Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pay It Backward (part one)

Two things I’ve noticed as the years have peeled by. First, nothing is ever new. And second, no one does it all on their own. We learn from one another, and if we were raised right, we not only build upon the advances of one another, we advance alongside one another.

In this vein I’m kicking off a multi-part series entitled “Pay It Backward.” Basically, I’ll begin with a brief bio of one funky artist, at which point we will collectively turn and “pay it backward” by putting a little shine on another funky individual (or group) that either directly or indirectly influenced said artist. Here we go.

The Whispers

The Whispers got their start in 1963 singing on street corners in Watts and occasionally performing in nightclubs in the San Francisco Bay Area. The group originally consisted of twin brothers Walter and Wallace Scott, and friends Nicholas Caldwell, Marcus Hutson, and Gordy Harmon, who was later replaced by Leavell Degree. During the late 60s to early 70s, the group released a number of hit records and several gold albums. It was in 1980, however, that the group released their first platinum album, The Whispers, containing their most famous single, "And The Beat Goes On."
Here the group discusses the intricate process of making this song in the days before drum machines. Apparently the beat truly did go on, and on, and on...


And now, it's time to pay it backward.

The O'jays

Originally hailing from Cleveland, but eventually going on to embody the Philladelphia soul sound, the O'jays are widely regarded as one of the most important soul groups of the past 40 years. Attending the same high school, the 5 original members started out as The Triumphs in 1958, then later changed their name to The Mascots. Their first single enjoyed some airplay by a local Cleveland DJ, Eddie O'jay, who decided to take them under his wing, inspiring the group to rename itself yet again.

In 1968, the group teamed up with songwriter-producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, signing to their label, Philadelphia International. By this time the group had trimmed down to three members: Eddie Levert, William Powell, and Walter Williams. Their first album released on the label was Back Stabbers, which was both a critical and popular success. The title jam, composed by McFadden & Whitehead, was a massive hit, sampled years later by Angie Stone.


The O'jays went on to release countless hits and continued recording through the 90s, though not with the same three members, as Powell passed away in 1977. At this time, Sammy Strain joined the group. In 2005, Williams, Powell, Levert, and Strain were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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