A few years ago, I was digging through crates of records at a store when I came upon this:
The names that stuck out to me were Larry Levan, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare (aka Sly & Robbie), but those aren’t the names that would stick with me.
That would go to Gwen Guthrie.
Born in 1950, Guthrie started out as a session singer for such artists as Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder. She eventually began working as a songwriter, writing songs for bands such as Sister Sledge. Not long after that, she met Sly & Robbie, and together, the three would record numerous sides together. A big fan of those recordings was Paradise Garage DJ Larry Levan. Levan was influential not only in his track selection, but in his remixing capabilities. In 1983, the bunch of them released “Padlock” on Garage Records, the club’s own label.
The album was a beautiful mix of Guthrie’s soulful vocals, dubby basslines and keys, with a jerky beat. It padlocked my heart, indeed.
Guthrie would go on to release her biggest hit, “Ain’t Nothing Goin’ On but the Rent” in 1986.
Gwen Guthrie passed away on Feb 3, 1999, 14 years ago yesterday. We’re hoping she’s in Seventh Heaven, dancing away with Larry.