Linda Lewis was the first female black British singer I ever saw on TV. They were a rarity in the early Seventies – in fact she’s the only one I can think of.
It was Rock-A-Doodle-Doo that introduced me to her five-octave voice back in 1973, and TOTP that introduced me to her effervescent performance and joyful smile.
This song, later covered by Cher, provided her with her biggest hit two years later, though I’d already heard her on countless hit singles – and albums – without even knowing it.
As a session singer, her credits are like a who’s who of early-to-mid-1970s pop: David Bowie (Aladdin Sane), Cat Stevens (Catch Bull At Four), Rod Stewart, Rick Wakeman and T.Rex, and the chart-topping single Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel.
A former child star born and raised in West Ham, Linda Fredericks sang in Rast End clubs from an early age and, after going to stage school, had bit parts in a Beatles film and the kitchen sink drama A Taste Of Honey.
But music was her first love and throughout the 1970s she maintained parallel careers, recording as a solo artist and working as an in-demand session singer.
She had paid her dues singing with none other than blues legend John Lee Hooker and released her first solo single back in 1967, going on to join a soul rock group called Ferris Wheel before signing another solo deal in 1971 with Warners/Reprise.
She also appeared at the first Glastonbury Festival in 1970.
When she went to New York to record this version of an old 1960s hit by Betty Everett, Linda’s backing vocalists included Deniece Williams and Luther Vandross.
The album that followed, Not A Little Girl Any More, featured guests including Lowell George of Little Feat, New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint, and the Tower of Power horn section.
After her death yesterday at the age of 72, her former boyfriend and collaborator Cat Stevens – Yusuf Islam – paid a beautiful tribute, saying: “Linda was like an amazing bird that kindly visited the window sill of our earthly house for a few days, then flew away back to her garden.”
This disco-fied version of Rudy Clark’s Shoop Shoop Song, a 1964 hit for Betty Everett now retitled It’s In His Kiss, brought Linda a Top Ten hit in the summer of 1975.
RIP Linda Lewis (1950-2023)