ARTIST OF THE WEEK
Possessing one of Motown’s strongest, most versatile voices, Kim Weston had relatively few hits and never recorded a solo album for the label, falling short of stardom that might have been hers.
- Motown Milestone: Kim cuts the lead vocal June 25, 1965 at Hitsville for “Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While),” her highest-charting solo single.
- First Hit: “Love Me All The Way”
- Biggest Hit: “It Takes Two” with Marvin Gaye; as a solo artist, “Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While).”
- Biggest Album: Take Two, duet LP with Marvin Gaye
- Career Highlights: Her hit with Gaye launches her into crossover prominence and, after leaving Motown, she becomes the first pop star to record “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” considered the Black National Anthem.
- A member of the Detroit gospel group Wright Special, Agatha Weston records with them at Hitsville in 1961, songs that are released on a pair of singles for Motown’s Divinity label in 1962 and 1963. In ’62, she sings on secular demo recordings for Motown songwriters Brian and Eddie Holland and, impressed with her voice, they arrange a solo contract later that year. She begins recording material for new producer Norman Whitfield and the company gives her a new stage name, Kim – after Hollywood film star Kim Novak.
- Two notable simultaneous firsts from February 1963: With Norman Whitfield’s first production credit, Kim releases “It Should Have Been Me,” with B-side “Love Me All The Way,” as her first single on Tamla. Disc jockeys in the South eventually flip the disc and “Love Me All The Way” begins to make noise, causing Motown to reissue the single in June. It rises to Number 24 on the R&B charts and Number 88 on the Pop chart. Behind that success, Kim begins touring, often appearing on the bill with Marvin Gaye.
- Her follow-up single, the Dinah Washington-influenced ballad “Just Loving You,” fails to chart, but Kim later names it as her favorite Motown recording, adding she helped her boyfriend, Motown A&R chief Mickey Stevenson, write it, although she did not receive a credit. The two marry in the summer of 1964.
- Smokey Robinson takes a crack at getting Kim another hit in 1964, but his August release of “Looking For The Right Guy” – which echoes his earlier Mary Wells’ smash “My Guy” – doesn’t do the trick.
- With Wells’ departure from Motown in ‘64, her duet partner Marvin Gaye needs a replacement and Kim is eventually selected. The pair records a mid-tempo bluesy track co-written and produced by Stevenson left over from the Gaye–Wells sessions, “What Good Am I Without You,” and their chemistry on this September release works with listeners. It reaches Number 28 on the R&B chart and Number 61 Pop. The romantic harmonizer on the B-side, “I Want You Around,” doesn’t chart, but it becomes popular with fans. Plans are made for an LP of Gaye duets, Side By Side – one side with Gaye–Wells tracks, the other with Gaye-Weston tracks – but it never materializes.
- Later that year, Stevenson takes another shot at a solo hit for Kim with “A Little More Love.” Released in November, it is then withdrawn and re-recorded, but never re-released. The original, however, remains released in the U.K. and at the end of the month she lip-syncs it on the U.K. TV program Ready, Steady, Go! She shares the bill with the Isley Brothers, Martha & the Vandellas, Marvin Gaye and the Beatles.
- H-D-H follow up that hit by overdubbing Kim on “Helpless,” a popular LP track by the Four Tops on their Second Album. Released in February 1966, it peaks at Number 12 on the R&B chart and reaches Number 56 Pop.
- With Stevenson accepting a well-paid position at MGM Records in 1966, Kim felt the need to depart Motown for MGM with him. In August, Take Two – a collection of duets with Marvin – is released on Tamla. Then, in December, Motown releases the album’s lead track, “It Takes Two,” a song Mickey had co-written and co-produced eight months earlier. It rockets up the R&B chart to Number 4 and the Pop chart to Number 14, taking a place among Motown standards, remaining immensely popular and recognizable decades later. It was also a sizable U.K. hit at the time – the first major European success for either Gaye or Weston – cresting at Number 16. But with Kim having departed Motown, she and Marvin are not able to promote the song together.
- At MGM, Kim records singles and her first solo LPs, For The First Time, a jazz/pop adult contemporary efforts, and This Is America, which featured “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” later released as a single. When Mickey starts the People label for MGM, Kim releases her most realized LP, Big Brass Four Poster, in 1970. The year before, Kim recorded a duet LP with Johnny Nash on his JAD Records.
- Weston moved to Stax in 1971, where she recorded the LP Kim, Kim, Kim and some singles, but the highlight is her opening the Wattstax concert singing “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” in front of a packed Los Angeles Coliseum. That performance was seen in the Wattstax film and heard on one of the soundtrack LPs.
- Kim’s Motown recordings become prized in Great Britain during the initial 1970s Northern Soul explosion. When British producer Ian Levine embarks on his project of recording former Motown stars in the 1980s and 1990s, Kim is his first call, resulting in a few singles, including a remake of “Helpless” and a duet with Marvin’s brother Frankie Gaye on “It Takes Two, plus an LP, Investigate.
- Motown releases three compilation CDs of Kim’s recordings, Greatest Hits And Rare Classics in 1991, a 20th Century Masters Best Of collection in 2004 and, in 2005, a two-CD Motown Anthology set from the U.K. that contains loads of unreleased material in an impressively broad array of styles, befitting Kim Weston’s multi-faceted talent.