To the person from Burnt Toast’s very cool radio show who introduced me to today’s song, I thank you! This recommendation is greatly received!
Paul Williams, a.k.a Billy Paul, was an award wining soul/R&B artist who was born in 1934 and raised in Philadelphia. His love of music lasted a lifetime and started from a very young age after discovering his family’s record collection and in an interview he once described how, “That’s how I really got indoctrinated into music! My mother was always buying and collecting records. She would buy everything from ‘Jazz at the Philharmonic’ to Nat ‘King’ Cole.” Listening at home to his family’s collection of vintage 78’s, Paul developed a vocal style which would eventually incorporate jazz, R&B and pop.
His actual singing career began at the age of twelve and was greatly assisted by neighbourhood friend, Bill Cosby. It was Cosby who helped the young artist gain a singing spot on WPEN, which in turn lead to a string of local radio appearances. From that moment on his music career took and, impressively, has spanned over 60 years!
When asked who influenced him the most, Paul generally cited female singers such as Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae amongst others. With Nina Simone in mind, I wonder if some of the lines from today’s song were a nod to her 1968 track, Ain’t Got No; I Got Life? Taken from Billy Paul’s 1971, Going East LP, East is a divine piece of music showcasing the splendour of Paul’s vocals as they soar into an ocean of bubbling percussion and rippling strings. It’s striking in its composition and delivery, coming in hauntingly low as sparse instrumentation breathes slow and steady, allowing vocals to gradually inflate the lungs of this fluid body. About five minutes in lyrics declare, “I ain’t got no love/ I ain’t got no peace/ I ain’t got no shoes on my feet” and this is the bit where I think of Nina! Such a dynamic beast that this track is..and I love the album cover too! Check it out above.