Perhaps more so than any other genre in the history of popular music, the '70s disco scene was littered with countless one-hit wonders, including Anita Ward. Born during 1957 in Memphis, TN, Ward developed an interest in music at an early age, although it was gospel and not the up-tempo dance style she'd become synonymous with years later. Ward went on to sing with the Rust College A Cappella Choir (which included recording alongside renowned Metropolitan Opera vocalist Leontyne Price), as well as issuing an obscure album recorded by her own gospel quartet. But after graduation, Ward didn't automatically set out to pursue a career in music and instead became a substitute teacher in the Memphis elementary school system. It wasn't long before Ward realized music was too much a part of her life to ignore and her manager put her in contact with singer/songwriter Frederick Knight (who had scored a substantial hit on his own in the summer of 1972 with "I've Been Lonely for So Long"). Knight signed on to help produce a three-song demo session with Ward, but once the tape was rolling, Knight became so taken by Ward's singing ability that the sessions soon produced an album's worth of material. Upon listening back to their work, both agreed that they were still one song short, which resulted in Knight digging up an old track titled "Ring My Bell" that he had originally penned for a young teenybopper singer, Stacy Lattisaw (who would later score several hits in the early '80s). The song's original lyrics dealt with teens chatting away on the phone and even though Knight gave the track a quick lyrical overhaul, Ward was less than enthusiastic about the song. Still, she agreed to record it (with Knight providing most of the musical accompaniment himself, including one of the first uses of synth drums on a record), which only took a total of two days to record. "Ring My Bell" turned out to be the best track of the bunch, resulting in a recording contract with the TK label, and the release of Ward's debut album, Songs of Love, in 1979. It didn't take long for "Ring My Bell" to scale the charts and it peaked at number one during the summer (out-gunning such other future disco-classics as Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" and "Bad Girls," plus Sister Sledge's "We Are Family," all of which were in the Top Five) and remained on the charts for five months solid. Since the song was a fluke to begin with, there weren't any other tracks on the album that really resembled "Ring My Bell" (most were ballads and mid-tempo songs), resulting in the album disappearing from the charts soon after. A follow-up single, "Don't Drop My Love," could only make it as far as number 87 on the charts in December of the same year, signaling that Ward's 15 minutes had come and gone, delegating her to one-hit wonder status. Although Ward only scored a lone hit during her brief recording career, a 12-track best-of set was released in 1998, unsurprisingly titled Ring My Bell; a remix of the track, "Ring My Bell 2000," was issued shortly thereafter. ~ Greg Prato
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