I have often written about the process that I use for choosing songs to feature in this column. Inspiration comes from various places and often seems to turn up when I least it expect it. This week it all seemed to fail me.
I had a busy weekend. I was not only covering the Newport Folk Festival for Popdose, I was working for the Festival itself, handling some of the social media functions. It was a great, but extremely busy time. So I didn’t have much of an opportunity to allow inspiration for this week to enter into my consciousness.
So I guess it was the subconscious that kicked in this week. I was sitting on the couch last night thinking about songs for the column, and drawing a blank. All of my usual resources seemed to have dried up for the moment. Then, out of nowhere at all, a song popped into my head.
Brook Benton was born in South Carolina in 1931. At the age of 17 he moved to New York City to pursue a career in music. It took more than ten years, but in 1959 he finally scored with a couple of hits. “It’s Just A Matter of Time” reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and “Endlessly” made it to #12. More hits followed, but by the mid-’60s Benton, like so many other American artists, seemed to have been drowned by the British Invasion. He wasn’t done yet though, because in 1970 Benton returned with the biggest hit of his career.
In 1969, Benton signed with Cotillion, an Atlantic Records imprint. It was there the following year that he hit big with “Rainy Night In Georgia”. The song was written by Tony Joe White, and eventually it was brought to the attention of the legendary Atlantic producer Jerry Wexler who passed it along to Benton.
Brook Benton’s version of “Rainy Night In Georgia” was recorded in November, 1969, with producer Arif Mardin behind the board. The melancholy slice of country soul made it to the top of the Billboard Best Selling Soul Singles chart, and hit #4 on Billboard Hot 100. It was certified gold for sales of one million copies, and made it to Rolling Stone’s Greatest Songs of All Time list in 2004.
In all, Benton put 49 singles on the Billboard Hot 100. He died in New York City in 1988 at just 56 years of age.
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