You may not know Steve Arrington by name, but you probably know his voice and have certainly heard his music.
The Ohio-bred vocalist is one of the most influential crooners to come along in the past several decades. His distinct nasal stylings have certainly left their mark on artists like Keith Sweat (who has remade several of Arrington’s songs.) Joining already-established funk band Slave in the late Seventies, Arrington lent his pipes to some of their biggest hits, like “Just A Touch Of Love” and “Watching You,” which is easily one of the most sampled/interpolated songs in hip-hop history.
Arrington left Slave following their 1981 LP Showtime (find it and buy it if you’re a funk fan) and immediately set out with his own outfit, entitled Steve Arrington’s Hall of Fame. They released two albums, which did well, particularly in urban areas like New York City (the way songs like “Nobody Can Be You” and “Weak At The Knees” were played there, you’d have thought they were #1 hits.) Although his music had always retained a certain spirituality, Arrington experienced a religious conversion in the early Eighties, and that sense of spirituality was all over 1985’s Dancin’ In The Key of Life album, as well as it’s title track. If you’re not feeling good already (because, you know-it’s Friday afternoon,) I guarantee this song will provide the perfect pick me up!
It’s not as down-and-dirty funky as his previous hits, but it’s ridiculously danceable, and you can practically hear Arrington smiling as he sings. There’s certainly a lot of smiling happening in the video, which may have been the only one Arrington ever did (YouTube isn’t giving me anything else…)The song reached the top 10 on the R&B charts, and provided yet another smash on the dance charts, but none of Arrington’s hits (or Slave’s, for that matter) really crossed over.
Arrington still records and performs, most recently cutting a single for underground soul/hip-hop label Stone’s Throw. I bet a live show from this guy would kick copious amounts of ass, and if you’re a funk fan and don’t have any of this guy’s work (most of which is available either digitally or at your local used vinyl emporium) then get on it!