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Linda Lyndell

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Blue-eyed Southern soul diva Linda Lyndell remains best known for her 1968 pop hit "What a Man," later sampled for Salt-N-Pepa's 1993 hip-hop blockbuster "Whatta Man." Born and raised in Gainesville, FL, Lyndell attended both white and black churches as a child, absorbing the latter's gospel tradition so fully that by her teens she was singing with local R&B acts. In the years to follow Lyndell supported headliners including James Brown and Ike & Tina Turner. Through Atlanta DJ Dave Crawford, she also met the immortal Otis Redding, who recommended her to Stax Records producers Isaac Hayes and David Porter. Just weeks following Redding's tragic death in a plane crash on December 10, 1967, Lyndell cut her Crawford-produced Stax debut, "Bring Your Love Back to Me." An infectious stomper that would later earn great favor among Britain's Northern soul circles, it nevertheless earned little attention upon its original release. During a second Memphis session that spring, Lyndell, Crawford, and the Stax house band essentially improvised "What a Man" in just two takes. The single went on to reach the number 50 spot on the Billboard pop charts, but the increased visibility also called attention to the fact that Lyndell was a white woman singing black music, triggering threats from the Ku Klux Klan and other racist factions. In response she retired from performing and returned to Gainesville, living the next quarter century in seclusion. When rappers Salt-N-Pepa teamed with R&B vocal group En Vogue for their provocative 1993 single "Whatta Man," they borrowed Lyndell's original chorus in toto. She knew nothing of the appropriation until the first royalty check appeared in her mailbox, but the massive success of the hip-hop update proved the catalyst that inspired Lyndell to eventually resume her music career. In May 2003 she performed at the opening of Memphis' Stax Museum, highlighted by her first-ever public rendition of "What a Man." ~ Jason Ankeny

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