Sunday, November 19, 2006

Miss Rhythm passes on

The death of 50s R and B legend Ruth Brown at the age of 78 brings the curtain down on a career that inspired a generation of later R and B and soul performers. She was one of the last of the great divas from an era that spawned rock and roll and everything that has followed since - only Etta James of the true greats now remains. She was known as Miss Rhythm - the title of her 1996 autobiography - and for me her Atlantic recordings stand out as some of the most exciting R and B tracks of all time. She will always be remembered for hits such as Lucky lips, Mama he treats your daughter mean and 5-10-15 hours. But she was also a dynamic live performer, as anyone who saw at Jazzfest or at Ronnie Scotts a few years ago will testify.
According to Stevie Wonder, it was Ruth Brown who started it all. Without her 'there wouldn't be no Aretha, wouldn't be nobody'. And Little Richard went even further: 'I idolised Ruth Brown. I wanted to be Ruth Brown,' he said, and he very nearly succeeded.


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