b. r. guthrie

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On this day in music history: September 6, 1986 - “Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But The Rent” by Gwen Guthrie hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also topping the Club Play chart for 2 weeks on August 23, 1986. Written by Gwen Guthrie, it is the biggest hit for the R&B singer and songwriter from Newark, NJ. Born in small town in rural Oklahoma, Gwen Guthrie’s family will relocate to Newark, NJ while she is a child. Coming from a musical household, she’ll learn piano from her father and study classical music in school, and sing in various vocal groups. Guthrie will attend college and train to become a schoolteacher, but fate will intervene, and she will get her big break in the music business. In 1974, Gwen will be asked to sing background vocals for Aretha Franklin on the song “I’m In Love” (#1 R&B, #19 Pop). Singing along side established veterans including Cissy Houston, Guthrie will make an immediate impression, leading to more lucrative work as a background vocalist and commercial jingle singer. During this time, she will co-write Ben E. King’s comeback hit “Supernatural Thing” (#1 R&B, #5 Pop) and “This Time I’ll Be Sweeter” (#23 R&B, #104 Pop), becoming the first hit for singer Angela Bofill. Guthrie’s work with innovative producer/musicians Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare in the early 80’s will put her on the map as a solo vocal star while signed to Island Records, as will her collaborations with club DJ icon Larry Levan, who will remix the classic “Padlock”. Signed to Polydor Records in early 1986, Gwen Guthrie will begin work on her first album for the label with David “Pic” Conley of the R&B group Surface. The inspiration for her biggest hit will come from Guthrie’s grandfather, who would often reply with the phrase “ain’t nothin’ goin’ on but the rent” when someone would ask him what was going on with him. That hook along with the lyric “no romance without finance” will make the song an anthem for many women, though many men will misconstrue the lyrics as women “being materialistic”, instead of the actual message of both parties being on equal footing  in a relationship. Regardless, the song will become an instant club classic, rising up the R&B and dance charts simultaneously. Larry Levan will also remix the 12" version of “Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But The Rent” which will also become a best seller. “Rent” will attain additional pop culture status when comedian Eddie Murphy quotes lyrics from the song in his 1987 concert film “Raw”.