There was a phenomena in the mid 60s were many male “British Invasion” bands would take songs from American Female Soul singers, and with the industry muscle behind them, usually make them into bigger hits--in many cases leaving the original version, as well as its singer, lost in a cutout rack, until unearthed by “retro-collector” soul mod DJS during the 90s. For Instance, while the Rolling Stones made their first top ten entry in 1964 with “Time Is On My Side,” Irma Thomas (who had sung the original and was just coming off a national hit herself) never managed to have another national hit, and by the end of the decade was working in a K-Mart.
The more one looks at this history, it’s fascinating how many of these songs (often by black American women) became more popular in versions by white British men, especially from 1964-1966 (Beatles, Stones, Hollies, Moody Blues, Small Faces, etc). I don’t want to say that the British Invasion versions are categorically worse than the originals, and listening to Steve Marriot and John Lennon’s covers one can hear a genuine appreciation of the original American soul and R&B (as distinct from “rock and roll” or “blues”) emotion that comes through in female singers (either black or white, such as Timi Yuro), but the soul and sexiness that comes through in these original versions is something to behold, and needs to be remembered, especially as some of these singers are still alive, and have not yet received their due.
This brings me to the case of Evie Sands. Evie Sands was a white American woman who cut some beautiful soul/r&b sides in the mid 1960s, most notably the original version of “I Can’t Let Go,” which went nowhere because The Hollies took the Rolling Stones’ formula and had an international smash with it in 1966 (#2 UK; #42 USA). While I always liked The Hollies version, The Evie Sands original (especially as performed with backing dancers on Shindig) has a soul and sexiness that, as a male listener, the Hollies simply cannot compete with: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D88ee6rAA6s).
Sands persevered through the 60s: after the soul/dance craze had dissipated, she reinvented herself as folk/pop musician (featuring her unique upside-down left-handed guitar) recording the original of another Chip Taylor song, “Angel Of The Morning. This song became a huge hit—but, once again, for someone else—actually two other people went top ten with it (Merilee Rush, and later, Juice Newton): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nq6kh_37bvs.
Even on Youtube, the range of her of work is impressive. For instance, here’s a video of her appearing on The Johnny Cash Show in 1969, playing an acoustic blues number that rivals Bobbie Gentry in intensity: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajZ-IeY9mnA.
And by the 90s, she reunited with Chip Taylor, and started getting more attention again. Here’s a version of her redoing “I Can’t Let Go,” playing left-handed upside down guitar, decades letter, in a quasi-punk bar-band version:
Evie Stands still plays and gigs regularly, and the shows are getting better and better. She’s not merely a “survivor” She has a lot of wisdom and soul, and knows how to put on a show! To be continued (if I get a chance to meet her….)
Irma Thomas (Time Is On My Side ) 1964
Bessie Banks (Go Now)
Gloria Jones (“Tainted Love”)-1964
Dee Dee Warwick (You’re No Good) -1963
Emma Franklin (Piece Of My Heart) --1967
Timi Yuro (What’s A Matter Baby)—1961
Evie Sands (original single)
Evie Sands (I Can’t Let Go)—1965 (demo)
Evie Sands: (Rehearsal sessions)
Evie Sands (At Echo-LA, 2-15-2011):
One other newer live version:
Evie Sands (on Johnny Cash show 1969):
The Hollies (I Can’t Let Go)