Dobie Gray has drifted away aged just 71, just slightly older than my own father when he passed away. Dobie had a great voice and in my opinion should have been far more succesful. Even if you’re not familiar with the music of Dobie Gray I am sure there are a couple of his songs that you will have heard. Those are “The In-Crowd” from 1965 (US number 13 and UK number 25) and “Drift Away” from 1973. “Drift Away” reached number 5 in the US charts and sold more than a million copies. Sadly it never charted in the UK, which frankly is a travesty!
The song was written by Mentor Williams and has been covered by many artists, but for me Dobie’s version reigns supreme by a long way. Artists such as Rod Stewart, Ray Charles and the Heptones have all recorded the song. There is also believed to be a cover by the Rolling Stones recorded in 1973 which as yet remains unreleased. For me it is such an uplifting song, I challenge you to listen to it and try to resist the urge to smile and sing along. I am definitely unable to resist that! Uncle Kracker covered the song in 2003 and incorporated one verse by Dobie himself. This version was number one in the US Adult Contemporary chart, but again failed to chart in the UK.
“The In-Crowd” has also been the subject of many cover versions from Mike Flowers and Ramsey Lewis to Bryan Ferry. Personally I think Ferry’s version is an excellent much more rock interpretation of the tune. Dobie’s 1966 recording “Out On The Floor” is seen as a classic Northern Soul track in the UK and reached number 42 in the British charts in 1975. This would have been driven by the amount of airplay it got at such iconic clubs as the Wigan Casino. Dobie was also one of the first artists to play to a non-segregated audience in what was then still an apartheid South Africa. I’m pretty sure that my singles collection used to include an imported copy of Dobie’s “Find ‘Em, Fool ‘Em and Forget ‘Em” from 1976. That song scraped into the Billboard top 100 in the US and failed to chart in the UK.
My thoughts go out to Dobie’s family, friends and fans. Dobie Gray RIP.