TRACK OF THE WEEK
DAY & DATE: No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending Saturday, June 5, 1982.
SONGWRITERS: Ron Miller, Ken Hirsch.
PRODUCER: Ron Miller.
BACKSTORY: The soft, willowy “I’ve Never Been To Me” is far removed from the classic, pulsating Motown sound of the ’60s, and yet this was one of the company’s most successful singles of the ’80s. That said, the record almost didn’t make it at all.
Hollywood-born Charlene D’Angelo began her professional career by writing and singing commercials for radio and TV, and as a background vocalist. She reportedly came to Motown’s attention by introducing herself at a Los Angeles restaurant to founder Berry Gordy; he asked her to sing for him on-the-spot, a tactic reminiscent of his first meeting with Mary Wells. Sufficiently impressed, Gordy signed Charlene, whose first Motown release was “All The Love That Went To Waste,” in January 1974.
Some time passed before the singer’s first album for the company, Charlene, issued on the Prodigal label in 1976. It featured songs by seasoned Motown songwriter/producer Ron Miller, including “I’ve Never Been To Me.” When shipped as a single in July ’77, it made a brief chart appearance, and that appeared to be that. Five years later, however, disc jockey Scott Shannon played the track on Tampa, FL, Top 40 station WRBQ-FM, and immediate listener response prompted Motown to reissue the single. By mid-year, “I’ve Never Been To Me” was taking Charlene to chart heights not only in the U.S., but also overseas. The record reached Number One in Britain, Australia (for six weeks) and Ireland, and the Top 10 in Belgium, Holland and New Zealand.
By this time, Charlene was living in the U.K. with husband Jeff Oliver. She re-signed with Motown and was reunited with Ron Miller, who produced her 1982 Motown album, Used To Be. This was followed in 1984 by Hit & Run Lover (including the title track, co-written by Charlene) and, in 1985, an appearance in Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon. The soundtrack of another movie, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, featured “I’ve Never Been To Me.”
REMAKES: Technically, Charlene’s “I’ve Never Been To Me” is a remake; the song was first recorded by Randy Crawford on her 1976 long-player, Everything Must Change. Nancy Wilson chose it as the title track of an album in ’77, the same year that Walter Jackson included his version on I Want To Come Back As A Song. In 1978, Mary (“Torn Between Two Lovers”) MacGregor remade “I’ve Never Been To Me” on her album, …In Your Eyes. By coincidence, the president of MacGregor’s record company at the time, Ariola America, later headed up Motown Records when Charlene’s “I’ve Never Been To Me” was played by Scott Shannon. His name: Jay Lasker. He was also running Motown when the Temptations chose the song for their Reunion album. And that was the year when a former Motown artist – the first female singer asked by Berry Gordy to sing for him on-the-spot – had her version of “I’ve Never Been To Me” included on an album, Easy Touch. Her name: Mary Wells.
FOOTNOTE: Charlene’s debut Motown LP in 1976 was mostly produced by Ron Miller, that longtime songwriter for the company’s music publishing arm. However, one track was produced by the singer’s then-husband, Larry Duncan: “I Love Every Little Thing About You,” composed by Stevie Wonder. Later, Charlene had the opportunity for an even-closer connection with the superstar; she and Wonder duetted on “Used To Be,” a single release (and modest chart-rider) in 1982. That song was co-written by Ron Miller, who also produced Charlene’s Used To Be album. Another track on it was an earlier Wonder hit, “Heaven Help Us All,” written by…well, you know. His initials: RM.