Tuesday, March 15, 2011


In Memory of Lyn Collins (1948–2005)

Today six years ago, on March 15, the news-wires announced the death of Lyn Collins (real name Gloria LaVern Collins). She passed away on March 13, 2005, in Pasadena, aged 56. She had just returned from a tour in Europe, actually the first solo-tour of her entire career.

People LP # 5602 (Cover)
It is often said that the Texas-born singer made her first recording in 1964. However, about the spurious song she is said to have recorded - »Unlucky In Love« - there is next to no reliable information and I haven't come across it yet (but cf. Bob McGrath, The Soul Discography Vol. 1, West Vancouver 2010, p. 332. Other relevant discographies do not list the song at all.) Her actual career started when she was employed as backing vocalist by James Brown, in 1970. Brown got to know her because Lyn was married to a man who promoted the James Brown Revue around Texas. And Brown saw to it that in 1971 her first single hit the market: »Wheels Of Life / Just Won't Do Right« (King # 6373). Together with Vicki Anderson and Marva Whitney she was one of those female singers who were supported by Brown and eventually brought into a recording studio. (Lyn Collins later asked Marva Whitney to sing backing vocals on her 2006 CD »Mama Feelgood«.)

From JET-magazine, February 3, 1972
In 1971, Lyn Collins shared the stage with the »The Soul Twins« (see photo above) on 330 days (!) of the year as backing vocal-trio in the James Brown Stage Show. They had a solo-spot in the show – similar to The Ikettes in the Ike & Turner Revue –, and Sharryn Watts wrote in mid-January 1972 about a concert of the James Brown Stage Show she had attended in San Francisco:
»Third on the show after the J-B's were Lynn [!] Collins and the Soul Twins. The trio, though, practically unknown, is exceptionally good. ... Every song is superb, however it's on their last number ... that they really open up and leave the crowd screaming for more. This is one of the groups Mr. Brown is personally pushing and we should be hearing from them on their first album in the near future.« (quoted in N. George / A. Leeds [eds.]: The James Brown Reader, London 2008, p. 96)
In any case, Lyn Collins was not to remain »practically unknown« for long. She had several singles and two LPs out in 1972, on JB's People label. In addition, she can be heard on several Polydor-recordings of James Brown himself. The first song of her first album of the same title – »Think (About It)« from the People LP # PE-5602 – was to become her biggest hit ever. Her last recordings for People were made in 1975.

The song »Think (About It)« was often qualified »gospel-soul«. I am not sure if that's the right way to put it ... it could be said of the »preaching« intro, maybe, and you can hear Lyn Collins do a similar intro in a number of other songs, earning her the nick-name of »The Female Preacher« and frequently hoarse vocal cords during her performances. But the intro is just a part of the whole song, and the song in itself is pure heavy funk. However, the forceful message of the intro, belted out by Lyn, much reminds of Aretha Franklin's »Respect«, although Lyn's message is still more determined: Men, be warned! The women might just take into their own hands what they can do better by themselves anyway ... So, if there's no gospel here, we certainly get a stern lecture!

Following the intro, the song is as James-Brownish as anything you will ever hear. No surprise, though, because JB produced the LP and can be heard calling out occasionally in the background. And the song is a dead-sure footstomper and a neck twister if ever there was any: »from Collins' throat-ripping vocals to the track's nasty groove to Brown's background interjections, this is a killer« wrote Tim Sendra in the All Music Guide to Soul (San Francisco 2003, p. 155). The song was recorded on April 18, 1972, at the Cavern Studios in Independence, Missouri. Some overdubs were added later in the A&R Studions in New York. HITTIT!

Hey fellas: I'm talking to you, you and you too!
You guys know who I'm talking to?
Those of you who go out and stay out all night and half the next day
And expect us to be home when you get there
And let me tell you something:
The sisters are not going for THAT no more
'Cause we realize two things:
That you aren't doing anything for us we can do better for ourselves
So from now on, we gonna use what we got
To get what we want!
Soooooooo ... you'd better THINK !

Lyn Collins: »Think (About It)« from the People LP »Think« (1972)

JET-magazine, July 27, 1972

No comments:

Post a Comment