A soul singer whose success as a recording artist never matched his success as a songwriter, Jimmy Holiday is best-known for penning "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" along with Jackie DeShannon and Randy Myers. By the time that song appeared in 1969, Holiday had been grinding away at the soul circuit for over a decade, a trek that culminated in a hit in 1963 with "How Can I Forget" and then a contract with the New Orleans-based R&B label Minit in 1966. Despite strong work, Holiday never became a star and faded away in the '70s.
Born on July 24, 1934 in Durant, Mississippi, Jimmy Holiday was raised in Iowa. After flirting with a career as a boxer, he devoted himself to music, first playing alto saxophone in jazz combos before transitioning to writing and singing R&B. He released his first single, "Voice of the Drums," on the Los Angeles-based Four Star in 1958, but it stiffed and it took him a while before he wound up on Everest Records in the early '60s. Everest put out Holiday's "How Can I Forget" in 1963, and it unexpectedly took off, climbing all the way to eight on Billboard's R&B charts while reaching 57 on the Hot 100. Further singles for Everest didn't go anywhere and he hopped around recording for a number of smaller imprints -- KIT, Tip Records, Diplomacy -- before signing with Minit in 1966.
Minit was where Holiday recorded the bulk of his catalog. "Baby I Love You," his first single for the label, wound up peaking at 21 in 1966 and while that wound up being his biggest hit at Minit, his work at the label is generally held in high regard among soul aficionados. A full album called The Turning Point showed up in 1966 and it went to 25 on the Billboard R&B charts. In 1967, "Everybody Needs Help" went to 36 and the funky "Spread Your Love" did one better in 1968, peaking at 35, but by that point his career was starting to slow. Worse, his health was starting to go: he collapsed after a concert in June 1968 and needed to have open heart surgery. He wound up spending much of the next year writing instead of performing, but he returned to recording in 1969 with "I'm Gonna Use What I Got," while continuing to work with DeShannon and Myers. Holiday's final single for Minit, "A Man Ain't Nothin' Without a Woman," showed up in 1970 and, like his 1969 sides, it failed to do business so his time with the label came to an end.
Holiday next recorded for Dial, releasing "Save Me" in 1971 and when that didn't catch, a fallow period followed before he showed up in the mid-'70s on Ray Charles' label Crossover. His single for the label, "When I'm Loving You," also didn't catch attention so Holiday decided to concentrate on writing. Eventually, he moved back to Iowa, where he died of heart failure on February 15, 1987. His Minit recordings have showed up on budget-line CD compilations over the years, but Ace's 2015 set Spread Your Love: The Complete Minit Singles 1965-1970 collected them all and offered the first biography courtesy of Tony Rounce's liner notes. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine