Doris Troy, photographed in Tokyo, April 1994.
You may not recognise the name, but if you’ve listened to Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, Rolling Stone’s Sympathy for the Devil or Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain you would have heard her distinctive vocals as backing singer. Known as 'Mama Soul', she also had a commanding presence, as I found out when I photographed her in her hotel suite. She was friendly but I picked up on the no messing with me vibe. And no doubt she'd earned it.
Together with her sister she’d written the stage musical Mama, I Want To Sing which had a long run in Harlem and later in London. It was due to have a short run in Tokyo, and this was the reason for Doris’ visit.
Early in her career she'd co-written and sung the top 10 1963 hit Just One Look, which would also be a hit for The Hollies ... no easy feat back then for a woman let alone one of colour.
Further chart success evaded her, and in 1969 she relocated to London where on one of her earliest gigs was arranging and singing on the gospel-tinged chorus of the Rolling Stones You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Other session work followed, leading to her working alongside the likes of Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Keith Richards and George Harrison. George had Doris signed to Apple and produced her self titled album. Sadly, little or no marketing was extended to her release and it sank without denting the charts.
She stayed in London, and continued with backing vocals and arranging, clocking up credits with Nick Drake, Dusty Springfield and the aforementioned Carly Simon and Pink Floyd. She returned to the States in 1974 where she hit the casino and nightclub circuit until the successful staging of Mama, I Want To Sing in the mid 80s.