New Smooth Soul Survivor: You Are My Lady

"You Are My Lady"  (song written by Barry Eastmond)

Freddie JacksonRight up there with some of the greatest slow jams ever made, ‘You Are My Lady' from Freddie Jackson is a worthy Smooth Soul Survivor and a welcome opportunity to recount the career of an artist who, despite his inability to make the crossover from an R & B to a pop fan-base, remains one of the biggest urban contemporary stars of the late eighties.

"You Are My Lady"  (song written by Barry Eastmond)

Freddie JacksonRight up there with some of the greatest slow jams ever made, ‘You Are My Lady' from Freddie Jackson is a worthy Smooth Soul Survivor and a welcome opportunity to recount the career of an artist who, despite his inability to make the crossover from an R & B to a pop fan-base, remains one of the biggest urban contemporary stars of the late eighties.

Jackson was born October 2, 1956, in Harlem, and in common with so many soul stars, trained as a gospel singer from an early age.  However, unlike many of the upcoming artists of the time who in the pursuit star status trod a hard and difficult road, Jackson found that fame came quickly and all at once.  After a brief spell on the west coast he was soon back in New York to work with Paul Laurence at Hush Productions where he sang on demo recordings and was introduced to Melba Moore.  She invited Jackson to work as a backup singer for her and this star exposure led Moore's record label of the time, Capitol, to offer Jackson his first recording contract.  His debut release ‘Rock Me Tonight' was an instant smash and each of the four singles from it enjoyed admirable chart success.  The initial single, ‘Rock Me Tonight (For Old Times Sake)', hit the Billboard R&B charts in April 1985 and stayed there for 26 weeks.  In doing so the tune held the number one position for six straight weeks.  Although the third and fourth singles, the up tempo ‘He'll Never Love You (Like I Do)' and the sensuous ‘Love Is Just a Touch Away', also did well it was the second single, ‘You Are My Lady', that made Jackson's name as a king of quiet storm. This romantic song, which has the added appeal of being ideal for weddings, combines both simplicity and substance in a way that effortlessly lifted it to the top of the R & B charts.  It was written by songwriter and producer Barry Eastmond who, with production input and writing credits on five other tracks, had a massive influence on the success of ‘Rock Me Tonight'.

In fact Eastmond is one of the most prolific R&B songwriters and producers of all time.  His creative magic has been responsible for hit records by Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, Michael Bolton, Will Downing, Regina Belle and Barry White to name just a few.  Associated with over sixty gold, platinum, and multi-platinum albums he has been responsible for racking up cumulative sales of over 80 million copies and recently produced Anita Baker's gold album ‘My Everything' on the Blue Note label.  Eastmond also provided an input to the new George Benson & Al Jarreau collaboration ‘Giving It Up' and in recent times has worked with Kenny Lattimore and Chante Moore on their duets collection ‘Covered/Uncovered'.  Interestingly Eastmond has also been targeted by luminaries from the world of contemporary jazz where his writing and production skills on Paul Taylor's 2007 project ‘Ladies Choice', the album ‘At The Movies' from Dave Koz and Nick Colionne's excellent 2008 CD ‘No Limits' has served to open up the genre to a new breed of listener.

Eastmond has not limited his composing to the record industry and has written numerous songs for film and television.  His theme tunes can currently be found fronting The Maury Povich Show, The Montel Williams Show and Judge Hatchett while he also scored the music for the documentary film ‘Chisholm 72-Unbought and Unbossed'.  As a Songwriter in Residence at Berklee School Of Music in Boston he frequently delivers seminars in Music Production and Songwriting.

‘You Are My Lady' has been a huge presence in the sub genre of quiet storm ever since its release in 1985.  In fact the track appears on over sixty greatest hits and love song compilations.  With its innate qualities of rhythm and melody it has found particular favor as a smooth jazz cover and pianist Joe McBride was the first to recognize its potential by making the number part of his excellent 1996 album ‘Keys To Your Heart'.  Next was that super sax-man from New York State Jack Prybylski who in 2002 featured ‘You Are My Lady' on his debut album ‘Soho Strut'.  Another saxophonist, Kim Waters, used the tune as the title cut of his 2007 release on the Shanachie label while in the same year the track appeared on R & B newcomer Ramon Michael's self titled debut CD.

As for Jackson, the launch pad that ‘Rock Me Tonight' provided immediately propelled him to further chart success.  He wasted no time in issuing the follow-up, ‘Just Like the First Time' which appeared in 1986, hot on the heels of his number one R&B duet with Melba Moore, ‘A Little Bit More' from her album ‘A Lot of Love'.  Given the roll on which Jackson was on it was no surprise that ‘Just Like the First Time' quickly went platinum and continued his incredible dominance of the R&B singles charts.  ‘Tasty Love', ‘Have You Ever Loved Somebody', and ‘Jam Tonight' all rocketed to number one while ‘I Don't Want to Lose Your Love' came up just one place short.

Although by the time his third album, ‘Don't Let Love Slip Away' was released in 1988 the pace of his success had slowed it still featured the R&B chart-topper ‘Hey Lover' and other lesser placed hits in ‘Nice and Slow' and ‘Crazy (For Me)'.  The title track of his 1990 album ‘Do Me Again' also made number one with the follow up ‘Main Course' leveling out at number two.   However, by then times were changing.  Perhaps because his straightforwardly romantic style of ballad was increasingly out of step with the new sexually explicit breed of R&B singer, and with new trends like hip-hop altering the urban contemporary landscape forever, this was for Jackson the beginning of the end.

Despite a hit cover in 1992 of the soul classic ‘Me and Mrs. Jones', his albums were increasingly criticized as, one to the other, being too similar and several switches of label did nothing to change this perception or arrest his decline.  Although during the '90s he gradually faded from view he still continues to record and perform and in 2005 released the critically acclaimed ‘Personal Reflections'.  ‘Transitions' followed a year later.

Freddie Jackson's legacy from those golden days of the 80's is his music.  Although ‘You Are My Lady' is but one song of many it still remains an incredible Smooth Soul Survivor.

by Denis Poole, www.smoothjazztherapy.com

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