If there’s one music artist whose got the baby makin’ grooves down to locked bedroom door perfection, it’s iconic singer/songwriter/jazz guitar extraordinaire, George Benson. For almost six(!) decades, Mr. Benson has put out some of the most influential jazz, disco and love records that will ever bless our headphones. Even at the smooth age of 72, he’s still making that magic music, while at the same time making all of our #TBT dreams come true with his classic grooves that Philly Mixtape has served up for everyone today.
Often referred to as one of the greatest guitarists in jazz history, George Benson is indeed one hell of a extraordinary musician, whose unique musical skills found him crossing easily between straight-ahead jazz, smooth jazz, and contemporary R&B. Blessed with a style that can be comparable to jazz greats Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery, Mr. Benson’s smooth, seductive sound is also completely his own. Not only does he slay it on lead guitar, but he’s also one of the best rhythm guitarists in the business. However, that’s only a small slice of music life when it comes to Mr. Benson as he also sings in a deep, soulful tenor and in fact, it’s his dynamic voice that has proven more marketable to the music world than his famed guitar playing.
Starting out in this crazy music business as a singer, Benson began performing in nightclubs at an very early age;forming a rock band at 17 while using a guitar that his stepfather made for him. Exposure to those classic jazz records got him intrigued with the genre, and by 1962, the teenage Benson was playing in Brother Jack McDuff‘s band. After forming his own group in 1965, Benson became another one of talent scout John Hammond’s major discoveries, recording a handful of highly regarded albums of soul-jazz and hard bop for Columbia and turning up on several records by others, including Miles in the Sky, the phenomenal album from the late, great Miles Davis. After he joined Verve in the late-’60s, Benson began working with legendary producer, Creed Taylor, and that’s where Mr. Benson’s mainstream radio magic began…
At first, Benson quickly became a guitar star in the jazz world, with the mainstream music market not catching on until he began to emphasize vocals after signing and linking up with Warner Bros. Records. His first album for the label, Breezin‘, became a Top Ten hit on the strength of its only vocal track, “This Masquerade,” and this would lead to a string of hit albums in an R&B-flavored pop mode, culminating with the disco-kissed Quincy Jones-produced classic, “Give Me the Night,” as well as the iconic, “On Broadway.”
Through the oh, so elusive decade of the ’80s, while Benson was enjoying the many fruits of his singing success, his guitar playing took a back seat in order to sell more records. It was only later in the decade that Benson switched back into his guitar game;recording a critically acclaimed album of jazz standards. He also kept making dynamic records throughout the ’90s, with most critics noting that his more pop-oriented guitar work had noticeably improved in later years. Even more recently, Mr. Benson put out a buffet of albums in the ’00s, most notably for 2006’s Givin’ It Up, which earned the music mastermind a Grammy Award nomination.
Two years ago, Benson released Inspiration: A Tribute to Nat King Cole, an album that he masterfully recorded at the age of 70. Regarded as one of Benson’s finest music moments, (check it out right here), the album only further proved that one, they certainly don’t make them like this anymore, and two, there’s no denying that the incredibly gifted George Benson has a unique, one-of-a-kind talent will last through the ages…and then some.
Go on, Mr. Benson…