“Best Of My Love,” Pure Joy In 1977

by Kevin Burton

    Their gospel wailing and harmonies brought out the emotion from listeners in their native Chicago. People confided as much to their mentor/father Joe.

   That’s why when the singing Hutchinson sisters needed a new name for the group, they called themselves The Emotions.

   Forty-five years ago, their “Best Of My Love,” ruled the top 40, knocking Andy Gibb out of the number one spot and reigning for five weeks. 

    Fans commenting on You Tube call the song “pure joy.” I have no better definition. Some songs just have that power to lift you from the blues, up through the mundane to that happy place. There is no explanation, it’s just good for what ails you.

   What that stuttering horns and bass introduction promises, the rest of the song delivers.  The bassline is prominent throughout, but the soaring vocals of sisters Wanda, Sheila and Pamela Hutchinson make the tune of the best of its era. The song won the 1977 Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Vocal Performance by a Group.

“That’s Wanda Hutchinson going after the big high notes in this song,” according to SongFacts. “Said Hutchinson, ‘When my range got higher, the intensity of my vibrato sharpened a little.’”

“Lead singer Wanda Hutchinson learned the song from the demonstration tape, but had to jump her final vocals an octave higher than her usual register,” reads the song’s entry in the The Billboard Book of Number One Hits. “It wasn’t until she heard the song on the radio that she decided she was satisfied with her performance.”

   If you didn’t already know this, you won’t be surprised to hear that the people behind the group Earth Wind and Fire had a lot to do with the song. Band members Maurice White and Al McKay wrote the song.   

    “You’ll hear many elements of Earth, Wind & Fire (get it?) on this song,” wrote SongFacts. “McKay played guitar, and EW&F members Larry Dunn (synth), Fred White (drums) and Verdine White (bass) all played on the track.

   “Another advantage to working with Maurice White in the ’70s was access to the Earth Wind & Fire horn section, which was known as The Phenix Horns. White used them on this track – at the time they were Don Myrick (saxophone), Louis Satterfield (trombone), Rahmlee Davis and Michael Harris (trumpets),” according to SongFacts.
   “White and McKay wrote Best Of My Love specifically for the group. For White, writing this song was a way of expressing a positive feeling in a style much better suited for The Emotions than for his band. White says he would have never written this song for Earth, Wind & Fire,” according to SongFacts.

   In 1977 I had not developed my habit of zoning in on song lyrics. The music just carried all of us. I picked out “doesn’t take much to make me happy” and “never, never will I feel discouraged,” from the first verse and the happy tune did the rest.   It is a disco era hit that absolutely stands the test of time. 

   “The group was originally a gospel outfit known as the Hutchinson Sunbeams who toured the gospel circuit with their father Joe Hutchinson,” according to Wikipedia.  The Billboard Book of Number One Hits says they were first The Hutchinsons, then The Heavenly Sunbeams.

    “The Sunbeams sang on Jerry Van Dyke’s “Children’s Gospel” television show and also occasionally performed in the concert with Mahalia Jackson. They eventually became an R&B/Soul act with a popular following in their hometown of Chicago,” according to Wikipedia. “Soon being renamed as The Emotions, they signed with the Memphis-based Volt imprint of Stax Records in the late 1960s. Under the production of Isaac Hayes and David Porter the group issued their 1969 debut album entitled So I Can Love You on Stax.

The group then joined up with Columbia Records where an association with Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire brought them their greatest level of success.”

“White knew The Emotions (the sisters Wanda, Sheila and Pamela Hutchinson) from his pre-Earth, Wind & Fire days when he regularly drummed for the then-teenage girl group on their gigs in the Chicago area,” according to SongFacts.

   Billboard ranked Best of My Love at number one on its list of the Top 40 Biggest Girl Group Songs of All Time on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The magazinealso ranked the track at number 10 on its list of 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.

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