Purify Gets Better
Veteran singer finds his soul after losing his
After veteran soul singer Bobby Purify lost his vision in 1998, he retreated
to a dark room and darker thoughts about abandoning music. But a pep
talk from the late Ray Charles sparked a comeback that will culminate
with the release of Purify's first album in more than a decade.
Better to Have It , due July 19th on the Rykodisc-distributed Proper
Records, teams Purify once again with producer and songwriter Dan Penn,
the co-author of such R&B classics as "Dark End of the Street"
and "Do Right Woman."
Purify believes the new effort embodies Charles' frank advice. "He
said, 'Son, lemme tell you somethin': You was born with soul. You don't
need no eyes for that. Use your singin' as a crutch to help you forget,'"
recalls the sixty-three year-old Purify of Charles. "He was truly
a wise man."
On Better to Have It , Purify digs into a dozen new songs written by
Penn, Carson Whitsett (the post-Booker T. leader of the MG's) and Hoy
"Bucky" Lindsey, plus his own "What's Old to You."
Famed producer Jerry Wexler contributed liner notes, and several original
members of the Muscle Shoals rhythm section laid down the grooves --
making the disc sound, Purify says proudly, "just like back in
Back then, the Atlanta native had success in the soul duo Ben and Spence
--performing under his given name, Ben Moore -- recording several Atlantic
singles written by Penn. But in 1971, Moore was invited to replace Robert
Lee Dickey in the R&B group James and Bobby Purify, becoming the
second "Bobby Purify" -- an alias he's maintained,
off and on, ever since.
The pair would enjoy British success in 1975 with "I'm Your Puppet"
-- a Dan Penn/Spooner Oldham composition that was a hit for the original
James and Bobby Purify several years earlier. But by the Eighties, the
new duo had split, and Purify reverted to his given name for a gospel
career, garnering a Grammy nomination for 1982's He Believes in
Blindness prompted Purify to stop performing -- until his chat with
Charles. Soon after, Purify ended up singing at a friend's party, and
another guest, Bucky Lindsey, overheard his huge, unmistakable voice
from another room.
"He said, 'Bobby Purify! Man, we thought you was dead!'" Purify
recounts with a chuckle. "But he said, 'You sound better than you
did twenty years ago. We got to make a record on you!'"
The new tunes Lindsey, Penn and Whitsett wrote for Purify -- including
the brass-backed title track and the heartfelt patriotic song "Only
in America" -- got the singer so excited he says he could barely
sleep. "There ain't no throwaways on this record," Purify
Another new song, "Forever Changed," was intended for fellow
soul man Solomon Burke, but Purify refused to return the string-soaked
ballad after hearing it. "I said, 'No, no, no. That's my song.
I'm keepin' it,'" he says, laughing.
Purify admits he wouldn't mind following in the footsteps of Burke,
who nabbed a Grammy for the surprise 2002 comeback effort, Don't Give
Up On Me .
"Some people have said, 'Bobby, you might have to go up to the
podium,'" he says, adding with a chuckle, "I need to!"
(Posted Jun 02, 2005)