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*On this date in 1939, Jerry Butler was born. He is a Black soul singer-songwriter, producer, musician, and retired politician.
Jerry Butler Jr. was born in Sunflower, Mississippi. When Butler was three years old, the family moved to Chicago, Illinois, and he grew up in the Cabrini-Green housing projects. The mid-1950s had a profound effect on Butler's life. He grew up poor; music and the church provided solace from the slums he lived in and the difficulties of a segregated society. He sang in a church choir with Curtis Mayfield. As a teenager, Butler sang in a gospel quartet called Northern Jubilee Gospel Singers, along with Mayfield. Mayfield, a guitar player, became the lone instrumentalist for the six-member Roosters group, which later became The Impressions.
Inspired by Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers, the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, and the Pilgrim Travelers, getting into the music industry seemed inevitable. Butler co-wrote, with Otis Redding, the song "I've Been Loving You Too Long" in 1965. Butler co-wrote the song "For Your Precious Love" (ranked No. 327 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time) and wanted to record a disc. Looking for recording studios, the Impressions (the original members of Butler, Curtis Mayfield, Sam Gooden, Fred Cash, and brothers Arthur and Richard Brooks) auditioned for Chess Records and Vee-Jay Records.
The group eventually signed with Vee-Jay, where they released "For Your Precious Love" in 1958. It became The Impressions' first hit and gold record. Since leaving The Impressions, Butler has had over 55 Billboard Pop and R&B Chart hits as a solo artist, including some 15 Top 40 Pop hits in the Hot 100 and 15 R&B Top 10's. His younger brother, Billy, also had a career in the music industry.
Butler was a 1991 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. He served as a Commissioner for Cook County, Illinois, from 1985 to 2018. As a member of this 17-member county board, he chaired the Health and Hospitals Committee and served as Vice-Chair of the Construction Committee. He currently resides in Chicago. His wife, Annette, was one of his backup singers and died in 2019. He has two sons, Randy and Tony, and a grandson, Jeriel.
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