Jerry Butler (born Jerry Butler Jr., December 8, 1939, Sunflower, Mississippi) is an American soul singer, songwriter, known as "The Ice Man" because of his cool demeanour while singing often intensely emotional lyrics. He is also noted as being the original lead singer of the legendary R&B vocal group, The Impressions, as well as a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.
Butler is also an American politician. He serves as a Commissioner for Cook County, Illinois, having first been elected in 1985. As a member of this 17-member county board, he chairs the Health and Hospitals Committee, and serves as Vice Chair of the Construction Committee.
The mid-1950s had a profound impact on Butler’s life. He grew up poor, having lived in Chicago
’s rough Cabrini Green
housing complex. Music
and the church
provided solace from a city that was as segregated as those in the Deep South
. He performed in a church choir
with Curtis Mayfield
. As a teenager
, Butler sang in a gospel
quartet called Northern Jubilee Gospel Singers, along with Mayfield. Mayfield, a guitar
player, became the lone instrumentalist
for the six-member Roosters group, which later became The Impressions. Inspired by music icons Sam Cooke
and the Soul Stirrers
, the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi
, and the Pilgrim Travelers
, getting into the music industry
Butler's younger brother, Billy Butler, also had a career in the music industry.
"For Your Precious Love" and wanted to record
. Looking for recording studios
, The Impressions auditioned for Chess Records
and VeeJay Records
. The group eventually signed with Vee-Jay, where they released "For Your Precious Love" in 1958, which became The Impressions' first hit
and gold record
. Due to conflicts between the group and Vee-Jay, which wanted to bill the group as "Jerry Butler and The Impressions," which neither Butler nor the other group members wanted, he left the group shortly
Butler was dubbed the "Iceman" by WDAS Philadelphia disc jockey
, Georgie Woods
, while performing in a Philadelphia theater. When the sound system went out, Butler continued singing.
He co-wrote, with Otis Redding, the song "I've Been Loving You Too Long" in 1965. Butler’s solo career had a string of hits, including the Top 10 successes "He Will Break Your Heart", "Find Another Girl", "I'm A-Telling You" (all written by fellow Impression Curtis Mayfield and featuring Mayfield as harmony vocal), "Only the Strong Survive," "Moon River," "Need To Belong" (recorded with the Impressions after he went solo), "Make It Easy On Yourself," "Let It Be Me" (with Betty Everett), "Brand New Me," "Ain’t Understanding Mellow" (with Brenda Lee Eager), "Hey, Western Union Man," and "Never Gonna Give You Up." Butler released two successful albums, The Ice Man Cometh (1968) and Ice On Ice (1970). The Iceman Cometh garnered Butler three Grammy nominations. He collaborated on many of his successful recordings with the Philadelphia-based songwriting team, Gamble and Huff.
Tony Orlando and Dawn revived "He Will Break Your Heart" in 1975, with a new title, "He Don't Love You (Like I Love You)," and it was even more successful than Butler's original, going to #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 pop chart.
- "For Your Precious Love" was originally issued on Vee Jay, but was almost immediately moved over to Vee Jay's new subsidiary label, FALCON. While the single was moving up the charts, Vee Jay found out that the name Falcon was already being used, so the label was changed to Abner.
Butler continues to perform while serving as a Cook County Board Commissioner
since the 1980s. As Cook County Commissioner, Bulter voted to uphold a historical 2008 Cook County sales tax increase, remaining the highest in the nation. As a result the Chicago Tribune has encouraged voters to vote against him in the 2010 elections. In recent years, he has served as host of PBS
TV music specials, such as Doo Wop 50
, Rock Rhythm and Doo Wop
, and Soul Spectacular: 40 years of R&B
, among others. He has also served as Chairman of the Board of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation
. In 1991, Butler was inducted, along with the other original members of the Impressions, Curtis Mayfield, Sam Gooden
, Fred Cash
, and Arthur
and Richard Brooks
, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
He currently resides in Chicago with his wife Annette. He has two sons, Randy and Tony, and a grandson.
Pruter, Robert. Chicago Soul. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1991, ISBN 978-025206259-9