Jackie DeShannon - Biography



Jackie DeShannon is a singer and songwriter. Although she penned hits for others and sometimes herself, her versatility may've worked against her, with a stable of labels for the most part proving incapable of translating her considerable talent to considerable sales.

 

Sharon Lee Myers Born August 21nd, 1944, in Hazel, Kentucky to farmers Sandra Jean and James Erwin Myers. By the age of six, she was singing country tunes on local radio. The family abandoned farming and moved to Aurora, Illinois (her mother's home town) where her father resumed his career as a barber. After a year, they moved to Batavia, Illinois, where Sharon attended high school, performing publically as "Jackie Dee" and "Sherry Lee." To distinguish herself from Brenda Lee and Sandra Dee, she chose "Jackie Shannon" and then, "Jackie DeShannon." Although she had little success, Eddie Cochran was impressed with her versions of "Buddy" and "Trouble" and arranged for her travel to California where she formed a writing partnership with Sharon Sheeley that produced "Dum Dum" for Brenda Lee and "I Love Anastasia" for The Fleetwoods.

 

In 1960, DeShannon signed with Liberty Records. Late in the year, "Lonely Girl" was a minor hit. The singles that followed, however, flopped. "The Prince" peeked at #108. In 1962, "Faded Love"  reached #97. In 1963, "When You Walk in the Room" was a Top 40 hit in Canada. There, her recording of "Needles and Pins" made it all the way to the top. For Jackie DeShannon (1963 Liberty), the singer originally envisioned an album of Dylan covers but the idea was rejected by Liberty. She did record three of his songs, along with more commercial standards in the glossy folk-pop style then popular. In February 1964, De Shannon got her biggest break when she was chosen to open for The Beatles on their first US tour. At the same tim, her "Don't Doubt Yourself Babe" appeared on the debut by The Byrds. Her own Don't Turn Your Back On Me (1964 Liberty) featured three early Randy Newman compositions (two of which he wrote with DeShannon).

 

In the mid '60s, DeShannon recorded at least five albums of demos for Metric Music, presumably to advertise her songwriting skills. Some of these intimate, acoustic versions are, not surprisingly, highly sought after and Metric Music Demo May 27, 1965 (1965 Metric) is one of the more easily available. That same year, DeShannon briefly stayed in England, where she formed a songwriting partnership withJimmy Page, which resulted in "Dream Boy" and "Don't Turn Your Back on Me." Page and DeShannon also wrote material for singer Marianne Faithfull and DeShannon also appeared on Ready Steady Go!.

 

After DeShannon moved to New York, she began working with Randy Newman but scored her biggest hit with Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "What the World Needs Now Is Love" in 1965, which reached number seven in the US and number one in Canada. It was subsequently included on This Is Jackie DeShannon (1965 Imperial Records), which showcased her big, orchestrated ballad side. Rather lazily, Imperial tacked on some earlier songs as well, which not surprisingly sounded rather out of place. In The Wind (1965 Imperial) followed. On January 29, 1966, she married her Liberty Records executive Irving "Bud" Dain. Her next album, Are You Ready For This? (1966 Imperial), signaled a shift toward rock and soul. New Image (1967 Imperial), on the other hand, swung toward limp pop that bordered on easy listening. Tellingly, it only featured a couple of her own compositions.

 

DeShannon got back on track with the Calvin Carter produced, R&B-ish For You (1967 Imperial). Me About You (1968 Imperial) featured few originals, but relied on talents including Jimmy Webb, Van Dyke Parks and Tim Hardin. Laurel Canyon (1968 Imperial) mixed country and soul in way that perfectly represented the vibe of the titular Los Angeles neighborhood. However, it was the follow-up, Put A Little Love In Your Heart (1969 Imperial), that returned her to the charts, with the title track and "Love Will Find a Way." On 1970's To Be Free (1970 Imperial), DeShannon wrote or co-wrote eight of the album's 11 songs for another winner.

 

After her relationship with Dain ended, DeShannon left Imperial and signed with Capitol, who released one of her finest albums, the stripped-down Songs (1971 Capitol). After her brief stint at Capitol, DeShannon moved to Atlantic. After a solid start with Jackie (1972 Atlantic), she began working with Van Morrison. With the exception of 1973's "Sweet Sixteen" b/w "Speak Out To Me," the results were shelved. Instead she followed with the soulful Your Baby Is A Lady (1974 Atlantic).

 

DeShannon's time at Atlantic was short. She next moved to Columbia/CBS where she was paired with producer Michael Stewart. For the slick New Arrangement (1975 Columbia/CBS) she was joined by Waddy Wachtel, Jesse Ed Davis, Larry Knechtel, Leland Sklar and Brian Wilson. It also featured her original recording of "Bette Davis Eyes," which became a hit when covered for Kim Carnes several years later.

 

On June 3rd, 1976, DeShannon married her keyboardist Randy Edelman. After that, her recordings became much more infrequent. You're The Only Dancer (1977 Amherst) and Quick Touches (1978 Amherst) were released by Amherst and made concessions to then popular styles including country-rock and disco. Sky High (1985 Audiotrax) was her only album in the 1980s. After fifteen more years she released You Know Me (2000 Jag/Varese Sarabande) which was full of original material. In 2003, she was portrayed by singer Liz Phair in an episode of the NBC drama, American Dreams. On June 17th, 2010, she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

 

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