The Baby Huey Story - The Living Legend by Baby Huey on Apple Music

8 Songs

EDITORS’ NOTES

Upon its release in 1971, Baby Huey and the Babysitters’ Living Legend must have seemed like an album without a future. Baby Huey (nee James Ramey), the 400-pound soul shouter whose resounding baritone had defined the Babysitters’ sound, had died over a year earlier. To those involved in the album's creation, Living Legend’s commercial failure must have seemed a particularly abject coda to Huey’s short and tragic life. But if Living Legend died an ignominious commercial death in 1971 it would be resurrected in a more glorious form at the close of the decade, when South Bronx DJs like Kool Herc and Grand Wizard Theodore yanked it from bargain bin obscurity and installed it in a place of pride in their revolutionary, proto-Hip-Hop DJ sets. Thanks to their efforts tracks like “Listen To Me”, “Hard Times”, and “Mighty Mighty” were granted new life as propulsive B-Boy anthems. Much of the credit for Living Legend’s eventual success should be given to Curtis Mayfield, who signed Baby Huey to his Curtom imprint at the recommendation of a young Donny Hathaway. Mayfield lent his trademark production style to Living Legend, swathing it in the same richly psychedelic textures that graced his groundbreaking debut and ensuring it would be recognized as a soul classic by future generations of listeners.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Upon its release in 1971, Baby Huey and the Babysitters’ Living Legend must have seemed like an album without a future. Baby Huey (nee James Ramey), the 400-pound soul shouter whose resounding baritone had defined the Babysitters’ sound, had died over a year earlier. To those involved in the album's creation, Living Legend’s commercial failure must have seemed a particularly abject coda to Huey’s short and tragic life. But if Living Legend died an ignominious commercial death in 1971 it would be resurrected in a more glorious form at the close of the decade, when South Bronx DJs like Kool Herc and Grand Wizard Theodore yanked it from bargain bin obscurity and installed it in a place of pride in their revolutionary, proto-Hip-Hop DJ sets. Thanks to their efforts tracks like “Listen To Me”, “Hard Times”, and “Mighty Mighty” were granted new life as propulsive B-Boy anthems. Much of the credit for Living Legend’s eventual success should be given to Curtis Mayfield, who signed Baby Huey to his Curtom imprint at the recommendation of a young Donny Hathaway. Mayfield lent his trademark production style to Living Legend, swathing it in the same richly psychedelic textures that graced his groundbreaking debut and ensuring it would be recognized as a soul classic by future generations of listeners.

TITLE TIME
6:41
6:15
9:31
2:49
3:23
4:48
3:39
4:03

About Baby Huey

A locally beloved figure on the Chicago soul scene, Baby Huey never achieved quite the same renown outside of his hometown, despite an exciting live act and a record on Curtis Mayfield's Curtom label. Born James Ramey in Richmond, Indiana, in 1944, Baby Huey was literally an enormous stage presence: a glandular problem kept his weight around 350-400 pounds and beyond. He began performing in Chicago clubs in 1963 with his backing band the Babysitters and soon became a popular concert draw. As the '60s wore on, Baby Huey's sound moved from energetic R&B into a more psychedelic brand of soul, with a vocal style that drew comparisons to Otis Redding. He signed with Curtom and recorded a debut album, The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend, that featured several Curtis Mayfield songs (most notably the oft-sampled "Hard Times" and "Mighty Mighty Children"), plus a cover of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come." Sadly, Baby Huey didn't live to see it released; his weight and substance-abuse problems were exacting a steep toll on his body, and on October 28, 1970, he suffered a drug-related heart attack in a hotel room in Chicago. The album was released early the next year, and the Babysitters attempted to carry on for a while with a new lead singer, the still-teenaged Chaka Khan (she would, of course, go on to fame as the frontwoman of funk band Rufus shortly thereafter). In the years since, Baby Huey's lone LP has become a sought-after collectible among soul fanatics. ~ Steve Huey

  • ORIGIN
    Richmond, IN
  • BORN
    1944

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