16. You Haven't Seen My Love

17. Happy Day

18. Two Can Have A Party

19. If I Could Build My Whole World Around You

20. If This World Were Mine

21. My Baby Must Be A Magician

22. I Need Someone

23. I Wish It Would Rain

24. I Truly, Truly Believe (Alternate Mix)

25. I Truly, Truly Believe

26. You

27. At Last (I Found A Love)

28. Change What You Can

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