What do we mean… GHOST SINGERS?  Well, we mean Singers who perform on other people’s records but are not thought of as Featured or Guest performers.  These Singers who help make the song special, are sometimes not even credited as a performer; many are left off the album’s listing of credits all together.  In the heydays of Motown Records, artists used to be thrown on each other’s songs doing background work or hand claps because they were in the building at the time of need.  They were paid for their services so they wouldn’t complain about not being credited… I doubt that was even an issue in those early, exciting days of artistic creativity.  However, the Andantes probably wanted to be credited because they were trying to become known as a singing group.  Motown had the Andantes sing on countless famous Hit records but they were not credited for their background vocalsSteve Holsey of the Michigan Chronicle writes about them frequently… he’s a Crusader for them.  A GHOST SINGER could also be someone who sings a TV Theme Song or the REAL VOICE behind the lip-syncing singer on the movie screen.  You’ve heard the song for years but never knew who sang it.  These are all numerous examples of GHOST SINGERS.  Like Music Trivia?  Well, let’s start solving some longtime musical mysteries.

Q:        YOU ARE THE SUNSHINE OF MY LIFE –  Who are the male and female vocalists who sing the first 4 lines of “You Are The Sunshine of My Life,” before Stevie Wonder sings the first verse?

A:        JIM GILSTRAP & LANI GROVES.  Both of these vocalists were background singers for Stevie Wonder in his famed background group, Wonderlove at the time this ’73 released song was recorded for the Talking Book album.  I only know of Lani Groves singing with Wonderlove but Jim Gilstrap is a session musician and background singer for many, many recording artists.  He even put out a couple of albums himself in the 70’s.  Here’s a chance to lay your eyes on this GHOST SINGER and hear a sampling of Jim Gilstrap’s vocal abilities singing his own release from 1975, “Swing Your Daddy.”

posted by dboetful

Q:        ORDINARY PAIN –  Let’s stay with Stevie Wonder and ask if you know who sang the up tempo female response to Stevie Wonder’s pretty and mellow first half of the song, “Ordinary Pain,” from his Songs In The Key of Life album?

A:        SHIRLEY BREWER.  She was also a member of Stevie’s background singers, Wonderlove, at the time he recorded the Songs In The Key of Life album.


Q:        MISS CELIES BLUES (SISTER)/SPEAK LORD –  Who was the real voice that sang, “Miss Celies Blues (Sister)” and “Speak Lord,” for Shug Avery (Margaret Avery) in the famous Color Purple scene when Shug walks to church singing tearfully to repent from her carnal ways?

A:        TATA VEGATata now sings Gospel but used to have a recording contract with Motown Records.  She released 4 R&B albums between ’76 and ’80; each album had at least one Gospel flavored or straight up Gospel song on it.  She had 3 marginally successful tracks that hard core music lovers should remember; “Come In Heaven Earth Is Calling,” the truly beautiful “Just When Things Are Getting Good” and the funky dance track, “Get It Up For Love.”  She sang lots of Lead Backing Vocals on many projects back in the day.  Give a listen to Tata Vega as Tata Vega singing, “Just When Things Are Getting Good.”

posted by chosen1601

Q:        A HEART IS A HOUSE FOR LOVE -  Who really sang the Vocals for The Five Heartbeats on the song, “A Heart Is A House For Love,” in the Robert Townsend film?

A:        MARVIN JUNIOR (Lead Vocals) & THE DELLS.  A former Doo-Wop group, The Dells have sung together for decades bringing forth hits like, “Oh What A Night,” “Stay In My Corner,” “How I Wished It Was Me You Loved” and the song Dru Hill covered, “The Love We Had Stays On My Mind.”  The Five Heartbeats movie is loosely based on the singing career of The Dells and they were consultants for the film.


Q:        I JUST CAN’T STOP LOVING YOU -  Who sang, “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” with Michael Jackson?

A:        SIEDAH GARRETT.  She sounded so much like Michael Jackson that many didn’t even know it was a duet.  Siedah and Glen Ballard wrote “Man In The Mirror,” another track from Michael’s album, BAD.  Siedah also sang on multiple recordings for Quincy Jones who Produced the album, BAD.  Here’s MJ and Siedah performing, “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” live on stage in Romania back in ’92.

posted by TheMJTutorials

Q:        DON’T LOOK ANY FURTHER -  What female vocalist sang the duet with Dennis Edwards, formerly of the Temptations, on his Hit single as a solo artist, “Don’t Look Any Further?”

A:        This was also SIEDAH GARRETT.  This video gives you a really good look at Siedah as a performer.

posted by DennisEdwardVEVO

Q:        SOMEDAY WE’LL BE TOGETHER -  Who was the male vocalist singing with Diana Ross on the Supremes final song before her departure from the group, “Someday We’ll Be Together?”

A:        HARVEY FUQUA (deceased).  Harvey was the lead singer for the Moonglows when they recorded their biggest Hit in 1955, “Sincerely.”  Fuqua recruited Marvin Gaye to the  Moonglows before they disbanded in 1960.  He later became a Songwriter and Producer for Motown Records and was responsible for Marvin coming to the label.  Harvey teamed up with Marvin Gaye often in the early part of Marvin’s career as his Songwriting and Producing partner.

posted by dynomitemike

Q:        BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND -  Who sang with Stevie Wonder on the his classic rendition of the Bob Dylan song, “Blowin’ In The Wind?”

A:        CLARENCE PAUL (deceased).  Clarence was a Songwriter and Producer for Motown Records.  He got the assignment to be Little Stevie Wonder’s older Mentor and Chaperone when Stevie signed with MotownClarence and Stevie co-wrote and co-produced songs together as well as Paul working on other artist’s projects.  Clarence Paul, a wonderful singer himself, started singing his Call & Response portion of “Blowin’ In The Wind” when Little Stevie forgot the lyrics to one of the verses on stage one day; Paul quickly sang the forgotten lyrics to cover the mishap; this was two years before Wonder recorded the song.  It was decided to keep what had grown into a duet with Clarence Paul going when Stevie recorded the record for its 1966 release.  Clarence Paul co-wrote songs like “Finger Tips Part 2,” “Hey Love,” “I’m Wondering,” “Until You Come Back To Me” (Stevie Wonder), “Hitch Hike” (Marvin Gaye), “Once Upon A Time” (Mary Wells) and “Just A Little Misunderstanding” (Contours).


Any surprises yet?  Okay, let’s go through some TV Show Theme Songs… that’s always fun.  I think you’ll find even more surprises.  The TV shows always roll the credits really fast at the very end where they are likely to have the Theme Song credits.  What’s up with that?  I also found this to be true when trying to read the credits to see who the character voices are for animated cartoons.  As if knowing who’s really speaking as Dora The Explorer will just ruin it for the kids!


Q:        GOOD TIMES TV THEME -  Who sang the “Good Times” Theme Song?

A:        JIM GILSTRAP & BLINKY WILLIAMSJim Gilstrap is a busy fella when it comes to singing.  Sondra “Blinky” Williams’ greatest achievement is the beautiful, classic recording of the Ashford & Simpson song, “I Wouldn’t Change The Man He Is.”  She’s a Singer and Songwriter who many think got a raw deal from Motown; believing she was recorded but never promoted by the label.  Clearly, her singing voice was not the problem… the woman sang like nobody’s business.  Check out the “Good Times” theme and then Blinky’s ‘68 jam, “I Wouldn’t Change The Man He Is.”

posted by kriskriscooper69

posted by timmy841212

Q:        MAUDE TV THEME -  Who sang the Maude TV Theme Song, “Then There’s Maude?”

A:        DONNY HATHAWAY.  I’m always surprised at how many people miss this one.  I mean really… who else sings like Donny Hathaway?  Well, his daughter Lalah does now but back in the 70’s…?

posted by MisterBouncyBounce

Q:        THE JEFFERSONS TV THEME -  Who sang the “Movin’ On Up” theme for the Jeffersons TV Show featuring the beloved George (Sherman Hemsley) and Weezy Jefferson (Isabel Sanford)?

A:        JANET DU’BOIS.  Yes, the same woman who played “Wilona” on Good Times co-wrote and sang “Movin’ On Up” for The Jeffersons.  Silly me, growing up I thought she was the female voice singing the Good Times Theme.  Go figure!


Q:        HALF & HALF TV THEME -  Who sang the TV Theme for the show, Half & Half?

A:        Gospel singer, MELONIE DANIELS.  This song is a straight up JAMMelonie should have an illustrious career ahead of her.  She was Chief Background Vocalist for Mariah Carey for 12 years.  She can be heard singing Lead Vocals on Kirk Franklin’s song, “Chains,” from his 2007 album, The Fight of My Life.  She also co-wrote the Half & Half Theme Song.

posted by FellowDown

Q:        GIRLFRIENDS TV THEME -  Who sang the TV Theme for the show, Girlfriends?

A:        R&B singer, ANGIE STONE.  Angie is best known for her great songs like, “Brotha,” “No More Rain” (“Neither One of Us” by Gladys Knight & The Pips sampled) and the song that samples the O’Jay’s “Back Stabbers” music track, “I Wish I Didn’t Miss You.”  Before going solo, Angie sang Lead Vocals for the 80’s Pop/R&B group, Vertical Hold (“Seems You’re Much Too Busy”).

posted by emaleman24

Q:        AMEN TV THEME SONG -  Who sang the Theme song for the other TV show starring Sherman Hemsley, Amen?

A:        VANESSA BELL ARMSTRONG, Gospel Recording Artist.  Born in Detroit, Vanessa released her first Gospel album in 1983.  The title track, “Peace Be Still,” is considered to be her signature song.

posted by spudtv

Q:        227 TV THEME -  Who sang the theme, “No Place Like Home,” for the TV show, 227?

A:        The TV show’s star, MARLA GIBBS (“Mary Jenkins” aka “Florence” on The Jeffersons) sang the theme song.  I think most people guessed this answer because Marla Gibbs’ singing voice sounds just like her speaking voice; that’s not true for everybody.

posted by spudtv

These last two questions are mostly for the fellas… the ones who watched The Sopranos and The Wire.  Not to be sexist but I rarely run into a guy who didn’t love these two shows.  Same is true for The Unit.


Q:        THE WIRE TV THEME – SEASON 1 -  Who sang the Opening Theme, “Way Down In The Hole,” for Season 1 of the gritty HBO TV show, The Wire?

A:        THE FIVE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA or aka The Blind Boys of Alabama.  Formed in 1939 at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind.  Seiously?  They segregated the blind school, too?  Who could tell the difference or even cared?  Anyway, each season of The Wire, they brought on a new performance of the same Theme Song, “Way Down In The Hole,” which was written by Blues singer, Tom Wait for his ’87 album, Franks Wild YearsTom Wait performed the TV Theme Song for Season 2.  If you want a special treat, after The Wire Theme Song video, check out the Audio Video of the Blind Boys of Alabama’s first Hit record from 1948, “I Can See Everybody’s Mother But Mine.”  Lead Singer, Clarence Fountain, tears this old Southern Spiritual song up!

posted by WireLover2

posted by king689soulclassics

Q:        THE SOPRANOS TV THEME -  Who sang The Sopranos Opening Theme, “Woke Up This Morning?”

A:        ALABAMA 3.  Get this, not only are they NOT from Alabama but they’re not even from America. This fusion band of Blues, Country and other Eclectic styles is from England.  The Theme Song, “Woke Up This Morning,” was an already existing song that they recorded for their 1997 album, Exile on Coldharbour Lane.  Likely due to the success of The Sopranos, the album was re-issued in 2000.  Power to them… what a wonderful thing to happen to them.  The song is one of the coolest TV Theme Songs ever.  Yeah, that’s my MALE opinion  J

posted by andrwbsh

 Special Mention goes out to the late Heavy D for his creation and performance of Theme Music for TV shows, In Living Color, Mad TV and the Tracy Morgan Show.  You can see samples of these Theme Songs in the HEAVY D – IN MEMORIAM article in this month’s issue of NO SKIPS NO SCRATCHES.

Let us here from you if there’s a GHOST SINGER mystery, not uncovered in this article, that’s been buggin’ you for years.  Post your Comment and maybe we can help you solve it with our responding Comment.  Well, I’m exhausted and so is my brain.  This is a long article but the Video Answers are mostly shorties.  I hope you enjoyed testing your musical knowledge with us at NO SKIPS NO SCRATCHES.  Maybe we’ll do this again… sometime in the future… after I rest up.  Later.