Ben E. King Keeps His 'Heart & Soul' Involved in Music
Fifty years since Ben E. King left the Drifters to start his solo career, his hits are still being covered by everyone from 'American Idol' hopefuls to Michael Bublé to U2. And yet, throughout the past decade, the soul legend with the rough-but-tender voice has kept a low profile, singing in supper clubs and jazz lounges to audiences of connoisseurs. His new album, 'Heart & Soul,' reflects the intimacy of such gigs -- it's a small-group session of old-school ballads ('When I Fall in Love,' 'My Funny Valentine,' etc.) featuring jazz heavyweights such as Randy Brecker and Guido Basso. With its release this summer, King will at last be stepping onto bigger stages again, starting with a high-profile show at Montreal Jazz Festival.
Over the phone from his New Jersey home, the 71-year-old King looked back on his constantly shifting career and revealed the best way to persuade your fans to stand by you.
You recorded your new album in Calgary. How did that come about?
Linda Nash, who's the executive producer, came to see a show that we did at The Blue Note [in Manhattan]. She said, "What you been up to?" and I gave her a big-band CD that I did a few years back. ... When she went home, she took a listen to it and called her husband [Lanny Williamson, owner of The Beach studios in Calgary]. She said, "I got a guy that did some big-band stuff." He says, "Who is this?" She says, "Ben E. King." He says, "Can't be." They enjoyed the voice and the material that I was doing, and they decided I should come up there. He has a brilliant studio with great engineers, great atmosphere. I call him "the Doctor," and he is unbelievable. We took a year and change and did a CD.
How did you like it up