Eddie Levert Talks Next Phase for Popular R&B Group
By Brenda C. Siler
Say it isn’t so! Is this really the last album and the last tour for the top-selling O’Jays?
According to Eddie Levert Sr., co-founder of the legendary O’Jays, that’s the truth. In a recent interview, he talked about how “The Last Word,” the final studio album from the platinum-selling group, serves as a platform to speak out on several issues. The lyrics tackle the current administration, the political climate, police-community relations, the state of our neighborhoods and the future of young folks.
“A lot of these things lead to division,” Levert said during the interview. “Division is gonna lead to war, death and fighting. That’s where we are heading.”
From the album’s track list, you get a sense of messages the legendary R&B group attempts to deliver. “Do You Really Know How I Feel,” “Above The Law,” “I Got You” and “Stand Up” give thought-provoking direction to listeners for deeply exploring what’s going on in our lives. The track “Pressure” looks at the types of pressure individuals deal with daily.
“Pressure comes in different forms and from different places,” Levert said. “There is always that pressure to be a better person. There’s pressure you put on yourself to better understand other people’s side. That’s what we are really talking about.”
Still, it was a surprise to hear Levert say that their current tour is the last one for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees. D.C., has always been a great market for the O’Jays and fans always count on the group to make a stop a year in the District. For them to stop touring is hard to imagine.
“I’m 77 years old,” Levert said, loud and clear with a chuckle. “How many times can I keep bending my back? How many times can I fall my knees? How many times can I run across a stage?”
Levert is grateful for more than 50 years of great recording and performance success with O’Jays. With fellow O’Jays members Walter Williams Sr. and Eric Nolan Grant, audiences still look forward to singing along on the group’s classic hits. But the guys have individual projects they want to pursue.
Levert confessed his love of many genres of music like opera and has incorporated many operatic styles in the way he sings. He wants to try some solo gigs.
“I’ve been loyal to the O’Jays. That’s been my mainstay around which I have based my whole career,” Levert said. “Now I have this desire I need to fulfill. I just have to see.”
When the group comes to the Warner Theatre on Aug. 16, audiences will hear the new music, but the classics will still be on the bill. In fact, on “The Last Word” album, the O’Jays perform a new version of their hit “I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today).” Think of it as an “unplugged” rendition of that love song. Listeners will hear that the O’Jays have voices that are just as strong and pure as on their very first recordings in the early 1960s.
“We’ve always wanted to do a concert in a big theater in an ‘unplugged’ style with just a guitar or a piano and sing the big songs like ‘Backstabbers,’” Levert said. “That lets everybody see what we put into these songs and that it is really us singing.”
This final O’Jays album and tour will definitely take fans on a journey. The new music is advocating that, together, we can make a difference.
“I’m not just after the Trump administration, I’m after all of society,” Levert said. “I’m after all of the people that can be doing and should be doing something. Do it because you want to help mankind.”
The O’Jays will perform Aug. 16 at 8 p.m. at the Warner Theatre.
This post originally appeared in The Washington Informer.