Jerry Butler (born Jerry Butler Jr., December 8, 1939, Sunflower, Mississippi) is an American soul singer and songwriter. He is also noted as being the original lead singer of the famed R&B vocal group, The Impressions, as well as a 1991 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.
Jerry Butler is also an American politician. He serves as a Commissioner for Cook County, Illinois, having first been elected in 1985. As a member of this 17-member county board, he chairs the Health and Hospitals Committee, and serves as Vice Chair of the Construction Committee.
Jerry Butler’s Early life
The mid-1950s had a profound impact on Butler’s life. He grew up poor, having lived in Chicago’s Cabrini–Green housing complex. Music and the church provided solace from racial discrimination and inequality. He performed in a church choir with Curtis Mayfield. As a teenager, Butler sang in a gospel quartet called Northern Jubilee Gospel Singers, along with Mayfield. Mayfield, a guitar player, became the lone instrumentalist for the six-member Roosters group, which later became The Impressions. Inspired by Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers, the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, and the Pilgrim Travelers, getting into the music industry seemed inevitable.
Butler’s younger brother, Billy Butler, also had a career in the music industry. Today, Billy plays guitar with Jerry’s band, which tours throughout the country.
Jerry Butler was dubbed the “Iceman” by WDAS Philadelphia disc jockey, Georgie Woods, while performing in a Philadelphia theater.
He co-wrote, with Otis Redding, the song “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” in 1965. Butler’s solo career had a string of hits, including the Top 10 successes “He Will Break Your Heart”, “Find Another Girl”, “I’m A-Telling You” (all written by fellow Impression Curtis Mayfield and featuring Mayfield as harmony vocal), the million selling “Only the Strong Survive”, “Moon River”, “Need To Belong” (recorded with the Impressions after he went solo), “Make It Easy on Yourself”, “Let It Be Me” (with Betty Everett), “Brand New Me”, “Ain’t Understanding Mellow” (with Brenda Lee Eager), “Hey, Western Union Man“, and “Never Give You Up”. His 1969 “Moody Woman” release became a Northern Soul favorite and featured at number 369 in the Northern Soul Top 500. Butler released two successful albums, The Ice Man Cometh (1968) and Ice on Ice (1970). The Ice Man Cometh garnered Butler three Grammy nominations. He collaborated on many of his successful recordings with the Philadelphia-based songwriting team, Gamble and Huff. With Motown, in 1976 and 1977, Butler produced and co-produced (with Paul David Wilson) two albums: 1.) Suite For The Single Girl and 2.) It All Comes Out In My Song.
Tony Orlando and Dawn revived “He Will Break Your Heart” in 1975, with a new title, “He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You)”, and it was more successful than Butler’s original, going to number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 pop chart.
Subsequently, Jerry Butler and Wilson produced an album with Dee Dee Sharp-Gamble with Philadelphia International. In 1981 with “Breaking and Entering” / “Easy Money”, from Sharp-Gamble’s album Dee Dee, Butler/Wilson’s production spent four weeks at number one on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart and Dance Chart Billboard.
Jerry Butler :: 1980s to date
In recent years, Jerry Butler has served as host of PBS TV music specials such as Doo Wop 50 and 51, Rock Rhythm and Doo Wop, and Soul Spectacular: 40 years of R&B, among others. He has also served as chairman of the board of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. In 1991, Butler was inducted, along with the other original members of the Impressions (Curtis Mayfield, Sam Gooden, Fred Cash, and Arthur and Richard Brooks), into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Most recently, blues-rock duo The Black Keys covered “Never Give You Up” on their 2010 album, Brothers.
Jerry Butler currently resides in Chicago with his wife, Annette—who is one of his backup singers on the road. He has two sons, Randy and Tony, and a grandson.