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Cameo

An outlandish, in-your-face stage presence, a strange sense of humor, and a hard-driving funk sound that criss-crossed a few musical boundaries earned Cameo countless comparisons to Parliament/Funkadelic in their early days. However, Cameo eventually wore off accusations of being derivative by transcending their influences and outlasting almost every single one of them. Throughout the '70s and '80s, the group remained up with the times and occasionally crept ahead of them, such that they became influences themselves upon younger generations of R&B and hip-hop acts. By the time the group's popularity started to fizzle in the late '80s, a series of R&B chart hits -- ranging from greasy funk workouts to synthesized funk swingers to dripping ballads -- was left in their wake. Further separating Cameo from their forebears, they didn't have a diaper-clad guitarist. Instead, they had a codpiece-wearing lead vocalist.

That vocalist was Larry Blackmon. In 1974, the ex-Juilliard student and New York City club-goer instigated a funk band with a membership of 13 called the New York City Players. Blackmon, Tomi Jenkins, and Nathan Leftenant formed the group's nucleus. The Casablanca label signed the group to their Chocolate City offshoot, and shortly after that, the group changed its name to Cameo. Their excellent debut album, 1977's Cardiac Arrest, was highlighted by four singles. Three of those hit the Billboard R&B chart: "Rigor Mortis" (number 33), "Funk Funk" (number 20), and "Post Mortem" (number 70). Although the group was clearly inspired by elder funk groups like Parliament, Funkadelic, and the Ohio Players, Cardiac Arrest made Cameo's case for belonging in the same division an open-and-shut one.

In an attempt to keep the ball rolling, 1978 saw the release of Cameo's second and third albums. Neither We All Know Who We Are nor Ugly Ego were as solid as the debut, but the group's singular characteristics were becoming increasingly evident. The winding, horn-punctuated "It's Serious" (from We All Know Who We Are) narrowly missed the Top 20 of the R&B chart, while "Insane" (from Ugly Ego) dipped just inside it, peaking at number 17. The best halves of these two albums would've made a fine sophomore LP.

1979's Secret Omen, featuring a disco-fied re-visiting of Cardiac Arrest's "Find My Way" and the magnificently funky and slightly loony "I Just Want to Be" (a number-three R&B chart hit), was stacked with fine album cuts and brought Cameo back as a group that excelled in the LP format. "Sparkle" was one of their best ballads, a sinewy number that hit the Top Ten. Five albums released between 1980 and 1983 (Cameosis, Feel Me, Knights of the Sound Table, Alligator Woman, Style) brought about a slight dip in quality on the album front. Despite an abundance of filler on each record, none of those albums were strict disappointments, delivering hot Top 20 R&B singles like "Shake Your Pants," "We're Goin' Out Tonight," "Keep It Hot," "Freaky Dancin'" "Just Be Yourself," "Flirt," and "Style."

One of the most significant ripples in Cameo's time line came during that period, in 1982, when they packed up and set up shop in Atlanta. Pared down to a quintet and located in a less hectic city, the group became bigger fish in a smaller pond. Blackmon even started his own label, Atlanta Artist. The label's first LP, Style, also marked a significant shift in sound, with synthesizers taking on a pronounced role. Paydirt was struck with 1984's She's Strange; the title cut, a late-night slithery smolder, topped the R&B chart and eclipsed the Top 50 of the pop chart, kicking off a remarkable three-album run that made Cameo one of the most popular groups of the '80s. Single Life and Word Up!, released respectively in 1985 and 1986, continued the hot streak. The singles from those two albums -- "Attack Me With Your Love," "Single Life," "Word Up," "Candy," and "Back and Forth" -- held down the Top Five plateau of the R&B chart. "Word Up" even went to number six on the pop chart, giving them their biggest bite of the mainstream. The song was everywhere.

What goes up must come down, and that's exactly what happened to Cameo. Despite the fact that two more singles -- "Skin I'm In" and "I Want It Now" -- scaled up to number five on the R&B chart, neither Machismo nor Real Men Wear Black performed well as albums. After 1991's Emotional Violence, the group's profile was lowered significantly, but they did tour sporadically to the delight of hardcore fans as well as plenty of misguided people who thought Cameo was all about "Word Up" and nothing more. Notably, Blackmon spent a few years of the '90s at Warner Bros., as the vice president of A&R.

Cameo's presence continued to be felt throughout the early 2000s, not only through extensive sample use and less tangible influences upon younger artists and producers. Several retrospectives have kept the group's music alive: Casablanca's 1993 compilation The Best of Cameo is an excellent point of entry. Mercury's 12" Collection & More, released in 1999, covers the group's best dancefloor moments. 2002's spectacular Anthology, a double-disc set also released by Mercury, covers a lot of ground and does the group justice as a total package. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

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tonya_invest o r
Love this song
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OK let's do this!!
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Like this song
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I'm a Bass Player :-) & Their music is a must for any Bass player who wants to get their funk playing together
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Shake your pants was a great hit too by cameo
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Cameo, EW&F, Dazz, SOS Band, etc. This is real music. No one else comes close (where they at doe) haha. Onelove.
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Whats up doe
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What else is there to say........s t r a i g h t funk funk.......h o l l a . . . . l e t the cameosis in....it won't hurt....
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Torn. Up. The. Dance. Floor. With. This. Jam. Damn
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OWWWW!!!!! Now who says it better?....S u g a r f o o t or Larry Blackmon.... . T h a t is the question.... E i t h e r way we all win...CAMEO ALL DAY.����
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Well she won't be talking to yall anymore and thats a good thing hahahaha
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One of the Funkiest bands of all time!!!! They are brilliant in concert the Cameosis is forever.....
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Taste like candy ��������
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Shake your pants, dance as if no one is watching and if they are who gives a f&*k???
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I compare this group to kool and the gang ohio players and others who challenged p funk for a time for the funkyist funk band. James started it but everyone after took funk to a new level.
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I'm strange and I like it. I'm unique and very exotic. I love myself and that's all that matters
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Love this song , all I know is you can really appreciate this song when your mind is a little buzzed (420) try it , it will take on a whole new meaning.
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Henry of d.c.
All good the funk.
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Wurd up!!! Tell me baby waz da wurd?!
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CaMEO iZ ThE SHYT ;) love ThEIR SOnGz
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Lovelylinda I love cameo try listening to Fast Ferious and Funny on the Word Up Album grrrreat
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Just like candy its the same feeling i get around u u effect me facinate me taking my appetite its the kind i like wrapped up tight
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Love cameo. So many wonderful memories.
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trinaf9801
All right
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Cool love Cameo
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This is the Jam!
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Love me some CAMEO.....NE V E R GET TIRED OF LISTENING TO THEM!!!!!!!
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I taste like ��
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Cameo is my favorite band Eva love their music
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latayarandle 0 4 8 0
They don't make songs like this one
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Zzzzzz-PHIII I I I !
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This is the jam
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Love how they sing
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Love them!
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I used to run away from home to go see them in concert! LOVE'EM
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Sparkle..... s t i l l loving this song! Cameo...so much love
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Haven't heard this in forever
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one of my fav by this group
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Word up y'all! My favorite jam by Cameo!
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How I miss the 80's
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°¿°
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OLD SCHOOL @ ITS BEST!!!
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CAMEO = THE BEST!!!! LOVE THEM!!!
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I love it
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It never ceased to amaze me how Mr. Anthony Lockett, when he was the minister of music director at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit Church,could single out which choir member was singing out of key when the choir actually had two hundred plus members! THIS BROTHER SERIOUSLY HAS AN EAR FOR MUSIC! WOW!!!!!! No wonder, Sparkles in your Eyes, was such a hit!
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Strange and I like it
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Just like candy,you candy sugar sweet,sweeth e a r t
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Sounds soooo gud n my truck... CANDY...mks me wnt 2 dance...# My New Life....Ms Major.
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j2walsh2002
We did some slow dancing in those days. This new generation doesn't even know what slow dancing means lol. Glad I grew up in this era :-)
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damitab5
Childhood memories,Lov e this song
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