POP GOES THE 1970’S – MARCIA HINES

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Fire and Rain (J Taylor) 1975 and I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself (H David/B Bacharach) 1976 and You (T Snow) – Marcia Hines 1977

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Boston-born to Jamaican parents Esmerelda (Esme) and Eugene, Marcia Elaine Hines (1953) and her older brother Dwight were raised by their mother Esme after their father died suddenly several months after Marcia was born. The dominant males in young Marcia’s life would be her brother Dwight and godfather known as Mr. Evans, the family lived in a small apartment and Esme worked as a cleaner to provide for her family, her manner was direct, strong, and at times wilful; characteristics that would be inherited by her only daughter. Blessed with a natural singing voice, and despite the fact that she was an acute asthmatic, young Marcia absorbed the cadences around her, attending local churches services to hear the music and sing the songs – the deep soul gospel sounds of the Baptist church, the more structured stanzas of the Catholic church, and the choral songs of the Anglican church sung a cappella or with organ accompaniment – three services every Sunday, she wasn’t devout, just inspired by the music, and aspired to be a singer. One of Marcia’s close friends who sang with her in church, and in school plays, and was also a gifted singer, young Donna Gaines, would later become more famous as the chart-topping Donna Summer. At 14 Marcia won a scholarship to study at the New England Conservatory of Music, but the formal training did not resonate with a young girl who was more inspired by Jimi Hendrix, the Supremes and Janis Joplin, than classically-trained performers, and to her mother’s dismay she quit after 6 months. Below L-R A young Donna Summer, J Geils, Philip Gibson.

As a teenager Marcia flirted with the hippie lifestyle, smoked marijuana, and fleetingly experimented with LSD, she had found secondary school in an all-white catholic girls’ school traumatic and her local community could also be racist, but she joined the half million who attended Woodstock, tripped on mescaline, and blissed out to Jimi Hendrix who sprinkled his magic on the final morning of the festival. Marcie dated J. Geils for a time, who was six years older than her and a professional musician, and would chart in the 1980’s with the hit song Centrefold, but it would be another local musician, guitarist Phillip Gibson who would relieve the sixteen-year-old Marcia of her virginity, and impregnate her at the same time. Below – Australian Director/Producer Jim Sharman.

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Marcia’s Australia connection really began when she responded to a casting audition for the Australian production of Hair in Boston in 1970, in front of Jim Sharman who was directing the Boston production of the show. Esme accompanied Marcia and was complicit in convincing Sharman and his assistant Sandra McKenzie that she was eighteen, and had her approval to live and work in Australia. Had Sharman known she was really sixteen, they would not have even allowed her to audition, but despite her age, and later the realization that she was pregnant, she performed brilliantly. Below L-R Australian cast of Hair, Poster, Marcia at seventeen.

In 1970 Marcia Hines arrived in an Australia where the White Australia Policy was still in force, the era of the Stolen Generation of Aboriginal children was only just ending, and it was less than eight years since our First Nations people had been included in the national census, and were enfranchised to vote. There were very few American negroes living and working in Australia at the time, they were a curiosity, so those who came here as part of the cast of Hair, formed a very close-knit, mutually-supportive group, along with such local stars as John Waters, Reg Livermore, and Keith Glass. Hair was essentially a strident protest against the Vietnam War, a conflict in which 6,000 Australian troops were still engaged, National Conscription of young men was also proceeding apace, and the First Anti-Conscription Vietnam War Moratorium March in 1969 had attracted over 200,000 demonstrators nationwide, the country was very divided over our involvement in this conflict, and Hair and its performers attracted criticism and even vilification. To add further fuel to the fire of controversy Hair was provocative on almost every other level, on-stage nudity, defiance of prevailing middle -class morality – premarital sex, sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus, pederasty – embrace of illicit drugs, and profanity, the conservative silent majority of Australians were appalled, and no longer silent but outspoken in their opposition to the show being staged. Below L-R – Marcia and daughter Deni, Three Generations- Deni, Esme, Marcia, and Marcia and Harry M Miller.  

Harry M Miller to his credit gradually manouvred the authorities, particularly the censors, to approve the show’s staging, Marcia Hines was a standout success throughout the show’s run to 1971, on Sept 4 1970 Marcia gave birth to Dohnyale Sharon Hines, better known as Deni, and her birth father Philip Gibson would not discover that Marcia had borne him a child, until five years later. Below L-R Australian Cast of Hair, Poster, Marcia Hines in the role of Mary Magdalene.       

Following the close of Hair, Marcia pestered Harry M.Miller for a role in his next production, Jesus Christ Superstar, and in 1973 she replaced the original Mary Magdalene, Michelle Fawdon, in that role, and became the first black performer in the world to do so. The cast of JCS was a roll call of the country’s nascent rising stars, along with Marcia there were Jon English, Trevor White, Stevie Wright, John Paul Young, and Reg Livermore. She would depart JCS as a star-in-the-making and in 1975 she signed with Wizard Records and teamed up with producer Robie Porter and members of the Superstar pit band, now known as Baxter Funt, to record her debut single at the Trafalgar Studios (Syd), it would be James Taylor’s melancholy ballad, Fire and Rain. Below L-R Robie Porter, James Taylor, Suzanne Schnerr.

The song was heavily coded with inspirational milestones and memories in the life of James Taylor and it was the standout track on his 1970 album Sweet Baby James. Taylor had battled heroin addiction for some time after his US band Flying Machine broke up (“Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground…”) and Taylor headed to London to record with the Beatles Apple label. Whilst there a close friend, Suzanne Schnerr committed suicide in New York, but his friends concealed the news from Taylor, concerned that it might distract him whilst recording overseas (“Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone/ Suzanne the plans they made put an end to you…”). As Taylor’s drug addiction intensified, he was placed in rehab in Manhattan (“body aching and my time is at hand”), and then received electro-convulsive therapy at the Austin Riggs Hospital in Massachusetts, which was the “fire” of the song’s title. Taylor’s dramatically-nuanced ballad featured Carole King on piano, Russ Kunkel’s delicate drum brushes, acoustic guitar, and Bobby West who opted for a double bass instead of an electric bass guitar, to underscore the haunted melancholy of the song. 

Brilliant vocals, Marcia’s outro to the song was super-charged with emotion.

Marcia and Baxter Funt – Jamie McKinley (piano), Mike Wade (organ), Tony Naylor (guitar), Greg Bushell (bass), and Greg Henson (drums) – re-invented this James Taylor classic with electric guitars and a more prominent rhythm section to create a soulful, gospel-tinged ambience, that showcased the heartfelt and unique vocal ornamentation of Hines, who imbued the lyrics with a majesty, and dramatic desperation, so appropriate for the life- and- death nature of Taylor’s autobiographical journey.

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Her 1975 debut album Marcia Shines, featured her hit Fire and Rain and an eclectic choice of songs ranging from the Stones Jumpin’ Jack Flash to the Northern Soul of You Gotta Let Go, and it climbed to #4, and charted for 52 weeks.  Her third studio album Shining restored her chart fortunes with a solid #3 hit after the failure of the previous album Daly-Wilson Big Band (Featuring Marcia Hines) stalled at #85, as Marcia mistakenly opted for jazz standards, show tunes, and MOR ballads, instead of more soulful contemporary songs, and briefly lost her fanbase.

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She would be crowned the Queen of Pop for three years 1976-8, and as the country’s resident Soul Diva developed a reputation for engaging ballads, and would follow up Fire and Rain (#17), with a cover of Artie Wayne’s From the Inside (#10), and in 1977, turned her attention to a cover of the Dusty Springfield ballad I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself.

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This song began life in 1962 when Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote it in the Brill Building (NYC), and was originally recorded by R&B singer Chuck Jackson, but not released, a cover of the song using the same orchestral backing track was used in a version by Tommy Hunt in 1962 but again it failed to chart.

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It’s unusual that this song was not offered to Dionne Warwick who was the go-to-singer for such soulful ballads by Bacharach and David, and she was famously touchy about any other female singers getting first options on their songs. But Dusty Springfield was one of the world’s pre-eminent blue-eyed soul singers and Burt Bacharach had no hesitation in offering her this song in 1964, which she took back to London and recorded her version in the Olympia Studios there, and it became an international hit.

Marcia uniquely re-invents this Bacharach/David classic.

Marcia Hines version of the song is very similar to that of Springfield, like many Bacharach/David songs it has a dramatic ebb and flow, clever pitch and tempo shifts, immaculate rhymes and clever transposition of the word “just” “I just don’t know what to do…followed by “Don’t know just what to do…,” a string-drenched arrangement reinforced the sense of desperation and heartache at the core of the song, and underscored the drama and pathos that Marcia brought to the recording. Produced by Robie Porter it was a typically soulful rendition by Hines and charted locally at #6 and was the 23rd best-selling record of the year. Below – Mark Kennedy.

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Marcia followed up with another hit ballad, What I Did for Love (#6), a song taken from the score of the musical A Chorus Line, so a dance record was not the obvious choice for her next single. Her producer Robie Porter had initially rejected You as he believed that Marcia was such a convincing ballad-singer she would never cut it as a dance diva, eventually he had to be persuaded by Hines then-fiance, session drummer Mark Kennedy, who had seen the sheet music and liked the song, so he agreed to have another listen to the song.

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You had originally been recorded by the composer, Tom Snow in 1975, and subsequently covered by Merrilee Rush two years later, who had previously scored with her group the Turnabouts with Angel of the Morning in 1982 for a #7 hit in the US, but neither of the previous versions of You had really impacted on the US charts

Great song but el cheapo set and video.

Robie Porter changed his mind, and You became Marcia’s fifth and biggest hit reaching #2 in October ’77, it was a convincing dancefloor number, which also showcased Hines impressively powerful vocals, it was also covered by Rita Coolidge a year later as a more soulful ballad and charted #25 in the US.

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Marcia would follow up in 1979 with a cover of Something’s Missing In My Life formerly recorded by Donna Summer and Jabara, which was a #9 hit here and a #5 charter in NZ, but Marcia’s relationship with her producer Robie Porter had become strained. She was twenty when she signed with Porter and Wizard Records but five years later she had become a mature performer, who now found his uncompromising and controlling approach unacceptable. Her fifth studio album Ooh Child would be her last with Wizard, Porter exercised his legal option to retain the rights to all her recordings to that time, and after protracted litigation between the parties, Porter and Hines parted acrimoniously.

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In 1981 she would chart with her last top ten hit single, a disco-dance pop version of the former hit by Dusty Springfield, Your Love Still Brings Me to My Knees, written by prodigious British tunesmith Roger Cook and Bobby Wood and produced by Aussie David Mackay, it was the first single lifted from Marcia’s first studio album with Warners Music. Take It From The Boys, was a rather confused mix of reggae, big ballad, and dance pop, and featured cover artwork of Marcia dressed as a man in full morning suit, the album cover and its contents, reflected the confused state of Marcia’s future career trajectory, it charted #15 locally but failed to fire internationally and she never had another hit studio album for 25 years until Discotheque restored her fortunes in 2006.

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Throughout the 1980’s Marcia would virtually disappear from the scene after completing a national tour with Jon English known as Jokers and Queens, her manager Peter Rix advised her to avoid being typecast as a clubland cabaret performer. But other gigs were not forthcoming, she was no longer recording, and her poor diet and overeating resulted in significant weight gain and later the onset of Type 1 Diabetes. Below L-R – Marcia (2), Marcia and Tony Murphy.

In 1981 her brother Dwight committed suicide and she returned to Boston for the funeral, her career was spiraling downwards and she became depressed, and lacked the clear vision and sharp focus in her private life that had so typified her professional career. Over 15 years from the early 80’s into the 90’s, she stumbled through two failed engagements with musician Mark Kennedy and Adelaide TV presenter Tony Murphy, and three marriages beginning with French oil executive Andre DeCarpentry in 1983, then musician Jaimie McKinley, and local businessman Ghassan Bayni, while her fourth marriage in 2005 to Dr. Christopher Morrissey would also end in divorce in 2014. Below L-R – Marcia and Andre DeCarpentry, Marcia and Dr. Chris Morrissey, Tabloid speculation about Marcia’s future nuptials.

Sadly, her daughter Deni has also struggled to chart a successful course through two failed marriages to Kirk Pengilly (INXS saxophonist and guitarist), and Dennis Charles (British record producer), but her current marriage in 2012 to financier Daniel Moses has endured. Her mother Esme sadly passed away in 2003, after spending most of her later years living with Marcia and her granddaughter Deni in Australia, after relocating here in the 1970’s. Below L-R – Idol Judges- Mark Holden, Marcia Hines, Ian Dickson

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In 2003 Marcia became a popular judge on Australian Idol for seven seasons between 2003-09 but she returned to recording with her collection of disco hits entitled Discotheque which climbed to #6 on the album charts in 2006, and followed up in 2010 with Marcia Sings Tapestry her tribute to Carole King which was also popular at #16 and in 2014 she charted yet again with Amazing, an album of original songs which peaked at #27.

In a career of over 50 years in the Australian entertainment industry Marcia Hines is a living legend, she dominated the charts between 1975-80, took four albums and six singles into the top 10 and sold over a million records, at 65 she was cast as the Soul Diva in the revival of the stage musical Saturday Night Fever, and stole the show. Over the journey she has earned stardom and success in a country in which she had arrived as a sixteen year old, pregnant and confused; she rose to the top and when her career stalled and her fanbase dwindled she fought back, just as she had overcome childhood feelings of inadequacy and isolation as a young negro girl in a white world.

Marcia can also claim several famous cousins, the late Colin Powell the former Commander-In-Chief of the US Armed Forces and 1980’s diva Grace Jones, she was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2007, in a stellar field which included Frank Ifield, Hoodoo Gurus, Jo Jo Zep & the Falcons, Brian Cadd, Radio Birdman and Nick Cave. 

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