R. B. Greaves, a pop singer whose “Take a Letter, Maria” was a 1969 hit, has died in Los Angeles. He was 68.
Ronald Bertram Greaves died of prostate cancer on Sept. 27 at his home, said Craig Harvey, Los Angeles County coroner’s chief of operations.
Greaves was a nephew of the legendary R&B singer Sam Cook. He was born on a U.S. Air Force base in the former British Guyana.
Living in the United Kingdom in the 1960s, he recorded several soul singles as Sonny Childe.
It was after moving to the United States that he scored his biggest hit as R.B. Greaves.
“Take a Letter, Maria” tells the story of a man who comes home to find “the woman I thought I knew in the arms of another man.”
He dictates a final letter to her through his secretary with the chorus: “Take a letter, Maria. Address it to my wife. Say I won’t be coming home, gonna start a new life.”
The tune ends on a hopeful note, however, as the man asks his secretary out to dinner.
The song, with its soul style, catchy chorus and brassy horn edge, went to No. 2 on the Billboard chart in 1969. It earned Greaves a gold record, selling a million copies, and remains a popular oldie.
Greaves also broke into the Top 40 in 1970 with his version of the Burt Bacharach-Hal David tune, “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me.”
His career flagged in the 1970s, however.