Singer and songwriter Gene McDaniels died July 29 at the age of 76. McDaniels is perhaps best-known for having composed the protest song “Compared to What,” made famous by jazz musicians Les McCann and Eddie Harris, and the R&B standard “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” recorded by numerous performers, most notably Roberta Flack. He was a talented composer and an even more impressive singer.
I called C.I. to find out more (not to play "I'm going to stump you" -- that's a game you'll never win at) and Tricky Dick hated McDaniel's album Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse. He called up the head of Atlantic Records and put pressure on and McDaniels was dropped from the label. He's written many songs (over 2,000 is what I think he said) and the one I knew best was "Where Is The Love?"
In the early '70s, Atlantic Records released McDaniels' albums "Outlaw" and "Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse," for which he wrote or co-wrote the songs.
"They were very political albums, and they got him kicked off his label," his wife said.
Flack's 1974 recording of McDaniels' "Feel Like Makin' Love" reached No. 1 on the Billboard chart and was nominated for two Grammys. McDaniels wrote many songs for Flack.
McDaniels' songs have been recorded by singers including Aretha Franklin, Nancy Wilson, Donny Hathaway, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Johnny Mathis and Ray Charles. He also produced for artists, including Flack, Knight, Lenny Williams and Melba Moore.
Liberated from financial worries, McDaniels revived his own recording career with two albums, Outlaw (1970) and Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse (1971), in which, now rechristened Eugene McDaniels, he presented a strong and sometimes bitter social and political message set to stripped-down street-funk and quasi-rock rhythms. The cover photograph of Outlaw depicted a multiracial group of armed urban guerrillas, an explicit statement that seemed to align him more closely with the rage of Amiri Baraka and the Last Poets than with the gentler black protest music of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On and Curtis Mayfield's Back to the World. Their impact, however, was minimal until they were unearthed by hip-hop's crate-digging obsessives, who put such tracks as Cherrystones and Jagger the Dagger to new use. The album Natural Juices (1975) showed a more romantic side, but there was no audience for such fine love songs as Shell of a Man and Dream of You and Me. He moved into record production, working with the organist Jimmy Smith (for whom he produced the album Sit On It! in 1977) and the singers Nancy Wilson and Merry Clayton.
Stirring up a Molotov cocktail of blues, rock and free jazz Heroes set the sonic and lyrical blueprint for conscious rap decades before it existed. The luscious gravy-thick groove of “Jagger The Dagger” was wholly sampled by A Tribe Called Quest at the beginning of their first album, and mirrors Tribe’s approach to positivity and questioning of the music industry.