The Life and Music of Chris Bartley


Chris Bartley (born in Harlem, NY on April 17, 1947, passing away on October 26, 2009) was an American R&B singer who was mostly known for his hit single “The Sweetest Thing This Side Of Heaven” written by Van McCoy and charting at #32 on The Billboard Hot 100 and #10 on the R&B Singles Chart.  Chris Bartley formed his own group with Henry Powell, Sam Nesbitt, Ronald Marshall and William Graham in the mid 60’s called The Soul Inspirations (the group had several names after that).  The group never had much success so Bartley went out on his own once he was signed by R&B singer, producer and arranger Van McCoy.  The pair recorded the hit song, but was unable to follow their hit song with another one.  Chris Bartley has been labeled as a one-hit wonder.  Bartley continued to record on Buddah, Musicor, Right On!, Bell and others attempting to make another hit record. Bartley left the music industry, but later returned as a member of The Ad-Libs.  On October 26, 2009 Chris Bartley passed away due to kidney cancer.  He was another great musical artist who is somewhat forgotten.  Other Chris Bartley hit songs:  “Love Me Baby,” “I Found A Goodie,” “Be Mine Forever,” “I See Your Name,” “Baby It’s Wonderful,” “I’ll Take The Blame,” “I’ll Be Loving You,” “Baby I’m Yours,” “(My Baby’s) One Wonderful Girl,” “I Know We Can Work It Out,”  “For You,” “You Get Next To My Heart,” “Truer Words Were Never Spoken,” “The Feeling You Give Me,” “A Man, A Woman,” “Tomorrow Keeps Me Shining On Me,” “Gotta Tell Somebody (About My Baby)” and “I Go Out Of My Mind.”

Bartley’s early years

American R&B singer Chris Bartley was known by his 1967 chart-topper single “The Sweetest Thing This Side of Heaven.” Bartley was born on April 17, 1947 in Harlem, New York where he spent his childhood days hanging out at the Apollo Theater (and its vicinity), absorbing the sound of 50’s soul and doo-wop. According to sources, one of his early inspirations was the band from his neighborhood called “Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers,” who went on to score some hits in the mid- to late-50’s. Eventually, Bartley formed his first group, The Soulful Inspirations who kept on changing their members and band names for several times, including The Mindbenders.

Music career

In the late 1960’s Bartley, along with band member Ronald Marshall, formed a duo and auditioned for Van McCoy. Instead of signing them as a duo, McCoy only chose Bartley as a solo artist for his newly-established imprint Vando Records. Bartley’s solo career picked up steam in 1967 when he released “The Sweetest Thing This Side of Heaven.” Written by McCoy, the single hit the pop charts reaching #10 on the US R&B Singles chart and #32 on the Billboard pop charts. Bartley issued a full album afterwards and embarked on a tour both in America and England. Later the same year, he released “Baby It’s Wonderful.”  Despite being an excellent Motown-styled tune, it failed to make a dent on the charts.

In 1968, Vandor and Bartley was later signed to Buddha Records where he released his second single “Baby I’m Yours.” But just like his second single, it was also failed to chart.

In the mid-70’s, Bartley left the music business due to family health problems but did a comeback when he joined the band The Ad-Libs.

Chris Bartley passed away on October 26, 2009 due to kidney failure. He was 62 years old.