Andy Gibb‘s “Shadow Dancing” was one of the biggest hits of the late ’70s. It came during the period of time when The Bee Gees OWNED shit, and it seemed like every big hit was either performed by or written/produced by Barry, Maurice, Robin or Andy. This period came right around the time I started to be conscious of music (I was 2) and as such, I have very fond memories of this song as well as all four Gibb brothers.
I wouldn’t hear the name Ndugu until a few years later, and wouldn’t become familiar with his body of work until many, many years later. My knowledge of “Shadow Dancing” and my knowledge of Ndugu wouldn’t intersect until…well, shortly before this column was written.
Leon “Ndugu” Chancler recorded two albums for Epic Records as the frontman of The Chocolate Jam Co. He’s more commonly known as a percussionist. He cut his teeth with acts like Santana, Weather Report, and the late George Duke. From there, he moved into the pop/soul arena, co-writing the Dazz Band’s monster jam “Let It Whip” and playing drums on sessions for Donna Summer, Frank Sinatra, and some dude named Jackson. Matter of fact, Ndugu is the dude who provided the beat for a little song called “Billie Jean.” Maybe you’ve heard of it?
Interestingly, Ndugu & The Chocolate Jam Co’s version of “Shadow Dancing” sounds very much like the productions Quincy Jones (who co-produced “Billie Jean”) was cutting for acts like George Benson, Rufus and The Brothers Johnson at the beginning of the 1980s. There’s no personnel listing on my copy of Do I Make You Feel Better? (the album that “Shadow Dancing” appears on), but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some overlap. Didn’t all of those L.A. session cats know one another anyway?
The Chocolate Jam Co.’s version of “Shadow Dancing” stands up pretty strongly against the original, thanks to the slammin’ dance groove and some background vocals from The mighty O’Jays (you hear Eddie LeVert‘s voice pretty clearly in the mix.) I’m currently ingesting the rest of Do I Make You Feel Better (which I purchased thanks to the good folks at Funkytowngrooves, who issued it on CD) but I’m digging what I’m hearing so far.