Mickey & Sylvia: Love is Strange (All the Hit Singles A’s & B’s 1950-1962)
Together and apart, Mickey Baker and Sylvia Robinson (nee Vanterpool) chased various formulas until they hit on “Love is Strange” in 1957. Then they chased more formulas (including some they invented) into the early 60’s before Baker finally gave in and moved to France.
Robinson persisted in the music industry, eventually landing a big hit with “Pillow Talk” in the 70’s and becoming a founding mother of Hip Hop when she started Sugarhill Records and released “Rapper’s Delight” and “The Message.” But that’s another story for another time.
The reason I do deep dives on one hit wonders is…you never know what you’ll find, especially in 50’s R&B.
I found plenty of fine sides among the 56 collected here, but the killer was “Two Shadows on Your Window,” which is as far from the ambiance of “Love is Strange” as you can get….and proof you should never stop looking:
NOTE: This later live version (still fine) is from later on, but all that’s available on YouTube. I’ll keep an eye out for the real thing, which has a beautiful intimacy all its own.
…But the only one I know of who actually had “Guitar”–just “Guitar”–for a nickname, was Mickey Baker, who passed away in France on November 27.
He was best known to the general public as half of Mickey and Sylvia, who had a big hit in the fifties’ with “Love is Strange,” one of the revolution’s strangest and greatest hits.
He was better known behind the scenes as the go-to session guitarist for at least three of the era’s giant independent R&B labels, Savoy, King and–most notably–Atlantic.
Which is to say he was a twentieth century titan even before he went on to write one of the world’s most influential jazz guitar lesson books. I have to confess that this was one of those instances where someone passed away and I was actually shocked to discover he’s not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
They should correct the oversight as quickly as humanly possible.
Meanwhile, there will always–and I do mean always–be sides like these to remember him by…