R.B. Greaves (Take A Letter Maria) Dies of Cancer
Submitted by Sandy Graham
R. B. Greaves, a pop singer whose "Take a Letter, Maria" was a 1969 hit, has died in Los Angeles. He was 68 and was the nephew of the legendary R&B singer, Sam Cooke. Greaves died of prostate cancer on Sept. 27 at his home, said Craig Harvey, Los Angeles County coroner's chief of operations.
Ronald Bertram Aloysius Greaves III, was born on 28 November 1944, on a U.S. Air Force Base in Georgetown, (the former British) Guyana.Living in the United Kingdom in the 1960s, he recorded several soul singles as Sonny Childe, but it was after moving to the United States that he scored his biggest hit as R.B. Greaves and the hit ‘Take A Letter Maria.”
There are many other songs about infidelity hitting the top of the charts with “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel in 1968; “Me And Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul in 1972; “Torn Between Two Lovers” by Mary MacGregor in 1977, and a personal favourite of mine, the hauntingly beautiful duet of Jose Feliciano and Gloria Estefan and ‘Tengo Que Decirte Algo’ where a wife confesses her affair, and her husband lovingly forgives her.
"Take a Letter, Maria" tells the story of a man who comes home to find "the woman I thought I knew in the arms of another man." He dictates a final letter to her through his secretary with the chorus: "Take a letter, Maria. Address it to my wife. Say I won't be coming home, gonna start a new life." The tune ends on a hopeful note, however, as the man asks his secretary out to dinner.
Greaves recorded a series of cover records as follow-ups, including Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s ‘(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me’, James Taylor’s ‘Fire And Rain’ and Procol Harum’s ‘Whiter Shade Of Pale’. All charted, as did his self-titled 1970 album. Greaves left the label in the 70s when Ertegun could no longer spare time to work with him directly. He recorded briefly for MGM Records and then turned to country music without much commercial success.
The song, with its soul style, catchy chorus and brassy horn edge, went to No. 2 on the Cashbox chart in 1969. It earned Greaves a gold record, selling a million copies, and remains a popular oldie song on the radio.
Greaves died of prostate cancer on Sept. 27 at his home, said Craig Harvey, Los Angeles County coroner's chief of operation.