Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Timi, a Chicago Lassie

Yesterday, in a class I teach, I was checking homework, and a young lady whose surname starts with Z (how niftily did I avoid the “zed” vs. “zee” issue there, eh?) asked if I would please start at the end of the alphabet once in awhile. I thought about it for a microsecond, and I called her up after I checked the homework of a guy whose name starts with A.

If I had done that earlier in life and more often, I would have discovered one of my favorite songs long before 2006. Why didn’t I find it before then? It’s singer’s last name starts with Y.

When I dig through my Top 40 Hits book for songs I don’t know, I rarely end up in the Ys. It’s a small section, and it’s really easy to overlook. A huge percentage of Y artists are One-Hit Wonders, which should tell you something about naming a band with a Y word. Only a couple of compelling artists are there: “Weird Al” Yankovic, the Yardbirds, and Yes.

Oh, that Neil Young guy, too. But there are 12 One-Hit Wonders out of 22 Y acts. Z is worse, 8 of 11, but let’s not nitpick. I’m tired.

So, I take no blame for missing one Y artist for so long. Whenever I saw the artist on compilations, it was always the same song, one I had never heard. I didn’t know if the artist was male or female, and I assumed it was another One-Hit Wonder. Finally, one of the compilations I bought contained this compilation cliché, and I listened to it.

It was a 1961 remake of a 1955 Roy Hamilton recording, and I was neutral as to its value to me. I liked the deep voice, which I figured to be a woman’s voice, though I also thought at one time that Eddie Holman might be a woman with a man’s name. This person had what could have been an odd spelling of a man’s name, so I was pretty confused.

This singer was Timi Yuro, and the song everyone anthologized was “Hurt,” a #4 song in late summer, 1961. Her vocal performance showed considerable skill and nuance, but the song was a basic 1955 song, and it was the Sixties when she recorded it.

The breakthrough for me came when I started iTunesing from the end of the alphabet. One of my first acquisitions was another Timi Yuro song, “What’s a Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You)" (Liberty 55469). This one was an ear-opener for me.

When whiteray graciously offered me the chance to share my 13 favorite Hot 100 hits, I nearly included this one. The arrangement sounds like a precursor to the 1964 Bert Berns-produced Drifters hits, which doesn’t mean the arrangement was ahead of its time. It simply recalls some other tunes I enjoy. It could also sound like a precursor to Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, because he produced it. All of the Spector hallmarks are there, in a spectacular arrangement.

What hooked me was the voice. In both “Hurt” and her third hit, “Make the World Go Away” (which she recorded before Eddy Arnold), Timi does a fine job with slow numbers. Nevertheless, it’s in this uptempo number, one that allows her gruff voice to sound betrayed and gleeful at payback, that Timi’s voice finds its niche.

And she really cut loose on this one. It bugs me that the recording session came off as it did. In the other two hits, her voice is crystal-clear recording-wise, which allows us to hear the grit in her pipes. But on my favorite of her recordings, someone, maybe Spector, didn’t hear the needles in the meters when they slapped hard right while she belted the vocals. That would be why they also have visual cues that a microphone is about to explode. But evidently, no one looked at the meters.

And so, it sounds as if they put waxed paper between Timi and the microphone, especially in the bridge. That’s unfortunate, but she makes her musical point very well. Play it loud.

Born in Chicago in 1940, her real name is a bit up for grabs. Whitburn, 7th ed. says her name was Rosemarie Timothy Yuro. Wikipedia calls her Rosemary Timothy Yuro. Whitburn 8th says she was born Rosemarie Timotea Aurro, which sounds most likely for being so exotic. She was of Italian lineage, so I vote for option three. It’s an excellent name. But wait! An official website that stems from the Official Timi Yuro Association, which she co-founded in 1981, agrees with Wikipedia. Sigh.

I’m not the only music fan to appreciate her voice. Apart from me, and, most likely, you, there’s Elvis (Presley) and Willie Nelson, who facilitated her final album in 1982. At age 42, she was, of course, still in fine voice. Around the time of that recording, she was diagnosed with throat cancer, and she eventually had her larynx removed. She lived as a cancer survivor until March 30, 2004.

I’ll post the song, but if you simply want to hear it, and see a still of this lovely young woman, you can follow this link to a YouTube post. Rather than embed it here, I’m linking to it, because my link gives you the stereo track.

"What's a Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You)" (YouTube)

Timi Yuro, What's a Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You) (zShare)

Saturday, another 1950s chart summary, for Week Five. See you then!


Anonymous said...

Oh man, props to you for bigging up the great Timi Yuro.

Lizzle-ba-Dizzle said...

Hey! This is not "spoken-word comedy from the early days of music"! But I'm not complaining, because this song is awesome. :) That's quite the voice.

Speaking of good voices, after your post about Kate Campbell, I obtained "Moonpie Dreams" from eMusic. After listening to that, I bought her latest album wen I saw it at a local music store. Thank you for all these great introductions. :)

Maia said...

Hey...enjoyed this post, even though I haven't heard some of the songs you discussed....