• Steve “Silk” Hurley’s Top 40 Productions

  • Steve “Silk” Hurley’s Top 40 Productions

    This time we sat down with 4-time GRAMMY® Nominated Producer and House Music Pioneer Steve “Silk” Hurley of S&S Records Inc. to pick his brain for some of the best memories of his production and writing career.  “Silk” not only created House Music’s 1st Top 10 record and the 1st House Music #1 on Billboard.  He also took the world by storm with the UK’s 1st House Music #1 Pop record, and has managed to reach #1 on the Billboard dance charts 19 times so far.  However most people don’t know that he’s created R&B hits as well, and was named a top R&B producer by Billboard along with his heroes and mentors, Jam & Lewis, Teddy Riley, and LA & Babyface, while also being honored for his songwriting by ASCAP 3 Times so far.  All of this has happened while he has been taking House Music to the world with his hundreds of productions and remixes and he doesn’t seem to be tiring just yet!  Below is a list of the Top 40 Productions (including original songs that were produced and or written by Steve “Silk” Hurley.)

    40. 

    Chantay Savage

    Body– from the I Will Survive (DoinIt My Way)Album

    #14 Billboard Top R&B Albums

    Chantay Savage is one of the most underrated vocalists of our time, and this song was actually under the radar for the masses, but not for her true fans.  This is one of my favorite collaborations with Chantay, and had “Body” been released as a single, I’m sure I would have rated it even higher on this list!

    With her RIAA Certified Gold single  I Will Survive (DoinIt My Way),” Chantay Savage had her very first top 5 R&B record.  So to continue the momentum, we wanted to put together an album that could further cement her as an R&B Artist, and create a long-term fan base. This song, although not a single, was one of her fans’ favorites on the I Will Survive (DoinIt My Way)Album.

    On this song, I wanted the focus of my music to be on an acoustic guitar and Fender Rhodes, and to make it a smooth soul jam that could be in rotation on “ quiet storm” radio. However, I’m not a guitar player, so I created the guitar parts on a keyboard, and put a focus on making them sound as authentic as possible. Chantay’s vocals on “Body”were silky smooth, and violinist Jerald Daemyon provided icing on the cake with the accents throughout the song, and an invigorating electric violin solo.

    39.

    D’Bora 

    Dream About You 

    Smash / Universal

    Produced Written and Arranged by Steve “Silk” Hurley

    #30 Billboard Dance Chart 

    #75 UK Singles Chart

     

    When Keith Nunnally and I performed as J.M. Silk at the legendary DJ Tony HumphriesClub Zanzibar in East Orange, New Jersey, we had no idea that D’Borah was in the crowd. She was part of the Jersey “Club Music” scene that was in such high support of house music from it’s beginnings.  Jersey will always be like a first cousin to Chicago. What we also didn’t know was that she was a recording artist…so I was surprised to hear her talking about her memories of the Zanzibar when we got into the studio.

    It turns out that D’borah started out as a member of the Mercedes Ladies, an obscure all-female hip-hop group/DJ crew from Bronx, New York in the early 80s, in the early years of the Golden Age of Hip-Hop. They paved the way for many female MCs today.

    “Dream About You” was actually a song demo that I wrote and recorded when I was on one of many songwriting sabbaticals. I would come to the studio every morning and do nothing but write songs…Sometimes with Manny Mo…but this time by myself.

    At the time, Jazzy B.’s UK group Soul II Soul was very popular, and I was on the heels of the CeCe Peniston breakthrough record, Keep On Walkin’” exploding, so this was a time when you could make a record that had a House and R&B feeling all in the same song.

    38.

    Keith Nunnally 

    Seasons Of Love

    Giant Records / Warner Bros

    Written by Steve “Silk” Hurley & Manny Mohr

    #31 Billboard Dance Charts

    Although Keith was no longer part of the J.M. Silk Group, I was all in on writing and producing 2 new songs for the Keith Nunnally solo project.  After releasing one album on RCA records, we agreed to part ways for the better of both of our careers.  This was Keith’s first single from his album.  My writing partner Manny Mo (Manfred Mohr) and I wrote Seasons Of Love during one our lockdown writing sessions (nothing but writing songs for at least a week, like 2-3 songs per day).  I wanted to write a song that talked describes a love that lasts through each season of the year, despite the weather being different…Implying that it lasts through good seasons and bad.

    I enjoyed producing this project, as Keith was in his usual “Luther-like” vocal form.  When it was time for the single release, fellow ID Productions producer Maurice Joshua and I joined forces to create Silk & Maurices House Remix, which helped the song reach #31 on the Billboard Dance Charts.

    37.

    Jamie Principle 

    Date With The Rain

    Atlantic Records

    #30 Billboard Dance Charts

    Because  Jamie Principle has a great falsetto reminiscent of the Temptations singer Eddie Kendricks, our manager Frank suggested that we remake Kendricks1972 song, Date with the Rain, on Jamie.    Everyone on the team at ID Records felt it was a good call.

    My approach as a producer was to combine House Music elements with a 70’s style drum loops that were popular during the late 80’s early 90’s.   That would make it current for the time period, and reminiscent of the original 70’s Eddie Kendricks version.  That ended up being a great combo for this tune, and a different direction for Jamie.  The response was great, and “Date With The Rain” ended up reaching #30 on the Billboard Dance Charts.

    36.

    Risse

    House Train

    Silk Entertainment / S&S Records

    #77 UK Singles Chart

     This was the debut record for my Silk Entertainment Label that I established in 1987.  I wanted my wife’s cousin Risse (Charisse Cobb) from Memphis to sing this song, because her tone reminded me of Randy Crawford.

    The concept for this song was that House Music was like a train that was passing through different cities, and picking up passengers in each city. I wanted to do a few different versions, so I named each mix after a city that the “House Train” would be stopping at.  I handled the New York Mix, The LA Radio Mix, Boston baked Beats, and the Detroit Accapella.  My fellow Chicago area buddy Mike “Hitman Wilson (producer of Another Sleepless Night with Shawn Christopher) collaborated with me to put together the London Mix  & The Chicago mix.

    Because of the success of this record and Its Percussion,” my manager at the time, Frank Rodrigo, and I decided to join forces, and start releasing records on a regular basis.  We started the labels Echotron, DJ World, and finally ID Records, which was the springboard we used to break the legendary House Music Pioneer, Jamie Principle, and gold/platinum artists such as Chantay Savage & Kym Sims.

    35.

    J.M. Silk

    Let The Music Take Control

    RCA

    #2 Billboard Dance Chart

    #47 UK Singles Chart

    Like most of the songs on our debut J.M. Silk album, Keith Nunnally and I co-wrote Let The Music Take Control,” and I co-produced it with Larry Sturm and Phil Balsano.  I learned a lot about the art of traditional old school production putting together this album.  It provided me with a technical foundation in recording, arranging, and in the placing of instruments and vocals in the mix.

    This was the 5th single from our album on RCA Records, and it was actually a sleeper.  We almost got a #1 record but the competition was stiff with Company B’s “Fascination” at #1 and Jody Whatley’s “Looking For A New Love” right behind us at #3.  But it definitely felt great to have a House song representing among the Pop and R&B hits.  In the UK it made some noise on their singles chart as well.

    Although this song wasn’t as “House” as some of our other records, it had a Pop sensibility that helped us reach new audiences that were just learning about the Chicago House sound.  We were able to build on our fan base with our club and concert performances of this song, along with  “Shadows Of Your Love,”  “I Can’t Turn Around,” and “Jack Your Body

    34.

    Ann Nesby

    Hold On

    Perspective / A&M

    Written by Ann Nesby, James Big JimWright and Steve “Silk” Hurley

    #5 Billboard Dance

    Silk’s Album mix

    Mousse T. Mix

    This was the 2nd song I produced for Ann Nesby’s debut album, “I’m Here For You”.

    Actually Ann and her husband / manager Tim Lee stayed at our house in the guest room while we were working on this song.   When I listen to it, I also recall great memories of Ann, the late Jimmy “Big Jim” Wright, and I being in my home studio, clowning around, cracking jokes, and then finally getting around to writing this song!  It was a very loose session so the song came very easy.

    I mixed  “Hold On” down with the late Joey “The Don” Donatello in Chicago.  This album version was recorded at a pretty low tempo for the clubs, but that was by design, as it needed to work within the flow of the entire R&B / Spiritual / Gospel album project.   We knew that more uptempo House remixes would be done for each single.  So just like with “Can I Get A Witness,” Mousse T. from Germany did the House remixes, and I didn’t worry about being part of the remixing duties.  Mousse always delivers exactly what I hope for when he remixes my productions, and he did a stellar House remix on my song as usual.  I’ve added it here for your enjoyment.  Take a listen and I’m sure you will agree!

    33.

    Rahsaan Patterson 

    Where You Are

    MCA / Universal Records

    GRAMMY® NOMINATED

    #18 Billboard Adult R&B Songs

    #53 Billboard R&B / Hip-Hop Songs

    I’m so grateful for my collaborations with Rahsaan Patterson, and this was my first.  By approaching MCA Records executive Madeline Randolph at an airport, I ended up getting the opportunity to work with a genius in Rahsaan, and this remix helped me get nominated for a GRAMMY® in 1999.

    My main duty was to deliver House remixes that could help break Rahsaan internationally in the clubs, but I took it upon myself to also produce a version that would resonate with Urban DJ’s that played more Mid-Tempo R&B / Retro 80’s Dance music rather than Neo Soul.  I wanted to give them something to play in their Mix Shows on the radio, and in the clubs with current R&B/Hip-Hop.

    My wishes came true, as Kiss-FM and WBLS-FM in New York played my version on a regular basis, courtesy of the support it was getting from DJ’s like Darryl James and DJ Charles Dixon.

    32.

    Ann Nesby 

    Can I Get A Witness 

    Perspective / A&M

    Written by Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Ann Nesby, James “Big JimWright & Steve “Silk” Hurley 

    #11 Billboard Dance Chart

    This was a great experience for me because I always admired Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis.  I met them at the ASCAP Songwriter’s Awards, and they were the most humble guys in the industry.  Here they were, GRAMMY® winning producers and writers of hundreds of hits, and the first thing they did was start raving about my song that I wrote and produced for CeCe Peniston, Keep On Walkin’.”  That was huge for me because it gave me even more assurance that I could have a career in R&B as well as the House Music world. After that day, I ended up doing a bunch of remixes for them when they started their own label, Perspective Records.  Ironically, the first release was The Sounds of Blackness album, which featured Ann Nesby.  I had already met Ann and her husband / manager Tim Lee in Minneapolis at the MBMA conference when she was just getting her recording career going.  They too were super humble and down to earth, so we really connected on a personal level.

    I remixed “I Believe” for The Sounds Of Blackness and several other projects for Jam and Lewis, which to me being flown in to Flyte Tyme to write some House influenced songs with Jam & Lewis for Ann’s debut solo album.  When I got off the plane, Jam & Lewis actually picked me up and we made a stop before going to the studio.  They knew I was a basketball fan so they surprised me and took me to a Minnesota Timberwolves game vs. the Phoenix Suns.  When we went to our seats, I was surprised to see that I was sitting between Jam & Lewis, in a court-side seat, smack dab in the middle, on the Half Court Line!  I couldn’t believe how great that experience was.  I was literally ON the floor, inches from the baseline, so I heard everything the players said on the court.  Charles Barkley cussed out the official and got Tee’d up right in front of me…PRICELESS!!!

    Back to the song, we went to their studio (Flyte Tyme), which was state of the art, and I was able to collaborate with them, Ann & Big Jim on this Gospel-House song.  I really wanted to go even faster with the tempo, and even deeper House with the song, but it needed to sound like it belonged on her album.  So the album version sat on the fence a little bit.

    When it was time to release it, I heard the Mousse T. House mixes, and they were so perfect that I didn’t even do any remixes. They ended up being just what we needed for the clubs!

    31.

    Ce Ce  Peniston

    Searchin’ (Silk’s Album Version)

    A&M Records

     

    Anyone from Chicago may know my house version of this song better, because so many DJ’s have played it over the years.  That was one of my favorite remixes but this original album version that I produced was one of my favorite songs that I co-wrote and produced. I still remember the writing session with my wife Toni and brother-in-law M. Doc, when I put that whistle in the track.   I remember them saying that the whistle melody put them in the mind of someone walking around “Searching” for something…and there it is!

    Once again Sharon Pass (featured vocalist on “The Word Is Love”) sang the original demo version of this song, and I kept her original backgrounds underneath CeCe’s, because they blended so well.   The combo sounded so sweet!

    30.

    Ann Nesby

    Let Your Will Be Done

    Silk Entertainment Records / Its Time Child Records / Universal

    Written by Ann Nesby, Tim Lee, James Big JimWright and Steve “Silk” Hurley

    #3 Billboard Dance

    When Ann, Tim Lee, the late James “Big Jim” Wright and I were sitting in my basement studio at my home, we had a vision to create a tune that would take you to church.  Big Jim and Ann both grew up in Rockford, IL and had history singing and playing together in church so this was a natural fit.

    With such a great response to the Higher record that Vernessa Mitchell, Ricky and I collaborated on, of course I also enlisted Ricky Dillard and New G. to be the choir on this Gospel House tune. We put together an Album Version that would fit the direction of Ann’s album, complete with “Big Jim’s” Organ and improvisations and my House drums and bass lines.  This album version needed to be a little conservative to fit Ann’s R&B / Spiritual / Gospel album, but we knew we would be able to stretch out on the remixes.

    On Silk’s Soul Remix, I was fortunate enough to have already flown in Tim Dudfield, from Melbourne Australia, for several months to help me with all the projects I was working on, and to be my in-house engineer.  He helped me put together a great remix with keyboards played by Damien Smith, also from Australia.  Damien was actually blind, but his great ear for music more than made up for his visual impairment.   He could play anything you wanted.   After giving him some direction, he played gospel-infused piano and organ parts and sent them to us as midi files.  Then Tim and I selected sounds to use and finished up the programming and arranging of the mix.  This was really a fun project for me.

    We came close to getting another #1 record with “Will,” but ended up at #3 on the Billboard Dance Chart, which was phenomenal for a gospel house Record!

    29.

    Jamie Principle 

    Youre All Ive Waited 4

    Smash Records / Polygram /Universal

    Written by Jamie Principle and Steve “Silk” Hurley

    #18 Billboard Dance Chart

    When the House Music Community in Chicago Heard all of Jamie Principle’s music throughout the early 80’s (“Your Love,” “Baby Wants To Ride,” “Waiting On My Angel,” Bad Boy,” and “Scream”), many of us thought knew he was a mysterious European artist that had an album out, but that was not the case. These songs were all demos from an African-American kid out of Chicago, with a story similar to mine.  Both Jamie and I were misunderstood at home by our parents, and it was in part because we both had dreams in music that were not very likely to come true.  Jamie had a passion to be a great artist that would move people with his music and lyrics,  I had a passion to be the best DJ in the world.

    Who would have known that 10 years after creating House Music’s 1st recording, “Your Love” in his bedroom in 1981 Jamie would be an artist on my record label, and we will be co-producing his debut album titled, “The Midnight Hour?”  And who knew that 10 years later I would have the same goals as Jamie’s?…to write songs that would make a statement or affect lives in a positive way.

    “You’re All I’ve Waited For” was also Jamie’s first official music video, and the first single from “The Midnight Hour” album. It reached   #18 on the Billboard Dance Chart.

    28.

    Malaika

    Gotta Know Your Name

    A&M / Universal

    Written by Steve “Silk” Hurley, Chantay Savage, Jamie Principle & Tommye Miller

    #1 Billboard Dance Chart

    #68 Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs

    #48 Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay

    #68 UK Singles Chart

     

    Not many people know that Malaika is actually a friend of Cece Peniston’s and that they were label mates on A&M.  I enjoyed working with Malaika on this song, as she was a true professional in the studio to work with.

    This song Is an example of how great the writing team was at ID Productions and ID Records. Chantay Savage, Jamie Principle, Tommye Miller, and I collaborated for the first time on this song, and each Individual made an important contribution to the writing.  We basically had a mini Motown there at ID!

    This song was not only a number one billboard dance record, but was also featured in the Meteor ManMovie and on the sound track.

    Malaika is truly an underrated talent, and although her recording career was shorter than we all hoped it would be, she’s still got those amazing pipes and hopefully will resurface soon!

    27.

    Jamie Principle

    Baby Wants To Ride

    ID Records / ffrr London

    #84 UK Singles Chart

    Baby Wants To Ride was created in 1984 by Jamie Principle, who is known as the creator of the first House Music Recording in 1981, Your Love,” as well as the songs, “Bad Boy,” Waiting On My Angel,” Scream,”  and Cold World.  Jamie solely wrote and produced the these original versions at home in his bedroom.  Jose “Louie” Gomez introduced him to the Legendary Frankie Knuckles, who liked what he was doing and played the demos at his clubs, The Warehouse and The Powerplant.  This created a buzz in Chicago that had DJ’s dubbing cassette tapes all over the city.  Later versions of the Your Love and Waiting On My Angel demos were produced by Jamie and Frankie together, but musically they remained the same as the original demos.

    Unfortunately, Jamie’s bedroom recordings were not released until 1987, when Trax Records pressed them to vinyl without a contract granting Jamie’s permission.

    Later in 1987, Baby Wants To Ride was re-recorded by Jamie and remixed by me for our label, Echotron / DJ World Records  (ID Records).  We licensed the song to  FFRR / London Records for release in 1988 and it found it’s way to the UK Top 100 Charts.

    The S&S Records release, Silk’s 1984 Demo Radio edit was created by Jamie and I using the original 1988 recording and recutting the original 1984 demo parts.

    26.

    Steve “Silk” Hurley feat. Jamie Principle

    Cold World (from Steve “Silk” Hurley’s Work It Out Compilation)

    #22 Billboard Dance Chart

    “Either you do what I say, or get out!”…

    This is a lyric in the Jamie Principle song, Cold World,” a song that Jamie wrote because he was not understood at home, and also what I was going through in my late teen years.  (See #5, J.M. Silk’s Music Is The Key)  It’s funny that Jamie ended up with the same management company, and when we started the ID Productions and Records Camp, he became one of my artists in the camp.

    The history of this song is that Jamie wrote you in his bedroom back in 1985, and it became a classic on reel to reel and cassette that was being played by many DJs, especially Frankie Knuckles.

    Unfortunately for Jamie, his original demos only came out as a bootleg that was not authorized by him. So this record was a way to finally get his song out so the public could hear it.  This finally happened, as it was recognized with a position of #22 on the Billboard Dance Chart.

    25.

    Steve “Silk” Hurley feat. Risse 

    Chain Of Fools (from Steve “Silk” Hurley’s Work It Out Compilation)

    #18 Billboard Dance Chart

    I’m a huge Aretha Franklin fan, and “Chain Of Fools” is one of my favorites that she recorded for Atlantic Records.  So for my first Steve Silk Hurley full album release, Work It out Compilation, I wanted to create a house version of it.  I chose Risse (Charisse Cobb), who is a great singer and family member from Memphis, with a vocal tone that is reminiscent of Randy Crawford.  She also was the singer on my early Silk Entertainment Records release, “House Train”.

    This is one of my favorites because I was able to go with the same production style that I had recently used on Roberta Flack’s Uh-Uh-Ooh-Ooh Look Out (Here It Comes).

    Risse handled the vocal task very well.  As a matter of fact, this version of “Chain Of Fools has inspired some of today’s House Hits, including “Take It Easy” by Gershon Jackson and Mike Dunn.  I take it as a compliment, and I still play “Take It Easy” in almost every DJ set!

    24.

    Kym Sims

    A Little Bit More 

    ID / Atco / East West 

    #30 UK Singles Chart

     

    This was one of my favorite tunes from Kym Sims’ debut album that I produced.  I was really going for an uplifting vibe with the chord progressions and the instruments that I chose to play.  Donnell Rush and Chantay Savage handled the backgrounds with Kym.

    I really loved producing, remixing and arranging this song, which Berlando Drake (Byrd), Eric “E-Smoove” Miller and Jere Mc Allister wrote.  We never seem to recognize lyrics in most House Music songs, so I’ve added them below!

    Who would’ve known one kiss would feel like this,

    One touch would mean so much,

    You stirred up these feelings inside of me,

    I don’t know what I’d do if you took your love away,

    You are locked inside my heart,

    And there you’ll always stay

    No doubt about it,

    Gotta tell the truth,

    There’s no denying,

    What I feel for you,

    So keep it coming,

    Keep it up, don’t ever stop,

    Too much is not enough,

    A bit more

    (Just a little bit X2)

    Cos you got the kind of love that I just can’t get enough,

    A little bit more,

    (Just a little bit X2)

    Cos you got the kind of love that I just can’t get enough of,

    Who would’ve thought I’d fall for you this way,

    I need you day to day,

    You brought out another side of me,

    I don’t know what I’d do if you left me here and now,

    You are all the things to me and I’d be lost without,

    No doubt about it,

    Gotta tell the truth,

    There’s no denying,

    What I feel for you,

    So keep it coming,

    Keep it up, don’t ever stop,

    Too much is not enough,

    A bit more

    (Just a little bit X2)

    Cos you got the kind of love that I just can’t get enough,

    A little bit more,

    (Just a little bit X2)

    Cos you got the kind of love that I just can’t get enough of,

    (Just a little bit X2)

    Don’t ever stop,

    Keep it up,

    Don’t ever stop,

    Too much is not enough, a little bit more,

    Keep it up X5

    Give me

    23.

    Chaka Khan

    Free Yourself (From the To Wong fooMovie and Soundtrack)

    Universal

    Box Office-$47 Million 

    Words cannot describe how excited I was to finally be working with Chaka Khan, one of my top 5 R&B artists that I enjoyed listening to, and the legendary diva that made me fall in love with Disco (I’m Every Woman), 15 years later.

    The directors of the hit movie,  To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Numar  selected this song from a demo which was written by Denise Rich, Sami McKinney and Warren McRae, and recorded by Denetria Champ (known in house music circles as Chance).  Her vocal sounded just like Aretha Franklin on this demo, but of course for this recording they wanted Chaka’s signature vocal style, but with the same melodies and approach as the song demo.

    They flew me in to London, England to record the song with Chaka. I had never met her, so I was like an eager fan on the inside when I met her. I told her I was a fan, hugged her (almost melted on the inside), but didn’t show too much weakness externally.   That was because I still had to be the “producer” in the studio.  We discussed the song a little bit and then got right to recording the vocals.

    We recorded the background vocals first.  She sang the first track flawlessly in one take.  Then I asked her did she want to hear the first track panned to one ear on her headphones to double and sing harmonies to, which was a normal practice for vocalists. She said, “No baby you can just turn off each track as I sing them.”   I was baffled, as I have never seen a singer double vocals and sing harmonies without hearing the original tracks. But I gave no resistance to this because she was the legendary Chaka Khan! To my surprise, she knocked out vocal part after vocal part, with the correct harmonies and everything. I had never witnessed such a display of skill when recording background vocals.

    Despite such an effortless performance on the background vocals, I would be lying if I said  everything went smoothly with the  legendary Chaka, whom I had idolized from my early teens when she was part of the group, Rufus.  When it was time to sing the lead vocals, I was surprised to see that she had decided to add even more of her own personal touch (a very jazzy vocal) to the verses.  This presented a problem for me because she was changing the melody of the song that the directors of the film fell in love with.  My job as the producer was to orchestrate a signature performance from Chaka that still kept the melodic structure of the original song demo.

    So when I heard how she was singing it, in a more jazzy manner, I stopped the tape and explained to her that for the verses we should stay within the original melody.  That was the first time I challenged her so maybe she took offense, because she said, “I don’t know what you do with those other (expletive)’s but I’m Chaka!”  I was in trouble… Or was I?

    I quickly figured it out by thinking of what my Dad would do in this situation.  He wasn’t in the music industry, but he held commissioner positions in Public Works, Water Dept., and Sewers for the City of Chicago, so he knew PEOPLE.  I quickly took the diplomatic approach and said, “OK, let’s do this track with YOUR flavor…then one that’s more structured like the original demo, and I will comp them together when I get back to my studio.”  To my surprise, she agreed, and we recorded several tracks.  I let her do whatever she wanted to do on one, then I got some more what I thought was signature Chaka riffs on another track, and of course I got a very structured track done.

    When we were done with the session, Chaka invited me to her house and we had one of the best soul food dinners I’ve ever had, courtesy of her sister Tammy, and Chaka herself!  I learned a lot about how to deal with people in a respectful way and still get the job done while doing this song, so it’s very special to me.  Chaka, Tammy and I are still friends to this day!

    22.

    Rahsaan Patterson

    Yeah Yeah Yeah (From his CD, “After Hours”)

    Artistry Music

     
    This is one of my favorite Neo-Soul productions. I remember working on this track in my basement studio and Rahsaan sitting on the couch writing lyrics.  I was asking him was the key ok, and he said yes.  So I kept going until I was happy with it. Next thing I knew, he was ready to lay the rough vocal. He had written all the lyrics  at the same time I did the track…What an amazing PEN he has!

    I had a synth bass recorded, but we recorded live bass guitar to accent my bass, and lead Guitars in LA with some of Rahsaan’s band members (Eric Smith & John “Jubu” Smith) for me to chop up when I got back to the home studio.

    The crazy thing about the session was how we recorded the strings.  We wanted live strings on this song, so Randy Waldman scored sheet music to my track for the orchestra.  Since his Orchestra was a more traditional one that played for TV Shows, movies, and other more conservative work, he let them play over an entirely different basic track at the same tempo as my track, in order  to get the right feel.   Then I exported all the strings to stereo files so I could place them where I wanted them in my final mix, find of like a puzzle.  The final piece to the puzzle was the final mix down, which the legendary Manny  Marroquin handled.  This session was FUNNNN!!!

    21.

    JM Silk  

    All In Vain 

    Silk Entertainment / Jack Trax / S&S Records

    Written, Produced and Mixed by Steve “Silk” Hurley

     

    This record has a lot of meaning for me, as it was my first J.M. Silk record released after Keith Nunnally and I parted ways.  We were at odds at the time, so I have to admit there was a little bit of a double meaning to the lyrics I wrote.  I wanted it to convey a message of a relationship of any type that may make you feel like every effort you gave was not being recognized because someone was too vain to see it… hence, “All In Vain”.

    I sang the original vocals , but I wanted a little more “flava” from an experienced vocalist, so Samson “Butch” Moore (former J.M. Silk background vocalist and dancer /choreographer) sang this with me.  Butch sang the main leads, however I started singing with more confidence on this song, because I really meant every word I was singing.   I ended up having the courage to sing the entire Work It Out song a few months later.  It was the 1st single on my “Work It Out Compilation,” on Atlantic Records.

    This record got exposed In the US, UK and all over Europe by being released on the Jack Trax series of house music records compilations.  However, that was just a five-year license that I did, so in the near future, all of the versions will be released again on Silk Entertainment/S&S Records.

    20.

    CeCe Peniston

    Nobody Else

    Silk Entertainment / S&S Records 

    GRAMMY® NOMINATED

    Released in 1998, “Nobody Else” was the  first single of what was intended to be a CeCe Peniston album on my label, Silk Entertainment Records.  When I put together the track, it kind of reminded CeCe and I of being in church.   So we decided to take a stab at creating our first gospel house song.

    For a true Gospel feeling, it made perfect sense to bring in the great music director James Pullin from Atlanta, to collaborate with CeCe and I on this tune’s lyrics and vocal melodies.  James was also a writer and the piano player on another gospel house song that I produced a few months later called Higher( see #12).

    “Nobody Else”ended up being the 1st Gospel House song nominated for a GRAMMY®, in 1999.

    19.

    Steve  “Silk” Hurley feat. M. Doc

    Its Percussion 

    Silk Entertainment Records / S&S Records

     
    On January 12,1987, I teamed up with my brother-in-law, Marc “M. Doc” Williams, to create the first Hip-House Record, “It’s Percussion.”  However, M. Doc was never marketed as a Hip-House artist.  He was simply a Hip Hop / Rap artist performing a Hip-House Record.  And since the Hip-House genre didn’t exist at that time, we still called it House Music.

    When I met Doc, he was already selling self-recorded cassette tapes of his homemade Rap album hand to hand in his neighborhood, and at his Chicago high school, Whitney Young.  The cassette had 8 songs that he put together with 3 of his south side neighborhood friends.   The group was called “BP3”  (Ball Players 3), because they were all basketball players. I immediately recognized that Doc had talent, and most of all, personality, perseverance, and a great sense of business.

    Although I performed a rap in 1985 on Music Is the Key, it was primarily a sung vocal song, so my experimentation with Rap vocals on House Music became an ice-breaker to draw rap fans into House Music.  Therefore, “The Key” basically laid a foundation for M. Doc and I to create the 1st true Hip-House record, “It’s Percussion.”

    “It’s Percussion” ended up being M. Doc’s first official record release, and the 2nd release on the Silk Entertainment label in 1988. I wrote the first 2 verses and then turned it over to the young fella to write the last one.  I knew then that Marc had a serious knack for writing lyrics, whether Hip Hop, or R&B.

    Not only did M. Doc have a successful career as a Hip-Hop / Rap Artist and music producer; he became my go to guy for writing lyrics to a music track, but also for finishing the writing of songs, especially when there was already a concept. His collaborations with me include: Keep On Walkin,” Take My Advice,” Work It Out,” “I’m Not Over You,” “Searchin’” and The Word Is Love, to name a few.

    18.

    Steve  “Silk” Hurley feat. M. Doc

    Work It Out (from Steve “Silk” Hurley’s Work It Out Compilation)

    Atlantic Records

    #3 Billboard Dance Chart

    This was the 1st single and the title track from my Work It Out Compilation, released on Atlantic Records.

    “Work It Out” really means a lot to me because it was the first time I sang a complete song by myself (Lead and Background Vocals), and actually RELEASED IT commercially.  By today’s standards, that wouldn’t be a big deal, but. We didn’t have Autotune, Melodyne and other pitch correction tools back then. So I had to sing it the best I could, no matter how long it took!

    Doc added the icing on the cake with his rap bars, and the rest was history. My personal favorite versions were the Acid Mixes.

    17.

    CeCe Peniston

    I’m In The Mood (Silk’s East 87th Street Mix)

    Remix Produced by Steve Silk Hurley

    RIAA CERTIFIED GOLD ALBUM

    #1 Billboard Dance Chart

    #7 Billboard R&B Chart

    #32 Billboard Pop Chart

    #16 UK Singles Chart

    This was CeCe’s 1st single from her 2nd album, originally a great song produced and written by Carsten Schack and Kenneth Karlin (Soulshock & Karlin) from Denmark. The goal for me was to produce a version that had some of the original vibe but bridged the gap between fans of her House Music audience and fans of Keep On Walkin’,” which I produced for her debut album.

    To accomplish that, I added a melodic but energetic piano line (Piano Vamp), plus a few more instruments and percussive elements.  I rearranged it by playing this Piano Vamp on the intro at the beginning with a drum dropout and buildup instrumental section.  I also used the Piano Vamp to create an old school style vamp with it at the end, in much the same way I would on a house record’s last few minutes (I learned that from the great soul and disco records that I was a fan of).  I also sampled her best ad lib vocals and backgrounds and placed them in key areas the way I heard them in my head.

    A&M used my East 87th Street version as the main version on the album, and it became the main mix on the single.  You can really see how this song connected with the young generation on her stellar TV performance of  Silk’s East 87th Street Mix on Showtime at the Apollo.  She sang her vocals completely live, and was in rare form!  I enjoyed contributing a little bit of my melodic vibe to this great song.  Hopefully, I did my neighborhood (Chicago’s East 87th Street) proud on this one.

    16.

    JM Silk 

    Shadows Of Your Love

    #3 Billboard Dance


    In 1985 my life as a Club and Radio DJ, producer, and remixer got a little bit more busy, and I wasn’t able to spend as much time working solely on J.M. Silk collaborations with my group member and lead vocalist, Keith Nunnally.  I always say that it was a good thing that I got busy on this one day in late1985 when Keith ended up in his friend and former band member Danny “Sweet D” Wilson’s basement.  Also there was my Lindblom High School classmate Peter Black, an accomplished pianist who performed some additional string overdubs, played voice parts and Fairlight vocal samples for me on our first J.M. Silk single, “Music Is The Key.”

    As  the universe always knows what it’s doing, Keith ended up in a jam session with Danny and Peter, and it turned into the writing session for the song, Shadows Of Your Love.  Keith brought me a cassette tape of what they had done in the basement, and it was a completely written song.

    Now I had to learn how to produce and arrange a song that someone else wrote, and still make it reflective of the J.M. Silk style. Producing this song definitely helped me to grow as a producer. I had to learn how to capture the essence of the original demo, and turn it into a record with all the additional instruments that will be needed and percussive elements to make it a house record.

    We actually brought in the legendary DJ Bruce Forrest from New York’s Better Days Club and Farley Jackmaster Funk joined us in the studio for us to create the 12 inch mixes that would be reflective of the  house sound that we had all created in Chicago. This was a very fun session, as Farley, Bruce, and I each brought something unique to the table, and we came together to create some pretty innovative remixes to complement the stellar vocal performance of Keith Nunnally on lead vocals, along with backgrounds from Lewis Bledsoe, Sampson “Butch”Moore, and myself (learning how to sing backgrounds).

    This was also my first experience being in a music video, and with no experience as a performer, I have to admit I was pretty uncomfortable on stage.  Add to that, the director kept saying, “Steve, Smile!!!”  So my smiles were uncomfortable and unnatural.  However, I was comfortable with the acting parts, though.  That was fun for me.  So overall it was a good experience for me and a learning experience as well.  Please excuse the cheesiness of the video, but remember, it was the 80’s!!!

    I have say that the way “Shadows” came about was actually a turning point for J.M. Silk, as I now knew that I had another creative force in Keith, to write songs with.  Other than “I Can’t Turn Around,” which was a cover song, and Keith and I ended up co-writing most of our debut album.  I think that because of this one day that he ventured off, we ended up with even more confidence in each other as writing partners.  From this point on, I could concentrate on the  music tracks, while Keith could come up with at least a concept for the melodies and lyrics.

    With this experience, I was starting to learn how to produce more and more complete musical songs, slowly but surely!

    15.

    Kym Sims

    Take My Advice

    ID / Atco / East West 

    #5 Billboard Dance Chart

    #86 Billboard Pop Chart

    #13 UK Singles Chart

    Kym Sims “Take My Advice was  the followup to the Gold single Too Blind To See It,” so this was one of the times that I decided to stick to a formula that worked.  The approach of the Original Video and album Version  of “Take My Advice” was almost identical to “Too Blind” because as the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!”  It used the same instruments and mostly the same sounds, but in all honesty, that’s been a formula for follow up singles for years.  It’s almost like recording with the same band and using the same instruments and keyboard patches.

    However I made sure I did a remix that went in a totally different direction, the Silky 70’s Remix.  For all the purists, it gave them something new and fresh.

    What’s funny is that just like “Too Blind,” the original version of this was in the vein of a Soul II Soul vibe; it was a mid-tempo grooving Soul R&B song.  I loved remixing my R&B productions into House versions, which I learned to do by remixing Roberta Flack’s Uh-Uh-Ooh-Ooh Look Out (Here It Comes)!

    14.

    Tene Williams 

    Give Him A Love He Can Feel 

    Pendulum Records 

    #30 Billboard R&B / Hip Hop Songs

    #28 Billboard Dance Chart

    Written by Donell Rush and Jere McAllister, this was a fun song to produce.  With “Keep on Walkin’” under my belt as a #3 R&B record, I was confident as an R&B producer now, and willing to take a few chances.  I wanted this song to have the same Dance / R&B feel that the CeCe record did, but with even more thump on the drums.

    Just as Pendulum A&R Rep and longtime friend Charles Dixon told me in advance, Tene was a joy to work with in the studio…a seasoned pro.  Add to that, I had a “Vocal Dr.” in the house with Donell Rush.  He did some great vocal arrangements on this song, and it was easy for me to find catchy parts to make into hooks on the song.

    “Give Him A Love” reached #28 on the Dance Charts and #30 on R&B, but also this ended up being one of the songs that put me in company of Jam & Lewis, LA & Babyface and Teddy Riley as one of Billboard’s top R&B producers for 1994.  That was a milestone for me, to earn credibility as an R&B producer, while still continuing to build my House Music resume.  I guess getting  “no sleep” in 1993 was actually worth it!

    13.

    Steve “Silk” Hurley presents: CeCe Peniston  

    He Loves Me 2 

    Silk Entertainment / S&S Records

    GRAMMY® NOMINATED

    #24 Billboard Dance Chart

    When I re-established the Silk Entertainment label in 1996, one of the first things I did was reconnect with CeCe.  We talked about doing an album, and actually started the process with the single, “Nobody Else.”  This was the followup that we wrote together.

    Our process in putting this song together was similar to when I would work with Rahsaan Patterson.  I made a basic drum track, and started working out the chords while CeCe sang along.  She ad libbed vocals until she had a melody, and started to write out lyrics.  One of my favorite ad libs that became a hook was the jazzy intro she sang at the very beginning.

    Even being an independent company with hardly any promotion budget, we were able to reach the #24 Billboard Dance Chart position, and that was due to the catchiness of the song, and the great remixes we had from Paul Johnson and Junior Vasquez, whose Tribal Mix (Loves 2 Club Mix) reached a harder house audience at his legendary club in New York, Twilo (Sound Factory).

    CeCe and I really put a lot of thought into the writing of “He Loves Me 2,” and I think it was worth it.  This song is still a fan favorite.  It has stood the test of time.

    12.

    Donell Jones

    I’ll Go (Love N BasketballMovie & Soundtrack)

    Overbrook / Interscope

    Produced and Arranged by Steve “Silk” Hurley

    Written by Rahsaan Patterson & Steve “Silk” Hurley

     
    This song has so much history. When Rahsaan Patterson and I wrote this in my home studio, we just knew it was going to be one of the singles from his second album. Somehow it didn’t fit the vibe of where he was going with that album project, so instead we ended up getting it placed on Love and Basketball, with Donnell Jones doing the crooning.  This is actually one of my favorite movies to watch, not just because my song is the closing song in the movie.  It actually grossed $27 million worldwide, and for a good reason.  It’s one of the best feel-good movies of our time.

    I went to LA to record this, and it was cool because I hadn’t seen Donell since he had the all male singing group that I was interested in signing several years prior.  Of course with his talent and charisma, Donnell was snatched up and signed by LaFace / Arista, and that definitely ended up being a great fit for him. He had a string of hits over there, and I am super happy for him and proud of the stellar career that he’s been able to maintain as an R&B solo artist.

    Like Rahsaan, Donell is a real pro in the studio, and he knocked the vocals out without a hitch.  I basically got a 2 for 1 on this song that I co-wrote and produced.  I was able to collaborate with 2 of the best artists in the contemporary R&B world on 1 song!

    11.

    Ce Ce  Peniston

    I’m Not Over You

    A&M Records

    Written by Steve “Silk” Hurley,  Marc M. Doc Williams, & Jamie Principle

    ASCAP Writer’s Award

    #2 Billboard Dance Chart

    #10 Billboard R&B Chart

    #41 Billboard Pop Chart

    This was one of many songs that M. Doc and I collaborated on, with Sharon Pass (Vocalist on The Word Is Love”) singing the song demo.  And just as it usually went at I.D. Productions, Jamie Principle ended up walking into the room and giving us a few key lyrics to help finish writing the song.

    With  “I’m Not Over You, we were looking to continue the momentum that we had in helping CeCe build her R&B audience alongside her House / Dance audience.  This song was able to accomplish just that, by reaching the top 10 on R&B and #2 on the Dance chart.

    From a creative standpoint, this was one of my favorites because CeCe’s vocal performance was one of her best ever, and my musical approach was totally different from anything I had ever done.  Sharon’s backgrounds were so good that we kept them and combined them with CeCe’s for the final product.  Most importantly,  I also got to try out my new gadget, a vocoder…the fun I had with that made the time put in all worth it!

    10.

    Steve “Silk” Hurley Presents Vernessa Mitchell & Ricky Dillard’s New G.

    Higher

    Silk Entertainment / S&S Chicago

     

    Not many people in the House Music world know that Vernessa Mitchell started her career as a singer with Motown records at the age of 15, after being discovered by Berry Gordy of Motown Records, she and three other young ladies became a teen girl group called High Inergy and were signed by the label during the late 1970s. Their first album went gold and produced the hit single You Cant Turn Me Off (In The Middle of Turning Me On).

    The group was featured on American BandstandSoul Train and television shows hosted by Merv GriffinDinah Shore, and Mike Douglas. They were billed as the next-generation Supremes, and worked with legendary Motown artists such as Stevie WonderSmokey Robinson, and Michael Jackson.

    Mitchell’s solo Gospel debut album, Higher Ground, was released in 1985 and quickly established her as a singer’s singer. The title cut on the project garnered Grammy and Dove Award nominations.

    This was one of my favorite productions, as I had always wanted to bring the church to the dance floor in a very authentic way.  In order to do that, not only did I need Vernessa’s powerful vocals, which were reminiscent of the late Loleatta Holloway, I needed an authentic Choir and a piano player that had experience as a music director.  I wanted the record to feel like a Sunday morning service!

    So Vernessa brought her friend and Music Director (and accomplished pianist), James Pullin to my basement studio so we could write the song  and arrange the chords. I put together a basic House track.  James and Vernessa really connected with each other and I was getting goosebumps in the studio from her singing and his playing.  James could play anything, so all I had to do was let him know which way I wanted to go.  Once the pianos and lead vocals were figured out, I played a bass track to enhance what James was playing.

    I knew who I would call on for the choir.  My fellow Chicagoan, Ricky Dillard, was not only one of the top Choir Directors and Gospel Artists, but also recorded some early House Music records in his secular music days.  So I knew he would understand that this record was being put together out of love, and would see it as an opportunity to make a positive influence on the dance floor.  So I was super excited that he agreed to bring his Choir (Rickey Dillard’s New G) to Hinge Studios to help create that Sunday morning experience.  Rickey came up with a rough draft of what the choir parts would be and I finalized the arrangement so we could record the Choir at Hinge.  That Choir session was phenomenal.  I should have filmed it!

    The final piece to the puzzle was to create the different House Remixes that would go on the 12” release.  I had so much to work with, that the Silk’s Journey To Heaven Mix ended up being over 13 minutes!  This version  is still played in House DJ sets to this day.  I really have to thank the late Frankie Knuckles for being one of the biggest supporters of this song.  He played it on a regular basis all over the world, and actually featured the Silk’s Journey To Heaven on his DJ Mix Compilation called Frankie Knuckles “Motivation.

    With all of the support from House Music DJ’s all over the world, I really was pleased to find out that “Higher” was one of 6 Projects that got me a 2nd Remixer Of The Year GRAMMY® Nomination in 2000. It was the 2nd time a Gospel House song was nominated.

    9.

    JM Silk  

    I Cant Turn Around

    RCA / BMG / Sony Records

    Produced, Arranged and Mixed by Steve “Silk” Hurley

    Vocals by Steve “Silk” Hurley and Keith Nunnally

    #1 Billboard Dance

    #62 UK Singles Chart

    In 1983 at Sauers, I tried using my first drum machine…a Cassio.   It was a toy…and it was a failure. I tried it for a few seconds and I knew the sound wasn’t right.  Then I purchased a Boss Dr Rhythm drum machine.  I took 2 vinyl copies of Jungle DJ and beat-juggled them over a Dr. Rhythm pattern I created to make a more energetic version.  Ron Hardy played this “Jungle DJ (Silk Rework), as well as my re-edits of the disco classics “Big Freak” and “Down To Love Town” at The Music Box all the time.  But that was before I learned how to make original tracks from scratch.

    Most people outside of Chicago think “Music Is The Key” was the  first track I created because it was my first vinyl release.   But before that, I had an experimental drum machine version of “I Cant Turn Around (an old Isaac Hayes song that was very popular for being played by DJ’s as a re-edit). This 1983 Original 1st Demo (Instrumental) was played by Frankie at the Powerplant and several other DJ’s, in addition to me.  There was a crazy vocal version that everyone played too, that says, “Your shirt  is pink, your armpits stink, why don’t you turn around?”   I hope to find a clean enough version of that to post.  In 1983 I also created a House version of “Love Is The Message” (By MFSB), and “Bra” (Originally by Cymande), which I was playing at Sauers.  Then I wrote totally original tracks such as “I Don’t Know,” “In And Out,” and finally, “Music Is The Key.  I played all of my exclusives from cassette & reel to reel at places like The Bismarck, The Resurrection, Sauers and anyplace else that I played.  I still remember when Maurice Joshua and Hula Mahone hired me to come to the American Legion in Hazel Crest (South Suburbs of Chicago).  I brought my Tascam 4-track cassette to mix in these House Tracks I was working on in my makeshift bedroom studio.  These High School-aged kids were going nuts!  Also Jam Master Jay brought me to The Screamin Wheels in Glenwood and I did the same…played my EXCLUSIVES.  Some of the DJs got copies from me and also played them.  So because of all the collective support, I gained the confidence to keep making tracks, and had a thirst to release them commercially.

    In 1984 I noticed that my 2nd Demo of “I Can’t Turn Around”  started to get an even bigger response than any vinyl record I was playing.  So I knew I needed to get that song out. However, I just didn’t know how to go about it.   I had zero experience in the music industry, so I did not know how to get that done.  Therefore I shifted my focus to creating the demo of “Music Is The Key.” This is why “The Key” became my first release.

    After Music Is The Key was commercially released, Keith Nunnally and I naturally became closer due to having the J.M. Silk music group together. Farley was my roommate at the time, but with all of the rehearsals, it started to be a little bit too crowded to rehearse and write, so I got my own place.  When I moved to the new apartment, I noticed that at some point that my 4-track master of I Cant Turn Around had gone missing.  Farley said he hadn’t seen it, and I figured at some point it would show up.

    In the meantime The J.M. Silk group was signed to RCA and we were finishing the photo shoots and pre-publicity interviews for the J.M. Silk version of “I Cant Turn Around,” which was slated to be our first single from our album.  However, Farley decided to beat us to the punch and decided to make his own version based on my arrangement.   I was shocked to hear “Love Can’t Turn Around” in Farley’s DJ mix on the radio.  It was a blatant theft of my arrangement but with new words by Jesse Saunders and Vince Lawerence, and the late Darryl Pandy singing.

    Because of my upbringing, I took the high road and didn’t let it resort to violence, as many people around me thought it would.  I just stayed on my path, and despite the fact that our version looked like a copy of Farley’s to the world outside of Chicago, J.M.Silk’s “I Cant Turn Aroundwas the 1st House Music song to reach #1 on the  Billboard Dance Charts.  And “Love Can’t Turn Around’s” success in London opened the door for my song, “Jack Your Body” to go #1 on the UK National Chart for 2 weeks.  I found out later from a mutual friend that Farley actually had my master to copy from all along.  At this point, Farley had stolen from me twice and I was done with him, but  there was really nothing I could do about it legally.

    So although I felt betrayed by a friend, I have no regrets, as this series of mishaps created life lessons for me, and a roadmap to a career in music through perseverance, hard work, and a constant effort to develop my craft.  No matter what higher power you believe in, or even if you don’t believe, I think we all can agree that there is a balance in “The Universe” that knows what it is doing.

    8.

    Kym Sims

    Too Blind To See It

    ID / Atco / East West

    Written, Produced, Arranged & Mixed by Steve”Silk” Hurley

    ASCAP Writer’s Award

    #5 Billboard Dance Chart  

    #5 UK Singles Chart

    Silver Single UK (400,000 Units Sold)

    #20 in Ireland in December 1991, #5 in the UK in January 1992, #38 in the US in February 1992, #21 in Sweden in February 1992, #28 in the Netherlands in February 1992, #14 in Belgium in March 1992, #45 in New Zealand in March 1992, and #161 in Australia.


    When I brought a family friend by the name of Kym Sims into our company ID records, she was already an accomplished singer. She had recorded vocals for some of the biggest TV and radio commercials and had been a great living from that since her teenage years.

    So her agreeing to be an artist was not out of a financial need at all. She was OK there. I just really loved her voice and I convinced her that I really wanted to feature her and on some of my music and make her a part of our team. I felt like her talents, versatility and bubbly personality could lead to a great recording career, and her experience and expertise would really complement what we were doing at ID records and ID productions with the next generation of artists, producers and writers.

    When Kym became a part of the ID family, everyone welcomed her with open arms and started writing songs for her, which would become her first album. Not only did we write songs for her, but we wrote songs with her as well. She was getting involved in the writing with our team, and even songs that ended up not being a great fit for her got placed on other artists.

    Many people do not know that “Too Blind To See It” was not even a house track when I first wrote it for Kym.  It was more along the lines of the mid-tempo R&B/soul/dance that Jazzy B.’s Soul II Soul was doing at the time.

    We shopped Kym‘s album to several major record labels, but no one really bit on this talented singer that we all really believed in. So we decided to choose a song from the album and release it independently on ID Records with several remixes from our remix team of Maurice Joshua, Eric “E-Smoove” Miller, and myself.  That ended up being one of the best decisions we ever made, because “Too Blind To See It” became a hit with the Club DJ,s all over the world.   This created an interest from Merlin Bobb and Sylvia Rhone at Atco / East-West / Atlantic to sign Kym to not only a singles deal,  but also an album deal with at least 3 music videos, which would showcase her to the world.

    As it turns out, I was correct in assuming that she would complement what we were

    7.

    Steve “Silk” Hurley feat. Sharon Pass

    The Word Is Love

    Silk Entertainment Records / S&S Records

    GRAMMY® NOMINATED

    #15 Italian National Chart

    #25 UK National Chart

    Sharon Pass definitely paid her dues as a demo and background singer for our ID Records camp, for artists like CeCe Peniston, Donell Rush, Jamie Principle, & M. Doc, just to name a few.

    So it was only right that she was able to shine front stage on my first single after the ID Records era called The Word Is Love.  Sharon has one of the best tones and vocal range that I’ve ever heard, and it really shines on this record. And of course with me being the character that I am, I had to put some fun into the record with the “Oom-Da” background vocal bits.

    What most people don’t know is that this Anthem Of Life Mix was actually the 3rd remixed version that I did before finally having something but I really felt good about. I actually struggled for a few weeks, trying to beat the dead horse of the first house version that I came up with.

    Then I finally just laid down one remix that I settled on being called the original mix, and I was able to start from scratch with the Anthem remix. I liked the drums and analog synths of the original so I kept them. But I wanted to go in a more hypnotic disco direction with the bassline rhythm, which I originally had Steve Turner play.  I wanted to take people back to the late 70’s feeling with a real disco bass line.  Maybe this was because I knew that Sharon’s voice could stand up to any instrumentation that I may put on the record, in the same way that singers like Loleatta Holloway and Martha Wash and Jocelyn Brown did in the disco and post-disco days.   So I sampled the best sounding tones of Steve’s Live bass and replayed them until I came up with a bassline that was disco and hypnotic, while also being real punchy.

    I released this record on my Silk Entertainment label and we sold lots of vinyl records independently. That created such a buzz internationally that Simon Dunmore (now owner of Defected Records) Licensed the single on A&M in the UK, and we also licensed it to several other European labels. All of this helped take the song to heights internationally that I hadn’t reached (on my own Artist singles) since “Jack Your Body.”  It reached several European National Pop Charts, including #15 on the Italian National Chart and #25 on the UK National Chart.  It also did very well in Belgium and Australia, and has been able to stand the test of time.  We finally shot a proper OFFICIAL Music Video in Chicago and LA for the S&S Records re-release in 2014.

    6.

    Ce Ce  Peniston

    We Got A Love Thang

    A&M Records

    Produced and Arranged by Steve “Silk” Hurley

    RIAA CERTIFIED GOLD ALBUM

    #1 Billboard Dance Chart (#1 for 2 weeks)

    #20 Billboard Hot 100 Chart

    #6 UK Singles Chart

    Written by the ID Records writing trio of Eric “E-Smoove” Miller, Jere Mc Allister and Chantay Savage, the  “We Got A Love Thang” demo was selected by CeCe and label A&R exec Manny Lehman as a possible 2nd single follow up to her hit, “Finally”.  So as the producer, I had never been in the position of taking an unproven demo and creating a followup to a smash hit.  There was a little pressure, to say the least!

    For my production of Love Thang, I wanted to come up with a few uplifting piano parts to create an instrumental intro with horns. Once I came up with that, Donell Rush suggested that CeCe say, “Look what we got,” and repeat it with a laugh.   That ended up being a signature part, and I also was able use that uplifting piano section at the end for the vamp out, with vocal sample bends as well.

    If you talk to CeCe, she probably would tell you that the vocal session for this song was like a roller coaster, as some parts she was able to sing effortlessly, but other parts were a struggle. I tended to have a hard nosed approach when you came to vocalists reaching their potential. I really saw CeCe’s potential to reach notes that she had never reached before, so Donell and I really had to push her to get those notes at the end.

    One of the high parts was in the B section where she says, “I know that I won’t find a better love…” and she was struggling to hit the high note, which was on better.  I had her smile on better, which made the pronunciation “BITTER love” instead of better love.  That ended up taking a while to grasp because it was an unorthodox approach, but it became my go-to for helping singers hit notes at times.  Eventually, CeCe hit that note, and it gave everyone in the room chills.  However, there were more high notes at the end that she just had to fight through.  But I knew she had it in her so I kept pushing, and so did Donnell.

    She actually even came to tears in the studio, but through those tears, she got it done.   She actually ended up even exceeding our expectations.

    A few months later, when I saw CeCe perform that song live on TV, I couldn’t believe how effortlessly she was hitting those notes that were such a struggle for her in the studio. I initially was worried about wrecking our friendship with the hard push we were giving her in the studio, but she confirmed that the tears were all worth it…  “Look what We Got!”

    5.

    J.M. Silk  

    Music Is The Key

    Silk Entertainment / S&S Records 

    #9 Billboard Dance Chart /#18 Sales

    I am known to be a very humble person because since I was a child, I never have been known to toot my own horn.  In the past, I’ve been reluctant to put the main focus on myself when it comes to telling the story of House Music’s origins, because it was birthed here in Chicago by a group effort of all of the Pioneers and the Community that created the Culture of House Music.  So I am always inclusive of others when telling my story, because they were instrumental, even if I was betrayed by them in some way.  However, certain recollections of history are not inclusive of me.  But actually that’s OK.  As long as they are true recollections and not remixes of history.  I understand that it may be merely due to information left on the editing room floor by the media outlet.  Or it may very well be an effort for others to shine a light on their own relevance to the scene.  Whatever it is, I have come to the realization that it is my own responsibility to tell my real story, because I was there.  History is meant be documented and preserved, not remixed.

    Of course “Music Is The Key” is special to me because it was the 1st physical record release of my own music.  But most people don’t know that the proceeds from it financed the DJ International Record label, which was the home of most of Chicago’s early house music. I really felt the need to share the story of how a track that I came up with in my bedroom, and lyrics I wrote in a bathroom stall at work became a song.  And how song that went on to sell 100,000 copies on 12” Vinyl, became the First House Record to crack the Billboard Top 10 (#9), and created the capitol to finance the DJ International Record label for years to come.

    When I was 19 years old, I was faced with an ultimatum. “Either you do what I say, or get out!”…which ironically is a lyric in the Jamie Principle song, Cold World,” a song that Jamie wrote because he also was not understood at home.

    The tough love I was receiving from my Dad would prove to be a life-changing moment for me, as I had a decision to make. If I wanted to DJ a party at Sauer’s after winning the biggest DJ battle of my life, I would have to move out of my parents house.

    I’m so thankful that because of my passion for music and the art of DeeJaying and mixing, I was able to find the inner strength to stand up to my father…to physically pack some bags and move out, just so I could DJ a party for $25.  I really have to thank Frenchy, the sound man who let me live in his basement for two weeks. Had he not  been a big brother to me at that time, I would not have been able to make that move, which proved to be the biggest step I took towards becoming a man.

    Now that I am a father of four, I truly understand this ultimatum that Dad gave me was out of love for me.  I had no clue whatsoever how being a DJ would provide a future for me. All I knew was that I had a passion for the music and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me. That was where he and I butted heads and that confrontation had to happen in order for me to do what I am doing now.

    The ironic thing is that I never knew that my dad would end up being my biggest supporter in the end. 2 years later, he would be the one that loaned me $1500 to help me record and eventually release my first record, Music Is The Key,” in 1984/1985. That would have never happened had I not shown him that I believed in myself to the point that I would dare to move out of his house.

    Most people don’t know that at the time I was actually working as an Engineering Technician (for the city of Chicago), inspecting crushed concrete, stone from quarries, and other materials that were used to create the roads in Chicago. My job was to test these materials to make sure that they were up to spec to be used to create the roadways. Sounds exciting, huh?  I actually was happy to have a job that allowed me to buy a vehicle and start gaining some independence, but I was watching the clock from 830 until 430 every day because I was so bored. I would daydream all day about taking my DJ career to another level and actually putting out some of the dozens of demos I had created as records.

    One of those daydreams became “Music Is The Key”.  I remember one day at work I took my notepad into the bathroom with me and sat in the stall for almost an hour writing the rap to”The Key,” which became the whole concept for the song, and became an early foundation for Hip-House.  Originally it was going to just be a House / Hip Hop song (later named Hip-House), but I also wanted sung verses on it as well.  I waited until 1987 to actually create the 1st Hip-House Record with no sung verses (Steve “Silk” Hurley feat. M. Doc’s “Its Percussion.)

    Originally the key was just a raw instrumental track that I put together. I was playing it at parties from a “reel to reel” tape machine and from my four track cassette recorder.   I really wanted to release it, and I was advised by a few people (including Jesse Saunders) that I should make it a full song. So I did that.  I wasn’t a singer, but I still put my ideas down on the first demo, which is attached here.

    The response from the crowd was great, but in order to release this song, I knew I needed to get a real vocalist. Keith Nunnally had a great reputation in Chicago as a singer, so upon recommendation from a few people, including Farley, I hired Keith to sing on “The Key.”  I used some of the money that my Dad loaned me to pay for studio time at Chicago Trax, and to press the first pressings of the record.  Rocky Jones and I financed the release of what would become the 1st DJ International Records release, and the first House Music song to reach the top 10 (#9) on the Billboard Dance Chart, and #18 on the sales chart.  This was really a big deal, because at the time, this chart was dominated by danceable songs from a variety of established artists from different genres (i.e.Madonna, Prince, Cameo, Chaka,  Turner, Full Force) so the competition was very stiff. I was so happy to see that Chicago’s House Music Movement was so quickly being recognized on a national level!  On a side note, Prince noticed what we were doing with House Music and included my rap on the song “Cindy C”(at 5:34), from his Black Album.  He ended up hiring me to remix “Gett Off” and “Gangster Glam” later on.

    So now let’s flash back to the studio.   I was working with Larry Sturm, who was one of the best engineers in Chicago. He ended up being my engineer for most of the records I did through the 80s and 90s. Although I already had the drums, bass, and all the musical parts sequenced and written for the session, I brought in my high school classmate, Peter Black, to add icing on the cake. He was a very well versed pianist so I had him play lush choir voices over my basic strings, and to play some of my vocal sample parts.

    When it came to creating the 12 inch DeeJay club remixes of this song, I was glad to have Farley Jackmaster Funk in the house with me because as DJs, we always talked about how records should be structured and what elements should be in them. So having another DJ in the room that had been in the studio before was great.

    This record means so much to me for several reasons.  It was my first entry to becoming a professional music producer, remixer, songwriter, artist and executive all in one shot.

    It also changed my perspective on how I should handle bad situations. Although Farley “Jackmaster” Funk (formally known as Farley “Funkin” Keith) took part of my name (Jackmaster Silk), it forced me to abbreviate my artist name to be J. M. Silk on this record.   And as a group, that name actually created a mystique that worked better from a marketing perspective.  Ironically, the universe decided that J.M. Silk would become House Musics first group, and the first artists to be signed to a major record label.  So once again, something that looked like a bad thing became a blessing in the end.

    Again I would like to thank my Dad, the DJs, and all of those around me in the studio that contributed to helping me take this first big step in my career.

    4.

    Chantay  Savage

    Betcha’ll  Never  Find    

    RCA / BMG / Sony Records

    #17 Billboard R&B/Hip Hop Songs

    #17 Billboard Dance Charts

    #70 Billboard Hot 100

    If anyone outside of the ID Records camp could see the journey it took for Chantay and I to create this record, they probably wouldn’t believe it.

    In the I.D. Productions camp, our songs usually originated when  songwriters were split into 2 groups basically.  The composers of music were usually the main producers, E-Smoove & Jere McAlister, Maurice Joshua, Jamie Principle, M. Doc and Myself.  Then you had the singers mostly writing the main lyrics-Chantay Savage, Donell Rush, Byrd (Berlando Drake), Manny Mo (Who also composed) and Kym Sims, among several other writers.  Of course sometimes the producers would write lyrics too, but to make the singers efficient, we usually would create tracks for the singers and they would go into a small cubicle write song demos using a 4-track cassette recorder and headphones.  Then if we liked these demos, we would cut the vocals for real, and either shop the songs to other artists, or keep them with the original singer for their projects.  Chantay used this process to co-write “Love Thang” with E-Smoove and Jere MC, and several other tunes for outside artists, so she paid a lot of dues leading up to this shining moment.

    I gave Chantay a bunch of tracks, and she wrote to what would become the original version that was on her debut album.  However, by the time “Betcha’ll Never Find” came out as a single, I was on a totally different page with my producing.  I wanted to compliment Chantay’s soulful vocals with a track that had a soulful edge as well.  Rather than a Pop / Dance edge, I wanted an R&B / soul /dance / 80s edge.  This was why I created what was called the Old Skool Mix of “Betcha’ll Never Find.”

    I have always been a huge Patrice Rushen fan, which is why I wanted to capture the essence of her song, “Forget Me Nots” with the Rhodes piano sounds and a memorable bass line to compliment the chunky 80’s drums. I really enjoyed fusing my R&B and Dance influences on this song to create a track that complimented Chantay’s vocals more than the original.  So this was the 1st time since ”Too Blind To See It” that  I was remixing one of my original songs to create a better radio and club version.

    This version became the single’s main mix, and RCA even reissued the music video with this remix.  I was so happy and proud to be backstage to witness her stellar performances on Soul Train and other national TV Shows.  It was also great to see that an artist who got her start in House music had become a legitimate R&B Artist while still being a top Dance Music Diva.  This song was able to reach #17 on both the R&B & Dance Charts, while also hitting the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Chart. This was ground-breaking for Chantay as an artist, and for me as a producer.

    3.

    Ce Ce  Peniston 

    Keep On Walkin’  

    A&M Records 

    ASCAP Writers Award 

    RIAA CERTIFIED GOLD ALBUM

    #1 Billboard Dance Chart

    #3 Billboard R&B Chart

    #15 Billboard Hot 100 Chart

    #10 UK Singles Chart

    “Keep On Walkin’” was originally written as a song for Kym Sims. I did the track, and had a concept for the hook and melodies; then Kym and M. Doc helped me finish out the lyrics.  Although we thought Kym sounded good on it, we had written so many songs that fit her better, so we thought it would be a great idea to let CeCe hear it, since she wanted to do some R&B songs on her album that still had a House / Dance feel.

    The forces against us were saying  that a “House Music Artist” couldn’t also be R&B, or a House Music producer couldn’t produce R&B.   So Cece and I both felt vindicated when we got a #1 Billboard Dance Chart record, and still were able to hit  #3 on the Billboard R&B Chart.  If the completion wasn’t so stiff on the R&B chart with TLC,  Envogue, Boys II Men (End Of The Road) and Kriss Kross, we could have hit #1!  Anyway, we were super happy that we reached top 5.

    Once again, the late Donnell Rush helped me with the background vocal arrangements, especially the Vamp parts at the end. And the backgrounds were sung by Donell, Chantay Savage and CeCe herself.

    I remember the vocal session with CeCe.  She breezed through most of the vocals where she was using her higher range, but the verses became a challenge.  She had no problem singing the notes.  The issue was that the vocals needed to have a certain attitude to them to properly tell the story in the lyrics.

    I remember her singing the same parts for hours and rather than letting the frustration build up, we took a break, and when we came back, I decided too try something new.  I felt like changing the way she pronounced things could help the notes  come out cleaner, more percussive, and more rhythmic, which was what the verses needed to be.  We approached each part one by one, and finally got the verses.

    What we both learned was that pronunciation is key when singing vocals, and sometimes it’s pronouncing words another way that creates the right vibe.  We used the same technique to help CeCe hit high notes on “We Got A Love Thang”!

    2.

    Chantay  Savage

    I Will Survive

    RCA Records

    RIAA CERTIFIED GOLG SINGLE

    #5 Billboard R&B Singles Chart

    #12 UK Singles Chart

    #14 Billboard R&B / Hip-Hop Albums Chart

    #24 Billboard Hot 100

    How do you cover a timeless classic like Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” without paling in comparison? By going in a completely opposite direction and making the song your own!

    A lot of heads turned when we told the label that we were going to do an R&B version of the timeless disco classic. However, I knew that Chantay had the vocal chops to sing an R&B version of this, and I welcomed the challenge of coming up with an R&B track that would be relevant to the current time.

    In order to let Chantay do her thing and put her stamp on the song, I gave her the most basic track possible for her to sing on, because I didn’t want to send her to any particular direction.  I wanted to capture the same vibe of when she sang the song to me a cappella. Because of the simplicity of the backing track, she was able to go wherever she wanted to go with the song and get “in her feelings,” making the listener feel her pain.

    The result was a vocal performance that was filled with so much emotion that my task of creating the final track after words became one of my favorite studio sessions ever!

    Now that Chantay was done, I was able to almost remix my own track into something that would musically complement to Chantay’s vocals.  I already had the chunky old school  70s’s style ballad drum track that I had created, so now it was time to concentrate on the music.

    For the Rhodes piano chord progressions, I consulted with one of my up-and-coming producers, Shebazz, who was the musical part of the  production and writing team of Denair (Shebazz Curtis and Aaron Pettigrew).  Denair actually wrote and produced “Pillow Talk” and “Brown Sugar” for Chantay’s album, and we collaborated on a remix (or should I say reproduction) of Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love To You.

    Shebazz was an accomplished pianist that also played in the church, and I wanted the feeling of the chord progressions to be just that.  I needed something that would draw emotion out of you. I made an attempt to play what I was thinking to Shebazz, and he immediately showed me how to play it for real. He told me the concept behind how I could always find what I was looking for when trying to capture that type of emotion.

    So I practiced those chords for a whole day, until I could play them straight through. That way I could have a kind of human feel to what I was playing. And by learning the actual records the way I did, it allowed me to find all of the base line parts very easily, and all the complementary instruments such as the strings, and lead synth instrumental section that became a signature of the song.

    I am really glad that I decided to treat this song as a music theory lesson and a lesson in simplicity of production. This is when I really realized that less is best sometimes. I didn’t even use that many tracks although I had unlimited channels to work with. I kept it simple and that allowed Chantay’s vocals to breathe. This is probably her best performance, and in my opinion, is technically my best production.

    What’s funny about this record is that the house music versions that we did were almost like an afterthought, but they still were authentic house music versions because they came to us naturally.  Chantay recorded an ad lib scat track over my music track, and her performance on that is epic! Check out the youtube to the scat house remix above.

    1.

    Steve  “Silk” Hurley

    Jack Your Body

    Silk Entertainment / S&S Records 

    #1 UK Pop Singles Chart (2 Weeks)

    #1 Singles Chart (Ireland)

     
    Although I feel “I Will Survive” was my most seasoned production, “Jack Your Body” means the most to me.  I created this song at a time when I didn’t even know how to produce records, and I actually learned so much while I was creating it.

    This is probably the most experimental record that I’ve ever done as well. And ironically, it was the most successful record that I have done to date.  That, coupled with the fact of its’ impact on the house music genre, makes this hands-down my number one!

    This record is very personal to me because it was very misunderstood when I recorded it. I still remember being in the studio working on this song, and my manager jokingly saying, “what is this, devil music?”  I guess it’s a good thing that I didn’t let that affect me! LOL

    One of the early tracks that I created back in 1984 was the  Jack Your Body (Homemade Mix).  So two years later, I wanted to release it as an underground track. But I wanted to also do a new version, because I had been playing the homemade mix for so long.  So I ended up doing a totally different version of “Jack.”

    I still wanted to keep the original baseline that I had, but I wanted to take it musically someplace else. So I talked to one of my managers who was a great keyboard player, named Phil Balsano, and I was explaining to him that I wanted to have like a blues turnaround in the song. With Chicago being the home of blues, why not?  So he spent a few hours with me explaining how Blues turnarounds work. Once I had the concept, I worked on how I was going to implement that in to jack your body for a few days. It took me a while but I finally had all of the bass parts programmed on a sequencer with the blues turnarounds, and all I had to do was play the piano line over the top.

    What many people don’t know is that I am not an accomplished a piano player. It took me several hours to play the piano riffs over the top of the baseline throughout the song. They were all played live, with no sequencing….the engineer just had to keep punching me in with the record button until I got the parts right. It was a different way for me to record, and another learning experience for me. I was always the sponge!

    Because this was a new version, I wanted to approach the vocal part of Jack your body as a sample that I would just trigger.  At Green Street Studios there was an AMS effects unit in the studio (which cost about $10,000.00) that I had access to because we were renting the studio. I figured that would sound a little bit better than my $100 Boss sampling pedal that I had been using previously!  I was still able to trigger my vocal sample from the rim shot in my drum pattern, but I couldn’t believe how crazy and unique it sounded. I actually got goosebumps when I heard what that technology could do for me in the studio and how clean the vocal sample was being triggered from that AMS unit. It stood out like a vocal performance would And actually became the hook of the song!

    The only other thing that I added which made this song even more unique and crazy was the comedy bit impersonations that I did.  I got inspiration from my favorite comic, Eddie Murphy’s “Delirious” concert. He was imitating Mr. T and James Brown on this performance and I decided to put the phrases, “Jack it up out there,” “Huh!” & “Jack,” in the Mr T. Voice, and “heyyyyy” in the James Brown voice.  When we put the delays on these character voices, it sounded so crazy!

    “Jack Your Body” was the ultimate in experimentation for me because I was not trying to create a hit, I was just having fun in the studio, learning new things learning new tricks and trying new concepts for entertaining my people on the dance floor. That’s all this record was really about…giving the people something to entertain them and make them feel good.

    So who knew that Jack Your Body would end up being the UK’s first House Music record to reach #1 on the UK Singles Chart, and that it would stay there for 2 consecutive weeks? When my manager told me that I got requested to perform in the UK, I didn’t know it was on “Top Of The Pops”, and that I had the  #1 Pop Record in the entire UK!   He advised me that we needed to finish our album for RCA records or we would miss the deadline.  I was new to the music business so I took his advise, and finished the album.

    If only I was made aware of the impact that this song had in the UK when it was happening, I’m sure I would have been there on that stage performing on Top of the Pops!  I Would have gladly delayed the completion of our debut album, to have been able to fly to the UK and witness the support that we were getting at the time! If only I knew!  Here is the performance on Top Of The Pops(at 23: 35 of the video) that should have been!

    So for that, I apologize wholeheartedly to the BBC and the entire country of the United Kingdom. I don’t ever want you to feel like I didn’t appreciate the love that was being shown to me, and to House Music.

    Steve “Silk” HurleyS&S Chicago

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