Monday, March 9, 2009

Song of the Week: Garnet Mimms -- As Long As I Have You

If I throw out the name Garnet Mimms I bet you'll say, "who?" I'll also bet you know his work even if you don't know his name. Garnet Mimms, if he is known at all, is probably best known for being the cat whom originally recorded Cry Baby ('63), the song with which Janis Joplin would become inextricably associated.

But Mimms was much more than a forgotten one hit wonder. The Soul and Gospel singer from Philadelphia cut a series of records in the early part of the 60's that would be picked up by eager British artists who often turned Mimms' work into London standards. To point, I, for one, was introduced to Mimms by The Who who aptly covered Anytime You Want Me for the flip-side of their second US single in 1965. The Rolling Stones and the Pretty Things both covered Cry To Me in 1964 and Van Morrison's first band, Them, covered It Won't Hurt Half As Much in 1965.

Mimms had pipes that naturally bring about comparisons to Sam Cooke, Solomon Burke and Jackie Wilson. But for a bevy of ill-defined reasons he never attained notoriety like those luminaries. Regardless, he recorded first-rate material (often written by his producers Bert Berns and Jerry Ragovoy) with production values and musicianship that are head turning.

Our Song of the Week is my favorite Mimms song, which is really saying something. As Long As I Have You was recorded for United Artists in 1964 and was written by Jerry Ragovoy under the pseudonym of Norman Meade. That's the same name he would use to pen Time Is On My Side (for Irma Thomas) and Piece of My Heart (for Erma Franklin), which, in cover form, would become monster hits for the Rolling Stones and Janis Joplin respectively. But As Long as I Have You never attained that kind of second life. In fact, the song was never released as a single. Instead it was relegated to album filler. 

Opening with three guitars riffs -- one with vibrato -- building on top of each other, the song is filled out with horns, haunting back-up vocals expertly mixed (dig that reverby "oh-oh-oh" at 1:51) and, of course, Mimms' monster voice. I have no idea who the studio musicians are but they give the song a wonderful, unexpected quality to it. To point, linger on that odd descending baritone riff that is first introduced at the eleven second mark.

In the end, this song is much more than the artist's name on it. The songwriter/producers deserve a huge load of credit as do the nameless studio musicians. If you dig this song (and how can you not?) I strongly suggest you check out other Garnet Mimms records as the quality of song is consistently stellar.

Enjoy, and have a flip-sidey week.


  1. This song is f'n brilliant! It is unbelievably right on target.

    Also amazing original version of Time Is On My Side. Guess I never checked the credits on that one. The rich veil continues (for me) to lift on the Brits.

  2. Great song. The liner notes in the Mimms cd I have credit Jerry Ragovoy with the guitar on this session. Talented dude.

  3. Ragovoy on guitar? No way. Have you ever seen a picture of the dude? I'll just say, not the person you would expect to have written and produced (and played) on all these soul records.

  4. You win the bet. Though I have heard the name Garnet Mimms, I never knew if it was a person or a band, and had no idea what era he/she/they belonged to. But I certainly had heard Mimms' work through the cover version you mentioned. Thanks for the edification. "As Long As I Have You" is certainly stunning. Great performances, great production, great songwriting. I'll suggest that perhaps the reason this song never received the cover treatment is that nobody in their right mind could reasonably expect to surpass the original. That is a damn fine piece of work.

  5. That's a great tune.

    I know Mimms by reputation, but I'm not too familiar with his stuff. Thanks for this.

    His voice is quite 'pop' isn't it? It's clearly aimed at a wider audience beyond the R&B charts. Yet, Mimms is kind of a minor figure. I've only heard him spoken about by hardcore music fans, which is a shame, because you're right; he certainly had some of Sam Cooke's accessibility in his voice.

    Cheers for the post!