obituary of Inez Foxx | pop and rock

American singer Inez Foxx helped popularize soul music in the UK and was a regular performer in Britain from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s. Inez, who passed away at age 84, sang in a duo with her brother, Charlie, and they were often mistakenly considered husband and wife rather than siblings.

They were best known for their 1963 hit, Mockingbird, a witty back and forth between Charlie’s deep voice and Inez’s wry gospel wail. Together, the Foxxes recorded over 50 memorable songs, and Inez also enjoyed a brief solo career.

They were much more popular as a live act than as performers. The Beatles praised them and the Rolling Stones booked them as support for a British tour in 1964. Dusty Springfield recorded a cover of Mockingbird for her album A Girl Called Dusty (and sang it on her ITV television program It Must Be in 1968). Dusty, with Jimi Hendrix as her duet partner).

Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records, first heard Mockingbird in Kingston, Jamaica in 1963, negotiated a license to release it in the UK and ensured it was the first record to be released on his Sue label. in the UK. It eventually became a UK hit with a reissue in 1969, but by then Inez and Charlie’s working relationship came to an end.

Inez and Charlie Foxx perform No Stranger To Love in 1966. Youtube

Inez’ striking appearance, strong voice, confident stage presence and warm, engaging character convinced the audience. That she has never had greater chart success is one of those conundrums often found in popular music.

In 1974 she suddenly stopped recording and performing. A staunch British audience, especially among northern soul aficionados, continued to champion her music and Mockingbird maintained its popularity, sung by many and featured in the 1994 film comedy Dumb and Dumber and hit TV series such as The Simpsons and Will & Grace. Still, Inez kept her silence, one of those who ran away from music at the peak of their talents.

Born in Greensboro, North Carolina, to John and Peggy Johnston, Inez had eight siblings and was the closest to Charlie, who was two years her senior. At an early age, Inez joined her family singing at their local Baptist church and was singled out for her vocal talent. She attended Dudley High School and after graduating she joined the Gospel Tide Chorus and began working in the Southern Church circuit. Her talent was noticed by a local impresario, Charles Fuller, who persuaded Inez to go solo and sing R&B.

Charlie was determined to work with Inez, and in 1959, after overcoming parental disapproval, they traveled to New York City. Inez soon had a recording contract with Brunswick Records and in 1960 she released two failed 45’s as Inez Johnston. The siblings developed an act as a duo and adopted Foxx as their stage name. In early 1963, they noticed African-American music entrepreneur Harry “Juggy” Murray was leaving a restaurant, stopped him and auditioned on the sidewalk, playing Mockingbird, a song they invented from a nursery rhyme.

Murray was impressed and signed the duo to Sue Records. Mockingbird was released in the summer of 1963, credited solely to Inez Foxx, and it quickly became a hit on both US Pop (No. 7) and R&B (No. 2) charts. Murray rushed Foxx’s debut album, Mockingbird – again credited to Inez, although Charlie wrote or co-wrote 10 of the album’s 12 songs, played guitar on all tracks and sang on several.

Inez Foxx’s striking appearance, strong voice, assured stage presence and warm, engaging presence convinced the audience. Photo: Records/Alamy

In 1964 Murray – after playing a pivotal role in the launch of Ike & Tina Turner – began billing the Foxxes’ recordings as Inez & Charlie Foxx. Still, they struggled to impress on the charts. Guy Stevens, who had appointed Blackwell as head of UK Sue, proved to be a formidable promoter of the duo, ensuring their records were played regularly on British pirate radio (BBC radio gave little airtime to R&B at the time).

They became regular visitors, supported on their first UK tour by the young Birmingham band the Spencer Davis Group. They appeared on the groundbreaking ITV music show Ready Steady Go and their 1964 single Hurt By Love reached number 40 in the UK. In 1966 they signed to Dynamo Records, where they began working with acclaimed producer and songwriter Luther Dixon. Inez married Dixon and co-wrote songs with him, including I Love You 1,000 Times, a 1966 hit for the Platters. The duo’s Dynamo releases remained at a high level – (1-2-3-4-5-6-7) Count the Days in 1967 gave them their last US R&B hit, while their album Come was released that year. By Here.

In 1969, Charlie moved to Mobile, Alabama, launched his own label, Tee Off, and focused on signing and producing soul singers. Inez continued to record for Dynamo and toured the UK. In the early 1970s, she divorced Dixon and signed to Volt, a subsidiary of Stax Records. Her 1973 album At Memphis found Inez confidently wielding strong contemporary songs, but failed to produce a breakthrough hit. In 1974, she rejected Stax’s offer of the song Woman to Woman, which instead became a huge hit for Shirley Brown, prompting Inez to leave the music industry.

That year, James Taylor and Carly Simon had a US Top 5 hit with their recording of Mockingbird, and the song has had a remarkable life ever since, with many artists recording it, from British band The Belle Stars to American country singer Toby Kees.

In 1990 London label Ace Records re-released Inez’s entire recorded output on At Memphis & More, and in 2001 it collected Inez and Charlie’s Sue and Dynamo singles on The Dynamo Duo. Still, Inez refused all pleas to perform at oldies concerts and northern soul festivals, preferring to live quietly in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton.

Charlie died in 1998. Inez leaves behind a sister, Jean.

Inez Foxx (Johnston), singer and songwriter, born September 9, 1937; died 25 August 2022

Leave a Comment