The fact that she is one of those singers who once heard is never forgotten, is quite ironic when it comes to Alice Clark. For she is a genuine enigma, about whom very little is known. But in truth that matters not one jot, as all you really need to know is her music. Whilst I enjoyed compiling the following, learning a little more about her life and career, I would suggest you treat this Blog as one which is more of a road map, pointing you towards certain titles to check out on Spotify and YouTube, rather than a definitive biography.
Born in Brooklyn in May 1945, and growing up in the Bedford Stuyvesant area, Alice Clark possessed a voice that possessed both strength and vulnerability, capturing the essence of raw emotion in every note she sang. As mentioned earlier, very little is known of her personal story, but Billy Vera who went on to write and produce her first record recalled…
‘I got the impression her life wasn’t that great. She had kids and belonged to a religious order that forbade either bathing or washing hair, I don’t recall exactly which…’
Her recording career began in1968 with You Got a Deal and Say You’ll Never. Other titles to check out from around then would include You Hit Me – a big fave on the Northern Soul circuit – and Heaven’s Will. She then signed with Mainstream Records in 1972 and recorded a debut album for release that year which contained I Keep It Hid, the majestic Never Did I Stop Loving You, and the mighty Petula Clark penned Looking at Life. The album also showcased her incredible vocal range and soulful interpretation of songs, drawing comparisons to iconic singers like Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight. However, despite critical acclaim, the album failed to gain commercial success at the time of its release.
The collection of heartfelt and introspective tracks delved into themes of love, heartbreak, and personal struggles. Clark’s ability to convey deep emotions through her powerful voice was truly captivating. Each song on the album was a testament to her undeniable talent.
Unfortunately, despite that talent, Clark faced a series of setbacks that hindered her musical career. Mainstream Records faced financial difficulties and subsequently closed its doors, which resulted in limited promotion and distribution for her album. As a result, her music did not receive the recognition it deserved during her lifetime.
However, decades later, that very same music began to garner the attention it had long been overdue. The reissue of her self-titled album in 2002 brought her talent to a new generation of listeners, sparking a renewed interest in her work. The album was hailed as a lost gem of soul music, and Clark’s voice was finally universally recognised for its timeless quality and emotional depth.
The songs I mentioned among this piece have become beloved classics within from the Soul music genre, earning her a devoted following and cementing her status as a revered figure among music enthusiasts. Her ability to infuse every lyric with soul and authenticity made her music resonate with audiences in a profound and enduring way.
She retired from the music industry after the failure of her album and returned to Bed Stuy to raise her grandchildren. Sadly, she passed away from cancer in December 2004 aged 57. Though gone, she has left behind music that continues to inspire and move listeners.
Despite facing numerous personal obstacles and the challenges of a fickle industry, she never compromised. In the end, Alice Clark’s legacy rests in her music. Her recordings continue to be treasured by fans, ensuring that her name and voice will be remembered for generations to come.
For an overall appreciation of her music, I would heartily recommend the Ace compilation ‘The Complete Studio Recordings 1968 – 1972’
I accept your thanks in advance.
The Mumper of SE5
ART GALLERY CLOTHING – ODDS SODS AND MODS
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THE SPEAKEASY Volume Three by Mark Baxter (The Mumper)
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Foreword by Eddie Piller
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