Early life and career
Joe Simon, who was born in Louisiana in 1943, began singing at a local church where his father was a Baptist minister. He joined the Golden West Gospel Singers and together they also discovered secular music, which they finally pursued.
Before long, Simon left to pursue a solo career. In 1964, he signed with his first label Vee-Jay and released a handful a singles there including the R&B Top 10 hit “My Adorable One.” But it was not to be; his short stint as Vee-Jay folded. He spent his days touring across the country.
Nashville, Tennessee disc jockey John Richbourg discovered Simon sometime in 1966. He helped Simon land a deal with Sound Stage 7 label, Monument Records’ subsidiary imprint. His debut single with the label was “Teenager’s Prayer” which peaked at #11 on the R&B chart that same year.
Rising “country soul” star
Within the next couple of years, Simon was gradually establishing his presence through his string of hits. They include “My Special Prayer,” “Nine Pound Steel,” “No Bad Songs,” and “(You Keep Me) Hangin’ On,” which was Simon’s first Top 40 pop hit. In 1969, he achieved his first R&B chart-topper and also his first Top 20 hit “The Chokin’ Kind.” It seems that country soul became the right formula for Simon after all.
In the latter part of 1970, Simon moved to Spring Records label, which was Polydor’s subsidiary imprint. He teamed up with respectable songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, with whom Simon would also write songs. With his collaboration with them, Simon continued to glean decent hits such as “Your Time to Cry,” “Drowning in the Sea Of Love” (#11 pop, #3 R&B), and “Power Of Love” (#11 pop, #1 R&B).
In 1973, Simon scored another hit when he sang the theme song of the motion picture Cleopatra Jones. It went to #18 on the Hot 100 and #3 on the R&B singles chart.
Simon’s later career and life after music
During his time with Spring Records, Simon also co-wrote songs with Raeford Gerald. Their partnership proved to be successful, yielding other hits for Simon such as “Step By Step” (#37 pop, #6 R&B) and “Get Down, Get Down (Get on the Floor).” The latter single provided Simon his first and last Top 10 pop hit, reaching #8 in 1975.
Since after scoring his biggest hit, Simon had continued to score hits but they were significantly minor ones such as “Music In My Bones,” “I Need You, You Need Me,” “Come Get To This,” “Easy to Love,” “One Step At A Time,” “For Your Love, Love, Love,” “Love Vibration,” “Glad You Came My Way,” and numerous others.
In the early 1980s, Simon essentially retired from actively making secular music to become an evangelist preacher as well as to devote time to record and release gospel music. In the late 1990s, Simon was given a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.