R.B. Greaves

Take a Letter Maria

Composed by R.B. Greaves

Song Review by

The 1969 smash "Take A Letter, Maria" was R.B. Greaves' one hit, and a fine one it is. Soulful enough for the Stax/Volt purists (Greaves sounds more like the late Otis Redding than his uncle Sam Cooke), but with an uptown pop gloss that made it sound equally at home next to the middle-of-the-road likes of Bobby Hebb's "Sunny," "Take A Letter Maria" is a pinnacle of what used to be known somewhat derisively as supper-club soul, with a semi-funky rhythm section duking it out with a high-register horn section that wouldn't be out of place on a Herb Alpert record. The lyrics are particularly interesting in this context, the story of a businessman instructing his secretary to contact his unfaithful wife and his lawyer, and ending -- as such a story must in those days of three-martini lunches and tales of extracurricular secretary-boss hijinks -- with the businessman asking his secretary out on a date. As Robert Christgau astutely pointed out in an essay reprinted in his anthology Any Old Way You Use It, it could be taken as something of a civil rights victory that this John Updike-like story of upper-middle-class suburban angst could be sung so convincingly by a black man.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
R.B. Greaves [Atco] 1969 Collectables 2:44
Atlantic Rhythm & Blues 1947-1974, Vol. 6 (1966-1969) 1985
Various Artists
Atlantic
Classic Rock: 1969 - The Beat Goes On 1989
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:42
20 Screaming Hits of the Sixties, Vol. 2 1991
Various Artists
Movieplay Music 2:44
Soul Hits of the 70s: Didn't It Blow Your Mind!, Vol. 1 1991
Various Artists
Rhino 2:46
AM Gold: The Late '60s 1992
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:42
'70s Smash Hits, Vol. 1 1993
Various Artists
Rhino 2:47
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert 1994
Original Soundtrack
Mother / Island / Island/Def Jam / Universal / Universal Music 2:45
Soul Hits of the 70s: Didn't It Blow Your Mind! Vols. 1-5 1995
Various Artists
Rhino 3:11
70's Radio Hits, Vol. 1-4 1997
Various Artists
Rhino Flashback 2:47
No Image 1998
Original Soundtrack
Warner Special Products 2:39
Rock N' Roll Reunion: 1960 to 1969 2000
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution 2:48
No Image 2001
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:41
Jukebox Hits 1969 [Madacy] 2002
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:47
R&B Soul Classics 2002
Various Artists
Repertoire
No Image 2002
Various Artists
Dominion / K-Tel 2:42
All the 60's 2003
Various Artists
Warner Strategic Marketing 2:39
One Hit Wonders 2003
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:42
Echoes of Time 2003
Various Artists
K-Tel / K-Tel Distribution 2:42
25 Years of Soul: 1969 2003
Various Artists
Flashback Records / Rhino Flashback 2:47
Juke Box Hits 1969 2005
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution 2:47
Atlantic Rhythm & Blues 1947-1974, Vol. 7: 1967-1969 2006
Various Artists
WEA International 2:44
Very Best of 70's Radio Classics 2006
Various Artists
Madacy 2:47
Atlantic R&B Box Set 2006
Various Artists
WEA International 2:44
The Greatest Mellow 70's Hits of All Time 2006
Various Artists
Rhino 2:42
100 Hits: 60s 2007
Various Artists
DMG / DMG TV 2:42
#1 Classic Hits of the 60s 1965-1970 2007
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:41
Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical [Music Inspired By] 2009
Various Artists
Universal International 2:43
100 Hits: Sixties Pop 2010
Various Artists
100 Hits 2:42
No Image
Various Artists
K-Tel 2:42
blue highlight denotes editor's pick