By Dale Y the Green Guy
Have you ever heard of We Five? No, probably not. But I’ll bet you have heard of Janis Joplin with “Big Brother and the Holding Company,” Grace Slick and “Jefferson Airplane,” Cass Elliot of the “Mamas and the Papas” and even Zooey Deschanel from the group “She and Him” and also as the “New Girl” on TV.
You are probably asking yourself what all of these women artists have in common, and the answer is going to be making you scratch your head. But first, lets ask the question, shall we?
All of these singers have a tremendous range in their voices, and at times, they sang with a special “atmospheric quality” unlike any other singers. It is safe to say that on some of their songs, they adopted this type of tonal inflection from one particular female folk singer that is barely known today, but who may have given birth to the folk-rock female genre. In fact, it was none other than Janis Joplin herself who said that she learned how to sing by listening to this particular female singer, and that without a doubt, she had the best voice that “Pearl” had ever heard.
This revolutionary singer is named Bev Bivens, and she fronted a group called “We Five.”
“We Five” was a folk-rock band with 4 guitars and Bev Bivens. They had their roots in the folk trios of the day, but expanded their group into a quintet to provide a more pop type of rock sound. They debuted with the song “You Were On My Mind” and showcased Bivens and her incredibly brilliant vocal sound. It was so compelling that if you listen to Grace Slick on some of the early “Airplane” albums, she is trying to BE Bev Bivens.
Bivens vocal is exciting to listen to on the song, and she goes from a subdued low to a carefree high, moving with the melody as the boys in the back keep pace. If she were on American Idol today, no other singer would come close.
Although “We Five” had several other minor hits, they disbanded after two years, and Bivens went her own way. A couple of years after that and she was out of music altogether, getting married and raising a family. But her legend lives on, and the great female pop singers of today owe much of their success to the woman who opened the doors for them long ago, and who Janis Joplin herself called the greatest female singer of all time, Bev Bivens of the “We Five.”
Check out “We Five” singing “You Were On My Mind,” and try not to groove with the tune.
By Dale Y the Green Guy