This week I want to take you back to some live performances of a female powerhouse vocalist who toured with the James Brown Revue throughout the late 60s and early 70s. James Brown was quoted as saying she was the best singer he ever had in his band, and possibly the best singer he had ever witnessed. She is the widow of the late Bobby Byrd who was James Brown’s right-hand man and is credited with igniting James Brown’s career by taking his talent beyond the walls of the Georgia youth detention facility where Byrd and Brown met. But most importantly, she had a voice whose fire and feeling rivaled that of James Brown himself and was a perfect blend of melancholy, strength, and grit. Her name is Vicki Anderson.
Vicki Anderson released numerous singles under her birth name (Myra Barnes) and her stage name, but she never released a full-length album. Her most famous song, the James Brown-produced, feminist anthem The Message from the Soul Sisters, was sampled on many hip hop tracks throughout the 80s and 90s including Gang Starr’s No More Mr. Nice Guy, Geto Boys’ City Under Siege, and Lil Kim’s No Time, among others. In 2004, the Vicki Anderson anthology Mother Popcorn was released on Soul Brother Records, making it her first legal album.
Although she had a lengthy stint with the James Brown Revue and had numerous releases, it is very hard to find more than a couple photos and videos of her performing live. But the videos I did find definitely display why James Brown felt the way he did about her voice.
This first video of Vicki Anderson is a 1971 performance with the James Brown Revue and includes extremely soulful renditions of Don’t Play that Song which Ben E. King wrote, and Aretha Franklin covered, and the Beatles tune Yesterday. The power of her voice is enough to knock you over:
Video was removed from Youtube. Sorry
This next video is a clip of Vicki Anderson performing the song Call Me in a TV Performance, and although Aretha Franklin originally wrote the track, Vicki knows how to make it her own:
And last but not least, a live Vicki Anderson and James Brown duet in which they sing Let it Be Me. Their voices compliment each other so well, if you weren’t watching the video and just listening, you might think James’ voice was an effect put on Vicki’s when they harmonize. They match each other perfectly in skill and tonal quality. Check it out:
The video was removed from Youtube. Sorry
If you want to listen to more Vicki Anderson, the tracks that I would suggest as must-listen would be Message from the Soul Sisters and I Want to Be In the Land of Milk and Honey due to their blend of social consciousness and funky grooves. But honestly, Vicki Anderson comes equally strong on all of her tracks.
Be sure to check back next time for more “Old Soul.”
Banner Photo – greenville.metromix.com
Right Photo – Picture from the cover of “20th Century Masters – James Brown & Friends Millennium Collection Volume 3”