As an 18-year-old in 1965, Barbara Mason captured the innocent stirrings of adolescence on the self-penned Yes I’m Ready, a US #3 R&B hit which is widely acknowledged as the beginning of the Philadelphia sound, with its use of sweet, sweeping strings and the musicians who would go on to form the nucleus of the Philadelphia International label’s house band, MFSB.
It unsurprisingly led to Barbara being dubbed ‘The First Lady of Philly Soul’.
Mason, who wasn’t raised in the church but honed her craft in local talent shows and sang along to Etta James, Gloria Lynne and Aretha records on the radio, took to the road with Curtis Mayfield‘s The Impressions in 1966 after a string of R&B hits like Sad Sad Girl and I Need Love, which built on the same formula as Yes I’m Ready.
By the turn of the decade, she had graduated from teen crush to tempestuous lover, documenting bedroom dramas in forthright fashion.
In 1972 she worked with Mayfield on a version of his Give Me Your Love for an album of the same name, and in 1975 scored blaxploitation flick Sheba Baby (starring Pam Grier).
She returned to the spotlight again with her 1981 hit single She’s Got The Papers (But I Got The Man) and Another Man.
In 2007 she released Feeling Blue, her first album in 23 years.