R.B. Greaves, a smooth R&B crooner who scored a No. 2 hit in 1969 with the infectious break-up song “Take a Letter, Maria,” died September 27 in Los Angeles. He was 68.
The singer’s son confirmed the news, according to the New York Times, but provided no other information on cause of death.
Armed with a voice reminiscent of Sam Cooke, his uncle, Greaves’ upbeat “Take a Letter, Maria” is sung from the perspective of a husband dictating a Dear John letter to his secretary, named Maria.
“So take a letter, Maria, address it to my wife/Say I won’t be coming home, gonna start a new life.”
The song, which Greaves wrote, was released Oct. 18, 1969 and peaked just weeks later at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Over the course of the next year he charted four more times, but only with new versions of other songs, the most successful being Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Always Something There to Remind Me,” which reached No. 27 on Jan. 24, 1970.
“Maria” only spent one week at No. 2, and was kept from the top spot by the 5th Dimension’s “The Wedding Bell Blues.”
Greaves, born Nov. 28, 1943, spent time in Georgetown (then British Guayana) and a California Seminole reservation before pursuing a music career in England in the early ’60s. He led the group Sonny Childe and the TNT’s before going solo in the U.S., releasing “Take a Letter, Maria” on his album “R.B. Greaves.” He later moved to Los Angeles, where he worked in the technology industry following his days on the charts.