1978 Santa Esmeralda – Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
Leroy Gómez was born in Massachusetts and learned to play the saxophone. He joined the group Tavares and toured with them in the US and Europe. He left the group in 1973 (before they started recording hit records).
Songwriter Horace Ott wrote the chorus and melody for Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood after a breakup with his girlfriend and worked with Bennie Benjamin and Sol Marcus to complete the song. It was one of the five songs they offered to Nina Simone for a 1964 album. She released the song as a single, but it did not chart in either the US or the UK.
The Animals recorded the song later that year and their single reached #3 on the UK chart and #15 on the Hot 100 in 1965.
French producers Nicolas Skorsky and Jean Manuel de Scarano recruited studio musicians and formed the group Santa Esmerelda in 1977. Leroy became their lead singer after they caught one of his performances in Paris. The first record they recorded with Leroy was the disco single Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, which became a surprise hit in Europe. They released the single in the US later that year, and the record peaked at #15 on the US Hot 100 in early 1978.
A 16 minute version of the single also helped to propel the record to the top of the US Disco chart.
Leroy left the group shortly after the single’s success and pursued a solo career. He was replaced by Jimmy Going, who sang lead on the group’s next single, The House of the Rising Sun. That release only reached #78 on the Hot 100 in 1978. The group could not find their way back onto the charts and disbanded in 1983.
Leroy recorded solo albums in 1978 and 1979 and began touring, but was unable to recapture the prior success he had with Santa Esmeralda.
Elvis Costello slowed the song down considerably and took it to #33 on the UK chart in 1986. While he missed the Hot 100, his version peaked at #38 on the US Mainstream Rock chart.
Leroy continued touring, and in 2002, he began using the name The New Santa Esmeralda. His career was helped considerably when the film Kill Bill used the Santa Esmeralda version of Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood on its soundtrack. His incarnation of the group released two more albums in 2005 and 2006. He currently tours as The Original Santa Esmeralda.
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