One-Hit Wonders / Second-Best Songs: Ronnie Dyson's 'Ain't Nothing Wrong' For One-Hit Wonders/Second-Best Songs, Mark Anthony Neal recommends Ronnie Dyson's "Ain't Nothing Wrong." He's known mostly for 1970's "(If You Let Me Make Love to You Then) Why Can't I Touch You?"

Ronnie Dyson: A Transitional Soul Figure Lost To Time

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In 1970, this song hit the Top 10.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "(IF YOU LET ME MAKE LOVE TO YOU THEN) WHY CAN'T I TOUCH YOU?")

RONNIE DYSON: (Singing) If you let me make love to you, then why can't I touch you?

GREENE: "Why Can't I Touch You?" was a hit for 20-year-old Ronnie Dyson. But outside of one big role on Broadway, he never scored another hit song. Mark Anthony Neal says we're missing out. Neal is the author of "What The Music Said: Black Popular Music And Black Public Culture." He chose Ronnie Dyson for our series One-Hit Wonders/Second-Best Songs.

MARK ANTHONY NEAL: "Why Can't I Touch You?" - you know, it doesn't sound like - and this is going to sound weird. It doesn't sound like a black record (laughter). You know, it sounds like a real kind of mainstream pop song, you know, something that Glen Campbell might have sang.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "(IF YOU LET ME MAKE LOVE TO YOU THEN) WHY CAN'T I TOUCH YOU?")

DYSON: (Singing) From the very first moment I saw you, it's been a different world.

NEAL: His forte really was the show tune. He got signed at age 17 to appear did the musical "Hair." And in fact, he sings "Aquarius."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AQUARIUS")

DYSON: (Singing) When the moon is in the Seventh House and Jupiter aligns with Mars...

NEAL: And he was able to translate that kind of moment of stardom into a recording contract from Columbia. So Ronnie Dyson does a couple of records and, you know, takes a pause for about three years, and then he records a kind of comeback album in 1976. And for the follow-up album, "Love In All Flavors," he reaches out to the combination of Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy, the songwriters for Natalie Cole, and they were at the height of their powers, the peak of their fame. And so they give him this song called "Ain't Nothing Wrong."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AIN'T NOTHING WRONG")

DYSON: (Singing) All my friends call me a fool.

NEAL: And it is such a beautiful ballad that he turns into almost a church experience.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AIN'T NOTHING WRONG")

DYSON: (Singing) ...Find that - it ain't nothing wrong - ain't nothing wrong in loving you - in loving you.

NEAL: Ronnie Dyson passed away in 1990. He was only 40 years old. And in many ways, you know, he's one of those transitional figures who gets lost. This is a period in time in which black R&B and soul singers were seen as a kind of extension of black masculinity. When you think about the gruffness of the lead singers of The O'Jays, when you think about a Teddy Pendergrass, you know, they brought a bass quality to their voice. Barry White is another great example.

And Ronnie Dyson was a direct opposite of that. You know, he was a falsetto singer and not just singing falsetto in the ways that we think about in Eddie Kendricks or Smokey Robinson, but incredibly emotive. And I think that was held against him for some audiences that were looking for a different sound from black male vocalists in that era.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AIN'T NOTHING WRONG")

DYSON: (Singing) Well...

NEAL: This is someone who should have generated more attention then and we clearly need to remember now.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AIN'T NOTHING WRONG")

DYSON: (Singing) And you can always call me - yeah, yeah.

GREENE: That's Mark Anthony Neal, professor of African and African American studies at Duke University. Ronnie Dyson's "Ain't Nothing Wrong" is his choice for our series "One-Hit Wonders/Second-Best Songs." Our series was produced by Phil Harrell.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AIN'T NOTHING WRONG")

DYSON: (Singing) Ain't nothing wrong...

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