Tuesday Temptations: Chris Clark’s “Do Right Baby”
By: Bari Finkel
Sure, it may not be the weekend, but that is no excuse to leave your dancing shoes dusty in the closet. This week, Tuesday Temptations is offering you two minutes and twenty six seconds to stop what you are doing and start dancing. Once you press play, you will be hearing a sultry voice leading into a funky bass line to which you should not deny the urge to foot tap. The song was not very popular when it was released in 1965, but that should not discourage a listener from appreciating the hidden Motown jewel, Chris Clark. Though her voice is distinct, it is the color of her skin that made its imprint in Motown history. Soul has no color, but still Motown rarely signed white artists to the label. It came as quite a shock when the six-foot tall, white, blue eyed, platinum blonde Chris Clark stepped into Motown Records to audition. However, her talent was inevitable and Berry Gordy signed her in 1964.
“Do Right Baby” was written by Berry Gordy himself to be her first single with Motown in 1965. It was not a chart topper, in fact only her single “Love’s Gone Bad” made the charts at #105 on the pop chart and #41 on the R&B chart. It was clear that the color of her skin was affecting her ratings, but Gordy still encouraged her to play live shows around Detroit. She only recorded one album, Soul Sounds, but she continued to work with Motown as a video editor, songwriter, and co-screenwriter of Billie Holiday’s biographical movie “Lady Sings the Blues.” Her musical success in the UK was much greater than in the US, and she still has a large fan base there.
“Do Right Baby” immediately showcases Clark’s bluesy vocals. The intro is chilling as her voice bends and twists until the band’s groovy beat supports her. Her low range is accentuated by the backing Lewis Sisters and heavy saxophone. Though she is not well known, the Motown sound is easily identifiable in this song. The simple beat, hand clapping, tambourine shaking and saxophone solo perfectly blends to create what should have been a bigger hit. Her music is difficult to come by, even via YouTube videos. I apologize for the lack of live performance footage of this song, but the best audio I could find was in this video. If you find other videos of Chris Clark, please post them in the comment section. Till next week, stay soulful.
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