Sunday, June 16, 2013

R.I.P.: Babi Floyd

R.I.P.: Babi Floyd

(born December 16, 1953; died June 11, 2013)

When bassist Will Lee told me the sad news that vocalist and songwriter Babi Floyd had passed away, I remembered that the first time I had heard Babi and Will performing together was on Patti Austin's "Live at the Bottom Line." Produced by Creed Taylor for his CTI label in August 1978, it features an all-star line-up that also includes Michael Brecker, Pat Rebillot, Leon Pendarvis, David Spinozza, Charles Collins and Babi's brother Frank Floyd.

Soon I took notice of other albums that Babi had recorded as backing vocalist for CTI, such as Nina Simone's "Baltimore," Esther Phillips' "Capricorn Princess" and the Yusef Lateef/Art Farmer collaboration on "Autophysiopsychic." Now, my record collection includes dozens of CDs with Babi's vocals; from Michael Franks and George Benson to Brothers Johnson, David Matthews (the great jazz arranger, not the pop star), Ralph MacDonald, Irene Cara, Tom Browne, Bob James' best-selling "Sign of the Times," and even with Keith Richard on "Vingage Winos" and "Main Offender"

Born and raised in the Chicago area (IL, USA), Babi Floyd (aka Bobby Floyd) took a B.A. in English in 1976 from Carleton College, a liberal arts college, and then headed to New York where he was sought out as a studio musician, doing background and step out vocals.

By 1982, Babi had recorded on albums with Nina Simone, Jimmy Cliff, Billy Joel, Frankie Valli, Esther Phillips, Bette Midler, the Neville Brothers, Luther Vandross, Robbie Krieger, Keith Richards, and many more, having also toured with pop acts, most notably as a member of Keith Richards' X-Pensive Winos. Most recently, he was the lead vocalist for producer Danny Kortchmar's Slow leak band.

Babi has sung for national and international television and radio ads, including campaigns for Texaco, Ivory Soap, Cheerios, the Army, Pontiac, Pepsi, and Coca Cola. Throughout the 80s and 90s, he has remained working with a group of commercial advertising voices which Quincy Jones dubbed as the "Super Singers." Babi made a visit to Jamaica in the early 80s and fell in love with the music and culture. Soon thereafter the love was reciprocated as he became the feature vocalist of Air Jamaica's ongoing "One Love" campaign.

He has also written and produced jingles for 3 Tree Productions located in New York City. Babi co-wrote "Friendship" for Erykah Badu, and other songs for Tom Jones. The first commercial which Babi wrote and produced is a national TV spot for Tropicana. He has one solo CD, "One Blood" released in Japan, in which his love and assimilation of Jamaican musical culture is present in a mix of original tunes and covers of several Marley classics. In his songs Babi shares stories, life experiences, moments and memories in the lyrics. He expresses this style in writing for the alternative country folk scene and for gospel as well.

Babi Floyd belongs to a rich musical clan. His father, A.J. Floyd, was a stride piano player who worked as a Pullman Porter performing dining cars of the Santa Fe R.R. and then as a sideman in Chicago playing honky tonk and jazz. Pearl Bailey and Mahalia Jackson were among the artists which he accompanied. Babi's grandfather, E.B. Floyd, played with Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet while also performing on the Mississippi river boats. Babi's grandmother, known professionally as Mama Mamie, was a popular nightclub singer in Nashville during the thirties and forties.
Obituary: Babi Floyd "The Left Handed Vocal Virtuoso"
BABI BAHA’U’LLAH FLOYD was called home to be with Our Lord and Savior after a monumental struggle with illness, on June 11, 2013.

Babi, a graduate of North Chicago Community High School, class of 1972 and Carlton College (‘76) in Northfield, MN; relocated to the New York City area via Northern California, where he embarked upon a successful, colorful and varied professional music and entertainment career. Babi was sought out as a studio musician doing background vocals, Saturday morning cartoon character voice overs and countless international Radio and TV commercials.

Babi passed away peacefully with his wife, family and special friends at his bedside, in Concord MA. He is survived by his wife Jennifer, three sons Tommie La’Mont (Neary) Proctor-Floyd, Seattle WA; Jermol De’Mar (Lou Ann) Proctor-Floyd, New Milford,CT and Davison Jubilance Wheeler Floyd; One brother Rev Raleigh D Floyd, and three sisters Mateenah (Bette) Floyd-Okanlawon, Stockton, CA; Carole R Floyd-Stewart and Maere M Floyd-Pitts, North Chicago, IL; six grandchildren, Mother-in-law Charlotte Anderson and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins.

He was preceded in death by his parents Anne Mehu and AJ Floyd and one brother Frank D. H. Floyd and Grandparents Rev Raleigh A. and Rosa Lee Davis, and Allison E. and Mamie Floyd.

Memorial services will be held Thursday June 20, 2013, 6pm at the Anderson Farm, 154 Fitchburg Turnpike Concord, MA 01742;
the New York memorial service location and dates to be determined, and the North Chicago memorial service will be held at the First Baptist Church, 2219 14th Street, North Chicago, IL. Date to be determined. Confirmed dates to be posted on Babi Floyd Facebook page. Services to be officiated by Reverend Raleigh D. Floyd.


Mateenah Floyd-Okanlawon said...

What a beautiful obit on my baby brother. Thank you so much for that in-depth piece so lovingly and respectfully presented. The mutual love and respect that I witnessed between artists and my brother is a "beautiful thing." I will share this with the family and at his memorial in New York on Oct. 11, 2013. Check his Facebook for information.
Mateenah Floyd-Okanlawon

Toussaint Haki Stewart said...

Thanks a million for this blog on my uncle Babi. Its amazing to know all the artists he worked with. He was also in the original cast of the WIZ on Broadway in the 70 's and was cast with my uncle Frank as one of the crows. Also his Grandfather, my great grandfather, was named A.E. Floyd. EB was his great uncle but also Pullman Porter and A.E. also played clarinet as well. Peace and love to you. Sincerely, Toussaint Haki Stewart,

Clem Tarpey said...

I'm a teen from Concord, Ma who recently had the pleasure of striking up a friendship with Davison and Jennifer, and through the snatches of conversation I would hear about Babi I knew I had to remember this man, just so he could impact my life in a deeper way. Thank you so very much for this obituary, its a pleasure to read it.