CHICAGO, IL --- Congressman Sonny Bono didn't sing, and Roger Clinton has an album, (but isn't in politics yet). Only Jerry Butler, recently elected to his third four-year term as Cook County Commissioner, combines a political career with weekend performances and the recent release of a new album.
An award-winning performer, producer and composer, and one of the architects of Rhythm and Blues, Jerry "The Iceman" Butler, 55, has enjoyed a 37-year career that began when he and Curtis Mayfield formed a rhythm and blues group, The Impressions, in Chicago in 1958. The same year, the 18-year old Butler wrote a song titled "For Your Precious Love, " which launched Butler and The Impressions. "For Your Precious Love" became a "landmark recording," according to Rolling Stone, and the single, on VeeJay Records, became the first for The Impressions to "go gold".
Butler, named "The Iceman" in 1959 by Philadelphia radio personality Georgia Woods for his "cool as ice" delivery and debonair, effortless style (the name has become so synonymous with Butler that he registered it) has had numerous million sellers ("platinum") during his career: "For Your Precious Love" with The Impressions (Veejay, 1958); "He Will Break Your Heart (Veejay,1960), "Moon River" (VeeJay, 1961); "Never Gonna Give You Up', (Mercury, 1967); "Hey Western Union Man" (Mercury, 1968), "Brand New Me", (Mercury, 1969), "Only The Strong Survive" (Mercury, 1969); "Ain't Understanding Mellow" (Mercury, 1973).
Butler's newest CD, "Simply Beautiful," was recently released on Valley Vue Records (Palm Springs, California). The collection of nine new tracks of "quiet storm" material fits perfectly into Valley Vue's Urban/Jazz lineup, according to Michael Dion, vice-president and general manager, who is quoted as saying how pleased they are to have product by Butler, a major power in building the music industry.
In addition to his recording credits, Butler has hosted and appeared on a number of television variety specials, including programs for PBS and the BBC; "Martin the Emancipator," a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King; - "For Your Precious Love," a Mother's Day Special; "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson;" "The Ed Sullivan Show;" "Soul Train," "CBS Sunday Morning;" "The Today Show;" "Late Night with David Letterman;" and "The 1994 Grammy Awards." Nominated for three "Grammys" for singing and composing, Butler is the recipient of numerous awards, including several from ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) for his songwriting and publishing work; two Billboard magazine awards as a writer and artist; A CLIO Award for writing and producing a commercial for Johnson Products Company; two Humanitarian Awards and several BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.) awards as a writer and publisher. Butler was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and into the Rhythm & Blues Foundation in 1994, where he currently serves on the Board of Directors (the only politician to enjoy these honors), and served as co-host of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation's 1995 Awards Ceremony.
It is on the fifth floor of downtown Chicago's Cook County Building, down the hall from Mayor Daley, where "The Iceman" is most officious, donning a dark suit and tie Mondays through Fridays in place of his ubiquitous "performance" dinner jacket and bow-tie. Butler,in his official capacity as a Cook County Commissioner (there are 17 Commissioners for Cook County, which consists of 5.2 million people in Chicago and its suburbs, the second largest county in the United States), is responsible, along with the other Commissioners, for making any laws, establishing any rules, and setting policy for its operation as long as they are consistent with state and federal law. It is the duty of the Commissioner's office to construct and approve the County's annual budget, which, for 1995, will exceed $2 billion. Butler's smooth, mellifluous baritone is instantly recognizable as he arranges a finance meeting or deals with problems related to County government. Says Butler, "I was first elected to public office in 1985; I entered politics because I was very much influenced by the Civil Rights Movement."
At the top of the Commissioner's agenda is seeing to it that a new Cook County state-of-the art Hospital is built in order to upgrade available local health care for the underprivileged- Butler is responsible for the recent establishment of single-member district elections, replacing at-large elections for County Commissioners, making it economically feasible for more people to run for office.
At age 55 The Iceman is far from meltdown -- along with performing most weekends of the year at supper clubs, concerts and music festivals around the country, Butler, married for 35 years and the father of 29-year old twin sons, is a student at Governor's State College in University Park, Illinois, pursuing a Master's Degree in Public Administration. One of the questions most often asked of Butler regards further political aspirations: in answer, The Iceman, one of the top vote-getters in the county, just smiles --- cool as ice.