Soul Serenade: Al Wilson, “Who Could Be Lovin’ You (Other Than Me)”
While a perfect storm called Nemo was blowing through New England last weekend, another perfect storm was developing for this week’s column. While Nemo left behind a couple of feet of snow, the soul storm left us with this week’s featured song.
It all began with my favorite DJ. You’ve heard me talk about him before. Dave (The Rave) Kapulsky is a Jersey guy with an amazing radio show called “Relics and Rarities.” For the most part Dave plays music from the ’60s, but as the show’s name implies it’s not the usual radio fodder. He digs deep and comes up with music that you’ve never heard before, but will never forget once you’ve heard it.
Dave’s five hour radio show can be heard at topshelfoldies.org on Saturday nights at 10 pm eastern. There’s also a one-hour syndicated version of the show. Check Dave’s website to find out where you can hear it.
Awhile back Dave played a song by one of my favorite artists, but typically, it was one I’d never heard. We all know Al Wilson from his big hit “Show and Tell.” Northern soul fans are also familiar with his song “The Snake.” But in 1967, before either of those records, he released a single on the Soul City label that had absolutely no impact on the charts.
So far we have my favorite DJ, and one of my favorite singers. The storm was brewing. To top it off, the record features an arrangement by one Jim Webb, who later became better known as Jimmy Webb, my all-time favorite songwriter. Add a beautiful song by Willie Hutchison, who later, became a well known artist himself under the name Willie Hutch, and the perfect storm was complete.
All of this firepower added up to a record called “Who Could Be Lovin’ You (Other Than Me)”. Wilson had been signed to the Johnny Rivers label Soul City, and it was his first release for the label. His next single for Soul City was the Jimmy Webb classic “Do What You Gotta Do,” a minor hit but one that looked like a platinum seller compared to “Who Could Be Lovin’ You,” which did absolutely no business.
In 1968 Wilson scored with “The Snake,” and had small hits with John Fogerty’s “Lodi,” and the Johnny Rivers song “Poor Side of Town.” Then he was gone for about five years before returning in 1973 with “Show and Tell,” the record that made him a star.
Listen to “Who Could Be Lovin’ You.” Go ahead, click the link above and listen to it right now. Can you honestly tell me that it’s not a great record? Sure, there have been many great records that haven’t been hits, but in this case it seems particularly unjust. It’s too late for Al Wilson, who died in 2008, but maybe in my own small way I can make a few more people aware of his talent, and the power of this particular record.
No less a talent than Dusty Springfield recognized the quality of “Who Could Be Lovin’ You” and put a version of it on her Cameo album, which was released in 1973. There is also a version by the Fantastics, a New York soul group who moved to England in the late ’60s to take advantage of the British soul explosion.
One last element of my perfect storm. I like to include a photo of the featured single in the column each week. “Who Could Be Lovin’ You” was so forgotten that I was unable to find a photo of the original Soul City release anywhere online. I did find a video on YouTube however, and the video showed a photo of the single. It was posted by a guy named Steve aka The Soulhawk.
I wrote to Steve, a complete stranger, asking him if he could share the photo of the single that he had used in the video. A few hours later it was in my inbox. The next time I feel like complaining about the Internet I’m going to remember Steve, and the great connections that the online world can provide. Check out the The Soulhawk YouTube channel which is filled with great videos of the music we love.