Timi Yuro

'Lost voice' of Sixties soul

Timi Yuro was among the most powerful and emotional singers of the 1960s. Her passion and commitment did not fall far short of Aretha Franklin's, and Dinah Washington once said of her, "Timi's voice doesn't come from the throat, but from the heart. She doesn't just sing the song, she lives it."



Rosemarie Timotea Aurro (Timi Yuro), singer: born Chicago 4 August 1940; married 1969 Robert Selnick; died Las Vegas 30 March 2004.



Timi Yuro was among the most powerful and emotional singers of the 1960s. Her passion and commitment did not fall far short of Aretha Franklin's, and Dinah Washington once said of her, "Timi's voice doesn't come from the throat, but from the heart. She doesn't just sing the song, she lives it."

She was born Rosemarie Timotea Aurro into an Italian-American family in Chicago in 1940, and her mother encouraged her to sing. The family moved to Los Angeles in 1952 where Frankie Laine's vocal coach was so impressed that she gave Timi free training. By the time she was 14, she was singing as Timi Yuro in night-clubs, although her mother disapproved and interrupted one performance by shouting, "This is your last song, young lady." Yuro's parents had a restaurant in Hollywood and she became their resident singer.

Timi Yuro was signed to Liberty Records in late 1959, but she was not happy at being asked to record lightweight pop songs. She gatecrashed an executive meeting and threatened to tear up her contract unless she could record as she wanted. She then broke into an impassioned rendition of "Hurt", which had been a rhythm and blues hit for Roy Hamilton in 1954.

"Hurt" was a remarkable recording début for Yuro - the power, the confidence and the feeling for lyrics are all in place. It went to No 4 on the US charts in 1961, with the B-side, "I Apologise", also making the charts. The gimmick of the small girl with the man's voice meant nothing here in Britain, possibly because we already had Helen Shapiro, and Yuro never made the UK charts.

She included Johnnie Ray's "Cry" on her first LP, Hurt!!!!!!!, the punctuation being Liberty's, and then recorded a single, "I Believe", with Ray. A driving revival of "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" came next, and a new song, "Count Everything", inspired by the Drifters, deserved to do better.

In 1962, when Yuro's record producer Clyde Otis left Liberty, Phil Spector was asked to take over her recording of Otis's song "What's a Matter Baby". Spector gave her big voice an even bigger backing and the grandiose record returned her to the US Top Twenty. An album should have followed, but Spector had other commitments.

Also in 1962, Burt Bacharach arranged one of his best songs, "The Love of a Boy", for Yuro. She also befriended Willie Nelson, a struggling songwriter who was trying to place his songs. Her parents would feed him for free at their restaurant.

Ray Charles's LP Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music came out in 1962. Yuro was impressed and in 1963 recorded an album of her own in the same vein, Make the World Go Away. The song selection was excellent and included some of Willie Nelson's compositions. The single of the title track made the US Top Thirty and Yuro toured the UK with Brook Benton, Dion, Lesley Gore and Trini Lopez: Yuro opened the show with her gospel number "Sinner Man", a hard act to follow.

In 1964 Yuro moved to Mercury Records and, although she made fine records for them, notably "You Can Have Him", she had no chart success. In 1968 she rejoined Liberty and recorded two singles in the UK, "Something Bad on My Mind" and "Interlude", the underrated title song from the Oskar Werner film. In 1994 Morrissey and Siouxsie made the UK Top Thirty with a revival of "Interlude".

In 1969 Yuro married Robert Selnick and left the music business to raise a family. Both the Manhattans and Elvis Presley had success with "Hurt" in 1976, which encouraged her to start performing again. Some of her old recordings found favour with Northern Soul clubbers, notably "Can't Stop Running Away" and "It'll Never Be Over For Me".

Yuro lost her voice in 1980 and underwent surgery for throat cancer. Around the same time, a re-recording of "Hurt" was a hit in Holland and, when she was able to sing again, she recorded two albums for the Dutch market. In 1982 Willie Nelson repaid her earlier kindness by lending her both his band and his recording studio for an album, Timi Yuro - Today, which also featured his guest vocals. She lost her voice again in 1984 and had been fighting cancer ever since.

In the 1990s there was renewed UK interest in her work, with two excellent compilations - The Lost Voice of Soul! (1993) and The Voice That Got Away (1996).

Spencer Leigh

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