Freda Charcilia Payne (born September 19, 1942)[nb 1] is an American Soul/R&B singer and actress best known for her million selling 1970 hit single, “Band of Gold”. She was also an actress in musicals and film, as well as the host of a TV talk show. Freda is the older sister of former Supreme Scherrie Payne.
Early life and career
Payne was born in Detroit, Michigan, and grew up listening to different jazz singers, such as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. As a teenager, she attended the Detroit Institute of Musical Arts; she soon began singing radio commercial jingles, and took part in (and won many) local TV and radio talent shows.
In 1963, she moved to New York City and worked with many different entertainers, including Quincy Jones, Pearl Bailey, and Bill Cosby. The next year, her debut album, a jazz recording with arranger Manny Albam entitled After the Lights Go Down Low and Much More!!!, was released on the Impulse! label. (This album was re-issued on CD in Japan in early 2002, and again in the United States in 2005.) In 1965 she toured Europe for the first time recording an album in Sweden with Don Gardner and Bengt-Arne Wallin. In 1966 she released her second American album, again in the jazz style, How Do You Say I Don’t Love You Anymore, for MGM Records. She also made occasional guest appearances on different television shows including The Merv Griffin Show and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
She added theatrical credits to her repertoire: she understudied Leslie Uggams for the Broadway show Hallelujah Baby in 1967, and appeared with the Equity Theatre in a production of Lost in the Stars.
In 1969, her old friends back home in Detroit, Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Edward Holland, Jr., persuaded her to sign with their newly formed record label Invictus. During that same year, her first Invictus single, “Unhooked Generation” (a minor R&B hit), was released. Shortly thereafter, Eddie Holland offered her a song entitled “Band of Gold”, which he along with Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier co-wrote (under the pen name Edythe Wayne) with Ronald Dunbar. In early 1970, the song became an instant pop smash reaching #3 in the US and #1 in the UK for six consecutive weeks; it also gave Payne her first gold record. Global sales were estimated at two million. An album of the same name proved to be fairly successful as well. Other Invictus singles included “Deeper and Deeper”, “You Brought the Joy”, and the Vietnam War protest song “Bring the Boys Home” (U.S. Billboard Hot 100 #12, 1971; her second gold record. Her other Invictus albums were Contact (1971), The Best of Freda Payne (1972, a compilation which included four new, unissued songs), and her last Invictus album Reaching Out (1973).
In 1973, she left Invictus and recorded albums for ABC/Dunhill and Capitol, but she never found the commercial success that she had enjoyed with Invictus. She recorded a duet “I Wanna See You Soon” with Capitol stablemates Tavares, which was a radio airplay hit in the UK in 1977.