I got myself a present recently: Wendy Rene – After Laughter Comes Tears, a double LP from Light in the Attic stuffed with 22 stellar tracks from the Memphis soul singer, who recorded for Stax & Volt from 1964 to 1965. Wendy sang backup for Otis Redding and Rufus Thomas, but her solo recordings, and those she released with her group, The Drapels, are outstanding in their own right.
Wendy wrote her first hit, After Laughter Comes Tears, when she was in high school. It put her on the map back then, and brought her recognition again in the 1990s, when it was sampled by the Wu Tang Clan. The song is a masterpiece, if you ask me.
Her start as an artist kicked off when she walked into the Stax studios with her brother and two friends and auditioned — a 1960s dream come true for a Memphis kid. This comp includes some of the Drapels’ recordings, too, and they fit in seamlessly, with Wendy’s voice guiding the group.
Wendy passed away in 2014, but not before she got to take the stage once again at Ponderosa Stomp 2010, a show I’ll always be sad I missed. She retired from music after she became a mother, right around the time Otis died on his way to a show where she was supposed to be his background singer, but had to cancel at the last minute. She left an indelible mark on soul music, on Stax, on Memphis, and I’m so glad we have labels like Light in the Attic making lovely tributes and collections of her work that will endure for ages to come.