An immensely talented vocalist and interpreter, Margie Joseph never received the airplay or sales she deserved, but continues to be recognized among soul aficionados as a true talent whose fine performances were often overshadowed by bad timing or poor label support.
Born in Mississippi in 1950, Joseph moved to New Orleans in 1968 to attend Dillard University. There she met local DJ Larry McKinley, who fell in love with her powerful-but-sweet voice and helped her to land a gig performing with jazzster Cannonball Adderley. This led to performances in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and a recording contract with the soon-to-be-defunct Columbia Records subsidiary Okeh.
Joseph's few recordings on Okeh failed to chart, but her 1969 move to Volt Records brought some immediate success with "Your Sweet Loving," which hit the Soul top fifty. She followed it with a terrific, seven-minute, soulful cover of the Supremes' "Stop In the Name of Love," which catapulted her debut album Margie Joseph Makes a New Impression into the Soul top ten (her only album to do so). When her follow-up album Phase II failed to match the success of its predecessor, Joseph moved to powerhouse Atlantic Records and was teamed with legendary producer Arif Mardin for a handful of moderately successful albums that yielded hits with covers of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" and Paul McCartney's "My Love." During these recordings, Joseph moved well beyond her initial label as an "Aretha Franklin soundalike" and established herself as a first-rate song stylist.
In 1975 Joseph hit her peak of popularity dueting with Blue Magic on their top ten hit "What's Come Over Me," and followed it up with the Lamont Dozier-produced "Hear the Words, Feel the Feeling," her last significant hit single. Though working with such notable producers as Johnny Bristol, Dexter Wansel and Narada Michael Walden on various labels over the next decade, Joseph was unable to sustain commercial success, and she stopped recording after 1988's Stay, on the Ichiban label.
Frustrated with her label to label moves, Joseph retired from the music business after Stay and worked in both education and community service organizations over the next 15+ years, while also deepening in her Christian faith. In 2005, she decided to end her retirement and to record her first Gospel album, Latter Rain, which was released on her own Sistahpraise Records in February 2006.
By Chris Rizik