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Henry Lumpkin

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The early history of Motown Records is filled with promising newcomers who didn't find immortality along the lines of the Supremes and the Temptations. Henry Lumpkin is one example, a young singer and composer with one good song, "What Is a Man (Without a Woman)," under his belt; a high tenor with a gritty voice, he bore more than a passing resemblance to Chubby Checker physically and Ben E. King vocally, and his early 1962 debut single on Motown -- using the Marv Johnson number "Don't Leave Me" as a B-side -- got first-cabin treatment from the label, with Brian Holland and Robert Bateman serving as producers. In the summer of 1962, Lumpkin etched a slightly larger place for himself in Motown history by cutting the first version of "Mo Jo Hanna," a Clarence Paul co-authored piece that was later covered by Marvin Gaye, Esther Phillips, and Aaron Neville, among many others. Lumpkin's rendition (backed by the equally compelling "Break Down and Sing"), never charted, however, and Lumpkin was off the Motown roster by the end of 1962. Bateman thought enough of him to co-author (and serve as producer on) a third single, "Soul Is Taken Over," for Buddah Records five years later. His recording swan song was "Honey Hush," also cut for Buddah, in 1968. Lumpkin was mostly forgotten by all but the most hardcore soul enthusiasts -- apart from an oblique reference in an episode of The Simpsons circa 1992 -- until 2005, when Hip-O Select released The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 2: 1962, containing his four Hitsville sides. He was one of many early Motown discoveries who deserved better than he got, or at least better luck than he found, with his records. ~ Bruce Eder

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