Don Covay (born Donald Randolph, March 24, 1938 – January 30, 2015) was an American R&B, rock and roll and soul singer and songwriter most active in the 1950s and 1960s. He received a Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1994.
Donald Randolph was born in Orangeburg, South Carolina, United States. His father a Baptist preacher died when Don was eight. Covay resettled in Washington D.C. during the early 1950s and initially sang in the Cherry Keys, his family's gospel quartet. He crossed over to secular music with the Rainbows, a formative group which also included Marvin Gaye and Billy Stewart. Covay's solo career began in 1957 as part of the Little Richard Revue.
A single "Bip Bop Bip" was released on Atlantic and produced by Little Richard, on which Covay was billed as "Pretty Boy". It also featured his backing band the Upsetters. Over the next few years Covay drifted from label to label, but a further dance-oriented track called "Popeye Waddle" was a hit in 1962. He also wrote and recorded "Pony Time" which later became a US #1 single for Chubby Checker. Covay meanwhile honed his songwriting skills by penning a hit for Solomon Burke, "I'm Hanging Up My Heart for You", while Gladys Knight & The Pips reached the US Top 20 with "Letter Full of Tears".
Covay's singing career continued to falter until 1964, when he signed to the Rosemart label. His debut single there with the Goodtimers, "Mercy Mercy" (accompanied by a young Jimi Hendrix on guitar), established his earthy bluesy style. Atlantic bought his contract, but, while several R&B hits followed, it was a year before Covay returned to the pop chart. "See Saw", co-written with Steve Cropper and recorded at Stax, paved the way for more hits.
Don Covay's songs still remain successful: Aretha Franklin won a Grammy for her performance of his composition "Chain of Fools". He is a legendary composer and singer, best known for his R&B classic compositions "Mercy Mercy", "Chain of Fools", "See Saw" and "Sookie Sookie". Covay had success as a singer as Don Covay and The Goodtimers, and his compositions have been recorded by such varied artists as Steppenwolf, Bobby Womack, The Rolling Stones, Wilson Pickett, The Small Faces, Grant Green, Peter Wolf and many more.
Don Covay had a stroke in 1992, and the following year Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones appeared, with Iggy Pop, Todd Rundgren and others on a Covay tribute album Back to the Streets: Celebrating the Music of Don Covay. The same year he was presented by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation with one of its Pioneer Awards.
He released an album Adlib in 2000 on the Cannonball label, his first album in 23 years. Collaborating musicians included Paul Rodgers, Wilson Pickett, Lee Konitz, Otis Clay, Kim Simmonds, Ann Peebles, Syl Johnson, Paul Shaffer, Huey Lewis, and Dan Penn. The cover art was by Ronnie Wood.
Covay died on January 30, 2015 at the age of 76.