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Arzell "Z. Z." Hill (September 30, 1935 – April 27, 1984) was an American blues singer, in the soul blues tradition, known for his 1970s and 1980s recordings for Malaco. His 1982 album, Down Home, stayed on the Billboard soul album chart for nearly two years. The track "Down Home Blues" has been called the best-known blues song of the 1980s. This track plus the songs "Taxi", "Someone Else Is Steppin' In", and "Open House" have become R&B/Southern soul standards.
Born in Naples, Texas, Hill began his singing career in the late 1950s as part of a gospel group called The Spiritual Five, touring Texas. Around 1960, he started collecting records by B. B. King, Freddie King, Sam Cooke, Bobby "Blue" Bland and Wilson Pickett and began singing and writing songs influenced by these styles.
In 1964, Hill moved to California and recorded "You Were Wrong" on his brother's M.H. record label. The single charted and Hill released several more singles for Kent, but none of them charted. He moved labels several times, including signing with Phil Walden's Macon, Georgia based Capricorn label, but Hill refused to record for Walden, and his recording contract was bought by Jerry "Swamp Dogg" Williams' Mankind label, where Hill finally fulfilled his end of the deal.
In 1971, Williams recorded Hill in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and they had hits including "Faithful & True" (Cash Box Top 100) and "Chokin' Kind" (Cash Box R&B #50). With his brother's help, Hill then signed to United Artists, where he released several successful singles. During the United Artist period in the mid 1970s, he was aided by arrangements and compositions by established R&B talents like Lamont Dozier and Allen Toussaint.
One of Hill's biggest selling hits came while signed to Columbia, "Love Is So Good When You're Stealing It," which spent 18 weeks on the Billboard R&B chart in the summer of 1977. Signed to Malaco in 1979, Hill's next hit single was "I'm Gonna Stop You From Givin' Me The Blues," in 1980. Hill's recording of songwriter George Jackson's "Cheatin' In The Next Room," was released in early 1982 and broke into the top 20 nationally, spending a total of 20 weeks on the charts. He had a number of best-selling albums on the Malaco label out of Jackson, Mississippi, the biggest one being "Down Home Blues", which is now regarded as a blues classic. This album sold in excess of one million copies, and remains a favorite to this day. Some of the other notable Malaco sides that received massive airplay in the early 80's particularly are "Someone Else Is Steppin' In", "Bump And Grind", "Shade Tree Mechanic", and "Get You Some Business". A label-mate, Denise LaSalle, wrote his signature tune, "Down Home Blues", and later recorded and had a hit with it as well. In fact, many blues artists either have recorded "Down Home Blues" or include it in their on-stage shows around the world. Also, his song "That Ain't the Way You Make Love" was sampled by Madvillian in their song "Fancy Clown", which was played and can be heard in the "Wingmen" episode of the Boondocks.
In 1984, Hill died in Dallas at the age of 48 from a heart attack after a road accident.