People may not immediately consider Robert Palmer an R&B artist--after all, he made a larger mark as a rock singer who is also remembered for an iconic video. As he performed "Addicted to Love" in front of blank-faced models, Palmer's buttoned-up style seemed at odds with his growling voice. What few may not realize is that he was a blue-eyed soul singer as well; his covers of early 1980s soul tracks often surpassed the originals. One such song, "You Are in My System," took the System's 1982 track and made it just a bit rougher.
Palmer's roots remained firmly in rhythm and blues throughout his career. In the early seventies he joined the English band Vinegar Joe, a Stax-influenced group that produced three albums. Palmer departed the group in 1973 to forge a solo career, with his debut Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley surfacing a year later. Featuring members of Little Feat and the Meters, the album gained critical acclaim in 1974 for his ability to incorporate New Orleans soul into his sound. Unfortunately this attention did not translate into sales, but he finally broke through in 1978 with the LP Double Fun. The island-soaked "Every Kind of People" cracked the top 20 (he even remixed the song in 1992 and scored yet another success with it), but he reached ever greater heights with 1979's single "Bad Case of Lovin' You (Doctor, Doctor)." This straight-ahead rocker demonstrated that he could convincingly sing harder-edged material as much as R&B. To this day, "Bad Case of Lovin' You" remains a classic rock staple.
Instead of continuing his exploration of rock, Palmer decided to delve into early electronic music inspired by Kraftwerk. His 1980 effort Clues reflected his newfound interest in the emerging synth-pop sound of the time, with "Looking for Clues" and "Johnny and Mary" adding another genre--new wave--to his repertoire. That adventure continued with his 1983 album Pride, but he indulged in his R&B side with a cover of The System's "You Are in My System." An infectious slide of electric funk, the 1982 original single became a club and urban radio hit. Palmer's rock-inflected version brought this unique tune to a wider audience, with the harder beat and his snarling vocals even improving upon the original.
The throbbing beat permeates the track, the rhythm track sounding slightly harder than the prior version. Keyboards weave in and out, some chords helping to create a pounding sensation. Palmer interprets the song much like The System, except his growls lend "You Are in My System" a rock edge. "Day by day and night by night / I feel you in my mind / It happens all the time," he sings, his restrained delivery suggesting the narrator's desire. When crooning "I will keep on pushing, pushing until I get through / My main objective, baby is to get to you," he stresses the words "pushing" and "get to you" as if to emphasize urgency. His performance equals if not surpasses the original, with his rock background adding to the song's already considerable power.
Pride would mark the last of Palmer's more modest-selling albums; 1986's Riptide would propel him to the stratosphere with "Addicted to Love." However, he continued covering R&B tracks for the rest of his life, putting his unique stamp on "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On," "Early in the Morning," "Tell Me I'm Not Dreaming," and many more. Palmer was the unique artist who could reinterpret tracks without detracting from the originals- in fact, he enhanced them.