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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, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Feels so good in Da Spirit
That's real Love
WHAT THEY DO?!
luv it
Those were the good ole days
Friday, I'm ready to Roll, with o'jay. Yeah! This is how i do.
Cruising in the vett top blone Bose blasting I-74 west all good Reminising
Words are not enough to speak on what these guys have meant to the music industry. THE BEST!!!!!
Cruising Austin right now,me and baby smoking on some good.for right now life sure is good.
boost1234.bm
Every body in Tulia,Tx say wow
LOVE THIS SONG!!!!! The O'Jays great!!!!
I Love When a blast from the.past like BEAM ME BACK TO ANOTHER SPACE, PLACE, AND TIME, DO YOU FEEEEEE ME?????? Naaaah
Do thangs
jumpin off my weekend with this classic,yeah ! ! y e a h !
Good morning
I love this song! loving you! Al B. Martin!
Loving You one the O'Jays great, telling it like it T-I-S love songs!!!
I love you o'jays
Takes me back to So Cal Sunday night oldies, a bonfire and a beer, and my lady! Happily married now for 12 years.
FAMILY...... Y E S ! ! ! ! ! ! .
This is love !!!!
So true with some women. And some men too!!!!
Love
ONE OF MNY FAVORITE GROUPS**
The OJays were the background music to my childhood!
that's what am talking about! There are a lot of back stabbers!
Iamaoldschoo l k e e p p l a y i n g
started seeing these guys back in 1975, first time @ the Mill Run. Extraordinar y group, music and the days to follow. I still go to see them every year. I LOVE THE OJAYS!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
YES! A BIG FAMILY REUNION IS WHAT MY FAMILY NEEDS!
I love the O JAYS! YES!!!!!! NOW THAT IS THE MUSI THAT I NEED TO MAKE LOVE TO MY MAN ON!


Yes baby good love making song
Yasssss Baby..this kinda jam..Ole'sch o o l I'm a 70 's Baby.. Love the O'Jays
When you hear the voice of Eddie Levert you know it's him....... Very fond of this group....
I love the o,jays music.
livalee65
Great music....... . . . . . . . . .
livalee65
Great music....... . . . .
I love the sound of Walter and Eddie together
my all time favorite
When I hear the music of the 60s and 70s, I'm transported to a time in my life when family was the block that I lived on . Because the coummity I live in raised me and the children of those time. And all was good . Lesson were learned, knowledge was shared. And we all had a dream. The young and the old. And the those dreams are the reality of life manifest for those that made it through, and stand in this moment of life. Thanking God for the strength that allowed us to see this day. With the gre
19sandy62
Don't sell your soul for the love of money. ....
Now Hall & Oates Sara Smile was the song!
When I listen to the O jays it take me back to good time I can see my mom and her sisters partying, I mean they partied. Sometimes I wish that music had meaning like the songs of the pass.
Ojays
O"jays I just love this song. I grew up with the talented group. My husband sing just like Eddie. Love you O jays forever. Mary
funnyvalenti n e s 2
Now this is truly real R & B, not like the R & B of today. This is music that actually spoke of love and you felt it.
I remember on Sundays when I was young and my mom would pop her eight track tape in and cook her Sunday dinner those were some of the best memories I will never forget it's like they belong in your family Memories
Man that part
the story of my life.
I love the ojays
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