Jan 6, 2013

Who Is Lea Roberts? Plus Audrey's Melodies, Monk's San Francisco, Gobel's Giggles And A Swedish Bird Secret Song!

Who is Lea Roberts? All we know is that she was a soul singer in the late 1960's and early 70's. She was born in Ohio in 1946, recorded a handful of albums, a few of which hit the Billboard charts - and that's it, that's all we know. She's a strange anomaly; virtually forgotten by the 1980's, then rediscovered, to a certain extent, in the Internet age by way of YouTube videos and a few early blog shares. Is she still alive? Is she still singing - somewhere?

You'll likely find these questions a bit more urgent after you listen to her 1975 LP "Lady Lea" - A Cheerful Lossless Exclusive! - because she sounds like a blissful cross between Aretha Franklin and Della Reese, though you won't mistake her for anyone else. Just give a listen to the first track, her take on the Free's classic "All Right Now" which all but obliterates the original with its driving high energy and vocal ferocity. 

Or her version of "Laughter In The Rain," which, according to Neil Sedaka's bio "My Own Story" sent him and his management into a panic when it hit the airwaves - and the charts - well ahead of his own version. "We've got to push up our release before she gets too much airtime!" he exclaimed at the time. Lea beat him to the punch by an entire month (I don't why this amuses me) (but it does). The rest of the album runs the gamut from soulful rock to gospel-tinged ballads and more.

There's no Wikipedia entry for Lea, no Billboard bio, and precious little information about her on other sites and blogs beyond her LP credits and date of birth. She's a mystery wrapped up in one of the most versatile soul voices of the 70's. So who is Lea Roberts? Maybe her kitty-cat knows:

I'll bet you know who appears below in the colorful hexaptych (which is a six-paneled painting) (I so had to look that up):

Yes, it's the fabulous Audrey Hepburn. She's another anomaly, though of a different kind. Everyone likes Audrey Hepburn. No, really. Have you ever heard anyone say, "Oh, I hate Audrey Hepburn?" You haven't. And you won't. Something about her is endearing to both men (who wanted to protect her as they would a little sister) (or sleep with her) and women (who want to be like her and, especially, dress like her). Even when she appeared in stinkers, like "Paris When It Sizzles," she emerged completely unscathed. Well played, Audrey, well played.

"Music From The Films Of Audrey Hepburn" isn't just for fans of Audrey, but if you are, the music will have special appeal. But really, how many compilations out there have terrific music from Henry Mancini, Frederick Lowe, Franz Waxman, the Gershwins and more? Oh, and vocals from both Fred Astaire and Audrey herself?

Speaking of hexaptychs, the six-headed creature below is a certain monk we all know:

Get this. Monk was almost entirely self-taught on the piano. In fact, the only training he had, if you can call it that, was eavesdropping on his sister's piano lesson and a brief class in high school. Some people are just born to do what they do, right? And Monk was born to play. Period.

1959's "Thelonious Alone In San Francisco," Monk's second solo LP, spotlights a wonderful live show. Like most of Monk's work, his performance here of original compositions and covers - with his split-second timing and head-turning shifts in rhythms and style - is consistently surprising (still). Even if you're not partial to piano jazz, give it a try. You'll be surprised, too.

Do you know the milk-pitching comedian/singer/actor below?

I didn't, or thought I didn't, when I spotted the LP below. And then I was like, "Wait a minute, wasn't he on game shows or something years ago?" He was, but as I next learned, there was a lot more than game shows to George Gobel. He was a noted comic, a TV sitcom headliner, an actor and a terrific Irish tenor. Oh, and he was really famous.

I was thrown for a moment, but then I remembered Woody Allen's movie "Radio Days," particularly a scene in which a group of glamorous radio stars toasted themselves and their everlasting fame. The joke, of course, was that hardly anyone remembers old radio stars anymore - fame doesn't actually guarantee immortality (which means people like this will soon be forgotten) (I hope) (pretty please?).

I'm guessing that Gobel is forgotten at this point because his career hit its stride just as the U.S. was moving from the post-war innocence of the 1950's to the rebellious 60's, which meant that Gobel's brand of old school comedy - as polished and, yes, funny, as it was - soon found itself shunted aside.

1959's "Live At The Sands" - a Giggly Cheerful Exclusive! - finds Gobel in top form. "You might not like my act, but you've got to admire my nerve," he quips, then tells tales about his wife (or "spooky ol' Alice"), his literally blue-nosed friend Sweeney, his misfortunes on the road, calamities in the bathtub, dating as a youth, problem nudity (on his part) and more. Plus he sings really well. He'd probably have been an even bigger hit if he was around today in our more conservative times, which isn't meant as a knock at all.

The Secret Song File is weary of conservative times and having to calm men down, such as the one below. You know the type; threatened by change or new technology or sexual equality for all. Blah-blah-blah. Stuff the tears already! Because if you're that tightly-wound, you'll miss out on...doves and Swedes and drummers and foxes. Not to mention spanking new music.

Today's entry is a delish new CD from a Swedish band with a female vocalist who sounds a little like Bjork, but more innocent, and skillful bandmates who're creating some of today's most inventive indietronica (I didn't make up that ridiculous term, I swear) (don't you dare hold it against me). So go on, shirk your establishmentarian shackles and for God's sakes stop crying about stupid things. A gentle roar and a DJ to ease your mind are all you need.

I only say these things because I care (do you believe me?). 

Share your gentle roar in the comments!


lindo0107 said...

Thanks for all the marvelous music.
And if you don't have it, please:

"Lea Roberts - Excuse Me, I Want To Talk To You (1973)"


The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Thank you, Lindo. I do have that Lea LP - it was my first introduction to her. But it's wonderful that you've posted it here in case anyone else might want to grab it, which I heartily encourage!! Thanks again. :)

E Craig said...

Thank you for the LP of the music of Miss Audrey's films. Great choice for a post.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

You're so welcome, E Craig! It's a wonderful mix of tunes, I think.

James said...

Thank you for the wonderful Lea Roberts album. Does anyone have a copy of "Excuse Me"? The Rapidshare link above keeps giving me the message that the host is not making the file available, and I really want to hear it. If it had been in print, I would have bought it from iTunes or eMusic, but of course, like so much great music, it is not available. Thanks!

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Hi James, I do have a copy of it. Try this:


James said...

Thank you so much -- I am spellbound by her style!

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

You're welcome, James!

Anonymous said...

Lea Is my cousin. My Grandmother and her Father are brother and sister. I remember as a little boy listening to her records with my grandma in the early to mid 70's. She sang "My Eye Is On The Sparrow" at my Great Uncles funeral about 6 years ago and touched everyone there with her rendition of it. I last spoke with her about a year ago and she was talking of getting back into the studio to do some recording. Maybe I can convince her the world loves and wants to hear her beautiful voice again.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...


That’s all I got, except to say that I’m beyond thrilled to learn that she’s still with us and contemplating another recording. Thank you so much for sharing this news. And, yes, remind her that the world loves her and is waiting for more!