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Record single by The Checkmates, Ltd: "Black Pearl" (1969)

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Here’s why this song should be in your collection!

The story of “Black Pearl” (1969) by The Checkmates, Ltd. should be an easy one to tell during Black Music Month. But it’s actually rather complicated.

The Checkmates did not sing Soul music. Primarily they performed variety show material at pop culture venues; they were regulars at Playboy Clubs and Las Vegas casinos. In 1975 they sang the USA National Anthem at the “Thrilla in Manila.” Two of the group’s five members were white: hence, their name.

The song’s three composers were accomplished songwriters-- and white. Toni Wine wrote hits for The Shirelles, The Mindbenders, and B.J. Thomas. Irwin Levine co-wrote several hits for Dawn (featuring Tony Orlando). Phil Spector’s genius (and madness) was legendary. His Wall of Sound production approach complemented lead vocals by Sonny Charles so well that “Black Pearl” reached as high as #13 on the USA Pop charts.

Of course, “Black Pearl” topped R&B charts. The song is now regarded as an anthem to African American beauty and pride. It has also been a reggae hit, performed by Horace Faith.

The Checkmates scored a moderate hit with a cover version of “Proud Mary.” Both songs are on the album, Love is All I Have to Give. Copies are rare, but they can be found with the help of a local independent record store.

Here’s an interesting fact!

In 1979 U.S. President James Earl (Jimmy) Carter declared the month of June to be observed as Black Music Month.

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