Although there are a bevy of singers who are also songwriters, not many of them are truly superb singers and simultaneously profound songwriters. The ability to sing is a common gift; the achievement of putting notes together is quotidian. But there is a step beyond, a step that constitutes extraordinary achievement whether as vocalist or composer.
Terry (Terrence Orlando Callier–May 24, 1945 – October 27, 2012) is not only a major composer, he is also a master of re-interpreting songs written by others. Terry can take an old chestnut such as Duke’s “Satin Doll” and turn it into a contemporary and tender ode for a special someone.
I, as well as many others, am particularly moved by Terry’s reading of “Love Theme From Spartacus“, turning the song into a moving sung soliloquy on the possibility of actually achieving freedom.
Terry is from Chi-town (Chicago, for those not in the know), so it’s no surprise that he sometimes uses Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” as an intro for his inspirational and instructive anthem, “Keep Your Heart Right“.
Terry has literally done everything, from folk songs to compositions inspired and influenced by Coltrane. Moreover, his TimePeace album, featuring Pharaoh Sanders, won an award from the United Nations.
What I particularly admire about Callier’s compositions is his penchant for complex realism rather than saccharine romance in his songs of love–sometimes it’s wonderful/sometimes it’s just not meant to be; all of which leads him to question love itself.
Callie’s observations on “Dancing Girl” contain a deft documentarian’s touch: highlighting the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, and everything between.
It takes a truly honest man to admit, regardless how much we may wish life was otherwise, it just isn’t all good, all bad, or all any one way. Like he laments, some relationships, while fulfilling in the moment, just were not meant to be permanent, or even, life long.
Even though we’ve only scratched the surface of Callier’s deeptitude as a singer/songwriter–his immense catalogue of aural compositions is both captivating and enchanting. While the varied and substantial cornucopia of Terry Callier’s music will significantly reward hours of listening, nevertheless, we’ll close with a 1-hour live set from 2003. Enjoy.