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Esther Phillips

Her inimitable ravaged voice – part Nina Simone, part Dinah Washington– combined with patronage from bandleader Johnny Otis saw her soar to the US R&B chart top spot in 1950 with Double Crossing BluesMistrustin’ Blues and Cupid Boogie.


She was back at the top again in 1962 with her sublime cover of Release Me, this time with the help of Kenny Rogers, who had tipped his talent scout brother Lelan off to her potential (Lelan signed her to his Lenox label).

The subsequent album saw her tackle more emotion-sapping country standards, Charlie Rich’s No Headstone On My Grave and Hank Williams‘ I Can’t Help It and Why Should We Try Anymore? providing cathartic salve for hearts cruelly ripped apart.

Her career was consistently disrupted by the trials of drug addiction.