JERRY BUTLER / “For Your Precious Love”


Good singers come and go, but a good song is like real estate, it just appreciates. —Jerry Butler
That must have been one hellava church choir: Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield, Chicago, the early fifties. Jerry claims he wrote the lyrics to “For Your Precious Love” when he was 16 years old. In 1958, their group, The Impressions, released “For Your Precious Love.” It was a mega-hit, albeit also their undoing. VeeJay records decided to release the single as “Jerry Butler And The Impressions.” Predictably, some of the fellas didn’t dig that too tuff—how many split-ups of groups happen because of record company manipulations? Jerry went on to have a long and strong singing career, and though he continues to sing he has also gone into politics. He is an elected official in Chicago. jerry butler.jpg It’s almost fifty years since the song’s release—he’s still singing it. But for every up, there is a down; success can morph into a trap. A hit song sung too often becomes boring and ultimately repulsive, yet, somehow, Jerry Butler continues to find ways to mine diamonds from the ore of this particular piece of well-worked aural real estate. We’ve also got the original release here in addition to his definitive performance at an awards program in 2002. The newer version not only sounds better (partly due to better audio fidelity), but more importantly Jerry Butler sings better, with more passion, more subtlety, and more artistry in how he phrases the lyric—in particular, dig that held note at the end, which instead of falling off, actually rises up with a high-holy finesse that is awesome. Perhaps it’s the patina of experience—black male weathering vicious 20th century American racism—with all the vicissitudes, twists, and frustrations inherent in such a marching through the slaughter. Or maybe what colors Butler’s baritone is the daily ups and downs, the momentary exhilarations inevitably followed by abysmal disappointments. Whatever. For certain, we are listening to the gigantic magnificence of one of the strong ones sounding out the cadence of survival. All of that is in that veteran’s voice. No way could Jerry the teenager have offered us what the mature Mr. Butler does. Sure his voice was clearer back then—none of the gravel, just the clarity of sweet water, but as Billie Holiday definitively proved with Lady In Satin, with but a wisp of what one’s voice used to be, if you put your heart and soul into the song, it will shine resplendently, more lasting than bronze, more beautiful than gold. Plus, you know, this is the age of instant gratification, instant on (and instant off) commercial careers—can you imagine any rapper, even L.L. Cool J, being able to enthrall an audience doing the same song he did FORTY-SOME years earlier, only doing it better!??!! And to be clear, I don’t mean that assessment as a knock on rap. It’s equally true of every contemporary music form (classical, jazz, blues, folk, rock or whatever). Nowadays, the life cycle of an artist is mayfly short, as opposed to an elephant’s age of yesteryear. What we have here and now is a totally different aesthetic, and fortunately for us, what we also have are artists such as Jerry Butler who not only understand the difference in approaches to what having a career means, but who actually embody artistic longevity. They are icons of a higher order compared to the fifteen-minutes-of-fame celebs. They are long distance turtles in an era that celebrates jackrabbits. And to completely mix the metaphor, Jerry Butler is the battery bunny, still going. Still Going! Still. GOING. STRONG! Go head on, brother Butler, with your bad self. Vive la difference! —Kalamu ya Salaam             Why bring rap into it?         Re: “Can you imagine any rapper, even L.L. Cool J, being able to enthrall an audience doing the same song he did FORTY-SOME years earlier, only doing it better!??!!” Why bring rap into it? What’s that got to do with anything? I got a story for y’all. In 1989, I was 15 years old. I used to hang out a lot at my Uncle Eric’s house where, in his den, he had a monster amp and a set of speakers with giant woofers. I specifically remember my uncle Eric coming home one day while I was blasting some rap music. He asked me if I really thought people would “still be listening to that stuff twenty years from now.” Then he pulled records from his collection—Earth, Wind & Fire, Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Santana, Prince—to show me examples of ‘real’ music. The obvious implication was that the rap I was listening to wasn’t music. Want to know what that record it was I happened to be listening to? It was Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. Now remember: a couple of weeks ago, we featured Public Enemy as a Classic track. In four years, it will be 20 years since Nation was released. Will people still be listening to it in four years? You’d better believe it. Will there be a hip-hop artist who is still around, still performing and still receiving the same type of love that Jerry Butler is receiving here in another twenty years? You’d better believe it. —Mtume ya Salaam  

          I stand corrected            

you are absolutely correct, there was no need to single out rap on this tip—in fact, as i think about it, i'm sure some of the rap recordings will hold up better than most of the rhythm&blues, soul, neo-soul or whatever you want to call non-rap, contemporary black popular music. my point actually should have been about the passing of an era and what that passing means rather any comparison or veiled put-down of contemporary Black music. i know better and, in this case, failed to do better. mtume, you were right to call me on it. i did have a point i was driving toward but i'll make it in the weeks ahead when the merits of the point are not distorted or muffled by my foot being in my mouth. ;->) —Kalamu ya Salaam  

This entry was posted on Sunday, September 4th, 2005 at 12:01 am and is filed under Classic. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

11 Responses to “JERRY BUTLER / “For Your Precious Love””

Scholar Says:
September 4th, 2005 at 11:16 pm

Just wanted to commend you for posting Jerry Butler, as I have a great love for his music. The quality of the selections you’ve offered so far is unparalleled by the vast majority of other mp3 blogs. I hope that you are planning to continue doing this for quite some time…your efforts are greatly appreciated.

I am very sorry about what is happening to your city right now. It is so sad as to be unspeakable. I can’t begin to imagine what you (and others) are going through, nor can I find words that would be comforting in light of something so tragic. All that I know to do is wish you peace and wellness….Scholar

Mardis Says:
September 7th, 2005 at 12:05 am

I’m new to the post so… well, let it be what it will be.

Thanks for the Jerry Butler. As a child it was Jerry that my mother chose as her single musical vice on the turntable while the rest of us, my dad included, watched Saturday Night Wrestling, Roller Derby and The Great Hercules. Were it not for a bathroom break I would never have discovered her joy and love for the soulful, drowning depths of Brother Butler’s smooth and proper wail. As well, I would never have known to seek that same response from my own jaunts at writing poetry and little songs.

Jerry Butler was my intro into what is clearly a delicate cajole. My mother stroked her hair at the intro to this very song, then wiped her eyes twice before he finished the second line. By the time he reached …”but darling I failed to realize…” she was in full out repose. I, from that first saturday night occurrence, was on the other side of the door taking in the eloquence of the voice and the beat…the essence of the woo, if you will. It was also a time when the idea of song as ethos began to take hold. It was also a time when everlasting love drafted my young heart into its pitiful ranks.

This selection and the latter-year version, both beg the heart toward first love. “Love wider, deeper than any sea” is a line that yearns from the heart eternally. In youth you can’t imagine any other love. In the years that include marriage and the faltering love of that era, eternal first love is a reimagined bloom in the depth of nights when the back-to-back distance is paining you toward divorce as a real option to not having the hope of even empassioned kisses for another stretch of nights.

Jerry’s seasoning is finally as much in the lyric as in the interpretation and stylizations. Call it gravel or passion or any other selection, but the worth of it lays completely in the willingness to give it up again through the years. Reimagine. Remake. Regurgitate. All are worthy of the vinyl or whatever they make CD’s from. Hey, like the poet knows, just tell the folks that it is possible to know again what you knew was possible between two people…even if one was merely sitting astride the decisions of a life on a saturday night imagining the wealth of passion as it is played out through the combing of wails and laughter in a shotgun house with a pillow pressed against the breast until the music fades into tiny thunders of applause and the needle resets.

Anonymous Says:
November 29th, 2005 at 2:10 pm

notes to your precious love

Jason Caruana Says:
February 1st, 2007 at 2:28 pm

I absolutely love everything you’ve ever done!!!!! god bless

walter goulet Says:
September 3rd, 2008 at 3:12 pm

This song,( for your precious love) is so beautifully
sung by Jerry Butler . Just emencely so beautiful.
He is the best!

nick Says:
September 5th, 2008 at 3:24 pm

hi does anyone know hat studio this song was recorded in originally, and is the original the one where the main vocal is panned all the way over to the right? I know its a bit odd but I really need the information

April 26th, 2009 at 6:56 pm


April 26th, 2009 at 7:11 pm


Lilly Says:
April 11th, 2011 at 6:58 pm

THX that’s a great asnewr!

Patti Says:
April 26th, 2011 at 6:22 am

I’ve loved For Your Precious love from the first note the first moment I heard it. It was an “our song” with my first love. One time I recorded it over & over & had a whole cassette full of just this song. Jerry Butler was never better, tho always good.

Paul Says:
July 22nd, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Jerry is so-o-o smooth in “Your precious Love” but his vocals are accentuated in such a fantastic way by the backup singers singing from heaven; who are they? Is Thelma Houston one of them? I would not doubt it…

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