Back To Life (However Do You Want Me)

Album: Club Classics Vol. One (1989)
Charted: 1 4
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  • Soul II Soul is a collective run by the British DJ/producer Jazzie B, who wrote and produced this song with his main collaborator, Nellee Hooper. The lyric portrays a relationship where the singer is looking for clarity, asking her partner the question "however do you want me?" She feels it's time to face reality and move forward.

    Jazzie sees it as a universal message about taking control, with music as the guide. "The music is there to lift the pressure, to give us inspiration to keep on movin', feel free, to come back to life," he told the New Musical Express.
  • Soul II Soul used various vocalists on their songs. Their first single, "Fairplay," was released in 1988 with Rose Windross singing lead. The next one, issued later that year, was "Feel Free," featuring Do'reen. Both songs were minor hits in the UK, but their next single, "Keep On Movin'," became a huge hit when it was released early in 1989. That one has vocals by Caron Wheeler, who had been a backup singer for Elvis Costello and Erasure.

    Soul II Soul's record company demanded another hit with vocals by Wheeler. Fortunately, they had recorded her singing "Back To Life (However Do You Want Me)" without a backing track. Jazzie B took those vocals, layered and processed them, then put them on top of a beat very similar to "Keep on Movin'" - both tracks have at their foundation a pitched-down drum loop sampled from the 1975 song "The Jam" by Graham Central Station.

    Released as the next single, "Back To Life" went to #1 in the UK and charted in several other countries. In America, it went to #1 on the Dance and R&B charts, as had "Keep On Movin'." Caron Wheeler landed a record deal and released her first album, UK Blak, in 1990. When Soul II Soul reunited in 2007 after a decade-long hiatus, Wheeler joined in, performing at concerts and on TV shows.
  • Jazzie B didn't have this song completed when Soul II Soul released their debut album, Club Classics Vol. One, so he included an a cappella version on the tracklist. Fans who bought the album were surprised (and often a little peeved) to find this rendition on the album instead of the fully produced version that was a hit. Later pressings of the album included the full version of the song along with various remixes.
  • The Soul II Soul beat from this song and "Keep on Movin'" proved highly influential. Over the next year or two, many songs showed up with similar grooves. Examples: "Close To You" by Maxi Priest and "Hold On" by En Vogue.
  • This song won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal at the 1990 ceremony. They were nominated for Best New Artist but lost to Milli Vanilli, who returned the award after admitting they didn't sing on their album.
  • "Back To Life" was used in commercials for Dasani water in 2002. The ads started running during the Salt Lake City Olympics.
  • The official writing credits on this song have been amended over the years and are different on some remixes, but the songwriters on "Back To Life" are now listed as Jazzie B, Nellee Hooper, Caron Wheeler, and Simon Law, a producer/keyboard player who worked with the group.
  • The Beautiful South altered the line "back to life, back to reality" for their 1990 song "My Book," changing it to "back to bed, back to reality." Jazzie B took legal action, and he and the other writers of "Back To Life" are now credited as composers on "My Book."
  • Such was the furor when Soul II Soul failed to receive a statuette at the 1989 Brit awards, fellow soul artist Neneh Cherry broke hers in two and gave half to Jazzie B.


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