Saturday, July 30, 2011

Singer Gene McDaniels Has Died

Singer Gene McDaniels, who reached the top three in 1961 with "A Hundred Pounds of Clay" and later rose to No. 1 when he wrote Roberta Flack's "Feel Like Makin' Love," died Friday at his home in Maine. He was 76.

A soft-spoken man with a powerful voice, McDaniels scored eight other chart hits, including "Chip Chip," "Point of No Return" and "Tower of Strength," which featured one of the most memorable inhales in pop music history.
Born in Kansas City and raised in Omaha, McDaniels sang in the church choir and studied at the Omaha Conservatory.

He also loved the rhythm and blues he heard on the radio in the 1950s, he said later, and was a particular fan of Pookie Hudson, lead singer of the Spaniels.

But when he began his professional career in 1954 his primary style was jazz. He performed with among others, Cannonball Adderley, Les McCann, John Coltrane and Miles Davis.

His pop/rock recordings combined these influences, and "A Hundred Pounds of Clay" helped crystallize the transition between 1950s R&B and the soul music of the 1960s.

By the mid-1960s he had begun moving into producing and songwriting as well as performing. He ultimately worked for Capitol, Motown and A&M before, some years later, forming his own label.

Besides "Feel Like Making Love," which won a Grammy, he wrote a number of songs with socially conscious messages. Those included the jazz-flavored Les McCann/Eddie Harris hit "Compared to What?" and "Before You Accuse Me," which was recorded by Creedence Clearwater Revival and Eric Clapton.

While he eventually moved away from the show business spotlight, he continuing writing and recording until his death. He also worked with younger artists.

He is survived by his wife, Karen.