Soul Serenade: Freda Payne, “Band Of Gold”
“Band of Gold” was a big hit, a really big hit, for Freda Payne in 1970. Freda was from Detroit, and began her career as a singer doing jingles for radio commercials. In the early ’60s, her first two albums cast her as a jazz singer. She made numerous tv appearances, and managed to fit in some theatrical work as well.
Meanwhile, Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland, Jr., who had an enormously successfully career as songwriters and producers at Motown from 1962-1967, left the label as a result of a royalties dispute with Mr. Gordy. For their next act, they decided to start a label of their own. They called it Invictus. Gordy sued them for breach, and Holland-Dozier-Holland countersued. The war was on and wouldn’t be settled until 1977.
Invictus was only moderately successful overall, but one of the best things that the label did was to sign Freda Payne in 1969. Her first release for the label, “Unhooked Generation,” was only a minor R&B hit. Then Eddie Holland approacher Payne about recording “Band of Gold.” She didn’t want to do it, feeling that the song’s sentiments were more appropriate for a younger singer. She was finally convinced by Ron Dunbar, a producer and staffer for Invictus, to make the record. Of course it turned out to be a great decision, because “Band of Gold” went on to become a giant hit. The song reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, sold two million copies, and won Payne her first gold record.
Now back to that provenance. The song was written by Dunbar, along with someone named Edythe Wayne. Since no one knew of anyone by that name, it was widely thought to be a pseudonym for Holland-Dozier-Holland, which they employed because of their ongoing battle with Gordy. That suspicion has never been publicly confirmed, but let’s just say it was a pretty good bet.
Another interesting thing about “Band of Gold” is the cast of musicians who played on it. H-D-H might have left Motown, but they stayed in contact with the Funk Brothers, the legendary band that played on all of the Motown hits. As a result, “Band of Gold” features Funk Brothers Bob Babbitt on bass, guitarists Dennis Coffey, Eddie Willis, and Ray Monette, Johnny Griffith on keys, drummer Uriel Jones, and Jack Ashford on percussion.
The astonishing cast of players doesn’t end there however. That instantly identifiable electric sitar part was played Vinnie Bell, and that’s none other than Ghostbuster Ray Parker, Jr. on lead guitar. Oh, and the background vocalists on the record were Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson who of course went on to become Dawn as in Tony Orlando and.
See what I mean about provenance?
Freda Payne went on to have a few more hits for Invictus, including the anti-war anthem “Bring the Boys Home,” which won her a second gold record in 1971. Two years later she left Invictus for ABC/Dunhill, but never had the same level of commercial success that she had at Invictus. She has remained active in the music business however, and appeared on Dancing With the Stars in 2009 to sing “Band of Gold.”