‘An unknown artist,’ sad to say

February 9, 2017


I came across an audio file on YouTube that identified the contents as “a very funky version of ‘Water Boy’ by an unknown artist named Valentine Pringle.” Well, unknown to the writer, maybe, but not unknown to me. I spotted Valentine Pringle in 1962 when Harry Belafonte introduced him on “Talent Scouts,” a short-lived television show with a premise that still has traction. Pringle’s voice, which ranged from tenor to basso profundo, was startling in its beauty and its power.

I remembered his name and did everything I could in those pre-internet days to find another opportunity to hear him sing. I was a big consumer of vinyl in those days, and on most Friday nights I would visit Dumont Records in Paterson, New Jersey. Eventually, Val Pringle did show up at Dumont in two RCA LPs–“I Hear America Singing” (1963) and “Powerhouse” (1964). I still have the vinyl, and “Powerhouse” is now available on CD and iTunes.


Pringle made a couple of other recordings; wrote some songs, including “Louise” which he wrote for Belafonte; and had some kind of a career in television and film, but nothing worthy of that voice. The entertainment industry frequently makes no sense to me.

In the 1980s Val Pringle and his wife, Thea van Maastrich, moved to Lesotho, a tiny kingdom that is surrounded by South Africa. Pringle had appeared in Lesotho on a cultural exchange tour sponsored by the United States Information Service, and I guess it appealed to him. He ran a nightclub and the Lancer’s Inn, a hotel and restaurant in Maseru.

On the night of December 13, 1999, two burglars broke into Pringle’s house. Pringle confronted the men with a pistol, but he was stabbed to death. Two men were caught and convicted of the crime.

Pringle had served in the United States Army as a specialist third-class. His ashes are buried in the Arlington National Cemetery.

You can hear Pringle sing in various audio files on line, including “Water Boy” HERE, “Old Man River” HERE, “Take This Hammer” HERE, “The Mouse Song” HERE, and “Oh, Freedom” HERE.








5 Responses to “‘An unknown artist,’ sad to say”

  1. Lou Caruso Says:

    Very interesting, thank you for sharing
    Brings back memories of riding the
    12 Totowa bus to Paterson with you.

  2. shoreacres Says:

    I didn’t remember Valentine Pringle’s name, but as soon as i heard “The Mouse Song,” it was familiar. Whether I saw it performed on television, or heard it on radio, I can’t say, but it’s one of those that, once heard, lingers in the back of the mind ready to be recalled.

    I laughed at something I found in comments appended to one of the YouTube videos. A woman who used to hear him at a club in Toronto (I believe) said that when articles about the well-known club were written, Pringle’s name never was included. He wasn’t that he was black — it’s that he wasn’t Canadian.

  3. Jacob Swart Says:

    I was profoundly sad at hearing of Val Pringle’s demise in such an awful manner. I was his piano accompanist during his first visit to Southern Africa, when he was booked by the Don Hughes Organisation to perform on the Botswana/Lesotho cabaret circuit. He was incredible, and in my estimation his performance “Ol’ Man River” rivalled that of Paul Robeson. He had an incredible voice, and I am very very sorry that we never recorded the works he sang during that tour!

    • charlespaolino Says:

      Thanks for sharing that. I have both of Val Pringle’s albums on vinyl and the one that has been made available as a CD. He was an incomparable singer. His death was so unfair and a terrible loss.

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