David Nathan catches up with the lovely lady and reports that she's feelin' on top of the world. And there's news of her upcoming album produced by Leon Ware...
NO DOUBT many of the lady's fervent admirers will have been wondering what happened to the lovely Syreeta over the last year or so. Her last album, "Stevie Wonder presents Syreeta" was released with a good deal of publicity and promotion and did very well for the lady.
It also afforded her the opportunity to go out on the road as a solo performer and Syreeta quickly established a following for herself, as well as getting rave notices wherever she appeared.
That was in 1974 and since then, the lady's been busy — giving birth to her beautiful son, Jamal, who accompanied his mother to Motown's offices for a recent interview with B&S.
"Yes, Jamal's part of the answer! You see, whilst I was pregnant, Motown became very protective — almost over-protective I think! I wanted to record and work but they really wanted me to stay home and rest. So I spent some time becoming involved in community work, particularly working with children."
Plus, the lady adds: "Steve was busy working on his album, as you know — and we were supposed to get together to record some material for my next album. He actually did contribute three songs which we worked on during August — but it was hard for him to break away from being so involved with his own albums.
"So I was supposed to work with Charles Stepney — we were also due to get together in August. He'd heard one of my songs and had asked me to get my own material together for him to listen to. I have to say that he was the first person outside of Steve that I was really excited about working with.
"You see, I'd been following him through his music — back from Ramsey Lewis through to Earth, Wind & Fire. When he passed on, during autumn, I just retreated temporarily away from everything. It really took away all my momentum, because I had my heart set on working with Charles and it seemed as if everything was in progress."
With the untimely death of Charles Stepney, Syreeta was without an immediate producer until Leon Ware came along. "Naturally, I knew of Leon and he'd just had a platinum album with Marvin Gaye on "I Want You". So, we got together and I let him hear some of my songs.
"He liked them and he offered some production advice — which is how we got together on the new album. Yes, it's a lot different from working with Steve but it's basically easy."
Syreeta views working with producers quite simply. "It can be easy to work with very talented people provided there isn't an ego problem. Then, it almost doesn't make it worthwhile. Creating those hassles, problems. But a good working relationship in the studio is almost like a marriage — the music that's created is like the child born of the marriage.
"I have to say that all the people involved in this particular album have been truly genuine and I'm looking forward to the album's release, not just for the sake of it but because I want to go out on tour again.
"You know, the musicians on the last tour said that my show was really different and I know what they mean! You see, I didn't stick to the same show all the time because, frankly, I get bored doing it that way. I don't like too much stereotyped choreography and to be honest, there would be times when I'd just change things on stage in terms of what material I was doing.
"I like doing what I'm doing — I like the opportunity I have to communicate with people because as far as I'm concerned that's just what it's all about. I think if I hadn't been into entertainment, I would probably have been a social worker!"
Syreeta's second Motown album (the first itself was a fine piece of work on which Syreeta collaborated with Mr. Wonder with naturally stunning results) demonstrated to many folk that the very attractive young lady had much to say through her music.
"I think that it's very important to know what you're singing about and believe in it. Your music should be a reflection of yourself, whatever that is. Sometimes, you may find it necessary to draw on your memory bank of experiences.
"For example, when I wrote "Blame It On The Sun" with Steve, that was a very uniquely happy time in my life. But I could still call on my past experiences to write it. Songs are about life, about people. When Steve and I wrote together, we created almost a fantasy for other people.
"Most of our songs weren't too deep. For instance, "Spinning & Spinning". You know what that was about? It was a satire on groupies! I don't know how many people caught on to it but that was where the idea came from."
On her forthcoming album, Syreeta says her songs are more direct. "I've written songs that I believe people will be able to get to easily. Like "One To One" — that's about how your heart cannot divide love. And "You Are The Way You Are" — I guess that's self-explanatory. "Course of Happiness" is about teaching yourself to be happy. And "Rest Yourself" is about doing just that!"
The lady says that since the birth of her son, she's been looking at her career in a far more serious light. "I have to say I didn't work that hard at it before. But now, I'm constantly thinking of new things to do because I never want my child to be in need. He's made me have far more discipline with myself."
Ask Syreeta about how Jamal will affect her working on the road and you won't have to wait a second for an answer! "Of course he'll be with me whenever it's possible! I want to be able to space and pace my work to allow me to be home whenever I can — now I have a son that's more important than ever.
"But as far as touring goes, I am determined to work hard to have a first-rate show. I'd like to be in that position of performing in front of 25,000 people in one go — that's my goal."
Syreeta says she's in a permanent state of preparation. "I enjoy writing immensely and now I'm getting into writing other things — not just songs. Scripts for plays and so on.
"I must say with Jamal around me now, I'm truly alive as a person. You see, you can't pretend with children — they'll soon let you know when you're trying to fool them. And he's brought me into 100% communication with myself.
"He's created so much happiness for me because he's his own little person. And just think — he came as a big surprise! I didn't know I was pregnant — I thought it was just a virus! That virus turned out to be some baby!
"He's even playing the piano already (he's only just over a year old) and I guess that's because he hears so much music around him! I just want him to grow and simply be in tune with himself."
About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.