Blood, Sweat & Tears (BS&T) — a fusion first, an American classic

On April 12, 1969, after 11 weeks on the Billboard Top LP’s chart, Blood Sweat & Tears had the #1 album in the US. Their album knocked Glen Campbell’s Wichita Lineman to the #2 position. The band would hold on to the top spot for one additional week, spend subsequent weeks in the Top 5 (mostly at #2 or #3) and return to the #1 position in July.

Blood, Sweat & Tears (BS&T) was one of the first popular fusion bands in the US, incorporating a foundation of  R&B and jazz with rock, a bit of folk music and healthy portions of classical influences. Their sound could shift from a psychedelic riff one moment to a sizzling brass groove the next, and their arrangements were smart and sophisticated — even when they were going over-the-top with a simple pop tune like “Spinning Wheel.”

The self-titled recording, Blood, Sweat & Tears, was the group’s second release. Their debut, Child Is Father to the Man, peaked at #47 in the spring of 1968. Shortly after its release, lead vocalist, songwriter and keyboardist Al Kooper left the band, as did trumpet players Randy Brecker and Jerry Weiss.

Drummer Bobby Colomby and guitarist Steve Katz brought in Lew Soloff, Chuck Winfield and Jerry Hyman to fill out the horn section with Fred Lipsius and Dick Halligan, but still needed a lead singer. They were looking for someone to match the power of the band’s brass.

BS&T rehearsed with Laura Nyro and considered approaching Stephen Stills to join the group. Then Colomby and Katz were told about a Canadian singer performing at a rock club in NYC. The two checked out the band, the David Clayton-Thomas Combine, and were impressed by its leader. Clayton-Thomas was invited to audition and was soon part of the band.

In August of ’68, the now nine-member Blood, Sweat & Tears began rehearsing and performing in Greenwich Village. The band worked on new material (e.g., Katz’s “Sometimes in Winter” or the band’s progressive rock and R&B changes titled “Blues – Part II”) while crafting arrangements of others’ songs: “Smiling Phases” by Traffic, “And When I Die” by Laura Nyro, “God Bless the Child” by Billie Holiday, “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” by Brenda Holloway, “More and More” by Little Milton, and French composer Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie #1 .

Blood, Sweat & Tears generated three hit singles. “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” and “And When I Die” both went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The third single, “Spinning Wheel” (written by Clayton-Thomas), went to #1.

At the next year’s Grammy Awards, Blood, Sweat & Tears bested the Beatles’ Abbey Road for Album of the Year. The band also received the Pop/Rock/Contemporary-Other award for its “Variations on a Theme by Erik Satie.”

“Spinning Wheel” (album version)


“And When I Die”


“Sometimes in Winter”



About poppaculture

I am a seasoned consumer of modern (and not so modern) culture.
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1 Response to Blood, Sweat & Tears (BS&T) — a fusion first, an American classic

  1. W. Laughlin says:

    Never cared for BS&T. Greatly preferred Chicago.

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