The Independents and Their Hit “Leaving Me”

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Introduction to The Independents

The Independents were a R&B vocal group in the 70s music era, originating from Chicago, Illinois. They consisted of Chuck Jackson, Maurice Jackson (not related to Chuck), Helen Curry, Eric Thomas, and Marvin Yancy. During their most productive years (1971-1975), the Independents scored eight charting singles both on the pop and black music charts, including the Top 40 hit and oldies classic favorite “Leaving Me” in 1973. After the group disbanded in 1975, Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy went on to become a successful production/songwriting duo, having collaborated with other artists such as Natalie Cole and Ronnie Dyson.

The Independents’ formation and early years

Chuck Jackson, Maurice Jackson, Helen Curry and Eric Thomas collectively known as The Independents were formed in 1971 in Chicago Illinois. The short-lived male/female vocal group gained several hits during the early 1970’s.

 The Independents’ releases

Throughout The Independents’ musical career, they had released all their material for Wind Records. The group issued their debut single in 1972 called “Just as Long as You Need Me” which peaked modestly at #84 on the Billboard Hot 100 while it charted the R&B’s Top Ten at #8. It was followed by an equally modest charter “I Just Want to Be There,” hitting #113 spot.

Their output was often smooth, easy yet full of emotion. I Just Want To Be There, from an audiophile perspective has been well implemented by Kent. The default ‘tone’ from early other 70s masters tends to be an overly warm presentation with a roll off suite of treble and mids. Not here, there’s an incisive nature to the lead vocal and an overall sense of clarity over the broad soundstage that gives this album a more modern sensibility.

In the winter of 1973, The Independents released the song that would become their best known recording which was called “Leaving Me.” Co-written by Maurice Barge and Jimmie Jiles, “Leaving Me” registered on the Billboard Hot 100 at #21 and stayed on the chart for 14 weeks. On the R&B chart, the song did extremely well, hitting at #1. It also became a million-selling record, earning a gold disc  from the Recording Industry Association of America (R.I.A.A.). The follow-up single “Baby I’ve Been Missing You” was released and it became a hit as well. It entered both pop and R&B charts at #41 and #4 respectively. In autumn, they issued the last single for that year called “Leaving Me” (#65 US, #12 R&B).

In 1974, The Independents relesed their last three singles: “Arise and Shine,” “The First Time We Met” and Let This Be the Reason.” The last one mentioned was their final entry to the pop chart at #88.

The group members’ later careers

After the group disbanded, Jackson and Yancy were still in the music circuit, working successfully as writers and producers for Phyllis Hyman, Ronnie Dyson and Natalie Cole whose most of her early singles were done by the tandem.

The Independents’ discography (may be impartial)

Wand Records

(Apr 1972)

  • A: Just As Long As You Need Me, Part I
  • B: Just As Long As You Need Me, Part II

(Sep 1972)

  • A: I Just Want To Be There
  • B: Can’t Understand It

(Jun 1973)

  • A: Baby I’ve Been Missing You
  • B: Couldn’t Hear Nobody Say (I Love You Like You Do)

(Oct 1973)

  • A: It’s All Over
  • B: Sara Lee

(Dec 1973)

  • A: The First Time We Met
  • B: The First Time We Met

(Dec 1973)

  • A: The First Time We Met
  • B: Show Me How

(Apr 1974)

  • A: Arise And Shine (Let’s Get It On) [Vocal]
  • B: Arise And Shine (Let’s Get It On) [Instrumental]

(April 1974)

  • A: Arise And Shine (Let’s Get It On)
  • B: I Found Love On A Rainy Day

(Aug 1974)

  • A: Let This Be A Lesson To You
  • B: No Wind, No Rain

The Members’ Background

Charles Chuck Jackson

Jackson wasborn in Greenville, South Carolina, on March 22, 1945. He was the R&B group The Independents’ lead singer and songwriter. The songwriting/production team of Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy gave Natalie Cole several gold and platinum-certified singles that launched her career, including “This Will Be,” “Inseparable,” “Sophisticated Lady [She’s a Different Lady],” “Our Love,” and “I’ve Got Love on My Mind.” Additionally, they gave Ronnie Dyson songs like “The More You Do It (The More I Like It Done to Me)” and “Don’t Be Afraid.”

Chuck Jackson was primarily the group’s lyricist. Jackson’s mother, who raised him in Greenville, South Carolina, fostered his love in music. Jackson sang in the  choir which obtained his fundamental training in music. He performed in the high school chorus as well.

In the ’80s, Jackson produced Be Woods’ “Azz Izz,” Phyllis Hyman, and others. Other LPs produced by the duo include Natalie Cole’s Don’t Look Back, I’m Ready, Natalie… Live, and Natalie Cole; Peabo Bryson’s We’re the Best of Friends; and the Dells’ One Step Closer. Many of the sides Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy produced of Natalie Cole are on the 1990 Capitol CD The Collection, the 1995 EMI-Capitol CD I’ve Got Love on My Mind, This Will Be: Natalie Cole’s Everlasting Love, and the HOL CD Sophisticated Lady.

Maurice Jackson

Born on June 12, 1944 in Chicago, Maurice was the half-brother of the Reverend Jesse Jackson. When Maurice saw singer Jerry Butler perform at the Regal Theater in Chicago when he was nine years old, he immediately declared that he wanted to be like Jerry Butler and sing like Jerry Butler. He was in perfect harmony with the road that led to his distinctive career as a musician, singer, and songwriter because to his unusual voice, vocal range, and ability to play the piano by ear.  

First, his mother sent him to the University of Chicago Music Conservatory to improve and polish his voice abilities when he was in his early teens when she became acutely aware of his musical ability.

The radio hit show-stopper Lucky Fellow by Maurice Jackson became widely popular due to the airplay momentum. Eddie Thomas, the promoter, then made arrangements to have Maurice appear on Soul Train. Soul Train was a platform for musical performers to display their skills in the 1970s and a ticket to popularity. Maurice became a Lucky Fellow after performing the song “Lucky Fellow” on Soul Train. He was seen and heard all over the United States, and his distinctive voice and lyrical approach shone a bright light for him all the way to the United Kingdom. Even today, record promoters in the UK still play Lucky Fellow and keep in touch with Maurice to express their continued affection for the song and the singer who gave them Lucky Fellow.

Helen Curry

Charles Jackson had written a few songs when he decided to start a band. He had secretly wanted to become a singer. Marvin was approached by Charles about starting a group. Marvin Yancy concurred, and the two started looking for the remainder of the fledgling organization.

The time it took for the hunt to be over was short. The Chicago soul scene has been supported by Benjamin and Company. However, Ben Hernandez’s original band had disbanded. Helen Curry and Maurice Jackson, two ex-members of Benjamin and Company, were singing together at a nearby bar when Charles Jackson noticed them. He immediately realized that these were the puzzle parts he was lacking for his musical jigsaw. 

Helen Curry and Maurice Jackson were approached by Charles Jackson, who inquired about joining his burgeoning band. Intrigued by the group, they consented to join Charles and Marvin’s new group.

Commercial success eluded Helen Curry. She had released a quartet of singles between 1968 and 1969, but they all failed commercially. When she joined Benjamin and Company, it was supposedly a fresh start; however, the group disbanded. That was until she joined Charles and Marvin with the new group, The Independents.

Marvin Yancy

The son of a Baptist pastor, Yancy was born on May 31, 1950, in Chicago. At age 13, he started performing at his father’s church. He attended the Moody Bible Institute. Yancy, together with Chuck Jackson went on to great success as a songwriting team. In late 1974 they began working with emerging singer Natalie Cole, who’d just signed to Capitol Records. They wrote her first hit song in 1975, “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love),” and their partnership with her would produce four gold and two platinum albums.

Conclusion

Every kind of art speaks to its period, and whether explicitly or covertly, throughout significant historical events, art consistently reflects those changes. New aesthetics or ideologies are frequently developed by the artists themselves in response. The Independents, a virtuous Chicago soul band, didn’t start a musical revolution on their own, but they nevertheless demonstrate the point: they were founded in part as a result of significant events that occurred in the latter years of the civil rights struggle.

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