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Butler, Jerry (1939- )

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jerry Butler was born to sharecropping farmers in Sunflower, Mississippi, but at the age of three his family joined the Great Migration and moved to Chicago, Illinois (to an area now known as the Cabrini-Green Housing Projects).  His initial introduction to music began as a choir boy in church in Chicago, where he met Curtis Mayfield, and the two joined a rhythm and blues (R&B) group called The Roosters in 1957.  Later in 1957 the group changed its name to Jerry Butler and the Impressions and released its only hit “For Your Precious Love,” which Jerry wrote, on the black-owned VeeJay label in 1958.

Shortly after, Jerry embarked on a solo career and because of his smooth voice and cool demeanor was dubbed “The Iceman.”  From 1958 to present Mr. Butler has appeared on various television and award shows, and has released several platinum records (one million records sold): "For Your Precious Love" with The Impressions (Veejay, 1958), "He Will Break Your Heart (Veejay, 1960), "Moon River" (VeeJay, 1961), "Never Gonna Give You Up” (Mercury, 1967), "Hey Western Union Man" (Mercury, 1968), "Brand New Me" (Mercury, 1969), "Only The Strong Survive" (Mercury, 1969), and "Ain't Understanding Mellow" (Mercury, 1973).  His best selling albums were “The Iceman Cometh” (Mercury, 1968) and “Ice On Ice” (Mercury, 1970). A testament to his talent, Jerry Butler is one of the few DooWop and Soul artists of the 50s and 60s that was also successful selling records through the 70s and 80s.  Jerry Butler was elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

Heavily influenced by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, Mr. Butler later turned his attention to politics, where he supported the election of Harold Washington (Chicago’s first black mayor), and in 1985 he was elected a Cook County Board Commissioner in Illinois.  He currently still holds this important political position (his fourth term), and serves on the Board of Directors for the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, but “The Iceman” still manages to perform frequently at various venues throughout the country.

Sources:
Jerry Butler and Earl Smith, Only the Strong Survive: Memoirs of a Soul Survivor (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2000); http://www.vh1.com; http://www.onlinetalent.com; http://www.mtv.com

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University of Washington

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