Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Lynda Laurence: Supremely Blessed

Lynda Laurence
Lynda Laurence Lynda Laurence, Diana Ross and Scherrie Payne 'Return To Love Tour' 2000 F.L.O.S (Former Ladies of The Supremes) Inc: Scherrie Payne, Lynda Lawerence &  Joyce Vincen Floy Joy

It’s not been easy tracking down this lady because with her group The Former Ladies of the Supremes, she’s been touring extensively in Monte Carlo, Italy, Dubai, Australia, and other far away places, before popping by London next month to celebrate Motown’s 50th anniversary with us.

The Former Ladies, also comprising Scherrie Payne and Joyce Vincent, are joining other Motown gals - Brenda Holloway, Chris Clark, Mable John and Thelma Houston - with Jack Ashford’s Funk Brothers, for a gala celebration on 13 November at the HMV Apollo, where Motown fans are planning to gather together to pay homage and join in the party – Motown-style! Anyway, lucky for us, Lynda took time out of her schedule to relax awhile and chat.

When I spoke to Scherrie just recently, I asked her feelings about the “Return To Love” tour with Diana Ross in 2000 and, in the light of another book being published about The Supremes which does little to show Diana in a good light, I asked Lynda whether she deserved to be ‘got at’ again. She immediately responded with – “what I relate to, and commiserate with Diana on, is the fact that she is vilified because she thinks for herself, she says ‘no’ when she thinks it is necessary, and she is her own boss!  She runs her own show.  I’ve never heard of her trying to run some one else's, simply her own show.  And why not?  Don't the men in this business do the same thing? And they are praised for it. my group, I too am vilified.  For the very same reasons.  So many times I have heard that people don't like me and they even don't know me!  So unfortunately, this will go on and on.  Another reason is, in my estimation, simply...jealousy.”

Before we go any further, let me tell you about my pal. She was born Lynda Tucker in Philadelphia in February 1949, the youngest daughter of Louise and the late Ira Tucker, leader of The Dixie Hummingbirds. Her sister is Sundray, her brother Ira Jr. (Sundray was a one time member of The Former Ladies) Lynda’s singing career embraced The Pendelles, before she worked her way into the Stevie Wonder group, Third Generation, later known as Wonderlove, during 1969. As a member of Third Generation, Lynda worked with Sundray (known as Cindy Scott) and cousin Terri Hendricks, and she fondly recalls working with Stevie to promote “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” which features her on support vocals. From Stevie, Lynda became a Supreme with Jean Terrell and Mary Wilson, replacing a heavily pregnant Cindy Birdsong. The “Floy Joy” album had just been released in 1972 instead of the scheduled “Promises Kept” package. You can see Lynda on the album sleeve, although at the time, her presence wasn’t acknowledged. With the Andantes as support vocals, Mary had several leads on this album, and vocally interacted with Jean on the album’s title and the glorious “Automatically Sunshine” which, incidentally, was the trio’s last top ten UK hit. (The Stevie Wonder produced “Bad Weather”, complete with whistles, was the final hit at number 37 in 1973). Lynda wasn’t allowed to sing lead while with The Supremes except, I’m told, for one verse on the unreleased “Soft Days”, although she did sing lead on stage. Then, in 1973, the pregnant Lynda was replaced by, you got it, Cindy Birdsong. Jean Terrell then quit and Scherrie Payne stepped in. With the demise of The Supremes, Lynda was a much in-demand session singer, and to this end she worked with Stevie on his “Songs In The Key Of Life” album, and with Aretha Franklin on “Love All The Hurt Away”, and for Jean Terrell on her “I Had To Fall In Love” elpee. Lynda also recorded as a soloist and, I’ve always said, if you want to hear an explosive emotional song listen to her “Living With A Married Man” released on Ian Levine’s Motorcity label. I suggested to her that a lot of good came from the UK based company, but Ian also attracted a huge amount of criticism. One signed artist once said he tried to do too much too quickly; Lynda agreed, adding – “It took Motown years to build its roster of talented artists.  Ian had a great idea but the execution of it was a bit dodgy.” Motorcity not only released product by The Former Ladies..but added them to the nationwide Motorcity Tour with other signed acts – The Elgins, Syreeta, Marv Johnson, Carolyn Crawford, Edwin Starr and Kim Weston. It was a great feeling seeing them all together – memories of the Motown Revues came to mind, especially when the shows finished because all acts returned to the stage for one huge finale number. 

When I went on to ask Lynda what she felt was her best period in her career, the best times, there was no doubt about it – “Joining The Supremes was truly monumental in my life. sing with Stevie Wonder, and to have stepped out on parts in the back up of one of his most prolific songs, ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ is, and always will
be, one of the high points in my life! This year marks the 40th anniversary of that song.” And that kinda led to Michael Jackson and his recent passing in July which, without doubt, shocked the world, and to a certain extent, we’re still in the throes of the grieving process. I wondered if Lynda had chanced to work with him? “No, I didn’t. However, I met him when he was still quite young.  His Mother and I are friends and attend the same Kingdom Hall.  It has affected me  to see her go through this excruciating turn of events.  We were all looking forward to seeing the tour.  To say the least, I was devastated. I suppose if you are in this business you can't help but be influenced by him.  So Scherrie and I are incorporating a medley dedicated to him in our act.  He was simply...the Best! “ Michael left three young children behind and, although they’re with his family, no-one will take the place of their dad. Like myself, Lynda has young children in her family and we can’t help but worry about their future. Is she preparing them for their life ahead? ”At the moment I have a niece  who has a great singing voice.  However, she is shy and doesn't open up as much as I would like to see.  She lacks the confidence that’s sorely needed in this business. So I suppose, I will tell my grandson and his sister  that they have to believe in themselves to do whatever it is they want to do.  Because if you don't believe what you are doing... how will any one else?  Self confidence is very important.  Not arrogance, confidence.” Lynda then went on to acknowledge her father as her guiding light and greatest influence during her formative years. I visualised the smile in her voice as she said – “I listened to my Incredible father Ira Tucker sing from the time I was born I suppose.  The man could really sing.    But...really it was my mother that truly encouraged me to sing.  It was my mother that made sure I had my head on straight.  It was my mother that made sure I learned to play an instrument. It was also, my mother who helped me to understand education is key as well as how to be a lady.  So my mother, Louise Tucker really influenced me.   I think the best thing my parents taught me is to be honest and to always hone my craft because there is always someone waiting in the wings.”

In all the conversations and exchange of emails we’ve had during the years, Lynda’s always been open and frank, and not easily fazed. And this has been the case throughout this interview, even when talking about her personal life. When I asked whether there was anything she’d like to change in her life, she replied -  “I suppose I would not have been married three times.  And professionally, I would have stayed in The Supremes a little while longer to become the official lead singer” Lynda has also courted tragedy this year. Her beloved father died, and she lost everything she owned in a house fire – and she coped. . “The only way I am sane is through my faith.  I am one of Jehovah's Witnesses for the past 33 years now.  It is my strong Faith in Jehovah God that has not only pulled me through but has given me  a large measure of peace that permeates my life.  I have found that in a crisis (i.e. 9/11 - another story) it has always been Jehovah God's Holy Spirit that lifts me up and gets me through it.  Also, the three ‘F's’  Friends, Family & Fans that care about you can make you feel very loved and supported.  Although I lost everything in the fire...really, I lost nothing!” And during any spare time that she may have, does she relax? Does she hell.. “I enjoy speaking with people about the Bible.  It’s very rewarding and satisfying. And I love being with my grandchildren.  They are my joy”

It’s this spirit love and determination that’s authentically kept The Supremes’ legend alive. And, after far too long, we’ll see that for ourselves when the ladies hit the London stage at both The Jazz Caf and the HMV Apollo. Lynda’s also clearly pleased with the prospect – “I am so honoured to be a part of the Motown Family.  And I’m so pleased to announce that Joyce Vincent, of Tony Orlando and Dawn fame, who is a native Detroit-er  has joined Scherrie and I.  We’re looking forward to our performances in the UK, where I know the fans will welcome her with open arms.  She is a true asset to our group.  By the way...Scherrie and I have been together for the past 23 1/2 years!!!”

Meantime, the ladies have recorded and released a new single “Good Intentions” which is available via iTunes, and are currently working on an album – when touring permits of course! Lynda’s son Trevor Lawrence Jr produced the single, and his wife, Alicia, penned it. This brings a whole new meaning to the phrase – keeping it in the family! See you soon!

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