Lost but not least! Webster Lewis – You Deserve To Dance (Epic)
Webster Lewis?!? I remember the first time I got to hear this jam of his. It was… back in the day. Soon after its release at a famous Parisian record shop called Champs-Disques. There, a salesman by the likes of Gérard Zanotto who’s become a friend of mine since, used to prepare some tunes for me to listen to. On the top of the stack happened to be Webster Lewis‘ album ‘8 For The 80’s’ and its opening cut under the form of the aforementioned.
I got instantly caught by its uplifting flow, blending those typical Disco strings over a blowing funky bass-driven rhythm part courtesy of Nathan Watts along with Wah Wah Watson on rhythmic guitar and Herbie Hancock on clavinets. And I’m not even talking about the vocal arrangements givin’ the whole some irresistible feeling.
I still tend to think Lewis would have deserved a way better recognition for this. Alas, History tends to show how it’s full of examples of top quality jams which, for various reasons, never managed to get the right exposure.
I couldn’t resist though givin’ it another mention. For the ones of you who’ve never heard it. As as a cool reminder hopefully for those of you familiar with it. With your appreciation, as usual, more than welcome on these shores…
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Born in Baltimore, MD, Webster Lewis earned a bachelor’s degree from Morgan State University before completing a master’s degree at the New England Conservatory of Music.
He started playing Jazz with Bill Evans and Tony Williams. Eventually sharing the bill with The Post-Pop, Space Rock, Be-Bop, Gospel Tabernackle Chorus and Orchestra BABY! back in 1971. With this resulting in the recording of ‘Live At Club 7′, with some of its parts released as a part of an album on Sonet Records the year after. Then others including an alternative version of ‘Do You Believe’ comin’ up 36 years later in a new recording on Plastic Strip. Lewis also comin’ to share the duties with Arne Falck and Brett Borgen on the 72 ‘Menneskedøgn’ album, equally on Sonet Records.
Webster Lewis relocated to Los Angeles, CA in the mid-70’s. He then signed a record deal with Epic, jumping into Disco Music. He released 4 albums for the label between 1976 and 1981. With ‘8 For The 80’s’ featuring ‘You Deserve To Dance’ being his third one, co-produced with Herbie Hancock. Another gem worth the mention being the title track of his 1981 ‘Let Me Be The One’ album. And he’s also responsible for The Love Unlimited Orchestra Presents Mr. Webster Lewis ‘Welcome Aboard’ album which he co-produced with Barry White during the same year.
Last but not least, he made himself quite a reputation as an arranger and a producer. Most likely for Gwen McCrae with the memorable ‘Keep The Fire Burning’. And also Michael Wycoff‘s famous ‘Looking Up To You’. A cut which Zhané sampled back in 1993 on ‘Hey Mr DJ’.
Lewis also wrote two movie soundtracks (‘The Hearse’ and ‘The Sky Is Grey’). He then left the record business, making a successful career in the field of TV commercials.
He sadly died in Barryville, NY on Nov. 20, 2002 as a result of diabetes.