Formed in Ohio in 1958, The O’Jays experienced moderate success throughout the ’60s with a string of minor hits like “Lonely Drifter” and “Lipstick Traces.” On the verge of calling it quits in the early ’70s, the band finally got their big break after signing to Philadelphia International for their platinum-selling 1972 single “Back Stabbers.” The song established them as a key player in the Philadelphia soul movement, a funk-infused brand of soul that pioneered many of the elements later adopted by disco. A string of hits would follow throughout the ’70s, including epochal No. 1 smash “Love Train,” creating a legacy the band continues to honor today with their spirited performances on tour.
Since beginning his professional singing career in 1969, Jeffrey Osborne has produced five gold and platinum records and worked with a who’s who list of musical artists. He spent 10 years with the popular funk and soul group, L.T.D.—first as a drummer, then as lead vocalist—before embarking on a successful solo career that included several Top 40 hits, such as “On the Wings of Love” and “Stay with Me Tonight.” The Rhode Island native, who comes from a musical family, stays busy with his charity work, touring and recording and has a new release of updated jazz standards on his first disc since 2005, entitled “A Time for Love.”
The Four Tops quartet, originally called the Four Aims, made their first single for Chess in 1956, and spent seven years on the road and in nightclubs, singing pop, blues, Broadway, but mostly jazz—four-part harmony jazz. When Motown’s Berry Gordy Jr. found out they had hustled a national “Tonight Show” appearance, he signed them without an audition to be the marquee act for the company’s Workshop Jazz label. That proved short-lived, and Stubbs’ powerhouse baritone lead and the exquisite harmonies of Fakir, Benson, and Payton started making one smash after another with the writing-producing trio Holland-Dozier-Holland.
Their first Motown hit, “Baby I Need Your Loving” in 1964, made them stars and their sixties track record on the label is indispensable to any retrospective of the decade. Their songs, soulful and bittersweet, were across-the-board successes. “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch),” a no. 1 R&B and Pop smash in 1965, is one of Motown’s longest-running chart toppers; it was quickly followed by a longtime favorite, “It’s The Same Old Song” (no. 2 R&B/no. 5 pop). Their commercial peak was highlighted by a romantic trilogy: the no. 1 “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” “Standing In The Shadows Of Love” (no. 2 R&B/no. 6 pop) and “Bernadette” (no. 3 R&B/no. 4 pop)—an extraordinary run of instant H-D-H classics.
For Rolling Stone’s 2004 article “The Immortals – The Greatest Artists of All Time,” Smokey Robinson remembered: “They were the best in my neighborhood in Detroit when I was growing up (and) the Four Tops will always be one of the biggest and the best groups ever. Their music is forever.”