Levert talks about memorable collaboration with son Gerald, speaks on Prince and discusses new album “Did I Make You Go Ooh” “
Music icon Eddie Levert, Sr. is underappreciated to say the least. Many people do not recognize the impactful contribution he has made to music over the last four decades. His career has transcended generations standing the test of time.
When I received a call with the opportunity to interview the music icon, I jumped at the opportunity. The fact is I grew up on Eddie Levert’s music. Growing up in a Black home in America during the eighties and nineties, the O’Jay’s anthems were always being played on the radio. Eddie Levert’s famous singing voice was undoubtedly a consistent backdrop in my household and during car rides with family and friends over the years.
While singing with the O’Jays as the lead vocalist, Eddie earned an impressive nine Platinum records, ten Gold records and nine #1 singles including “Back Stabbers,” “Use Ta Be My Girl,” “Love Train,” “Give The People What They Want,” “I Love Music,” “For The Love Of Money,” “Livin’ For The Weekend,” “Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby,” and “Family Reunion” while signed under Gamble and Huff ‘s Philadelphia International Label. The single, “For The Love of Money,” is a GRAMMY Hall of Fame 2016 Inductee and is the theme song for NBC’s The Apprentice and The Celebrity Apprentice.
Eddie has received numerous awards for his passionate stirring vocals, including induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, the BET Lifetime Achievement Award, The Trumpet Lifetime Achievement Award and the Heroes and Pacesetters Award.
The Los Angeles Sentinel and L.A. Watts Times had the pleasure of sitting down and for a one-on-one interview with Eddie Levert, Sr. as he toured Los Angeles promoting his new album “Did I Make You Go Ooh.” While visiting L.A., Eddie performed at the world famous Maverick’s Flat club in South L.A. and he also performed at the Los Angeles Convention Center for the annual KJLH Women’s Health Exposition.
During the interview, Eddie shared that his favorite collaboration and most memorable was the father and son project with his son Gerald Levert. “That is still the epitome of some of the best times in my career because he (Gerald) brought me into a younger audience I didn’t have and I realized young people were into my music,” said Eddie.
In 1984, Eddie saw a proud moment as his high school aged sons, Gerald and Sean, announced that they wanted to follow their Dad’s footsteps. They teamed up with good friend Marc Gordon, recording under the group name LeVert. Using his influence, Eddie introduced his young sons around the industry while warning them that Dad could help open the doors but it was themselves that would have to make it, and that they did.
In 1992, Eddie and Gerald teamed up and went #1 on the R&B charts with the single, “Baby Hold On to Me.” In 1995, they recorded the “Father & Son” album with “Already Missing You” scoring big on the R&B and Pop charts. Eddie and Gerald recorded another CD album, “Something To Talk About.” This album spun the very successful “Father and Son” tour that continued for years. Then in 1996 Eddie and Gerald recorded “Wind Beneath My Wings” that charted to critical acclaim.
“One of the greatest moments with him was when we were doing the R&B awards and this was the first time we did the song “Wind Beneath My Wings” and the effect that it had on people,” said Eddie. “When we did it on television that was the first time me and him ever sung the song, and we had to make ourselves sing the song because it wasn’t in our repertoire at the time so we decided we were going to sing it and when we sung it the response we got from not only the people right there in the audience but the people from television land and people in their homes it was something that the world needed to hear and people needed to see, fathers and sons doing things together.”
In 2008, Eddie accepted the “Best Duo or Group” Image Award for himself and Gerald. Adding “author” to his numerous achievements, Eddie and Gerald wrote a book, “I Got Your Back” published in 2007.
With life and success so comes tragedy and tragedy unfortunately struck Eddie harder than ever, losing both his sons within a two-year span between 2006 and 2008.
On November 10, 2006, Gerald Levert was found dead in his bed at his Cleveland, Ohio home. In February 2007, an autopsy report conducted by the Cuyahoga County coroner’s office concluded that Levert’s death was caused by a fatal combination of prescription narcotics and over-the-counter drugs. In 2008, Sean Levert became ill while incarcerated in the Cuyahoga County Correctional Facility, prior to his transfer to a state prison, reporting high blood pressure and hallucinations; he died six days after being admitted to the jail, on March 30, 2008. In 2010, Sean’s widow was awarded 4 million dollars as a result of lawsuit filed against Cuyahoga County.
Even though Eddie has endured severe tragedy losing his two sons, he finds a way to triumph and prevail everyday. He maintains a positive outlook on life and showcases positive vibe at all times. “You’ve got to learn from your mistakes and be able to recover from them too,” said Eddie.
Speaking on recent music tragedy, Eddie was asked to speak on the recent death and passing of Prince. “I only met him once and at first I was like what a little guy (laughs) but he was a little giant,” said Eddie.
“He put in the work. He would go in the studio and cut all the songs by himself. You know how much talent that takes? He didn’t need a guitar player, he didn’t need a piano player, he didn’t need a tenner and he could do all those things himself. Even Stevie (Wonder), as great as he is, used other people to touch his music to make it happen. Gamble & Huff used other people for their music to make it happen. When you are able to go in and do the total package you are the total package and this guy he was able to do that and he was able to touch so many people with just his touch…and that is a heck of an accomplishment. Now in my one time meeting him, he’s a Gemini and I am a Gemini so I can understand his passion and I can understand him being a recluse person.
“I don’t do this, we don’t do this for accolades and I don’t do it for people to tell me how great I am I do it because the satisfaction is that once I get done with the project then I feel so empty until I can get to the next one, I got a reason to keep going. And after I finish that then its empty again and I’m a must fill that cup up again. It’s a constant thing, its over and over it never stops. Its like I don’t feel productive unless I’m working or doing something towards my music and that’s who I am and God has given me that. It’s the closest I will ever be to God because I can take something out the air and make it become something that is real and people can see it and feel it. “
During the interview with Eddie Levert Sr., I could feel the warmth of his genuine personality. Eddie has a magnetic aura. His calm and cool demeanor presents someone who knows where they came from and confident in where they are going.
When Eddie turned about 12 years old, that’s when he knew what he wanted to do with his life. That is the age he started writing songs.
“I got in this contest with Kellogg’s cornflakes and they were looking for a jingle and so I wrote a jingle and I won, they paid me about $25 for winning and then I started singing in high school with the guys (the O’Jays),” said Eddie.
The O’Jays did their first gig at a YMCA and the group got paid $25 so they split the money to $5 a piece. This is when Eddie knew this was good gig to have.
“I’ve been blessed man, it’s not something that I intentionally go out and do because you’ve got to know that I’ve done all the wrong things too (laughs), I was just able to recover from it,” said Eddie.
Eddie says his most recent project has something for everyone but most definitely something for the ladies. He still tours the world with the O’Jays and Gladys Knight. He also performs with Johnny Gill and Keith Sweat as the “LeVert” in LSG representing for his son Gerald who was an original member of the trio.
In order to stay positive and keep focused Eddie shared that he really tries to take care of his body and mind. He works out regularly and practices healthy eating habits. And it doesn’t hurt he is happily married. His wife is his rock and best friend.