Ruth Brown: So Long
From Rock and Roll (Atlantic, 1957). Also on Miss Rhythm.
Ruth Brown passed away today in Las Vegas at the age of 78. To be candid, I never followed her musical career in any meaningful way – her sound helped set the stage for later soul divas, especially for other Atlantic stand-outs like Aretha Franklin, but even if I never spent much time with her discography, I could appreciate the equally important contribution she made as an advocate for her fellow artists. Atlantic might have been the “House that Ruth Built” but Ruth herself created other institutions to assist other singers and musicians whose needs were rarely looked after by their record labels, especially once their hit-making days had ended.
For people who bought copies of my Soul Sides Vol. 1 compilation, a portion of your money went to the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, dedicated to the “historical and cultural preservation” of R&B. Ruth Brown founded this organization (with help from Atlantic) as a way to make sure that the legacy of the music – and its creators – wouldn’t be trampled under either label greed or industry neglect. I’m proud my modest CD could help support such a cause.
To learn more about Brown, check out her award-winning autobiography, Miss Rhythm.