Mr. Garnett Mimms
“Listen – Garnett Mimms & the Enchanters – Cry Baby – MP3″
Today’s selection is one of the first soul records that I became aware of way back in the day, and – I’m ashamed to say – that I only recently grabbed myself a copy of the 45 (despite the fact that I probably have it on four or five different CDs).
‘Cry Baby’ by Garnett Mimms and the Enchanters is an important record for a number of reasons.
First and foremost it’s no less than a brilliant, emotion-soaked, gospel edged, soul record with an economical, understated arrangement.
Second, it’s yet another bit of evidence for the canonization of the brilliant songwriters Jerry Ragovoy and Bert Berns*.
Third – and this will be familiar to long time readers of the Funky16Corners blog – ‘Cry Baby’ is yet another point of intersection in the delicate calculus produced where Janis Joplin intersects with classic soul. I have raged on (and softened somewhat) over the years about Joplin’s covers (appropriations?) of soul material laid down definitively by black performers like Howard Tate, Erma Franklin, Lorraine Ellison, Big Mama Thornton, the Chantels and of course Garnett Mimms.
Initially, I spent a lot of time and energy burning on this particular subject. While Joplin was hardly the only singer working with a number of then contemporary soul numbers, she did so often. Naturally, my purist, crate digger indignation burned brightly, but then the 46 year old adult in me, the one who ought to know better (and sometimes does) gave the situation a lot of thought and came to the conclusion that while (in my opinion) Joplin never turned out a superior (to the original) version of any of these songs, the work she did is not without merit*.
That said, the original by Garnett Mimms is strong enough to withstand any assault. It’s another example of a 45 that seems barely able to contain the performance within, moving from the slow, spare backing of the verse to the breathtaking heights (and eventual descent) of the chorus.
Mimms started out singing gospel in Philadelphia in the 50’s, moving on to doowop after a stint in the Army. The Enchanters were formed in 1961 with Mimms, Charles Boyer, Zola Pearnell and Sam Bell (who had been in the Gainors with Mimms). ‘Cry Baby’ was a Number One R&B hit in 1963 (Top 5 Pop) and was one of the first big hits of the soul era. It’s a tune I thought about including in the pledge week mix, but I decided I wanted to feature the record by itself.
That said, I hope you all have a good weekend, and I’ll see you all on Monday.
*Ragavoy writing under the pseudonym Norman Meade and Berns as B. Russell