O’Jays still wowing audiences with R&B hits

The O’Jays have continued to build a new generation of fans decade after decade. (Submitted photo)
The O’Jays have continued to build a new generation of fans decade after decade. (Submitted photo)

By Joseph Knoop

Legendary R&B group, The O’Jays, with more than 50 charted songs and 24 top-ten hits, will perform at the Palladium on July 13, bringing more than 50 years of experience to the stage.

The group, formed in Canton, Ohio, in 1958, was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.

A stable of songs like “Back Stabbers,” “Love Train” and “For the Love of Money” propelled them to stardom throughout the late 1960s and ‘70s.

Original member Eddie Levert, born in Alabama and raised in Canton, feels like the Midwest has a special quality to it.

“It’s always really great to play the home base and come back to where it all started,” Levert said. “It’s always a gratifying feeling. You take the abuse of running from hotel to hotel, jumping on airplanes. You get home and everybody acts like you’re the hero. They know you so well.”

Despite touring and recording for the better part of a century, Levert knows there’s always room for a hilarious error or two. In a momentary lapse of memory, Levert happened to forget the words to one of the songs he’d been singing for decades while performing in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“The best part is you’re mumbling, so you yell to the audience, ‘Sing it with me!’” Levert said.

Despite rare incidents like that, Levert feels the audience knows what they’re there for.

“Hit records are hit records,” Levert said. “They want to hear that record and hear you sing it like that. If you can put a bit of movement in it, they appreciate that.”

Levert, along with fellow band member Walter Williams founded The O’Jays Foundation shortly after their Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction. The foundation provides scholarships for high school, college and even non-traditional adult students.

Levert claims that similar assistance and music education helped launch his career as a musician.

“I think it is one of the atrocities when they cut it out of school, where you could go and kids could learn an instrument,” Levert said. “Of course, that’s where I got most of my teaching, from fourth grade, making me sing from my diaphragm. These people taught me how to read music, per se. It was a terrible thing when they cut music out of school. Kids need that. They need that to make school interesting.”

That’s one of the reasons Levert has kept working at the age of 72, but the other is because he still has something to prove.

Levert may have been producing music for more than 50 years, but he’d still like to have the band earn a Grammy, he said. It’s a feat the band has yet to accomplish despite a nomination in 2002 for their album, For The Love.

The band’s continued success decade after decade shows that new generations fall in love with The O’Jays in their own time.

And Levert has said the stage is where the O’Jays let it all out – and what better venue than an intimate stage for their music to be heard?

The O’Jays in concert 7 p.m. July 13 The Palladium in Carmel Tickets start at $45 For more information call 843-3800 or visit www.thecenterfortheperformingarts.org