Ed Ward wrote a special section devoted to 45s (non-album releases) in the original Rolling Stone Record Review from 1971, with particular praise for Barbara Keith‘s A-side, “Free the People“:
“You may remember Delanie & Bonnie’s version of this song, and how good it was. Well, Barbara’s the one who wrote the thing, and she does it up just as well as you might expect. It lacks the Salvation Army feel of the D&B rendition, substituting instead a deeply-felt intensity that shocks the listener into realizing that this is, after all, a religious song. ‘Rainmaker’ [B-side] fares nowheres near as well, but it isn’t quite as good a song to start with. But I feel that Barbara Keith is a talent to be reckoned with, and we’ll be hearing more from her.”
Barbara Keith would would initially sign with Verve for one album (1969’s Barbara Keith) but then switch to A&M Records in August/September,1970. On A&M Records informs us that her first single “Free the People” was “soon covered by Barbra Streisand and Delaney and Bonnie. Ms. Keith also worked on an album for A&M that was never released.”
Billboard, in its October 3, 1970 edition, would include the 45 in its “Special Merit Spotlight” noting: “infectious original rhythm ballad with heavy lyric line has all the earmarks of bringing Miss Keith to the charts in short order.”
Barbara Keith would leave A&M for Reprise, who would issue a new 7-inch version of “Free the People” – a song that was also included on 1973 Reprise LP, Barbara Keith.
“Free the People” Barbara Keith 1972?
Bass: Lee Sklar
Drums: Jim Keltner
Percussion: Milt Holland
Electric Piano: Spooner Oldham
Piano: Craig Doerge
Pedal Steel Guitar: Richard Bennett
Winston Groovy recorded a lovely “strings reggae” version for the UK market in 1971.
“Free the People” Winston Groovy 1971
“Free the People,” fortunately, would be deemed worthy of inclusion in Rock Song Index: The 7500 Most Important Songs for the Rock and Roll Era.