“Spanish Harlem” was the first hit in the solo career of Benjamin E. Nelson: it was also the name of his first solo LP pictured above. The fantastic Latin-flavored song (why don’t they make them like this anymore?) composed by Jerry Lieber and Phil Spector, took Nelson to #10 on the Billboard Top 100 and #15 on the R&B charts. Not a bad way to start a solo career at all!
Formerly of the hit Doo-Wop group The Drifters, Nelson took the group into a smooth, soulful sound. Leaving the group and changing his stage name to Ben E. King for his solo career certainly paid off — don’t you agree?
A decade later Aretha decided to cover this gem and of course she made it her own and took it to the very top of the charts at #1 R&B for three weeks; #2 Pop for two weeks; and #6 Adult Contemporary. Although originally recorded for her “Young, Gifted and Black” LP, the song appeared on her 1971 “Aretha’s Greatest Hits” LP.
Besting the originator Ben E. King — this was not the first time Aretha had dipped into Ben E. King’s Songbook. After you vote on your favorite version of “Spanish Harlem,” try to guess which other Ben E. King song Aretha made her own! I will be doing the reveal on Thursday so stay tuned.
Thought I would add this related YouTube video for you to enjoy while it lasts.
Filed under:Aretha Covers and Hits,Aretha Franklin,Atlantic,Ben E. King,Fabulous Female Vocalists,Jerry Lieber & Phil Spector,Magnificent Male Vocalists,Pop/R&B,Pop/Soul,R&B/Soul,Seventies,Sixties,Spanish Harlem