Hump Day Slow Jam of the Week: “(If Loving You is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right"

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The Singer: Luther Ingram had only one major hit, but 35 years later it stands tall among soul ballads. Ingram was born in Tennessee but spent time in St. Louis working for the McDonnell space program before moving to New York to pursue a career in music. In his later years, Ingram settled in Belleville, Illinois, where he died in March of 2007. He’s best remembered for “(If Loving You is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right,” but Ingram had a long history in music: He played with Ike Turner in East St. Louis clubs, shared a room with Jimi Hendrix, and co-wrote the Staple Singers’ hit “Respect Yourself.”

The Song: While plenty of slow jams celebrate adultery (from Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones” to Atlantic Starr’s “Secret Lovers”), Ingram’s signature song has a palpable sense of dread and a moral gravity to it. The stabs of the Hammond organ seem to cut through the singer’s conscience, and the electric piano floats with an unwieldy menace. In an obituary published by The Independent, Ingram is quoted on the song’s arrangement:

“Barry Beckett played the organ, did exactly what I needed, Shelton Clayton played the Wurlitzer with an Echoplex to get the real shrill vibrations. Jimmy Johnson was on rhythm guitar, he put his fills in. With the other guitar player [Pete Carr], I said, ‘I need some tears,’ so he got a Crybaby wah-wah. And Roger Hawkins played the drums. He had started it off a bit fast. It has a tempo in the introduction that is faster than when I come into it. ‘Drop it back a little bit,’ I said, and it fell just right in the pocket.”

The Video: This clip comes courtesy of the film WattStax, the documentary filmed at the 1972 music festival of the same name. WattStax was held at the Los Angeles Coliseum to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the Watts riots and featured the Staple Singers, Isaac Hayes and Albert King. Ingram’s performance was reportedly recorded on a sound stage after the actual festival took place and edited to look like it was performed in front of the audience.

Hipster Cachet: The song was originally cut by the Emotions (singers of the fabulous “The Best of My Love”) and after the success of Ingram’s version, it was also recorded by Rod Stewart, Isaac Hayes, and Barbara Mandrell.

-- Christian Schaeffer

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