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Jerry Williams Is Swamp Dogg

Swamp Dogg

Photo: David McMurry

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Jerry Williams Is Swamp Dogg

The living legend opens up about his new LP 'Sorry You Couldn't Make It,' his love for Ray Charles' country album, recording with his late friend John Prine and much more

GRAMMYs/Sep 10, 2020 - 01:48 am

Jerry Williams, the 77-year-old soul legend otherwise known as Swamp Dogg, had a funny thing happen to him a couple of years back when he scored his first Billboard chart hit since 1971 with his 2018 LP Love, Loss and Auto-Tune.

"In fact, the album hit the chart with all kinds of numbers," Williams tells GRAMMY.com. "The greatest one was making the Heatseekers chart, where I came in at No. 7 [not to mention making the R&B chart that year as well, peaking at No. 28]. And I'm 77 years old!"

Yet it wasn't the success of Love, Loss and Auto-Tune that inspired Williams' latest Swamp Dogg classic as much as the hit that preceded it nearly 50 years ago; "She's All I Got," which Williams co-wrote with Gary U.S. Bonds that became a hit not only on the R&B chart for the singer Freddie North, but another version of the song by outlaw legend Johnny Paycheck peaked at No. 2 on the country music charts that year as well. A second country version of the song was also recorded by Conway Twitty in 1972. So when he saw his name back in Billboard, it got him thinking about the reception a hit country tune written by two black men had been received, which he recounts in the liner notes he penned on the back cover of his latest album, Sorry You Couldn't Make It.

"That's the greeting Gary U.S. Bonds and I received when we entered the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee for the Country Music Awards," Williams writes in regards to the album's title. "We were in the top five for a writer's award for the year 1972. My problem was... they never sent us an invitation to the dinner, that they were sorry we missed. I want to feel that we got overlooked because the mailroom people were incompetent, not because we were black. After all, Charley Pride and his wife were there."

But as Williams is quick to remind us, Pride did not get to that dinner table on his own.

"Bakersfield, California, was very, very responsible for pushing Charley Pride through," he tells GRAMMY.com. "Nobody was ready to push a Black country act, and I'm talking country. This sonofabitch talks country in everyday life. You'd think you were talking to a White country boy compared to what he used to sound like. And Buck Owens would take him on gigs with him, so if he's endorsing Charley Pride, they went with him. Had it not been for Buck Owens, I don't know where Charley Pride would be."

However, for Swamp Dogg, his first true taste of experiencing a black man sing country music was Modern Sounds in Country and Western by Ray Charles.

"At least once a year, I pull out my vinyl and listen to his country album," Williams explains. "He was country but it wasn't really country. He was singing those songs the Ray Charles way. Luckily, Ray did one of my songs. He did a version of 'Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong', which was a big hit for The Whispers."

And following the success of Love, Loss and Auto-Tune, Swamp Dogg aimed to prove those stuffy un-inviters from 1972 wrong by releasing a country album in 2020 that will do just as well if not better than its predecessor. Being in a new music environment that champions such artists as Lil Nas X and RMR bringing a true hip-hop edge to country certainly played a role in the idea as well.

"When rapping got started back in the late '60s with groups like The Last Poets and Watts Prophets, they rapped about what was going on in their lives, in their block, in their neighborhood," he says. "But that was as far as they could go. Now they are rapping about more things than just bitches and hoes; they got some subject matter. And I think its about time these cats came out with some decent product."

Yet for Sorry You Couldn't Make It, Swamp Dogg once again went with the …Auto-Tune tandem of Justin Vernon and Ryan Olson, trusting them to do what was right by the vision Williams had for this record. A difficult task, for sure, especially when you are considering a man who built a career writing songs and producing records for other people giving up creative control to an outside party.

"I let them produce the album, even pick the songs," Williams concedes. "And most of the songs that they picked, like 'Sleeping With You Is A Dragg', I wrote that sonofabitch in 1966! And they picked it out. They came out here and stayed at my house for two days while I was on the road. They went through all my lyrics and pulled out all these songs. When I got to Nashville to see what they had, I said to myself, 'Damn, I got better st than this!' But, again, they were producing and I didn't want to take them out of their thing to try and appease me. I hated when I'd produce other acts and the muthafkas keep fkin' with me before I could even show them the results of the first step. I could have done that and I almost did a couple of times. But I just kept my mouth shut and ate another barbecue rib. They wanted to use all their electronics and st, and I just let them do what they were gonna do. And I loved what they did, and we're gonna do another one like this again real soon."

The absolute centerpieces of Sorry You Couldn't Make It, however, are "Memories" and "Please Let Me Go Round Again" featuring his longtime friend John Prine in what would be the folk legend's final recording session before he succumbed to complications from COVID-19 on April 7.

"John was signed to Atlantic when I was working there," Williams recalls. "He had cut his first album with 'Sam Stone' on it and they pressed it up. But they didn't push the record at all. I got a copy and I listened to that song. But I didn't know what I could do with it, but I loved it.  I knew in my heart 'Sam Stone' was a great song. So when I turned into Swamp Dogg and got ready to cut my album Cuffed, Collared and Tagged, I wanted to get real serious with this one, because I had been writing about infidelity and all that kinda st before. So I did my own version of 'Sam Stone.'"

For Williams, the chance to finally cut a session with his old friend is what makes Sorry You Couldn't Make It such a special album amidst his near-60 years of making music, both for himself and for others.

"I was listening to 'Memories' the other night," he says. "I don't know it just... he and I would talk about things we wanted to do together. And it shook me for a second because, hell, I'm older than John. Then I thought about all the stuff we wanted to get done that will never happen. He wanted me to go to Ireland with him so we could do some writing together. We had a good relationship. John Prine was a friend of mine, and I think about him just about every day."

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:28 pm

The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.

Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville                                                                        

 
This star-studded compilation album from 11-time GRAMMY nominee J. Cole and his Dreamville Records imprint features appearances from some of the leading and fastest-rising artists in hip-hop today, including label artists EARTHGANG, J.I.D, and Ari Lennox, plus rappers T.I, DaBaby, and Young Nudy, among many others. Recorded in Atlanta across a 10-day recording session, Revenge of the Dreamers III is an ambitious project that saw more than 300 artists and producers contribute to the album, resulting in 142 recorded tracks. Of those recordings, 18 songs made the final album, which ultimately featured contributions from 34 artists and 27 producers.

Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.

Championships – Meek Mill

In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

i am > i was – 21 Savage

Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.

IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.

The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae

Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.

Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz & More Join Small Business Live Benefit Livestream

Brittany Howard

Photo: C Brandon/Redferns/Getty Images

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Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz & More Join Small Business Live Benefit Livestream

Proceeds from the event will be go toward loans to small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses, via Accion Opportunity Fund

GRAMMYs/Jun 16, 2020 - 04:13 am

This Saturday, June 20, artists including Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz and more will come together for Small Business Live, a livestream fundraiser event for small businesses facing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Proceeds from the livestream will go to Accion Opportunity Fund to support small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses.

“Entrepreneurs of color are denied credit more often and charged higher rates for money they borrow to fund their businesses. We need to accelerate support to underserved businesses in order to reach our full potential,” Accion Opportunity Fund CEO Luz Urrutia said. “We have to decide what we want our Main Streets to look like when this is over, and we must act decisively to keep small businesses alive and ready to rebuild. This is a fun way to do something really important. Everyone’s support will make a huge difference to small business owners, their families and employees who have been devastated by this pandemic, the recession, and centuries of racism, xenophobia and oppression.”

Tune in for Small Business Live Saturday, June 20 from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. EDT on smallbiz.live. The site also provides a full schedule of programs and links to watch the livestream on all major digital platforms. To learn more about Accion Opportunity Fund, visit the organization's website.

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DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle And John Legend Win Best Rap/Sung Performance For "Higher" | 2020 GRAMMYs

DJ Khaled, Samantha Smith and John Legend

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle And John Legend Win Best Rap/Sung Performance For "Higher" | 2020 GRAMMYs

DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle and John Legend take home Best Rap/Sung Performance at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Jan 27, 2020 - 09:05 am

DJ Khaled, featuring Nipsey Hussle and John Legend, has won Best Rap/Sung Performance for "Higher" at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards. The single was featured on DJ Khaled's 2019 album Father of Asahd and featured Hussle's vocals and Legend on the piano. DJ Khaled predicted the track would win a GRAMMY.

"I even told him, 'We're going to win a GRAMMY.' Because that's how I feel about my album," DJ Khaled told Billboard. "I really feel like not only is this my biggest, this is very special."

After the release of the song and music video -- which was filmed before Hussle's death in March -- DJ Khaled announced all proceeds from "Higher" will go to Hussle's children.

DJ Khaled and co. beat out fellow category nominees Lil Baby & Gunna ("Drip Too Hard"), Lil Nas X ("Panini"), Mustard featuring Roddy Ricch ("Ballin") and Young Thug featuring J. Cole & Travis Scott ("The London"). Hussle earned a second posthumous award at the 62nd GRAMMYs for Best Rap Performance for "Racks In The Middle." 

Along with Legend and DJ Khaled, Meek Mill, Kirk Franklin, Roddy Ricch and YG paid tribute to Hussle during the telecast, which concluded with "Higher."

Check out the complete 62nd GRAMMY Awards nominees and winners list here.

Poll: From "Dreams" To "The Chain," Which Fleetwood Mac Song Is Your Favorite?

Fleetwood Mac in 1975

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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Poll: From "Dreams" To "The Chain," Which Fleetwood Mac Song Is Your Favorite?

"Dreams" experienced a charming viral moment on TikTok after a man posted a video skateboarding to the classic track, and now it's back on the charts, 43 years later

GRAMMYs/Oct 16, 2020 - 04:00 am

In honor of Fleetwood Mac's ethereal '70s rock classic "Dreams," which recently returned to the Billboard Hot 100 thanks to a viral TikTok skateboard video from Nathan Apodaca, we want to know which of the legendary group's songs is your favorite!

Beyond their ubiquitous 1977 No. 1 hit "Dreams," there are so many other gems from the iconic GRAMMY-winning album Rumours, as well as across their entire catalog. There's the oft-covered sentimental ballad "Landslide" from their 1975 self-titled album, the jubilant, sparkling Tango in the Night cut "Everywhere" and Stevie Nicks' triumphant anthem for the people "Gypsy," from 1982's Mirage, among many others.

Vote below in our latest GRAMMY.com poll to let us know which you love most.

Related: Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" Back On Charts Thanks To Viral Skateboard Video On TikTok

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Poll: What's Your Favorite Van Halen Song?