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  Gwen Guthrie

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Click below for a Gwen Guthrie sample:



Dubbed "the First Lady of the Paradise Garage," Gwen Guthrie spent many years working behind the scenes of the music industry before emerging as a solo artist.   Originally a school teacher, Guthrie launched her music career by doing session work for Aretha Franklin in 1973.  The following year, she wrote Ben E. King's comeback hit "Supernatural Thing," making her an established commodity in the industry that led to work for Sister Sledge and Roberta Flack.  Meanwhile, her reputation as a singer continued to rise, with artists such as Quincy Jones, Gregg Diamond and Stephanie Mills asking her to perform on their albums.

In the early 80s, she began cutting tracks with Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, the creative team behind Grace Jones' most innovative work.  Their sessions were finally released as the 1982 LP Gwen Guthrie.  The hit from the record, "It Should Have Been You," was remixed by Larry Levan and began her long relationship with the Paradise Garage.  Her affiliation with dance music became stronger over the course of her next album, Portrait, and was cemented with 1983's Padlock, an EP consisting of five Guthrie tunes remixed by Larry Levan.

But as great as the albums were, they were not generating enough hits for Island's taste.  They employed outside production for Just For You, and Guthrie decided to leave them for Polydor because they allowed her to produce herself.   The payoff was immediate, as "Ain't Nothin' Goin' On But The Rent" became her only #1 record in 1986.   Critics complained that the song celebrated materialism, but it simply reflected the reality of dating during the 80s.  She released several albums after that, none having the impact of "Rent."   

Guthrie died on February 4, 1999, leaving behind an impressive legacy that continues to grow in stature. 

Gwen Guthrie's Deepest Grooves

Gwen Guthrie (Island, 1982)

Portrait (Island, 1983)

Padlock (Garage, 1983)
A landmark recording, one that has become extremely rare.  Remix albums are popular today, but in 1983 it was a revolutionary concept, particularly for an album that had only been released a few months earlier.  But such was the popularity of Larry Levan and the Paradise Garage that they were able to get Island to release the record.  Features classic mixes of "Peanut Butter," "Seventh Heaven," "Padlock," "Getting Hot" and "Hopscotch."   "Padlock" ended up being a hit two years after this was released.

Just For You (Island, 1985)
A deviation from her previous efforts, Deodato produces here with his customary pop sheen.  Not exactly her most essential effort.

Good To Go Lover (Polydor, 1986)

Ticket To Ride (4th and Broadway, 1988)

Ultimate Collection (Hip-O, 1999)
Fantastic set does a good job of delivering the highlights of Guthrie's career.  In addition to the dance classics, her handling of tender ballads like "God Don't Like Ugly," "Oh What A Life," and her touching tribute to Donny Hathaway, "Oh Donny No" proves that she was a highly distinctive talent that will be greatly missed. 

Copyright 2001 B.Graff.  All rights reserved.

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