Sounds Visual Radio
Sounds Visual Radio
Episode 179: George McCrae

George McCrae Jr. is a renowned soul singer best known for his chart-topping 1974 hit, “Rock Your Baby.”

McCrae Jr., the second of nine siblings, was born in West Palm Beach, Florida. Early in his life, he formed a singing group, the Jivin’ Jets, and later joined the United States Navy in 1963. He married Gwen McCrae (formerly Mosley) in the same year. After re-forming the Jivin’ Jets with Gwen, they transitioned into a duo, recording for Henry Stone’s Alston record label. George also served as Gwen’s manager, sang in sessions and clubs, and considered returning to college for law enforcement studies.

However, fate intervened when Richard Finch and Harry Wayne Casey of KC and the Sunshine Band invited him to sing a song. George recorded “Rock Your Baby” alone, marking one of the disco era’s early hits in 1974. The song achieved immense success, selling millions of copies worldwide, topping charts in the U.S. and the UK, and earning George a Grammy Award nomination. The song secured the top spot on the Hot 100 chart in the United States for two weeks in July 1974, dominated the R&B chart at number one, and held a three-week reign atop the UK Singles Chart in July 1974. With a remarkable 11 million copies sold, it joins the exclusive club of fewer than 40 all-time singles to reach the 10 million physical copies milestone worldwide.

The initial backing track, recorded as a 45-minute demo, featured guitarist Jerome Smith of KC and the Sunshine Band, while Casey contributed on keyboards and Finch on bass and drums. Noteworthy as one of the pioneering records to incorporate a drum machine, specifically an early Roland rhythm machine, “Rock Your Baby” was not originally intended for McCrae. However, his spontaneous addition of vocals in the studio, combined with the infectious rhythm and falsetto vocals, propelled the track to its hit status. Renowned music critic Robert Christgau aptly described the song as “irresistibly Memphis-cum-disco-with-a-hook.” Interestingly, the chord progression in John Lennon’s chart-topping single “Whatever Gets You thru the Night,” released a few months later, bears a striking resemblance to that found in “Rock Your Baby.” Lennon openly acknowledged using the song as inspiration, expressing in a 1975 interview, “I’d give my eyetooth to have written that.” Furthermore, ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus credited “Rock Your Baby” as an inspiration for the backing track of their 1976 mega-hit “Dancing Queen.”

Despite his commercial popularity slipping in the late 1970s, George McCrae continued to release albums and manage Gwen until their 1976 divorce. He married again, moved to Canada, and entered a semi-retirement phase, leaving TK at the decade’s end. His later albums gained success in Europe, and he maintained an active performance schedule.

In 1984, he released “One Step Closer to Love,” followed by a return to the charts. Subsequent marriages, relocations, and family expansions marked his life, with albums like “LOVE” in 2016 showcasing his enduring talent. George McCrae’s musical journey extended into the 2000s, and he remained a notable figure in the music scene, performing on platforms like the BBC’s Hootenanny show in 2017.

McCrae’s music, specifically songs like “I Get Lifted” and “Rock Your Baby,” have been sampled hundreds of times by artists including Snoop Dogg, Pete Rock, and Brand Nubian.

George’s newest single with Lynda Law can be seen/heard here.

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