Don Covay deserves better recognition for his services to soul music. He is not mentioned in the same breath as Aretha, Marvin, and the like but he probably should be. His recording career started in the mid Fifties and was pretty much over by the mid Seventies – it terms of released material it peaked while at Atlantic in the mid-late Sixties. Not many of his own recordings charted big so unless you are a soul aficionado you may hardly be aware of him. At the same time, though, you may well be very familiar with some of his songs as he was a prolific songwriter and the stars have sung his songs: Aretha - “Chain Of Fools”, Gladys Knight & The Pips – “Letter Full Of Tears”, Little Richard – “I Don’t know What You’ve Got But It’s Got Me”, The Stones version of his 2nd biggest hit “Mercy, Mercy” are a few examples.
Every now and then I have to remind myself of Don Covay’s greatness. I did it last year when I dug out his 1973 album Super Dude I from my collection, played it for the first time in too long, and realised it is up there with my favourite soul albums of all time.
I’m doing it again now. Just recently I acquired the precursor to his Super Dude album. Different Strokes For Different Folks was one of two albums he released with the Jefferson Lemon Blues Band. Recorded in Memphis it is a great mixture of bluesy rock, soul, and funk.
Don has a distinctive voice with a really expressive delivery. His material throughout his career, and on his late Sixties and Seventies albums, has been diverse, running the full gamut of R&B, Soul, and Funk. His songs can be simple, but he often tells stories. He can make you move, he can touch your heart. He is by turns wild and raucous, playful, soft and contemplative. He can rock (and roll) with the best of them, turn it bluesy, and get down deep and soulful.
At all times he means it, you feel it. Go get it!*
There is a good summary of Don Covay’s career at All Music.
*Actually Different Strokes For Different Folks is another of Don’s albums that is not too easy to find. Here you can find all formats and releases listed, but realistically it will need to be vinyl.