1943 – Barbara Lewis, Pop/soul singer and composer is born in South Lyon, Mich. Her biggest hit was 1963’s No. 3 “Hello Stranger.”
By her teens Lewis was writing and recording with record producer Ollie McLaughlin (a black DJ at Ann Arbor radio station WHRV, now WAAM, who is also credited with discovering Del Shannon).
In 1962 Lewis made her first single release, “My Heart Went Do Dat Da”. It did not chart nationally, but was a local hit in the Detroit, Michigan area. She wrote all of the songs on her debut LP, including the hit “Hello Stranger” featuring extensive use of the Hammond organ, which reached No. 3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Lewis had moderate follow-up hits with “Straighten Up Your Heart” (No. 43) and her original “Puppy Love” (No. 38) before Bert Berns produced her million-seller “Baby I’m Yours” (U.S. No. 11), written by Van McCoy. Berns also produced the followup “Make Me Your Baby” (U.S. No. 11) which had originally been recorded by the Pixies Three, and Lewis’ final Top 40 hit “Make Me Belong to You” (No. 28 in 1966), written by Chip Taylor and Billy Vera.
She released a grittier-sounding album on Stax Records at the end of the decade, and after its lack of commercial success, she began to withdraw from the music industry.
However, a number of other artists had success with Lewis’ songs over the next decade. Her own composition “Hello Stranger” (which had been remade in 1966 by the Capitols) was a regional hit in 1973 as remade by Fire & Rain and in 1977 Yvonne Elliman’s version reached the US Top 20 and the UK Singles Chart Top 30. Elliman’s version had also topped the US Easy Listening chart for four weeks. Carrie Lucas’ remake of “Hello Stranger” in 1985, was a Top 20 R&B hit and in 2004 Queen Latifah remade “Hello Stranger” for her The Dana Owens Album.
Lewis’ “Baby I’m Yours” was featured on the soundtrack for the film, “The Bridges of Madison County” in 1995. In 1999, Lewis received the “Pioneer Award” from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.
The Dells are the backup group on many songs from the album Hello Stranger – including the title cut.
Lewis is also known to have dined with Sharon Tate, an actress who was brutally murdered a few hours later among her four friends by Charles Manson’s Family followers at the Tate home, 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon.