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Jimmy Lewis

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A reasonably interesting second-division soul singer, Jimmy Lewis released almost a dozen singles in the 1960s, including a duet with Ray Charles near the end of the decade ("If It Wasn't for Bad Luck"), and wrote and arranged every track on Charles' 1969 album Doing His Thing; Lewis has also worked with Charles in the 1990s. He recorded for Charles' Tangerine label and wrote material for minor soul stars like Bobby Womack, Ted Taylor, and Z.Z. Hill. He continued to write for Hill during Z.Z.'s most commercially successful period at Malaco Records, and produced one of Malaco's more popular singers, Latimore. The most widely known of Lewis' own recordings is the 1974 album Totally Involved, if for no other reason than its reissue on CD in the late '90s. It's respectable Southern-styled soul (although Lewis has been based in Los Angeles for his whole career), grittier than the norm at a time when the entire genre was sliding into slickness. Still, you can hear why Lewis didn't become a star; he was at the top of the journeyman level, but didn't have a style that truly stood out, either in terms of his vocal delivery (which sometimes recalled, but did not match, Sam Cooke) or material. The best representation of his legacy is the CD Still Wanna Be Black, which has the entire Totally Involved album and twelve unissued songs from the same era. ~ Richie Unterberger

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November 19, 1939 in Nashville, TN

Years Active:

'60s, '70s, '80s, '90s