Carolyn Crawford (born July 19, 1949) is an American soul singer from Detroit who cut three singles for Motown as a teenager during the mid-1960s and another three for PIR during the mid-1970s before finally releasing two albums on Mercury in 1978/79. She was briefly a fourth member of Hodges James & Smith for two 1971/72 singles on King Records-subsidiary Mpingo. Her vocals also feature on recordings by Bohannon, Carlis Munro, Kim Weston, and Was (Not Was).
At age 14, Crawford won a contract contest with Motown, which led to three singles for the label: the original “Forget About Me,” the Smokey Robinson-penned “My Smile Is Just a Frown (Turned Upside Down)” (#39 R&B), and the later cult-fave “When Someone’s Good to You.”
In 1971, she reemerged as a member of the vocal group Hodges, James, Smith & Crawford, which cut the Mpingo singles “Nobody / I’m in Love” and “Write Me a Letter” / “Let’s Pick Up the Pieces” before Crawford’s departure. She resumed her solo career with three 1974/75 singles on PIR. Her vocals also feature on the Bohannon track “Can You Feel It” from his 1975 self-titled album. Their partnership spread across six of his subsequent albums: Summertime Groove (1978), Cut Loose and Too Hot To Hold (both 1979), One Step Ahead (1980), The Bohannon Drive (1983), and It’s Time To Jam (1990).
In 1978, Crawford released My Name Is Caroline, her first of two albums for Mercury. The album was produced, composed and arranged by Bohannon with orchestration by Johnny Allen. Musically, the album emphasizes bass-heavy funk workouts like the bouyant “A Nice Feeling” and the grittier “Caroline Breakdown.” Elsewhere, balladry is explored on the tender slow-waltz “It Rains Because” and the quiet storm moonlighter “A Love Song for You.” The tracks “Tell Me You’ll Wait” and “Coming on Strong” were issued as singles. Her vocals tend toward the mid-range with occasional leaps, moans, and forays into breathy tonality.
Crawford’s second full-length, Nice and Soulful, appeared in 1979, once again under the creative direction of Bohannon with strings by Allen. Mid-tempo funk is represented here by the clickety scratch of “Havin’ Fun,” the phased deep-bass of “Can’t Hold Me Back,” and the G-minor Clavinet groove of “The Strut.” Balladry is delivered in the wah-wah/string-laden lilter “I’ll Be Here for You” and the neo-’50s chime-en-swirled “The Facts of Life.” Instrumental backing is provided by nine Bohannon sidemen, including reedists Danny Turner (Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff, Pat Martino) and James Patterson (The Spirit of Atlanta), guitarists Melvin Ragin and Leroy Emmanuel (The Counts), percussionist Lorenzo Brown (Lyman Woodard Organization, Michael Henderson, The Dramatics), and keyboardist Mose Davis (The Counts, Tommy Stewart, Moses).
Backup and Later Work
Crawford is among a group of vocalists that feature on the 1978 Westbound release A Sweet Taste of Sin by the Dennis Coffey Band. She also appears with much of the same Westbound stable on I Was Made for Love, the 1979 singular solo album by ex-Falcons singer Carlis Munro.
After her two Mercury albums, Crawford sang on the 1981 eponymous debut by dance-funk project Was (Not Was). Beyond her participation in Bohannon’s 1983 release, she was quiet for the remainder of the decade.
In 1990, Crawford returned with the disc Heartaches on Motorcity Records. During the ensuing two-year period, she sang on 17 albums by assorted Motorcity labelmates, including titles by Bettye Lavette, Frances Nero, G.C. Cameron, Joe Stubbs, Kim Weston, Louvain Demps, Karen Pree, and a comeback disc by fellow ’60s Motown vet Mary Wells.
- My Name Is Caroline (1978)
- Nice and Soulful (1979)
Non-album singles discography:
- “Forget About Me” / “Devil in His Heart” (1963)
- “My Smile Is Just a Frown (Turned Upside Down)” / “I’ll Come Running” (1964)
- “When Someone’s Good to You” / “My Heart” (1965)
- “Just Got to Be More Careful” / “Saving All the Love I Got for You” (1974)
- “Good and Plenty” / “If You Move You Lose” (1975)
- “It Takes Two to Make One” / “No Matter How Bad Things Are, I Still Love You” (1975)