JACKIE DE SHANNON
Born Sharon Lee Myers, 21 August 1941, Hazel, Kentucky
Singer / songwriter. Jackie is a prolific songwriter with more than 600 compositions to her name and a very versatile vocalist. She was one of the first female singer-songwriters of the rock n roll era. According to the Kentucky Birth Index she was born in 1941 and not in 1942 or 1944, as most sources will have you believe. Jackie's early musical career took her from Chicago via Cincinnati and Nashville to Los Angeles, where she remains today. Reputedly it was Eddie Cochran (impressed by her Liberty single "Buddy") who arranged for her to travel to California to meet his girlfriend Sharon Sheeley, who formed a writing partnership with Jackie in 1960. Prior to that, she had already recorded six or seven singles under a variety of names : Sherry Lee (her debut single, "I'm Crazy Darlin'" / "Baby Honey" on Mar-Vel, 1956), Jackie Dee and Jackie Shannon and the Cajuns. Probably the best known of these early recordings is her fourth single, "Buddy" (credited to Jackie Dee, Liberty 55148, 1958), which has been reissued on several rockabilly compilations. (For an in-depth review of her first twelve singles, 1956-61, see http://www.spectropop.com/JackieDeShannon/index.htm by Peter Lerner, first published in Now Dig This 181, April 1998.) Already then she wrote most of her own material. Sharon Myers changedher name to Jackie De Shannon in 1959.
After teaming up with Sharon Sheeley, she quickly developed into one of the hottest songwriters on the West Coast pop scene, penning hits for Brenda Lee ("Dum Dum", "So Deep"), the Fleetwoods and Troy Shondell. The partnership stayed in tact until 1964. Jackie was (re)signed to Liberty Records in 1960 and also pacted a songwriting deal with Liberty's subsidiary, Metric Music. But her first two chart entries were songs written by others. The old Bob Wills favourite "Faded Love" spent two weeks at the bottom of the Hot 100 (# 97) in February 1963, soon followed by the Sonny Bono/Jack Nitzsche composition "Needles And Pins" (# 84). When this song was covered by the British group The Searchers, it went to # 1 in the UK and # 13 in the USA in 1964. The same fate befell her third chart entry, the self- penned "When You Walk in the Room" (# 99), which again was a much bigger hit for the Searchers, but at least she received healthy royalties this time. These Searchers hits led her to explore the UK as a market for her songs. She had toured the USA with the Beatles in 1964, and soon her compositions were being recorded by the Fourmost, Marianne Faithful ("Come And Stay With Me", a # 4 UK hit, # 26 in the US), Peter and Gordon, Billy J. Kramer and others. While in England, she also found time to write some songs with future Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page.
In spite of her songwriting success, Jackie was still waiting for her first bonafide hit as a singer. This came in the summer of 1965, but again it was not with her own material. The Burt Bacharach / Hal David song "What the World Needs Now Is Love" went to # 7 and has rightly become a standard. Of the many versions, Jackie's remains the definitive one. "What the World ..." was the first De Shannon single to be released on Imperial (acquired by Liberty in 1963), soon followed by another strong Bacharach-David tune, "A Lifetime Of Loneliness", which inexplicably stalled at # 66. Jackie would not return to the Top Ten until 1969 with "Put A Little Love in Your Heart" (# 4, her only gold disc), co-written with her brother Randy Myers and Jimmy Holiday. The LP of the same name was the best selling of her many albums, peaking at # 81.
"Love Will Find A Way" (1969) was her last Top 40 hit. After a few minor hits on Imperial/Liberty in 1970 she moved to Capitol (1971), then to Atlantic (1972-73) and later to Columbia and the Canadian Amherst label. She made some well-received singer-songwriter LP's in the 1970s. A song from her Columbia album "New Arrangement" (1975), "Bette Davis Eyes", became a # 1 hit for Kim Carnes in 1981 and won Jackie (and her co-writer Donna Weiss) Grammy awards for Best Record of the Year and Song of the Year. By then she had stopped recording and performing, but still wrote the occasional new song, without much success. But many of her older songs continued to be recorded by other artists over the past three decades. In 2000 she recorded a comeback album, "You Know Me". A collection of previously unissued demo recordings (that she cut for others) was released by Rhino in 2004. In 2010 she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
DeShannon's famous affiliations and success as a songwriter have sometimes obscured her own enormous talents. She's a superb singer, capable of both sweet ballads and (more satisfyingly) a gutsy, soulfully husky delivery. She performed her own material with a vulnerable, intelligent intensity that pre-figured the singer/songwriter movement by several years, and demonstrated command of pop, Ray Charles- styled soul, folk-rock, girl group, and country styles. Why didn't she have more success? The answer would seem to lie with Liberty. Though they encouraged her songwriting career, they seemed unaware that they had a major singing talent on their hands, and then did not know what to do with her when they found out.
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Acknowledgements : Jim Pierson, Peter Lerner, Mick Patrick, Tony Rounce.
Dik, March 2013
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