Soul Revisited: Celebrating Jocelyn Brown

On the 25th November in the year 1950, a future disco diva entered the world. For the past forty years Jocelyn Brown has featured on a plethora of soul, funk and disco tunes, including her 1984 solo smash ‘Somebody Else’s Guy’ which made her a global phenomenon.

 

Born into a musical and religious family in Kingston, South Carolina, Jocelyn Brown began her singing career as many of the greats have by performing in church singing gospel. Yet Brown’s calling lay outside of the Church, and her aunt Barbara Roy, a singer with the disco group Ecstasy, Passion & Pain, encouraged her to make the move from gospel to secular music. Brown did just that. She began her career as a vocalist for several studio-created groups in the disco era of the late seventies, such as Cerrone, Musique and Change.

It was in Musique that the began to shine: she appeared on their 1978 megahit ‘Keep On Jumpin’’ (which she would re-record a few years later). A year later Brown was the lead vocalist on the disco outfit Inner Life, scoring a massive club hit with the ever brilliant and ever enjoyable ‘I’m Caught Up (In a One Night Love Affair)’, which was then remixed and played regularly by the legendary disco DJ Larry Levan of the Paradise Garage disco club.

In 1984 Jocelyn Brown the singer became Jocelyn Brown soul legend, thanks to the release of the smash hit ‘Somebody Else’s Guy’, written by Brown alongside her sister Annette. The song has become a staple of soul and groove compilations, and one of the most played songs on UK radio alone. Even today, it remains her finest piece of work. A year later Brown released the album One From The Heart, which yielded the single ‘Love’s Gonna Get You’; despite another stellar vocal from Brown, the production quality was less impressive as ‘Somebody Else’s Guy’ and failed to be as successful.

At the same time Brown continued to perform for other artists, such as CHIC, Lou Reed, Bette Midler, and even accompanied Culture Club as a backing singer on tour. Brown’s vocals also were used by DJs and artists in the nineties who sampled them for their own work, such as Bizzare Inc’s 1992 tune ‘I’m Gonna Get You’, and Snap’s ‘The Power’. She cemented her position as one the best soul vocalists in 1991 when she teamed up with British band Incognito on their Inside Life album on the hit single ‘Always There’, a cover of the disco-dance classic Side Effect. Ever since, Brown has been living in London, becoming a firm favourite on the UK soul scene as well as on the continent. She even appeared on Pop Star to Opera Star, an ITV reality TV show, but was sadly eliminated early on in the series.

Jocelyn Brown is one of the greatest vocalists to ever grace soul music. Whether it’s in the studio or on stage, she is simply incredible. In honour of her birthday, we’ve chosen some of our favourite Jocelyn Brown moments.

 

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Inner Life, 1981

Potentially one of the most covered songs of all time, this dance version from the disco era is something else. The best covers are those where the artist re-interprets the song: Diana Ross’ version is miles away from the simple soul of the version that Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell had on their original version. In contrast, while Michael McDonald’s version is nice, you wouldn’t opt for it over these two. Inner Life’s version, with Brown on vocals, is thankfully a brilliant re-interpretation of this Ashford & Simpson composition, with Brown knocking it out of the park vocally. Even better is the John Morales seventeen-minute M&M mix; you’ll need to turn that one up pretty loud.

Moment of My Life – Inner Life, 1982

Not as well known as the cover of ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’, this is a particularly groovy little number. As you would expect, it’s another stunning vocal from Brown. Inner Life’s producer, Patrick Adams, laid down a rather funky track for Brown to project her vocals onto, making this a really enjoyable dance-disco track.

Somebody Else’s Guy, 1984

This is the song that cemented Brown’s place in musical history. While some DJs refuse to play it, arguing that its overplayed and therefore too mainstream, we do not subscribe to that rather blinkered view. Sure, its an overplayed song, but there is a reason for that: it’s brilliant. Brown is such a brilliant vocalist, and the intro to this song demonstrates it; if you’ve ever seen it performed live, you’ll know how even better is live. This is a classic, and if you’re not moved to dance or smile by this one there might be something wrong with you.

Always There – Incognito, 1991

Another cover for Brown, this time she teamed up with Brit-Funk band, and future legends, Incognito. Up until this point, Incognito were still in their infancy: they’d released their debut album Jazz Funk a decade prior, but it wouldn’t be until 1991 until they released their next album, on which this cover of Side Effect’s ‘Always There’ appeared. It’s a brilliant version of the song, and as great as Side Effect’s version is, the Incognito-Brown version is really, really enjoyable, and a particular favourite of ours. She even re-recorded a tasty acoustic version of the song on Incognito’s excellent Bees & Things & Flowers album.

Keep On Jumpin’ – Todd Terry, 1997  

Originally recorded by the disco outfit Musique in 1978, on which Brown indeed performed on, this version from 1997, featuring Todd Terry and Martha Wash, is rather more fun, and allows both vocalists to really show off their skills. It’s a pretty tasty version all in all.

In The Middle – Feat. Soulpersona, 2011

In 2011 Brown teamed up with Brighton based Soulpersona, a talented musician, writer and producer with a long string of his own solo records. The result was this single, ‘In The Middle’. It combines Soulpersona’s rare groove style with Brown’s gospel-infused vocals, and it is really a brilliant song.

Perfect Person – Light of the World, 2013

Light of the World was the first of the Brit-Funk bands to really gather some momentum, releasing decent records such as ‘Time’, ‘London Town’, and a great reading of ‘I Shot The Sheriff’. The group however split: half went to form Incognito, the rest went on to form Beggar & Co. In recent years the band has come back with some later-era members, and they teamed up with Brown in 2013 for a new single, also produced by Soulpersona. In fact, this one is even better than ‘In The Middle’, yet sadly it went a bit missing upon release. But we love it nonetheless, and we’re sure you will too.

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1 year ago
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George Haffenden
Written by George Haffenden
Brought up on a healthy diet of soul and funk, Haff's dream was to become the first British member of The Temptations. Realising that this dream could never be realised, he is now the curator of The Funk & Soul Revue.