Even though the production team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis is best known for their groundbreaking work with Janet Jackson (you know, back when she was good,) the first artist they had consistent success with over a period of albums was Atlanta’s S.O.S. Band. Although they only had one major pop smash (1980’s “Take Your Time (Do It Right)”, which was NOT helmed by Jam & Lewis), the Minneapolis twosome turned S.O.S. into a group on the cutting edge of R&B music when otherwise they would’ve just been another bunch of disco also-rans. Of course, Jimmy and Terry established themselves as a production powerhouse in the process.
The first major smash that Jam & Lewis had with S.O.S. was 1983’s “Just Be Good To Me.” The song had just about everything a good song is supposed to have-the percolating beat practically commanded you to dance. The cutting-edge synthesizer sound of the record was as instrumental to the sound of pop music for the next decade as anything recorded by their former boss, Prince. Lead singer Mary Davis had a unique vocal tone that wasn’t the prototypical R&B diva voice. She had an authoritative yet detached vocal tone that made her sound unique. Then there’s the lyrics. Mary is telling her man you can have as many side pieces as you want, just make sure I get treated right. It’s not the standard lyric you’d expect to hear from a female singer now, and it sure as hell wasn’t what you would have expected to hear then. Nevertheless, it struck a chord. The song became S.O.S.’s biggest hit since their very first single, reaching #2 on the R&B charts. It only crossed over to #55 pop, but it’s legacy endures. There have been many remakes recorded over the years, with the most inventive probably being “Dub Be Good To Me”, a 1990 hit for Beats International, a U.K. combo led by the future Fatboy Slim. The song (a mashup before the term existed) featured the lyrics of “Just Be Good To Me” sung over the instrumental of “The Guns of Brixton” by The Clash.
S.O.S. and Jam/Lewis went on to score more hits over the next few years, including several songs that have rightfully gone on to R&B classic-dom. “Tell Me If You Still Care”, “The Finest” and “Weekend Girl” are among the sterling moments in the group’s catalog. The hits stopped in the late Eighties when they stopped working with Jam and Lewis,but even if they’d continued working together, it’s doubtful that this song would have been topped.