Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Simply Brook Benton
Brook Benton - Think Twice
The legendary Brook Benton has graced this blog twice, with the focus being on his early '70s recordings for Cotillion ("Let Me Fix It") and Stax ("I Keep Thinking To Myself"), but today's post jumps right into what made Brook a household name to begin with, his fantastic pop-slanted material for Mercury. Benton, who collaborated with Clyde Otis on most of his hits, brought his warm baritone and precise diction to well-orchestrated ballads like "It's Just a Matter of Time," "Endlessly" and today's selection, and Brook could hold his own on more swinging and uptempo stuff like "Kiddio" and "A Rockin' Good Way," a duet with Dinah Washington.
What I like amost about the Mercury sides is Benton's ability to put over the song's message almost conversationally, letting his choice of notes do the "heavy lifting" of the song's emotion. "Think Twice" (not to be confused with the Jackie Wilson - LaVern Baker duet) is very exemplary of this approach. The tune is literally conversational at first, and Brook quietly builds up the intensity as he goes along. It's been getting a lot of plays in my car, and I continue to be thrilled by Benton's masterful singing.
"Think Twice" has taken on extra life on the Internet via YouTube. There are two clips of Washington disc jockey/television personality/black activist Petey Greene on YouTube, one of which is the notorious (and NSFW) "How To Eat Watermelon" bit from an episode of "Petey Greene's Washington". As the segment opens, Benton's singing is heard while the camera focuses on the watermelon that Greene has set on the stage. Greene then recites the opening lyrics and launches into a tirade about how black people should "be themselves" and not be ashamed to eat watermelon. The decidedly unusual (and controversial) clip has received lots of attention, particularly after the release of the Petey Greene biopic Talk To Me, and other YouTubers have even developed parodies of it (one, "How To Drink Iced Tea," includes an unseen girl singing "Think Twice"). It's a very unusal showcase for the Brook Benton classic!