Only the serious old school fan will mention soul singer Joe Simon in conversations about classic R&B. Even writers and historians often omit his name from the genre’s musical genealogy. Yet from the mid 1960s to the early 1980s, Simon had a string of hits and he is an undeniable influence on today’s popular music. Simon began singing at his father’s church in Simmesport, Louisiana. After his family relocated to Richmond, CA in the late 1950s, Simon teamed up with a local gospel group and eventually began recording secular music. In 1964 he released his debut single “My Adorable One.” Although he was influenced by artists like Sam Cooke, Simon also began to combine the sounds of R&B, blues and country to develop his unique vocal style. Over the course of the next five years, Simon released various tunes which all made it to the pop and R&B charts and in 1969 his single “The Chokin’ Kind,” a tune originally recorded by country singer Waylon Jennings, made it to the top of the R&B chart and number thirteen on the pop chart. Later number one hits would include “Power of Love” and a disco hit, “Get Down, Get Down (Get On The Floor).” Simon also scored various top ten tunes such as “Theme From Cleopatra Jones,” “Your Time To Cry” and “Drowning In The Sea Of Love.” All in all Simon had over 50 songs to hit the charts in a span of about 15 years. In the early 1980s he returned to his church roots. Now an ordained minister who recently and successfully underwent quadruple bypass surgery, Bishop Joe Simon reserves his golden voice for preaching and singing gospel music. His musical influence, however, is still strong with today’s artists; singer Joss Stone covered “The Chokin’ Kind” on her debut album The Soul Sessions. Hip hop artists often reach into their crates to find Simon tunes to sample for their hits. Simon’s song “Before The Night Is Over” is the foundation for the Outkast hit “So Fresh, So Clean,” and Lil’ Kim sampled Simon’s “It Be’s That Way Sometimes” for her single “Magic Stick.”
Montrose Cunningham is an independent funk/rock/soul artist and devoted music aficionado residing in Dallas, Texas. When he isn’t digging through the crates–digital and analog–he’s jamming with his band or hanging with his daughter, sometimes at the same time. Purchase his latest release “Inertia” at www.MontroseMusic.com, visit him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter @MontroseC.