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THE MARCEL SMITH STORY


Photo courtesy of Bob Hakins

  “I was probably fourteen years old, when a bunch of us guys, who had always liked music, were trying to sing doowop on street corners. That was my very first group. It was a junior high school group of guys from our neighbourhood. We were trying to organize harmony, which we didn’t know anything about. But it was fun and it was definitely a great learning experience. My mom had just ordered a compilation album on Tee Vee Records called Midnight Fire (in 1979), so we decided to call ourselves Midnight Fire.”

  Marcel Le’Roy Smith has recently released an outstanding solo album, but we’ll review that together with Marcel at the end of this article. Marcel was born in Sacramento, the capital city of California, on February 28 in 1965. “I still live in the region, but 45 miles south, in Stockton, although I’m in Sacramento all the time. In the 70’s and 80’s Sacramento was in the flux of expanding. Music was everywhere. There were the blues and jazz giants: Jimmy Smith, Jimmy Witherspoon, Johnny Heartsman, Frankie Lee, etc., then great gospel singers like the Spiritual Five, Pearly Gates, Sensational Harmonizers, Gospel Motivators, Clouds of Glory, Weary Travelers, Angelic Supremes, God’s Gospel Angels, Echoes of Love, Victory Five…”

  “My father Milton Smith grew up in Detroit, Michigan and had some Motown connections from high school. Needless to say, Dad introduced me to the Motown Sound with singers/groups such as the Temptations, Supremes, Mary Wells, Miracles, etc. Dad loved gospel music, especially the quartets. He also introduced me to the music of Mighty Clouds of Joy, Brooklyn All Stars and the Violinaires. Grandmother Florence Davis taught me guitar and exposed me to church and gospel music via church services and local radio programming. Grandfather Jim Davis, the son of a minister and a deacon in the Baptist Church, taught me old hymns and spirituals of the church along with some of the work songs. He encouraged and influenced my interest in wearing suits and how they should be tailored and worn. Mother Doris Magee sang to me all the time: Summertime, Our Day Will Come, Amen. Mom encouraged me to listen to all types of music and to keep my mind and heart open to all genres. Mom was a lover of music and frequently listened to radio and purchased music from our Oak Park neighbourhood record store, Coles Records and Variety, or subscribed to a music club where you join and receive 6 – 10 LPs for a nickel. Mom developed a great collection through these clubs. Mom had a variety of music interests ranging from Gospel, Blues, Jazz, Soul/R&B, Rock, Easy Listening, and so on… she could go from listening to the Drifters, Bobby Bland or Nancy Wilson, then I would hear her playing Tom Jones, Elvis or Sinatra, which explains my variety of musical influences and interests. Stepfather Lester Magee introduced me to the music of Sam Cooke, B.B. King, Johnnie Taylor, Tyrone Davis, Little Milton, and the southern soul blues sound, which influenced me significantly.” Besides guitar, these days Marcel plays also piano, organ and bass - only if needed - smilingly.

  “At 11, I sang my first lead with the church youth choir, Jesus Is My Rock. One of my major influences at Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church was Deacon W.C. Lewis Sr. and his wife, pianist and singer Elizabeth Lewis. They were awesome as soloists but when they sang duets together, they were a FORCE. While at Pleasant Hill, I got to meet and spend time with a Soul Stirrer, Rev. Paul Foster, as he led a Revival at our church for 5 days.”

  Marcel’s list of his early musical idols is almost endless. In addition to some of the most well-known gospel groups on a national level – Blind Boys of Mississippi, Dixie Hummingbirds, Swan Silvertones, Pilgrim Travelers, Spirit of Memphis, Willie Banks and Jackson Southernaires, Blind Boys of Alabama, Caravans, Davis Sisters, Meditation Singers, Gospelaires, Pilgrim Jubilees and Supreme Angels – he wishes to call attention also to the groups from the Bay Area: Westcoast Corinthians, Superior Angels, Oakland Silvertones, Sons of the Soul Revivers, Soulful Sons of Zion, New Testament Singers, Gospel Specials, Wilson Brothers, Gospel Hummingbirds, Men of Endurance, Pickney Singers, Gospel Voices, Leggett Brothers and Oakland All Stars. Of the leading ladies in gospel music, Mahalia Jackson, Shirley Caesar, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Dorothy Love Coates are brought up.

  That, if any, is an all-encompassing list, but before we move on to another comprehensive list – this time Marcel’s biggest influences later in his career – let’s first see how Marcel kept himself busy after his church choir and Midnight Fire stints in the latter part of the 1970s and early 80s.


W.D. Gospel Singers 1981 - 1984. Top Row (l-r):Clem Washington, Eugene Johnson, Lonnie Washington, Charles Ward, Charles Harper. Middle Row (l-r): Willie Washington, Elbert Brown. Bottom Row (l-r): Willie G. Martin, Marcel Smith

THE W.D. GOSPEL SINGERS

  Marcel’s second group called the Ebony Echoes was rather short-lived. “That was at high school in Sacramento at 15-16 years of age. We were named by our teacher Frank Withrow, who heard us rehearsing in the music room at Sacramento High School. We felt like we were a younger quartet, and we were trained by some of the older guys, who were a part of the Spiritual Five. Mr. Withrow thought that we were pretty good and said ‘okay guys, you’re gonna be Ebony Echoes and you’re gonna perform at our Black History Pageant next week.’ We lasted that one gig. Then we all went separate ways” (laughing).

  Those days the next group was already in the making, and this one lasted for as long as 38 years, until 2019.  The W.D. Brothers was organized in January 1981 and Marcel joined the group in March. He was 16 and still in high school. The founding members of the W.D.s were the Washington brothers – Willie, Lonzie and Clem – Dosty brothers Arthur and Vernell along with Charles Ward. Marcel first replaced Arthur Dosty in the capacity of a guitar player and singing tenor.  Willie L. Washington Sr. had spotted him, when he was singing a solo in a church program in Sacramento in early ’81. Willie was the leader of the W.D. Brothers and his earlier gospel quartet history includes the Spiritual Five of Sacramento and the True Light Gospel Singers of Idabel, Oklahoma. He passed on in May 2009.

  In 1984 the “quartet” changed its name to the W.D. Gospel Singers, and at that point the members of this now 9-piece outfit included the three Washington brothers, Charles, Marcel and Lonnie Woodfy, Willie Martin, Chris McClain and Timothy Sells. Marcel: “Over the years we would have multiple members in the group. Some were local singing personalities, i.e. O’dell Ross Sr., James “Spoony” Lee, L.C. Williams, Willie Gooch and Jessie Johnson. Next phase: after Lonzie and Clem Washington left the group, we continued with Willie Washington and Charles Ward – both were lead vocalists – Marcel Smith (guitar, lead vocal), Marcus Davis (vocals, bass guitarist), Anthony Brown (drums), Russell Norris (2nd tenor), Eugene Lomax (guitarist) and Kalvin Daniels (2nd tenor). After the passing of Willie Washington in 2009, the group continued still for ten years with Marcel Smith, Charles Ward, Marcus Davis, Anthony Brown, Eugene Lomax, C.L. Frederick (baritone), Lewis Thompson (2nd tenor) and Charles Williams (baritone, lead vocal).”

  I guess that for all you soul music fans the above is the kind of information you’ve been desperately seeking for (smile), but it might come in handy for the “gospel quartet” aficionados among you. We, however, switch over to the non-gospel side of Marcel Smith for a minute.

M3 BAND AND THE SOUL PROPHETS

  Marcel didn’t abandon his secular career that he had launched with Midnight Fire in 1979. Five years later he formed his second soul & blues group and, besides singing, naturally played guitar in it as well. “The M3 Band came around in my college years with a couple of friends of mine, Melvin (bass) and Maurice (drums) Townsend. Marcel, Melvin and Maurice make M3. The music was Motown, soul and R&B. It evolved out of the previous group the Ebony Echoes, which was a high school band. Maurice and Melvin played in a local gospel group called Spiritual Five and I was playing in W.D. Gospel Singers at that point. M3 did a lot of college gigs. We were playing a lot in universities in California. One big gig in Sacramento was opening for Taj Mahal. All this time we were still doing gospel programs. It was easy to sing between the two, but a struggle when some church-goers found out I was singing in clubs and recording blues music.”

  Just like Midnight Fire and Ebony Echoes, the M3 Band wasn’t very long-lasting either, but after about two years turned into Marcel’s third secular band and fifth altogether, now named the Soul Prophets. It was a blues & soul band, which was formed in 1985 out of two sources. “The South City Cobras Blues Band was Robert Nakashima (guitar) and Anthony Brown (drums). During the River City Days concert series at Sacramento State University, I was playing with M3 while Robert and the Soul Prophets were also playing on the same event, but both bands were performing at the same time on different stages on the opposite side of the campus. Robert invited me to check them out at their weekly gig at the On Broadway. I was playing at a gospel concert not far from their show, so I took him up on the offer. That was a great night. With Robert we came up with the idea to merge the two groups together. I talked to my guys in M3 and they didn’t want to do it, so I joined the Soul Prophets alone and we had a nice run from 1986 to about ’93-’94… and I was still doing things with the W.D. Gospel Singers.” The line-up of the Soul Prophets in 1986 was Robert on guitar, Marcel on vocal, organ and piano, Anthony Brown on drums and John Kwock on bass. In the 1990s John was for a short spell replaced by Paul Vieira.


Soul Prophets 1987 - 1993 line up: Anthony Brown, John Kwock, Robert Nakashima, Marcel Smith

  The very first record Marcel’s voice is on is Part Time Love by the Soul Prophets. “That was on a compilation disc called Sacramento Blues in 1992. Big Mike Balma, who was the president of the Sacramento Blues Society and promoter of Sacramento Blues Festivals and director of Sacramento Heritage Festivals, put out a CD with local artists. That was my first time actually being in a studio, a real recording studio that wasn’t somebody’s garage.”

  “Afterwards we got the bug and started recording more. In 1993 we won a SAMMIE Best Blues Band award, which we shared with Little Charlie and the Nightcats.” Sammies are Sacramento Area Music Awards. “For the Entertainer of the year, Rick Estrin won. The votes were close between Rick and I. In his acceptance speech Rick gave me a shout out… I really love Rick Estrin. He’s a great human being, more like a brother. The Soul Prophets had a big fan base in the 1990s, because we were a youngish blues band and playing iconic venues like Sam’s Hof Brau, The Torch Club, etc.”

 Soon after the Sacramento Blues CD, Big Mike set up a label, which he named Have Mercy Records, and – besides the Soul Prophets – on that label he released CDs by Johnny Heartsman, Glenn Lane, Johnny Knox, Arbess Williams, Luminators and Omar Sharriff.

FROM THE OLD SCHOOL

  The Soul Prophets’ very first CD was released on Have Mercy Records in 1993 and it was titled From the Old School (HMCD-05). This ten-song CD offers some blues (Doing My Time, Put Those Blues Away), but also such soul & blues covers as Part Time Love (written by Clay Hammond), I’ve Never Found a Girl (by Eddie Floyd, Al Bell and Booker T. Jones), San-Ho-Zay (by Freddie King and Sonny Thompson) and I’d Rather Go Blind (by Ellington Jordan, Billy Foster and Etta James).

  One critic wrote that From the Old School deserves “the best album that nobody heard” award, and it really is a very-hard-to-find disc, but it’s nothing compared to the “follow-up”, which nobody knows practically anything about. “It’s a closely guarded live recording from 1993 at the Italian American Social Club in San Francisco, Ca. Joe Louis Walker was also on the bill. Then there’s a 2010 Soul Prophets Reunion Live DVD at the Sacramento Horsemen’s Club, and this line-up also included Johnny Rawls and Otis Clay.”

OLD TIME RELIGION

  Then we switch back to the inspirational side of Marvel.  The W.D. Gospel Singers’ very first album was titled Old Time Religion, and in 1994 it was released on Have Mercy Records (HMCD-07) as well. At that point the line-up of the 8-member group was Willie, Lonzie and Clem Washington, Charles Ward, Marcel Smith, O’Dell Ross Sr., Arthur Dosty and Dejuan Anderson.

  The album consisted of a few traditional gospel songs – Woke up This Morning, Old Time Religion, On the Battlefield, Running for Jesus, All the Way – but there were also Willie Washington’s songs among them, such as Jesus Put My Life Together and Don’t Let Them Sleep Too Long. You can find some of those vintage W.D. performances with Marcel on YouTube.

  “Our second album was Workin’ the Road in 2000 and the third one was My Everything You Are. We released it in 2010, after Willie passed away. On the W.D. recordings I sing lead, tenor and baritone and play guitar, organ and piano. I sang with them until 2019.”


W.D. Gospel Singers 2005 - 2010. Top Row (l-r): Marcus Davis, C.L. Frederick, Lewis Thompson, Marcel Smith. Bottom Row (l-r): Anthony Brown, Charles Ward, Willie Washington, Eugene Lomax

  With ever-changing line-ups, working with the W.D.’s wasn’t always easy for Marcel. “I remember when Willie’s two brothers left the group and all those new members were coming in, it wasn’t very easy to replace somebody. One time I looked around and we had ten guys. ‘We don’t have a quartet, we have a whole choir’ (laughing). It was hard for us to travel. Once we got it down to five or six guys, it was more manageable – easier accommodations. When we first started recording, I also started seeing that some of the guys were becoming interested in other musical pursuits, and I understood that.”

  As usual, Marcel would keep on going over the fence repeatedly. “I would make appearances on variety of gospel programs also as solo artist, and I would sit in with other blues artists like Rick Estrin, Alvon Johnson, Earl “Good Rockin’” Brown and Arbess Williams.

  Marcel graduated in 2002 – “Bachelor in Business Management and E Business.” In 2014 Marcel with the W.D.s were honoured with the BMA Music Icon Award, and that same year they were inducted into the Sacramento Black Music Hall of Fame, and in 2016 Marcel was inducted into the Sacramento Blues Society’s Hall of Fame.

  At this point we could check out the earlier promised list of Marcel’s biggest influences later in his career. Besides the obvious ones – Sam Cooke, Bobby Womack, Johnnie Taylor, Little Milton and Wilson Pickett – he adds Smokey Robinson, Jackson Five, Ben E. King, Chuck Jackson, Nat King Cole and of the more local ones Willie Washington, Charles Ward, Bennie McClain, Jessie Calloway, Joe Clayton, Johnny Evans, Henry Johnson, Odessa Perkins, Prince Dixon and Roy Tyler.

EVERYBODY NEEDS LOVE

  A multiple Grammy Award winner and highly regarded keyboardist Jim Pugh founded a nonprofit record company called Little Village in 2014 (https://littlevillagefoundation.com/our-story/), and on our Soul Express site (https://www.soulexpress.net) you can find features on many artists, who have released material on that label, i.e. Wee Willie Walker, Sonny Green, Tia Carroll and Diunna Greenleaf. “I knew of Jim for some of the things he had done with Robert Cray. His name always floated around. The late Roy Tyler of the Gospel Hummingbirds and Rick Estrin are responsible for connecting me with Jim Pugh. When I finally met him, they were having a show in San Jose. At that point I was on a bit of a hiatus, because I had lost four W.D. and Soul Prophets guys within a few years from each other. Willie had passed in 2009, C.L. Frederick in 2012, my drummer Anthony Brown in 2014 and Charles Ward in 2015. Those were my core guys. But soon I wanted to get back in the game, and it became a great relationship for me. Rick Estrin said that ‘everybody knows Marcel Smith from the Soul Prophets and WD. Let’s re-introduce you.”

  With W.D. and the Soul Prophets Marcel had sung already on five CDs, but his very first solo album, Everybody Needs Love, was released as late as in June 2018 on the Little Village label. Jim Pugh, Rick Estrin and Chris Andersen produced the set. Among the array of musician backing Marcel up in the rhythm section there are Jim Pugh on keys, Chris Andersen on bass, guitar and percussion, Alex Pettersen on drums, Endre Tarczy on bass and Wurlitzer, Quantae Johnson on bass, Steve Gurr on guitar, Rick Estrin on harmonica and the engineer Bobby Yamilov also on bass. On horns there are Jack Sanford and Nancy Wright on sax and John Halbleb on trumpet, and Dwayne, James and Walter Morgan and Lisa Leuschner are the background vocalists.

  The music on the album is a mixture of Sam Cooke and Bobby Womack tunes, pop, reggae and gospel traditionals. Marcel calls it “inspirational music.” Actually, Everybody Needs Love is an outstanding old-school album, which opens with the title song written by Eddie Hinton. The performance is full of soul and Marcel’s vocals are backed with a rich orchestration. After first hearing the track Marcel said ‘I like it, but I hear more of that Wilson Pickett/Bobby Womack’s I’m in Love”, so it was slightly rearranged. On Sam Cooke’s Keep Movin’ On, Wee Willie Walker is the guest vocalist, and the old torch song, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother, is interpreted in a highly inspirational style. “My drummer, Anthony Brown, loved the tune and sometimes he would be in the passenger seat and start singing ‘the road is long’ as we the WDs were driving back home after a tour. It’s hard for me to listen to that song without thinking of him. He was like a brother to me.”

  The highlight of the album is a powerful and slow interpretation of Archie Brownlee’s Where There’s a Will There’s a Way, followed a few tracks later by a Bobby Womack classic, an impressive version of Harry Hippie. “I love that song. I’ve met Bobby Womack a couple of times”.

  Between those two they placed the inspirational Poor Man’s Struggle. “That was actually done by the Soul Stirrers in the 70s, and the WD’s took a spin on it. I didn’t want to offend my gospel audience, so I wanted to make sure we had a balance. Rick suggested ‘let’s go in and make it more of a message song.’ That was a good transition.”

  Looking Back is a tender song written by Clyde Otis, Brook Benton and Belford Hendricks and turned into a hit by Nat King Cole in 1958 (#2 – rhythm & blues / # 5 – pop). “I’ve always wanted to play Looking Back. Since I was a kid, I’ve loved Nat King Cole.”

  Everybody Needs Love was recorded at Greaseland Studios in San Jose, California. “It was definitely a good album to relaunch my career, and – believe it or not – it still sells today.”


Photo courtesy of Bob Hakins

WHERE IS JUSTICE

  “After that album I primarily would appear on the Little Village showcases, or at Greaseland events. I then started working with ELM Productions and Bob Jones and the Chosen Few, Mick Martin Martin’s Big Blues Band for local regional shows primarily at JB’s Lounge, HarloHarlows, etc. and opening for acts like James Hunter Six and Johnny Rawls at other local venues in the region.”

  In the recording studio Marcel performed the opening preaching part on Billy Price’s record, Reckoning, in 2018. Three years later he recorded with the Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra (APSO) a mid-tempo beater with a social message titled Where Is Justice. “I met Anthony, when the late Wee Willie Walker was with APSO. I remember seeing them at Eli’s Mile High Club and asked Jim and Kid to introduce me to Willie. I wanted personally to thank him for singing Keep Movin’ on on the Everybody Needs Love album. From there, he and I gravitated to each other. I met Anthony that same night. Later we talked about touring together, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic combined with the emergence of a new career opportunity, I was unable to tour at that time.”

  In 2021 Marcel cut another song, a mid-to-up-tempo beater named Big Hurt, with AJ Crawdaddy aka the guitarist Angelo J. Rossi.


Photo courtesy of Bob Hakins

FROM MY SOUL

  On October 28 this year Little Village Foundation released Marcel’s second solo album titled From My Soul, and it is a spectacular piece of soul music. Produced, recorded and mixed by Kid Andersen at Greaseland, to a degree the list of the players is the same as on the previous album. Only now the drummer is Derrick “D’Mar” Martin and Jon Otis is on percussion. This time the horn section consists Mike Rinta on trombone and Aaron Lington on sax – they both also created the horn arrangements on certain tracks – and John Worley on trumpet. Again, Sons of the Soul, Revivers and Lisa Leuschner Andersen provide the background vocals, and Don Dally is in charge of strings.

  The opening three songs were all written by Marcel, Anthony Paule, Christine Vitale and Larry Batiste. “They are all new songs, and there’s another one that we haven’t finished yet.” I’m Coming Home to You is a perky, laid-back dancer with Sons of the Soul Revivers giving it an extra boost. In contrast, If You Miss Me is a soft, late-night, easy listening ballad with Eric Spaulding playing the sax solo. The third song, What Can We Do, is a melodic, mid-to-up-tempo number. It’s blessed with a rich instrumentation and again Sons of the Soul Revivers give it a gospel touch.

  The funky Freedom Blues is an old Little Richard number from 1970, and the “drums connection” here is that “D’Mar” used to play with Little Richard close to twenty years. “Kid threw the song at me. I got to change it up a little bit. Rick Estrin just ripped that song with harmonica. When my girlfriend first listened to the song, she thought it leaned more towards rock rather than soul or blues, although she still enjoys it.”

  The slow and smooth Wake Me up When It’s Over is an old Willie Nelson song from 1962. “I think Jim suggested it to me. I said that vocally I want this album to be a bit smoother than my first album, because my daughter asked me ‘dad, why are you singing so rough on most of your songs?’. That question registered with me. I wanted this song to sound very nostalgic, and I kind of brought my inner Dinah Washington into it.”

  Jimmy Liggins had a # 4 rhythm & blues hit with his song Drunk on Specialty in 1953. Marcel and the Little Village guys have modernized the song and turned it into a quick-tempo stormer with Mike Rinta adding a trombone solo. “I remember that song being played by my grandparents. I wanted it to be funky, but we have to pay respect to the original. That’s why at the end we go back to the original rhythm, and Mike Rinta did a great arrangement with the horns.”

MY HEART TOLD A LIE

  A melodic and pleasant beat-ballad called To Be True was cut by the Robert Cray Band for the This Time album in 2009. This poppy toe-tapper was written by Jim Pugh and Richard Cousins. “Jim brought that to me and I really liked it, but I said that ‘I hear a double voice, a duet’, so we overdub my voice. I try to give the song a new life, my interpretation of it. I love Cray’s version and I aimed close to the original but wanted to infuse my own signature style to it.”

  There are two songs on this set that derive from the Soul Prophets’ 1993 album. “Those were two old great songs that I think need to be heard again.” The first one is the driving, bluesy and rocky Nothing Left to Burn, which has Tony Lufrano on organ and features Kid’s guitar solo. “It’s been thirty years since we released that album and that album is no longer in print. I started performing that song alive and it started going over well, so we re-recorded it. When we first released it in ’93, Bobby Womack said ‘I like the song, but you guys are missing horns on the song.’ This time we added horns to it, and gave it a little bit slower groove, because the original was really fast. It worked out well. My daughter performed the song with her band and acknowledged that I was one of the originators of the song.”

  The second song is a pretty ballad named My Heart Told a Lie, and it grows from soft to powerful towards the end. “My girlfriend suggested to do it from a woman’s perspective. I never thought about that. So she actually came up with the idea, and I asked if Lisa Leuschner Andersen, Kid’s wife, would sing on it. This gave it another dimension, a new life. Lisa graciously contributed subtle nuances that enrich the conversation, revealing that both hearts told a lie. Then I said ‘I also want to hear horns on that.’ Mike Rinta arranged them. Robert Nakashima and I wrote that song probably in ’87-’88, and released in ’93. On my next album I’ll do probably more of those old songs.”

  There Goes My Used to Be is Roosevelt Jamison’s soul song that O.V. Wright recorded in 1964 and Wee Willie Walker a year later. Also James Carr recorded it those days, but his version was canned at the time. Here Marcel does an intense, slow duet with Johnny Rawls. “Kid suggested ‘let’s make it slow.’ From there, it happened organically in the studio and I think that was pretty much one take to have the guiding track, and then we got Johnny in.”

  Another well-known soul song and a duet with Johnny Rawls follows, as the familiar chords of Turn Back the Hands of Time set in. Supported by Lisa and Sons of the Soul Revivers and horns arranged this time by Aaron Lington, this track features a rich and driving sound. “Johnny recorded it with Otis Clay. They met at the Soul Prophets reunion gig in 2010 for the first time. I now said to Johnny ‘I’m kind of responsible for you guys having The Soul Brothers album (in 2014), and Otis Clay is no longer here, so I want to do Turn Back the Hands of Time with you.’ He started laughing and said ‘okay, let’s do it.’”


Marcel with Wee Willie Walker

I DON’T WANT TO TAKE A CHANCE

  Wee Willie Walker had cut on Goldwax in the 60s a song called I Don’t Want to Take a Chance, but it was then left in the vault. He re-recorded the song with Anthony Paule on the After a While album in 2017. Now in Marcel’s treatment this melodic beat-ballad grows into a poppy dancer. “This was my choosing. This was me paying tribute to Willie, because I know that was his song. I do that also in live shows. I told Kid ‘let me sing background on it.’ It takes me right back to my Midnight Fire days, that same style in the background. So it kind of came full circle for me. Willie Walker was really a beautiful soul. When my father passed away on September 19, 2019, during that time of profound grief, Wee Willie Walker played a significant role in my life. Sadly, two months later Willie also passed away on November 19, 2019. On this record I wanted to honour his memory and pay tribute to him.”

  The last track on the album is a cover of the Bee Gees’ ’71 platinum hit, How Can You Mend a Broken Heart. With Jerry Jemmott on bass, this very slow and deep delivery was recorded at Greaseland on October the 3rd in 2021. “It was actually done in a backyard party at Greaseland, and I did not know that Kid was recording. My mother had passed away three days prior. My mom and I were 18 years apart, and my dad and I were 21 years apart, so it was hard, because I was close to them. Listening to it now, I hear that I was tired but also so overwhelmed. I had just lost my best friend, my mother, and all that emotion came out on that particular recording.”

  From My Soul is a truly fine and impressive soul album and this organic piece of art belongs to the top-tier among this year’s releases. Marcel’s personal favourites are “all the originals as they come from a personal space for me - and To Be True. Then there is How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, which is bitter-sweet for me.”

  Marcel, who has outside U.S.A. visited Canada, Bahamas and the Mexican Riviera so far, has a few wishes for the future. “I have a strong desire to perform additional shows both in the US and abroad, as well as to create new songs and potentially embark on a new album. Whatever aligns with my musical journey, believe me, I’m here for all of it. For me, music is not about myself; It’s about the people I share the moment with, creating a collective experience. If someone is feeling down, perhaps I can uplift them or provide encouragement, a sense of peace or simply offer something that brings a smile to people’s faces.”

(Interview conducted on November 10, 2023; acknowledgements to Marcel Smith and Kevin Johnson; one source: Microsoft Word - Soul Prophets of Sacramento.doc (opalnations.com).

MARCEL’S SOLO ALBUMS (after his five albums with The W.D. Gospel Singers and the Soul Prophets):

EVERYBODY NEEDS LOVE (LVF 1019) 2018

Everybody Needs Love / What A Friend / Keep Movin’ On / He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother / Hold Me / Where There’s A Will There’s A Way / Poor Man’s Struggle / That’s Heaven To Me / This Little Light Of Mine / Harry Hippie / Pressing On / Looking Back

FROM MY SOUL (LVF) 2023

I’m Coming Home To You / If You Miss Me / What Can We Do / Freedom Blues / Wake Me When It’s Over / Drunk / To Be True / Nothing Left To Burn / There Goes My Used To Be / Turn Back The Hands Of Time / My Heart Told A Lie / I Don’t Want To Take A Chance / How Can You Mend A Broken Heart

© Heikki Suosalo


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