Freda Payne

Freda Payne (born Sept. 19, 1942) is an American soul-pop/jazz singer from Detroit. She started with a sting of vocal jazz releases on ABC/Impulse! during the early 1960s. In 1970, she started a three-album stint on Invictus, charting with the Stax-influenced soul-pop number “Band of Gold.” Between 1974 and 1979, she cut a pair of smooth-soul albums for ABC/Dunhill, followed by a trio of soul-funk albums on Capitol.

She was born Freda Charcilia Payne on September 19, 1942, in Detroit, where she grew up listening to jazz singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. As a teenager, she sang jingles for local radio and partook in TV talent contests, including Ted Mack’s The Original Amateur Hour. Her younger sister, Scherrie Payne (b. 1944), also became a singer, finding success in the soul-pop groups The Glass House and the 1973–77 lineup of The Supremes.

Fresh out of high school, Freda toured as a backing vocalist for the Duke Ellington Band and jazz singer Pearl Bailey. In 1962, she cut her first single, “(Desafinado) Slightly Out of Tune” (b/w “He Who Laughs Last”), for ABC-Paramount. The following year, she moved to New York and appeared on national talk shows (The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Merv Griffin Show, The Dick Cavette Show).

Her second ABC single, “Pretty Boy” (b/w “Grin and Bear It”), appeared in 1963 on ABC, followed by her debut album, After the Lights Go Down Low and Much More!!!, released on the label’s jazz affiliate Impulse! It was produced by label-head Bob Thiele, who oversaw contemporary albums by John Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Stitt, Yusef Lateef, and Milt Jackson. The album features big band arrangements by Manny Albam with contributions from guitarist Jim Hall and saxophonists Phil Woods and Zoot Sims. The track “Sweet September” (b/w “It’s Time”) was issued as a single.

In 1964, Payne joined the Quincy Jones tour alongside the Four Tops, Billy Eckstine, and Nipsey Russell. Her first tour of Europe resulted in the 1965 Sonet release Freda Payne in Stockholm, recorded in Sweden with help on select tracks by conductor/arranger Bengt-Arne Wallin and the Don Gardner Quintet. The album remained unreleased stateside until 1971 when it was issued on the Chicago-based USA Records label.

Payne’s second American album, How Do You Say I Don’t Love You Anymore, appeared in 1966 on MGM. It was produced by Tom Wilson (Herbie Mann, Hugh Masekela, The Animals, Mothers of Invention, The Velvet Underground) with arrangements by saxist/conductor Benny Golson. Musically, the album includes brassy  show tunes (“You Never Should Have Loved Me,” “Sad Sad September”) Motown-influenced soul-pop (“On Easy Street“), Bacharach-style orchestral ballads (“It’s Here for You,” “Too Late”), and melodramatic torch songs (“(How Do You Say) I Don’t Love You Anymore,” “Feeling Good”).


  • After the Lights Go Down Low and Much More!!! (1963)
  • Freda Payne in Stockholm (1965) 
  • How Do You Say I Don’t Love You Anymore (1966)
  • Band of Gold (1970)
  • Contact (1971)
  • Reaching Out (1973)
  • Payne & Pleasure (1974)
  • Out of Payne Comes Love (1975)
  • Stares & Whispers (1977)
  • Supernatural High (1978)
  • Hot (1979)


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