Thursday, July 7, 2011
Jerry Butler's style is cool, smooth and seemingly effortless. There is no dancing, no shouting, just Jerry standing onstage unleashing his incredible baritone and holding the audience in the palm of his hand. he doesn't even sweat, for cryin' out loud!
This is why the late legendary Philadelphia disc jockey/activist Georgie Woods dubbed him "The Iceman" and the nickname stuck as he became one of RnB's most enduring talents.
His family migrated from Mississippi to Chicago where he grew up in the Cabrini-Green projects. He met Curtis Mayfield, another member of the church choir Butler sang in. In addition Jerry Butler performed in the gospel quartet The Northern Jubilee Singers, also with Mayfield. Strongly inspired by Sam Cooke And The Soul Stirrers,The Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi, and The Pilgrim Travelers, Butler and Mayfield formed The Roosters, a six -member group that later became The Impressions.
The Impressions auditioned
for Chess and Vee Jay Records, ultimately signing with Vee Jay. They recorded their first song for the label, a Jerry Butler composition called "Your Precious Love". It became their first hit, went gold and remains one of the most beautiful, evocative songs ever put to a master tape. It was released in 1958 and went to #11 pop and #3 RnB. Butler also wrote "I've Been Loving You Too Long" which became a classic in the hands of one Otis Redding.
Butler left the Impressions to go solo leaving the lead singing and writing responsibilities in what proved to be the extremely capable hands of Curtis Mayfield. As a solo artist he had a string of hits, including "He Will Break Your Heart", "Only The Strong Survive", "Moon River", "Dream Merchant" and "Moody Woman". His collaboration with Philadelphia songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff was a huge factor in his hitmaking success, with Butler becoming a large contributor to the legendary "Philly Sound".
Jerry Butler produced two very successful albums, The Iceman Cometh which garnered three Grammy nominations, and Ice On Ice. He is also one of the few music greats to also have a career in politics, serving as a Cook County Commisioner from the early 80s up to today. He, along with The Impressions were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1991. He still takes to the road occasionally as well as television appearances.