Sunday, January 23, 2011


Linda Clifford

(Click above to hear "All the Man I Need.")

While this song is best known as a huge hit for Whitney Houston in late 1990, "All the Man I Need" had a long life before it hit the top of the charts. Originally written in 1981, it was recorded by soul/dance chanteuse Linda Clifford, and released as a single. For reasons I'll never be able to figure out, it didn't chart. A cover by Sister Sledge not long after only floated at the lower regions of the pop charts, and the song would remain in obscurity until Houston's chart-topping cover a number of years later.

Clifford's version differs from Houston's in several key ways. For one, it has a sincerity completely missing from the hit version. Clifford's voice is warm, and she uses her instrument to wrap the listener in the gorgeous lyrics, while Houston's version (like so many of her songs) seems more of an exercise in "look what I can do!" To this listener, Linda Clifford's recording remains the definitive version.

Linda Clifford was born in 1948, and began her career as a jazz singer and occasional actress. Supporting roles in The Boston Strangler, Coogan's Bluff and Sweet Charity showed her promise as a thespian, but it was in music that she scored her greatest success. Her dance-oriented recordings of "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" and "If My Friends Could See Me Now" still stand as absolute classics.

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