Have you ever listened to a song for a while or even years and because you've never seen the music video or a recorded performance of it, falsely assumed the singer was a particular gender or race because of how they sound? I've been surprised more than once to learn a singer's race or gender and I'm sure it's happened to lots of other listeners that just weren't privy yet to the performer's background. Wayne Newton's performance of "Danke Schoen" quickly comes to mind; a lot of people when hearing it for the first time thinks it was recorded by a woman. Here are five songs I heard countless times that fooled me until YouTube or Sirius set me straight...
Nick Gilder, "Hot Child In the City" (1978)
Who I Thought Sang It: Some woman with a Farrah Fawcett hairstyle
Who Really Sang It: A guy
For years I assumed that "Hot Child In the City" was a one-hit wonder for some little known female singer during the '70s, until I noticed the artist's name on Sirius just a few months ago. Nick Gilder...Nick as in Nicholas. Yep, fooled. He sure sings like a girl to me. And although the song is a catchy one, it would easily be included on a "Music for Pedophiles" compilation album, as it's about child prostitution that Gilder saw first-hand on the Hollywood streets. I hear that some of Gilder's follow-up recordings kind of mirror the same theme; needless to say I haven't bothered looking them up. Gilder started his career in a glam rock band called Sweeney Todd. Fun fact: after Gilder left the group to pursue a solo career, he was replaced by another Canadian-born singer, Bryan Adams.
The O'Kaysions, "Girl Watcher" (1968)
Who I Thought Sang It: A black man
Who Really Sang It: White boy
The Pointer Sisters, "Automatic" (1984)
Who I Thought Sang It: A dude from the group's back-up band
Who Really Sang It: Ruth Pointer
Of course, I knew who The Pointer Sisters were when this song was released in 1984 but with apologies to Ruth Pointer who sings lead on it, for many years I thought it was a man from their back-up band doing the honors. Her voice is just so deep here that even when watching performances of it today, it's still a little hard for me to believe it's really her singing...but it is. Ruth told the song's producers that she would happily sing "the low part" and well, it worked.
Jane Child, "Don't Wanna Fall in Love" (1990)
Who I Thought Sang It: A black woman
Who Really Sang It: A white Canadian singer/songwriter with a crazy eccentric hairstyle and piercings
It wasn't long ago when this song popped into my head for some reason -- maybe because it's been a couple of decades now since I last heard it -- and when I saw the music video for the first time after all of these years, I was floored.
Was Jane Child an inspiration for Lady Gaga? I don't ever remember seeing her on TV when her one and only huge hit, "Don't Wanna Fall in Love", was released in 1990. I surely would have recalled that dreadlocked, punk version of a Crystal Gayle hairstyle and nose ring. Perhaps she didn't really achieve a higher level of fame because she refused to sing her hit on Top of the Pops, claiming the program was a "sellout."
Child has a website that says it was being updated...in 2007 (it looks like it was created in 1999.) A mysterious musical figure, for sure.
The Newbeats, "Bread and Butter" (1964)
Who I Thought Sang It: Initially a black woman; later a young black guy with an over-the-top falsetto
Who Really Sang It: A white blonde guy that kind of resembled Bill Clinton
I saved this one for last because a. it was my most recent discovery and b. it surprised me the most. The thing about this song is I consider it to be one of the most obnoxious musical works ever released; I mean, even the lyrics are silly and dumb. What self-respecting woman would only feed her loving man bread, butter, toast, and jam? She's a really lousy cook; the song informs us that she doesn't make mashed potatoes or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! It's hard to believe that this song was a monster hit both in the U.S. and the UK in August 1964 -- keep in mind the Beatles had already conquered both continents months earlier, so WTF? Add in the fact that this band goes into dork mode overload during their live performance by pointing fingers at their lead singer while singing the verses. And why are there two saxophone players on the stage when the song doesn't even feature a sax? It's almost painful to watch.
The Newbeats were comprised of two brothers, Dean and Mark Mathis, and its lead singer, Larry Henley. Henley eventually left the brothers to pursue a solo career (um...I know without a doubt that I could not stomach an entire album filled with this guy's voice, but different strokes for different folks, I guess) and later co-wrote the Bette Midler ballad, "Wind Beneath My Wings."
"Bread and Butter" was later used in an advertising jingle for Schmidt's Blue Ribbon Bread..."I like bread and butter, I like toast and jam, I like Schmidt's Blue Ribbon Bread, it's my favorite brand." Also, Devo covered the song for the soundtrack to the steamy Mickey Rourke flick "9 1/2 Weeks." Wikipedia is trying to tell us that the song wasn't used in the film but they're wrong -- I distinctly remember watching it on television of all places and it was used during a scene where Rourke's character is feeding various foods to Kim Bassinger while she's blindfolded.
A strange, kinky legacy for a strange (but not so kinky) song.
OK, Go Retro readers, am I the only one that has made similar errors upon first hearing songs? Please tell me I'm not alone.