R.B. Greaves, a pop singer whose “Take a Letter, Maria” was a 1969 hit, died of prostate cancer on Sept. 27 in Los Angeles. He was 68.
A nephew of the legendary R&B singer Sam Cook, Ronald Bertram Greaves was born on a U.S. Air Force base in the former British Guyana.
Living in the U.K. in the 1960s, he recorded several soul singles as Sonny Childe, but he scored his biggest hit as R.B. Greaves after moving to the U.S.
“Take a Letter, Maria” tells the story of a man who comes home to find “the woman I thought I knew in the arms of another man.”
He dictates a final letter to her through his secretary with the chorus: “Take a letter, Maria. Address it to my wife. Say I won’t be coming home, gonna start a new life.”
The tune ends on a hopeful note, however, as the man asks his secretary out to dinner.
The song, with its soul style, catchy chorus and brassy horn edge, went to No. 2 on the Billboard chart in 1969. It earned Greaves a gold record, selling a million copies, and remains a popular oldie.
Greaves also broke into the top 40 in 1970 with his version of the Burt Bacharach-Hal David tune “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me.”
His career flagged in the 1970s, however.