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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
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Cameo: Gold

Disc 1

1. Rigor Mortis

2. Post Mortem

3. Funk Funk

4. Find My Way (TGIF Version)

5. It's Serious

6. We All Know Who We Are

7. Insane

8. I Just Want to Be (12'' Version)

9. Sparkle

10. Shake Your Pants

11. We're Goin' Out Tonight

12. Why Have I Lost You [Version 2]

13. Keep It Hot

14. Feel Me

Disc 2

1. Freaky Dancin'

2. Don't Be So Cool

3. Just Be Yourself

4. Flirt

5. Alligator Woman / Secrets of Time

6. Style (Single Version)

7. She's Strange

8. Talkin' Out The Side Of Your Neck

9. Hangin' Downtown

10. Attack Me With You Love

11. Single Life

12. Word Up

13. Candy

14. Back And Forth

15. Skin I'm In (Single Version)

16. I Want It Now (Single Version)

x

Track List: The 12" Collection And More

1. I Just Want To Be (Original 12" Extended Mix)

2. Word Up! (Original 12" Club Mix)

3. Shake Your Pants (Original 12" Club Mix)

4. She's Strange (Original 12" Club Mix)

5. Candy (Original 12" UK Mix)

6. Back And Forth (12" Larry Blackmon Mix)

7. Single Life (Original 12" UK Mix By Larry Blackmon)

8. Attack Me With Your Love (Original 12" Club Mix)

9. Rigor Mortis (Original 12" Mix)

10. Room 123 (She's Strange) (Original 12" Rap Version)

x

Track List: Cameo Greatest Hits

1. Word Up

2. Single Life

3. Candy

4. She's Strange

5. Attack Me With Your Love

6. Back and Forth

8. I Just Want To Be

9. Sparkle

10. Skin I'm In

11. Freaky Dancin'

12. Keep It Hot

x

Track List: The Ballads Collection

1. Why Have I Lost You? (Version 1)

2. Sparkle

3. It's Over

4. Feel Me

5. We All Know Who We Are

6. Hangin' Downtown

7. Love You Anyway

8. Don't Be Lonely

9. I Owe It All To You

10. I'll Always Stay

11. I Never Knew

12. Why Have I Lost You? (Version 2)

x

Track List: Word Up!

1. Word Up

2. Candy

3. Back And Forth

4. Don't Be Lonely

5. She's Mine

6. Fast, Fierce & Funny

7. You Can Have the World

x

Track List: We All Know Who We Are

1. Inflation

2. C On The Funk

3. Why Have I Lost You

4. Stand Up

5. We All Know Who We Are

6. It's Serious

7. It's Over

x

Track List: She's Strange

1. She's Strange

2. Love You Anyway

3. Talkin' Out The Side Of Your Neck

4. Tribute To Bob Marley

5. Groove With You

6. Hangin' Downtown

7. Le Ve Toi

Comments

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G99d
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It's a blessing to have lived during the age of real musicians that actually played their own instruments! Now that funky music!
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I was just a youngster
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CANDY....DOP E IT TAKES ME BACK WHEN I WAS A KID...L.A... . . . (213)......
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One of my all time favorites... !
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Great music, good times, good memories!
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kmonday80
The good old days
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Love this music grew up on this real music
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Somebody at PANDORA has awesome taste in music THANKS for the sparkle you putback in my life!!! Wouldn't know what to do without ya!!!awesome job!!!
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They was different to me that is what makes this group good
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Yeah cameo my favorited as well
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bikerbabe244
Me and my best friend use to break dance to this music love this music
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One of my favorite groups of all time
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Cameo put the funk in P FUNK
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Why.??
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Merge
D
B
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I want to see a Unsung episode on Cameo.
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C on the funk!
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Funky
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One of tha funky bands n tha land
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Cameosis and Feel me were great albums
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kristina_hen d e r s o n
Love this group; love all the music.
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Saw Cameo live in Minneapolis 2015. That is what going to a concert is all about. Great music.
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mhardy.612
This era of music brings back soooo many memories! Care free teenage love!
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Listen 2 real music 4 the soul great,great, o n c e again great the best music...
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Back in the day. Love this jam
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Far most the Best and still the best they need to do another tour in South Carolina
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Why? Im in my feelings again
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One of Cameo's many Funky Tracks. Long Live Tha Funk !
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Wow I haven't heard this song in YEARS!!
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Music for my soul
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Banging. Music. Much. Love. For. The. Music. They. Put. Out. In. The. Days. 30 plus years. Ago
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jconlaw231
Love it!!
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I seen them in concert 3 times back in the day in Hampton, VA and I wish it was 30..word up
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being me back to my first love how sweet it was
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That's still they song camo it like candy
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I love morning candy....!!! No sharing plezzzzzz... ! ! !
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empty my head and fill it with this ..... twist my butt in a knot!
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MY THEME SONG!!!! ITS LIKE CANDY...
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Candy ����������
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yvettepennin g t o n 3 4
Old skool
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They didn't blaze the trail. But they did widen it and it became a Interstate.
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Y have i lost u by cameo is the s**t
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Just be yourself, different is awesome.
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CAMEO!!!!! ALL BY THEMSELVES NONE OTHER!! NEVER GETS OLD ONLY BETTER!!! BROUGHT MY SON UP TO RESPECT THE FUNK....REAL MUSIC
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Hitquila04,y o u are wrong ,you're just jealous Playa cause you're a failure.
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YESSSSSSSSSS S S ! Now this is music.... no one asks this question anymore, they just let you leave...lol. . . they never ask why...lol..
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This is a JAM!!!!!! Love cameo.
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Always makes me think of best man
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LOVE THAT CAMEO SOUND , YES THEY KICKS IT ! THURMAN M. OKC, OK WORD UP!!
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