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Interview:
The O'Jays at Andiamo, 5 Things To Know
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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The "Love Train" started for the O'Jays nearly 60 years ago in Canton, Ohio, and it hasn't stopped since.

The R&B vocal group is, of course, best-known for its run of 70s hits for Philadelphia International, including "Back Stabbers," "For The Love Of Money," "I Love Music," "Use ta Be My Girl" and, of course, the chart-topping "Love Train." It also scored eight Top 20 albums and has been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

It's single "For The Love Of Money," meanwhile, was the theme song for President-elect Donald Trump's TV series "The Apprentice" and "Celebrity Apprentice."

The O'Jays continue to record and tour, with originals members Eddie Levert and Walter Williams still in the group. Levert, 74, lives in Las Vegas these days, though he proudly remains a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan...

The O'Jays spent plenty of time in Detroit during their early days and even auditioned for Motown. But Levert says the group was too smart to sign up with the label. "The problem was that Berry Gordy wanted 50 percent of everything, and we didn't need none of that," Levert explains by phone. "So we went with Raynoma, who was Berry's ex-wife, and that way we started working with Norman Whitfield and Edwin Starr. A lot of the early stuff was done there in (Detroit) and we knew everybody over there -- Wilson Pickett, Martha & the Vandellas, the Supremes, the Contours, the Tempts, Smokey & the Miracles. We hung out over there. We were almost like students studying music together. We were all kid searching for success. I remember all those people started having hit records and we were sitting in Cleveland going, 'Well, what about us?!'" (laughs)

Lever does acknowledge that the long wait for the big hits to come during the 70s "was disheartening, but there was never a thought of giving up because this is what I was made to do. This is the gift God gave me, and I'm gonna use it until...Well, people ask me, 'When are you gonna retire?' I'm never gonna retire. They'll probably carry me off the stage, right to the graveyard. What else would I do?"

The O'Jays are planning to record and release some new material during 2017, although Levert notes that, "We're not that far along yet. We're still picking the material, and then we're debating on producers because we really would love to get Ron Fair (Christina Aguilera, Fergie, others) and (Philly soul greats )Gamble & Huff involved in it. We feel like we've had great success with the two of them, so we're still working on getting the components together. We hope to have it done by the time summer comes."

Levert released a new solo album of his own this year, "Did I Make You Go Ooh." "Y'know, watching these kids put out what they call R&B, I said, 'Let me just go and do what I do naturally," he says. "I can do the music like it really should be done, you know? I'm just trying to tell them kids, 'I know I'm old, but I'm not dead. I still got something to say."

The O'Jays have been linked over the years to President-elect Donald Trump after their hit 1974 hit "For The Love Of Money" became the them song for his NBC reality show "The Apprentice." Levert notes that, "I made a nice buck with Donald Trump from using (the song)," but he was not a supporter of his candidacy and, in fact, the O'Jays asked Trump to cease and desist using "Love Train" during his campaign stops. "I'm all for change, but I don't think Donald Trump is the guy who can take us to make that change," Levert says. "So when he started using 'Love Train,' I called him up and told them, 'Listen, man. I don't believe in what you're doing. I'm not with you. I don't want you to use my voice." They got on me about that a little, saying now that I've got enough money from him I can kick dirt in his face. Btu I have a right to like what I like and pick the people I want to follow and want to be associated with. I don't think he's the man to lead our country, so, no, he can't use our song for that."

The O'Jays

8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Dec. 29-30.

Andiamo Celebrity Showroom, 7096 E. Fourteen Mile Road, Warren.

Tickets are $99.50 and $49.50.

Call 586-286-3200 or visit andiamoitalia.com.




Web Site: www.andiamoitalia.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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