Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Freda Payne: An R&B Diva Circles Back to Her Jazz Roots

Call it a comeback

Freda Payne
Freda Payne in 1970

“I have come home,” says vocalist Freda Payne, 71, regarding her late-career return to jazz with Come Back to Me Love (Artistry), a lush collection of standards and new material. Indeed, though Payne remains best known for her massive 1970 hit “Band of Gold” and a brief run of lesser R&B successes that followed, she boasts deep jazz roots.

Growing up in Detroit, she was immersed in the music of Ella, Billie and Sinatra. “Basically,” she says, “my elders were mentoring me, teaching me the best singers to listen to.” By age 13 she was a featured vocalist on local WJR radio, where she remembers “doing everything: pop songs, standards, spirituals.” At 17, she auditioned for Mercer Ellington, who introduced her to his dad. So impressed was Duke that he offered Payne a 10-year contract as his band singer, an opportunity she and her mother rejected as too restrictive.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published