Short introduction to Norman Connors
Norman Connors is a noted American jazz drummer. Among the several R&B hits that have become platinum sellers are: “Valentine Love,” “We Both Need Each Other,” “You Are My Starship,” “Betcha By Golly Wow”, “Once I’ve Been There,” “Melancholy Fire” and many more. He has also served as a composer, record producer and arranger. All in all, Connors has released 21 albums and numerous charting singles especially on the R&B chart. Most of his charting singles were recorded under the Buddah label.
Connors’ early life and exposure to jazz
Norman Connors is a considerably talented and versatile jazz drummer who has churned out several R&B hits throughout the 1970s and 1980s. He is also a composer, arranger and producer. Connors was born on March 1, 1948 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; he used to be living in the same neighborhood as future comic legend Bill Cosby.
When he was a child Connors displayed his love for drums, and had since taken up drumming. When he was still attending grade school, Connors was already exposed to jazz, through the influences of schoolmates such as Lex Humphries (who would become a noted jazz drummer himself) and a younger brother of Jimmy “Spanky” de Brest, a jazz bassist who played with the Jazz Messengers.
Connors later attended the prestigious Juilliard School of Music. He is a formally trained drummer. And since jazz naturally allows improvisation, Connors emerges as an expert when it comes to it. He is considered a pioneer in the successful marriage of jazz and R&B which is prevalent in his body of work.
Connors’ first recording was in 1967, when he was working as a sideman for saxophonist Archie Shepp in their sessions for Shepp’s album The Magic of JuJu. Connors also played and toured with another jazz saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders before signing up with jazz label Cobblestone Records in 1972. On that label, Connors released his first album Dance of Magic which of course featured him as a bandleader for the first time.
Then he moved to Buddah Records in 1973 and released his first album there, Dark of Light. Since then Connors had stayed with Buddah for long, releasing several LPs and singles. His first hit was “Valentine Love” (from his album Saturday Night Special) which became a Top 10 R&B hit in 1975.
“You Are My Starship” – hit single and album
Connors’ biggest hit came in the following year when he released his sixth Buddah LP You Are My Starship in 1976. Co-produced by Connors, Jerry Schoenbaum, Skip Drinkwater and Onaje Allan Gumbs, and featuring Michael Henderson on vocals, You Are My Starship was positioned at #39 on the Billboard 200 album chart, #18 on the jazz albums chart and #5 on the R&B album charts that year.
You Are My Starship‘s title track went to #27 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and #4 on the R&B singles chart. It eventually became a platinum seller.
Connors’ other musical projects
Connors continued to make more surprises through his other singles such as “We Both Need Each Other,” “Betcha By Golly Wow,” “Once I’ve Been There,” and “Melancholy Fire,” which became hits on the R&B and jazz circles.
He signed with Arista in 1977, and in 1980 made a crossover to the disco genre when he released the single “Take It to the Limit” (from his Arista album of the same title). It became an R&B Top 40 hit.
Many of Connors’ hits feature guest vocalists such as Michael Henderson, Jean Carn and Phyllis Hyman, whose career Connors helped develop in particular. He has also served as a producer and arranger, directing the musical productions of the Starship Orchestra, Aquarian Dream, Al Jolson, and many other exceptionally talented jazz/R&B individuals and groups.
Connors has continued to be active up to the 21st century, offering his latest releases Eternity on Starship Records in 2000 and Star Power on Shanachie Records in 2009.