To date, The O’Jays are one of the most popular and long-running soul bands to come out of Philadelphia, establishing their career as leading players at the forefront of 70s soul music with R&B and disco influences. In 2005, The O’Jays were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for putting Philly Soul on the map, a sound defined by its smooth and rich harmonies often lead by strings, intricate arrangements, and a hint of contemporary funk. Their 50-year career kicked off with extreme success in the 70s funk/soul scene, and is colored with dozens of top hits and albums which shaped their diverse fan base with a mix of love ballads and up-best dance hits.
The original five members met while attending high school in Canton, OH. Together Eddie Levert, Walter William, William Powell, Bill Isles, and Bobby Massey formed the R&B vocal group The Triumphs in 1959, renamed The Mascots a year later. The young boys grew a fan in popular Cleveland disc jockey Edie O’Jay, who helped them earn local fame through some airplay. Thus formed The O’Jays, who packed up and moved to make it big in Los Angeles under producer H.B. Barnum and his Little Star label. After a string of singles and being signed to Imperial Records they released their first album, Comin’ Through in 1965. The O’Jays enjoyed success on R&B charts through the 60s while under the Imperial and Bell labels, producing hits such as “Stand in For Love” and “I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today)”.
In 1972, Gamble & Huff, a team of producers and songwriters with whom The O'Jays had been working for several years, signed the group to their Philadelphia International label. With their established magic formula, often called The Sound of Philadelphia, The O’Jays released their first Number 1 and million-seller Back Stabbers, which quickly became a landmark in Philly soul. Off that album the utopian hit “Love Train” and title track “Back Stabbers” once again topped the R&B charts. Thus began a remarkable run of best-selling albums and number one R&B and funk/soul hits throughout the 70s, not to mention nearly 30 chart singles including “Love Train”, “Put Your Hands Together”, “For The Love of Money”, “Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby (Sweet Tender Love), and “Use Ta Be My Girl”.
By the early 80s, the trio was made up of original members Eddie Levert and Walter William with the 12-year veteran of Little Anthony & the Imperials, Sammy Strain. While The O’Jays never faded from the R&B charts, the diminished returns of the early 80s sparked a time for change and they left Philadelphia International for EMI for 1987’s Let Me Touch You, a steady combination of their classic soul and more modern urban R&B production. Their revamped sound and increased visibility with the help of Levert’s sons’ emerging fame (Gerald and Sean were two-thirds of the hit urban group, LeVert) reinforced The O’Jays’ talents in remaining flexible in rough times while keeping the quintessential sound that gave them their first taste of fame over 20 years earlier.
Now with Eric Grant joining Levert and Williams, the group released Love You to Tears in 1997, then later 2001’s For the Love…, Christmas with The O’Jays in 2010, and most recently Imagination in 2011.