The very accomplished Phil Perry reflects on his great career
David Goodson | 10/6/2011, 11:01 a.m.
In the span of minutes, the standard Q & A interview had subsided and it felt like two brothers just kickin' it. After a myriad of topics, the subject of boxing was brought up and it was then that I had my light bulb moment. When trying to find someone that was comparable to Phil Perry, maybe I needed to look to the sweet science instead of music.
There I found it in Bernard Hopkins. In Hopkins you have an individual who has performed at a championship level for years but has escaped the plaudits that his talent deserves. He devises a plan, prepares well and then, when it's time, with surgical, pinpoint precision executes it to near perfection. At the end of each performance, he wows the aficionados, further earns the respect of his peers and converts casual observers into devout followers. Yeah, that's a fitting parallel.
When asked how cat just out of East St Louis goes on to record in four different languages and be considered on the A list of studio musicians and singers, Perry responded, "There's no such thing as a creative person that isn't a dreamer. The dream fuels the creative process."
It began humbly in Catholic school, where Perry was asked to replace a soloist in his school choir stricken with strep throat for Midnight Mass. At the song's completion, he received a standing ovation from an audience that included his parents and grandmother. From there, images of a professional career were conjured and put into motion.
A few years later, Perry was a member of quintet called the Montclairs. "In 1969, I wrote a song called 'Hey You,' and that composition was my first musician, background singing, lead vocal introduction into the professional ranks," Perry says.
During his career he's had the privilege to work sessions with the likes of George Duke, Anita Baker, Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, Bobby Womack and Peabo Bryson, to name a few. He's written songs for Aretha Franklin, Bobby Caldwell, Najee, Noel Pointer and Patti Austin and recorded three group albums-one with the Montclairs and two as part of a duo with another member of the Montclairs, Kevin Sanlin, under the name Perry & Sanlin (these will be remastered and reissued later this year in a two-CD set-and nine solo albums.
Perry reflected on his career so far, "It's been a wonderful journey. Although the selfish me would say there are things that I would change, the me that I'm trying to become says that if I changed anything, I wouldn't be here. A lot of people don't know how long I've been in the industry. My wife posts songs onto my website and when people respond, they'll ask questions as though they're brand new. Some of the music that they're listening to is over 25 years old."
Aside from the obvious attributes of talent and hard work, he revealed his X-factor. "I didn't get into the industry thinking that everyone would like what I did. I'm a human being and I readily accept my flaws, because if God didn't want them there, he wouldn't have put them there. So I just tried to be faithful, because singing has always been there with me. I never had a phobia about taking a chance. I viewed each chance as an opportunity and every opportunity as a blessing. I knew I was covered. I didn't deserve to be covered by any means, but I was covered."