Known for her self-penned Top 10 hit song “Yes, I’m Ready” in 1965, sweet-voiced Barbara Mason exemplified the “Philly soul” during the 60s. The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-born Mason mostly wrote her own material which comprised of songs (by the 1970s) that tackled subjects like romance and infidelity with frankness never heard before. Mason also had other minor hits such as “Sad, Sad Girl,” “Bed and Board,” “From His Woman to You,” “I Am Your Woman, She Is Your Wife,” “Oh, How It Hurts” and others.
Early life; recording career at Crusader and Arctic
Barbara Mason was born on August 9, 1947 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was seen as having natural artistic talents when she was a child, often holding impromptu performances at a playground near her home.
She started her professional singing career when she signed with a small label called Crusader (others cite that she started for the Charger label) in the early 1960s. She didn’t achieve any success there, so she moved to a Philadelphia-based label Arctic in 1965.
Aside from singing, Mason also had a talent in writing her own songs. Mason’s first charting single was “Girls Have Feelings,” which peaked at #31 on the Billboard R&B singles chart. But her big hit would arrive later in 1965 when she achieved her biggest pop hit yet ever, “Yes, I’m Ready” which was highlighted by her sweet, girlish voice. She also wrote the hit single, which went to #5 on the pop singles chart and #2 on the R&B singles chart. This song came to be one of the classic examples of the lush Philly soul.
Fourteen years after the release of the original “Yes I’m Ready,” another singer Teri DeSario covered that song to a more successful result. DeSario’s version of “Yes, I’m Ready” went to #2 on the Hot 100 in late 1979.
Mason went on to have other singles on Arctic such as “Sad, Sad Girl” (#27 pop, #12 R&B), “Oh, How It Hurts” (#59 pop), and a lot of minor hits on both the pop and R&B charts. She also covered Bacharach-David’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” which was also a minor R&B hit (at #38)
Move to Buddah Records
In 1972, Mason moved to Buddah Records, where her she achieved her first charting song on the label, “Bed and Board” (#70 pop, #24 R&B). The follow-up single “Child of Tomorrow” (from the movie Gordon’s War) reached #79 R&B. In 1973, Mason yet again scored another Top 40 hit with “Give Me Your Love” (#31 pop, #9 R&B) which was written and produced by Curtis Mayfield.
Also that year, Mason re-recorded her previous big hit “Yes, I’m Ready” which bubbled under Hot 100 at #125. In 1974, Mason achieved her last Top 40 hit with “From His Woman to You” which went to #28 on the Hot 100, and #3 on the R&B single chart. While her 1975 single “Shackin’ Up” took up the #9 position on the R&B single chart.
One of her more notable songs, “I Am Your Woman, She Is Your Wife” chalked up a #14 position of the R&B singles chart. By this period, Mason’s material had become more frank, discussing topics such as sexuality and unfaithfulness in relationships. That was something unusual for a female soul vocalist at that time. But Mason was obviously buried by the dominating disco genre, which she didn’t want to get involved with. She withdrew from the limelight for many years.
Mason resurfaced in the 1990s when producer Alan Beck invited her to sing in Los Angeles, California. Her excellent performance at the city’s Greek Theater received thunderous response from the public. Since then she has been periodically performing, and she also owns a music publishing firm. She released her latest album (in CD format) titled Feeling Blue, on Sunswept label. Mason still resides in Philadelphia up to the present.
Collaborations with other artists
Barbara Mason had worked with The Futures, another Philly soul act. Together they churned out three charting singles on the R&B chart between 1973 to 1975: “Love Is Here (#47 R&B) which was released on Gamble label, and two Buddah singles “Make It Last” (#35 R&B) and “We Got Each Other.” (#38 R&B)
Mason had also collaborated with songwriter and record producer Walter “Bunny” Sigler (aka “Mr. Emotion”) on the single “Locked in this Position” in 1977. It charted at #25 on the dance singles charts that year.
Philadelphia Soul legend
Barbara Mason has been credited as the “Originator” of what is “Philly Soul”. Barbara Mason has made a name for herself as a truly unique female soul artist. Her music reveals as young girls journey to womanhood, as she wrote many of her recordings. She has performed alongside Curtis Mayfield, Jackie Wilson, Isaac Hayes, The Temptations, and countless other top artist. Her songs have been recorded, covered, and sampled by a diverse range of artists ranging from R&B and HipHop to Pop and Jazz. Her music has appeared on numerous Classic Soul and R&B compilations, as well as soundtracks for the films “Auto Focus” and the critically acclaimed Indie film, Jesus’ Son.
Barbara Mason’s vocal style has had a significant impact on the careers of many of today’s top female R&B artists, including Angie Stone, Alicia Keys, and Mary J. Blige. In addition to her music publishing company, Marc James Music, she has founded her own record label and music production company, Lioness Recordings, and Mason Media Productions.
Mason Singing Profession Highlights
Mason was the lead singer of groups she started when she was 12 after winning local talent shows. She lived next door to Bill Oxendine, who was in a band called the Larks. Weldon Arthur McDougal III, an executive at a record label, was introduced to her by Bill. Then, McDougal put Mason in touch with Jimmy Bishop, who was a local DJ and the founder of Arctic Records. Mason was signed to Bishop’s Arctic Record Co. before she turned 15 and her first single, “Trouble Child,” was released.
In 1964, when he was 17, Mason released “Come to Me/Girls Have Feelings Too,” which did okay. In 1965, Mason, who was 18 at the time, recorded “Yes I’m Ready” in 1965. It became her first hit, topping the charts at No. 2 on the Billboard R&B chart, No. 5 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and No. 3 on the Top 100 of the US Cash Box. It reached as high as No. 12 on the Top Singles chart in Canada.
“Sad, Sad Girl,” Mason’s second big hit of the year, reached No. 12 on the Billboard chart in October 1965, and was followed in 1966 by “I Need Love,” which peaked at No. 5. “Oh, How It Hurts,” her 1968 hit, peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard chart. In 1970, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head/If You Knew Him Like I Do” reached its highest position on the Billboard pop chart, which was No. 38.
In 1980, Mason signed a contract with WMOT Records (We Men of Talent). The next year, he put out two singles: “I Never Love the Same Way Twice” and “She’s Got Papers, But I Got the Man.” But it was clear that her success was going down. She founded her own publishing company, Marc James Music, named after her son, but left the music industry soon after.
In 1992, Mason was asked to sing at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, California, by producer Alan Beck. After that great show, Mason started putting on shows from time to time. She put out “Feeling Blue” in 2007 and “The Soft Touch” in 2009. Both were on the Sunswept Music label.
Mason was still playing to sold-out crowds in 2016. In 2016, she was part of a concert called “Legends of Soul,” and in 2018, she was the star of “Forever Oldies Tour.” Both of these tours took place at the Terrace Theater in Long Beach, California. On March 1, 2016, Mason was added to the Soul Music Hall of Fame.