Lyn Collins

James Brown's 'Female Preacher'
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Lyn Collins, singer and songwriter: born Dime Box, Texas 12 June 1948; married (two sons); died Los Angeles 13 March 2005.

Lyn Collins was the featured vocalist with James Brown's Soul Revue between 1971 and 1976. Her powerful voice and compelling stage presence made her a natural foil for "The Godfather of Soul", although, she claimed later, "I would have preferred to sing more and scream less".

Brown, who dubbed her "The Female Preacher", signed Collins to his People label and produced her signature song, "Think (About It)", which first made the Top Ten in the US R&B charts before in 1972 crossing over to the mainstream charts. In the mid-Eighties, the feminist war-cry was revived by rare groove DJs in Britain and Collins's vocal ad lib "It takes two to make a thing go right, It takes two to make it out of sight" went on to become one of the most sampled funk moments, most famously providing the title and the infectious hook for "It Takes Two" by Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock which became a UK hit twice over in 1988 and 1989. Eric B & Rakim, De La Soul, DJ Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince, Janet Jackson and Public Enemy are some of the 70-plus artists who have sampled "Think (About It)" over the last 20 years.

Other distinctive vocal performances by Collins, on "Mama Feel good" (from the soundtrack to Black Caesar, 1973) and the Isaac Hayes compositions "Do Your Thing" and "Ain't No Sunshine", have featured on recordings by the hip-hop acts Big Daddy Kane, Above the Law and Ol' Dirty Bastard. But because Brown paid a salary to his backing musicians and singers, and claimed authorship for most of their material, Collins did not receive substantial royalties.

Born in Dime Box, Texas, in 1948, Lyn Collins grew up in neighbouring Abilene. She made her recording début with a song called "Unlucky in Love" when she was 14 and subsequently gave a demo tape to James Brown after seeing him in concert in 1968. He was impressed enough to cut five songs with her - including her first solo single, "Just Won't Do Right"/"Wheels of Life". When the vocalist Vicki Anderson quit the Soul Revue at the end of 1971, Brown invited Collins to join his People label as well as his touring show.

Following the success of "Think (About It)", Collins cut an album of the same title. She duetted with Brown on "What My Baby Needs Now" and also contributed the innuendo-laden "How Long Can I Keep It Up" to the soundtrack of the 1973 Blaxploitation film Slaughter's Big Rip Off. Brown used Collins on most of his recordings of the period, building her as a proto-feminist and sassy soul sister and even penning a song called "Women's Lib" for her.

In 1975 she issued her second album, Check Me Out If You Don't Know Me By Now, but the following year cut her last single for People, "Mr Big Stuff", and retired from touring. She became a session singer and did clerical work at the Record Plant recording studios in Los Angeles.

In the mid-Eighties, when the rare groove scene sparked off a renewed interest in James Brown's galaxy of Funky People, Collins's albums were reissued. She recorded a comeback single, "Shout", and subsequently revived "Think (About It)" with the Jamaican dance-hall singer Patra in 1993.

Adored by British fans, Collins performed last month at the Jazz Café in London with her friend Martha High. She died as a result of complications from a seizure she had suffered after choking on food.

Pierre Perrone

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