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Betty Harris

Renowned in deep soul circles for the devastating ballad "Cry to Me," singer Betty Harris was born in Orlando, FL, in 1941 and raised primarily in Alabama. The child of preachers, her deep church roots conflicted with her desire to sing secular soul music, and at 17 she left home to pursue a performing career, briefly apprenticing under R&B star Big Maybelle before eventually landing in California, cutting the 1960 single "Taking Care of Business" for the Douglas label. Record promoter Babe Chivian recommended that Harris relocate to New York City, promising her an audition with Brill Building producer and songwriter Bert Berns -- there she performed a slow, gospel-inspired rendition of "Cry to Me," an uptempo Berns-produced hit for Chivian's client Solomon Burke.

Berns immediately dispatched Harris to the recording studio, and in just three takes she wrapped "Cry to Me," issued on Jubilee in 1963 -- after the record became a New York radio smash, it broke nationally, cracking the R&B Top Ten and the pop Top 40 in the process of surpassing Burke's original. Soon Harris headlined the legendary Apollo Theater, mounting a national tour after recording her Jubilee follow-up, "His Kiss" -- the single stiffed, however, and when "Mo Jo Hannah" met a similar fate, Berns opted to cut his losses.

During a 1965 tour, Harris met New Orleans composer and producer Allen Toussaint, and with the superbly slinky "I'm Evil Tonight" became the first artist to record for his fledgling Sansu label. With Toussaint at the helm, the bluesy balladry of Harris' Jubilee sides gave way to a funky, sensual dynamic that heralded a new era of New Orleans R&B. The 1966 ballad "Sometime" was backed by the brilliant "I Don't Want to Hear It," Toussaint's edgiest and most aggressive production to date. The subsequent "12 Red Roses" further refined the approach, and with 1967's "Nearer to You" Harris finally returned to the R&B Top 20, delivering another sublimely emotional performance.

"Love Lots of Lovin'," a duet with fellow Toussaint charge Lee Dorsey, closed out the year -- Harris planned to support the record on tour with Otis Redding, but on December 10, the soul giant lost his life in a plane crash. Harris forged on, with 1968's "Mean Man" delivering her grittiest effort to date; backed by a session group that would soon evolve into the Meters, she then ended her Sansu tenure with the fierce "Trouble with My Lover," reuniting with Toussaint for one final collaboration, the 1969 funk cult classic "There's a Break in the Road" (licensed to the SSS International label).

With her career at an impasse, Harris abruptly retired from performing in 1970. From there her legend grew, and rumors spread that she served as James Carr's road manager and even drove a tractor-trailer to make ends meet. In reality, Harris simply focused on raising her family, and while she shunned the music industry she continued singing in her church choir -- after settling in Hartford, CT, in 1997, she even began offering vocal lessons. Still, Harris remained oblivious to the growing awe afforded her '60s output by soul aficionados, respect generated largely by the U.K. release of the Soul Perfection Plus retrospective.

Then in 2001, her daughter found several Betty Harris fan sites on the Web, prompting the singer to join a soul mailing list to announce her present whereabouts -- her re-emergence caused a stir in deep soul circles, and soon Boston-based guitarist and producer Chris Stovall Brown offered to helm Harris' first recording session in 35 years. On April 17, 2005, she also headlined her first live appearance in over three decades, performing at a benefit for her daughter's Hartford alma mater; weeks later, Harris also performed at New Orleans' annual Ponderosa Stomp. In 2007 she released what was, amazingly, her first real studio album, the Jon Tiven-produced Intuition. ~ Jason Ankeny
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Action Speaks Louder Than Words

2. Dancing To The Beat

3. Lonely For You Baby

4. Soul Ranger

5. The Hiccup

6. Lonely Man

8. Action Speaks Louder Than Words

9. Do Your Duty

10. There's A Break In The Road

16. I Don't Worry Myself

17. Sticky Sue

18. Fancy

19. Having My Glory

24. Cloud Nine

x

Track List: Funk Soul Sisters

x

Track List: Funky Divas: Do You Funk?

1. If I Work My Thing On You

3. You Can Only Do Wrong So Long

4. Homewrecker

5. Good Woman Go Bad

6. The Ghetto

7. You Can't Have Your Cake (And Eat It Too)

8. You're No Good

9. There's A Break In The Road

10. Don't Push My Love Cup

11. Anyone But You

12. Lady Marmalade

13. I Know (You Don't Love Me No More)

14. My Love

15. You're Losing Me

x

Track List: Get Low Down! The Soul Of New Orleans '65 - '67

Disc 1

1. Ride Your Pony

2. If You Love Her

4. Wait For Me Baby

5. Bad Luck

7. Get Low Down, Pt. 2

8. Gossip, Gossip

13. Omar Khayyam

14. Don't Set Me Back

16. Without A Word

17. Do Me Like You Do Me

18. Baby Do Little

20. If You Leave Me

22. Don't Pity Me

24. Here Comes The Hurt Again

Disc 2

1. Hurry Back To Me

4. In My Corner

6. Beverly

7. Nearer To You

9. Tomorrow

10. Holy Cow

14. Blues, Tears And Sorrows

15. Sinner Girl

16. Goodbye

17. I Don't Need No One

18. Smooth Operator

20. Until The End

21. How To Pick A Winner

25. Hot Tamales - Part 2

x

Track List: Hard To Find 45's On CD: Sweet Soul Sounds

1. Sweet Soul Music

2. Funky Street

3. (There's) Gonna Be A Showdown

4. Just One Look

5. Cry To Me

6. The Sweetest Thing This Side Of Heaven

7. Open The Door To Your Heart

9. I'm The Lover Man

10. Dry Your Eyes

11. Part Time Love

12. Slip Away

13. Stand By Your Man

14. Reconsider Me

15. Expressway To Your Heart

16. (I Wanna) Testify

18. Trapped By A Thing Called Love

20. Love Land

x

Track List: New Orleans Funk, Vol. 3: Two-Way-Pocky-Way, Gumbo Ya-Ya & The Mardi Gras Mambo

1. Fairchild

2. Go To The Mardi Gras

3. Trouble With My Lover

5. Little Baby

7. If I Were A Carpenter

8. Do It Fluid

11. We The People

12. Take Care Your Homework Friend

13. What'd I Do Wrong

14. The Book

15. Fagged Out

16. Gossip Gossip

17. Big Chief, Pt. 2

18. Omar Khayyam

x

Track List: Playersoul - Rare Grooves & Funk Classics

1. Pass The Hatchet

2. I Dont Know What It Is But It Sure Is Funky

3. Got To Getcha

4. Soul Junction

5. Black Water Gold

6. Hercules

7. Mean Man

8. Where Is Love

11. That Thang

12. Delights Of The Garden

14. It's A New Day

15. You're Gonna Miss Me

16. Human

x

Track List: Sehorn's Soul Farm - 50 New Orleans Soul Classics

Disc 1

1. Star Revue

2. Why You Wanna Do It

4. Sinner Girl

5. Love Affair

6. Let's Make It

7. Get Low Down

8. Hercules

9. Struttin' On Sunday

10. Climb The Ladder

12. Oh Love This Is Sonny

13. All My Love (All My Love)

14. That's What You Need

15. Gossip Gossip

16. Hotcha Mama

17. Baby, Baby, I Love You

18. A Love Problem

19. Underdog Backstreet

20. This Is What I Call Livin'

21. Ride Your Pony

22. Mean Man

23. Cissy Strut

24. I Don't Need You Anymore

25. I Can't Believe She Gave It All To Me

Disc 2

1. Lovely Woman

2. How To Pick A Winner

3. Fair Child

4. Just Like A Woman

5. I Love You Still

8. You Got To Love Me

9. Natural Soul Brother

10. Goodbye

11. Cheatin' Woman

12. Don't Set Me Back

13. Did You Have Fun

14. All I Want Is You

15. Sadie Mae

16. You Lie So Much

17. A Mother's Love

18. An Open Letter (To My Love)

19. A Lady

20. Look Way Back

21. Get Out Of My Life, Woman

23. Chicken Strut

24. Keep You Mine

25. Let Me Love You

x

Track List: Shake What You Brought! SSS Soul Collection

1. Sticky Sue

2. There's A Break In The Road

3. Lonely For You Baby

4. Don't Talk Like That

5. Piece Of My Heart

6. Natural Soul Brother

8. Take A Chance With Me

10. The Hiccup

11. Hit Record

12. Having My Glory

13. You Can Never Get Something For Nothing

14. Pretty Little Women

15. I've Really Got Something To Be Proud Of

16. I Almost Called Your Name

18. Proud Woman

19. Soul Serenade

20. Soul Ranger

x

Track List: Voodoo Soul

1. Cissy Strut

2. Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky

3. Ride Your Pony

6. A Lover & A Friend

7. I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man

8. Occapella

9. Fairchild

10. Pass The Hatchet

11. Ease Back

13. Get Ta Steppin'

15. Soul Junction

Comments

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please play the whole song
Report as inappropriate
julite2
her version of " Cry to me" is the bomb!!!

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