Barbara Lewis; a name know best by the kids of the sixties, soul-music junkies and now, fans of Barry Jenkins’ cinematic masterpiece, Moonlight. Whether or not you are aware of her work, one thing that has always resonated with with audiences worldwide is Lewis’ emotive and sentimental lyricism. Often serenading her songs with a lovely, soft and warm hum, Lewis has been recognised as one of the smoother and sweeter voices to ever grace the genre. Her style was a pleasure on the ears and slotted perfectly into the category of ‘Pop-Soul’, a genre defined by such feel-good artists as The Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder and The Temptations. Lewis started writing her own music from the age of nine and didn’t look back once. Although she has six studio albums under her belt, the Michigan-born singer’s success weighed primarily towards to start of her career, more specifically around ‘Hello Stranger’. The song spent an impressive two weeks at the number one spot in the billboard R&B chart and reached number three in the overall chart; and now, thanks to Moonlight, the song is once again involved a number one spot.
The song was released back in 1963 on Atlantic Records on an album under the same name. The album was a big success with ‘Hello Stranger’ being its standout champion. Many critics have recognised it’s standout factor, one critic in particular states how the song “Oozes romance” but at the same time, “Simmers without coming to a boil, making it stand out all the more in a genre which often builds to a frenzied climax”. This analogy couldn’t be closer to the truth; Lewis flirts with the idea of an explosive soul record but her silky smooth serenade ensures that the water stays firmly in the pan. The context of the song focuses primarily on the reuniting of two people, more specifically, partners. This is what brings me onto the songs recent resurgence in the public eye with Moonlight. The Oscar winning film features the single in argueably one of the most definitive scenes in the whole picture. When Chiron (Trevante Rhodes), travels back to see his old friend Kevin (Andre Holland), they state how the song was the catalyst for them getting back in touch with each other. The choice to include the song into the film creates an amazing atmosphere onscreen. The juxtaposition between the femininity we hear in Lewis’ voice and the masculinity we see in Moonlight creates a special aura; one which very well may have helped tilt the Oscar in Moonlight’s direction.
The reason ‘Hello Stranger’ makes it as this week’s track of the week is due to it’s infectious sound. It’s catchy loops, ‘bod-de-bop’ vocals and suave Bossa-Nova style makes it addictive beyond belief.
Listen & enjoy here –