Doris Troy (January 6, 1937 - February 16, 2004) was a highly acclaimed R&B/soul/pop singer and songwriter with powerful and expressive contralto vocals who became famous during the early 1960s. Born Doris Elaine Higginsen in New York City in the Bronx, she took her grandmother's surname and grew up as Doris Payne. The daughter of a Barbadian Pentecostal minister, she sang in her father's choir as a child. Her first major career break came at age 16 when she was discovered by James Brown while working as an usher at the Apollo Theater. She began writing/co-writing songs for other artists soon after, and her early credits included the 1959 Dee Clark hit, "How About That." She also worked as a backup singer for Atlantic Records and was a member of The Sweet Inspirations' original lineup. Solomon Burke, The Drifters, Cissy Houston, and Dionne Warwick were among the many bands and artists for whom Troy provided backing vocals before going solo in late 1962.
Doris Troy made her debut on the charts in 1963 with the soulful and catchy "Just One Look," an oldies classic she co-wrote with Gregory Carroll that became a Top 5 R&B hit and made the Pop/Rock Top 10. The Hollies also had a hit with this song the following year in both the U.S. and the U.K., and it later charted for Anne Murray and Linda Ronstadt (in 1974 and 1979, respectively). Troy also had several minor hits through 1964 that included "Tomorrow Is Another Day" (1963), "What'cha Gonna Do Bout It" (1963), and "Please Little Angel" (1964), the latter two of which she co-wrote. Other songs for which Doris Troy is well known include the Troy/Gamble/Huff-penned "I'll Do Anything," which became a Northern Soul staple. In addition to "Just One Look," The Hollies (along with Small Faces) also covered "What'cha Gonna Do Bout It," which became a U.K. hit for both bands. Other Troy-penned hit songs include Billy Preston's "All That I've Got (I'm Gonna Give It To You)" (1970).
In 1969, Troy began a new phase of her career after relocating to England where she was signed by The Beatles to Apple Records. The following year, she released her critically acclaimed eponymous album consisting mainly of songs she co-wrote with George Harrison, Billy Preston, Ringo Starr, Stephen Stills, and other top artists. Known as "Mama Soul," she performed actively throughout the U.K., amassing a large and loyal fan base. In 1972, she released a live album, "The Rainbow Testament." Troy moved back to the U.S. in 1974 where she settled in Las Vegas and became a regular performer at local nightclubs and casinos. While continuing her solo career, she also remained a highly sought-after backup singer who can be heard on such recordings as The Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want," Carly Simon's "You're So Vain," and Pink Floyd's "Dark Side Of The Moon. Beginning in 1983, she co-starred in "Mama I Want To Sing!," a long-running musical based on her life in which Troy played her own mother. This highly successful production, which ran through the early 2000s at a number of venues worldwide, was also made into a movie in 2011.
Doris Troy's many honors and accolades included a Pioneer Award from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation (1996).
- The Guardian remembers Doris Troy.
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- Just One Look 1963
(This song later also became a hit for the Hollies (1964, 1967), Anne Murray (1974), and Linda Ronstadt (1979).)
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