A country-pop singer strongly influenced by Patsy Cline, Deborah Allen scored a few major hits in the early ’80s and subsequently reinvented herself with a newly sensual image for the ’90s.
She’s a Jack of all Trades
Deborah Allen is one of those rare artists who forged her own path to success and ended up building a world-class career in the process. As an extraordinarily talented singer, songwriter, producer and performer, Deborah’s unique abilities as an artist may be matched only by her enthusiasm and creativity as an individual. It is that formidable combination of spirit and talent that keeps the Grammy-nominated entertainer in demand.
Born in Memphis in 1953, Allen moved to Nashville at age 17 to pursue a country-music singing career and met Roy Orbison while working as a waitress. Orbison hired her as a backup singer, and she subsequently worked at the Opryland theme park before landing a gig as a singer and dancer in Tennessee Ernie Ford’s touring revue.
“Baby I Lied”, a song that changed her life
Allen has published over 1,000 songs. She recorded a string of hit country records, including her signature smash, “Baby I Lied.” She made forays into jazz singing, record producing, and running her own label. But it all flows from a single bit of advice from her mother:
“Sing it from the heart.”
“Baby I Lied” changed Allen’s life and career specifically. It was also during the birth of her career which meant good songs wouldn’t just be handed to her. The more established performers of the time had that as an option, but she’d have to write her own.
The song quickly flowed out of a writing session between Allen, Rafe VanHoy, and Rory Michael Bourke. However, it wasn’t immediately ready to go. It needed a bridge. Allen says, “I wanted to do something explosive.” After taking it to producer Charles Calello, the iconic,”Baby, Baby, Baby” section was adjusted to a half-step modulation. “Charlie was right, that is the thing that really adds to the explosiveness of the song. He was very instinctive on that arrangement idea,” said Allen.
Deborah knew the power of the song back when it was new. “It has changed my life in a great way. I’ve enjoyed it so much. I’ve been working for this for a long time.”
From there, a life was changed and a career was born.
Deborah Allen, as a songwriter
“Waking up in the morning with a blank piece of paper and by sundown having a song written on it is an amazing feeling,” Allen reveals. “For me, that’s definitely one of the most rewarding parts of my career.”
In some ways, “Baby I Lied” confirmed the idea that an artist could have success in different formats with the same song. It is a precedent that would prove to be years ahead of the crossover trends of today. “Baby I Lied” not only appealed to Country and Pop radio listeners, earning multiple Million Air-Play Awards in the process. It also resulted in a pair of Grammy nominations for the Delta songstress. One as a vocalist and one as a songwriter.
Ironically, songwriting has often been the most overlooked aspect of Deborah’s career. That truth is literally hundreds of artists have benefited from her abundant catalog of material.
With more than 1,600 compositions published, Deborah’s songs have been recorded by a laundry list of acts, including LeAnn Rimes, Brooks & Dunn, Patty Loveless, Conway Twitty, Tanya Tucker, Janie Fricke, John Conlee, Isaac Hayes, Diana Ross, Sheena Easton, Fleetwood Mac and more. In addition, several major motion picture soundtracks featured her songs. Some include Coyote Ugly, River Rat, Clinton and Nadine, and The Thing Called Love. For Allen, songwriting remains one of the most consistent aspects of her career. She emphasized that it is just as satisfying as the performance element.
Allen has a distinguished career built on success after success as a performer, songwriter, and producer. The dynamic Delta singer from Memphis, Tennessee, has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. That’s simply not Deborah Allen’s style.
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