Don Covay (March 24, 1936 - January 31, 2015) was a highly acclaimed R&B, rock & roll, and soul singer-songwriter with a great deal of crossover appeal who first became famous as a recording artist during the mid 1960s with such hits as "The Popeye Waddle" (1962), "Mercy, Mercy" (1964), and "Seesaw" (1965). A prolific songwriter, he also penned many hit songs for other bands and artists that include such oldies classics as Chubby Checker's "Pony Time" (1961) and Aretha Franklin's Grammy-winning "Chain Of Fools" (1967).
Born Donald James Randolph in Orangeburg, South Carolina, the son of a Baptist preacher, he began in his teens singing in his family's gospel group, the Cherry Keys. He made his first recordings in the mid 1950s with the Rainbows, a doo-wop group whose members had at one time also included Marvin Gaye and Billy Stewart. In 1957, he became a part of the Little Richard Revue serving as both Little Richard's chauffeur and opening act. That same year, Covay released his first solo single on Atlantic, "Bip Bop Bip" (billed as Pretty Boy). He debuted on the Pop/Rock charts in 1961 with "Pony Time" (credited to his group, The Goodtimers), a song he co-wrote with John Berry. Although only a minor hit for Covay, this song soon after topped the charts for Chubby Checker and started a nationwide dance craze.
In 1962, Covay went to work as a songwriter for Roosevelt Music in New York's famed Brill Building. With Solomon Burke, Arthur Conley, Ben E. King, and Joe Tex, he formed The Soul Clan, a short-lived soul supergroup best known for the 1968 hit, "Soul Meeting." In 1972, Covay joined Mercury Records as an A&R executive and continued his string of hits through the 1970s that included "I Was Checkin' Out She Was Checkin' In" (1973), "It's Better To Have (And Don't Need)" (1974), and "Rumble In The Jungle" (1975), the latter inspired by the heavyweight boxing match in Zaire between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.
Besides Aretha Franklin and Chubby Checker, Covay also wrote/co-wrote songs for such top acts as Solomon Burke, Connie Francis, Grant Green, Wanda Jackson, Etta James, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Little Richard, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones, Small Faces, Steppenwolf, Gene Vincent, Peter Wolf, and Bobby Womack. In 1993, Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones, Todd Rundgren, and other artists recorded an album in his tribute, "Back To The Streets: Celebrating The Music Of Don Covay." Covay was honored the following year by the Rhythm & Blues Foundation with a Pioneer Award.
- The New York Times remembers Don Covay.
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Don Covay And The Goodtimers
- Mercy, Mercy 1964
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