Old School Cool is an occasional feature that, for those of a certain age, retraces the journey of musical lifetime in a way that keeps the memories flooding back. This time it is the Barbara Acklin hit song ‘Am I The Same Girl’, the Record and Sanders composition that was originally recorded by Young Holt Unlimited.
Back in the early sixties Eldee Young and Isaac Holt formed the rhythm section of the Ramsey Lewis Trio. They broke away to start their own band and took the track Soulful Strut to #3 in the R and B charts in 1969. The song next appeared as a cover by George Benson on his 1977 album ‘Livin Inside Your Love’ while the Young Holt original went on to feature on more than twenty compilations over a twenty-five year period. In addition, it also appeared on the soundtrack of the 1998 movie, ‘The Parent Trap’.
Of course, as is commonly known, ‘Soulful Strut’ is an instrumental. However, a few months before Young Holt Unlimited took the recording into the charts, Chicago based Barbara Acklin had a hit on her hands with the vocal version of the same tune titled ‘Am I The Same Girl’. Acklin was born in Oakland CA and moved to Chicago at the age of five. She developed her vocal skills while singing gospel at Big Zion Baptist Church and, in 1966, joined Brunswick Records as a receptionist for producer Carl Davies who was to make his name working with the Chi-lites and Gene Chandler. She had a passion to record and persistently asked Davies to give her the big chance she was looking for. He said he would but in the meantime encouraged her to develop her song writing skills. This indirectly gave her a breakthrough as it brought her into contact with the legendary Jackie Wilson who heard an example of her work, ‘Whispers (Gettin Louder)’, that she had co-wrote with David Scott, and recommended it to Davies. It was recorded on August 8, 1966, went to # six in the R&B charts and # 11 on the pop listings in the fall of that year. Her recording of ‘Am I The Same Girl’, also on Brunswick, reached #33 in the R and B charts and #79 in the pop listings.
Acklin went on to have an extremely successful performing and writing career. Her compositions with Brunswick stable mate Eugene Record of the Chi-Lites and co-writer of ‘Am I The Same Girl’, set the tone for that groups success through the late sixties and early seventies. ‘Have You Seen Her’ settled at # one R&B and # three pop. It earned the Chi-Lites their first gold record. ‘Oh Girl’ followed in the spring of 1972 while other Acklin/Record compositions for the Chi-Lites included ‘Stoned Out of My Mind’ and ‘Toby’, a double-sided hit single and the title track of a 1974 album.
‘Am I The Same Girl’, as well as going on to figure on several compilations, also proved to be a cover version hit in the UK singles charts for Dusty Springfield. More recently Swing Out Sister recorded it on their 1991 release ‘Get In Touch With Yourself’.