George McCrae is rocking on as he belted out on the 2020 Ultimate Disco cruise proving his right to be known as the “Acknowledged Leader” of the soul revolution. The man known for his 1974 hit “Rock Your Baby,” actually-began the “Miami Sound” which turned into the sound for which disco grew from.
McCrae Garners Global Accolades
McCrae’s “Rock the Boat” sold over 52 million copies earning it the status of being a historical worldwide top-selling pop record. Since that song McCrae earned two platinum singles, two platinum LP’s and fourteen gold records – plus top music award accolades from around the world. The Luxembourg Golden Lion Award for outstanding Achievement by a Foreign Artist in Germany was given to McCrae making him and Frank Sinatra the only U.S. Recipients of the prestigious award.
The song was a global record seller in 1974 selling over 52 million copies and earned the Number one single of the year by Rolling Stone Magazine, Record World, British’s Cash Box and the Dutch Music Poll. “Rock Your Baby” as one of the biggest selling pop records in history stayed in the top one chart spot for months in over 82 countries.
Perhaps the most impressive accolade came from John Lennon. Lennon was so inspired by McCrae and “Rock Your Baby” that the song motivated the Beatle to pen, “Whatever Gets You through the Night.” Lennon stated about the song:
“I’d give my eye tooth to have written that. But I never could. I am too literal to write “Rock Your Baby”, I wish I could.”
An Interview with McCrae
McCrea is onboard the 2020 Ultimate Disco Cruise putting on an amazing show along with Anita Ward and Maxine Nightingale. All their voices sing out as if they have never skipped a beat. The cruise was certainly enhanced with the energy McCrae and the women brought on board.
Carol Ruth Weber: How did it feel to have a hit just when you were about to move from music to law enforcement?
George McCrae: It felt really-great, there are so many stories. KC [KC and the Sunshine Band] has told his version of it and my version of it is I was just about to give up singing. I was just about to give up singing and we went down to the studio to review my ex-wife’s album that she recorded in Nashville. Harry Wayne Case and Rick Finch approached me and said they had a song and wanted me to sing because KC couldn’t sing the song. They knew my voice because I did a lot of background vocals.
How they came up with the idea was that when I was there I was telling them about my new daughter and how I would hole her and rock her to sleep. That gave them inspiration for the song text. So, the following week we went back to the studio and recorded “Rock Your Baby.” In the beginning I improvised “Sexy Women” before I started the song and we kept it in, along with more improvisation that made the song what is.
CRW: Did being a part of a large family as one of nine siblings have an impact on your love of music?
GM: Yes, my mother had a very big influence. She really-loved opera and had a high soprano voice. I tried to imitate her with the high voice. I grew up in the church in West Palm Beach and sang in the church choir with church verse and gospel. I also was in the school Glee club where I really-got my training – I sang a solo and learned how to sight read music. I had one year of piano lesson and I went to start my second grade of piano but my mother started having more children, so it cut into the budget.
My father loved jazz and blues. I listened to Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Sarah Vaughan to name a few. Then country western music – Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn. That was all playing in my home town then.
On the pop side was Pat Boone – all my favorite singers. R &B sound Sam Cooke, and another guy I liked was Little Willy John who was a young blues singer. BB King, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Tyrone Davis. Then Motown came in with the Temptations, Four Tops, The Contours, The Imperials. There were so many of them, even the pop Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
As a teenager, I listened to all of them – Elvis Presley. I could keep on naming names on the male side and on the female side. My favorite one was Doris Day. And Peggy Lee, Julie London, Nancy Wilson. I had all the albums at home.
A lot of female vocals – The Supremes, Mary Wilson, Patti LaBelle – there’s so many of them. All the groups that came out, especially from NY – The Manhattans, Chi-Lites, Bloodstone, James Brown, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry. All the songs from these groups really-influenced me. The Beach Boys, Chicago, Jefferson Airplane. Fleetwood Mac, the Beatles and Rod Stewart. I just listen to really-great music and sing their songs. And don’t forget my favorite Sam Cooke and Smokey Robinson – they were my inspiration for how I sing “Rock Your Baby.” Sam Cooke was my idol and when he passed away I cried for a whole day. Every generation borrows from a previous generation.
CRW: What do you love most about teaming up with Anita Ward and Maxine Nightingale?
GM: Fantastic, these are my colleagues. We first did our tour first in England. Anita Ward was on the same label distributer as I was in Miami. We have been friends ever since. Since 1974 I have done about 10 shows with each of them.
CRW: How are you enjoying the Ultimate Disco Cruise?
GM: Fantastic. It is ultimate like you say. It is a cruise where there is no animosity, no racism, everybody is like one big happy family. If the world could be just like this ship right here – dancing. People coming up to me to say hi saying they are from other countries telling me they came on the ship just to see me. It shows how powerful, how strong disco music is and how dance music is. It’s not just American, it’s international. It doesn’t matter if you are gay, straight, red, yellow, black, white, it’s about love. Its what God intended to be … we all have to start loving each other and respecting each other. Life is too short.
McCrae Was Destined to be a Music Man
McCrae had his first singing experience in church at the age of six in his home town of West Palm Beach Florida. When he was a teen McCrae sang with the Roosevelt High School Glee Club and then began his own group known as the Jivin’ Jets. In 1963 he left singing to join the U.S. Navy for four years. When he finished his military stint, McCrae went back to music singing in Florida clubs and lounges.
After some small successes, McCrae decided to follow in his policeman father’s footsteps by enrolling to study law enforcement. With Music still running through his veins he could not give it up completely. “Rock Your Baby” was to be his last shot in making it in the music world and the song that decided his fate.
Along with “Rock Your Baby” McCrae had other hits with songs from the album “Rock Your Baby.” “I Can’t Leave You Alone” and “You Can Have It All” allowed for McCrae to maintain a top spot on the international pop charts. His music sings to both R&B and Pop charts in Europe and other countries along with the United States.
More hits such as “It’s Been So Long” and “I Ain’t Lyin” appeared on McCrae’s self-titled second album. In 1979, with his album “We Did It,” McCrae continued his rise of popularity as he toured Britain, Europe, and the Middle East.
For four years, the talented song master took a well-deserved rest and then regrouped in 1984 with a new sound heard on the song “One Step Closer” and the album with the same name. Once again he found himself in the number one position – this time on contemporary Canada charts and top 75 charts in England and Holland. McCrae hit the European dance charts again in 1987 after he re-recorded “Rock Your Baby.”
McCrae is Worthy of His Own Sound
The man does not slow down and has been more currently co-writing and co-producing new music with a brand-new sound worthy to be called the “McCrae Sound.” July 1991 had a release of the album “With All My Heart in Germany with its First single “Breathless” making it on the top 20 dance charts in Europe. Again, McCrae found himself with another top playing song in 1994 with “Do Something” – making top 10 in Belgium, Luxembourg and The Netherlands.
“LOVE” is the aptly named newest album recorded by the song master. It is a compilation of McCrae’s true love for music with a genuine feeling of a mix of soul, funk, pop and disco. The album is recorded in true in 70s style but with a mix of today’s sound. The album speaks of love and emotion for real music.
Listening to McCrae belt out on the Ultimate Disco Cruise one can certainly understand his worthy title of “The King of Disco Soul Dance Music.”