R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

The Real Holloway

10 SEP 09 DAVID NATHAN

In the original bio that accompanied the 1999 release of her Fantasy/Volt album, It's A Woman's World, Brenda Holloway stated, "I've been an old-school legend...Fantasy gave me a chance to be the real me." Truly, the California-born singer -- whose earliest musical experiences included singing with the group that would become R&B stars The Whispers -- is an old school legend, the result of her tenure at Motown from 1964-68.

The sexy Holloway caught the eye of Berry Gordy Jr. at a DJ convention when she was just 18 and became Motown's first California-based artist. She quickly ensured her place in R&B history thanks to her original version of the classic "Every Little Bit Hurts." Never promoted with the same zeal as Mary Wells or Diana Ross, Brenda neverthless left her stamp on contemporary music as the co-writer of "You've Made Me So Very Happy," a major hit for Blood, Sweat & Tears.

She dropped out of the music-making business for some time. But when Fantasy reactivated the Volt label in the late-'90s, producers Fred Pittman and Preston Glass made It's A Woman's World with Holloway, co-writing most of the material for her. The exception was a revival of the Everly Brothers' "Walk Right Back," which Brenda transforms into a track that is perhaps closest in flavor and sound to her Motown work. The album presented her in a then-contemporary setting and was a reminder that Brenda Holloway's innate soulfulness didn't end the day she left Motown.