Friday, October 1, 2010

The Impressions: Gypsy Woman

Back in 1970, one of my favorite songs on the radio was Brian Hyland’s “Gypsy Woman.” Maybe it was the distinctive sound of the Wurlitzer Electric Piano that starts the song. I didn’t know at the time that it was a cover of an older song which was written by Curtis Mayfield and had been previously recorded by his group the Impressions. “Gypsy Woman” was the first hit record by Impressions after their former lead singer Jerry Butler left the band.

Mayfield sang the lead on this record that charted at #20 in 1961. Their rendition was much different than Brian Hyland’s later hit. For one thing, the Impressions have a cha-cha-cha type of rhythm and is at a faster tempo. Like the electric piano made Hyland’s version, on this tune it is the castanets that are the signature instrument.

Brian Hyland’s rendition

“Gypsy Woman” was the comeback recording for Hyland and is a far cry from his sophomoric hit tunes of “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yello Polkadot Bikini” and “Sealed with a Kiss.” It also was his biggest selling single and his first and last hit for the new Uni record label. While his first single (“Itsy . . .”) was his highest charting record at #1, “Gypsy Woman” did slightly better than Hyland’s other big kiss that also charted at #3 by remaining on the charts for two weeks longer.

Although chart performance is based on numerous factors, the #3 slot did not deter “Gypsy Woman” from being his biggest seller with over a million units sold to his credit. It was the only certified gold record for the artist. “Gypsy Woman” was produced by fellow early 60s rocker Del Shannon. Listen closely and you’ll hear Shannon’s influence on the organ parts as well as his voice among the back-up singers.

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