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Ann Peebles

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Ann Peebles possesses a voice and style so distinctive that anyone who has heard her once will never confuse her with anyone else. Through her crossover R&B/pop hit of 1974, "I Can't Stand the Rain" (recently featured on female rap sensation Missy Elliott's smash single "The Rain [Supa Dupa Fly]"), she has come to be regarded as a "singers' singer" and a "musicians' musician."

A striking, classically beautiful woman, Ann Peebles has also always been her own person. Her great successes in the early '70s have exerted a significant influence on soul, R&B and pop music; her recordings of "I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down," "Come to Mama," "Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody's Home," and such standards as "I Pity the Fool" and "Part Time Love," are considered to be the definitive versions.

With the worldwide success of "I Can't Stand the Rain" (written by Peebles, husband Donald Bryant and Bernard Miller, a Memphis disc jockey), she entered the musical mainstream. The song and the singer drew praise from everyone from John Lennon to Bonnie Raitt (the latter of whom exclaimed in a Rolling Stone feature on Peebles, "She's my hero!"). And if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Ann Peebles artistry is widely admired, as evidenced by the numerous covers she has inspired by English artists such as Graham Parker and Paul Young and American rockers such as Bob Seger, Patti Labelle and Tina Turner.

For all the recognizability of her style and songs, Ann Peebles -- petite and shy -- has, throughout her career, maintained a low profile. Peebles was born in East St. Louis, where, despite her young age, she sang in a family gospel choir with her 10 brothers and sisters, performing in shows with such gospel greats as the Soul Stirrers and Mahalia Jackson. But while her roots are in St. Louis and the church, her greatest success came when she moved to Memphis and embraced rhythm and blues. Like Al Green (her male counterpart in the Hi Records Memphis soul revival of the early '70s), Peebles worked with legendary producer Willie Mitchell. Mitchell created Hi Records' trademark funky -- yet refined -- soul sound with the help of a group of crack studio musicians: the famous Hi Rhythm section. Led by the Hodges Brothers (Teenie on guitar, Charles on organ, and Leroy on bass) and anchored by Al Jackson (of Booker T's MGs), and later Howard Grimes, this group played on virtually every record recorded at the Hi Studios.

Ann Peebles was the outstanding female singer in Memphis in the '70s. She was tiny (". . . 99 pounds of natural born goodness, 99 pounds of soul," as she sang in one of her hits), but her voice was remarkably big and overwhelmingly soulful. Her first records were tough R&B remakes of such songs as Bobby Bland's "I Pity the Fool" and the definitive version of Little Johnny Taylor's "Part Time Love."

Soon, with the help of her husband Donald Bryant (also a Hi Records recording artist) she penned several memorable songs, the biggest being "I Can't Stand the Rain," a major 1974 single and Pebbles' most lasting legacy. From it's ominous "drip drop" timbale figure at the beginning, Ann testifies soulfully over a slowly percolating Memphis groove.

In 1997, Ann Peebles released Fill This World with Love (BEYE 9564), her second album for Bullseye Blues. The songs on the album were written by -- and the album produced by -- Ann, Donald Bryant, and music director and arranger, Paul Brown. With a new and expanding production company, Ann is now completely involved in all aspects of her career. She and Bryant are also involved with a local Memphis therapeutic foster-care agency called Omni Vision, Inc., one of the rewards of which is reflected in the song "Stand Up," a duet between Peebles and Mavis Staples (from Fill This World with Love).

Ann Pebbles is unique; a winning combination of emotional depth, artistic integrity and down-to-earth honesty. Her voice today reveals a new sense of control, a mastery of sultry passion and jazzy innovation. Still not much more than ". . . 99 pounds of soul," Ann Peebles comes across as graceful and soft-spoken. A woman and an artist of rare depth and great contrasts, Ann possesses an utterly original musical and visual appeal, made all the more dramatic by the stark contrast of such a powerful and extraordinarily strong voice coming from such a petite and restrained singer.

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