American singer Eddie Levert is best known as the lead vocalist of the soul/funk/R&B male vocal group The O'Jays, originally consisting of Walter Williams, William Powell (died in 1977), Bobby Massey and Bill Isles, in addition to Levert. The O'Jays became famous during the 1970s and the 1980s with series of No. 1 R&B singles like Back Stabbers,” “Love Train,” “Give the People What They Want,” “I Love Music (Part I),” “Livin' for the Weekend,” “Message in Our Music,” “Darlin' Darlin' Baby (Sweet, Tender, Love),” “Use ta Be My Girl,” “Lovin' You” and “Have You Had Your Love Today.” They have continued on performing to this days although never achieved the same level of success as their heyday. Levert also co-wrote songs for the O'Jays and others, as well as performed duet with his late son, Gerald Levert (born 1966, died 2006). Their first duet song, “Baby Hold On to Me” (1992), hit No. 1 on the the R&B charts. Levert also acted and performed the song “He Still Loves Me” on the 2003 film “The Fighting Temptations.”
Levert won a 1996 Image Award for Outstanding Performance in a Variety Series/Special for “The 1995 Essence Awards.” In 2005, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with the O'Jays members. The group went on to receive the BET's Life Time Achievement Award in 2009.
Currently, Levert is married to Raquel Capelton and has one child with her. He and former wife Martha share four children.
Childhood and Family:
Edward Levert, who would later be popular as Eddie Levert, was born on June 16, 1942, in Bessemer, Alabama. His family moved to Canton, Ohio, when he was age years old. Eddie met future group member Walter Williams (born August 25, 1942), who is a Canton, OH native, in elementary school. While attending Canton McKinley High School, in 1958, the two started a music group along with fellow students William Powell (born around 1941, died May 26, 1977), Bill Isles and Bobby Massey. The group would become The O'Jays in 1963, a name chosen in tribute to Cleveland radio disc jockey Eddie O'Jay, who was part of the powerful management team of Frankie Crocker, Herb Hamlett & Eddie O'Jay.
Mr. Levert has been married twice. His first married to Martha Levert (1966-?) produced four children. He is currently married to Raquel Capelton, with whom he has one child. His son, R&B singers Gerald Levert died at age 40 on November 10, 2006 from acute intoxication. The relationships between Eddie Sr. and Gerald became a subject of a book, “I Got Your Back: A Father and Son Keep It Real about Love, Fatherhood, Family, and Friendship,” released in 2007. At the time of his death, Gerald had three children: LeMicah, Camryn, and Carlysia. Levert's next son, Sean Levert (born September 28, 1968), also an R&B singer, died from complications from sarcoidosis on March 30, 2008, while serving a 22 month prison sentence for failing to pay child support for three of his children. Sean had a total of six children. Another son, Eddie Levert Jr., becomes the CEO of Levert Entertainment Group, a Music label headquartered in Los Angeles, CA.
Baby Hold On to Me
Lead vocalist Eddie Levert formed The Triumphs in 1958 with fellow high school students Walter Williams, William Powel, Bobby Massey, and Bill Isles. After signing to King Records, the group became The Mascots and recorded four sides in the early 1960s before coming under the mentorship of Cleveland, OH, radio DJ Eddie O'Jay. By 1963, they had officially taken the name The O'Jays. Thanks to the help of DJ Eddie, the group scored a recording deal with Imperial Records. The group had their first charting single with “Lonely Drifter,” which Levert co-wrote. The single reached No. 93 on the Billboard Hot 100 in fall 1963. Their debut album, “Comin' Through,” was released in November 1965. The group continued to produce charting singles such as a cover of Benny Spellman's “Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette)” (1965), which peaked on the R&B chart at No. 28 and No. 48 on the Billboard Hot 100, “I've Cried My Last Tear” (1965), a No. 94 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, “Let It All Out” (1965), a No. 29 hit on the R&B chart, and “Stand in for Love” (1966), which reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and No. 95 on the Billboard Hot 100.
After switching to Bell Records, Levert and his bandmates released “Back on Top” in 1968. The album contained “I'll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today),” the group's biggest hit for Bell Records, which reached No. 66 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967 and made the Top 10 on the R&B chart (#8). the album also produced the singles “Look Over Your Shoulder” (1968) and “The Choice” (1968), which reached No. 68 and No. 89 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 8 and No. 27 on the R&B chart, respectively. In 1969, The O'Jays released “The O'Jays in Philadelphia” on Neptune Records. The album's first single, “One Night Affair,” reached No. 15 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs in the summer of 1969 and No. 68 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The O'Jays achieved great success after they signed to Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff's label, Philadelphia International Record, in early 1970s. The group's first record for PIR, “Back Stabbers” (1972), marked a breakthrough album fro the group by going Top 10 on both the Billboard 200 (#10) and the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (#3). It was certified gold by the RIAA. The album featured two of their most successful singles, “Back Stabbers” (1972) and “Love Train” (1973), both of which reached No. 1 on the R&B Singles Chart, with the latter also hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the group's first and only single to do so. The album also produced two more hits on the R&B singles chart with “992 Arguments” (#13) and “Time to Get Down” (#2). By this period, The O'Jays had become a trio following the departure of Bill Isles and Bobby Massey.
The follow up album “Ship Ahoy” (1973) was a critical and commercial success. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and No. 11 on the Billboard 200, and eventually achieve platinum status. The album yielded two hit singles, “Put Your Hands Together” (1973, #10 US, #2 US R&B) and “For the Love of Money” (1974, #9 US, #2 US R&B).
During the reminder of the 1970s, Levert and bandmates continued releasing hit singles, including “Sunshine (Part II)” (#17 R&B), “Give the People What They Want” (#1 R&B), “Let Me Make Love To You” (#10 R&B), “I Love Music (Part I)” (#1 R&B), “Livin' for the Weekend” (#1 R&B), “Message in Our Music” (#1 R&B), “Darlin' Darlin' Baby (Sweet, Tender, Love)” (#1 R&B), “Work on Me” (#7 R&B), “Use ta Be My Girl” (#1 R&B), “Sing a Happy Song” (#7 R&B) and “Forever Mine” (#4 R&B), and successful albums, such as “Survival” (1975, #1US R&B), “Family Reunion” (1975, #1 US R&B), “Message in the Music” (1976, #3US R&B), “Travelin' at the Speed of Thought” (1977, #6 US R&B), “So Full of Love” (1979, #1 US R&B) and “Identify Yourself” (1979, #3 US R&B). Meanwhile, in 1977, original member William Powell died of cancer at age 35. He was replaced by Sammy Strain of Little Anthony and the Imperials.
The O'Jays went on to place songs on the R&B charts throughout the 1980s, among them “Girl, Don't Let It Get You Down” (1980, #3), “I Just Want to Satisfy” (1982, #15), “Your Body's Here with Me (But Your Mind's on the Other Side of Town)” (1982, #13) and “Just Another Lonely Night” (1985, #18). The single “Lovin' You” (1987), from the 1987 album “Let Me Touch You,” spent a week at No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart, becoming the group's first No.1 on the chart since 1978's “Use ta Be My Girl.”
The O'Jays parted ways with PIR and signed with EMI-Manhattan Records, where Levert and William started co-writing and producing tracks. Their EMI debut single, “Have You Had Your Love Today” (1989), reached topped the Billboard Hot Black Singles in June 1989, becoming the group's tenth and final No. 1 hit on the chart. The O'Jays' partnership with EMI resulted in four studio albums: “Serious “ (1989, #4 R&B), “Emotionally Yours” (1991, #2 R&B), “Home for Christmas” (1991) and “Heartbreaker” (1993, #7 R&B). In 1992, Sammy Strain departed the group and was replaced by Nathaniel Best. Later, Best was replaced by Eric Grant.
The group returned with a new studio album, “Love You to Tears,” released in 1997 on Volcano Records. The album produced the Top 40 R&B hits “What's Stopping You” (# 21) and “Baby You Know” (#34). Th album marked the group's final release in the 1990s.
Levert and his bandmates released “For the Love” in 2001 under MCA Records. The album peaked at No. 53 on the Billboard 200 and No. 11 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. The album's single, “Let's Ride,” failed to enter the Top 40.
In 2003, Levert was cast on the Jonathan Lynn award winning film “The Fighting Temptations,” starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Beyoncé Knowles and Mike Epps. There he played the role of Joseph. He also performed the songs “Rain Down” / “He Still Loves Me” on the film soundtrack.
In 2004, The O'Jays released “ Together We Are One” on Philadelphia Int'l and “Imagination” on Sanctuary. The album reached No. 36 and No. 19 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, respectively.
In 2010, The O'Jays released “Christmas with the O'Jays” on Saguaro Road. The same year, on October 30, the group performed at Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” in Washington, D.C.
Outside of The O'Jays, Levert has released two albums with his late son, Gerald Levert, named “Father & Son” (1995) and “Something To Talk About” (2007), which has sold 69,656 copies as of July 2007. The two also released three singles together. The first single “Baby Hold On to Me” (1992) reached No. 1 on the R&B Singles chart and No. 37 on the Billboard Pop chart. The follow up “Already Missing You” (1995) peaked at No. 7 on the R&B Singles chart and No. 75 on the Bilboard pop chart, while the last “Wind Beneath My Wings” (1996), reaching No. 30 on the R&B Singles chart.
BET: Lifetime Achievement Award, 2009 (with The O'Jays)
Image: Outstanding Performance in a Variety Series/Special, “The 1995 Essence Awards,” 1996