This week on My Classic Soul podcast, Soulmusic.com founder and host David Nathan sits down with music industry veteran Michael Lewis to discuss how the multi-talented George Benson achieved a new level of success with 'Give Me The Night.'
Originally released in 1980, the Quincy Jones-produced, multi-million selling LP included timeless dance floor classics, such as the hypnotic title cut and “Love X Love.” Tune in here as they discuss how the album showcased George’s artistry as a musician and vocalist appealing to R&B, jazz and pop audiences worldwide.
ON THEIR INTRODUCTION TO GEORGE BENSON:
LEWIS: "I grew up in a house where my father listened to a lot of jazz. So I listened to people like George Benson on his regular playlist, you know, since the late '60s, early '70s. And then of course, before that there was Breezin' and This Masquerade and I played the live George Benson album, which came out a couple of years before this, quite a bit. So I was well-versed in George Benson, before this, I had seen him in concert several times."
NATHAN: "I have to confess this as an opportunity. I have to confess that I was not aware of his history, really until Breezin'. I had seen his name. I remember he had recorded for A&M um. I think I wasn't even aware that he recorded it for Columbia Records before that. So I think you'd know much about him and that segues into my really only George Benson story."
"I'm waiting to do some interviews with some of the artists [during four nights of performances at the Beacon Theater], you know...And I'm just standing there waiting and this little kind of lobby area where all the interviews are taking place in different rooms. And, this guy was just standing on the side and he's kinda like looking very nonchalant and so I say, 'Hello, how are you?' in my very then-British accent. 'So my name's David.' He says, 'My name's George.' I said, 'You know, I'm here to do these interviews for this magazine in England called Blues.' And so he said, 'Okay, yeah, I just signed to Warner Brothers.'"
"I didn't ask his last name. 'So yeah, I have a record coming out soon.' 'Oh, so I guess I'll be interviewing you at some point.' And at that point, no idea who it was, not a clue. Beause I never, I don't think I'd even seek a photograph and he was very amiable, very chatty and a no, not, 'I'm George Benson!'"
"And then sure enough, um, literally within a couple of months of that very brief conversation, here came Breezin'. And I looked at the cover, I'm like, 'Oh, that was just George guy.' So, that's as much as I have as as an anecdote to share with you about George Benson. I had no idea. I was talking to a future legend."
ON WHAT TRACKS STOOD OUT FROM BREEZIN':
LEWIS: "Of course the title track, which was written by Bobby Womack. Funny that was our last conversation with Rufus and Chaka [Khan] doing the Bobby Womack song. But yeah, 'Breezin'' was written by Bobby Womack. That record also had 'This Masquerade,' which, I think, was probably the first time that people really heard George Benson singing like that. Everybody realized that this man really had some good, some vocal chops going on, you know. As far as I remember that was probably his strongest vocal performance up to that point, you know?"
"One of the things Quincy really wanted to emphasize in producing Breezin' really, really bring George out as a vocalist. Straight up from the first track, 'Love X Love,' I mean, he comes out so easy and effortlessly, the way that he delivers the lyrics, you know, which is pretty, probably one of the sweetest love songs ever. I really love that song."
Listen to the rest of the podcast here.