Thursday, May 22, 2008

Raising Her Voice a Little Higher: The Pain of Linda Jones

CDs with warning labels are nothing new, as one can find the "Explicit Lyrics" sticker on albums by artists as different as gangsta rapper Snoop Dogg and the early blues diva Bessie Smith.

But a good decade or so ago I pulled a CD from a "marked down to next to nothing" bin that had a warning label of kind that I had never before encountered:

The music contained herein exudes an intensity rarely evident in popular stylings, and even infrequent within the "deep soul" idiom, and if you are not that familiar with Linda's output, I would genuinely recommend that you sample this CD in smaller doses.

I had never heard of Ms Jones at that point, but how could I not put down my 2 bucks and change for a CD that came with that kind of caveat?

Linda was signed to Loma records in the 1960s, but never achieved the kind of success that her stable mates Lorraine Ellison or Ike and Tina Turner were blessed with. The excellent double CD "The Best Of Loma Records: The Rise And Fall Of A 1960's Soul Label" contains no less than five songs by Linda, including her almost-hit "Hypnotized". She later signed to Sylvia Robinson's Turbo Records in the early 70s, and unfortunately most of the recordings from that era sound somewhat distorted whenever the technical equipment of the era was outdone by Linda's unique vocal range (which was basically all the time).

The first thing that will hit you - hard - about Linda Jones is that she never held back. Her rare joyous songs are ecstatic jubilations, while the majority of her tunes convey a sadness and drama that make you fear Linda has already put the razor blade next to her bath tub. Linda was a bit like Patti Labelle in so far that she did not seem to know any moderation, though her voice is very different from Ms Patti's.

If you compare Linda's recording of "I can't Make it Alone" with Dusty Springfield's version, you can't help but notice how much more Linda "got" the lyric. As incomparable and talented as Dusty was, as brilliantly produced as the "Dusty in Memphis" album is, I doubt you'll ever be able to enjoy Dusty's understated reading of the song again once you have sampled Linda's agonized, driven masterpiece interpretation of the King/Goffin composition. When she yells "Help me!" you just want to reach through your speakers and hold on to her for her own, dear life.

Linda suffered from health problems, including diabetes, and died at the very young age of 28. The pain in her voice was clearly driven by pain in her life, and maybe she explains her singing style best herself in her spoken, rambling ad libs in the middle of her knock-you-to-your socks cover of Jerry Butler's early hit, For Your Precious Love. If this version of the song sounds remotely familiar to you, that is probably due to the cloned version that Truth Hurts recorded for the soundtrack of the Will Smith movie Ali a few years ago. Personally, I would have preferred if they'd remastered Linda's recording to use it on the soundtrack to introduce more people to this forgotten diva. Anyway, here is what Linda said in that song, and if you click on the clip below, lord have mercy, you can hear her explain herself better than I ever could.

You know something ladies? And especially you ladies, I'd like to speak to you.
Cause you know something, ladies? If you got a man, I don't care what kind of man you got he'll want you to get down on your knees sometimes and kind of crawl a little.
But you know what? I got a man that's somewhere out there that I don't mind crawling to.
Sometimes I wake up in the midnight hour with tears rolling down my face.
And when I look around for my man, I can't find him.
Hell, I fall a little lower, look a little higher
Kind of pray to the Lord.
Because I always believed the Lord can help me if nobody else could
Well sometimes I think he don't even hear me!
So I have to fall a little lower on my knees, look a little higher,
Kind of raise my voice a little higher
And this is what I sing when I call to my man
And I especially want you ladies to listen to me
Because maybe you can try this
It might help you once in a while
This is what you sing...


BAMG said...

cool! your blog made me think that EVERYTHING in life should come with a warning label to let you know where it stands!

A warning label like, "This Greek restaurant's food will suck and you will hate it and regret it for eternity if you enter these doors"

Terry Jones said...

Thanks for being a fan of my mother Linda Jones.
Please visit my website so you can read some of the truth about my Mom. I will be releasing a new cd and set the record straight to a lot of myths about where and how she past and more. Thanks again for loving my Mom's music.

Terry Jones
Daughter of Linda Jones

Anonymous said...

Linda Jones is and was the greatest deep soul singer of the 1970s.
I believe "For Your Precious Love"
to be the very greatest example of this very important phenomena -
which was deep soul.
This one song (above all others) has profound deep emotional intensity. It is a very tragic shame we no longer have Linda Jones
today, but her work lives in people's hearts. I myself personally thank Linda Jones for being a very special and unique woman - a purveyor of the deepest sentiment, and for creating a very lovely and moving song and songs.
Linda Jones for me evokes incredible feelings and quite often I cry at "For Your Precious Love," because is so wonderful.

Anonymous said...

u really should make more availible
like my favorite HYPNOTYZED! GOD bless u, Terry

Anonymous said...

Maybe this will inspire healthier
habits in my lifestyle of food choices because I really love her
music and hearing what happened to her, thanks

Anonymous said...

linda jones ws fabulous singer---always gives me the chills when i listen to her........

Reginald J Williams said...

I have been in love with the voice and soul of Linda Jones for as long as I can remember. I brought her 45rpm releases and still have them till this day. Her voice was the most incredible sensual voice ever recorded. We lost her all too soon. However let it be known she will never be forgotten. Prayers and blessings to you T Jones

renitia said...


Anonymous said...

lyric to song Stay With Me Forever

imccoy said...

Linda Jones is without a doubt the most profound emotionally driven singer I've ever heard coming from the female ordination! The closest lady to her was Mahalia Jackson singing about the Lord in church! Very few can come close to her and I'm talking almost 40-years after her death. Sure Vesta Williams,Kelly Price, Angie Stone,Jennifer Hut-son,come close to approaching that zenith,that transcended voice soul tingling essence, but to me and i listen intently.No women Can touch Linda Jones now then or ever i believe. Her Soul is once for the ages. As i feel that for the texture and quality of voice and tone no male singer can approach Marvin Gaye & Donny Hathaway pertaining to eminence. Linda Jones is alone at top in my opinion. Listen to (Please Don't Go) & (Fugitive From Love) which are very underrated from the standpoint of commercial success for her,yet very profound! I'm surprised that the first particular isn't on the greatest hit CD. Nevertheless she's the best!!! Ivan McCoy Col,OH

the4thpip said...

Hi Ivan!
The song "Don't Go (I can't stand to be alone)" is included on the Sequel Records compilation entitles "Your Precious Love", but not on the one by Collectables (called "Hypnotized"). It is indeed a heart-wrenching track.

Joe Daniels said...


couldn't find an email address - I wrote a blog about somebody who popped up on the radio and seemed to be making fun of Linda Jones' diabetes. Linked to you in 1'st paragraph and in pic - Joe.

Joe Daniels said...

(Sorry, forgot link!)

Walter Lee said...

Linda Jones should be on TV One Unsung talk about her life and career which it was cut short and be in ducted into the Rhythm and Blues hall of fame

Daniel Robinson said...

Hey Ms.T (Terry) :) ... You know...Your Mommy is lookin down upon you and she is very appreciative and happy that you've preserved her memory for the world to see and hear forever.... I'm very honored to have beable to hear your mothers sincere serene voice through my speakers from 1965 to 200X... shes forever remembered

Anonymous said...

if linda had lived beyond her young age, she would have rivalled aretha as the queen of soul, when you listen to her tremendous vocals on "just can't live my life" it stirs your soul.....RIP linda

stephy said...

I have never heard anything like Linda Jones voice in my life!! My My My!! If she had the chance she would have taken the world by a storm!! But God gave us a musical beast just for a little time!! I was just born when she died!! So I never knew who she was until I was in a band with my father and cousin who said 2 me I sound a little like Linda Jones. So of course I had 2 look this women up!! Lord when i heard hypnotize I just melted in my tracks. I went a little further and heard precious love omg!! For my daddy and cousin 2 say I sound like this women took me 2 a whole different level then I have been on!! There are no words to say how awesome and talented this beautiful young lady was cut so short in her life!! If I could just be half of the singer this lady was I would be truel y blessed!!!

half the singer this lady was!! I would truely blessed

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing Linda Jones in person at the Uptown Theatre in Philly and on the Georgie Woods show back in the late sixties. All you could do was sit transfixed to the screen or in your seat when she sang. I remember wondering why she wore long white gloves when she sang on the Georgie Woods show and now I suspect it was to hide her insulin tracks. There were many rumors that she was on drugs when she died and we found out that she had diabetes. She will live forever in or minds and our hearts. NOBODY could sing like she did! NOBODY!

Hi my name is Deon said...

Hi Terry I remember listening to your mom when I was little and didn't understand the meaning oh but when I grew up I understand clear I love you mommy mrs linda jones and it was a pleasure to meet your sister Carla and Carla dad Carlos it was a pleasure her voice was magical

Anonymous said...

I used to listen to her songs when I was a little girl. She had a unique amazing voice that cannot be duplicated . she had a break in her voice that added to the emotion in it that I just love. I'm saddened at the fact that she seemed to be forgotten. She's never mentioned on the radio or TV. If anyone deserves to be on TV one she does.

Vera Moody said...

the best i"ve ever heard wow!!!

William Washington said...

Goddess Terry.. How tall are you?