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Barbara Lewis in 1966
February 9, 1943|
Salem, Michigan, United States
Lewis was born in Salem (Salem Township is a general law township of Washtenaw County in the U.S. state of Michigan, located northeast of Ann Arbor). She was writing and recording by her teens with record producer Ollie McLaughlin, a black DJ at Ann Arbor radio station WHRV, now WAAM.
Lewis' first single release in 1962, the uptempo "My Heart Went Do Dat Da," did not chart nationally, but was a local hit in the Detroit, Michigan area. She wrote all of the songs on her debut LP, including the hit "Hello Stranger" which reached #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, and featured extensive use of the Hammond organ. Lewis had moderate follow-up hits with "Straighten Up Your Heart" (#43) and her original "Puppy Love" (#38) before Bert Berns produced her million-seller "Baby I'm Yours" (U.S. #11), written by Van McCoy. Berns also produced the followup "Make Me Your Baby" (U.S. #11) which had originally been recorded by the Pixies Three, and Lewis' final Top 40 hit "Make Me Belong to You" (#28 in 1966), written by Chip Taylor and Billy Vera.
At the end of the decade, she released a grittier-sounding album on Stax Records.
Over the next decade, a number of other artists had success with Lewis' songs. Her own composition "Hello Stranger" — which had been remade in 1966 by the Capitols — was a regional hit in 1973 as remade by Fire & Rain and in 1977 Yvonne Elliman's version reached the US Top 20 and the UK Singles Chart Top 30: Elliman's version also topped the US Easy Listening chart for four weeks. In 1985 Carrie Lucas' remake of "Hello Stranger" was a Top 20 R&B hit and in 2004 Queen Latifah remade "Hello Stranger" for her The Dana Owens Album.
Lewis had dropped out of public view for years after her career slowed in the 60s. It was only after Elliman's hit in 1977 that she was tracked down by Casey Kasem for his AT40 show on 6-4-77. According to Casey nobody knew where she ended up, including her agent who did not even know how to send her checks for the Elliman recording of her song. According to Kasem she was hoping to be rediscovered in Michigan when he found her.
"Baby I'm Yours" charted in versions by country singer Jody Miller and Debby Boone (the B-side of her single "God Knows"). In Canada, Suzanne Stevens had a hit in 1975 with a disco version of "Make Me Your Baby". Cover versions of her songs continue into the new millennium with the Arctic Monkeys including a version of "Baby I'm Yours" as a B-side to their 2006 single "Leave Before the Lights Come On".
In 1995, Lewis' "Baby I'm Yours" was featured on the soundtrack for the film The Bridges of Madison County, and in 2016 "Hello Stranger" was featured on the soundtrack for the film Moonlight. She received the Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1999.
In 2016, Barbara Lewis was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame.
Health issues forced Lewis to retire from singing in 2017.
- Hello Stranger (1963)
- Snap Your Fingers (1964)
- Baby, I'm Yours (1965)
- It's Magic (1966)
- Workin' On A Groovy Thing (1968)
- The Many Grooves Of Barbara Lewis (1970)
- "Hello Stranger" – May 1963 – U.S. #3, U.S. R&B #1 (2 weeks)
- "Straighten Up Your Heart" – August 1963 – U.S. #43; b/w "If You Love Her" – U.S. #131
- "Puppy Love" – January 1964 – U.S. #38; b/w "Snap Your Fingers" December 1963 – U.S. #71
- "Baby I'm Yours" – June 1965 – U.S. #11
- "Make Me Your Baby" – September 1965 – U.S. #11
- "Don't Forget About Me" – January 1966 – U.S. #91
- "Make Me Belong To You" – July 1966 – U.S. #28
- "Baby What Do You Want Me To Do" – October 1966 – U.S. #74
- "I'll Make Him Love Me" – April 1967 – U.S. #72
Other noteworthy songsEdit
- "My Heart Went Do Dat Da"
- "My Mama Told Me"
- "Think A Little Sugar" (flip side of "Hello Stranger")
- "How Can I Say Goodbye"
- "Spend A Little Time"
- "Someday We're Gonna Love Again"
- "Pushin' A Good Thing Too Far"
- "I Remember The Feeling (flip side of "Baby What Do You Want Me To Do")
- "Thankful For What I Got"
- "Sho' Nuff (It's Got To Be Your Love)"
- "Love Makes The World Go Round" – a cover of a hit by Deon Jackson
- "On Bended Knee"
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 192. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- "Tracks In The Sands Of Time - Bio". Manny Freiser. Retrieved 2015-08-19.
- Violanti, Tony (1 April 2017). "Rocky and the Rollers put on spirited sendoff for singer Barbara Lewis - Villages-News.com". Villages-news.com. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
- Barbara Lewis via African American Registry