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Black Pearl by Sonny Charles & The Checkmates, Ltd.

Album: Love Is All We Have To GiveReleased: 1969Charted:
13
  • This was written by Toni Wine, Irwin Levine and Phil Spector. Wine and Levine were songwriters who were signed to Don Kirshner's publishing company when Wine was 14 and Levine was 16. They teamed up to write "Candida," which was the first hit for Tony Orlando & Dawn. Spector, who also produced this track, is famous for his "Wall Of Sound" recording technique, which he used as producer of classic songs like "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" and "Be My Baby." They wrote the song in Wine's New York apartment.
  • Toni Wine told us the inspiration for this song: "The times. The very difficult times. It was disturbing, everything that was going on at that time period between people. All of our people. Just people. And segregation, differences. It was heartfelt. And that's how that song came about. We did that song and Phillip did an incredible record with The Checkmates. You know, Sonny Charles has a great lead. It was Sonny and Sweet Louie. It was a great record."
  • Toni Wine: "It was about a black woman. The male is singing to her, she is his sweetheart. She is his world, and she is his black pearl. They're dreaming of better times, better days, and he is saying, "Black pearl, pretty little girl, let me put you up where you belong. Black pearl, precious little girl, you've been in the background much too long." Which, at that time, with segregation, you had black students, white students, but older people, a lot of the black women, were depicted as being housekeepers, cooks, rather than having positions in companies, whether they were capable or not. It was a very difficult time period. They really weren't given the chances that their counterparts, the white women, may have been given. And it was time to have a song putting them on a pedestal. Because it shouldn't be "they" or "us" or anything. We are all capable of doing the same job, and should be given that chance. If we do a job well, we should be given the opportunity to do it, regardless of black or white. And in those days it wasn't as easy."
  • Speaking of her co-writers Levine and Spector, Wine says, "Irwin and I wrote together for a long time. He was just one of the greatest, most wonderful... he was hilarious. He passed away several years ago. He had a fabulous family, and I mean, he was wonderful. Always was. And Philip is incredibly talented, great sense of humor, and he's a musical genius, we all know that he's created some incredible memorable songs, as well as records.

    I think 'Black Pearl' certainly speaks for the way the three of us feel. I love that song, it's very dear to me. And even though I've had success with other songs, but I think 'Black Pearl' has always been and will be my favorite. It's very dear to me." (For more, check out our interview with Toni Wine.)
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Comments: 4

On May 4th 1969, "Black Pearl" by the Checkmates, Ltd featuring Sonny Charles entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #75; and on June 29th, 1969 it peaked at #13 (for 1 week) and also spent 13 weeks on the Top 100...
The group had two other records make the Top 100 and both also charted in 1969; "Love Is All I Have To Give" (#65) and a covered version of CCR's "Proud Mary" (#69)...
The the group was discovered by three-time Grammy Award winner Nancy Wilson; in 1964 she reached #11 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart with "How Glad I Am".
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
I thought this was just another one of those forgotten great songs from the past golden age of soul music. While driving Yesterday I heard this song on XM Sattelite Radio's Soul Town channel. It brought back so many, many memories of that day and time. This song would be inspiring to a lot of people today if it were played more often. Such a powerful message here, even for todays time.Mark - Houston, Tx
This song is a magnificent ode to Black women,coming out at the height of the Black Power movement in early 1969.
It almost seems ancient history now.Sadly,thats not how young Black men see their female counterparts today.Listen to most any rap song to tune into the current view.
When this song was out,I was marching through campus buildings at Berkeley and SF State College with Black men and women who did not come to play.Whenever I hear Black Pearl,I think of this sister with a big afro and black leather coat at Berkeley trying to swack the crap out of this cop with her wicked umbrella!
Doug - Oakland, Ca
I love this song very much; you can find it on Phil Spector's cd-box "Back to Mono". If you are a Spector's fan, just buy it, it's GREAT.Teresa - Mechelen, Belgium