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Gwen Guthrie

bvoc, voc, 1950-1999 US, Okemah, Oklahoma
Singer / Musician / Composer / Songwriter of R&B/Soul and Electronic
A.k.a. Gwendolyn Guthrie

b. July 9, 1950 – d. February 3, 1999 Born in Newark, New Jersey. Guthrie studied classical music and piano at school. This grounding would stand her in good stead when she later developed her skills as a composer. She was already a rather good singer and, in the early 70s, joined the Ebonettes and the Matchmakers alongside Larry Blackmon, later the frontman with Cameo. Having graduated, Guthrie opted for a career in teaching but kept her hand in by doing jingle sessions for radio commercials singing the praises of Chevrolet, Avon or Kentucky Fried Chicken. In 1974, she began recording and touring as a backing vocalist with Aretha Franklin. In the studio, she struck up a friendship with a fellow session musician, Patrick Grant, and the pair wrote seven songs for the debut album of the girl-group Sister Sledge. They also penned the catchy "This Time I'll Be Sweeter", recorded by the Motown legend Martha Reeves and later by the UK soul vocalist Linda Lewis, and the infectious funk hit "Supernatural Thing" which made the US Top Five in 1975 for Ben E. King. The following year, Guthrie joined Roberta Flack on a major US tour. "She just had a wonderful voice", said Flack. "The sound was very special. What made it different was the resonance. She couldn't hide her voice. It was that kind of voice that penetrated." Before stepping out of the shadows, Guthrie wrote "God Don't Like Ugly" (issued in 1978 on the Roberta Flack album) and later sang background on Flack's Blue Lights in the Basement album (1977) and several duets that Flack recorded with Donny Hathaway. By 1979, Guthrie had relocated to Jamaica, where she renewed an acquaintance with Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, the legendary rhythm section behind half the island's releases. Robbie Shakespeare recalls: "We first met Gwen in New York in 1978 when she was one of the backing singers on Peter Tosh's Bush Doctor album We asked all the singers to sing individually and, when Gwen's turn came, we were blown away: we thought she sounded like a bird. When she came to live in Jamaica, we nicknamed her "Natty" Gwen. We went on to work with her on a project called Bits And Pieces for Island Records". The former Wailer Peter Tosh, then on the Rolling Stones label, subsequently recorded the Mystic Man and Wanted: Dead Or Alive albums with Guthrie, who also duetted with him on 1981's "Nothing But Love". Sly Dunbar points out that "Gwen started Sly and Robbie's rhythm 'n' blues career and also kicked off Island's R&B department with her song `It Should've Been You' in 1982." With Sly and Robbie as producers, the singer cut the rest of her debut album, simply entitled Gwen Guthrie, and the 1983 follow- up, Padlock (the title track, "Seventh Heaven" and "Hopscotch" were all hits on the R&B charts). Just For You, produced by Eumir Deodato and released in 1985 was less successful; Guthrie quit Island for Polydor Records and hooked up with Sly and Robbie again for "Ain't Nothin' Goin' On But the Rent". "We laid down the rhythm," remembers Robbie. "In the studio, you only had to give Gwen the rhythm. She would sit and draw flowers while she worked on lyrics. She was wicked fun and had a great personality." Years before the Spice Girls, Guthrie's "Ain't Nothin' Goin' On But the Rent" struck a blow for girl power and the singer's feisty attitude paid dividends in Britain. The hooky, irresistible single climbed up the charts, eventually reaching No 5 in the summer of 1986. Guthrie was the toast of the UK soul scene, selling out the Hammersmith Odeon in London and the Fairfield Hall in Croydon (with Curiosity Killed the Cat as support) and scoring two further Top 40 hits with a cover of the Carpenters' song "(They Long To Be) Close To You" and the title track from her 1986 album Good To Go Lover. However, in the American market, "Ain't Nothin' Goin' On But the Rent" didn't quite achieve the crossover success it deserved and Guthrie moved from Polydor to Warner Brothers. Despite a crafty cover of the Marvelettes' "Too Many Fish in the Sea", her 1988 album Lifeline sold poorly and, even though Hot Times, the follow-up, included a duet with George Benson on "I'll Give My Best to You", Guthrie's time seemed to have passed. According to Benson, Guthrie "made you feel good about yourself. She had a very down-to-earth, down-home type of voice, but she was very articulate." A versatile vocalist with precise pitch, Guthrie came, however, to rely increasingly on her songwriting income, and session work. Over the years, she sang with a host of soul stars such as Angela Bofill, Billy Griffin, Thelma Jones and Luther Vandross, as well as with Steely Dan and Kenny Loggins. She was also one of the few American artists to understand the dynamics of reggae and recorded a couple of smooth lovers' rock tracks with Boris Gardiner. In 1996, another visit to Jamaica inspired the joyous single "Girlfriend's Boyfriend", before health problems began taking their toll. Gwen Guthrie died in Orange, New Jersey in February 3, 1999.

     
Instruments
  • Backing Vocals
  • Vocals
Genres
  • R&B/Soul
  • Electronic
  • Dance
  • Reggae
  • Jazz
Popular Tracks   
It Should Have Been You on Gwen Guthrie by Gwen Guthrie
Ain't Nothin' Goin' On But The Rent on Good To Go Lover by Gwen Guthrie
Ain't Nothin' Goin' On But The Rent on '80s Urban Beats & Grooves by Various Artists
You Touched My Life on Good To Go Lover by Gwen Guthrie
(They Long To Be) Close To You on Good To Go Lover by Gwen Guthrie
Peanut Butter - Larry Levan Mix / Bonus Track on Portrait by Gwen Guthrie
It Should Have Been You - Larry Levan Mix / Bonus Track on Gwen Guthrie by Gwen Guthrie
Seventh Heaven on Portrait by Gwen Guthrie
Peanut Butter on Portrait by Gwen Guthrie
Just For You on Just For You by Gwen Guthrie

Track list and 30sec audio provided by


Band Members
Discography


Title Artist Year Type
Double Pak Vol 31: Larry LevanGwen Guthrie / Dee Dee Bridgewater / François Kevorkian2010Album
Hopscotch / Getting HotGwen Guthrie2005Album
Freak "O" FunkMissy Elliott / Massive Attack v Gwen Guthrie2005Album
Dub Your Body / It Should Have Been YouJeanette Thomas / Gwen Guthrie2001Album
Funky Collector Part 1Game / Gwen Guthrie2000Album
In The RainMartin Richards & Antony Richards Featuring Gwen Guthrie1999Album
Ultimate CollectionGwen Guthrie1999Compil.
This Christmas EveGwen Guthrie1993Album
Eyes (You Never Really Cared)Gwen Guthrie1992Album
Ain't Nothin' Goin' On But The Rent / Mama Used To SayGwen Guthrie / Junior1991Album
The ClassicsDr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band / Gwen Guthrie1991Album
Say It Isn't SoGwen Guthrie1990Album
Hot TimesGwen Guthrie1990Album
Sweet Bitter LoveGwen Guthrie1990Album
Miss My LoveGwen Guthrie1990Single
Ain't Nothin' Goin' On But The Rent / (They Long To Be) Close To YouGwen Guthrie1990Album
Rockin' ChairGwen Guthrie1988Single
LifelineGwen Guthrie1988Album
Family AffairGwen Guthrie1988Single
Can't Love You TonightGwen Guthrie1988Single
Friends And LoversBoris Gardiner & Gwen Guthrie1987Single
Ticket To RideGwen Guthrie1987Compil.
Ticket To RideGwen Guthrie1987Album
Ain't Nothin' Goin' On But The RentGwen Guthrie1986Single
Good To Go LoverGwen Guthrie1986Album
Seventh Heaven / Getting Hot (U.S. Remix By Larry Levan)Gwen Guthrie1986Single
Good To Go LoverGwen Guthrie1986Album
(They Long To Be) Close To YouGwen Guthrie1986Single
Outside In The RainGwen Guthrie1986Single
Just For You / PadlockGwen Guthrie1985Single
Just For YouGwen Guthrie1985Album
Love In ModerationGwen Guthrie1984Album
Padlock (Special Mix By Larry Levan)Gwen Guthrie1983Album
PortraitGwen Guthrie1983Album
HopscotchGwen Guthrie1983Album
Padlock (Special Mixes)Larry Levan Featuring Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, Gwen Guthrie, Wally Badarou, Darryl Thompson1983Album
Peanut Butter / Family AffairGwen Guthrie1983Single
Peanut ButterGwen Guthrie1983Album
It Should Have Been YouGwen Guthrie1982Album
Peek-A-BooGwen Guthrie1982Album
For You (With A Melody Too) (Remix) / Peek A Boo (Remix)Gwen Guthrie1982Single
Gwen GuthrieGwen Guthrie1982Album
Nothing But LovePeter Tosh With Gwen Guthrie1981Single
Oh, What A Life / Seventh HeavenGwen GuthrieSingle
I See The Light, DelightMarcia Griffiths, Gwen Guthrie, The RevolutionariesSingle
Dance Floor FillersGwen GuthrieAlbum
Do You Love What You Feel / Any Love / Sweet Thing / PadlockRufus & Chaka Khan / Gwen GuthrieAlbum
You're The OneGwen GuthrieSingle
Striked Up (Remix) / Pay The Rent BoyBlack Box / Gwen GuthrieSingle
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Acknowledgements
To all the music fans that are contributing on Discogs, MusicBrainz and Wikipedia. Thanks to Franz Flückiger for providing Storygram used to visualize band membership.
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