Kendra Spotswood

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During the mid-'60s, soul singer Kendra Spotswood reeled off a series of strong but little-heard singles as a solo artist and in tandem with her then-boyfriend, composer/producer Van McCoy -- only one…
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During the mid-'60s, soul singer Kendra Spotswood reeled off a series of strong but little-heard singles as a solo artist and in tandem with her then-boyfriend, composer/producer Van McCoy -- only one appeared under her given name, however, long rendering her career trajectory a mystery to even the most ardent and resourceful musicologists.

Spotswood was born in Englewood, NJ; the product of a neighborhood that also laid claim to the Isley Brothers, Clyde McPhatter, and Chuck Jackson, it was perhaps inevitable that she pursue a career in music. When she was 18, Scepter/Wand staffer McCoy moved in next door, and not only did they soon begin a romance, but in 1963 she made her professional debut singing backup on the Four Buddies' McCoy-helmed "Lonely Summer." Her solo debut, "Can't He Take a Hint," followed on Philips later that same year, credited to Kenni Woods. After one more Kenni Woods effort, "Back With My Baby," Spotswood performed with the Shirelles, touring with the group for about two years but never entering the studio because she remained under contract with Philips. During that time, she and McCoy also collaborated on a series of pseudonymous singles, including the Pacettes' "You Don't Know Baby," Jack & Jill's "Two of a Kind," and the Fantastic Vantastics' "Gee What a Boy." In 1965, she cut "Stickin' With My Baby," the lone record attributed to her birth name.

"Sandi Sheldon" was the alias Spotswood fabricated with McCoy for 1967's "You're Gonna Make Me Love You" -- a surging stomper issued on OKeh, the single made virtually no impact on its initial release. After the same fate met 1968's "Touch My Heart," credited to the Vonettes and released on the tiny Cobblestone label, she relocated to Atlanta and retired from the music business. The circumstances surrounding the rediscovery of "You're Gonna Make Me Love You" remain muddy: one popular theory is that a copy was in a cache of singles sold by BBC Radio One DJ John Peel to record dealer Graham Stapleton, who in turn sold it to "Froggy" Taylor, then the DJ at the influential Northern soul nightspot the Twisted Wheel. When Taylor spun the record live, the crowd went wild, and the record remains a Northern soul favorite to this day. However, Spotswood/Sheldon's whereabouts and even her real name remained unknown for decades, until she finally learned of her latter-day fame and began appearing live in front of appreciative all-nighter audiences.