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Classic Soul from an Unlikely Source

The life story of William Darondo Pulliam (a.k.a. "Double D" or "Dynamite D") remains subject to myth and mystery: His label once reported that he'd worked as a pimp for many years, a claim the singer now denies. Whatever his day job at the time, in the early '70s, Darondo recorded his sole commercial output as a musician, crafting three singles for three different studios.

Darondo's backstory would seem likely to overwhelm the music itself -- and, no, this isn't a reference to recent Oscar winner Three 6 Mafia. In particular, "Didn't I" is almost unimaginably transcendent: a slice of sweet soul that has survived 30 years and continues to captivate. Though Darondo owes much of his style to Al Green, the track gives Green's best songs a run for their money: The song's every element is sublime, from the opening guitar line to Ray Dobard's sweeping string arrangement to Darondo's delicate vocals, which reveal a fragile vulnerability.

"Didn't I" would have remained strictly in the domain of record collectors had it not been for the efforts of some of those collectors -- Justin Torres and Gilles Peterson among them -- to bring it more mainstream attention. After Torres found Darondo, the Luv N' Haight label discovered a previously unreleased reel of music the singer had recorded. Those recordings, along with the three singles, comprise the recent Let My People Go, which is bringing Darondo's music to a new audience after three decades in obscurity.

Listen to yesterday's "Song of the Day."

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Oliver Wang is an culture writer, scholar, and DJ based in Los Angeles. He's the author of Legions of Boom: Filipino American Mobile DJ Crews of the San Francisco Bay Area and a professor of sociology at CSU-Long Beach. He's the creator of the audioblog and co-host of the album appreciation podcast, Heat Rocks.