I am kind of surprised I haven't done a post on Nanette Workman yet. I recently gave my mother her autobiography as a late late Christmas present, so that kind of put her back on my radar. Unlike some people who write autobiographies, she has certainly had an interesting life. She was raised in Mississippi and moved to New York after high school and sang in Broadway shows and nightclubs and apparently hung out with low level mafiosi. Tony Roman discovered her in a nightclub and she went to Montreal to make records with him. The records they made are very much patterned after singers like Lulu or Dusty Springfield; polished pop music with a soulful edge. With Roman she does nice duets of "Hey Joe" and "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" (the jazz tune made famous by Cannonball Adderley). On her own, she does a pretty cool version of "Paint It Black."
After these records came out she moved to Europe, mostly living in France. While in Europe she recorded back up vocals for the Rolling Stones (on "Honky Tonk Woman" and a few others). She then became a backup singer for Johnny Hallyday and had a relationship with him while he was engaging in his famous breakup with Sylvie Vartan. After that, Nanette returned to Montreal (with her French much improved!) and began making records that straddled the line between rock and r&b. Her most famous record from that period is probably her version of Labelle's "Lady Marmalade", where, in addition to the infamous chorus of "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir", she sings the verses in French as well.
My favorite record of hers from this era is the one below:
The cover photo is taken in Mile End's famous deli Wilensky's Light Lunch, which looks much the same today (except you can no longer smoke inside). They only have one thing on the menu (a grilled salami and bologna sandwhich with mustard) and make all their sodas by hand with syrup and seltzer.
Lately, the tune that has grabbed me most from the LP is "J'ai Le Gout De Baiser." It's written by Angelo Finaldi, a Montreal rock session player for Tony Roman and others. The song definitely scratches one of my itches: funky disco rock. The groove of the song's intro is similar to "Soul Makossa", so the proto-disco force is strong with this one. The guitar breaks remind me a little bit of "The Mexican" by Babe Ruth. This tune came out in 1975, so it's a little late to put out a record that straddles genres like this, but Montreal has always been a town for a lot of cross pollination in it's music scene.
Nanette Workman- Peint En Noir (Paint It Black)
Nanette Workman- J'ai Le Gout De Baiser