It’s not like George Benson needed any help making a successful record. In the latter half of the Seventies the guitarist expanded his palette from jazz to pop (a move spurred when he started singing on his records), and subsequently became one of the biggest R&B singers around. Songs like “On Broadway” and “This Masquerade” were hits on Top 40, urban, and easy listening radio, and he was also a pretty consistent Grammy winner. At the turn of the new decade George linked up with Quincy Jones, and one of his most memorable hits was born.
Quincy was coming off the success of Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall and found himself more in demand than he had been in a number of years. Bringing in his crack team of songwriter Rod Temperton, engineer Bruce Swedien, and background vocalist Patti Austin, the group came up with a summer classic in the form of “Give Me the Night.” Talk about feel-good music — even if the delightfully low-budget clip didn’t provide visual clues, I’d wanna strap on some roller skates and glide around to this song.
“Give Me the Night” wound up topping the R&B charts just as the summer of 1980 was ending. It became George’s first #1 on the soul charts and also became his highest-charting pop hit, landing at #4. It also won George the Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male, his second win in that category. Thirty years after its release, it’s still a party favorite. Surprisingly, it’s been sparingly sampled, with its most memorable jack coming courtesy of Heavy D’s “This Is Your Night.”
“Give Me the Night” was George’s biggest hit, but it wasn’t his last. Benson continued as a reliable hitmaker for another half decade or so, before a newer crop of male vocalists, led by Luther Vandross and Freddie Jackson, took over. As recently as 2010, he received a Grammy nomination for the album Songs and Stories. He also still tours the world, and you can pretty much guarantee that wherever he goes there’ll be music in the air and lots of lovin’ everywhere.