Linda Lewis, the British singer-songwriter known for her five-octave vocal range and who provided backing vocals for the likes of David Bowie and Rod Stewart, has died. The news was confirmed by her sister Dee Lewis Clay, who wrote on social media: “It is with the greatest sadness and regret we share the news that our beloved beautiful sister Linda Lewis passed away today peacefully at her home. The family asks that you respect our privacy and allow us to grieve at this heartbreaking time.” Lewis was 72.
Born Linda Ann Fredericks in West Ham, London, Lewis attended stage school and landed non-speaking television and film roles such as 1961’s A Taste of Honey and as a screaming fan in the first Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night. After joining John Lee Hooker onstage at a club in Southend-on-Sea, Lewis signed with Polydor and released her debut single, ‘You Turned My Bitter into Sweet’. The label worried that her name would be confused with Polydor signee Linda Kendrick, and she adopted Lewis as her surname in honour of singer Barbara Lewis.
Lewis appeared at the first Glastonbury Festival in 1970 and went on to sign with Warner/Reprise after a chance meeting with Warner Bros. Records executive Ian Ralfini. While working as a session vocalist in this period, Lewis appeared on albums such as David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane and Cat Stevens’s Catch Bull at Four. She had four top 40 hits throughout the decade, including ‘Rock-a-Doodle-Doo’, which peaked at No. 15 in the UK in 1973. Her cover of Betty Everett’s ‘Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss)’, retitled ‘It’s in His Kiss’, became a UK top 10 hit, reaching No. 6 in 1975.
In the 1980s, Lewis retreated from public life and moved to Los Angeles, although she made another appearance at Glastonbury in 1984. In 1992, she contributed backing vocals to Joan Armatrading’s album Square the Circle. Three years later, she returned with Second Nature, which became a massive success in Japanese, leading to a series of live shows that were compiled on 1996’s On the Stage – Live in Japan. Earlier this year, Lewis collaborated with the UK band the Paracosmos on their single ‘Earthling’, which would be her last release during her lifetime.
“I’m so sorry to hear of Linda Lewis passing. She was a good soul-friend and fine artist,” Yusuf/Cat Stevens wrote on Twitter. “Her flat on Hampstead Way was a regular home for artist and musicians in the 70’s. Linda became my personal support act during the ‘Bamboozle Tour’ of 1974, and travelled with our troupe all over the world, up to Japan. What a voice! I produced a couple of her records, and she sang the sweetest melody on my ballad, ‘How Can I Tell You’ as well as the chorus on ‘Angelsea’.”
“Linda was like an amazing bird that kindly visited the window sill of our earthly house for a few days, then flew away back to her garden,” he added.
Joan Armatrading wrote, “I’m so sad to hear of the death of Linda Lewis. She had a beautiful voice and was a really lovely person.”