Freda Payne

Talented singer and actress Freda Payne was born on September 19 in Detroit. Freda modeled and took ballet and Afro-Cuban dance. While at Hutchins Middle School, she appeared on the nationally televised Ted Mack’s The Original Amateur Hour. Singing jingles, Payne was featured on WJR radio’s Make Way for Youth and many other local television and radio shows. Payne’s mother spurned a contract from, then unknown, Barry Gordy.

When she graduated from Central High School Freda Payne toured with Pearl Bailey’s musical review and sang with the Duke Ellington Band. Her first album was ‘After the Lights Go Down’ for ABC’s Impulse Records in 1962.

Moving to New York City, Freda made appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Merv Griffin Show and The Dick Cavett Show. In 1964, she joined the Four Tops, Billy Eckstine, and Nipsey Russell on the Quincy Jones Tour. Payne was understudy for Leslie Uggams in Broadway’s ‘Hallelujah Baby’ and performed in the show 5 times.

Stardom for Payne began when she signed with Invictus Records, ran by her old Detroit friends, Brian Holland, Edward Holland, Jr. and Lamont Dozier (formerly of Motown) in1969. Payne’s smash single “Band of Gold” in 1970 was ranked #1 in the U.K. and #3 in the U.S.A., her first gold record. Other hits included “Deeper and Deeper”, “You Brought Me Joy” and the anti-war, “Bring the Boys Home”. As her star kept rising, Payne appeared in television specials and toured Europe and Japan.

Although she left Invictus in1973, to date she has recorded 21 albums including several remakes of “Band of Gold”. In1974, she made the cover of Jet magazine after she was dubbed a Dame of Malta, by the Knights of Malta and the Sovereign Military and Hospital Order of St. John of Jerusalem by the Prince of Rumania. Payne hosted Todays Black Woman, a talk show, in 1980 – 81 before joining the cast of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies in 1982. She also starred in productions of Ain’t Misbehavin’ with Della Reese, The Blues in the Night, Jellies Last Jam with Gregory Hines and Savion Glover into the 1990’s. Payne film appearances include: Private Obsession, Sprung , Ragdoll , The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps and Fire and Ice.

On April 22, 2009 Freda appeared on American Idol and sang “Band Of Gold”. In February 2010, Freda joined Kanye West, Jordan Sparks, Jennifer Hudson, Barbra Streisand and many more on We Are The World for Haiti Relief.

In 2011 Freda sang a duet with Cliff Richard called ‘Saving A Life’ from his ‘Soulicious’ album. She also toured England with Cliff in the fall of 2011. 

Freda recorded a new Jazz based album for the Mack Ave label titled ‘Come Back To Me Love’ produced by Bill Cunliffe.

In April 2018 Freda returned to the stage with glowing reviews in ‘Ella: First Lady of Song’ at the Delaware Theatre Company in Wilmington, Delaware.

More recently, Freda released an EP of duets titled ‘Let There Be Love’ featuring Freda singing with Johnny Mathis, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Kenny Lattimore and Kurt Elling. She has also been busy writing her memoir ‘Band of Gold A Memoir’ Yorkshire Publishing (November 2, 2021) with Mark Bego. In May 2022 Freda released a new single titled ‘Just To Be With You’. Freda Payne’s prolific career will continue to flourish and prosper for as long as her creative juices keep flowing. Her indelible mark on the music industry is far from over.