All of her wonderful music aside, the first emotions that I get from Margie Joseph are actually anger and frustration! I am angry that the record companies she was signed to never gave her the kind of promotion she deserved, and as a result of that denied a lot of people the pleasure of hearing her voice.  I also feel frustrated (much in the same way Margie herself must have felt) that because of the lacking promotion and way too few hit records, she never made as many albums as such a talented singer should have.

1974 magazine ad for one of her biggest hits

1974 magazine ad for one of her biggest hits

Margie is a truly talented lady, with an absolutely stunning voice. During the last 45 years she has recorded some really great albums, and it’s a great, big pity that way too few people has had the opprtunity to get to listen to her. My feature on Soul Music’s unsung heroine hopefully will give her some attention….

Margaret Marie “Margie” was born in Mississippi on August 19 1950, and like dozens of other girls she sang in her church choir when she was young. She enrolled at the Dillard University in New Orleans, studying speech and drama, and doing a little singing on the side. She was talented enough to be able to make some demos at the famed Muscle Shoals studios, which led to the recording of her first single, “Why Does A Man Have To Lie” in 1967. This of course, should have been the start of her career, but it turned out to be her first streak of bad luck. No sooner had she stepped out of the studio after recording, when the Okeh label went out of business and her debut single sank without a trace.

She was then signed to the Volt label in 1969, and that label knew how to handle a talented soulful singer like Margie. She got off to a great start when her first single for them, “One More Chance” proved to be quite popular (and is now regarded as a Northern Soul favorite!) and her next single, “Your Sweet Lovin’” gave her her first chart placing, reaching no. 46 on the R’n’B Charts.  Her next single was a stunning remake of the Supremes’ “Stop! In The Name Of Love” – and that one went into the top 40.

Her debut album from 1971, and yes - she DID make an impression!

Her debut album from 1971, and yes – she DID make an impression!

The first of her 11 solo albums, “Margie Makes A New Impression”  came out 1971. The opening is really a stunner; Margie combines the spoken monolgue “Women Talk” while sliding into her extended version of “Stop! In The Name Of Love” – and thus creating 11 minutes of pure soul music drama. Other stand-out tracks are the sultry “Punish Me” and the bright and bouncy “Medicine Bend” which in spite of the cheery arrangement tells a rather sad story. Also included is the totally stunning ballad “Make Me Believe You’ll Stay” which just might be the best song she ever recorded! She quickly followed with another album, “Phase II” in 1972. It includes another Supremes cover; her drawn-out, sensual reading of “My World Is Empty Without You” as well as another great “tell-it-like-it-is” song called “That Other Woman Got My Man And Gone“. Then more bad luck was coming her way – the Volt label folded its wings….

The Atlantic Years 1973-76: Signing up With Atlantic Records seemed like an smart and obvious move for Margie, but once again things didn’t quite work out for her. While she worked with great producers and recording excellent material, the label switch proved none too successful. Why? Tough competition, and once more the lack of promotion! Also signed to Atlantc at the time were Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin. Flack was certainly on her way up around this time, having one chart topper after another, and Aretha had long ago been stamped “the most regal Queen of soul” and was treated accordingly. While Margie (who vocally is closer to Aretha than Roberta but sounds totally different from both of them), should have had her place with the other two at the top of the label’s roster, but instead was treated like the unwanted stepchild…

Margie made 3 great albums for Atlantic: “Margie Joseph” (1973) – it includes fabulous versions of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” and a soulful version of Dolly Parton’s “Touch Your Woman“. “Sweet Surrender” (1974) includes the sexiest piece of early 1970s soul pop ever made, the opening track “Come Lay Some Lovin’ On Me” (no. 32) as well as her fantastic interpretation of Paul Mc Cartney’s “My Love” (her biggest hit, no. 10). She followed with “Margie” (1975), containing more great songs like “Stay Still“, “Words (Are Impossible)” (no. 27),  “I Can’t Move No Mountains” and “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh“. She also teamed up with label mates Blue Magic for a great duet, “What’s Come Over Me” (no. 11) and also appeared with them on a live album. Then it was time for yet another label switch.

Her 1975 album "Margie" had a great cover and great music. It was her biggest seller...

Her 1975 album “Margie” had a great cover and great music. It was her biggest seller…

Label jumping 1976-88: Moving on to Cotillion Records, and working with Lamont Dozier produced Margie’s next great album, “Hear The Words, Feel The Feeling” (1976). Minor hits appeared in the form of the title track and “Don’t Turn The Lights Off” and while the album benefited from the magic Dozier touch, it still didn’t prove a big seller. Margie returned to Atlantic to make her 1978 album “Feeling My Way” – with production duties handled by Johnny Bristol. It includes a great cover version of Bristol’s “Discover Me” (another song previously done by the Supremes) and minor hit singles, “Come On Back To Me Lover” and “I Feel His Love Getting Stronger“. It all turned out into a great album, exquisite production & great vocals, but proved another chart failure. Margie then went on to make a whole album with Dexter Wansel for his WMOT label, that still remains unreleased as even that label went out of business! Fed up with the entire business, Margie used her skills in speech and drama and turned to a career in teaching…

"Feeling My Way" (1978) was produced by Johnny Bristol

“Feeling My Way” (1978) was produced by Johnny Bristol

Margie was lured back into recording again, in late 1982. She went through a stylistical change, turning away from her trademark soul/pop and aiming straight for the dance floor. The single “Knockout!” proved to be quite popular (no. 12), and she made an album of the same name for HCRC label. Filled with synth heavy disco, the album is none the less enjoyable – as is seems Margie  took to dance music as if to the genre born. Another track that found favor with club goers was the infectious “Moove To The Groove” (not a misprint!) The enitire album quickly went out of print, but was re-released on CD for the first time in 2010.

The title song of this 1982 album was a hit in the dance clubs

The title song of this 1982 album was a hit in the dance clubs

She continued doing dance music also on her next album, “Ready For The Night” (1984) – this time with production duties handled by Narada Michael Walden, a match made in heaven! This was her last album for the Atlantic label – and a marvellous one it is. The title song provided her with a small hit (no. 69), and the track “I Wants Mo’ Stuff” also had great hit potential.  Margie herself has voiced that the track “Big Strong Man” is the worst she ever recorded, but I can’t see why. Her personal favorite on the album seems to be “Adonai“.  The album as it is should have had every possibilty to become a big success – but it was again not to be… This proved to be the last time Margie recorded for a major label.

"Ready For The Night"(1984) is full of great songs, but again chart action eluded her...

“Ready For The Night”(1984) is full of great songs, but again chart action eluded her…

Margie went back to teaching once more, but she resurfaced on the music scene in 1988 – cutting the album “Stay” for the Ichiban label. The title track attracted a lot of listeners, but was only a minor hit. The albums other potential hit song is “Cinnamon Rosy Cadillac“. The album was never released on CD, just the vinyl and cassette format – it is the most obscure of all her releases – but still worth searching out if you come across it somewhere! After 20 years of making outstanding records and still being considered a “second league singer”, Margie finally gave up the music industry altogether, and started doing humanitarian work. And who could blame her? You do your very best for a number of years, fans all over the world love it – yet nothing comes back to you in the form of hits, awards or big sales – you don’t even get the right kind of promotion. ANY person would give up!

"Stay" (1988), the last in a long line of badly promoted albums....

“Stay” (1988), the last in a long line of badly promoted albums….

As if being unlucky with her musical career wasn’t enough – her personal life was also turned upside down in August 2005, when the hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Margie and her husband lost everything they owned, including all the mementos from her years as a singer. She escaped the house in just the clothes she wore, grabbing her handbag before the entire area where she lived was wiped out by the flood!

2006 found her release a gospel CD, “Latter Rain“, but she also admitted that although she had found solace in her Christian faith, she had lost her zeal for singing and performing and was concentrating on moving into a new home and starting a new existence.

In 2008 the reissue label Collectors Choice made all her original albums 1973-82 available on CD, and a few years later the five 1973-78 albums were put out as a budget priced box set. Earlier on her two albums for Volt had been turned into a 2 on 1 CD – which means that most of her recorded legacy is easily accessible for everyone with an interest!

A portrait of Margie, ca. 2007

A portrait of Margie, ca. 2007

Despite her lack of mainstream success, Margie is a highly esteemed singer whose voice stand up against any competition – she has a marvellous, flexible voice with a unique sound all her own. I sincerely hope that I’ve raised your curiosity if you never heard of her – this is one great singer who should be discovered by a much wider audience!