The O’Jays: Give Our Legends Their Flowers.

Members (past & present): Eddie Levert • Walter Williams • Eric Grant • Frank Little • Sammy Strain • William Powell • Bobby Massey • Bill Isles

Genre: Philadelphia soul • progressive soul

Origin: Canton, Ohio

Years active: 1958-present

Label: Minit • Philadelphia International • MCAEMI America ∙ TSOP ∙Volcano ∙ Neptune ∙Bell ∙ Trip ∙Imperial

The O’Jays is a group of longevity and are BEYOND so deserving of their flowers. The group has been active for over 65 years, the band has dropped so many classic records that has been the soundtrack of our lives for several generations. The group’s music has been sampled and covered by artists from later generations who can appreciate timeless music!

Formed in 1958 with original members Eddie LeVert, Walter Lee Williams, William Powell, Bobby Massey and Bill Isles, The O’Jays is one of the most iconic and legendary R&B/Soul bands of all time. When you think about Philadelphia Soul, The O’Jays are one of the acts that kept the sub genre alive in the 70s and 80s during their musical peak. This appreciation post will pay homage to the legacy of this amazing group and their impact on R&B and music period!

Ladies & gentlemen, I present to you The O’Jays: Give Our Legends Their Flowers.

The 50s:

Albums Released: N/A

In Canton, Ohio in 1958, Eddie LeVert, Walter Williams, WIlliam Powell, Bill Isles and Bobby Massey attended McKinley High School and were inspired to start a singing group after seeing a performance by Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers. The group chose the name “The Triumphs.”

The 60s:

Album released: Comin’ Through • Soul Sounds • Back on Top

In 1960, the band changed their name to “The Mascots,” & released their first recording a year later, titled Miracles. The song was a local hit for the the group.

The band eventually settled on The O’Jays for their name in honor of a radio disc jockey in Cleveland named Eddie O’Jay in 1963, and also their first national hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart Lonely Drifter.

In the mid 60s, Bill Isles left the group, making the group go to a quartet speaking that he was not replaced. The group eventually released their debut album Comin’ Through. The album had moderate singles on the charts like Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette,) Let It All Out & I’ve Cried My Last Tear. Their second album Soul Sounds gave them a top 20 hit on the R&B charts, which was titled Stand in for Love.

The band left Imperial records for Bell, and released their first top ten single top ten single on the R&B charts. Titled I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today,) the song peaked at number eight. The song was included on their Back on Top album, released in 1968.

The 70s:

Albums Released: In Philadelphia • Super Bad • Back Stabbers • • Ship Ahoy • Survival • Family Reunion • Message in the Music • Travelin’ at the Speed of Thought • So Full of Love • Identify Yourself

The O’Jays considered giving up on their music career while experiencing challenges following the success of their hit R&B single from 1968, which is ironic because they had success as a touring group and on the R&B charts. Luckily that same year, the band met Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff, a songwriting and production team who would later make history with the band. & the rest they say is history.

The band (now a trio consisting of Powell, LeVert & Williams,) was one of the first acts signed to Gamble & Huff’s Philadelphia International Records label in 1972, and became household names after the success of their debut album at the label titled Back Stabbers. An album produced by Gamble, Huff & Bunny Sigler, the band topped the pop & R&B charts with their immaculate record Love Train!

The album also spawned hit singles from the title track, Time to Get Down & 992 Arguments.

Throughout the 70s, The O’Jays continued releasing multiple Gold & Platinum selling albums which contained their most classic records like For the Love of Money, You Got Your Hooks In Me, Now That We Found Love, I Love Music, Let Me Make Love to You, Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby (Sweet, Tender, Love,) Family Reunion, Stairway to Heaven, Message In Our Music and Work On Me to name a few.

Tragically, founding member William Powell passed away of cancer in 1977 at the young age of 35. Sammy Strain (formerly a member of The Imperials) joined the group after Powell’s death and remained with the group until 1992. The 1978 album So Full of Love is one of my favorite O’Jays albums! Use ta Be My Girl is the group’s final top 5 hit on the pop charts, and gave them yet another number one hit on the R&B charts.

My favorite song from this album is Cry Together. The song is one of the most sampled songs I’ve ever heard, and is one of the album’s best cuts period!!!

If Forever Mine isn’t one of your favorite O’Jays songs, I can’t trust you or your musical taste whatsoever! The top 5 R&B hit is just the quintessential love song. Period point blank.

The 80s:

Albums Released: The Year 2000 • My Favorite Person • When Will I See You Again • Love and More • Love Fever • Let Me Touch You • Serious

The group’s success on the charts on the 80s wasn’t as impactful as the 70s, but don’t think the quality of music wasn’t being made now! These R&B classics aren’t to be played with!

But it was that goddamn Lovin’ You for me!!! Released on the group’s final PIR album Let Me Touch You, the number one R&B hit is the final record to be written by Gamble & Huff. Just a top tier record all around.

The 90s:

Albums Released: Emotionally Yours • Home for Christmas • Heartbreaker • Love You to Tears

The group signed to EMI after their run on PIR and remained in the top ten on the R&B charts with their magical touch on their music in the more modern time’s production with songs like Don’t Let Me Down, Emotionally Yours, & Keep on Lovin Me.

In 1997, Eric Grant became a replacement after Strain’s replacement (Nathaniel Best left the group).

The 00s:

Albums released: For the Love… • Together We Are One • Imagination

The group signed with MCA and released the 2001 album For The Love…, which was nominated for a Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Album.

In 2003, the trio co-starred in the film The Fighting Temptations, which starred Beyoncé Knowles & Cuba Gooding Jr.

In 2005 the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame! They were so deserving of such a honor!

The 10s:

Albums Released: Christmas with the O’Jays • The Last Word

The group released what they said will be their final studio album The Last Word, in 2019. The single Above The Law is one of my favorite songs from the album, and was written by the late Betty Wright..and is a great song lyrically.

The 20s:

Albums Released: N/A

The group still tours to this day, and I have to go to one of these shows chile!

The O’Jays will go down in music history as one of the most spectacular acts to ever do it. As an adult, I’ve gained a huge appreciation for Philly Soul, and it honestly wouldn’t be what it was back then if it wasn’t for The O’Jays. Of course yeah there were other acts that did remarkable, but their recordings truly capture the beauty of Philly soul and the sound they were going for. -MW.

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