Who is Laura Lee?
Laura Lee is an American R&B/soul/gospel singer-songwriter. Her songs, especially during the 1960s and the 1970s, center around and celebrate female experiences, and laid the foundation of “women”’s soul material (“Women’s Love Right” is one such example). In 1967 she achieved her first R&B hit under Chess Records with “Dirty Man.” But she would later score her biggest R&B charter with “Rip Off” in 1972, under Hot Wax label. By the mid-1970s Lee became ill with cancer and retired from the limelight to receive treatment and therapy. When her health was improving, Lee turned to gospel music. By 1990 Lee was now cancer-free, and fully recovered. She later became an ordained minister.
From gospel to secular music
Laura Lee was born in Chicago, Illinois on March 9, 1945 but later spent her formative years in Detroit, Michigan where she had moved along with her mother. A few years after, she was adopted by Rev. E. Allan Rundless (who was the former member of the Soul Stirrers, which also included future star Sam Cooke) and his wife Ernestine who also led a gospel act called the Meditation Singers.
Through them Lee became Laura Lee Rundless. Later on, she took over the lead vocalist role of The Meditation Sisters, replacing erstwhile singer Della Reese. Although by then Lee continued to tour with the group and sing gospel songs, she launched her solo career in 1965, performing secular R&B and soul material.
Her first record was “To Win Your Heart” for Ric-Tic Records in 1966. In 1967 she signed with Chess Records and scored her first charting single with “Dirty Man” which became a minor pop and R&B Top 20 hit. She recorded it at Rick Hall’s FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
Lee would go on to score mostly minor hits such as “Wanted: Lover, No Experience Necessary,” “Up Tight, Good Man,” “Need to Belong,” “As Long As I Got You,” “Hang It Up,” “Wedlock Is a Padlock,” and “Women’s Love Rights” (her first Top 40 pop hit in 1971, at #36). “Women’s Love Rights” and such songs center around and celebrate female experiences, and laid the foundation of “women”’s soul material.
However, she would later score her biggest R&B charter with “Rip Off” in 1972, under Hot Wax label. Although it went to #68 on the pop chart, it otherwise peaked at #3 R&B. She also recorded music for Ariola label.
Lee’s illness and recovery; and her return to singing gospel
By the mid-1970s Lee became ill with cancer and retired from the limelight to receive treatment and therapy. During her trying years while undergoing treatment, she turned to prayer as her strength to overcome her illness. When she became better Lee decided to take her music in a more spiritual level, so starting from the early 1980s she turned to singing gospel music as a way of gratitude as well as celebration for her cancer remission. In 1983 she issued a gospel album Jesus Is the Light of My Life, which was produced by (Reverend) Al Green.
Lee later devoted to missionary work and was later ordained as a minister. She continued to record and performed mostly gospel music.