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 R&B vocal
group, The Impressions, as well as a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
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.
Biography 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 a city that was as segregated as
those in the Deep South. 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
Butler wrote the song "For Your Precious Love" (which is ranked
#327 on the Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of
All Time) and wanted to record a disc. Looking for recording studios,
The Impressions auditioned for Chess Records and Vee-Jay Records. The
group eventually signed with Vee-Jay, where they released "For Your
Precious Love" in 1958. It became The Impressions' first hit and gold
record. Solo career
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" (note that it was Jerry's vocal, not Andy
Williams, that hit on single records), "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." 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 #1 on the US Billboard Hot
100 pop chart.
Subsequently, 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.
1980s to date
Butler continues to perform while serving as a Cook County Board
Commissioner since the 1980s. As Cook County Commissioner, Butler voted
to uphold an historic 2008 Cook County sales tax increase, which remains
the highest in the nation. As a result the Chicago Tribune has
encouraged people to vote against him in the 2010 elections.
In recent years, he 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.
Personal life He currently resides in Chicago with his wife, Annette. He has
two sons, Randy and Tony, and a grandson.