Friday, September 3, 2010

Sept. 3: "Monkey Time" soul singer Major Lance, died on this day in 1994 from a heart attack. He was 53.

Born in Winterville, Mississippi but raised in Chicago, Lance had a number of US hits in the 1960s, including "The Monkey Time" and "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um."

He went to Wells High School - the same school attended by Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler, former members of The Impressions.

In the mid-1950s, he and singer Otis Leavill formed a group, the Floats, who broke up before recording any material. (Leavill is credited with discovering The Chi-Lites, Tyrone Davis, Hamilton Bohannon, and Yvette Stevens who became better known as Chaka Khan.)

In 1962 he signed with OKeh Records on Mayfield's recommendation. His first single, didn't sell, but established a partnership with a writing and arranging team of Mayfield, Carl Davis, and Johnny Pate, often with members of Mayfield's group The Impressions on backing vocals. Together they developed a distinctive, Latin-tinged sound which epitomised Chicago soul. contrast to music recorded elsewhere.

Lance's next single, "The Monkey Time", became a #2 Billboard R&B chart and #8 pop hit in 1963. A succession of hits followed quickly, including "Hey Little Girl", "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" (his biggest hit, reaching #5 in the US pop chart), "The Matador," "Rhythm," "Sometimes I Wonder," "Come See," and "Ain't It A Shame."

In 1972, he relocated to England, so as to capitalise on the success of his older records among fans of Northern Soul music, in dance clubs which played mostly rare and obscure American soul and R&B records. He returned to Atlanta in 1974, and recorded an updated disco version of "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um."

After recording briefly for the Motown Records subsidiary label Soul, he was convicted of cocaine possession in 1978 and served a four year prison term.

Later attempts to revive his career were dashed after suffering a heart attack in 1987, and Major Lance never recorded again.

Press links below to view You Tube videos:
-- "Monkey Time"
-- "Um, um, um, um, um, um"
-- "Come See"
Soul SoldiersBest of Major Lance

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