Barbara Ann Lewis (born February 9, 1943) is an American R&B singer and songwriter whose smooth vocal styling was a fixture on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Billboard R&B charts between 1963 and 1968.
Barbara began been writing songs at the age of nine and began recording as a teenager with producer Ollie McLaughlin, who'd also had a hand in the careers of Del Shannon, the Capitols, and Deon Jackson.
Lewis wrote all of the songs on her debut LP (including "Hello Stranger"), and confidently handled harmony soul numbers (some with backing by the Dells) and more pop-savvy tunes, some of which, like "Hello Stranger," were driven by an organ and a bossa nova-like beat. "Hello Stranger" reached #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Follow-ups didn't sell nearly as well (although one of her singles, "Someday We're Gonna Love Again," was covered by the Searchers for a British Invasion hit). In the mid-'60s, she began doing some recordings in New York City, with assistance from producers like Bert Berns and Jerry Wexler that employed more orchestral arrangements and pop-conscious material. The approach clicked, both commercially and artistically: "Baby I'm Yours" and "Make Me Your Baby" were both big hits, and both among the best mid-’60s girl-group style productions. Lewis' final Top 40 hit was "Make Me Belong to You" (#28 in 1966), written by Chip Taylor and Billy Vera.
She would have two more small pop hits, “Baby What Do You want me to Do” (#74 in 1966), and “I’ll Make Him Love me” (#72 in 1967). Lewis cut an album in the late '60s for Stax records that, as one would expect, gave her sound a grittier approach, without compromising the smooth and poppy elements integral to her appeal. It passed mostly unnoticed, though, and Lewis withdrew from the music business in the early 70s after a few other singles.
Barbara soon found herself in the work-a-day world, where she did everything from running her own jewelry store to working security. But in her various jobs, she never touted her former fame to co-workers; nobody knew she had earlier been a popular recording artist.
By 1993, however, Lewis began wondering if she could still sing and perform. She made a few calls to old contacts and before long was once again playing on the nostalgia circuit. She received the Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1999.
As of 2013, she was still performing, explaining to Chuck Laszewski: “My voice is better than it ever was. …I still sing the songs in their original key. I've been very, very blessed.”
The "beach music" scene of the Carolina s remains a mainstay of appreciation for Lewis' records, which continue to enjoy popularity and airplay there decades after their original release.
(Info edited from ACSAP Biographical Dictionary; The Pop History Dig & Wikipedia)