This week at 101.9 WDET, we’re celebrating 70 years of music here in Detroit. Each day, Sam’s Jams will focus on a different genre of music from the city that birthed so many. Today, we’re listening to Funk in Detroit.
Artist: Dee Edwards (written by Hermon Weems)
Track: Why Can’t There Be Love (1971)
For our second day of celebrating WDET’s 70th Anniversary, Sam’s Jams will focus on Funk and Soul from the Motor City.
Dee Edwards was born in Birmingham, Alabama, but she spent most of her musical career in Detroit. Working with labels like D-Town Records, Premium Stuff and GM, Edwards has become a staple for record collectors seeking rare soul from the Motor City.
But, what is most interesting about Edwards’ song “Why Can’t There Be Love” is who the song is written by. Hermon Weems was a composer, artist, and singer from Detroit, a Cass Tech graduate, who had been performing in the city since the early 1950s. He started as a vocalist in The Sparrows and eventually went to work for Ann Records, which was owned by the Gordy Family (Anna Gordy was the sister of Motown’s Berry Gordy).
Berry Gordy fired the group from the label, and Weems went on to work with Detroit labels Golden World and Ric-Tic Records. A few years later, Gordy subsequently purchased these labels, and Weems was now working for Gordy again at Motown.
Hermon Weems’ most notable work at Motown was not making music, but doing the artwork for album covers like “Psychedelic Shack” and “Cloud Nine” for The Temptations. He also created the logo for George Clinton’s group, Funkadelic. One year later (1971) he recorded the song “Why Can’t There Be Love” with Dee Edwards on GM records. The song ended up being licensed by Adidas for an ad campaign in the early 2000s. Weems also wrote songs for J.J. Barnes, the Detroit Emeralds, the Fantastic Four and Al Kent.
Weems went on to do hand-painted signs for local businesses. Hermon Weems passed away in 2010, and you can still see his sign work all over the city of Detroit, painted on the sides of buildings, as well as the custom-designed record bins in People Records.
From 70 years ago to contemporary releases today, Sam’s Jams is the musical equivalent of digging for hours in dusty record store bins to find forgotten-but-should-be-remembered deep cuts pulled from the genres of funk, jazz and soul genres.