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R&B Singer-Songwriter Leon Haywood Dies at 74

R&B singer-songwriter Leon Haywood, whose 1974 hit single “I Want’a Do Something Freaky to You” was memorably repurposed by Dr. Dre’s “Nuthin but a ‘G’ Thang,” died on Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was 74.

Born in Houston, Haywood moved to Los Angeles in the 1960s and found work as a keyboardist, most notably with Big Jay McNeely and as a part of Sam Cooke’s touring band. He notched a pair of minor R&B chart hits at the end of the decade, first on Imperial with “She’s With Her Other Love” and then on Decca (the Motown-inspired “It’s Got to Be Mellow”).

After a fallow period as a solo artist, Haywood reemerged in the mid-1970s as a reliable crafter of mid-tempo, string-drenched funk anthems on 20th Century Fox Records.  “Stroking (Pt. II),” “Come and Get Yourself Some” and the Sly Stone-indebted “Keep It in the Family” were all hits on the R&B chart, while “I Want’a Do Something Freaky to You” reached No. 15 on the pop singles chart in 1975.

A slow-burning bedroom jam with a lengthy intro, the latter song provided Dr. Dre’s “‘G’ Thang” with all its most recognizable instrumental elements: the wah-wah guitar, stuttering bassline and whiny synth riff. Dre’s song was the signature single from his 1992 album “The Chronic,” which has since been certified triple Platinum. (Haywood’s 1974 cut “That Sweet Woman of Mine” would later become a sample source for J. Cole and Cam’ron.)

After three albums for Columbia and MCA, Haywood returned to 20th Century for 1980 single “Don’t Push It Don’t Force It,” an infectious disco funk workout that reached No. 2 on the R&B chart and made headway in the U.K. (Haywood’s  LP “Naturally,” released that same year, also included “Lover’s Rap,” an experiment with hip-hop at a time when much of the R&B establishment still considered rap something of a passing youth fad.) A year later, he wrote a Grammy-nominated Top 40 hit for labelmate Carl Carlton, “She’s a Bad Mama Jama,” before seguing into a career as a producer.

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