Of course I knew the name Eddie Hinton – and isn’t that the thing we always say, “I know the name”. But with Hinton it’s hard not to know about him. He worked with so many of the greats. But you take a listen to the material he released as a solo artist and you know – straight away – that this guy was one of the greats. So he wasn’t a household name. Big deal. What does that mean anyway? Household names are people that get photographed in gym gear with their Starbucks cup, sunglasses and peaked-cap, out for a Sunday stroll, a borrowed toddler to accessorise.
But Hinton stepped up.
As a guitarist and backing vocalist and songwriter he was part of the great Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section from 1967-1971. He cut records with Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin and Solomon Burke, with The Staple Singers and Johnny Taylor, Boz Scaggs, The Box Tops, Arthur Conley and, yes, Otis Redding.
Chances are even if you didn’t think you knew Eddie Hinton, didn’t know any of his playing or writing, you’ve heard it. You might not have known his name, but his signature is attached to so much of the wonderful music that lasts in this world.
His big hit song was Breakfast In Bed. And before it was made over by UB40 with Chrissie Hynde it was, among other versions, cut by the great Dusty Springfield.
Hinton was a great R’n’B/soul/blues guitar player, a rhythm player working for the song. And when he stepped out as lead vocalist – well these claims of “best white soul singer” and “the white Otis Redding/next Otis Redding”, it’s easy to see why people lined up to make such statements.
I sat down recently with the album Very Extremely Dangerous. Cut live at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in late 1977. What a revelation this record is.
Never mind all the latest new releases – when there’s music this good you just stop what you’re doing, and what you’re reviewing and bask. This music stops time. This music keeps your attention for the duration. This music has you caught in its spell.
You can hear the influence on Drive-By Truckers and many other southern soul practitioners. You can hear how Robbie Robertson was listening to this – to the way the horns and rhythm section locked in, so utterly, perfectly. Ry Cooder and Willy DeVille and Rod Stewart – in fact if Rod hadn’t made that Atlantic crossing (and this Atlantic Crossing) he might have moved in the direction outlined on Very Extremely Dangerous. But that’s another story for another time.
You have to love this world we live in – one of the best albums you could ever hope to hear is just sitting there free to listen to on YouTube.
Eddie Hinton battled with mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction. We hear some version of that sad story so often attached to the greats and the ones who never quite made it and not all that often these days with the household names (they’re far too squeaky-clean).
Eddie Hinton was dead at 51. He never became the great saviour of soul. But with Very
Extremely Dangerous he might well have recorded the last truly great soul record. A classic. Recorded when punk and disco were the thriving genres. Recorded – and then released as almost an afterthought. Buried for a time and now it’s there for you to hear. As easy as firing up a browser.
If you have 40 minutes of spare time today take a listen to Very Extremely Dangerous. It’s one of the best albums you could hope to hear. From one of the greats.
Between late 2007 and early 2016 I wrote a daily music blog at Stuff.co.nz called Blog On The Tracks. I’m reposting some of the entries here because the discussion is still valid or entertaining or because you might have missed them the first time.
Click here to see the original post from 2013.