MADELINE BELL

I'm Gonna Make You Love Me

Madeline Bell has been a mainstay of the British music industry since the 1960s. She's worked as a backup singer for many top artists, including Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones, Joe Cocker, Elton John and Cliff Richard, had a number of her own record releases, been a member of a popular British rock band and she even hosted a show for awhile on BBC Radio 1. She also made her mark on the disco music scene in France. There's one technicality, though: Madeline was born in Newark, New Jersey.

As a teenager her primary interest was in gospel music, and by the age of 20, in 1962, she had performed with The Glovertones, which led to a spot in the gospel group headed by Alex Bradford, a respected spiritual singer and personality since the late 1940s. During her time with them, Bradford's group joined the music production of Black Nativity, which toured the U.S. and Europe starting in '62. The connections she made in England would be lasting ones. She was a backup singer on several of Dusty Springfield's early recordings (along with Doris Troy, another transplanted black American singer). She recorded station jingles for Radio Caroline, the most successful of the pirate radio stations broadcasting offshore in the mid-'60s, and was having such a great time with it all that she settled permanently in the United Kingdom.

Dee Dee Warwick (who was, coincidentally, from Bell's home town of Newark) recorded "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me," written by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Jerry Ross, which showed up briefly on the U.S. charts toward the end of 1966. Around the beginning of 1968, Philips Records of the U.K. signed Bell to a contract and her recording session for the song became a big studio production with a sensitive lead vocal by Madeline, aided by Dusty, punching up the backing vocals with an asserive presence. America's Philips label (a subsidiary of Mercury Records) began promoting the disc and it caught on, landing in the top 30 in March 1968 (a few months later, a minor but notable male vocal version was released by the group Aesops Fables).

Madeline Bell

Madeline's attempts at a subsequent hit single just didn't happen. Two follow-ups on Philips included "What Am I Supposed To Do," written by John Paul Jones, who was getting things rolling with Led Zeppelin at the time (he later produced an entire album for Madeline, Comin' Atcha, in 1973). Having already been involved in a variety of music-related projects, a move toward rock in '69 was not a stretch for the gifted singer. She joined Blue Mink, a band headed by Roger Cook (formerly of David and Jonathan, though it's uncertain whether he was Dave or Jon...it may not have actually mattered as the duo was short-lived; their only hit, "Michelle," despite hitting top 20, was predictably overshadowed by The Beatles' original Rubber Soul track). Madeline enjoyed her greatest U.K. success with Blue Mink, the band's run of hits from 1969 to 1973 including "Melting Pot" and "Our World" (the latter also hitting the charts in the U.S. in the fall of '70). Disco came calling in the late 1970s (some answered the call, some didn't). She provided lead vocals for French disco band Space, best known for "My Love is Music" in 1979.

The unfortunate twist to the Madeline Bell story is that her one hit has been unfairly overlooked in the larger scheme of music history. Perhaps overshadowed is a better way to put it; on December 9, 1968, two-hot-Motown-groups-plus-a-diva became one act, as Diana Ross and the Supremes and The Temptations appeared on NBC with the high-rated variety special TCB (Takin' Care of Business). They capitalized on the small screen exposure with a single release of "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" that hit number two in January 1969, just before the TCB soundtrack became the number one seller on the album charts. This version was more of an event than what you might consider good music, the song's original brilliance lost in a bantering display of egos by the temporary supergroup (Diana's 'looky-here' still makes me flinch); an excess of talent flaunting its superstardom at the expense of common sense. For my money, it was a low point in the otherwise outstanding careers of both the Supremes and Temptations. To the rest of the world, apparently, it was more or less the opposite. The shame is that it has nearly buried the superior Dee Dee Warwick and Madeline Bell renditions, a wrong that will hopefully be righted when cooler heads prevail.

- Michael Jack Kirby





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I'm Gonna Make You Love Me