Sweet Pea Atkinson grinded away on Detroit's soul circuit in the late 1970s, work that brought him to the attention of Was (Not Was), the art-R&B project helmed by Don and David Was. During the '80s, Was (Not Was) slowly built a cult following before scoring a breakthrough in 1988 with What Up, Dog?, an album that became a hit on the strength of the pseudo-novelty "Walk the Dinosaur." Atkinson shared lead vocals on the song with Harry Bowens, as he usually did on Was (Not Was), but the group also supported Atkinson on his solo album, Don't Walk Away. Atkinson didn't release another solo album for another 35 years, when Blue Note, presided over by Don Was, put out Get What You Deserve in 2017, but he kept busy during those decades by singing on studio sessions and collaborating with Randy Jacobs in a band called the Boneshakers.

Born in 1945, Atkinson began scoring studio work in the late '70s -- he appears on George Jones' 1979 LP My Very Special Guests -- but once Don and David Was hired him as a co-lead singer for Was (Not Was), he began his professional career in earnest. He was showcased on their 1981 debut, and a year later, Was (Not Was) supported him on his solo album, Don't Walk Away, in 1982. He occasionally got studio work as he sang with Was (Not Was) during the '80s.

"Walk the Dinosaur" turned Was (Not Was) into a household name, at least for a hot minute, and while Don Was turned into a superstar producer, Atkinson didn't get a solo deal. Nevertheless, Don Was hired him to sing on major projects by Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan, and Iggy Pop, which lead to other backup gigs in the '80s and '90s. He and guitarist Randy Jacobs formed the Boneshakers in the late '90s, releasing two studio albums -- Book of Spells (1997) and Shake the Planet (1999) -- before splitting.

More studio supporting work followed, keeping Atkinson busy. In 2017, Don Was signed the singer to Blue Note, and produced three cuts on that year's Get What You Deserve; the rest of the album was produced by Keb' Mo'. Sweet Pea Atkinson died in Los Angeles on May 4, 2020 after suffering a heart attack at the age of 74. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Don Was - Sweet Pea Atkinson - "Back In Love"
Sweet Pea Atkinson - Are You Lonely For Me Baby
Last Two Dollars - Sweet Pea Atkinson
Don Was - Sweet Pea Atkinson - "Slow Down"
Sweet Pea Atkinson - Dance Or Die (12" Funk 1982)
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