Derrick Lara: Hello Stranger (Masai, 1982?)
In my humble opinion, Barbara Lewisâ€™s 1963 hit, â€œHello Strangerâ€ is one of the best jukebox singles of all time. Now, I might think this because it does appear in at least two jukebox movie scenes that I know of, most (recently) famously, in one of the last scenes in Moonlight as well as (perhaps not coincidentally) in one of the last scenes of last yearâ€™s Giri/Haji series on Netflix. But beyond those scenes incepting my above claim, I also think Lewisâ€™s is a song absolutely suffused in nostalgia â€” just listen to the lyrics â€” and Iâ€™d argue that since at least the 1970s, jukeboxes have been imbued with nostalgic symbolism (at the time, it was for the 1950â€™s) and continues to have that totemic quality (watch any of Wong Kar-Waiâ€™s early films for example).
Anyways, this brings me to Derrick Laraâ€™s 1982 cover, originally recorded for Masai Records, a spin-off of Jamaican American producer Lowell â€œBig Tankaâ€ Hillâ€™s Tanka imprint. I feel like Lewisâ€™s original translates incredibly well to reggae, especially in how a riddim can carry that rhythm guitar over with ease. Laraâ€™s is hardly the only example but it is, to me, one of the better oneâ€™s out there, a perfect distillation of what early â€™80s lovers rock sounded like.
The one thing that initially threw me is that I didnâ€™t realize how good Laraâ€™s falsetto was so I initially assumed it was his sister Jennifer Lara singing on here (she actually covered the song itself in the mid 1990s) but nope, that is Derrick hitting those sweet high notes.
Best I know, there is no 7â€ version of Laraâ€™s cover though the British version (on Pama) came out on 10â€ which was fairly unusual for the label overall though relatively common ~1982 for whatever reason.