Gary: “This will be another artist that most people have forgotten. I just loved this song in 1967, I bought it and played it over and over. He did not have a huge career but I enjoyed him because he was my kind of Soul Singer and he loved Otis Redding, so I give you…
Arthur Lee Conley (January 4, 1946 – November 17, 2003) was an American soul singer. He is best known for the 1967 hit Sweet Soul Music which shot to the number two spot on both the pop and R&B charts in America, earning Conley the number eleven male artist ranking for 1967. The song pays homage to great soul singers like Lou Rawls, Wilson Pickett and James Brown.
Conley was born in McIntosh County, Georgia and grew up in Atlanta. He first recorded in 1959 as the lead singer of Arthur & the Corvets. With this group he released three singles from 1963 through 1964 (Poor Girl, I Believe, and Flossie Mae) on the Atlanta-based label National Recording Company.
In 1964 he moved to a new label (Ru-Jac Records) and released I’m a Lonely Stranger. When Otis Redding heard it he asked Conley to record a new version, which became the second release on Redding’s own fledgling label Jotis Records.
Conley met Otis Redding in 1967. After this meeting Redding took Conley under his care and taught him the fine points of the music business. Together they rewrote the Sam Cooke song Yeah Man into Sweet Soul Music, which at Redding’s insistence was released on the Atco-distributed label Fame Records. It proved a massive hit and went to the number two position on the U.S. charts and the Top Ten across much of Europe. It is said that Conley never accepted Otis Redding’s death of December 1967.
After several years of lacklustre singles in the early 1970s he relocated to England in 1975 and then spent several years in Belgium before settling in the Dutch village of Ruurlo and the cultural centre of Ganzenhoef (an extension southeast of Amsterdam) in 1980.
He legally changed his name to Lee Roberts (his middle name and his mother’s maiden name). He occupied himself with promoting new music by means of his Art-Con Productions company and was also active as a designer of specialized tapestries and furniture.
A live performance on January 8, 1980 featuring Lee Roberts & the Sweaters was released as an album titled Soulin’ in 1988.
He died after a long battle with intestinal cancer in Ruurlo, Netherlands at age 57.