As you may recall from last week, I’m spending the month in the Atlantic City area, trying to recapture some of the magic of my youth here and turn it into a book. Soul music was a key element in my early education. In fact it was just a few blocks from where I’m sitting now that I first developed my love of the music that continues to inspire me, and this column, to this day.
This week I want to feature an artist who was best known as the duet partner of a superstar, but certainly had hits of her own as well, including a couple that I recall dancing to at Jerry Blavat (“The Geator with The Heater”) dances during the summer.
Kim Weston was born in Detroit, and by the time she was three years old she was singing in the church choir. As a teenager Weston was in a touring gospel group called the Wright Specials. She was one of the first artists signed to the nascent Motown label, and had a minor hit on the R&B charts in 1963 with “Love Me All the Way.” It was 1964 when Weston was paired with Marvin Gaye to record “What Good Am I To You.” It was around that same time that she made a life-changing decision when she declined the offer to record “Dancing in the Streets,” which of course became a massive hit for Martha & the Vandellas.
A year later Weston had a solo hit of her own however. “Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While)” was a Holland-Dozier-Holland song, and Eddie Holland had recorded the first version of it in 1964, but his version wasn’t released until 1965. The legendary songwriting/producing team offered it to Weston, and her version was released in September of that year. It was a sizable hit for her, reaching #4 on the R&B chart, and had some crossover success, hitting the Top 50 on the Billboard Hot 100.
So Weston had a nice-sized hit for herself, but the song that she became best known for was yet to come. Her duet with Gaye on “It Takes Two” was released in 1966. The record was produced by Mickey Stevenson, who was married to Weston at the time, and written by Stevenson and Sylvia Moy. It raced to #14 on the Pop chart, and was Gaye’s biggest duet hit to that point. Of course his partnership with Tammi Terrell was yet to come.
In 1967 Weston made another decision that would change the course of her career. She decided to leave Motown, and later sued the company over unpaid royalties. She and Stevenson both decamped for MGM Records. There Weston recorded a couple of singles, “I Got What You Need,” and “Nobody.” Neither record got much promotion from MGM and as a result there was little airplay.
The singles may have failed in the marketplace, but Weston also recorded an album for MGM. It was called This Is America. The album included what is widely considered to be the definitive version of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is known as the Black National Anthem. The song was released as a single, with all proceeds going to the United Negro College Fund.
There were more records, for more labels, including Stax/Volt, and there was an album of duets with Johnny Nash. Nothing got any traction however, and according to some sources, Weston moved to Israel to work with young singers. The next time she was seen in this country was on an episode of The Bill Cosby Show in 1971.
In the ’80s Ian Levine began gathering up former Motown stars for his Motorcity label, and Weston is one of the artists he called on. She released a single called “Signal Your Intentions” for the label, and it was a #1 hit on one UK chart. An album called Investigate was released in 1990, and it included re-recordings of some of Weston’s Motown hits. She made a second album, Talking Loud, for the label, but it was never released. Songs from that album were included however on the 1996 compilation The Best of Kim Weston.
“Take Me In Your Arms” not only had a second life as a hit single, but several more lives as well. Holland-Dozier-Holland tried to repeat the success of the Weston version by having the Isley Brothers record the song. Their version was released in 1968 and made it to the #22 slot on the R&B chart. The version by the Doobie Brothers was the biggest hit of all. The band’s version of the song was released in 1975 and the single was a #11 hit. There were also covers by Jermaine Jackson, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and R. Dean Taylor, among others.
These days Weston is a DJ in Detroit. She tours now and then with former label mates Mary Wilson, Martha Reeves, and Brenda Holloway. In 2013 Weston was part of the inaugural induction class of the R&B Music Hall of Fame.