Thursday, February 16, 2017

R.I.P.: Singer, Songwriter Bobby Freeman

Bobby Freeman, R&B singer-songwriter best known for his hit song “Do You Want to Dance,” died January 23, 2017, at the age of 76, according to the New York Times.

The singer’s son, Robert Freeman Jr., said his father died from a heart attack.

The singer was raised in San Francisco, California. He started singing for a doo-wop group called the Romancers as a teenager. When they broke up, Freeman started his own group called the Vocaleers.

A local DJ asked Freeman if he had any songs. Freeman wrote a few songs and then recorded the demos. One of the demo songs was “Do You Want to Dance.” Jubilee Records heard the song and singed the 17-year-old singer to their label. They released the song in 1958 and it reached number 5 on the pop charts. A persistent rumor that has not been proven is that Jerry Garcia played guitar on the track.

“Do You Want to Dance” has been covered many times throughout the years. The Beach Boys, The Ramones, John Lennon, and Bette Midler released cover versions of the song. The Beach Boys recorded an up tempo version that features their trademark vocal harmonies. Dennis Wilson takes a rare turn as lead vocalist. The Ramones powered the Beach Boys arrangement of the song with their punk-pop and Bette Midler recorded the song as a ballad.

Freeman was a dynamic live performer and toured with Jackie Wilson and Fats Domino and also appeared on “American Bandstand.” He had a second top ten hit in 1964 with “C’Mon and Swim,” which was produced by a young Sly Stone and was about the dance of the same name.

Though he did not have a hit song after 1964, Freeman continued to perform at clubs around the country.

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