Northern Soul Legend Dobie Gray
While Dobie Gray may not be a name that every ordinary person is immediately familiar with, he is certainly one of the most important in the world of Northern Soul. One of a very few select artists, Dobie Gray is almost inseparable from Northern Soul itself.
The two tracks that Gray is known for in the scene are “Out on the Floor” and “The In Crowd”. Both of these songs contain lyrics that seemed to resonate amongst the dancefloors of Northern Soul All Nighters, with references to being part of a club, dancing and having a good time when work is over.
Born in Texas in 1940 as Lawrence Darrow Brown, he eventually chose the stage name Dobie Gray as a reference to a popular television show at the time in the 1960s. The style of music that Gray recorded often varied from country to pop and R&B, despite the fact that he is now overwhelmingly known for his soul songs. Dobie Gray’s songs that became popular in the Northern Soul scene were originally recorded and released on small American labels in the 1960s, and were relatively commercially unsuccessful when they were released. However, with the emergence of Northern Soul in the mid 1970s, his songs were reissued by UK labels and even re-entered the charts.
The Northern Soul Classics
“Out on the Floor” is to this day a Northern Soul classic, and is often played at the end of All Nighters. On the whole, its clear to see why this single encapsulates the Northern scene so well. It has a fast, catchy beat, simple but heartfelt lyrics about dancing and freeing yourself, and is delivered with a voice that can get to the core of anyone’s soul. All in all, this was pretty much the criteria for a great tune to play at a night at the Twisted Wheel or Wigan Casino, whether or not the record buying public liked it when it was released.
The Rest of His Musical Legacy
Apart from his tenure as a Northern Soul hero, Dobie Gray was also the vocalist and percussionist for the band Pollution, making psychedelic rock influenced by soul. He later began recording and working with Paul Williams, and then won a recording with Decca, later to become a part of MCA Records. In the 1970s and 1980s, apart from reissues of his previous material, Gray had several minor chart hits, and continued to record material.
In 2011, Dobie Gray passed away after complications resulting from cancer surgery at the age of 71. His legacy lives on as possibly the most important artist in the history of Northern Soul, and his tracks continually appear in the top ten entries for lists of the best Northern Soul singles of all time.