Friday, January 6, 2012

O'Jays: Giving the People What They Want

By Deardra Shuler

The O’Jays, who started their career in Canton, Ohio in 1958, came to epitomize the Philly sound with their rich harmonies and contemporary funk. They lit the music world on fire with songs like “Love Train,” “Backstabbers,” “Use Ta Be My Girl” and “For the Love of Money.” These music dynamos are the talent behind 24 Top Ten hits, which includes ten gold albums, nine platinum and ten #1 hits. Relaxing and preparing for his concert in New York, Eddie Levert, the O’Jay’s lead singer, is looking forward to his engagement with fellow O’Jays, Walter Williams and Eric Nolan Grant, at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, located at 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, in the Bronx, on Saturday, January 14th at 8:00 p.m.

After working with Gamble & Huff, the O’Jays began a remarkable union that produced nearly 30 chart singles during the ‘70s, plus a series of best-selling albums and numerous #1 R&B hits. Their 1973 Ship Ahoy recording featured one of their signature songs (and theme song of the NBC hit “The Apprentice”), the #1 R&B hit “For the Love of Money.” 1975's Survival was a hit that spun off “Let Me Make Love to You” and the R&B hit “Give the People What They Want.”

“New York is one of my favorite places. New York is a 24-hour place just like Las Vegas,” said the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. “I love, love, love, New York and always enjoy performing in that city” said the singer, who is putting the finishing touches on his solo album. In fact, all three O’Jays are putting out individual solo recordings. Walter Williams released his CD Exposed with the song “It’s Raining Outside,” which is getting a lot of buzz. Eddie Levert and Eric Nolan Grant are in the final stages of their solo CDs.

“My project is called “Eddie Levert: I Still Have It” remarked Eddie. “There is also a song I wrote entitled Last Man Standing. I hope my fans will give me a chance and at least listen to it. Since this is my first shot at a solo recording outside the O’Jays, it was a hard thing to do. Especially since I have recorded so long as an O’Jay, it was hard to reinvent myself for my solo album. I think I provided songs that make my CD a special offering. I know that I am proud of it. I both wrote songs and produced it. I did not produce it alone because I had the help of a lot of other people,” said the soul singer. “I used to write with my son Gerald before he passed. Now Gerald’s daughters are interested in going into the music business and have begun to work on their own music” claimed the 2009 BET Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2011 Trumpet Lifetime Achievement Award winner.

Eddie talked about how he started off in music. “It was my younger and older brother, Walter Williams and me initially. We began by singing in the church. We did not know what we were doing, we just had good voices. From there we started auditioning. We auditioned for Decca Records but got our first deal with King Records,” said the soul singer.

Recording the music of Gamble & Huff brought the O’Jays a lot of success. But eventually they started to write their own music and in 1997, Levert, Williams and the O’Jays’ newest member, Eric Nolan Grant, released Love You to Tears. The O’Jays signed with MCA where they released For the Love, receiving their fourth GRAMMY nomination. In 2003, they appeared in the film “The Fighting Temptations” starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Beyoncé Knowles.

Eddie Levert is satisfied with his life these days. “I have to say that this is the happiest time of my life. I tried to infuse that in the songs I write. It’s really my story and talks about the happy place I am at with the person I am with. In fact, the opening song on my solo CD is called “Lonely.” That song came about because my wife, Rachelle, decided to go to Africa with a friend to mountain climb. And, she actually climbed to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, one of the highest mountains in Africa. Few people do that and succeed. My wife did. After having climbed to the top, my wife and her friend later went to a region where they spotted a tribe of monkeys. My wife called me to tell me she was in a jungle area surrounded by monkeys. It made me realize how far away she was from me and if anything happened to her, how helpless I would be to try to get to her. That is when the song “Lonely” came to me. It conveys how lonely I am when my wife is not with me. She makes me want to be a better person and get in touch with both my heart and mind.”

Interested parties can hear the entire interview with Eddie Levert on my radio show Topically Yours, at, Rainbow Soul.

The O’Jays are currently performing at various engagements around the country. “We are in the midst of planning a national tour” remarked Levert. “We are getting old now and are thinking of retirement, so this may be our last national tour, which if all goes well, will commence in the summer. So tell your readers to come out and see us since it may be their last opportunity to do so before the O’Jays retire.

Fans can get tickets for the O’Jays concert on Saturday, January 14th,at 8:00 p.m. in the Bronx by calling the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts Box Office at 718.960.8833 or by going on line at

No comments :

Post a Comment