Of all the soulful girl singers of the 70’s, no one has made such a lasting impression on me as Linda Clifford. She’s been labeled a “disco diva” and of course she is THAT, but she’s so much more than just that! Her voice is one of the most wondrous musical instruments of the 20th century, and I will talk in-depth about her music here…

La Clifford was born in the mid 1940’s and had already explored other branches of the entertainment field when she made her first record. Physically very beautiful, it is no wonder she was once voted Miss New York State. She also sang with a jazz trio, and acted in some films; you can see her in supporting parts in some late 60’s movies like “The Boston Strangler”, “Coogans Bluff” and “Sweet Charity”. One of the songs from the last movie would play a significant part in Linda’s career some 10 years later…

In the early 70’s, she released a few singles, i.e. “It’s gonna be a long, long winter”, “March across the land” and “Can’t get enough”. In 1976 she signed with the Curtom label, and the next year her first album “Linda” was released. It’s a great record, and shows off her talent and diversity to great advantage. From the dance floor groove of “From now on” to the sexy ballad “You can do it”, this album offers one treat after another. She covers Rod Stewart’s recent no. 1 hit “Tonight’s the night” and Evie Sand’s “One thing on my mind” in addition to the Bee Gees’ “Be tender with my love” – and Linda’s versions more than hold their own to the originals.

Her second album, “If My Friends Could See Me Now” came out 1978, and supplied Linda with two substantial hits, the title track (from “Sweet Charity” but revamped as a 7 minute disco work out) and the enduring soul classic “Runaway love”. She covers Curtis Mayfield’s “You are, you are” and also wraps her sexy pipes around “Broadway Gypsy Lady”, a pop song with some nice guitar work and another dancer, “Gypsy Lady” (probably not from Broadway?) in addition to a couple of nice ballads. This album proved once and for all that Linda Clifford had the voice to sing any kind of material presented to her, and that’s exactly what she did!

The very first Clifford album I owned, was the third one she made: “Let Me Be Your Woman” (1979) and I still have the original vinyl LP at home – four sides of pure pleasure! Her extended versions of two classics each clocked in at around 10 minutes and filled one side each: “One of those songs” and “Bridge over troubled water”. The last one is of course, one of the classic ballads of all time, yet Linda proved that when completely rearranged, it could also be a disco classic. The title track is another wonderful ballad, with Linda doing the verses nice and easy, then going into full voice and raising the roof in the chorus. I never saw the point in Helen Reddy covering that song a year later, as it’s done the definite way by Linda.

The same year saw another Clifford album hit the shelves, titled “Here’s My Love”. With the disco factor tuned a little down, this album focuses more on some other sides of Linda, like pop singer, and soul ballad interpreter par excellence! A good example is the title track; in the first half of the song, she coos and sexily offers her love to the listener in a way that says “HERE‘s my love”… Mid-way through the song, she changes her approach altogether, raising her voice as if to fight off competition and most definitely grabbing your attention by changing it to “here’s MY!! love”. It’s a stunning number, and it might just be the finest five minutes of music she’s ever recorded! “Never gonna stop” and “King for a night” are both nice pop songs, “Lonely night”, “Bailin’ out” and “Repossessed” will make you dance, “I just wanna wanna” is a dancey pop song that is also very good. She also made a duet album on Curtom, with its owner Curtis Mayfield. Called “The Right Combination”, it contains a couple of very good tracks like “It’s loving time” and “Rock you to your socks”. What is painfully clear though is that Curtis is not up to his best, and the albums shows Linda stealing all the thunder and making even the most saccharine ballads sound convincing.

In 1980, Linda recorded the song for which she is probably best remembered, “Red Light”. It was featured in the movie “Fame” and also on the Soundtrack album before it was included on Linda’s own “Im Yours” the same year. It’s one of three stand-out tracks, the other two being the funky dancer “Shoot your best shot” and her fabulous version of Mitty Collier’s 1966 hit “I had a talk with my man”. If this track doesn’t prove that Linda deserves to be labeled soul singer, nothing ever will!

The great Linda Clifford made three more albums during the 80’s: “I’ll keep on loving you” (1981), “Sneakin’ Out” (1984) and “My Heart’s On Fire” (1985). The 1981 album is notable for her soulful disco hit “Don’t come crying to me” and the original version of “All the man that I need”, later recorded by Sister Sledge and also Whitney Houston. The 1984/85 albums are the only ones in Linda’s discography that have seen no CD releases (at least not in Europe so far), and I think it’s about time they were put out on a nice two-fer very soon (do you hear me record companies!!??)

The music of Linda Clifford has followed me for more than thirty years, and I never tire of listening to that rich, warm “red velvet” voice. She’s still active, releasing singles like “How long”, “Going back to my roots” and quite recently, “Baby, I’m yours”.

Yes, you sure are “mine”, your voice is the soundtrack of my life and I will keep on loving you…. Forever!

Me at home in 2010 with some original Clifford LPs