On This Day In Music History: Darrell Banks’ record sells for millions

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Darrell Banks’ “Open The Door To Your Heart” is often listed as one of the great one-hit wonders. However, it is unclear if Banks had lived longer, maybe he would have had more hits. All that is speculation. What is known is that Banks’ life was cut short. Ever since the release of “Open The Door To Your Heart” people have argued that perhaps Banks was among the greatest soul singers to ever live.

Banks’ voice is often described as “gospel-edged” soul. Certainly there is an undeniable energy that propels the words he sings. But unfortunately, discussions of his small catalog often brings about the topic of Banks’ untimely death.

Brief life and death of Darrell Banks

Banks was born in Mansfield, Ohio in 1937. He was born Darrell Eubanks and moved to Buffalo, New York when he was a toddler, according to allmusic.com. That Banks sang in church before he became a professional, secular singer is no surprise.

The one-hit wonder label is also not necessarily accurate. Banks had other releases, including a version of “When A Man Loves A Woman.” But it was “Open The Door To Your Heart (1966)” that many audiences remember him for. According to allmusic.com, the song’s “legal name” is “Baby Walk Right In.” The site also details the actions behind the lawsuit in which Banks was sued by “Open The Door To Your Heart’s” co-writer, Donnie Elbert, when Elbert’s name was omitted from the songwriting credit when the song was released. Elbert eventually won.

It was not songwriting that led to Banks’ early death. Instead, he and a police officer appeared to share the same girlfriend. The then-off-duty officer shot Banks in a confrontation and Banks died from his injuries. He was just 32 years old.

Distinctive voices silenced too soon is a motif found in the lives of Sam Cooke, Darrell Banks and Marvin Gaye.

But on this day in 2014, “Open The Door To Your Heart,” once considered the rarest record in the world, was sold for more than 14,000 pounds in London. If nothing else, the sale speaks volumes about Banks’ talent and that audiences still appreciate him. Those facets of his life speak louder than the tragic circumstances that caused the music world to lose another unique voice.

After arriving in Detroit and making a success

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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