** This is just a short biographical summary – for the full story, check out this artist’s reviews! **
The legendary Billy Eckstine, Mr. B himself, by some distance the biggest star Motown had ever signed when he arrived in 1964, had spent two decades as one of the highest-profile black men in America. One of the first African-American entertainment stars to genuinely “cross over” into white living rooms, he was a bona fide showbiz legend of stage, screen and records, a tyro jazz and bebop bandleader (he discovered Dizzy Gillespie, among others) who’d astutely seen the way the wind was blowing and transitioned seamlessly into an early-Fifties pop star, a perceptive interpreter of other people’s songs and a clever writer of his own.
Mr B. was 51 when he arrived at Hitsville, his place in the popular music scene taken by younger acts (not least Nat King Cole, who essentially superseded Eckstine as late-Fifties America’s favourite handsome black man singing MOR-jazz standards). As if to underline the point, Motown wasted little time recording a new album, released under the perhaps-optimistic title The Prime Of My Life. You’d have to be crazy to name Billy’s Motown years as the peak of his career, but he stayed with the company for five years, putting out three albums and seven singles, and despite the public’s growing indifference, he took what he did as seriously as ever. He eventually moved on in 1969, signing for – of all places – Stax, where he revitalised his career with a late renaissance. Billy Eckstine passed away in 1993.
Review Archive: Billy ECKSTINE (2 items)
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