1960s R&B star J.J. Barnes dies at age 79

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    (December 10, 2022) He was another in the great line of Detroit singers in the 1960s, but he made his biggest impact outside of the Motown label. We’re sad tonight to report the passing of famed R&B singer and songwriter J.J. Barnes at age 79.

    The Detroit-born Barnes grew up on the city’s famed “Black Bottom” area, the son of a noted singer in the region’s hot 1940s Gospel scene (his father was a member of the Evangelist Singers). He signed to the local Mickay label as a teen, and released several singles that became regional hits.

    (December 10, 2022) He was another in the great line of Detroit singers in the 1960s, but he made his biggest impact outside of the Motown label. We’re sad tonight to report the passing of famed R&B singer and songwriter J.J. Barnes at age 79.

    The Detroit-born Barnes grew up on the city’s famed “Black Bottom” area, the son of a noted singer in the region’s hot 1940s Gospel scene (his father was a member of the Evangelist Singers). He signed to the local Mickay label as a teen, and released several singles that became regional hits.

    As many Detroiters did, Barnes eventually became part of Motown, but principally as a songwriter. He recorded various sides for the label, but they never made it out of the house on Grand Boulevard. Frustrated, he left the label in the mid-60s to establish a legitimate solo singing career, and he shot right to the top 10 with his terrific single “Baby Please Come Home” (co-written with Stevie Wonder) on Don Davis's Groovesville label. It became his signature song and the biggest of his releases.

    Barnes relocated to England in the 1970s, where there was a great appreciation for his prior work on the Groovesville, Ric-Tic and Mickay labels. He established a great rapport with British audiences, leading to the reissue of some of his earlier releases, which became hot commodities in the Northern Soul scene.

    Barnes never again achieved major notoriety, but he kept performing for his fans around the world. He recently wowed Detroit audiences in late October with his appearance at the Detroit A-Go-Go festival weekend. But due to health issues, he told Metro Times that he felt he was nearing the end of his performance career.

    J.J. Barnes only had a brief period in the mass public spotlight, but he maintained a fiercely loyal fan base for over a half century, and he continued to please them with his performances right until the end.

    By Chris Rizik