The OJays

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The O’Jays are a highly influential American R&B group, best known for their significant contributions to the development of the Philadelphia soul sound in the 1970s. Originally formed in 1958 in Canton, Ohio, the group initially called themselves The Triumphs and later The Mascots. They became The O’Jays in 1963, named after radio disc jockey Eddie O’Jay.

The original lineup of the group included Eddie Levert, Walter Williams, William Powell, Bobby Massey, and Bill Isles. Over time, the group underwent several lineup changes, with Levert and Williams remaining the consistent members.

The O’Jays struggled for hits in the early years, recording for various labels without significant success. Their fortunes changed dramatically when they signed with Philadelphia International Records, the label founded by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. It was under Gamble and Huff’s direction that The O’Jays found their greatest success and helped to define the Philly Soul sound.

In the early 1970s, The O’Jays scored a series of hits that would become classics of the soul genre. Songs like “Back Stabbers,” “Love Train,” “I Love Music,” and “Use ta Be My Girl” showcased their distinctive sound, characterized by rich, soulful harmonies, sophisticated arrangements, and a blend of funk, soul, and disco influences.

The O’Jays’ music often contained strong social and political themes, reflective of the turbulent times during which many of their hits were released. Songs like “Back Stabbers” and “For the Love of Money” dealt with themes of betrayal and greed, while “Love Train” promoted peace and unity.

Throughout their career, The O’Jays have been known for their powerful and emotive vocal performances, particularly the lead vocals of Eddie Levert, and their dynamic stage presence. Their impact on R&B music has been recognized with numerous awards and accolades, including induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.

While the group’s popularity peaked in the 1970s, they continued to perform and record music into the 21st century, maintaining a loyal fan base and influencing generations of R&B and soul artists. The O’Jays’ legacy in music, particularly their role in shaping the sound of Philadelphia soul, remains significant and enduring.