Linda Lewis (born Linda Ann Fredericks, 27 September 1950, West Ham, London) is an English vocalist, songwriter and Guitarist known for her singing. Lewis is the oldest of six children two of whom also had singing careers. She is best known for her cross-over music, also the singles “Rock-a-Doodle-Doo” (1972) and “Sideway Shuffle” (1973) also albums such as Lark (1972), Woman Overboard (1977), Fathoms Deep (1973) and later on had renewed success with Second Nature (1995), which became successful in countries such as Japan. Lewis also provided vocals for others such as David Bowie, Al Kooper, Cat Stevens, Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, Rick Wakeman, Rod Stewart, Hummingbird and Jamiroquai.
Lewis is a self-taught guitarist and keyboard player, influenced by Harry Nilsson, Billie Holiday and Smokey Robinson, also drawing inspiration from others such as Joni Mitchell. Her music blends folk, funk and soul, a mix of genres making Lewis a fore runner to artists such as Des’ree and India.Arie.
Linda Lewis has a five octave vocal range. Charles Waring of Blues & Soul magazine described her vocal range as heard on The Best of Linda Lewis (2003) as, “powerful”. In her review about Lewis’s album Second Nature (1995) for Allmusic Amy Hanson describes Lewis’s voice as, “remarkable and dynamic” and of Lewis’ ability to sing in the whistle register Hanson comments in her review of Lark (1972), “no longer a wild weapon that can soar from childlike lilt to screaming dog whistle without a moment’s notice, she channels her range to the emotions it demands.”. Lewis’s voice has also been compared to Mariah Carey and reviewer Melissa Weber commented that her voice had similarities to Minnie Riperton’s and also commented that Lewis had “a wider vocal range [than Riperton], with the ability also to sing in a lower register.”
At the age of three Linda Lewis was sent to stage school and was regularly cast in non-speaking TV and film roles such as “A Taste Of Honey” (1961) and as a screaming fan in the first Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night (1964), she also sang to the public for money. Lewis started to build her reputation as a singer by joining The Q Set, a British band who performed Ska and blue beat Jamaican style music.
In 1964 she came met John Lee Hooker who was performing at a London club and sang “Dancing in the Streets” with him. Hooker introduced her to Ian Samwell who arranged for Don Arden to manage her and she signed to Polydor, to record the single “You Turned My Bitter into Sweet”. Now a collectable Northern Soul record.
During 1969 she formed White Rabbit with Junior Marvin, moving onto replace Marsha Hunt in the soul rock band The Ferris Wheel in 1970 and toured Europe with them. They also recorded the singles “I Can’t Break the Habit”, “The Na Na Song”, and “Can’t Stop Now”, also the album Ferris Wheel (1970), before the band broke up the same year. On September 19, 1970 Lewis appeared at the first Glastonbury Festival, having been booked by the DJ and concert booker Jeff Dexter. After a chance meeting with Warner Bros. Records executive Ian Ralfini, Lewis signed to Warner Bros. Records imprint label Reprise. At the same time Lewis also launched a career as a session vocalist, which led to her appearance on albums such as Possible Projection of the Future by Al Kooper, David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane (1973), Cat Stevens’s Catch Bull at Four (1972) and Hummingbird’s first album Hummingbird (1975).
Her first hit single “Rock-a-Doodle-Doo” reached #15 in the UK Singles Chart in the summer of 1973 and was followed by the album Fathoms Deep, which featured former Jeff Beck group guitarist Bobby Tench. This album established her as one of Britain’s most promising young female singer-songwriters and was critically acclaimed, but it did not did have the expected success, probably due to the Warner Bros. Records vanity label Raft Records, becoming insolvent at that time. However, several appearances on the BBC TV show Top of The Pops raised her profile and an extensive world tour with Cat Stevens followed. On her return to the studio she recorded what would become her break through album Not A Little Girl Anymore (1975), which featured Allen Toussaint and the Tower of Power horn section. A covering of the “The Shoop Shoop Song” was released as a single, under the title of “It’s in his Kiss”, at the same time as Not a Little Girl Anymore, reaching #6 in the UK Album Chart. Three albums followed over the next few years and on A Tear and a Smile (1983) she sang a duet “Why Can’t I Be The Other Woman”, with Luther Vandross.
During the next decade Lewis retreated into her private life and moved to Los Angeles. She returned to record Second Nature (1995) which found success in the Japanesecharts. Its success led to live performances which were recorded and released as On The Stage – Live in Japan (1996). Three more albums followed and consolidated her ability, once again, to attract a sizeable audience. Warner Bros. Records released “Reach For The Truth-The Best of The Reprise Years” (2002), an anthology of Linda’s work during the previous thirty years. This was followed by BMG releasing “The Best of Linda Lewis” (2003), which included her hit singles. During 2003 she also appeared on the at the Glastonbury Festival, and was filmed by BBC Television whilst she appeared on the Jazz and World Stage.
Her song “Old Smokey” was used by the Rap artist known as Common, on his single “Go!” (2005), which appeared on his album Be (2005). This was produced by Kanye West and reached #1 on the United States R&B and Hip Hop charts. She recorded Live in Old Smokey (2006), which featured new and previously released songs and toured UK the same year. On 28 October 2006 The National Portrait Gallery opened an exhibit entitled Photographs 1965-2006, this featured a portrait by Lewis’s former husband Jim Cregan and other sitters, such as Shirley Bassey. In 2007 she toured with the Soul Britannia All Stars in the UK and on February 3 2007 BBC Four featured performances by Lewis, in a sixty minute recording from the Barbican show with The Soul Britannia All Stars. In June of the same year, she collaborated with Basement Jaxx on Close Your Eyes, which featured in the Japanese anime film Vexille.