Chuck Jackson
Chuck Jackson

Chuck Jackson

About Chuck Jackson

Chuck Jackson was primarily the lyricist half of the writing and production duo of Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy, whose talents helped launch the recording career of Natalie Cole. The Greenville, SC native's interest in music was nurtured by his mother (who sang in their church's choir). This is where Jackson received his core musical training. He also sang in the high-school choir. After high school, Jackson earned a master's degree in commercial art from Ferman University and taught for a year. In 1969, he moved to Chicago to work for Playboy magazine as an art director. During his lunch breaks, Jackson would scribble down song ideas. A friend told him about a songwriting workshop that was held by R&B/soul singer Jerry Butler. The Butler workshop was funded by Chappell Music and rewarded promising songwriters with a salaried staff writing position and a publishing contract. By now, Jackson had written around 135 songs. He approached Butler with one of his songs, "If It's Real What I Feel"; Butler liked it, but didn't feel that the song was right for him, so Jackson made a demo with a church friend, Brenda Lee Eager. Butler accepted the tape and Jackson wrote several songs, two of which Butler recorded ("If It's Real What I Feel" and "Walk Easy My Son).
During an Operation Breadbasket (later PUSH) expo, pianist Yancy was backing legendary gospel group the Caravans. After the show, Jackson approached Yancy about co-writing eight songs for Aretha Franklin. Nothing happened with the songs, but it did start the pair's collaboration. One of the duo's songs, "Just as Long as You Need Me, caught the ear of former Impressions manager Eddie Thomas, who suggested that Jackson and Yancy form a vocal group. Choosing the name the Independents, the group included Jackson on lead vocals with Yancy recruiting Helen Curry and Maurice Jackson to fill out the sound. Thomas got them a deal with Scepter/Wand Records. "Just as Long as You Need Me" was a hit in 1972. The follow-up was the million-selling "Leaving Me," which went to number one R&B in 1973. Cut at Paul Serrano's recording studio using Chess musicians and arrangers Gene Barge and Tom-Tom Washington, the track became the group's signature tune. Barge would work closely with Jackson and Yancy in the coming years. The Independents had seven R&B Top Ten hits between 1972-1974. Amid record company squabbles, the group broke up, but Jackson and Yancy wanted to continue writing and producing.
Later, their manager, Bob Schwaid, was visiting artist manager Kevin Hunter in New York, who said that he was looking for songs for a female singer whom he'd just signed, Natalie Cole. Performing mostly on the lounge circuit, Cole covered jazz/supper club tunes and was becoming irritated with club owners who would bill her only as "Nat King Cole's daughter" on the marquee. Traveling to Chicago, Cole met with Jackson and Yancy; the trio hit it off and began working at Curtis Mayfield's Curtom studios at the end of 1974, along with arranger/saxophonist Barge. Turned down by every label, Cole finally gained the interest of Capitol Records executive Larkin Arnold through demos done with Jackson and Yancy. (Capitol Records was her late father's label, too.) Jackson and Yancy wrote her first hit, "This Will Be," at the end of sessions done for Arnold. The single went to number one R&B on October 4, 1975. More number one R&B singles followed, including "Inseparable," "Sophisticated Lady (She's a Different Lady)," "I've Got Love on My Mind," and "Our Love." Jackson, Yancy, and Barge won a Grammy for "Sophisticated Lady." The trio earned gold and platinum albums for Inseparable, Natalie, Thankful, Unpredictable, Natalie Live!, and I Love You So.
There's a curious connection between the careers of Cole and Aretha Franklin. Upon first hearing, many thought "This Will Be" was a new record from Franklin. There is an uncanny resemblance to Franklin's style. Some surmise that with Franklin being in a top hit record slump during this time, it "left the door open" for Cole. Several were calling Cole the New Queen of Soul as her hits continued. In 1976, Cole broke Franklin's eight-year winning streak by capturing the Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "This Will Be." Cole also won Best New Artist and was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Performance for the album Natalie. Those close to the situation say that after the success of "This Will Be," Franklin approached Jackson and Yancy several times about writing and producing her songs, but the duo declined, saying doing so would be a conflict of interest. Franklin did cover one of their tunes -- "You" (originally included on one of Cole's early demos initially rejected by Capitol) -- and years later Jackson produced some tracks for her 1986 Aretha album. ~ Ed Hogan

  • HOMETOWN
    Latta, SC
  • BORN
    July 22, 1937