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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: 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

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

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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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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Xctxtcdxxtk see g lo lo
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So true
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You and me can make it last we can build a brand new life together i miss you ricky come back home baby
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Welcome to my music love these guy's from the 70s i just love the o'jays
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TRUTH. TRUTH. TRUTH Smilin in ur face. Backstabbers all over the place. Love this song. Still happening today. Too many a**holes.
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When I'm loving you I'm in paradise you make me feel so good love you ricky
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I should paid more attention to you ricky because i miss you so much baby love you forever baby
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Mhk
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marbamarba63
You never know until that love is gone forever beautiful memories
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Soul at it's best
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Seems like only yesterday you were coming to my house that was my first time making love and it was with you ricky love you I'll never forget you wish we can start all over again
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I just love the o'jays everything they put out i. Like and love to heAr eddie sing
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When I'm loving you everything is alright ricky i miss you so much baby love you forever
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Baby making music thank you
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nancyweissbe i n
FOREVER MINE, l love this song❤️ great group❤️
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Love this song ��
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All tears.Will be dried.By OUR HEAVENLY FATHER GOOD GOD.
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want issac Hayes album played
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i love it
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Great Music'
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When I'm loving you everything is alright ricky love you forever
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justinjenny4 9 5
❤❤❤❤❤
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Loving you has made my life much easier baby ricky love you forever
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Welcome to my favorite music nothing else like the 70s music love it
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nettaree83
The Jays
The Jays
The Jays
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RIP fat fat
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You and me can build a brand new life together love you ricky forever baby
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Eddie and Walter made a beautiful combination that's why they lasted so long
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You and me can build a brand new life together just us ricky love you baby
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Loving you has made my life much better baby ricky love you forever
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Sing to me Eddie don't you just love the o'jays those are some singing brothers
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Keep. Up. The good. Work.
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Love this music nothing like the ojays i just love their music
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The O'Jays.....O ' Y e a h .
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When you "Miss Your Needs .Because.... . y o u took -for-granted - w h a t u-wished-tha t - y o u - d i d n ' t . . . . . . . . , , . C O N S E Q U E N C E IS REALITY!!!!! ! ! ! !
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❤❤❤❤❤
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Family Reunion ... Love this jam brings so much memories ...
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Love yu Ojays zet Bess
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heavymetal35 9
❤❤❤❤❤
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Walter Williams was so smooth, mixed with Eddie's gruff voice made sweet music.
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Loving makes my much easier baby ricky love you forever baby
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I just love Eddie he can to me all the time
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aestrada223
'Love Train' brings back a flood of memories for me whenever I hear it. Just starting high school as a freshman. Cruising downtown with friends and appreciating the wonderful life of a free American in Iowa. O'Jays were class.
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Money- these guys gave it to the world- what some people would do for it. Straight no chaser.
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tanyamungo
I Just love the O' Jays they music is the best especially when it is raining very relaxing me and my man Love it Eddie can sing to me everyday and night
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I just love Eddie love his music was playing the first time i made love and love you ricky forever
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The O Jay's are the third greatest group in the world next to The Tempting Temptations and Earth Wind and Fire with Chicago filling in spot #4.
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