Doris Troy Biography

Doris Higginsen, 6 January 1937, the Bronx, New York City, New York, USA, d. 16 February 2004, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. The daughter of a Barbadian Pentecostal preacher, Doris Higginsen abandoned her gospel beginnings in favour of a jazz group, the Halos. She recorded as half of Jay And Dee and soon also began making her mark as a songwriter, using her grandmother’s name of Payne as a nom de plume. In 1960, Dee Clark recorded her song ‘How About That’ for Vee Jay Records, while Troy cut a lone single for Everest before concentrating on background singing, with ex-Drinkard Singers Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick and their aunt Cissy Houston, behind many acts including the Drifters, Solomon Burke and Chuck Jackson. Then in 1963 Troy co-wrote ‘Just One Look’ with Gregory Carroll, and when Juggy Murray of Sue Records ‘sat on’ a demo of it, she took a copy to Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records, who promptly released it exactly as recorded and watched it become a US Top 10 hit. It was covered the following year by the Hollies, and reached the UK number 2 slot. Other releases included the equally insistent ‘What’cha Gonna Do About It?’, which reached the UK Top 40 in 1964 but failed to succeed in her home country. Later singles for Capitol Records and Calla were equally underrated.

After settling in London, England in 1969, Troy recorded a self-titled album for the Beatles’ label Apple Records, with the help of George Harrison and Eric Clapton. Troy also recorded for People and Polydor Records and worked as a session singer, contributing to seminal tracks such as the Rolling Stones’ ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’, George Harrison’s ‘My Sweet Lord’, and Carly Simon’s ‘You’re So Vain’. She also featured on Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter and Pink Floyd’s 1973 epic Dark Side Of The Moon.

In March 1983, an off-Broadway musical about Troy’s life, Mama, I Want To Sing, opened at the Heckscher theatre in Harlem. Written by her younger sister Vy and her husband Ken Wydro, the musical was a critical and commercial success and ran for 1, 500 performances, and spawned a number of touring versions. Between 1984 and 1998, Troy sang the role of her mother Geraldine and travelled with the show around the world. Nicknamed ‘Mama Soul’ by her loyal British fans, Troy succumbed to emphysema in February 2004.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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