Beyonce has brought an R&B and black cookout classic back to the masses, and the originator of the song is just as excited as the rest of us.
Maze frontman Frankie Beverly wrote and sang the song, which was released as a second single on the band’s 1981 album, “Live in New Orleans.”
Billboard recently spoke to Beverly about Beyonce’s cover, which was included on her “Homecoming: The Live Album” record and released last week. It turns out that, although she and Beverly are friends, he didn’t know about the project until a few weeks before the release of the album and accompanying documentary.
“She’s a great friend of mine, but I didn’t know she was going to do this. I was hearing stuff, but I didn't even want to approach her about it. She kept it quiet, until her people called me one day maybe a week or two ago,” he said. “When they played it, that's when I heard the first draft of it, and I was blown away.
“It’s a blessing. It’s amazing how she works, she’s very smart. I’m caught off guard, but in a beautiful way. She's such a sweet person, too. She's a very sweet, religious kind of person. Then the way she just released it, it’s off the chain. She's done so much, this is one of the high points of my life.”
Beverly said he met Beyonce when she was in her teens. Her mother, Tina Knowles, brought her to Maze’s Houston Rodeo concert.
“She wasn't a big hit star then, but we wound up working together a few times since and she's always been very, very nice to me.” Beverly told the publication. “This cover was just like she is. She didn’t make a big deal out of doing this song, and that's just the way she works. I love the way she does her thing.”
Even before Beyonce launched the #BeforeILetGoChallenge, the song has been played at endless cookouts, family gatherings and Saturday home cleaning sessions. It’s staying power as a cultural staple was unexpected for Beverly.
“I just thought it was a great little song, but I never thought it'd be all this. It really changed everything for me,” Beverly said. “It was a huge song at the time, and it's one of those things this band will be able to carry on forever.”
Read more from Beverly about “Before I Let Go,” including the inspiration for writing the song, at Billboard.com.