Singer Freda Payne, best known for the No. 1 hit song, “Band of Gold,” in 1970, has been the star of several Broadway touring productions, and a popular fixture on television, stage, and in movies for decades.
Now, celebrity scribe Mark Bego’s latest book (his 67th!), “Band Of Gold-A Memoir” (Yorkshire Publishing), captures Freda’s life in a frank, funny and fascinating look back at her life and times.
In a tribute to its enduring sound, film producers often use “Band of Gold” in move soundtracks.
“Now and Then” (1995), immediately comes to mind, and the song was most recently heard in Spike Lee’s latest movie, “Da Five Bloods.”
In 2021, Academy Award winning director Quentin Tarantino called Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold” album one of his Top Ten favorite LPs of all time.
Bego has made a career out of celebrity bios and this book is no exception.
In “Band of Gold,” Freda Payne and Bego delve into the singer’s enduring career, working with the songwriting/producing trio of Holland – Dozier – Holland, as well as her work and relationships a number of marquee performers.
They include Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, The Supremes, Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Jackson, Sarah Vaughn, Bobby Darin, Jerry Lewis, Lena Horne, Aretha Franklin, Quincy Jones, Sammy Davis, Jr., Eddie Murphy, Edgar Bronfman Jr., Berry Gordy Jr., Natalie Cole, and Johnny Mathis. And, that’s just the beginning!
Freda tells how Berry Gordy, Jr. nearly signed her to Motown Records; was pursued by Ellington; fired by Pearl Bailey; and eventually rose to fame both on the Broadway stage and the record charts.
The very-conversational memoir also features a foreword by the late-Mary Wilson, who knew both Freda and Mark. The book, out officially this month, is a compelling and intimate look at the behind-the-scenes world of show business.
The book was officially launched at The Cutting Room in New York City and The New York Indpendent caught up with them both there:
NY Independent (NYI): How did you both meet?
Mark Bego (MB): Actually, the first time I met Freda, was in the 1970’s when I was the Nightlife Editor of CUE magazine in New York City, and Freda was performing at The Playboy Club in Manhattan. She was headlining their nightclub room.
NYI: Freda, although it may have seemed like it at the time, to many of us uneducated fans who first discovered you when we fell in love with and bought the record “Band Of Gold,” you were not an overnight success by any stretch. What did it feel like to suddenly connect in such a big way when “Band of Gold” was a massive hit worldwide hit?
Freda Payne (FP): It felt wonderful to finally have a huge international hit record of my own. I had been in the record business for seven years before “Band Of Gold.” Although I had recorded three separate albums for three different labels, I didn’t score a recognizable hit from any of them. Finally, I had my big breakthrough, with Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland, writing and producing the song. With that one hit record, and my other recordings on Invictus, finally my career had a focal point.
NYI: Invictus Records ... tell us about that label and how you came to be on it.
FP: Actually, I was sitting in the apartment I shared with a friend, when singer Tamiko Jones phoned me to tell me that she was sitting in her apartment with a friend of mine from Detroit. It turned out to be Brian Holland, and he basically offered me a recording deal over the telephone. He told me that Holland – Dozier – Holland had left Motown and started their own label. The next thing I knew, I was in Detroit recording my first album, “Band of Gold” for Invictus Records.
And then after that came the follow-up hit, “Bring The Boys Home,” another Top Five Hit in 1971. And, the song was actually banned in some areas because of the anti-war message.
“Deeper and Deeper” and “Cherish What Is Dear To You (While It’s Near To You)” were the singles that followed “Band of Gold” … and then came “Bring the Boys Home.” It was included on my “Contact” album, which was nominated for a Grammy Award, and became the most successful album of my career.
NYI: Freda, you have a brand-new EP out, correct?
FP: Yes, it’s called “Let There Be Love” and features duets with Johnny Mathis and Kenny Lattimore and Dee Dee Bridgewater.
NYI: Mark, you’ve done several books on female singers (Cher, Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt). What made Freda the next subject?
MB: Well, to tell you the truth, we had been talking about it for a couple of years, and we had started it a couple of times. Finally, after I did “Supreme Glamour” with Mary Wilson, it was Mary who encouraged me to make that my next book. We had all been friends for a long time, and finally the right time presented itself. People keep asking me whether the next book will be a tribute to his great-friend Mary Wilson. I have all the research material from my 45-year friendship with her and it seems like a natural project for me and a fitting tribute to Mary.