Reviews Zone

Barbara Lewis: Don’t Forget About Me – The Atlantic & Reprise Recordings (SoulMusic Records) 25th September 2020



4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)



This is a very welcome release, which collects together for the first time, the output from US soul artist Barbara Lewis’ six year tenure with Atlantic and Reprise Records.

David Nathan must be the best crate digger in the UK, with the variety of gold nuggets he unearths and does deals on to bring out on his own SoulMusic label, formed in 2008 after a career as a respected music journalist.

Often his releases are by artists and legends he knows personally; many are friends and therefore the access and the negotiations with copyright owners are perhaps a tad smoother and after. Some maybe not!

But he gets there in the end and has an eclectic and mouth-watering back catalogue of the best soul music you will find, especially Ms Lewis’ tasty three-CD box set goodie.

A bumper 68 tracks, which includes seven non-album singles/B-sides, one previously unreleased cut from 1968 and both sides of Barbara’s sole Reprise single, “Don’t Forget About Me”.

New interview with Barbara Lewis…

Produced by David Nathan, the set features an extensive essay by writer Charles Waring with quotes from a 2020 interview with Barbara specifically for this release.

There are comments by Billy Vera and Sharon McMahan, two songwriters who penned respectively “Make Me Belong To You” and “Someday We’re Gonna Love Again”, both cuts included here. The credits also include recording session dates, location and personnel (if known).

The two songs that made her name, “Hello Stranger” and “Baby, I’m Yours” are of course, dished up in this set. Timeless. Classics. Tick.

The Michigan-born artist’s distinctive brand of soul brought her much acclaim in the mid-60s, resulting in a total of five Atlantic albums.

This new collection, sequenced in chronological order of recording session, includes the first CD release of a number of tracks from both the 1964 LP “Snapy Your Fingers (Barbara Lewis Sings The Great Soul Tunes”, and the 1966 album, “It’s Magic”.

30 cuts on disc one which kicks off with Barbara’s first of many sessions produced by Detroit music entrepreneur Ollie McLaughlin, initially a single released on his Karen label.

Atlantic Records took over distribution of the single, and subsequently all of Barbara’s recordings until 1968.

Lewis’ first single release in 1962, the uptempo “My Heart Went Do Dat Da,” did not chart nationally, but was a local hit in the Detroit, Michigan area, and is the second cut in to the first CD here.

The Dells…

Recorded at Chess Records’ studios in Chicago, with background vocals supplied by hit-making group The Dells, Barbara’s self-penned “Hello Stranger” became a US R&B chart topper and Top five pop hit in 1963.

It paved the way to her first full LP of the same name, all songs penned by Barbara.

Working with famed arranger/conductor Riley Hampton, Barbara’s sophomore set “Snap Your Fingers”, features her covers of thirteen hits by male artists such as Ray Charles, Chuck Jackson, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke and Jimmy Reed – included in its entirety here.

The material on second CD of this set, was recorded in New York with top arrangers such as Teacho Wiltshire, Artie Butler and Jimmy Wisner.

She straddles pop/soul on tracks such as Van McCoy’s “Baby, I’m Yours”, under the direction of Bert Berns. That became the title track for her third LP – set of ‘60s tunes (including “Yesterday”, “Let It Me Be” and “The Shadow Of Your Smile”).

It also features jazz and pop standards such as “Since I Fell For You” and “It’s Magic”, the latter the title for Barbara’s fourth LP.

The final disc here Disc completes Barbara’s association with Atlantic Records – and including key tracks which were included on her 1968 swansong LP for the label, “Workin’ On A Groovy Thing”. The title cut was co-written by Neil Sedaka.

Northern Soul Favourite…

Also found in this collection are her last two Atlantic hit singles, 1965’s “Make Me Your Baby” and 1966’s “Make Me Belong To You”; the UK Northern Soul scene’s long-time favourite: “I Remember The Feeling”.

There’s also the excellent previously unissued track, “You Put A Song In My Heart”, from Barbara’s one-off 1967 recording date with producers Lou Courtney and Bob Bateman. That also spawned the popular “Thankful For What I Got”, track 11 on disc three.

After making one LP for the Stax/Enterprise label in 1970, Barbara signed with Reprise Records in 1972. Included here are both sides of the lone single recorded in Muscle Shoals, “Rock And Roll Lullaby”, written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and “I’m So Thankful”.

Barbara Lewis is now 77, and was singing up until 2017 when sadly, health issues forced retirement.

In 1977 Yvonne Elliman’s version of “Hello Stranger” reached the US Top 20 and the Top 30 of UK Chart. Elliman’s version also topped the US Easy Listening chart for four weeks. In 1985 Carrie Lucas’ remake of “Hello Stranger” was a Top 20 R&B hit and in 2004, Queen Latifah remade “Hello Stranger” for her The Dana Owens Album.

Barbara Lewis had dropped out of public view for years after her career slowed in the 1960s. It was only after Elliman’s hit in 1977 that she was tracked down by Casey Kasem for his AT40 show on 6-4-77.

Soundtrack demand today…

According to Casey nobody knew where she ended up, including her agent who did not even know how to send her checks for the Elliman recording of her song. According to Kasem she was hoping to be rediscovered in Michigan when he found her.

In 1995, Lewis’ “Baby I’m Yours” was featured on the soundtrack for the film The Bridges of Madison County, and in 2016 “Hello Stranger” was featured on the soundtrack for the film Moonlight. In 2019, “Hello Stranger” featured towards the end of the final episode of Giri/Haji.

She received the Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1999. In 2016, Barbara Lewis was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame.

It is claimed that Barbara’s “smooth style” of soul music influenced the creation of the rhythm & blues music genre.

One chilling fact in Barbara’s life: On 8th August 1969, with actress Joanna Pettet, Ms. Lewis had lunch at the house of Sharon Tate in Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles – a few hours before Tate’s murder there by three members of the Manson Family, under the direction of cult leader Charles Manson, during the night that followed.


By Matt Wood



1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5) ‘Dull Zone’
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