One of the most important singers in American history owes his success, in part, to the Soul Children. The group of 2 men and 2 women – J. Blackfoot, Norman West, Anita Louis, and Shelbra Bennett – was created at Stax in 1968 by David Porter and Isaac Hayes on the heels of their success with Sam & Dave.
The songwriting duo had already been working with Blackfoot when they decided against putting together another duo and came up with the idea for a quartet of male and female singers, which Stax had never done at the time. After bringing on West, they recruited Louis, who had been singing on WDIA-AM as a Teen Town Singer, and Bennett, who simply wanted to be a Stax singer. The Soul Children proved to be a magic mix of vocalists and Hayes and Porter groomed them to sing sweet and clever songs about adultery and cheating.
Their biggest hit, “I’ll Be The Other Woman,” was just such a song with Bennett on lead vocals. When the group was formed, recalls Porter, he had to hire a manager for the group to ensure the 17-year-old Anita Louis’ mother that they would be watched over and taken care of. They did so, and a few years later the same manager called Porter from Los Angeles to tell him there was a young man he should hear and produce. Hayes and Porter traveled to L.A to hear the budding musician, who Porters says was so good he told the manager that he did not need producers, that he could produce his own music. The singer was Stevie Wonder, and to this day he credits Porter and Hayes with that bit of help early in his career.
Today, the Soul Children continue to perform with original members Blackfoot and West, and J. Blackfoot records on JEA Records, owned by Bar-Kays James Alexander and Larry Dodson.
Bio courtesy of Stax Museum of American Soul Music
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