1968 Arthur Conley – Funky Street
Sam Cooke began his professional career in 1957 when You Send Me hit the top of both the Hot 100 and the R&B chart. The hits kept coming until his untimely death in December 1964.
The next month, his record company released a posthumous album, Shake. The title single reached the top ten in both charts. The album also contained the song A Change Is Gonna Come.
Almost unnoticed in the album was another song, Yeah, Man. The record company didn’t release the song as a single, but it probably sounds very familiar to fans of oldies.
Arthur Conley was a singer/songwriter from Atlanta. He got his start in 1959 singing with Arthur & the Corvets. The group recorded three singles in 1964, but Arthur disbanded the group and began a solo career after they failed to find an audience.
When Arthur recorded his first solo songs, Otis Redding heard one of them and immediately began working with Arthur. The two wrote several songs together. In one session, they began reworking Sam’s song Yeah, Man. It became a song about current soul singers, and Arthur’s recording of their rewritten song became Sweet Soul Music. The single reached #2 on both the Hot 100 and the R&B chart in 1967.
The single listed Otis and Arthur as the co-writers of the song, and it isn’t surprising that a lawsuit quickly got Sam’s name added to the credits.
Arthur had trouble following up that hit’s success until he travelled to Memphis and worked with producer Tom Dowd. Arthur co-wrote Funky Street with Earl Sims and Tom produced his single. It became Arthur’s last big hit in 1968.
The record peaked at #14 on the Hot 100 and reached #5 on the R&B chart.
Semi-successful singles followed for a few years until Arthur moved to Europe and changed his name. He continued recording and singing as Lee Roberts until his death in 2003. The move and name change may have happened in part because Arthur struggled with secretly being gay.
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