The multi-talented, mega-award-winning Rhythm and Blues soul group known as ‘The O’Jays’ played center stage at Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center to a mixed-audience packed house. The group consists of three gentlemen, including Walter Williams, William Powell and Eddie Levert. But on the hot July night they performed, only two of them made it. Walter was recovering from a medical procedure, but that didn’t put a kink in their showmanship and musical style at all. Seductively clad in all white, fitting attire, the dynamic duo worked the audience of all ages into a frenzy. Some even safely danced in the aisles, off and on through the evening.
From Canton, Ohio, the group has undergone some changes over the years but has always played to large audiences, with their music sales and products being a success. The group was initially formed in 1958 and then originally consisted of Eddie Levert (born 1942), Walter Williams (born 1943), William Powell (1942–1977), Bobby Massey and Bill Isles. The O’Jays made their first chart appearance with ‘Lonely Drifter’ in 1963, but reached their greatest level of success after Gamble & Huff, a team of producers and songwriters, signed them to their Philadelphia label in 1972.
With Gamble and Huff, the O’Jays (now a trio after the departure of Isles and Massey) emerged at the forefront of Philadelphia soul with ‘Back Stabbers’ (1972) and topped the Billboard Hot 100 the following year with ‘Love Train.’ Numerous other hits followed through the 1970s and into the ‘80s and ‘90s. The O’Jays was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004, and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.
The show was 80 minutes long with no intermission, and the ‘vintage gentlemen’ kicked off an elongated medley of their cherished music with ‘Ship Ahoy.’ As the evening continued the ‘synchronized footwork,’ accompanying orchestra, and overhead video resulted in a combined feast for the senses. The ‘Ship Ahoy’ image tugged at the audience’s heartstrings as it depicted (to the beat) historic pictures of slave ships.
When their hit ‘For the Love of Money’ was performed, images of $50 and $100 bills falling cascade-style filled the projection screen. One of their songs titled ‘Message in Our Music’ summed up the evening overall. The two seasoned-performers were charismatic and one could even say seductive. As they crooned and tastefully owned the stage in a feverish dance, each move seemed to be automatic and unrehearsed.
The Schermerhorn Symphony Center is indeed a Nashville, Tenn. and mid-state jewel. Named in honor of the late Maestro Kenneth Schermerhorn, who led the Grammy Award winning Nashville Symphony for 22 years, it is the home of the Nashville Symphony. The Schermerhorn is centrally located in downtown Nashville’s SoBro neighborhood, across from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The building hosts a wide range of musical events, including classical, pops, jazz, and world music.
For more information, visit the official website at www.nashvillesymphony.org