Blood, Sweat & Tears is a Canadian-American jazz-rock music group. They are noted for their combination of brass and rock band instrumentation. The group recorded songs by rock/folk songwriters such as Laura Nyro, James Taylor, the Band and the Rolling Stones as well as Billie Holiday and Erik Satie. They also incorporated music from Thelonious Monk and Sergei Prokofiev into their arrangements.
They were originally formed in 1967 in New York City. Since their beginnings, the band has gone through numerous iterations with varying personnel and has encompassed a multitude of musical styles. The band is most notable for their fusion of rock, blues, pop music, horn arrangements and jazz improvisation into a hybrid that came to be known as "jazz-rock". Unlike "jazz fusion" bands, which tend toward virtuosic displays of instrumental facility and some experimentation with electric instruments, the songs of Blood, Sweat & Tears merged the stylings of rock, pop and R&B/soul music with big band, while also adding elements of 20th-century classical and small combo jazz traditions.
Al Kooper, Jim Fielder, Fred Lipsius, Randy Brecker, Jerry Weiss, Dick Halligan, Steve Katz and Bobby Colomby formed the original band. Kooper was the group's initial bandleader, having insisted on that position based on his experiences with the Blues Project. In addition, Kooper's fame as a high-profile contributor to various historic sessions of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and others was a catalyst for the prominent debut of Blood, Sweat & Tears in the musical counterculture of the mid-sixties.
Kooper, Colomby, Katz and Fielder did a show as a quartet at the Village Theatre (later to become the Fillmore East) in New York City on September 16, 1967, with James Cotton Blues Band opening. Fred Lipsius then joined the others a month later. A few more shows were played as a quintet. Lipsius then recruited the other three, Dick Halligan, Randy Brecker and Jerry Weiss, who were New York jazz horn players Lipsius knew. The final lineup debuted at the Cafe Au Go Go on November 17–19, 1967, then moved over to play The Scene the following week. The band was a hit with the audience, who liked the innovative fusion of jazz with acid rock and psychedelia.
After signing to Columbia Records, the group released Child Is Father to the Man. The album slowly picked up in sales despite growing artistic differences among the founding members which resulted in several personnel changes for the second album. Colomby and Katz wanted to move Kooper exclusively to keyboard and composing duties, while hiring a stronger vocalist for the group, causing Kooper's departure in April 1968. He became a record producer for the Columbia label, but not before arranging some songs that would be on the next BS&T album.
After Kooper left the group, Colomby and Katz began to look for a new vocalist, considering Alex Chilton, Stephen Stills, and Laura Nyro. Ultimately, they decided upon David Clayton-Thomas, a Canadian singer, born in Surrey, England. The reconstituted nine-member band debuted at New York's Cafe Au Go Go on June 18, 1968, beginning a two-week residency.
The group's second album, Blood, Sweat & Tears, was produced by James William Guercio and released in late 1968. It was more pop-oriented, featuring fewer compositions by the band. The record quickly hit the top of the charts, winning Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards over the Beatles' Abbey Road, among other nominees. Three hit singles were released from Blood, Sweat & Tears: a cover of Berry Gordy and Brenda Holloway's "You've Made Me So Very Happy", Clayton-Thomas' "Spinning Wheel", and a version of Nyro's "And When I Die". Each of these three #2 singles was on Billboard Magazine 's Hot 100 chart for 13 weeks.
The commercial and critical acclaim enjoyed by the band in 1969 culminated in an appearance at Woodstock, in which the band enjoyed headliner status. The festival's film crew even caught the band's opening number, "More and More", as they took to the stage. But the band's manager at the time, Bennett Glotzer, ordered the movie crew to turn off the cameras and leave the stage since the band had not agreed nor been paid to be filmed.
While Blood, Sweat & Tears achieved commercial success alongside similarly configured ensembles such as Chicago and the Electric Flag, the band had difficulty maintaining its status as a counterculture icon at a time when record company executives deemed this characteristic important as a tool to lure young consumers. This was compounded by the band going on a United States Department of State-sponsored tour of Eastern Europe in May/June 1970. Any voluntary association with the government was highly unpopular at the time, and the band was ridiculed for it.
After returning to the U.S., the group released Blood, Sweat & Tears 3 (June 1970). The album was another popular success, spawning hit singles with a cover of Carole King's "Hi-De-Ho" and another Clayton-Thomas composition, "Lucretia MacEvil". While this was a successful attempt to re-create the amalgam of styles found on the previous album, the band again depended almost exclusively on cover material. Album reviews sometimes focused solely upon the band's willingness to work with the U.S. State Department, without bothering to discuss the actual music. Compounding the image problems of the band was a decision to play at Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip, widely seen at the time as a mainstream venue for acts that did not engage in radical politics. In late 1970, the band provided music for the soundtrack of the film comedy The Owl and the Pussycat , which starred Barbra Streisand and George Segal, further damaging the group's underground reputation.
Following this period of controversy, the group reconvened in San Francisco in January 1971and they recorded material that would form the basis of their fourth album, BS&T 4, which was released in June 1971. For the first time since the first album, Blood, Sweat & Tears presented a repertoire of songs composed almost entirely from within the group. BS&T 4 broke into the album charts, but none of the singles from the album managed to land in the Top 30, and the period after the release of the fourth album began the group's commercial decline.