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Esther Phillips (born Esther Mae Jones ; December 23, 1935 – August 7, 1984) was an American singer of R & B. She was a singer versatile and also played pop, country, jazz, blues and soul.
She was born as Esther Mae Jones in Galveston, Texas. Her parents divorced when she was a teenager and divided her time between her father, in Houston and her mother, in the Vatts area of Los Angeles. She was led to sing in the church and was reluctant to enter a talent show at a local blues club, but her sister insisted. At the age of 14, he won the amateur talent contest of 1949 at the Barrelhouse Club, owned by Johnny Otis. Otis was so impressed that he recorded with her for the Modern Records label and incorporated her in his traveling revue, The California Rhythm and Blues Caravan, with the name Little Esther. He later assumed the surname Phillips, apparently inspired by a sign at a gas station.
Their first hit album was “Double Crossing Blues”, with the Johnny Otis Quintette and the Robins (a vocal group), released in 1950 by Savoy Records, which reached number 1 on the Billboard R & B chart. He made several successful albums for Saboy with the Johnny Otis Orchestra, including “Mistrusting Blues” (a duet with Mel Walker) and “Cupido Boogie”, which also reached number 1 that year. Four more songs entered the Top 10, in the same year: “Misery” (number 9), “Deceivin ‘Blues” (number 4), “lWedding Boogie” (number 6), and “Far Away Blues” (number 6) ). Few female artists of any gender had such success in their first year.
Phillips leaves Otis and the Savoy label at the end of the 1950s and signs with Federal Records. But as fast as the hits had begun, they stopped. It records more than thirty subjects for Federal, but only one, “Ring-a-Ding-Doo”, arrived at the lists, reaching position number 8 in 1952. Not to work with Otis was part of its problem; the other part was the deepening dependence on heroin, to which she was already addicted in the middle of the decade, being in the same room when Johnny Ace shot himself (accidentally) on Christmas Day in 1954, while They acted in Houston, presumably, did not help her in this matter.
In 1954, he returned to Houston to live with his father and regain strength. Short of money, she worked in small nightclubs throughout the South, marked by periodic stays at the hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, to treat her addiction. In 1962, Kenny Rogers discovered her singing at a Houston club and helped her get a contract with Lenox Records, owned by her brother Lelan.
Phillips finally recovered enough to start a comeback in 1962. Now she acts as Esther Phillips instead of Little Esther and records a country song “Release Me”, with producer Bob Gans. This was number 1 on the R & B chart and number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. After several minor R & B hits with Lenox, she was hired by Atlantic Records. His cover of the Beatles “And I Love Him” almost reached the R & B, Top 10 in 1965 and then travels to the UK for his first international shows.
He had other successes in the 1960s for Atlantic, such as Jimmy Radcliffe’s “Try Me” (YouTube video), which featured a solo sax by King Curtis. The dependence on heroin had worsened and was registered in a rehabilitation center. There he met the singer Sam Fletcher. While undergoing treatment, he recorded some tracks for Roulette in 1969, mostly produced by Lelan Rogers. He moved back to Los Angeles and re-signed with Atlantic. His friendship with Fletcher gave him a commitment to perform at the Freddie Jett Pied Piper Club in late 1969, which produced the album Burnin ‘. He also performed with the Johnny Otis Show at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1970.
The decade of the 70
One of his greatest triumphs after the 1950s was his first album for Kudu Records, From a Whisper to a Scream, in 1972. The starting track “Home Is Where the Hatred Is” on the use of Drugs written by Gil Scott-Heron, was nominated for a Grammy Award. Phillips lost to Aretha Franklin, but Franklin handed the trophy to her, saying that she should have won.
In 1975, he published an update on Dinah Washington’s “What a Diff’rence to Day Makes” his biggest hit since “Release Me”. She reached the Top 20 in the United States and the Top 10 in the UK Singles Chart.On November 8, 1975, she performed the song in an episode of NBC Saturday Night (later called Saturday Night Live) presented by Candice Bergen . The album of the same name became his greatest sales success, with arranger Joe Beck on guitar, Michael Brecker on tenor sax, David Sanborn on alto sax, Randy Brecker on trumpet, Steve Khan on guitar and Don Grolnick on the keyboards.
He continued recording and acting throughout the 70s and early 80s, completing seven albums with Kudu and four with Mercury Records, for which he signed in 1977. He finished recording his latest album A Way To Say Goodbye a couple of months before his death and was released by the small label Muse in 1986.
Phillips died at UCLA Medical Center in Carson, California, in 1984, at age 48, of kidney and liver failure due to drug abuse, and his funerals were held by Johnny Otis. Buried in a poor burial at the Lincoln Memorial Park in Compton, she was reinhumada in 1985 at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, in Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles. A bronze plaque recognizes the achievements of his career and quotes a passage from the Bible: “In my father’s house there are many dwellings” (John 14: 2).
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