Song of the Week – Woman to Woman, Shirley Brown, and Henderson Thigpen

I’ve been a huge fan of the Memphis based Stax label for a long time. Their brand of southern soul music appeals to me much more than the sanitized sounds that came out of Motown, though I love a lot of Motown too.

Over the years I have immersed myself in the Stax catalog and history.  I downloaded The Complete Stax/Volt Singles compilations as soon as they were released.  One of the best music books I ever read was Peter Guralnick’s Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom.  While that book isn’t only about Stax, the label plays a huge role in his story.  I have also watched the Wattstax concert movie and listened extensively to the soundtrack record.

Now there is a new four-part documentary series about Stax on HBO called Stax: Soulsville U.S.A.  I watched it a few weeks ago and highly recommend it to anyone who loves 60s/70s soul music.

The docu-series devoted significant time to the story behind Shirley Brown’s “Woman to Woman,” the 1974 single that was a #1 R&B hit but stalled at #22 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The song was penned by the trio of James Banks, Eddie Marion, and Henderson Thigpen. On the website, Thigpen is quoted saying:

James and I used to get together every day, and we were at a studio one day trying to come up with some ideas, something different. When people get serious, they say ‘hey, let’s talk man to man’. So we came up with a concept. We thought it would be interesting to have a song with somebody coming up ‘hey, let’s talk woman to woman’. I had overheard my wife at the time arguing over the phone with a friend of hers about a man with another woman, so we – James, myself and Eddie – came up with the monologue. But no females were doing it. Isaac Hayes was doing long monologues at the time. Whenever we came up with an idea, we demoed it to give the rough idea of the whole song.

Fortunately for us, last February a boxed set titled Written In Their Soul: The Stax Songwriter Demos was released.  It includes 146 demos from the Stax stable of songwriters – 140 previously unreleased – including the one of “Woman to Woman” made by Thigpen and mentioned in the quote above.

So, sit back and enjoy both versions of this slow jam, soul classic.

Enjoy… until next week.