Tales of lost love are a songwriting staple. The Motown team of Holland-Dozier-Holland mined it well.
In 1970 they came up with “Band of Gold” which became a Top 10 hit and a career-launcher for Freda Payne, who opens a week-long run at The Rrazz Room on Tuesday.
Before conquering the charts, Payne left her native Detroit for time in Manhattan where she worked with the likes of Quincy Jones and Pearl Bailey, while understudying Leslie Uggams on Broadway.
She released two jazz-themed albums and made several television appearances before “Gold” changed her world. In the four decades since, she’s never stopped recording, made a few films and returned to the stage with “Blues in the Night” which played the Post Street Theatre in 2007.
Payne is currently working on a new album. “It’s very different from what I’ve done before. It’s almost a country and western vein. I wanted to take a chance on something new. If it sticks I’ll add it to the jazz and other styles I do in my shows,” she says.
A recent highlight for Payne came at the instigation of an old friend. “I was out having dinner and got a call from an agent. He asked if I wanted to be involved in the new version of ‘We Are the World.’ Of course I said yes. Then he told me that Quincy had requested that he call me, which made me even doubly ecstatic.”
The session was exciting, offering reunions with old friends like Gladys Knight and introductions to new talents like Justin Bieber. “I invited my son to the recording session and also my daughter’s fiancé, Charles Eugene who is a gourmet chef, and owns Spicy Charlie’s in Los Angeles. The recording was a benefit for Haiti and he was born and raised there so I thought it would be a nice experience for him.”
In the song’s video, which debuted during this year’s Winter Olympics, Payne is well positioned. “I figured I’d get a good spot, so I put myself right in the middle and made sure I was as close to the front as possible so you wouldn’t miss me,” she laughs.
The light-hearted ploy worked and Payne is clearly visible, immediately surrounded by such diverse artists as will.i.am and Tony Bennett. “We’d been singng for about two hours,” she says “with Patti Austin directing. Then they brought Barbra Streisand in. No one knew she was coming. They just placed her next to me, so I guess that was a good spot!”
Where: Rrazz Room at Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 7 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $40 to $45
Contact: (866) 468-3399, www.therrazzroom.com