Classics: Esther Phillips – Home Is Where The Hatred Is (Kudu)
‘Home Is Where The Hatred Is…’ Here we have nothing else but a monument in the history of Soul/Jazz. And probably as well in the (tragic) history of the streets of America. With thanks to Gil Scott-Heron who first came with it back in 1971. Then to Esther Phillips herself who managed to vibrantly appropriate it for herself a few months after. The same way she would do 4 years after with her rendition of ‘What A Diff’rence A Day Makes’…
Unsurprisingly, ‘Home Is Where The Hatred Is’ is associated with two of the most significant characters in the history of Black music itself. But also two unique voices who’ve allowed them to deliver performances with no comparison. And, last but not least, two artists who both suffered from an addiction to drugs.
‘Home Is Where The Hatred Is’ was undoubtedly a masterpiece on its original form. But what about Esther Phillips‘ rendition of it!?! With (once again) thanks to Kudu label head Creed Taylor‘s production work. Itself featuring Hank Crawford on alto sax and Airto Moreira on percussion. Not to mention Don Sebesky in charge of the strings arrangements. With the whole under the direction of Pee Wee Ellis.
A native of Galveston, TX, Esther Mae Jones grew up diving her life between her dad who was livin’ in Texas and her mom who relocated to California. She most likely got into singin’ at the church and had to have her sister pushin’ her to enter a talent contest at a local blues club. An already mature singer although only aged 14, she won the contest and eventually came to the attention of the location owner, Johnny Otis. The latter soon after addin’ her to his traveling revue, the California Rhythm and Blues Caravan.
She delivered her debut-single – ‘Double Crossin’ Blues’ – the year after (in 1950) on Savoy Records. This as Little Esther along with The Johnny Otis Quintet and The Robins. She would get regular success with her partners in crime during the 50’s before switching to Federal Records.
A choice which happened to be unsuccessful. With one cut out of 30 attempts to be hitting the charts. This leading her to make a break for a couple of years. Meanwhile (already) fighting against an ongoing addiction to drugs. Despite a few releases on Atlantic Records where she happened to sign twice during the 60’s, she had to wait until the early 70’s to get back under the spotlights. This with the release of her ‘From A Whisper to A Scream’ 1971 debut-album for Kudu Records. An effort which spanned her cover version of Gil Scott-Heron‘s classic ‘Home Is Where The Hatred Is’. A performance which got her a nomination for a Grammy Award although she lost to Aretha Franklin.
Another few years on, and Phillips would get back one again under the spotlights. Takin’ on where Dinah Washington left with her Disco-styled update of ‘What A Diff’rence A Day Makes’. It would be her last significant success despite a few extra recordings during the 70’s and the 80’s.
Esther sadly passed at UCLA Medical Center in Carson, California on Aug. 07, 1984. This from liver and kidney failure due to drug addiction. She was 48…