Born in Salem (near Ann Arbor), Michigan, Lewis was writing and recording by her teens with producer Ollie McLaughlin. (McLaughlin was a black DJ at Ann Arbor radio station WHRV, now WAAM, who is also credited with discovering Del Shannon.) Her first single release in 1962, the uptempo “My Heart Went Do Dat Da,” did not chart nationally but was a local hit in the Detroit area. She wrote all of the songs on her debut LP (including the hit “Hello Stranger”). Though her follow-ups did not have the same success, her song “Someday We’re Gonna Love Again” was covered by The Searchers for a British Invasion hit.
In the 1960s, Lewis recorded in New York City, with producers Bert Berns and Jerry Wexler, leading to commercially-successful hits like “Baby I’m Yours” which is written by Van McCoy (‘The Hustle’1975) and “Make Me Your Baby.” At the end of the decade she released a grittier-sounding album on Stax Records, and after its lack of commercial success, she began to withdraw from music.
However, over the next decade, a number of other artists had success with Lewis’ songs, most notably Yvonne Elliman, who made the U.S. Top 20 (and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart) and the UK Top 30 with her version of “Hello Stranger” in 1977. “Baby I’m Yours” also charted in versions by Jody Miller and Debby Boone (the B-side of her single “God Knows”). In Canada, Suzanne Stevens had a hit in 1975 with a disco version of “Make Me Your Baby”. Cover versions of Barbara Lewis’ tracks continue into the new millennium with the Arctic Monkeys including a version of “Baby I’m Yours” as a B-side to their 2006 single, “Leave Before The Lights Come On”.
In 1995, Lewis’ “Baby I’m Yours” was featured on the Bridges of Madison County soundtrack. She was given a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1999.
The backup group on many songs from the album “Hello Stranger” are The Dells who enjoyed some hits of their own.
Edited by fishilse on 26 Nov 2006, 17:17
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