Soul Serenade: The Impressions, “I’ve Been Trying”

Written by Ken Shane's Soul Serenade, Music

The Impressions were responsible for some of the most compelling anthems of the civil rights era, but Curtis Mayfield also had a way with a romantic ballad.

Ken Shane's Soul Serenade

The music of Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions was part and parcel of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Beginning with the 1964 hit “Keep On Pushing,” the group’s music had an integral role in the struggle for equality.

The Impressions’ third album, also called Keep On Pushing, was released in 1964. It was the best-selling album of their career. The album reached the Top Ten on the Billboard pop chart, and spun off five Top 40 singles. The album’s second song, a gentle ballad of romantic longing called “I’ve Been Trying,” has always been a favorite of mine. By that time, the Impressions were a trio, and the lead vocals on the song are shared by all three members: Mayfield, Fred Cash, and Sam Gooden.

Judging by the number of times the song has been covered, I’m not the only one who loves it. Versions of “I’ve Been Trying” have been recorded by (former Impression) Jerry Butler, Archie Bell & the Drells, the Bar-Kays, Phil Collins, Jewel, and Eric Clapton, among others.

Here’s the Jerry Butler version: