Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – American pianist, composer and producer Bob Baldwin has released a new album to pay tribute to the legendary composer and song writer Thom Bell, one of the creators of the Philadelphia style of soul music in the early 1970s. The album, Betcha By Golly Wow: The Songs of Thom Bell, has a collection of great oldies written by Bell and late lyricist Linda Creed.
If you were born in the 70s, you might not remember this song by actress and singer Connie Stevens. The album’s title cut “Betcha By Golly, Wow” was originally recorded for Thom Bell by Stevens under the title “Keep Growing Strong” in 1970. But in 1972, the song really scored a hit after The Stylistics – a group of five young men from Philadelphia – recorded it.
“I remember hearing Connie Stevens’ tune very well,” says Baldwin who is best known for his brand of soul-and-jazz mix. “But it was The Stylistics’ one that really struck a chord for me, and a lot of the music on those particular records were written by Thom Bell and Linda Creed.”
If you are a fan of such American oldies from the 1970s, you will enjoy this all-killer, no-filler collection. Betcha By Golly Wow: The Songs of Thom Bell showcases songs from that wondrous and great feel-good period by The Delfonics, The Spinners, and The Stylistics.
The album also brings together an all-star cast that includes vocal master Will Downing, vocalist Vivian Green, saxophone icon Gerald Albright, saxophonist Marion Meadows, Paul Taylor, Rippingtons guitarist and founder Russ Freeman, and guitarist Paul Brown. Thom Bell himself, one of the most influential songwriter/producers of our time, has written a brand new song, “Gonna Be Sweeter”, especially for this 10-track tribute CD.
I talked with Bob Baldwin, the bona fide hero of New Urban Jazz, about the album, that nostalgic period of the 1970s, and his new format of Urban Jazz. You will exclusively enjoy a remake of three masterpieces in full from the album: “Betcha By Golly Wow”, “You Are As Right As Rain”, and “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)?”
Bob Baldwin was born in Mount Vernon, N.Y. His father, Robert Baldwin, Sr., was also an acclaimed jazz pianist. The father taught his son how to play piano at the age of four. Baldwin grew up listening to jazz piano greats like Duke Ellington and Oscar Peterson, Stevie Wonder, Patrice Rushen, Chick Corea, Joe Sample, Ramsey Lewis, and trumpeter Miles Davis. When he matured, he performed with many well-known musicians and artists, and later focused on urban jazz. The prominent jazz musician, producer, radio host and music presenter is often described as an unsung hero when it comes to the Contemporary and Smooth Jazz genre.
He played many local and international jazz festivals. Last year he performed in the Arab Gulf emirate of Dubai, an experience that has left a mark on him. “I had a great time there. It is one of the amazing countries, the blend of people there!” he said. “Not only from the United Arab Emirates, but you had [people from] India, Northern Africa, and you had [people from] the Arabian countries. What a great blend of people that love that music. I had a wonderful time and I hope to go back.”
Bob Baldwin is not just a jazz artist; some people refer to him as an advocate and educator. He performed jazz for charity to help the victims of natural disasters. His last project was a fundraising performance for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti two years ago. With 17 albums under his belt, he has taught music, and has written a book called Better Ask Someone: The Things You Need to Know About The Music Business. The book covers Baldwin’s success story, and advises people on how they, too can be successful in the music business.
“Betcha By Golly, Wow” makes me drift back in memory. Not many people knew it was originally written for the adorable Connie Stevens who is best known for her roles in the glorious black and white TV series “Hawaiian Eye.” I still remember this unforgettable theme song and the cool surfing shots in the introduction (watch here). I watched this series when I was a little kid (about eight-years old), and I remember exactly how my brother Nasr who now teaches medicine at Zagazig University in Egypt used shout to alert us each time a new episode was starting.
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