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From The Vault (2018): Jingles, Dilla Samples & Donny Hathaway with Bonnie Herman of Singers Unlimited

Written by on January 21, 2022

On a trip to Cuba in 2017, host of Reclaimed Soul Ayana Contreras picked up a vinyl record she thought looked interesting. Back in the States, she found out the album had a direct connection to Chicago’s music and advertising world in vocalist Bonnie Herman.

Bonnie Herman; via Peter Shelton on YouTube.

Upon listening to the record back in the U.S., a compilation of covers sung by Coro Nacional de Cuba, an angelic choral version of the Beatles’ “Michelle” “just totally knocked [Contreras] out.” She featured the recording in a segment on NPR news program “Here and Now” highlighting, as she described, “interesting covers of songs.”

Not long after the broadcast, Contreras was pointed to the recording’s original choral arrangement by The Singers Unlimited, a four-part vocal jazz group out of Chicago formed by Gene Puerling in 1971. Then one of them reached out: Chicagoan Bonnie Herman, a gifted vocalist and the original voice behind popular jingles you might recognize — including “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there,” ads for McDonald’s, Sears and more.

On an installment of Reclaimed Soul in fall 2018, Contreras and Herman sat down to discuss The Singers Unlimited and their samples featured in modern works by artists like Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus and J Dilla. The two also reflected on Herman’s achievements in jingle production — a world which, as described by Contreras, is “full of melodies that get drilled into our heads, even as the voices behind them too often remain anonymous.”

This episode of Reclaimed Soul originally aired on Vocalo 91.1 in 2018, and is currently available on SoundCloud. Listen to their full conversation below.

Written by Morgan Ciocca

Interview by Ayana Contreras

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