Freda Payne – Come See About Me

Come See About MeCome See About Me
Freda Payne
(Fantasy – 2001)
by Regina Lynch-Hudson

Much has changed since the volatile Viet Nam War era when Freda Payne recorded poignant million seller “Bring The Boys Home” in 1971. Dubbed as a controversial anti war anthem, the song was banned from US Armed Forces Radio, ostensibly because of the lyrics: “Why don’t you turn the ships around? Everybody ought to lay your weapons down”. Payne’s moving plea, echoed by many, to end the Viet Nam war. Her throaty chorus resonated on AM radio ‘bring the boys home –bring ’em back alive’ as buttons bantered “Stop the war, bring the boys home”.

Thirty years later, to look at Payne, its as if not a day has passed. At 55 her highly chiseled Cherokee cheekbones glow as prominently as when she was bellowing out 5-million plus worldwide classic ‘Band Of Gold’. A well preserved remnant from the Glamourpuss era that include Nancy Wilson, Lena Horne, and Diana Ross — she is a stunning wrinkle-free svelte size-8, whose abs are as powerful as her vocal cords. One wonders if it’s the 25-years at yoga; her tea fasts of spring water, cayenne pepper, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and pure maple syrup; or the fact that she has been mellowing out in her seaside home in exclusive Marina Del Rey, California. A naturalist, Freda has drawn the curtain on the 20th century, enjoying a life looking out upon the tranquil blue harbor that gateway’s the Pacific Ocean.

In a downtown Atlanta hotel suite overlooking the starlit skyline, she reflected on her own celestial path, and the renewed Freda that audiences worldwide will see with the simultaneous February 2001 release of her new album “Come See About Me” and BET movie “Fire and Ice”. “We are living in a time when people worship teenybopper acts ; folks want the youngest person they can find and they shun the veterans ” she said, candidly sharing why she’s expanded her repertoire to act on stage and on the big screen. With a remarkable multi-faceted career that spans over four decades and includes theater, Broadway, concert stage and film, Freda admits that it’s a new day. “I am lucky to have a record deal,” she said, despite 2-grammy nominations in the 70’s. “Come See About Me”, a remake of the Supremes hit of the same title is a jazzy, pop, R&B production marks her 15th album to date.

“If I were 18, things would be a lot easier. It’s a Lil’ Kim, Mary J. Blidge, and Shaggy Dog kinda’ time we are living in” she said; breaking out in laugher when she had to be reminded that it’s ‘Snoop Dogg’. “When I am in my car and cut the radio on, I hear rap and hip hop -the lyrics are filled with bad language, blatant references to sex without any discretion, and lyrics are sung by both sexes that are a put down to women. It’s a turn off to a lady. As a mature woman I want to hear Johhny Mathis or Brian McKnight — I want to hear class and elegance —- and I want to perform material that turns me on.” “Come See About Me” doesn’t compromise the sophistication that is synonymous with Freda Payne. A jazzy jewel spiked with pop and R&B, “Come See About Me” is the type of timeless CD that one lingeringly consumes while sipping a glass of Merlot by a warm fire. It’s a feel good type of compilation that surfaces memories of an old lover.

“I still walk the line of being a Motown product, though never a Motown recording artist per say, I was a protégé of Barry Gordy -jazz and Broadway material.” Payne says she was contently performing theatre [Hallelujah Baby, Sophisticated Ladies, Ain’t Misbehavin’, and Jelly’s Last Jam] when she came into contact with the manager of Temptations, an old friend, who referred her to Fantasy Records/Volt. They were looking to sign a female artist. Schooled in jazz and classical music from the age of 5, Payne attended the Institute of Musical Arts and worked with Pearl Bailey prior to recording her debut album in 1963 for MGM Records. ” I grew up listening to classical music such as Chopin. My ear was trained; and by age 20 I was listening to jazz greats and the Motown sound. They have cut music program in public schools. The kids today aren’t educated musically. They are raw. It’s not great quality, it’s about putting on a skimpy outfit, putting out a provocative video —- and the album will sell.”

Over the course of her career, Payne recorded 14 albums which include “Stares and Whispers”, Supernatural High”, “Red Hot”, and “Payne and Pleasure.” ” Yes, sex sold even then, ” she reflects, but, we were selling a different brand of sex appeal.” And, while girly groups like Destiny’s Child may be scantly -clad, and rappers like Master P too articulately clumsy for Payne’s taste, she jokes that she has son Gregory Abbott Jr., now 23, [from a brief marriage to music producer/songwriter Gregory Abbott] to remind her that his peers are marketing geniuses. “These kids are not dumb,” she said. More than most seventies songstresses in Hollywood, Payne has a background and a body that enable her to market multi-dimensionally from Las Vegas to New York to Europe. In 1997 she acted in “Sprung” a hilarious and sensitive farce from writer-director Rusty Cundieff (“Tales from the Hood”) that dissected at the love lives of four African-Americans. She also appeared in Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (2000) a comedy that found Eddie Murphy’s portly Professor Sherman Klump falling for fellow teacher Janet Jackson. In BET’s Fire and Ice she plays the role of Glenn Thurman’s wife, among a cast that includes, Kadeem Hardison, and Tempest Bledsoe. “God she looks great!” was the stanza heard when she hosted Atlanta’s Trumpet Award’s along side Richard Roundtree.

As if she’d never stepped away from the limelight, cameras clicked, doors opened wider and velvet ropes evaporated in thin air when she appeared. Payne posed prettily for the national paparazzi that were on hand for the star-studded awards ceremony that included Al Jarreau, Ray Charles, Willie Mays, Leslie Uggams, and Geoffrey Holder. Needing little public-stroking, she then escaped quietly to her suite, despite the night’s private after-parties, and VIP receptions that would have granted prime-air play to ballyhoo her new album. When asked if “Come See About Me” is her comeback album, Payne laughed and then rhetorically asked, “Come back”? She appeared blissfully centered when she added, “I don’t make predictions. I am not worried about little frivolous things. I am more settled, more secure than I have ever been in my life. I really don’t even know where I see myself in the future – except that I’ll be doing more singing, more acting. Who knows-I may even go into something totally different – I’ll follow my calling. I want to remain healthy, savor life — I want to be free.”