Frequently compared to Aretha Franklin, singer Margie Joseph earned neither the fame nor the critical success lavished upon the Queen of Soul, but a series of excellent records for Atlantic during the 1970s nevertheless won her a spot in the pantheon of soul cult favorites. Margaret Marie Joseph was born in Pascagoula, MS, in 1950 -- she got her start in the church choir, and began pursuing a professional singing career while a student at New Orleans' Dillard University. In 1967, Joseph made her first demo recordings at the famed Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, soon after signing to the Okeh label -- her debut, "Why Does a Man Have to Lie?," had the misfortune of seeing release around the same time parent label Columbia decided to close Okeh's doors, and promptly sank without a trace. Two years later Joseph signed with the Stax subsidiary Volt, and with New Orleans soul legend Willie Tee assuming production duties, she released the underground favorite "One More Chance."
Producer Freddy Briggs took the helm for Joseph's next effort, "Your Sweet Loving"; released in the summer of 1970, the single proved a minor R&B chart hit. The following year, she cracked the R&B Top 40 with a cover of the Supremes' classic "Stop! In the Name of Love," boosting sales of her fine debut LP, Margie Joseph Makes a New Impression, in the process. Another Supremes cover, "My World Is Empty Without You," formed the centerpiece of her 1972 follow-up, Phase II, but neither the single nor the album attracted much attention, and she soon signed to Atlantic to begin work with famed producer Arif Mardin, perhaps best-known for his earlier work with Aretha; indeed, Joseph's self-titled Atlantic debut was often criticized for its similarities to Franklin's classic work, although her sweetly plaintive vocals and more supple delivery were actually far more distinctive than detractors gave credit for. Joseph nevertheless scored an R&B hit in the spring of 1973 with her reading of the Al Green classic "Let's Stay Together," reaching her commercial zenith later that year when her second Atlantic album, Sweet Surrender, launched two more hit covers: "Come Lay Some Lovin' on Me" (more successful for Joseph than for the song's author, Paul Kelly) and "My Love" (a reading of the Paul McCartney & Wings smash that became her lone Top Ten R&B hit and pop Top 75 entry).
The 1975 album Margie is generally regarded by fans as the creative peak of Joseph's recording career -- the singles "Words (Are Impossible)" and "I Can't Move No Mountains" are both superb, and with the lovely hit "Stay Still," she earned a rare co-writing credit. A March 1976 live date in Jamaica introduced Joseph to the vocal group Blue Magic, and they agreed to record a duet -- included on the 13 Blue Magic Lane album, "What's Come Over Me" would prove her second-biggest R&B chart hit. She moved to the Atlantic subsidiary Cotillion for 1976's Hear the Words, Feel the Feeling, produced by Motown legend Lamont Dozier -- the title cut reached the R&B Top 20, and the sessions also yielded the wonderful disco-era seasonal cut "Christmas Gift," included on the Funky Christmas compilation. Joseph returned to the Atlantic mothership for the Johnny Bristol-produced Feeling My Way, but when the singles "Come on Back to Me, Lover" and "I Feel His Love Getting Stronger" failed to generate much airplay, the label released her from her contract.
Joseph landed at the Philadelphia-based WMOT Records, recording an entire LP under the auspices of producer Dexter Wansel that was shelved after the company went belly-up; at this point, a frustrated Joseph quit the music business, turning to a teaching career. She returned to performing in 1982, cutting "Knockout" for the tiny HCRC label; the single was a surprise R&B hit, but HCRC went out of business as well, although the setback did allow Joseph to re-sign with Cotillion, where Narada Michael Walden agreed to produce her 1984 comeback album, Ready for the Night; the title cut was a minor hit, but again the label terminated her contract. Four years later, she signed with Ichiban to release Stay, her last new material to date, although much of her vintage Stax and Atlantic work has since been reissued on CD. ~ Jason Ankeny
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