About Barbara Lynn
In a just world, Barbara Lynn would have been a major star. After all, what other African-American woman in the early 1960s, barely out of her teens, not only sang with rich and affecting soul, but also wrote her own hit songs, and was a sharp, facile guitarist, playing left-handed no less? Perhaps Lynn’s formidable talents may have been just a bit ahead of that time. But the good news is that Lynn has re-emerged in recent years to claim her rightful place as the Empress of Gulf Coast Soul. That fact is evident on her debut album for Antone’s Records, Hot Night Tonight. On it, Lynn strikes the perfect balance between her deep R&B roots and a contemporary appeal, proving musical gifts to be timeless. The album was produced by Don Smith, whose many credits include producing acts like John Hiatt, The Tragically Hip and Cracker, and engineering and mixing albums by The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, U2, Keith Richards and The Traveling Wilburys. For the sessions, Smith matched Lynn with a unique mix of stellar players: young soul lions like Ivan Neville, Charley Drayton and Bernard Fowler, and rockers Davey Faragher and David Immerglueck.
The album not only features seven superb original songs from Lynn herself, but also revisits such soul classics as “When Something Is Wrong” and “Never Found A Man.” It also includes a guest appearance on the Lynn-penned “You’re The Man” by her son, rapper Bachelor Wise, that creates a bridge between two generations of African-American music. It’s an album that showcases Lynn’s facility with both the blues and soul music, while also giving those venerable styles a 21st Century vitality. Barbara Lynn Ozen was born on January 16, 1942 in Beaumont, TX, within the musically fertile region east of Houston known as the Golden Triangle. Though she started out playing piano as a child, “After going to grade school,” Lynn explains, “I realized I wanted to play something odd, so I picked up the guitar. Then after seeing Elvis Presley playing guitar, that really motivated me more.” Inspired by blues masters like Guitar Slim and Jimmy Reed as well as such pop acts as Presley and Brenda Lee, by her teen years Lynn was winning talent shows leading her all-female band, Bobbie Lynn and the Idols. Lynn soon graduated to the clubs, where one night she so impressed swamp pop singer Joe Berry that he introduced the young talent to famed producer Huey Meaux. When Meaux asked Lynn’s parents for permission to record their daughter, they were concerned that she get an education, yet still supportive of her dreams. “My father said, if this is really what she wants, to be a singer, we are all the way behind her,” she recalls. “But my father also told Huey, if she doesn’t make it with her first record, she has to go to college and leave this alone. But at that time, I should have realized I could have gone to college and be a singer.”
Lynn did receive a first-class education in popular music, scoring a #1 R&B hit and Top 10 pop hit in 1962 with her first single, “You’ll Lose A Good Thing” (later also a country hit for Freddy Fender). More chart records followed, and touring with such soul greats as Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Dionne Warwick, Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke, as well as one of her guitar heroes, B.B. King. She appeared twice on American Bandstand, and even had her song “Oh Baby (We’ve Got A Good Thing Goin’)” recorded by The Rolling Stones. By the mid-1960s, Lynn had also started raising a family, a situation that, when combined with the vagaries of the music business, kept her profile low for the next two decades. Even though those years saw some tough times for Lynn, she continued writing music, performing, and occasionally recording. Yet all the while, she kept her talents honed to a sharp edge. And since Lynn has never smoked or drank, her voice not only preserved its potency, but matured with class and style. Hence when she re-entered the musical arena in the mid 1980s, Lynn was still as powerful a musical presence as when she was first discovered at age 19.
As Rolling Stone’s David Fricke noted of her set at 1999’s South By Southwest Music Festival, Lynn continues to display “undiminished grace and poise, pouring a lifetime of blues and wisdom into her delivery.” Now, at 58 years old, Lynn is an elder stateswoman of R&B whose abilities can still challenge artists half her age. Her decades of experience inform her songs, singing and guitar playing with a richness that draws from a wealth of musical knowledge, making these years some of her best as an artist. “Over my 38 years of recording,” she observes, “I’ve only had one major song to really make it big, and right now, I still work on the strength of that one song. But hopefully with this album, and Antone’s Records, we can make it happen.