Jerry Butler (born Jerry Butler Jr., December 8, 1939, Sunflower, Mississippi) is an American soul singer and songwriter also known as "The Ice Man" because of his cool demeanour while singing often intensely emotional lyrics. He is also noted as being the original lead singer of the legendary R&B vocal group, The Impressions, as well as a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.
The mid-1950s had a profound impact on Butler’s life. He grew up poor, having lived in Chicago’s rough Cabrini Green housing complex. Music and the church provided solace from a city that was as segregated as those in the Deep South. He performed in a church choir with Curtis Mayfield. As a teenager, Butler sang in a gospel quartet called Northern Jubilee Gospel Singers, along with Mayfield. Mayfield, a guitar player, became the lone instrumentalist for the six-member Roosters group, which later became The Impressions. Inspired by music icons Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers, the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, and the Pilgrim Travelers, getting into the music industry seemed inevitable.
Butler's younger brother, Billy Butler, also had a career in the music industry.
At age 18, Butler wrote the song "For Your Precious Love" and wanted to record a disc. Looking for recording studios, The Impressions auditioned for Chess Records and VeeJay Records. The group eventually signed with Vee-Jay, where they released "For Your Precious Love" in 1958, which became The Impressions' first hit and gold record. Due to conflicts between the group and Vee-Jay, which wanted to bill the group as "Jerry Butler and The Impressions," which neither Butler nor the other group members wanted, he left the group shortly thereafter.
Butler was dubbed the "Iceman" by WDAS Philadelphia disc jockey, Georgie Woods, while performing in a Philadelphia theater. When the sound system went out, Butler continued singing.
He co-wrote, with Otis Redding, the song "I've Been Loving You Too Long" in 1965. Butler’s solo career had a string of hits, including the Top 10 successes "He Will Break Your Heart", "Find Another Girl", "I'm A-Telling You" (all written by fellow Impression Curtis Mayfield and featuring Mayfield as harmony vocal), "Only the Strong Survive," "Moon River," "Need To Belong" (recorded with the Impressions after he went solo), "Make It Easy On Yourself," "Let It Be Me" (with Betty Everett), "Brand New Me," "Ain’t Understanding Mellow" (with Brenda Lee Eager), "Hey, Western Union Man," and "Never Gonna Give You Up." Butler released two successful albums, The Ice Man Cometh (1968) and Ice On Ice (1970). The Iceman Cometh garnered Butler three Grammy nominations. He collaborated on many of his successful recordings with the Philadelphia-based songwriting team, Gamble and Huff.
Tony Orlando and Dawn revived "He Will Break Your Heart" in 1975, with a new title, "He Don't Love You (Like I Love You)," and it was even more successful than Butler's original, going to #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 pop chart.
Butler continues to perform while serving as a Cook County Board Commissioner since the 1980s. In recent years, he has served as host of PBS TV music specials, such as Doo Wop 50 and 51, Rock Rhythm and Doo Wop, and Soul Spectacular: 40 years of R&B, among others. He has also served as Chairman of the Board of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. In 1991, Butler was inducted, along with the other original members of the Impressions, Curtis Mayfield, Sam Gooden, Fred Cash, and Arthur and Richard Brooks, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
He currently resides in Chicago with his wife Annette. He has two sons, Randy and Tony, and a grandson.
- Jerry Butler Esquire (Abner 1959)
- He Will Break Your Heart (Vee Jay 1960)
- Love Me (Vee Jay 1961)
- Aware Of Love (Vee Jay 1961)
- Moon River (Vee Jay 1962)
- Folk Songs (Vee Jay 1963)
- Need To Belong (Vee Jay 1964)
- with Betty Everett: Delicious Together (Vee Jay 1964)
- Soul Artistry (Mercury 1967)
- Mr Dream Merchant (Mercury 1967)
- Jerry Butler's Golden Hits Live (Mercury 1968)
- Just Beautiful (Mercury 1968)
- The Soul Goes On (Mercury 1968)
- The Ice Man Cometh (Mercury 1968) / alternate
- Ice On Ice (Mercury 1969)
- You & Me (Mercury 1970) / alternate
- Special Memory (Mercury 1970)
- Jerry Butler Sings Assorted Sounds By Assorted Friends And Relatives (Mercury 1971) / FLAC
- with Gene Chandler Gene & Jerry - One & One (Mercury 1971)
- The Sagittarius Movement (Mercury 1971) / alternate / alternate
- The Spice Of Life (Mercury 1972) / alternate
- Melinda (Mercury 1972)
- Introducing The Ice Man Band (Mercury 1972) at My Favourite Sound
- w/ Brenda Lee Eager: The Love We Have, The Love We Had (Mercury 1973) at Fullundie
- The Power Of Love (Mercury 1973) / alternate
- Sweet Sixteen (Mercury 1974) / alternate
- Love's On The Menu (Motown 1976)
- Make It Easy On Yourself (Motown 1976)
- Suite For The Single Girl (Motown 1977)
- w/ Thelma Houston: Thelma And Jerry (Motown 1977) - right-click cover for link / alternate
- w/ Thelma Houston: Two To One (Motown 1978) at Fullundie
- It All Comes Out In My Song (Motown 1978) at blogsportsoul
- Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You (Philadelphia International 1978)
- Best Love I Ever Had (Philadelphia International 1981)
- Ice 'N Hot (Fountain 1982) - right-click cover for link
- Time & Faith (1993)
- Simply Beautiful (Valley Vue 1994)
- "The Sweetest Soul" - The Vee Jay Hits 1960-1966 And More...
- includes Jerry singing two Coca-Cola commercials