Vocalist who graduated from Salinas High School in Salinas, California, in 1955, and a decade later joined the all-girl R&B group, The Apollas. They signed with Warner Brothers’ soul division, Loma Records, and released a series of singles that did little more than flirt with chart success. They broke up in 1968.
Undaunted, Billie Barnum proceeded to pursue a career as a backing vocalist. She had already planted the seeds in the early-to-mid-’60s, singing and serving as contractor on some Ann-Margret recordings that appeared on CD in 1999 as Ann-Margret 1961-1966.
Her recording career really took off in the early ’70s. She appeared on Joe Williams’ 1972 release, With Love. Around this time, she also joined The Blackberries, along with Venetta Fields and Clydie King, a vocal trio which released its own singles as well as singing backup for the likes of Humble Pie and Pink Floyd. Billie’s last credit with Humble Pie seems to be 1974’s Thunderbox.
She went on to collaborate with a number of artists in the 1970s, including Cannonball Adderley, David Axelrod, Bee Gees, Johnny Bristol, Glen Campbell , Willie Hutch, Sabu, and Frank Sinatra . In 1979, she appeared on Sinatra’s boxed set, Trilogy, and sang on the soundtrack of The Warriors.
She reunited with Ann-Margret on her self-titled 1980 album, and sang backing vocals on O.C. Smith’s Love Changes and worked as Choir Supervisor on Donna Summer’s eponymous effort in 1982. A few years later, she was Dancing on the Ceiling with Lionel Richie and recording Rattle and Hum with U2. In 1993, she was a choir member in the Tina Turner biopic, What’s Love Got to Do with It. Three years later, she was a singing nun in Spy Hard and appeared on Neil Diamond’s In My Lifetime. You can also catch her in action on Don Henley Live; Inside Job: Live By Request.
Here she singing “Mister Creator” with The Apollas…