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The O'Jays

The O'Jays were one of Philadelphia soul's most popular and long-lived outfits, rivaled only by the Spinners as soul's greatest vocal group of the '70s. In their prime, the O'Jays' recordings epitomized the Philly soul sound: smooth, rich harmonies backed by elaborate arrangements, lush strings, and a touch of contemporary funk. They worked extensively with the legendary production/songwriting team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, becoming the flagship artist of the duo's Philadelphia International label. The O'Jays were equally at home singing sweet love ballads or uptempo dance tunes, the latter of which were often mouthpieces for Gamble & Huff's social concerns. Although the O'Jays couldn't sustain their widespread popularity in the post-disco age, they have continued to record steadily all the way up to the present day, modifying their production to keep up with the times.

The O'Jays were formed in 1958 in Canton, OH, where all five original members -- Eddie Levert, Walter Williams, William Powell, Bill Isles, and Bobby Massey -- attended McKinley High School. Inspired to start a singing group after seeing a performance by Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, they first called themselves the Triumphs, then switched to the Mascots in 1960. The Mascots made their recording debut in 1961 with the single "Miracles," issued on the Cincinnati-based King label. It earned them a fan in the influential Cleveland DJ Eddie O'Jay, who gave them some airplay and career advice; in turn, the group renamed itself the O'Jays in 1963, after having recorded for Apollo Records with producer Don Davis. Under their new name, the O'Jays signed with Imperial and hooked up with producer H.B. Barnum, who would helm their first charting single, 1963's "Lonely Drifter," plus several more singles that followed. Isles left the group in 1965 and was not replaced, leaving them a quartet; late in the year, they released their first-ever album, Comin' Through. In 1967, the O'Jays left Imperial for Bell, where they landed their first Top Ten single on the R&B charts, "I'll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today)." Discouraged by the difficulty of following that success, the group members considered throwing in the towel until they met Gamble & Huff -- then working as a production team for the Neptune label -- in 1968. Gamble & Huff took an interest in the group, and they recorded several successful R&B singles together; however, Neptune folded in 1971, leaving the O'Jays in limbo, and Massey decided to exit the group.

Fortunately, Gamble & Huff formed their own label, Philadelphia International, and made the O'Jays -- now a trio -- one of their first signings. The O'Jays' label debut, Back Stabbers, released in 1972, became a classic landmark of Philly soul, and finally made them stars; the paranoid title track hit the pop Top Five, and the utopian "Love Train" went all the way to number one (both singles topped the R&B charts). It was the beginning of a remarkable run that produced nearly 30 chart singles over the course of the '70s, plus a series of best-selling albums and a bevy of number one hits on the R&B charts. The O'Jays followed up their breakthrough with another classic LP, Ship Ahoy, in 1973; it featured the number one R&B hit "For the Love of Money," a funky protest number that still ranks as one of their signature songs, as well as the ten-minute title track, an ambitious suite recounting the ocean journeys of African slaves. Released in 1975, Survival was another hit, spinning off the hits "Let Me Make Love to You" and the R&B number one "Give the People What They Want." Family Reunion found the O'Jays making concessions to the emerging disco sound, which got them their third Top Five pop hit in "I Love Music, Pt. 1." Unfortunately, William Powell was diagnosed with cancer that year, and although he continued to record with the group for a time (appearing on 1976's Message in Our Music), he was forced to retire from live performing, and passed away on May 26, 1977.

Powell's replacement was Sammy Strain, a 12-year veteran of Little Anthony & the Imperials. The O'Jays regrouped on the albums Travelin' at the Speed of Thought (1977) and So Full of Love (1978), the latter of which produced their final Top Five pop hit, "Use ta Be My Girl." Released in 1979, Identify Yourself began to show signs of wear and tear in the group's successful formula, and often consciously attempted to follow disco trends. Although it sold respectably, it marked the beginning of a decline in the O'Jays' commercial fortunes. Undaunted by the increasingly diminished returns of their early-'80s LPs, the group kept plugging away, and never completely disappeared from the R&B charts. They finally left Philadelphia International and signed with EMI for 1987's Let Me Touch You, which melded their classic sound with up-to-date urban-R&B production. Powered by the Gamble & Huff-penned R&B number one "Lovin' You," as well as the increased visibility of Eddie Levert's sons Gerald and Sean (two-thirds of the hit urban group LeVert), the album gave their career a much-needed shot in the arm.

Released in 1989, Serious supplied another big R&B hit in "Have You Had Your Love Today?"; with Nathaniel Best replacing Sammy Strain, 1991's Emotionally Yours and 1993's Heartbreaker also placed very well on the R&B charts. The O'Jays' comeback didn't really extend to the pop side, and didn't attract the sort of critical praise earned by their '70s classics; as the new jack swing craze subsided, so did the O'Jays' recording activity, though they remained consistent draws on the live circuit. In 1997, now with Eric Grant joining Levert and Williams, they returned with Love You to Tears. A recording layoff followed, during which the O'Jays signed with MCA; they debuted for the label with For the Love..., which was released in 2001. Imagination followed in 2004 on Sanctuary Records, while a new holiday album, Christmas with the O'Jays, appeared in 2010 from Saguaro Road Records. ~ Steve Huey
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Love Train: The Best Of The O'Jays

Disc 1

1. Livin' For The Weekend

2. Family Reunion

3. Unity

5. A Prayer

6. Paradise

7. Make A Joyful Noise

8. The Big Gangster

9. Work On Me

11. Brandy

12. This Time Baby

13. Cry Together

14. Sing A Happy Song

15. Forever Mine

Disc 2

1. Girl, Don't Let It Get You Down

2. Once Is Not Enough

3. You Won't Fail

4. To Prove I Love You

8. Put Our Heads Together

9. Extraordinary Girl

12. Lovin' You

13. Let Me Touch You

14. Love Train (Live)

15. Back Stabbers (Live)

16. For The Love Of Money (Live)

x

Track List: For The Love...

1. Long Distance Lover

2. Let's Ride

3. Don't Break My Heart

4. Put Out The Fire

5. Come Over To My House

6. I'm Ready Now

7. Searching For The Love I Lost

8. I Don't Know

9. Latin Lover

10. Baby Making Love

11. Sounds Like Me

x

Track List: The Year 2000 - My Favorite Person

Disc 1

1. Year 2000

2. To Prove I Love You

3. You'll Never Know (All There Is To Know 'Bout My Love)

5. You Won't Fail

6. Girl, Don't Let It Get You Down

7. Answer's In You

8. Once Is Not Enough

Disc 2

1. I Just Want To Satisfy You

2. Your Body's Here With Me (But Your Mind's On The Other Side Of Town)

3. My Favorite Person

4. One On One

5. I Like To See Us Get Down

6. Your True Heart (And Shining Star)

7. Out In The Real World

8. Don't Walk Away Mad

x

Track List: Emotionally Yours

1. Don't Let Me Down

2. Something For Nothing

3. Emotionally Yours (R & B Version)

4. Respect (feat. The Jazz)

5. Keep On Lovin' Me

6. Love & Trust

7. Don't You Know True Love

8. Emotionally Yours (Gospel Version)

9. That's How Love Is

10. Closer To You

11. If I Fine Love Again (feat. Najee)

12. Keep On Pleasin' Me

13. Lies

14. Make It Feel Good

x

Track List: Let Me Touch You

2. Lovin' You

x

Track List: My Favorite Person

1. I Just Want To Satisfy You

2. Your Body's Here With Me (But Your Mind's On The Other Side Of Town)

3. My Favorite Person

4. One On One

5. I Like To See Us Get Down

6. Your True Heart (And Shining Star)

7. Out In The Real World

8. Don't Walk Away Mad

x

Track List: So Full Of Love

1. Sing My Heart Out

2. Use Ta Be My Girl

3. Cry Together

4. This Time Baby

5. Brandy

6. Take Me To The Stars

7. Help (Somebody, Please)

8. Strokety Stroke

x

Track List: Message In The Music

1. Message In The Music

2. A Prayer

3. Paradise

4. Make A Joyful Noise

5. Desire Me

6. Darlin' Darlin' Baby

7. I Swear, I Love No One But You

8. Let Life Flow

x

Track List: Survival

1. Give The People What They Want

2. Let Me Make Love To You

3. Survival

4. Where Did We Go Wrong

5. Rich Get Richer

6. How Time Flies

7. What Am I Waiting For

8. Never Break Us Up

x

Track List: Family Reunion

1. Unity

2. Family Reunion

3. You And Me

4. She's Only A Woman

5. Livin' For The Weekend

6. Stairway To Heaven

7. I Love Music

x

Track List: Ship Ahoy

1. Put Your Hands Together

2. Ship Ahoy

3. This Air I Breathe

4. You Got Your Hooks In Me

5. For The Love Of Money

6. Now That We Found Love

7. Don't Call Me Brother

8. People Keep Tellin' Me

9. Put Your Hands Together (Live)

x

Track List: Back Stabbers

1. When The World's At Peace

2. Back Stabbers

3. Who Am I

4. (They Call Me) Mr. Lucky

5. Time To Get Down

6. 992 Arguments

7. Listen To The Clock On The Wall

8. Shiftless, Shady, Jealous Kind Of People

9. Sunshine

10. Love Train

x

Track List: The Very Best Of The O'Jays

1. 992 Arguments

2. Shiftless, Shady, Jealous Kind Of People

3. Sunshine

4. Love Train

5. When The World's At Peace

6. Back Stabbers

7. Give The People What They Want

8. (They Call Me) Mr. Lucky

9. Time To Get Down

10. For The Love Of Money

11. Put Your Hands Together

12. Who Am I

13. Livin' For The Weekend

14. Stairway To Heaven

15. I Love Music

Comments

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Sitting here in tears reminiscing the time we had when my fraternal grandparents were here I sho missed them wish I should of listened to them long time ago if I had one wish I wished they cine back to me....
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LOVE ALL OF THEIR SONGS.!!!
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I love this song, get real LOVIN YOU is alright !!
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How time flew since i saw you ricky i still love you baby always and forever
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Climb the stairway to heaven with me ricky i still love you so much baby lets start over again we can make things work out
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courtalford3
Drunk and ole school music is the best. Heard all of these growing up ; miss my gparents
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Forever Mine by the O'Jays.....t h e y just don't make em like this no more.
Ummm....take s me to that place and makes my heart smile again and again and again.#Mr.KP
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I need to be with you Charles every time I hear Lovin You brings back the best memories of my life. Let's get together!!!
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aestrada223
Love Train brings back so many good memories of growing up in the early seventies. Can't go back physically, but ohhh being able to refresh those times in my mind when I hear sounds from that time.
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This is real talk this is old school back in the day !
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Classic music at its best, they dont make sounds like this anymore.
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Doesn't get any better
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I just love the o'jays they always will be my favorite group
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My mother loved the group that's why I fell in love with them as a teenager
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.....here we go uh baby climbing the Stairway To Heaven...cli m b i n g climbing~~ is a shoNuff grown folks love groove...jus t holding each other tight serious love filled slow draggg...lol
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Good real soul...make you dip ya knees and put both hands up high!
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Family reunion love. This song
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Mary Ann Hooks - Vornes Use To Be My Girl. I Love This Song
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How time flies by the o'jays eddie can make anything sound good that's one singing brother
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shawnda_wash i n g t o n
I love this song!!!!#
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cynthiadent
Wishful thinking
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I have really miss that old skool music we grew up to ,with the plaid shirts and bell bottom pants oh what a time we had.
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For The ❤️ Of Money- the baseline is so kill! Thanks.
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Used To Be My Girl...I can never get tired of hiring this song. Grown folk music!!!
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The O'Jays some of the baddest brothers on EARTH.....
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Eddie Levert makes the O' Jays with that R&B voice
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My mom loved them
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aestrada223
Listening to 'Backstabber s ' on an 8-track player (and the millennials say what!) my folks had in '72'. Thought we were cool and chilling, because we were back then. Wonderful time listening to the brothas.
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I hear this song and I flash back to the days when every Sunday was family picnic day at the park. All that's gone but not forgotten. Looking up to all those not with us anymore. Love you and miss you.
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You and me ricky can make it last i miss you so much baby give us another chance
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The mighty o'jays a true classic
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This goes out to a very special love of Nap Town, this is for you Charles from Go of the Chi.❤️❤️
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This group shall never die love their music. Especially Family Reunion, we always play it at Family gatherings reunions.
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I Wil always love the mighty mighty o'jays from ship ahoy until now always love eddie
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Ricky i want your body and mind here with me love you always baby come back home lets start all over
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This is music
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alexandraabe l l a 1 7
❤❤❤❤❤
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My life is complete since i got you ricky love you baby
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Classy classy performers
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Stairway To Heaven...how I love this song. O'Jays all day
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Love it
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I was once in a Singing group my the name of the Majestic out of Miami. We were so inspired by this group we imitated them to the tee and song there songs which made us famous. Thank you Eddie and Walter. Your friend Diamond D...
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My favorite group!!!!! I saw them perform August of 2016 at The Biltmore House and for Eddie and Walter to be in their 70s they sang and dance the entire show with plenty energy and sounded amazing. They're timeless,Leg e n d a r y
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One of the greatest group ever form, I still listen to them today like I did 45years back in the days of having dancing in school cafeteria when we called them socials
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Classic o'jays they still sounds good today love them
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This song was out the first time you came to my house that was the first time i made love and it was with you ricky love you always I'll never forget you baby
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Love you ricky always and forever
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This goes out to you ricky
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I wish that i could relive thoughs days maybe you would still be here with me
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Welcome to my music the 70s still the best
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