Friday, 22 January 2016
Funky Street/Put Our Love Together/People Sure Act Funny/Burning Fire
Arthur Lee Conley (January 4, 1946 – November 17, 2003) was a U.S. soul singer, best known for the 1967 hit "Sweet Soul Music".
Conley was born in McIntosh County, Georgia, U.S., and grew up in Atlanta. He first recorded in 1959 as the lead singer of Arthur & the Corvets. With this group, he released three singles in 1963 and 1964—"Poor Girl", "I Believe", and "Flossie Mae"—on the Atlanta-based record label, National Recording Company.
In 1964, he moved to a new label (Baltimore's Ru-Jac Records) and released "I'm a Lonely Stranger". When Otis Redding heard this, he asked Conley to record a new version, which was released on Redding's own fledgling label Jotis Records, as only its second release. Conley met Redding in 1967. Together they rewrote the Sam Cooke song "Yeah Man" into "Sweet Soul Music", which, at Redding's insistence, was released on the Atco-distributed label Fame Records, and was recorded at FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. It proved to be a massive hit, going to the number two position on the U.S. charts and the Top Ten across much of Europe. "Sweet Soul Music" sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.
After several years of hits singles in the early 1970s, he relocated to England in 1975, and spent several years in Belgium, settling in Amsterdam (Netherlands) in spring 1977. At the beginning of 1980 he had some major performances as Lee Roberts and the Sweaters in the Ganzenhoef, Paradiso, De Melkweg and the Concertgebouw, and was highly successful. At the end of 1980 he moved to the Dutch town of Ruurlo legally changing his name to Lee Roberts—his middle name and his mother's maiden name. He promoted new music via his Art-Con Productions company. Amongst the bands he promoted was the heavy metal band Shockwave from The Hague. A live performance on January 8, 1980, featuring Lee Roberts & the Sweaters, was released as an album entitled Soulin' in 1988.
Conley was gay, and several music writers have said that his homosexuality was a bar to greater success in the United States and one of the reasons behind his move to Europe and his eventual name change. In 2014, rock historian Ed Ward wrote, "[Conley] headed to Amsterdam and changed his name to Lee Roberts. Nobody knew 'Lee Roberts,' and at last Conley was able to live in peace with a secret he had hidden--or thought he had--for entire career: he was gay. But nobody in Holland cared."
Conley died from intestinal cancer in Ruurlo, Netherlands aged 57 in November 2003. He was buried in Vorden.
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