Do you want to feel good? I mean, really, really good? Me too, fire up your communication device and fall back into the music and legacy of Frankie Beverly and Maze. I guarantee there is something in their 15 albums that has touched your soul, becoming a part of the soundtrack of your life.
For me, it’s their song — “I Wanna Thank you.”
You are my sunshine you brighten up my life
I know that I’m not right sometime oh I need you so
Your something special you prove it all the time
I know that you are mine all mine
You always let it flow
I just want to thank you Cause you’ve made it this way
Oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh
You keep me smiling
The things you do for me
I know that you will be right here
Your always around
You make me happy the lovely things
I wanna thank you, Frankie Beverly and Maze for putting your music into the world. It’s immortal as are you. That’s the power of music. It’s a language of emotion that knows no boundaries, limitations and makes no judgments: pure love.
How did it begin? Let’s rewind to December 6, 1946, that’s the day Howard Beverly, aka Frankie Beverly, was born. He was raised in Philadelphia, the city of ‘Brotherly Love’, and like so many wonderful singers, growing up, he performed in churches around the city.
Secular music entered Frankie’s life when he was around eight or nine.
Determined, he listened, and he grew eventually forming a couple of local groups including The Butlers where they performed acapella, and doo-wop. Influenced by groups like The Dells, The Moonglows, and Vikings, he continued building his reputation in the city. Eventually, he recorded for local labels between 1963 and 1968: Guyden, Liberty Bell, which was owned by Leon Fisher, who became his mentor in the business, Fairmount, Parkway, and Gamble, the first label that legendary producer Kenny Gamble started.
Frankie’s records with The Butlers were filled with the power of vocal harmony but it was the sounds of Sly & The Family Stone, in the late ‘60s, that changed his musical direction, creating a new group, Raw Soul, whose line up included Maze percussionist McKinley ‘Bug’ Williams, an original member of The Butlers. They did work, locally, but in May 1971, they headed out to the Bay Area and continued creating more of their original material. So powerful, fresh, and new, they landed a year-long job at a club (San Francisco) called The Scene. And the club owner made an investment where they recorded what would eventually become the basis for the first Maze LP.
And then something very groovy happened, Marvin Gaye’s sister-in-law caught one of the band’s performances. She introduced them to Gaye, who was so inspired by the group that he took them out on the road, letting them perform some of their original material as an opening act. Frankie and Marvin become tight, like brothers. Positive word-of-mouth continued to grow, and Beverly’s demos went out and one landed on the desk of Larkin Arnold at Capitol Records.
That’s where singer/producer/ and visionary Beverly made a business deal that was ahead of the times. Along with pure talent, he had brains and guts —this recording deal assured that he retain the publishing rights to all of his songs.
This was major because Capitol is where Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, the Beach Boys, the Beatles, and Pink Floyd stepped into their legendary status. It was 1977 when the first Maze featuring Frankie Beverly album (Maze featuring Frankie Beverly) was released.
It was a fortuitous arrangement for both parties. Maze created 10 recordings for Capitol, including six studio albums, two live albums, and two greatest hits collections. They hit gold with seven recordings, including Golden Time of Day (1978), Inspiration (1979), Joy and Pain (1980), Live in New Orleans (1981), We Are One (1983), and Can’t Stop The Love (1985).
Their impressive sales drew industry attention and they re-located to Warner Bros. Records in the late ’80s, earning two more gold certifications for 1989’s Silky Soul (1989), and Back to Basics (1993).
In many ways, the term living legends is overused or just misused but as it relates to Frankie Beverly and Maze, it’s accurate.
Facts. Their collection of songs are part of the soundtrack of so many African-American black baby boomers’ lives, it’s like they are members of your family. Think about it. If you hum “Back In Stride”, “Happy Feelin’s,” or “Joy and Pain” — I wager — you would rush back, to the exact location where you first heard those songs. That’s the hidden superpower of Frankie Beverly and Maze. That’s how they became part of our cultural DNA.
Their alchemy mix blends the funk, owns the funk, and amplifies the funk shaping it with their collective will. That’s why Frankie Beverly and Maze are legends.
It’s been four-decades and counting. Neuroscientist understands that music is the language of emotion, able to speak directly to our hearts, in a language that you don’t know, but your emotions understand.
The paragraph is my way of trying to describe why Frankie Beverly and Maze are — Frankie Beverly and Maze.
Beverly is more than just the band’s writer, producer, and lead singer.
He’s more than just a distinctive smooth baritone voice with a charismatic stage presence, known for dressing almost always in all-white custom-designed clothing and a baseball cap, he’s that pin light coming towards you in a dark tunnel, illuminating, directed, and moving with purpose.
I hope Hollywood is listening because the story of Frankie Beverly and Maze’s rise to fame and consistent success would make a tremendous movie, limited series, and a powerful, long-running Broadway, and then touring musical.
There is certainly more than enough material to cull from, including thirty hit singles since 1977, nine of which have been Top 10 R&B charted singles including the classics “Running Away,” “Love Is The Key,” “Back In Stride,” “Too Many Games,” “Can’t Get Over You,” and “Silky Soul.” Eight of the group’s ten albums have gone gold, all the way from their 1977 Capitol debut to the 1993 Warner Brothers’ album, “Back To Basics.”
I’ll close with some lyrics from their iconic song “Can’t Get over You” (Frankie Beverly & The Butlers, Maze). I think their words sum up fans the collective feeling of love, respect, and joy that is felt when listening to their music.
I guess you’ll always have a part
Somewhere deep in my heart
It’s just to hard to hide
I can’t get over you
I tried to lose myself in song
But the ties are much to strong
What I’m I going to do
I can’t get over you.