In Memoriam: Robert Thomas “Bobby” Freeman (June 13, 1940 – January 31, 2017)

bobby-freemanRobert Thomas “Bobby” Freeman (born June 13, 1940 – January 31, 2017) was an African-American soul and R&B singer, songwriter and record producer from San Francisco, California. He is best known for his two Top Ten hits, the first in 1958 on Josie Records called “Do You Want to Dance” and the second in 1964 for Autumn Records, “C’mon and Swim”.

Freeman was born and raised in San Francisco, California. He started singing in a doo-wop group, the Romancers, in his early teens, and first recorded with them for Dootone Records in 1956. Their recordings included “House Cat”, included on several later rock and roll compilations. However, the group soon fell apart, and Freeman started a new group, the Vocaleers (not to be confused with an earlier group of the same name who recorded “Is It a Dream”).

He also recorded some solo demos, including “Do You Want to Dance”, which were heard by a visiting record label executive, Mortimer Palitz of Jubilee Records. He signed Freeman to the label, and had the original recording overdubbed in New York by session musicians including guitarist Billy Mure. Released on the Jubilee subsidiary label Jamie, “Do You Want to Dance” quickly rose to number 5 on the pop chart and number 2 on the R&B chart in early 1958, when Freeman was still only 17. The song was covered later (as “Do You Wanna Dance”) by Del Shannon, the Beach Boys, Johnny Rivers, Bette Midler, John Lennon, Cliff Richard, Marc Bolan & T.Rex, the Mamas & The Papas, Bobby Vee and the Ramones.

Freeman appeared on American Bandstand and toured with such musicians as Fats Domino, the Coasters, and Jackie Wilson. Several of his follow-ups on Laurie, including “Betty Lou Got a New Pair of Shoes” and “Need Your Love”, a ballad, also made the pop charts. He left Laurie in 1960 and signed with King Records, reaching the charts again with “Shimmy Shimmy”. However, several of Freeman’s later recordings for King in the early 1960s went unreleased, for unexplained reasons. He did not return to the charts again until 1964, after signing for the Autumn label, when he had his second top ten hit with “C’mon and Swim”, a song written and produced by 20-year-old Sylvester Stewart, later known as Sly Stone. Freeman’s final hit was “S-W-I-M”, later in 1964.

In 1964, Bobby Freeman played nightly at the Condor Club in San Francisco where Carol Doda performed her topless go-go dancing shows. Mainly supporting himself as a singer in clubs by the late 1960s, he continued to release singles on various small local labels through to the mid-1970s, but met with little commercial success. He has performed at the Bay Area Music (“Bammy”) Awards in recent years. – Wikipedia

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