Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Joe Simon, Chart-Topping R&B Crooner, Dead at 85


Monday, Joe Simon, the soulful crooner known as “The Mouth of the South,” died in his longtime hometown near Chicago. Simon, who won a best R&B vocal performance, male Grammy in 1969 for “The Chokin’ Kind,” was 85.

Born in 1936 in Simmesport, La., Simon began his career singing at his father's church but did not really pursue a career in music until he headed to California in the 1950s.

"As a youngster I moved to Oakland – probably in the late 50s – because I was tired of Simmesport, Louisiana. It didn’t have anything to offer me,” wrote Simon of his key reason — along with cotton-picking, which he hated, being a key source of income in the area — for heading to the Golden State."

After arriving in Richmond (near Oakland, California) Simon joined the Golden West Gospel Singers, which went on to eventually turn into a secular doo-wop group and record "Little Island Girl" and “You Left Me Here to Cry Alone” as the Golden Tones in 1959.

It wasn’t until the 60s, however, when Simon — who was influenced by and often compared to Sam Cooke — went solo that his meteoric rise in music began.
The singer, who often recalled spending his early years in California homeless and sometimes living in a chicken coop, the singer got future funk greats Sly Stone and Larry Graham to play on his 1964 song “My Adorable One” which became his breakthrough hit.

He followed that success up with "Let's Do It Over" in 1956. The song reached No. 13 on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart and was the catalyst for an era that saw Simon go on to notch three No. 1s and 14 top 10s on it — including his highest-charting single. 1975’s “Get Down, Get Down (Get on the Floor),” a No. 1 R&B hit that crossed over to reach the top ten of the Hot 100.

Simon left secular music behind in 1983 to focus on the gospel. The preacher’s son became a traveling minister. He did not turn his back on music entirely. In the late 90s, Simon released the gospel album “This Story Must Be Told.”

Simon, whose music has been widely sampled, including in the Outkast hit “So Fresh, So Clean,” and Lil Kim’s chart-climbing opus “Magic Stick,” seemed pleased with his career on reflection.

In his 2016 documentary, “Looking Back with Joe Simon” he said, “I went from the cotton field to the chicken coop to a superstar of rhythm and blues — you can’t tell me I ain’t gonna be nothin’.”

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