Gwen McCrae – Keep The Fire Burning

15th May 2024 · 1980s, 1982, Funk, Music, Soul

Simultaneously smooth, smouldering AND funky, this tune helped give soul singer Gwen McCrae a second lease of life on the Northern Soul circuit in the UK.

Despite having a Top Ten hit with Rockin’ Chair in 1975, Gwen is destined to be remembered as much for the time she turned up late to a recording session in Florida a year earlier – missing the chance to become the first disco diva.

Her husband George was waiting for her at TK Studios, making plans to quit the music biz and join the police, when the boys from KC & The Sunshine Band brought in a new song they’d written for Gwen to sing.

When she didn’t turn up on time George – previously one half of a duo with his wife called George & Gwen – stepped in and recorded Rock Your Baby.

It went on to become the first disco hit in the summer of 1974, selling an astounding 11 million copies – making it one of the biggest-selling records of all time.

At least Gwen got her mojo back when she had her own hit with the seductive disco-goes-to-Memphis number Rockin’ Chair a year later. But this tune from 1982 deserves to be remembered just as much – and the extended 12-inch version is worth seeking out.

And her 1960s recordings with George, after the duo were discovered by Betty Wright, are well worth digging out too, especially their slow-burning gospel-influenced debut Three Hearts In A Tangle.

And she made an unexpected return to the pop charts in 1999 when the French dance duo Cassius sampled her vocals on the 1979 tune All This Love That I’m Giving for their hit Feeling For You – later re-sampled for another house hit by DJ Avicii and Sebastien Drums in 2010.

Soon after that, sadly, Gwen was forced into retirement after suffering a stroke while performing onstage in England.