Sharon Tandy (18 September 1943 – 21 March 2015) was a South African singer who achieved some success in the United Kingdom in the 1960s as part of the blue-eyed soul and psychedelic movements. In 1966, she recorded some songs at Stax studios, a rarity for a white singer. She also had several chart hits in South Africa in the 1970s.
She was born Sharon Finkelstein in Johannesburg in 1943, gifted with a full-throated voice that soon got her noticed locally. By 1964 Sharon had several recordings and movie appearances under her belt, but it was a chance encounter with South African-born Frank Fenter, back home as manager of ex-pat beat group the Couriers, that led to major changes. Sharon went back to the UK with Fenter as both her manager and her partner, and after some months of struggle, he got her signed to Pye and Mercury, where the singer made a handful of state-of-the-art pop singles in 1965 and 1966, including the delectable ‘Perhaps Not Forever.’
Sharon appeared on several contemporary television programmes, such as Beat Club. She has been described by Richie Unterberger as "blue-eyed soul singer rather in the mold of Dusty Springfield, both in terms of her voice and her versatility, blending various shades of soul, British pop, and even some tinges of mod-psychedelia." Her voice has also been compared to those of Julie Driscoll and Christine Perfect.
With Fenter ensconced as UK label manager of Atlantic, he engineered a major coup in getting Sharon aligned with Stax and she was dispatched to record with Isaac Hayes and Booker T & The MGs in Memphis in November 1966, the first non-American artist to do so. Though she taped several tunes there, only the pumping ‘Toe Hold’ saw release in early 1967, around the time Sharon got to open for the Stax/Volt tour in the UK.
Her next record is the one Sharon Tandy is best known for. The intended A-side was a cover of ‘Stay With Me Baby,’ but heavy continental airplay saw the flip ‘Hold On’ get the nod. On this molten disc, Sharon’s breathy vocal was accompanied by the powerhouse sounds of the Fleur De Lys, Fenter’s house band and a legendary act in their own right. They would back Sharon on several other freakbeat gems, including ‘Daughter Of The Sun,’ and in time she and guitarist Bryn Haworth became a couple.
Though she released a steady flow of singles through to the end of the decade, Sharon never really capitalized on the small amount of noise that ‘Hold On’ had made, despite some memorable discs such as ‘You’ve Gotta Believe It’ and ‘Gotta Get Enough Time.’ The young woman also encountered a run of bad luck that led to fractured relationships and ill-health, and by 1971 she was back in South Africa. Sharon forged a new career for herself in the 1970s and 1980s, singing on several local hits with Billy Forrest and Graham Clarke, and she also started a family. 1989, she appeared in the South African boxing film Brutal Glory as a singer.
But back in the UK and beyond, thanks to that run of notable singles, Sharon graduated from an intriguing mystery for collectors to boasting a cult following as a veritable mod-goddess, fuelled by an occasional glimpse of her sultry Vidal Sassoon-ed promo shots, or the heavy rotation of ‘Hold On’ at any retro club you might encounter.
After her return to the UK, nostalgic interest in 2004 resulted in her playing a gig at London's 100 Club; a reviewer commented "the band struck up with a couple of driving soul numbers and were then joined by the diminutive Tandy to a rapturous reception. The smile on Sharon's face could have lit up a small town and did not once dim throughout the show... Sharon simply radiated enjoyment, absolutely loving the opportunity to be singing again."
Sharon Tandy died in London on 21 March 2015, after a long illness.
(Edited from Ace Records & Wikipedia)