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King Floyd Is Gone, but 'Groove Me' Lives On

King Floyd in his early-'70s heyday.
King Floyd in his early-'70s heyday.

Soul singer King Floyd died on March 6 at the age of 61, but his passing barely merited mention in the media -- an oversight that seems at odds with his brash style. Born in New Orleans and intimately connected to the Southern soul scene throughout his life, Floyd was widely heard but little known.

What most know about Floyd begins and ends with his massive and enduring 1971 R&B hit "Groove Me." Recorded for the then-fledging Malaco Studios in Jackson, Miss., the song opens with a loud grunt -- and then, just as the rhythm kicks in, Floyd hollers, "Aw, sookie sookie now," a naked nod to his Southern roots.

For all his full-throated adlibs, Floyd actually sounds relatively subdued on "Groove Me." As a vocalist, he lacked the rich undertones of Otis Redding and the powerful presence of Wilson Pickett, but Floyd made do with what he had, wielding his voice as a rhythm-maker with well-timed screams and shouts. Lyrically, "Groove Me" is unremarkable, but it remains among the great soul groovers of its era.

Floyd would never duplicate the success of "Groove Me," though he recorded four albums for the Malaco spin-off label Chimneyville; his catalog remains largely unsung in spite of its many excellent songs. With "Groove Me" continuing to reach audiences through TV commercials, Floyd deserves to find some of the recognition in death that eluded him in life.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Oliver Wang is an culture writer, scholar, and DJ based in Los Angeles. He's the author of Legions of Boom: Filipino American Mobile DJ Crews of the San Francisco Bay Area and a professor of sociology at CSU-Long Beach. He's the creator of the audioblog soul-sides.com and co-host of the album appreciation podcast, Heat Rocks.