Doris Troy's impact on Soul and Pop Music far outweighs her chart entries. Her big, rich, vibrant voice graced recordings by artists as diverse as The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Solomon Burke, Dusty Springfield, Pink Floyd, Billy Preston, and Maxine Brown, having an impact on singers, particularly in Europe, that can still be heard today.
She was a rareity in the early sixties - a singer who wrote her own material (JUST ONE LOOK, WHATCHA GONNA DO ABOUT IT, HOW ABOUT THAT. She was always at the cutting edge. One of the earliest Soul divas, on Atlantic before Aretha, and recording with Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff (I'LL DO ANYTHING) years before the heady days of the Philadelphia sound.
Doris was born Doris Higginsen in New York. Her father was a minister, and she went on to sing in gospel groups, having sung in church since a child. In the fifties she joined The Halos, a jazz tinged vocal group, and started writing her own material, scoring her first hit in 1960 - HOW ABOUT THAT for DEE CLARK(Abner 1032, No.33 for 5 weeks US).
In 1963, while working as an usherette at Harlem's APOLLO, Doris was spotted by JAMES BROWN and was on her way to greatness. A short stint as one half of JAY & DEE, was followed by her classic JUST ONE LOOK(Atlantic 2188,No.10 for 8 weeks US, 1963), later covered in the UK by THE HOLLIES(Parlophone R5104, No.2, 13 weeks,UK, 1964). This was followed by the great WHATCHA GONNA DO ABOUT IT(Atlantic 4011, No.37, 7 weeks, UK, 1964, No.38, 5 weeks, UK, 1965).
This success in Britain prompted Doris to try her luck there, adding her unique sound to Dusty Springfield's classic recordings (IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, LITTLE BY LITTLE). After an early appearance on the British legendary TV show "Ready, Steady, Go", Doris's UK following grew & grew. In the coming years she would work with The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin & The Moody Blues.
In 1969 The Beatles signed her to their Apple label, as an artist, writer & producer! Those sessions featured Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills, Leon Russell & Ringo Starr, among others. While gaining respect for the album, sales were disappointing; but Doris carried on regardless. She recorded a live Gospel album at London's Rainbow Theatre in 1971 for Polydor. This atmospheric, electric album "The Rainbow Testament" was proof of her power as a live artist.
1974 saw Doris in the studio again, for People Records, working with reggae producer Dandy Livingstone on the album "Stretchin' Out". While still keeping a firm hold of her Gospel roots, she showed a mellower side on tracks like "All I Have Is Written In Your Eyes".
In the years that followed, she returned to the States, recording & appearing in Las Vegas with Lola Falana. Then came a major turning point. Doris's sister Vy Higginson had been working with Ken Wydro on a theatrical project that would evlolve into the musical "MAMA I WANT TO SING". Becoming the highest grossing off-Broadway show ever, "Mama" was the story of Doris's life, with a liberal sprinkling of Gospel, and , of course,"JUST ONE LOOK". Since it's inception in 1981, the show has packed 'em in all over the world - Greece, Japan, Switzerland, Egypt, and, earning an Olivier Awards nomination,in London's West End, with a cast that included Chaka Khan & Denice Williams. Doris played her own mother in the production.
Doris's contribution to Soul music was recognised in 1996, when she received the Pioneer Rythym & Blues Award at the Hollywood Palladium, performing "JUST ONE LOOK" with backing from Mavis Staples, Patti Austin & Darlene Love. Others might have been happy at this point to relax in the knowledge that their hard work had finally been recognised, but not Doris. In the fall of 1999 Doris appeared in a new show "GOSPEL IS...!" at the Williams Lafayette Institute for the Arts, 7th. Avenue @ 131st Street, Harlem, NYC., described by one reviewer as "The Mama for the Millennium".
Doris died in her sleep on February 16, 2004, in Las Vegas. She had been suffering from emphysema for some years.
Simon Bell 1999(c)/2004