I’ve always felt a little sorry for performers who get labeled as a ‘one-hit wonder’, but the story of Barbara George is especially poignant. When her 1961 record of “I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More)” became a giant hit on both R&B and pop charts, she seemed to have an unlimited future. But things didn’t always go well for her, and — like all shooting stars — she disappeared from view much too soon.
Born as Barbara Ann Smith in rural Louisiana during World War II, she was raised in New Orleans where she often sang in her church choir. By the time she was in her mid-teens (and married) she was writing her own music and thinking about a singing career. New Orleans was — as always — filled with music and rich with opportunities for new performers, and within a couple of years she’d managed to take the first step by catching the attention of local R&B star Jessie Hill.
Hill matched her up with local music veteran Harold Battiste, who was in the process of trying to get a new record company up and running. Her very first platter for AFO Records featured a song she’d written herself, “I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More).” It soon shot to the top of the R&B charts and it didn’t take it long to cross over and do nearly as well on pop charts. Barbara George was a star.
Unfortunately, it would be her biggest success by far. Subsequent records like “You Talk About Love,” “If You Think,” and “Send for Me (If You Need Some Lovin)’,” didn’t do nearly as well for her even though she changed record companies along the way. Within a few years she’d grown disillusioned by the business and pretty much retired from active performing, although she did make a brief comeback attempt a while later. When she died in 2006 she was a week away from her 64th birthday.