The Sweet Inspirations were a highly acclaimed R&B/soul/gospel female vocal group with a long history that became famous during the late 1960s. They began in the early 1960s as a group of highly sought-after background vocalists with a changeable lineup who contributed to numerous recording sessions at Atlantic Records and elsewhere. By the time The Sweet Inspirations were signed to Atlantic in 1967 as recording artists, the members consisted of Estelle Brown, Sylvia Shemwell (June 30, 1941 - February 13, 2010), Myrna Smith (May 28, 1941 - December 24, 2010), and founder Cissy Houston. The group continued to provide backing vocals through the late 1970s for many top acts, most notably Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin.
The Sweet Inspirations debuted on both the Pop/Rock and R&B charts in 1967 with their cover of the Roebuck Staples-penned "Why (Am I Treated So Bad)." They had another hit later that year with a soulful cover of The Everly Brothers' "Let It Be Me" before their famed took off the following year with the uplifting, gospel-infused "Sweet Inspiration" (1968), which became a Top 5 R&B hit and made the Pop/Rock Top 20. The group's many hits also included several other covers of such classics as The Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody" (1968), The Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody" (1968), and The Everly Brothers' "Crying In The Rain" (1969).
By 1970, Cissy Houston had left The Sweet Inspirations to pursue a highly successful solo career. The Grammy-winning singer is the mother of the late Whitney Houston and grandmother of the late Bobbi Kristina Brown. After disbanding in 1979, The Sweet Inspirations other three original members - Estelle Brown, Sylvia Shemwell, and Myrna Smith - reunited in 1994 and continued recording and performing through 2011, with a number of member changes and additions along the way.
- Myrna Smith describes her time with The Sweet Inspirations and singing backup for Elvis Presley in an interview with David Adams of Elvis Australia.
- Elvis Australia remembers Sweet Inspirations members Sylvia Shemwell and Myrna Smith.
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The Sweet Inspirations
- Sweet Inspiration 1968
(This song later also became a hit for Barbra Streisand (1972, as a medley).)
- Why (Am I Treated So Bad) 1967
(This song also became a hit in 1967 for "Cannonball" Adderley, Bobby Powell, and the Staple Singers.)
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