As it says in the little bio that appears at the bottom of each of my columns, I am no fan of ’80s music. In general I feel like it was the worst decade for music since the 1950’s. Of course there are always exceptions. There was some good music made in the ’80s, but it was just that, an exception, and not the rule.
This week I am making a rare foray into the ’80s to pluck a neo-soul smash from 1987 that had a deep connection to the classic soul era in the person of Eddie Levert, founder of the O’Jays. Because in 1984 it was two of Eddie’s sons, Gerald and Sean, who along with Marc Gordon got together in Ohio and gave themselves the name, what else, LeVert.
Their first single, “I’m Still,” came out on the Tempre label in 1985. It made a small dent on the R&B chart, reaching #70. They released I Get Hot, their first album that year too. Naturally there were immediate comparisons to Eddie’s vocal style, but that wasn’t enough to get the album onto the charts.
A year later LeVert was back with Bloodline, their second album. This effort was more successful, spawning their first hit single, “(Pop, Pop, Pop) Goes My Mind,” which rocketed all the way to the #1 spot on the R&B chart. The follow-up singles from Bloodline, “Let’s Go Out Tonight,” and “Fascination” also did well, both reaching the Top 30. The big one was still ahead.
In 1987 LeVert released an album called The Big Throwdown. That album included the massive hit “Casanova.” The song was written by Reggie Calloway who also produced the record. “Casanova” not only became LeVert’s second #1 hit on the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart, it made a powerful showing on the pop chart at #5. It was far and away the biggest hit that LeVert ever had, and the only time they had a major pop hit.
The next six Levert singles all made the R&B Top Ten, with “Addicted to You” giving them their third #1 in 1988. They must have enjoyed being on top of the charts because they did it again the next year with “Just Coolin’,” which featured Heavy D, and again with “Baby I’m Ready” in 1991. Other singles like “Pull Over” (1988), “Gotta Get the Money” (1989), “Rope a Dope Style” (1990), “All Season” (1990), and “ABC-123” (1993) all made the R&B Top Ten. During this time LeVert also released four Gold albums.
In the early ’90s, Gerald Levert began a solo career, but he continued to work with the group. His first solo album, Private Line, went to #1 in 1991, and he had a #1 single with his father Eddie the following year with “Baby Hold on to Me.” All told Gerald would have nine more Top Ten solo albums. He also produced records for Barry White, Anita Baker, Teddy Pendergrass, Freddie Jackson, the Winans, the O’Jays, and others.
Gerald formed the supergroup LSG in 1997 along with Keith Sweat and Johnny Gill. Their album, Levert-Sweat-Gill, sold two million copies and was followed in 2003 with LSG2.
Gerald Levert died in 2006. According to the coroner his death was caused by a combination of over-the-counter drugs and prescription narcotics. He was only 40 years-old when his life came to an end. His brilliant music career included numerous Grammy, BET, American Music, Image, and Soul Train award nominations and wins.
Sean Levert, who found some success as a solo artist, also met an unfortunate fate. In 2008 he was incarcerated for failing to pay child support. Prior to being transferred from the county lockup to state prison in Ohio, he began to suffer from high blood pressure and hallucinations. He died six days later. The coroner noted the high blood pressure, diabetes and withdrawal from Xanax as contributing causes to Sean’s death. Like his brother, he was just 40 years-old when he died.