Hadda Brooks: Don't Go To Strangers
Don't Go To Strangers
Hadda Brooks (piano, vocals)
Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere (DRG)
Hadda Brooks (piano, vocals).
Composed by Redd Evans, Arthur Kent & Dave Mann.
Recorded: Hollywood, CA, March 15-16, 1994
Rating: 90/100 (learn more)
Hadda Brooks had been a very popular pianist singer – inspired as much by Charles Brown as by Nat Cole or Fats Waller – in the '40s and '50s; she put Modern Records on the map and was a key figure in the emergence of rhythm & blues. Brooks stopped recording in 1952, although she kept performing for much of the '50s and '60s. Rediscovered around the time of her 70th birthday in 1986, she made two albums in the mid-'90s, Time Was When and Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere.
The masterpiece of the two later albums is "Don't Go To Strangers." The song was written by Redd Evans, Arthur Kent and Dave Mann in 1954, the year it was a hit for big-voiced belter Vaughn Monroe, but didn't become a standard until the classic Etta Jones recording of 1960. Thanks to Jones, the song has become accepted as a kind of soul ballad (one of the few not by an Afro-American songwriter) in the tradition of Percy Mayfield's "Please Send Me Someone to Love" and Buddy Johnson's "(I Wonder) Where Our Love Has Gone."
Although other musicians (trumpeter Jack Sheldon, guitarist Al Viola and bassist Gene Wright) appear on most of the rest of the album, this track features Brooks accompanied only by her own piano, and is thus especially intimate. In her interpretation, "Don't Go To Strangers" is slow and sentimental, but not too slow or too sentimental. Brooks makes it highly personal but refuses to let it get maudlin. She sings with unmistakable love, romantic, maternal, whatever, it could be to a child or to a lover, it doesn't matter. She's been through it all, she's an old hand; the lyric tells us this, but it almost doesn't have to – Brooks sings it with so much authority that from the sound of her weather-beaten voice alone we realize there's nothing she doesn't know.
Reviewer: Will Friedwald