The O’Jays, comprised of Eddie Levert, Walter Williams and Eric Nolan Grant, performed to a packed house at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in the Bronx, N.Y., on Saturday, Jan. 14, singing songs from their classic repertoire.
The entertainers lit up the stage in their ornate sparkling white outfits, regaling the crowd with amusing banter and dance numbers that had some women rushing to the stage, grabbing the hand of their favorite entertainer in the hope of receiving a touch, glance and/or even a smile from the fabulous O’Jays. One woman even threw her scarf on the stage causing Eddie to gently wrap it back around her neck as she swooned in ecstasy.
Comedian “Hamburger” is one of the funniest men alive and he proved it, joking with the audience, and even embarrassing a few late comers and seat stealers. His opening act set the tone for the rest of the evening, putting everyone in a jovial mood.
During their concert, The O’Jays sang “Love Train,” “Backstabbers,” “Use Ta Be My Girl” and “For the Love of Money, proving why the O’Jays have earned 24 Top Ten hits, 10 gold albums, nine platinum and 10 number one hits.
In fact, all three O’Jays are putting out individual recordings. Walter Williams released his CD Exposed last year with Eddie and Eric on the verge of completing their projects.
I spoke with Eddie Levert prior to his concert. “My project is called “Eddie Levert: I Still Have It” remarked Eddie. “There is a song entitled Last Man Standing. This will be my first shot as a solo artist outside the O’Jays. I hope my fans will give me a chance and listen to it. It was hard not to sound like an O’Jay, even though I attempted to reinvent myself,” chuckled the talented singer.
“I stayed within my ballpark so the CD contains songs that have a spirit of its own. It’s taken me three years to complete the project. I am rather proud of it. I wrote and produced it with the help of a few talented people. I still appreciate the art of creating music from the bottom to the top. I like doing it natural, doing it raw with no cut and no chaser,” claimed the 2009 BET Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2011 Trumpet Lifetime Achievement Award winner.
Since the loss of his two sons, Eddie has immersed himself in family. “My CD title came about when my nine-year-old daughter took a photo of me. She superimposed my face over the face of a white baby. Although, it was funny, I told her not to show anyone the picture because it would embarrass me. Now, whenever I do something she doesn’t like, she will get that picture, wave it at me and say “I Still Have It.” So, I thought ‘I Still Have It’ would make a good title for my album” explained the enduring singer.
These days Eddie Levert is satisfied with life. He spoke about his life-time relationship with fellow O’Jay, Walter Williams, who he considers to be as close as a brother, and his relationship with those dear to him.
“I have to say that this is the happiest time of my life. I try to infuse that feeling into the songs I write. The CD I am presently working on is really my story. It talks about the happy place I am at with the person I am with. In fact, my opening song is called ‘Lonely.’
“That song came about because my wife, Rachelle, went to Tanzania with her friend Donna Joiner Richardson, to climb to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, one of the highest mountains in Africa. Few people succeed, my wife did. Later, she went to a region where she ran into a tribe of monkeys. Rachelle called me to tell me she was in a jungle surrounded by monkeys. It made me realize how far away she was and if anything happened to her, I couldn’t get to her. That incident inspired a song that conveyed how lonely I was without her and how she makes me want to be a better person.”
Interested parties can listen to my Internet radio show, “Topically Yours,” on Blakeradio.com, Rainbow Soul, wherein Mr. Levert suggested fans come out to see the O’Jays before they retire. He stated the O’Jays are considering a possible National Retirement Tour this summer. Apparently this news took everyone around Eddie by surprise given the resulting feedback.
Upcoming 2012 shows at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, will be The Drifters, The Platters, The Chiffons, Gloria Gaynor and the Hit Men, Bobby McFerrin, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Forever Freestyle, Salsa Con Amor, Blues Brother Tribute, Capone, Smokey Robinson, Moscow Ballet, etc.