I was sorry to read about the passing of R&B singer Jewel Akens, who succumbed to complications from back surgery a few days ago in Inglewood, California. Although he’s most remembered for his big 1965 hit “The Birds And The Bees,” he had a long career that included both performing and producing, and it lasted almost up until his death.
The Houston-born singer first began gaining musical experience in the same way as many of his contemporaries — by singing in the church choir. But he was also influenced by the sounds he heard coming for local blues joints, and after his family moved to Los Angeles he was exposed to an even more diverse mix of music. By the late 1950s, the then teenaged singer was putting together everything he’d learned and was performing in a local group known as the Four Dots.
By 1959, Akens had managed to make a record with the group, and even though it didn’t do particularly well he continued to hit the recording studio with regularity, sometimes as part of a duo with Eddie Daniels and other times as a backup singer. He also worked with rising young rock star Eddie Cochran (who would tragically die the following year) and others, and by the early 1960s had joined a singing group called the Turnarounds. It was as a part of that group that Akens would encounter his big song. At the time, Akens and the Turnarounds were under contract to Era Records, and the label’s owner offered them a song he’d put together with lyrics by his young son. The group thought it was too silly but Akens decided to do it as a solo, and “The Birds And The Bees” became a huge hit.
The song became his signature tune and was by far his biggest hit, although he later charted with “Georgie Porgie,” a song that sounded a lot like his million-seller. But Akens continued to work steadily and make a lot of good records, including “It’s The Only Way To Fly,” “You Better Move On,” and even a cover of the Japanese hit, “Sukiyaki,” which he released with its English title, “My First Lonely Night.” As the years passed, Akens continued to tour and entertain his fans, while also gradually moving into the producing side of the business. He was 79 when he died.