For my last column from New Jersey last week I chose to recognize my time there by featuring Madeline Bell, who is a native of Newark, the state’s largest city. Now that I’m back in Rhode Island it only seems fair to feature an artist from this state’s largest city, Providence. Freddie Scott was last featured in this column back in 2011 with his epic hit single, “Hey Girl.” But that was not Scott’s only hit, and this week I’m going to take a look at a record that came out in 1966, three years after “Hey Girl,” and was an even bigger hit, at least on the R&B chart.
Scott couldn’t get much happening after his initial success, and for a time he was adrift without a record deal. I’ve written about the legendary producer/songwriter Bert Berns (don’t miss Joel Selvin’s brilliant biography of him) in this column, and when Berns founded Shout Records the label served a a lifeline for the floundering Scott.
Berns had written a song called “Are You Lonely For Me” and Scott was the first artist to record it. His Shout single was released in 1966 and became Scott’s second Top 40 single. Sadly, it was also his last. Berns also produced the single, with an arrangement by another legendary figure, Gary Sherman. The backing vocals were provided by Cissy Houston and the Sweet Inspirations. “Are You Lonely For Me” spent four weeks atop the the R&B chart, had crossover success at #39 on the Pop chart, and was covered many times including versions by Hank Ballard, Chuck Jackson, Al Green, and Otis Redding & Carla Thomas.
Scott released four more singles including a remake of “Cry to Me,” another Berns song that had been a hit for Solomon Burke in 1962. It barely scraped the Top 40 on the R&B chart, and was even further down on the Pop chart at #70. “Am I Grooving You,” and and a cover of Van Morrison’s “He Ain’t Give You None,” also both released in 1967, didn’t even do as well as “Cry to Me.”
The harshest blow to Scott’s career came when Berns died suddenly, and far too young, at the end of 1967. His last single was a 1970 cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” that was released on Probe Records. Scott moved on to several different labels after that, including Vanguard, Pickwick International, and Mainstream, and made some money writing advertising jingles.
Freddie Scott became a staple on the oldies circuit, and emerged with a new album called Brand New Man in 2001. He passed away in 2007 at the age of 74. These days Scott is remembered by a young generation for his song “(You) Got What I Need,” (written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, marking several consecutive weeks in which they’ve appeared in this column) which was sampled by Biz Markie for his 1989 hit “Just a Friend.”
Earlier this year Scott was recognized by his home state when he was inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame. According to the citation that accompanied Scott’s induction:
“Freddie passed away in June, 2007, at the age of 74 leaving behind a legacy as one of the best soul singers and songwriters of the ‘60s and a worldwide reputation that is just as intact today as it was back then. His success remains a great source of pride for the Rhode Island music community.”