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LaVern Baker
Birth name Delores Baker
Also known as Delores Williams
Little Miss Sharecropper
Bea Baker
Born November 11, 1929(1929-11-11)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died March 10, 1997 (aged 67)
Queens, New York, United States
Genres Blues
R&B
Occupations Singer, actress
Years active 1946-1967
1988-1991
Labels National
Okeh
Atlantic
Brunswick
Associated acts Jackie Wilson

LaVern Baker (November 11, 1929 – March 10, 1997) was an American rhythm and blues singer.

Contents

Background

She was born Delores LaVern Baker in Chicago, Illinois. She is occasionally referred to as Delores Williams because of an early marriage to Eugene Williams; in the late 1940s he was identified in RCA Victor record company files as "D. L. McMurley." She was the niece of blues singer Merline Johnson and was also related to Memphis Minnie.

Career

She began singing in Chicago clubs such as the Club DeLisa around 1946, often billed as Little Miss Sharecropper,[1] and first recorded under that name in 1949. She changed her name briefly to Bea Baker when recording for Okeh Records in 1951, and then became LaVern Baker when singing with Todd Rhodes and his band in 1952.

In 1953 she signed for Atlantic Records as a solo artist, her first release being "Soul on Fire". Her first hit came in early 1955, with the Latin-tempo "Tweedlee Dee" reaching #4 on the R&B chart and #14 on the national US pop charts. Georgia Gibbs scored the bigger hit with her version of "Tweedle Dee", for which Baker unsuccessfully attempted to sue her. LaVern did manage to get in a jab, however. When LaVern was flying to Australia, she took out flight insurance at the airport and sent it to Gibbs with a note: "You need this more than I do because if anything happens to me, you're out of business."

Baker had a succession of hits on the R&B charts over the next couple of years with her backing group The Gliders, including "Bop-Ting-A-Ling" (#3 R&B), "Play It Fair" (#2 R&B), and "Still" (#4 R&B). At the end of 1956 she had another smash hit with "Jim Dandy" (#1 R&B, #17 pop). Further hits followed for Atlantic, including the follow-up "Jim Dandy Got Married" (#7 R&B), "I Cried a Tear" (#2 R&B, #6 pop in 1959), "I Waited Too Long" (#5 R&B, #3 pop, written by Neil Sedaka), "Saved" (#17 R&B, written by Leiber and Stoller), and "See See Rider" (#9 R&B in 1963).

In addition to singing, Baker also did some work with Ed Sullivan and Alan Freed on TV and in films, including Rock, Rock, Rock and Mr. Rock & Roll. In 1964, she recorded a Bessie Smith tribute album, before leaving Atlantic and joining Brunswick Records, where she recorded the album "Let Me Belong to You," as well as a hit duet single, "Think Twice," with Jackie Wilson.

In the late 1960s, she became seriously ill after a trip to Vietnam to entertain American soldiers. About that same time, a friend recommended that she stay on as the entertainment director at a Marine Corps night club at the Subic Bay Naval Base in the Philippines, and she remained there for 22 years.

In 1988 she returned to perform at Madison Square Garden for Atlantic Records' 40th anniversary. She then worked on the soundtracks to films such as Shag, (1989), Dick Tracy, (1990) and A Rage in Harlem (1991), which were all issued on CD.

In 1990, she made her Broadway debut replacing Ruth Brown as star of the hit musical Black and Blue. In 1991, Rhino Records released a new album Live in Hollywood recorded at the Hollywood Roosevelt Cinegrill, as well as a compilation of her greatest Atlantic hits entitled Soul on Fire. In 1992 she recorded a well-received studio album, Woke Up This Morning, for DRG Records. She continued performing after having both legs amputated from diabetes in 1994 and made her last recording, "Jump Into the Fire," for the 1995 Harry Nilsson tribute CD, For the Love of Harry on the Music Masters label.

She received the 1990 Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and in 1991, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Her song "Jim Dandy" was named one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll and was ranked #343 on the Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

LaVern Baker died from coronary complications in 1997, and was interred in the Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens, New York. She lies in an unmarked grave, but a fundraiser was scheduled by local historians to give LaVern a headstone in April 2008.

This was accomplished on May 4, 2008.[2]

Discography

LaVern (1956)

'Side A'

  1. "Lots and Lots of Love"
  2. "Of Course I Do"
  3. "You'll Be Crying"
  4. "Miracles"
  5. "I'm in a Crying Mood"
  6. "Mine All Mine"

'Side B'

  1. "Harbor Lights"
  2. "I'll Never Be Free"
  3. "Romance in the Dark"
  4. "Everybody Is Somebody's Fool"
  5. "How Long Will It Be"
  6. "Fool That I Am"

LaVern Baker (1957)

'Side A'

  1. "Jim Dandy"
  2. "Tra La La"
  3. "I Can't Love You Enough"
  4. "Get Up, Get Up (You Sleepy Head)"
  5. "That's All I Need"
  6. "Bop-Ting-a-Ling"
  7. "Tweedlee Dee"

'Side B'

  1. "Still"
  2. "Play It Fair"
  3. "Tomorrow Night"
  4. "That Lucky Old Sun"
  5. "Soul on Fire"
  6. "My Happiness Forever"
  7. "How Can You Leave a Man Like This?"

LaVern Baker Sings Bessie Smith (1958)

'Side A'

  1. "Gimme a Pigfoot"
  2. "Baby Doll"
  3. "On Revival Day"
  4. "Money Blues"
  5. "I Ain't Gonna Play No Second Fiddle"
  6. "Back Water Blues"

'Side B'

  1. "Empty Bed Blues"
  2. "There'll Be a Hot time in the Old Town Tonight"
  3. "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out"
  4. "After You've Gone"
  5. "Young Woman's Blues"
  6. "Preaching the Blues"

Blues Ballads (1959)

'Side A'

  1. "I Cried a Tear"
  2. "If You Love Me"
  3. "You're Teasing Me"
  4. "Love Me Right"
  5. "Dix-a-Billy"
  6. "So High So Low"

'Side B'

  1. "I Waited Too Long"
  2. "Why Baby Why"
  3. "Humpty Dumpty Heart"
  4. "It's So Fine"
  5. "Whipper Snapper"
  6. "St. Louis Blues"

Precious Memories: LaVern Baker Sings Gospel (1959)

'Side A'

  1. "Precious Memories"
  2. "Carrying the Cross for My Boss"
  3. "Just a Closer Walk With Thee"
  4. "Touch Me, Lord Jesus"
  5. "Didn't It Rain"
  6. "Precious Lord"

'Side B'

  1. "Somebody Touched Me"
  2. "In the Upper Room"
  3. "Journey to the Sky"
  4. "Everytime I Feel the Spirit"
  5. "Too Close"
  6. "Without a God"

Saved (1961)

'Side A'

  1. "Saved"
  2. "For Love of You"
  3. "Manana"
  4. "My Time Will Come"
  5. "Shadows of Love"
  6. "Must I Cry Again"

'Side B'

  1. "Bumble Bee"
  2. "Shake a Hand"
  3. "Don Juan"
  4. "Wheel of Fortune"
  5. "Senor Big and Fine"
  6. "Eternally"

See See Rider (1963)

'Side A'

  1. "See See Rider"
  2. "You Better Stop"
  3. "He's a Real Gone Guy"
  4. "Story of My Love"
  5. "You Said"
  6. "I'm Leavin' You"

'Side B'

  1. "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes"
  2. "Trying"
  3. "Half of Your Love"
  4. "A Little Bird Told Me So"
  5. "Endless Love"
  6. "All the Time"

Let Me Belong to You (1970)

'Side A'

  1. "Pledging My Love"
  2. "Let Me Belong to You"
  3. "I'm the One to Do It"
  4. "Baby"
  5. "Born to Lose"

'Side B'

  1. "Call Me Darling"
  2. "Love Is Ending"
  3. "Baby Don't You Do It"
  4. "I Need You So"
  5. "Play It Fair"

References

External links

"Honoring a Legend"[1]

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