Peaches and Herb are known as an American vocalist duo, once comprising Herb Fame (born October 1, 1942) and Francine “Peaches” Hurd Barker (April 28, 1947 – August 13, 2005). Herb has remained a constant in “Peaches & Herb” since its creation in 1966, while seven different women have filled the role of “Peaches”.
Herb Fame (born Herbert Feemster, October 1, 1942, in Anacostia, Washington, D.C.), sang in church and neighborhood groups as a child. After graduation from high school, he worked in a local record store where he met record producer Van McCoy and was signed to Columbia subsidiary Date Records by McCoy and A&R executive Dave Kapralik. Francine “Peaches” Barker (born Francine Edna Hurd, April 28, 1947, in Washington, D.C.), using the stage name Francine Day, started a singing trio initially dubbed The Darlettes and later renamed The Sweet Things after a change of record label to Date Records. Having produced two releases for the trio, McCoy decided to record Feemster/Fame and Hurd/Day together at Kapralik’s suggestion. The resulting single, “We’re in This Thing Together,” was distributed to radio stations but went nowhere for months until December 1966, when a St. Louis disc jockey broadcast the single’s B-side, a revival of the 1934 hit “Let’s Fall in Love”.
The new duo, christened “Peaches & Herb”, had a string of successful singles and albums over the next two years such as “Let’s Fall in Love”, “Close Your Eyes”, “For Your Love”, and “Love Is Strange”. Despite burgeoning success and a media image as the “Sweethearts of Soul”, Barker chose to semi-retire from the duo after two years because of the rigors of touring. Marlene Mack (aka Marlene Jenkins), who had sung on the Jaynetts’ hit “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses” and had recorded as Marlina Mars, replaced Barker on stage, but Barker remained on all of the duo’s recordings for Date Records. During this period, the semi-retired “Peaches” also worked as a solo artist using her married name, Francine Barker. She released three singles in total on the Columbia Records label, including “Angels in the Sky” and “Mister DJ”.
Fame retired the act in 1970 when, for personal reasons, he enrolled in the police academy of Washington, D.C. and thereafter joined the city’s police department. Peaches & Herb lay dormant until Fame decided to re-enter the music business in 1976. In his search for a new “Peaches”, Herb again enlisted the assistance of Van McCoy, who suggested that Linda Greene would be suitable for the position. Fame met Greene and concurred, thereby leading to formation of the most successful of the “Peaches & Herb” incarnations to date. Linda’s early musical training (while growing up in Washington, D.C.) was at The Sewell Music Conservatory.
Fame and Greene recorded seven albums altogether, including one album released only in Argentina. Their first album, Peaches & Herb, was recorded for MCA Records and produced by Van McCoy, but it generated only one charted hit, “We’re Still Together”. Peaches & Herb signed with MVP/Polydor and under the management of Paul J. Cohn, released 2 Hot, which went gold. The album’s first single, “Shake Your Groove Thing”, went gold and peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1979. The follow-up single, viewed as the album’s “secret weapon” by producer/songwriter Freddie Perren, was the triple platinum hit “Reunited”. This song, evoking the 1960s Peaches & Herb hit “United” (originally recorded and made a hit by The Intruders), reached #1 on both the Hot 100, the Billboard R&B chart, and in Canada. “Reunited” was nominated for a Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1980.
Subsequent releases with Polydor produced several more hits, including the lasting wedding staple, “I Pledge My Love”. After changing labels again to the Entertainment Company, Fame and Greene released their seventh album in 1983. Scoring only one minor hit, Greene and Fame decided to make no more albums and retired their partnership. Once again, Fame returned to law enforcement and joined the U.S. Marshals Service in 1986 as a deputized court security officer at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Greene returned to her family and, together with her husband Stephen Tavani, went on to release three gospel albums and start the charity WOW (Winning Our World).
While remaining employed at the court, Fame again revived the brand in 1990. For the fourth “Peaches” he chose Patrice Hawthorne, fresh from television exposure on the Natalie Cole-hosted talent show Big Break. The duo appeared infrequently in concerts, and did not release any recordings. Hawthorne remains a Philadelphia bandleader of her own orchestra, CTO Soho.
Due to unpaid royalties, Fame’s financial state was far from wealthy despite years of hits and selling nine million records with Greene. Thus, in 2001, Fame and Greene hired attorneys Oren Warshavsky and Steven Ames Brown through Artists Rights Enforcement Corporation. The attorneys brought a lawsuit against MVP Records, then headed by Christine Perren. Perren’s testimony at trial revealed a series of contradictions in MVP’s defense, with the result that Fame and Greene received royalties, income, and a reaffirmation of their artists’ rights. Those rights have since been vigorously defended. Having financial security, Fame would then have been able to leave the court and focus solely on his music career. Instead, he banked significant funds and continued enjoying the work.
A fifth “Peaches”—singer, songwriter, and breast cancer advocate Miriamm—joined the duo in 2002. Miriamm began touring with Herb and was introduced to the world as the new “Peaches” when she joined Herb in the PBS televised “Rhythm, Love & Soul” Fundraising drive. They shared the stage with greats such as Aretha Franklin, Gloria Gaynor and Lou Rawls, among others. Their performance re-introduced Peaches and Herb and their on-stage chemistry was so well received, it sparked another invitation to the duo for the follow-up star-studded installment of the PBS show featuring R&B greats such as Irene Cara, Heatwave, and Anita Ward. Both performances currently air periodically throughout the year. Miriamm currently performs as a free-lance vocalist and has founded a breast cancer foundation, EPW Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., in honor of her mother, Edith P. Wright, providing support to families facing breast cancer.
Wanda Makle subsequently performed with Fame in weekend appearances, and in 2008 they were reported to be planning a recording together. Those plans dissolved, and instead Makle was ultimately dropped in favor of another “Peaches,” Meritxell Negre from Barcelona, Spain.
Negre, who was introduced to Fame by producer Bill Davis, is the first-ever non-black “Peaches” and third recording artist to co-record a Peaches and Herb album. Together, Fame and Negre recorded Colors of Love, the first album from Peaches & Herb since 1983. Combined with Fame’s classic, zesty tenor flair, Negre’s soulful, alto-soprano range seamlessly replaces Linda Greene 25 years after the Peaches & Herb album Remember. Colors of Love was released in May 2009 by Imagen Records, approximately three months after Negre’s stage debut as “Peaches”.
Fame has since returned to touring with Wanda Makle.