Bert Reid

Tenor saxophonist with Crown Heights Affair

Bertram Charles Reid, saxophonist, singer, songwriter and producer: born New York 25 October 1956; died New York 12 December 2004.

One of the many groups who followed in the slipstream of Earth, Wind and Fire and Kool & the Gang, the New York band Crown Heights Affair scored several hits on both sides of the Atlantic in the disco days of the late Seventies. Most popular in Britain were the catchy "Galaxy of Love" (complete with cheesy inflight announcements by a female attendant) and the anthemic dance-floor filler "You Gave Me Love" (with its falsetto vocal hook, "ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh") which reached No 10 in the summer of 1980.

Bert Reid played the saxophone and sang with Crown Heights Affair and was one of the mainstays and leading writers with the group until his departure in the early Eighties. He went on to work with the New York vocal group Unlimited Touch (on "I Hear Music in the Streets" and "Searching to Find the One"); the dance outfit Raw Silk ("Do It to the Music") in 1982; and the singer Barbara Tucker on ("Stay Together") in 1995. Reid also collaborated with the DJs and remixers "Little" Louie Vega and François Kevorkian, while several of his compositions - most notably "I'll Do Anything For You", a song he had written for Denroy Morgan in the Eighties - enjoyed a second lease of life when they were sampled by the rapper Method Man and the R&B/hip-hop artists Montell Jordan and Faith Evans.

Born in New York in 1956, Bertram Reid grew up with a love of jazz and funk and he and his brother Raymond picked up the saxophone and the trombone while still in their teens. When a group named after the Crown Heights borough of Brooklyn decided to add a horn section, the Reid brothers and Tyrone Demmons (trumpet) joined up. The existing members were the bandleader William "Bubba" Anderson (guitar), Arnold "Muki" Wilson (bass), Howie Young (keyboards), Raymond Rock (drums, vocals) and Philip Thomas (lead vocals).

With De-Lite, the independent New York label where they joined Kool & the Gang, they cut the excellent album Dreaming a Dream (1975), produced by Freida Nerangis and Britt Britton. The extended disco mix of the chugging title track found favour with clubbers and became Crown Heights Affair's biggest US hit. If "Dreaming a Dream" bore a certain similarity to the Isaac Hayes composition "Shaft", "Dancin' ", the lead-off single from their 1976 album Do It Your Way, was a virtual re-write. No one seemed to mind, though, and Crown Heights Affair scored more disco hits in 1977 with the brassy "Searching for Love" and "Far Out", the latter a funky composition by Bert and Raymond Reid.

When De-Lite signed a worldwide distribution deal with Polygram in 1978, Crown Heights Affair made an instant impact in Britain with the album Dream World and the singles "Galaxy of Love" and "I'm Gonna Love You Forever". The following year, they charted again in the UK with the title track from Dance Lady Dance but the relative failure of the album in the US meant a switch of producers, with Bert De Coteaux in charge of Sure Shot in 1980. De Coteaux gave the Reid brothers and "Bubba" Anderson a freer hand in the songwriting department and they certainly delivered, with the album's opener, "You Gave Me Love", which became a disco classic, and its follow-up, "You've Been Gone".

When the disco bubble burst at the start of the Eighties, Anderson and Bert and Raymond Reid concentrated on songwriting and production work and scored notable successes with "Gonna Get Over You" by the Canadian singer France Joli and "I Hear Music in the Streets" and "Searching to Find the One" by Unlimited Touch, a New York group they had put together around the vocal talents of Audrey Wheeler and Stephanie James.

After leaving Crown Heights Affair in 1982, Reid struck out on his own with "I'll Do Anything For You" by Denroy Morgan and remained busy into the Nineties and the new millennium, releasing several collectable 12in records on independent dance labels and working with Kevorkian and Vega. Reid enjoyed his partnership with both. "In the beginning, I felt DJs were experts at playing in clubs but they didn't know the studio as well as I did," he said recently:

Nowadays, the DJs know the studios and Louie is a much a perfectionist as I am. When I'm at the mike and he wants the words to be different, I have to change them on the spot. It's a pleasure because we both enjoy working together and it's all good vibes.

Reid welcomed the relative affluence sampling had brought him. "Besides the financial benefit, I feel honoured that people thought enough of my music to sample it," he said. "It really makes me feel good."

Pierre Perrone

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