Question: Did Roosevelt Grier, the former professional football player, ever record Spanish Harlem? I know many others have done this song, and singers like Ben E. King and Aretha Franklin had big hits with it.
Answer: Usually questions about obscure recordings by celebrities come from folks seeking to settle a bet, but we respond just as enthusiastically for the merely curious.
That you even know of Roosevelt Grier's 1967 waxing of Spanish Harlem (MGM 13840) is interesting.
Grier, a feared defensive lineman for the New York Giants (1955-63) and Los Angeles Rams (1963-68), recorded continually from 1959 through 1975. One of his more fascinating singles is actually credited to the Fearsome Foursome, a quartet of defensive linemen from the 1965 Los Angeles Rams: Roosevelt Grier, Merlin Olson, Deacon Jones and Lamar Lundy. The two tracks are Stranded in the Jungle backed with Fly in the Buttermilk (Capitol 5482).
Though he had no Top 100 hits, his best-known song, People Make the World, came about from a real life experience.
In the summer of 1968, Rosey worked as a bodyguard for Sen. Robert Kennedy during many of his presidential campaign stops, including an important one June 5 in Los Angeles. After his speech, Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan. Grier tackled Sirhan immediately, grabbing the gun and holding him down until police arrived. Anyone who has seen the video of that event will vividly recall that scene.
As a tribute to Robert Kennedy, Grier recorded People Make the World, a song written by Bobby Womack.