Terry Callier passed away from throat cancer Oct. 28. He was only 67.
Callier was singer-songwriter born and raised in Chicago's infamous Cabrini-Green projects where he was steeped in R&B/doo wop. This led to him writing and singing his first side, a GENIUS soul track, "Look at Me Now," on the local Chess label. His record afforded him some attention and he was invited to tour with Chess artists, but his mom wouldn't allow him to tour, so he stayed in Chicago writing songs. But then in college, he heard folk music and John Coltrane. Everything changed, and tho' his roots were based in soul, his mind and writing were soon rightly expanding.
His first album The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier, testifies to his new reach. It's with the cool of The New Folk Sound I always regarded him as less of a soul man and more of a folkie, a grittier Arthur Lee, but he didn't just stick with the dreamy folkie action; he kept on writing and recording soul sides. In fact his '70s soul sides were STILL pure soul in the crossover vein; dig the velvety "Gotta Get Closer To You." Then, after writing a hit for the Dells in '72, "The Love We Had Stays on My Mind," he signed to Chess and recorded three jazz albums. Uh, tho' they're fantsatic albums...none sold, so the label dropped him. He then signed with Elektra, recording two more albums, but, again, with a no-hits outcome he remained underground. By the early '80s, as his playing/recording wound down, he chose to provide for his daughter and became a computer programmer.
A decade later, music, Eddie Pillar and the acid-jazz scene actually, called him back. Pillar wanted to reissue his "I Don't Want To See Myself (Without You)" on his Acid Jazz label, and just like that Callier was back. Since then he released five more albums and had collaborations with handfuls of artists/groups, including collaborating with Massive Attack for his last album, Hidden Conversations, released in 2009. My friends in Chicago, who knew him, said he was a quintessential Chicago gentleman who deserved the greatest respect... RIP, Mr. Callier.
Sidebar: Chicago band HP Lovecraft covered his "Spin, Spin, Spin" to great west coast sike effect; they also recorded "It's About Time," both tracks are on H.P. Lovecraft II. Of course, Callier's version is dreamy in its own right.