The O'Jays began in 1957 at McKinley High School in Canton, Ohio. But then they were called The Triumphs. It was Eddie Levert, Walter Williams, William Powell, Bobby Massey and Bill Isles.
They became The Mascots in 1960 and that name was changed in 1963 to The O'Jays, after legendary radio DJ Eddie O'Jay. They had some great hits along the way in the 60s. Then in 1972, the trio of Levert, Williams and Powell made magic with producers/songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff of the Philadelphia soul school - Philadelphia International Records. (The bunch had been collaborating since 1967.) But this 1972 get together produced the classic "Backstabbers."
For the next seven years after the 1972 release of "Backstabbers," The O'Jays had a gold or platinum record every year and three Grammy nominations for Best R&B Vocal Group. In 1990, they won the American Music Award for Favorite R&B Group or Duo for the album, "Emotionally Yours." The O'Jays have had 50 hit singles in their 40 year career.
The newest member is Eric Grant. Today the O'Jays are: Eddie Levert, Walter Williams and Eric Grant.
Having said that...the lights went up on the stage at the New Haven Green. The audience roared. Packed with people ready to party. Packed up the sidewalks and sidestreets. The O'Jays were in town. And the town was ready to rock!
Dressed in their bright-red three-piece suits, The O'Jays strutted out to the funky beat that's brought out this crowd tonight. (7/24/04) Everybody was singing along, clapping, dancing, swaying, laughing. Just having a good time.
Bam! Bam! Bam! One hit after another. These guys are true performers. Strong, powerful vocals driven by great ol' school dance steps...funky and true. And they came armed with a full horn section, a slappin' bass and a drummer that wouldn't quit!
"Love Train," "Backstabbers," "Used Ta Be My Girl," "I Love Music," "Livin' For The Weekend"...it was non-stop. Except for the two times the power completely shut down. Like somebody had tripped over the BIG PLUG. The first time it happened, I thought...hmmmm...everybody having a good time...then no music...bad time...big crowd...slowly made my way to the outskirts of the masses - just in case things went sour. Ha. Call it years of experience. The second time the power went out, the guy behind me said "Riot." So I knew I wasn't too far off base.
But somebody stuck some bubble gum on the glitched wire or whatever...and the show must go on! And it did. A great show. I had seen these guys a few years earlier at the Saratoga Springs Jazz Festival (which is actually called the Freihofer's Jazz Festival these days I think). So I knew The O'Jays came to New Haven meaning business. They rocked the town. Yale territory. School of our last two Presidents.
Closing out with "For The Love Of Money" - my personal favorite - it gave everybody their Vitamin Funk for the week. Great stuff. Real entertainment. They don't make 'em like they used to. Thank you God for sending us The O'Jays. Good music is so healing.