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The Elements of the O’Jays’ Success Research Paper

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Updated: Nov 25th, 2019

Many vocalists and bands became popular with the public during the period of the 1960s-1970s, and it is possible to note that they changed the history of music and brought more soul and blues motives to it. The O’Jays is a group which is traditionally discussed as one of the most popular R&B or soul groups in the USA during the mentioned period.

However, this group is an extraordinary phenomenon in the history of music because adapting to all the new trends and preserving their specific and recognizable sound, the O’Jays are still active in performing. The characteristic feature of the group is its famous “Philly Soul” sound which once broadened the public’s vision of the soul music. To explain the group’s past and present success and the status of a legend, it is necessary to pay attention to the most important points and periods in the group’s career.

First Career Steps

The start of the group’s great and prolonged music career was in Canton, Ohio, where two young men Eddie Levert and Walter Williams sang gospels on a radio station. The boys were attending Canton McKinley High School, and they decided to organize the first group with their schoolmates William Powell, Bobby Massey, and Bill Isles. In 1959, the boys gave the title Triumphs to their music group.

Later, the group became locally popular as the Mascots. The era of the O’Jays began when Eddie O’Jay, a disc jockey from Cleveland, became interested in the boys’ music activity. Moreover, the group was renamed after Eddie O’Jay, and the boys signed their first significant contract with the Imperial and Bell labels as the O’Jays in 1963 (“The O’Jays”).

The next step was to win the R&B charts with such singles as “Lonely Drifter” and “Stand in For Love”. These songs became the real hits of the 1960s in the USA. The group’s debut album was titled “Comin’ Through”, and it received the public’s recognition in 1965 (“The O’Jays Biography”).

During the 1960s, the O’Jays were especially popular with the lovers of the soul music, and group’s songs took the highest positions in the R&B charts. Nevertheless, the group’s activity in the 1960s was only a repetition of the great success coming soon in the 1970s.

The situation began to change in 1968 when the O’Jays started to work with famous producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. The producers concentrated on the concept of “The Sound of Philadelphia” in order to develop the vocalists’ potential in the field of the soul music. Moreover, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff were the originators of the elements of this music style (“The O’Jays Biography”).

The Group’s Success in the 1970s

In 1972, the group consisted only of three members because Bill Isles and Bobby Massey left it several years earlier. The next contract was signed with Philadelphia International. Walter Williams paid attention to the fact that “the day we signed [with Philadelphia International] was the day we finally came in from the rain” (“The O’Jays Biography”).

The new period with new songs and approaches to the stage performance began. The long-term cooperation was begun with releasing the most successful single of the group which is known all over the world as “Back Stabbers”. It is important to note that the album with the same title became the real success of 1972, taking the top positions in all the R&B and popular charts of the country (“The O’Jays”).

The next years were extremely successful for the group’s development because the O’Jays released gold and platinum records regularly, gaining more fans. They were also nominated for Grammy Award three times. Their albums “Live in London” and “Survival went” became the classical variant of the R&B music.

Thus, the group’s singles were released every year, and all of them became the real hits. That is why, “For the Love of Money”, “Message in Our Music”, “Give the People What They Want”, “I Love Music”, and “Use Ta Be My Girl” were taking the highest positions in the R&B charts for a long period of time (“The O’Jays”).

However, the high success was characteristic for the group only during the period of the 1970s. Later, the O’Jays lost their top positions in the field of the soul music. The critics are inclined to connect this situation with the fact that the popularity of the O’Jays decreased because they did not follow the music trends when it was necessary to pay much attention to the new music rhythms.

Furthermore, the critics connect the group’s decline during the next decade with the fact that the members of the O’Jays did not have the special music education, and they were predominantly popular with the representatives of the black community (“The O’Jays”).

The success of the singles in the 1970s could not guarantee the group’s stardom during the next years. Moreover, the story of the O’Jays’ cooperation with the labels depended on a lot of difficulties. The public did not know anything about the personalities of the group’s members. Their names were unknown to the audience during a long period of time.

The O’Jays during the Next Decades

In 1991, the O’Jays start their independent career without references to the labels of Gamble and Huff. The group’s remarkable return is associated with their next album “Emotionally Yours” in which the singers’ new approach to their music and R&B style was presented.

Thus, the R&B compositions from the album received the great recognition in the USA. The researchers of the group’s activity state that “Emotionally Yours” (1991) yielded three R&B smashes, including their choir-filled arrangement of the Bob Dylan-penned title track” (“The O’Jays Biography”).

The popularity of the O’Jays can depend on the professional and artistic combination of meaningful lyrics and light melodies which are easy to recognize. Moreover, adapting to the changes in the world of music, the members of the O’Jays always used that component of their music which did not change, and it was their talent of vocalists. The professional performance is evaluated by the audience in spite of the changes in trends.

Analyzing the peculiarities of the group’s career during the period of 1980s-1990s, it is necessary to pay attention to the fact that cooperation of the O’Jays with Gamble and Huff was the main aspect of the group’s success because the O’Jays took the top chart positions with the hits produced and released by Gamble and Huff’s labels.

Such compositions as “Back Stabbers” which emphasized the group’s success in the 1970s and “Lovin’ You” which accentuated the O’Jays’ return to the highest positions are the most significant songs in the group’s career because the public all over the world associate the O’Jays’ activity with these compositions.

Being one of the most famous soul groups in the USA, the O’Jays achieved their success among the fans of the pop music only twice, when “Back Stabbers” and “Lovin’ You” were released in the USA and Great Britain (“The O’Jays”). In spite of the fact the popularity of the group decreased in the 1980s, the O’Jays did not stop their activity, and they presented their latest album which is known as “Imagination” in 2004.

The Peculiarities of the O’Jays’ Music

It is almost impossible to define the music of the O’Jays with references to only one style because the group’s songs combine the elements of the soul music with the traditional R&B motives, funk, and rap. The period of the 1980s also influenced the group’s music in which the disco tunes began to prevail. Today, it is possible to recognize the group in relation to its greatest hits which are “Back Stabbers”, “Love Train”, and “I Love Music”.

Moreover, it is important to note that the members of the O’Jays did not write their songs by themselves. The first attempts to perform their own material were stopped with signing the contract with Gamble and Huff. The first singles of the group were based on the combination of deep and light tunes with the texts in which different social themes were revealed. These details reflected the peculiarities of the soul music development in the 1960s.

The songs which were performed by the O’Jays were based on the tastes of the representatives of the label with the help of which the group released their singles. Moreover, the image of the O’Jays and their behavior on stage were also the results of the producers’ work. Thus, Gamble and Huff concentrated on every detail of their groups and singers’ images (“The O’Jays”).

The Philadelphia Sound is often the result of the efficient work of the producers and composers. That is why the names of those persons who perform as the members of the soul groups are often unknown to the public. The style can be characterized by the accents on different variations with the instrumental sounds which are influenced by such a music style as funk.

“The Sound of Philadelphia” or “TSOP,” for short – was a churchy yet contemporary melange of strings, keyboards, octave-leaping guitars and propulsive dance rhythms, crowned by rich, gospel-drenched vocal harmonies” (“The O’Jays Biography”).

Today, the O’Jays can be discussed as the legendary R&B group the members of which started their career in Canton, Ohio, in 1959. In spite of the fact the period of the group’s great success is the 1970s, it is possible to observe the group vocalists’ performances at the most significant music events even today. The long-term activity of the group can be explained with references to the fact the O’Jays were always considered as one of the best representatives of the Philadelphia Sound.

Thus, the history of their popularity with the public is long and full of such significant events as the top positions in the charts, numerous energetic and vivid live shows, the Olympian vocals, and the nominations for the Grammy Award. The best hits of the O’Jays and the most popular soul and R&B songs are “Back Stabbers”, “I Love Music”, and “Love Train”.

Works Cited

The O’Jays n.d. Web.

The O’Jays Biography 2010. Web.

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