Breakfast Breaks # 4: Ramsey Lewis’s “Sun Goddess”

JLBarrow • December 05, 2012 • No Comments

The titular track to Ramsey Lewis’s 1974 album was never meant to be that. His reunion with Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White was the result of an impromptu jam session that went on for almost 9 minutes. However, “Sun Goddess,” with it’s chant of “way-oooo” took on a life of its own and has become a favorite among diggers and producers.

During an interview with Ramsey Lewis for the day job he explained to me the making of the song and the lesson he learned from its creation.

“Sun Goddess” almost didn’t happen. I was halfway through with an album. We were recording and had to stop to go do a concert. Maurice White form Earth, Wind and Fire called to tell me about their sold out show at Madison Square Garden and told me he had a tune he wanted me to listen to because he thought it could bigger than my biggest record, “The In Crowd.”

They were headed from New York to Los Angeles and I was leaving Washington D.C. and going to Chicago. He said he would have some of the band stop in Chicago and show us the song. We spent three days perfecting that song in the studio. I asked what the name was and they said, “Hot Doggit.” As an afterthought, he mentioned that they had a 16 bar melody with no intro. After they played the song, everybody just did a solo on it. Don Myrick did a solo on it too. Maurice was getting into lyrics. He said we’re just going to overdub us saying,”Way oh.” Somebody suggested the name as an afterthought because it was a nine minute song, so nobody thought it was going to get airplay because of the length.

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We put out “Hot Doggit” and it sold about 35 copies. We named the album Sun Goddess because we thought it was unique. The album was selling and we couldn’t figure out why. The record company checked out why the album was selling when the single we put out had stopped being played on radio three weeks after we put it out. It turns out people were going to stores asking for the album with the eight minute song on it. We edited it down to five minutes to get airplay on pop and soul stations, but the jazz stations played the eight minute version. The five minute one is on my new album.

However, the moral of that story is to go in and record all music to the best of your ability instead of trying to predict which one is going to be a hit. Most jazz musicians don’t have that approach to music. We try to think of it as a dinner where you have the appetizer, entree,  and dessert. We never go in thinking, “This is going to be THE single.”  You just don’t know. That’s one of the problems with pop and R&B groups. They approach an album as if each song is going to be a single, when it’s really up to the audience.

Check out Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s usage of “Sun Goddess” on “Searchin”

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