Tony Cummings quizzed soul music veteran and northern soul hero SIDNEY BARNES.
The release of Sidney Barnes' 'I Have My Faith' EP brings to Christian music fans' attention a singer/songwriter who for decades has been rated amongst the soul music cognoscente. I threw a few questions at the music biz veteran.
Tell me about your background prior to Chess Records/Rotary Connection.
Before Chess Records I had worked at Motown Records, Sue Records, Golden World Records and a host of other labels as a songwriter, artist, producer and talent developer and had a modest success with some of those earlier projects, although I didn't get rich! I was brought up in the Church, my mother was a very, very religious person who went to the Church Of God In Christ. She taught me music and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. Plus she sang and had the voice of an angel.
Rotary Connection seemed to be very much an attempt to fuse black and white musical cultures. Is that the way the group saw it?
When I first heard the music that came through the radio that's when I decided that I wanted to make people feel like I felt when I heard some music that I liked. Rotary Connection was a real turning point in my career. We knew that we were breaking new ground with our sound and our racial mix and we loved every minute of it. We performed on shows with some of the greatest rock and soul acts of our generation.
What is your abiding memory of the Rotary Connection years and what is your favourite track from that period? (By the way, mine is "Sidewalk Santa Claus")
Glad you like "Side Walk Santa". I wrote that song at a very important time in my life. It showed me that I could write something other than NB love songs. I believe I like a track called "We're Going Wrong" on our 'Dinner Music' album. Minnie Ripperton sings some really high notes and it is such a beautiful song.
How did you become aware of your status in the UK's northern soul scene?
In 2001 a fella named Ian Levine tracked me down and convinced me that I had to come over to the UK and see how much people loved me over there. Well, I went and I've been back several times to do concerts and reunite with my wonderful friends over there.I love them and appreciate them so much.
How would you describe your spiritual journey? When did you commit your life to the Lord?
When I was 12 years old I was baptized and ever since I have truly felt like one of God's children. My life has been blessed beyond measure and I know that it's because I always put God first.
Is the 'I Have My Faith' CD a one-off or are we going to see any more spiritual recordings from you?
I enjoyed doing the 'I Have My Faith' EP with Cliff Rubin (the CD's producer). He is such a talented guy. We hope to do a full CD album soon; Cliff and I are working on new songs now.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.