On this day in music history: June 11, 1970 – “It’s A Shame” by The Spinners is released. Written by Stevie Wonder, Lee Garrett and Syreeta Wright, it is the third top ten R&B and first top twenty pop hit for the R&B vocal quintet from Detroit, MI. Formed the Detroit suburb of Ferndale, MI in 1954, The Spinners sign to Tri-Phi Records in 1961 scoring a hit with their first single “That’s What Girls Are Made For” (#5 R&B, #27 Pop). In spite of this success, the group are unable to rise above second or third tier status at the label. It is another four years before they land their second sizable hit with “I’ll Always Love You” (#8 R&B, #35 Pop) in 1965. The group members end up working mostly as road managers, chaperones, or chauffeurs for the other Motown acts. As the 60’s turn to the 70’s, The Spinners experience a dramatic reversal of fortune from an unlikely source. Only nineteen at the time, and in search of ways to expand his own now blossoming talent, Stevie Wonder is anxious to begin producing records. Close friends and running buddies with Spinners lead singer G.C. Cameron, Stevie resolves to write and produce a hit record for his friends group. With The Spinners being considered low men on the Motown totem pole, label founder Berry Gordy grants Wonder permission to work with the group. Stevie along with his future wife Syreeta Wright and friend Lee Garrett writes “It’s A Shame”. The basic track is recorded at Motown’s Studio B in Detroit, MI over two days on January 27 – 28, 1970. It features Funk Brothers members James Jamerson (bass), Robert White, Eddie Willis, and Dennis Coffey (guitars), Jack Ashford (tambourine), Richard “Pistol” Allen and Uriel Jones (drums). The Spinners overdub their vocals at Studio B on April 6, 1970, with the horns (arranged by Paul Riser) being recorded on April 29, 1970. Anchored by a lean and funky rhythm track, topped by Cameron’s thrilling tenor to falsetto vocals and the other Spinners tight harmonies, the record is an instant classic. “It’s A Shame” peaks at #4 on the Billboard R&B singles chart on September 19, 1970, and #14 on the Hot 100 on October 17, 1970, becoming the group’s biggest hit to date. The success of “Shame” marks the beginning of the end of The Spinners association with Motown Records. When their contract expires at the end of 1971, they sign with Atlantic Records on the suggestion of their friend R&B superstar Aretha Franklin. They finally realize their full potential at Atlantic, and become one of the biggest R&B groups of the 70’s. In 1990, British born rapper Monie Love samples “It’s A Shame” for her hit “It’s A Shame (My Sister)”.
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