The Oâ€™Jays Riding the Love Train at Lehman Center
The O'Jays appearing at Lehman Center or the Performing Arts in the Bronx on Saturday, January 14th
Eddie Levert was still recuperating
from the Christmas and New Year holidays when we spoke. A Las Vegas resident, Eddie entertained
family over the holidays. Relaxing and
preparing for his concert in New York, Eddie is looking forward to his
engagement with fellow O’Jays, Walter Williams and Eric Nolan Grant, at Lehman
Center for the Performing Arts, located at 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, in
the Bronx, on Saturday, January 14th at 8:00 p.m.
The O’Jays started their career in Canton, Ohio in the late 1950s and
came to epitomize the Philly sound with their rich harmonies and contemporary
funk. “Love Train,” “Backstabbers,” “Use Ta Be My Girl” and “For the Love of Money,” are included
within their 24 Top Ten hits, earning the group ten gold albums, nine platinum
and ten #1 hits.
“New York is one of my
favorite places. New York is a 24 hour
place just like Las Vegas,” said the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.
All three O’Jays are
putting out individual solo recordings.
Walter Williams released his CD Exposed. Eddie and Eric are in the final stages of their
solo CDs. “”My project is called “Eddie
Levert: I Still Have It” remarked Eddie.
“There is a song entitled Last Man
Standing. This will be my first shot
at a solo outside the O’Jays. I hope my
fans will give me a chance and at least listen to it. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever
done. Even though I tried to reinvent myself
while doing my album, it’s difficult not to sound like an O’Jay. I just can’t
help it. I pretty much stayed within my
ballpark. The Cd contains songs that have
a spirit of its own” claimed the 2009 BET Lifetime Achievement Award and the
2011 Trumpet Lifetime Achievement Award winner.
Since the loss of his
two sons, Eddie has immersed himself in family. “My CD title came about when a
9 year old family member took a photo of me.
She superimposed my face over the face of a white baby. Although, it was funny, I told her not to
show anyone the picture because it would embarrass me. Now, whenever I do something she doesn’t like,
she will get that picture, wave it at me and say “I Still Have It.” So, I thought ‘I Still Have It’ would make a
good title for my album” explained Levert.
“It’s taken me 3 years to complete the project. I am rather proud of it however, since I
wrote and produced it with the help of a few talented people. I still appreciate the art of creating music
from the bottom to the top. I like doing
it natural, doing it raw with no cut and no chaser.
Eddie Levert is satisfied
with his life. “I have to say that this
is the happiest time of my life. I tried
to infuse that in the songs I wrote. It’s
really my story and talks about the happy place I am at with the person I am
with. In fact, my opening song is called
“Lonely.” That song came about because
my wife, Rachelle, went with her friend Donna Joiner Richardson, to climb to the
top of Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, one of the highest mountains in Africa. Few people do that and succeed. My wife did. After having climbed to the top, they later
went to a region where they ran into a tribe of monkeys. My wife called me to tell me she was in a
jungle area surrounded by monkeys. It made me realize how far she was away from
me and if anything happened to her, how helpless I would be to try to get to
her. That is when the song came to me. It conveys how lonely it is when my wife is
not with me. She makes me want to be a
better person and get in touch with both my heart and mind.”
Eddie talked about how
he started off in music. “It was my
younger and older brother, Walter Williams and me initially. We began by singing in the church. We did not know what we were doing, we just
had good voices. From there we started
auditioning. We auditioned for Decca
Records but got our first deal with King Records,” said the soul singer.
The group decided to go
to California where they worked with H.B. Barnum singing pop. In New York, they worked with DJ Eddie O’Jay,
later adopting his name as the group name.
“We also worked with Rocky G and George Curr and became ballad
singers. Later we hung out with the
beach crowd and became beach singers. This
made for a diverse fan base. It was when
we went to Detroit and recorded with Thelma Gordy that we started hanging out
with the likes of the Four Tops, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Edwin Starr
and Wilson Pickett. We were all
struggling at the time,” recalled Eddie.
When the O’Jays
recorded the music of Gamble & Huff, they really took off. Eventually they started to write their own
music and in 1997, Levert, Williams and the O’Jays’ newest member Eric Nolan Grant, released Love You to Tears. The O’Jays
signed with MCA where they released For
the Love, receiving their fourth GRAMMY nomination. In 2003, they
appeared in the film “The Fighting
Temptations” starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Beyoncé Knowles. You can
catch my radio show with Eddie on Topically Yours, at Blakeradio.com, Rainbow
The O’Jays are currently doing
spot engagements while planning a national summer retirement tour which
according to Mr. Levert, will be their last tour. Thus, he advises folks to catch them now
before they retire. For tickets to their
Saturday, January 14th concert at Lehman Center call 718.960.8833 or go on line at www.Lehmancenter.org