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*Barbara Lewis was born on this date in 1943. She is a Black singer and songwriter.
From South Lyon, Michigan, Barbara began writing songs at nine. She began recording as a teenager with producer Ollie McLaughlin, who'd also had a hand in the careers of Del Shannon, the Capitols, and Deon Jackson. Lewis wrote all of the songs on her debut LP (including "Hello Stranger") and confidently handled harmony soul numbers (some with backing by the Dells) and more pop-savvy tunes, some of which, like "Hello Stranger," were driven by an organ and a bossa nova-like beat.
Follow-ups to "Hello Stranger" didn't sell nearly as well (although one of her singles, "Someday We're Gonna Love Again," was covered by the Searchers for a British Invasion hit). In the mid-'60s, she began doing some recordings in New York City, with assistance from producers like Bert Berns and Jerry Wexler, that employed more orchestral arrangements and pop-conscious material. The approach clicked, both commercially and artistically: "Baby I'm Yours" and "Make Me Your Baby" were both big hits and were among the best mid-’60s girl-group style productions.
Lewis made an album in the late '60s for Stax records that, as one would expect, gave her sound a grittier approach without compromising the smooth and poppy elements integral to her appeal. It passed mostly unnoticed, though, and Lewis withdrew from the music business after a few other singles. The "beach music" scene of the Carolinas remains a mainstay of appreciation for Lewis' records, which continue to enjoy popularity and airplay decades after their original release.
In 1995, Lewis sings "Baby I'm Yours” on the original soundtrack from the Clint Eastwood, Merle Streep movie "Bridges of Madison County."
In 2016, Barbara Lewis was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame. Health issues forced Lewis to retire from singing in 2017. In 2019, "Hello Stranger" featured towards the end of the final episode of Giri/Haji.