Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The O'Jays, The #72 Artist of the Seventies*

Many of the acts in our special enjoyed more success in either the 60's or 80's, such as the group we heard from yesterday, the Cars, who became more of a force in the 80's.  This act enjoyed most of their success in the 70's, which is what we are focusing on here.

The O'Jays formed way back in 1958 at Canton McKinley High School in Canton, Ohio with Eddie Levert, Walter Williams, William Powell, Bobby Massey and Bill Isles.  They were known back then as the Triumphs and the Mascots.  In 1963, the group adopted the name the O'Jays and enjoyed a minor hit with "Lonely Drifter" in 1963.  The O'Jays released a total of 33 singles from 1960-1972, but received only limited airplay on R&B stations, most notably on "I'll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today)", which reached #7 in that genre. 

In 1972, the group thought about quitting the music industry--although they were successful on the concert scene and had enjoyed R&B hits, it was a lot of work for little money.  About this time, original members Bill Isles and Bobby Massey left, leaving the O'Jays as a trio. 

But good luck was about to smile on the O'Jays.  The famous production team of Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff believed in them, and signed the group to their Philadelphia International label. 

The O'Jays released the album Back Stabbers, with the title song as the first single.  "Back Stabbers" not only hit #1 on the R&B chart, more importantly, it landed at #3 overall.

Back Stabbers launched the group onto the music scene, reaching #10 on the Album chart.  That was largely thanks to the song that would secure their place in history, the second single "Love Train".  It went to #1 for the O'Jays, and is not only one of The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*, but one of The Most Important Songs* as well.  "Love Train" led Back Stabbers to Gold status.

Fans were hopping on the O'Jays bandwagon from all over.  The Ships Ahoy album was next in 1973.  The group released "Time To Get Down" first, a #2 R&B hit but it had limited airplay elsewhere.
The trio released another R&B-flavored song next, "Put Your Hands Together".  It also reached #2 there, but this time, the group enjoyed a #10 Popular hit with it.

Ships Ahoy went to Platinum status, signifying one million units sold  The album yielded its biggest hit with "For The Love Of Money", #3 on the R&B chart and #9 overall. (Click on the "Play" icon at the top left-hand portion of the video...)

The following year, the O'Jays released the album Survival, their third consecutive Top 15 album, which gave them another Gold record.  "Give The People What They Want" reached #1 on the R&B chart, and "Let Me Make Love To You" hit #10 in the genre.

The album Family Reunion achieved a #7 ranking on the Album chart and became the group's second Top 10 album.  The single "I Love Music" was another of the group's all-time best songs, going up to #5 in the U.S. and #9 in Canada.

Family Reunion went Platinum for the O'Jays.  An underrated song was up next--"Livin' For The Weekend" hit #1 on the R&B chart, but was only #20 overall.

In 1976, the group released the album Message in the Music.  Both the title song as well as "Darlin' Darlin' Baby (Sweet, Tender, Love)" reached #1 on the R&B chart.

The O'Jays scored their fifth Gold album with Message in the Music.  They were becoming a major force on the R&B scene, as their 1977 album Travelin' at the Speed of Thought showed.  On the strength of two R&B Top 10's ("Work On Me" and "Let's Clean Up The Ghetto", the album went Platinum. 
Original member William Powell died of cancer in 1977, a huge blow for the group that was really on a roll.  Sammy Strain of Little Anthony and the Imperials replaced him, and the group soldiered on.  They released the album So Full of Love in 1978 and enjoyed the #4 smash "Use Ta Be My Girl".

The O'Jays enjoyed a Platinum album with So Full of Love, and another in 1979 with Identify Yourself.  They scored five more Top 10 R&B hits, but would never get higher than #28 for the rest of their career on the Popular chart.

The group sold over 6.5 million records in the decade in the U.S.  They enjoyed 17 hits in the 70's, with six Top 10's and their #1 classic "Love Train".

The O'Jays were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. 

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