James Carr; Influential Soul Singer

James Carr, 58, a singer who was widely admired by soul-music connoisseurs but whose career was sidetracked by mental illness. The son of a Baptist minister, Carr was born in Mississippi and began singing with gospel groups, including the Redemption Harmonizers with future rhythm and blues star O.V. Wright. Carr, who specialized in anguished ballads, recorded the original version of Chips Moman and Dan Penn's classic "Dark End of the Street" for Memphis' Goldwax label, and it became a Top 10 R&B; hit in 1967. Several of his records reached the lower rungs of the Hot 100 pop chart. One of them, Drew Baker and Danny McCormick's "Pouring Water on a Drowning Man," was later recorded by Elvis Costello. Linda Ronstadt and Aretha Franklin are just two of the many singers who have essayed "Dark End of the Street." Otis Redding's manager Phil Walden took over Carr's career in 1966, but the singer's potential to match Redding's stature was undercut by mental problems that led to periods of disorientation. Frequently hospitalized and sometimes impoverished, he recorded and performed sporadically in the 1970s and '80s and released collections of new material in 1991 and 1993. The Razor & Tie label issued an anthology of Carr's recordings in 1995. On Sunday in Memphis of cancer.

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