Born in Nashville, the daughter of a Baptist minister, Rita Coolidge initially established herself as a backup singer. With a smoky sweet voice, intelligence, and a funky Dusty Springfield (circa "Dusty In Memphis") like soulfulness, Coolidge was recruited into sessions for the likes of Delaney & Bonnie and Leon Russel.
Her first significant public exposure occurred in 1970, when she was invited to tour as part of the legendary Mad Dogs And Englishmen entourage, where she became the vocal anchor of Cocker's space choir. Coolidge also enjoyed a showcase spot on these concerts, singing the lovely Leon Russel/Bonnie Bramlett composition, "Superstar." These performances brought her to the attention of the A&M label, which soon signed her to a recording contract.
Her debut self-titled album was released in February of 1971 to critical acclaim, but experienced modest commercial success. The follow-up album, "Nice Feeling," issued in November of 1971, was an even stronger effort and featured a more cohesive core band featuring Leon Russel's partner from his Asylum choir recordings, Mark Benno, as well as the extraordinarily talented keyboard player Mike Utley. Fleshing out the band were seasoned musicians, Charlie Freeman, Tommy McClure, and Sammy Creason, all three of which had recorded extensively together and with Utley. This album still stands as the high water mark of her early career and proved that Coolidge was indeed a major talent.
Coolidge would eventually attain widespread acclaim in 1977, upon the release of her Anytime-Anywhere album, which spawned three Top 20 hits. However, as this performance clearly displays, all the elements were firmly in place back in 1971. She would never achieve superstardom, but as Joe Cocker, Leon Russel, and many other superstars of the day well knew, this Delta Lady is one of the truly great female vocalists of that era.
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