Some truly amazing R&B acts will join together Friday July 27 on the stage at the Mann for an unforgettable night filled with legend and soul, including the iconic Patti LaBelle, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Tank, and the truly American musical treasures, The O’Jays.
Having secured their rightful place in music history with 24 Top Ten smashes and 59 total charted songs, The O’Jays have received many honors and awards over the years, including their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
There may have been others who helped them to the top, but Eddie Levert, one of the group’s founders, thinks the thanks should all go to themselves for having providing super smooth music, which led to them now being labeled a “Living Legend.”
Levert says, “Even after more than 50 years in the business, The O’Jays continue to draw in audiences. And that’s because we take great pride in what we do and try to give our all each and every time we perform.”
The original vocal group form Canton, Ohio originated with Levert Sr., Walter Williams Sr., William Powell, Bobby Massey and Bill Isles, and they were named after Cleveland DJ Eddie O’Jay. Today, Levert and Williams are the only originals still performing.
“We were originally called the Triumphs then the Mascots and finally the O’Jays when we released a record that required a new name,” Levert remembers. “We decided to use Eddie’s last name and later change it to something we liked better. But it stuck. And so here we are today.”
For Levert, although he sang most of his life, he still considers himself “very lucky to be where I am today. I had a gift for song and a third-grade teacher who made us sing from the diaphragm. She’d stand up in front of us and poke us in the stomach just to make sure we were doing exactly what she told us to do.”
Levert wisely followed orders and has found a lifetime of success along with the others, producing such timeless hits as “Love Train,” “I Love Music,” and many, many more. Their song “For the Love of Money” became the theme song to Donald Trump’s hit reality TV show “The Apprentice.”
The O’Jays have proven time and time again that the mixture of “ol’ school” and contemporary is a winning formula which always reflects their uncompromising stance on love and relationships — such as the one between Levert and Williams.
Because of their lifelong relationship, there’s a bond that keeps them in good stead and strengthens their business relationship, admitting, however, that they had to grow on each other because, Levert insists, they were like two wild bulls when they first became friends.
“We’ve been friends since he was six and I was seven,” says Levert. “And do we wrestle with ego problems? Are you crazy? Of course we do. It never stops. But one key thing we are able to keep in mind is that this is a business and this is what we do, so we can’t let personal problems disrupt what we do. This business is how we pay the rent and feed our families. So we can always get past all the personal and ego stuff that might get in the way.”
In addition to their music, The O’Jays embarked on acting careers and writing books — and, of course, producing great music and winning more awards.
“We’re touring right now, and then we’ll go in the studio to record some new O’Jays material,” Levert explains. “We have lots of plans and lots of things to do. But even after all these years, the best thing we have going for us are our fans and their response to our music even now, even after all these years. All our music has stood the test of time and seems very much in tune with what’s going on today. But most of all, we love the way people respond to it all.”
For times and ticket information, call (215) 893-1999.