And here we are. Thanksgiving. The world outside can seem cold even to the most optimistic among us. Political rancor is tearing friends and families apart. Each day seems to bring news of the loss of another of our cherished artists (R.I.P. Della Reese). Meanwhile, the world is poised on the brink of … something. The hope is, and the belief has to be, that it’s something good. A reawakening if you will.
Like many of you, I’ve been thinking a lot about all of this. Maybe it’s my age. Maybe I’m just tired. The world will do what it will do. I’m not saying that people can’t affect change. I’ve seen it happen time and again. But at this point, all I’m really interested in is making sure that my own family is safe and secure. Maybe it’s selfish but I think if all of us start there maybe the love can spread because as Stevie Wonder once sang, “love’s in need of love today.” It’s truer than ever.
I don’t have a lot to write about the music today. I’ve written about Barbara Lewis and her 1963 hit “Hello Stranger.” It was her biggest hit by far, reaching all the way up to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, but not her only hit.
Lewis was born in Michigan and she was still in her teens when her recording career began. At first, she worked with a DJ by the name of Ollie McLaughlin. Her first single, “My Heart Went Do Dat Da,” was released in 1962. While it didn’t become a national hit it was a regional success in the Detroit area. Next up was “Hello Stranger,” one of the songs Lewis wrote for her debut LP. Follow-up singles like “Straighten Up Your Heart” and “Puppy Love” were moderately successful.
For her next single, Lewis collaborated with the legendary producer Bert Berns. The result was her second smash hit, “Baby I’m Yours” which reached #11 in 1965. The follow-up single was “Make Me Your Baby,” also produced by Berns, and it reached the same spot on the chart that year. Lewis had one more Top 40 hit in 1966. “Make Me Belong to You,” a song written by Billy Vera and Chip Taylor, was a #28 hit that year.
That was pretty much the end of chart success for Lewis although a couple of other singles straggled into the Top 100. She also made an album for Stax at the end of the ’60s that found her moving from her smooth pop sound to something a little grittier. But this being Thanksgiving, I wanted to feature a record appropriate to the season. In 1968, Lewis released a song that she had written called “Thankful For What I Got” on Atlantic Records. It was not a hit.
“Hello Stranger” and “Baby I’m Yours” have been covered numerous times over the years. Lewis’ music remains a fixture of the Carolina Beach Music scene. Lewis herself continued singing right up to this year when health issues forced her to retire.
Today is a day to draw your loved ones close to you. Look around at those people at your table today. Remember how much they mean to you despite their flaws, and yours. But don’t just think about it, tell them. Do it today because what I’ve been trying clumsily to say is that maybe if we share the love with those around us today it can begin to spread from our tables. And who knows where that might take us? It’s Thanksgiving.