Reflections: A ‘Stylistic’ Bombshell

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    In the early 1970s, few groups were hotter than the Stylistics. But in a recent interview, lead singer Russell Thompkins Jr. revealed that the other members of the group are not featured on the first three Stylistics albums. It’s just him and various other background singers.

    The problem was that their producer at the time, the prolific Thom Bell, was only impressed with Thompkins’ singing, so he only used him, except on two songs that he brought group member Airrion Love into the studio for, one of which was “You Make Me Feel Brand New.” (Love sings co-lead with Thompkins.)

    This means that all those big hits, including “I’m Stone in Love With You,” “Betcha By Golly Wow,” “People Make the World Go ’Round,” “Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart),” “You Are Everything” and “Break Up to Make Up,” are in essence solo records by Thompkins, even though it said “Stylistics” on the label.

    But that wasn’t the only time the very demanding producer/writer made such an arbitrary decision.

    We hear from reliable sources that he didn’t allow Billy Henderson to sing on any of the many hits he produced on the Spinners when they were with Atlantic Records (“I’ll Be Around,” “Mighty Love,” “Sadie,” etc.). Instead, Bell harmonized with the other Spinners himself. He felt that Henderson’s voice was not up to par.

    While on the subject, Motown often used other background singers on their records, particularly in the latter years of the golden era. For example, the Andantes (Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow and Louvain Demps) backed Diana Ross on “In and Out of Love,” “Reflections” and “Love Child.”

    The Andantes did the same on many Marvelettes records. It’s them and lead singer Wanda Rogers on “Don’t Mess With Bill,” “The Hunter Gets Captured By the Game,” “My Baby Must Be a Magician,” etc.

    And maybe you didn’t know that “Someday We’ll Be Together” was supposed to be Diana Ross’ first solo record, but Berry Gordy decided to release it as the last single by “Diana Ross & the Supremes” instead. The actual background singers on that classic No. 1 hit are Julia and Maxine Waters, from the family vocal group the Waters, not Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong.

    When asked about this at the time, Birdsong was uncomfortable and said, “I really don’t like talking about that.”

    EARVIN “MAGIC” JOHNSON sure knows a potentially good business deal when he sees one. His company, Magic Johnson Enterprises, has been hugely successful. Now there is talk that he might take over Johnson Publishing Company (Ebony, Jet) which, reportedly, has been having some financial issues, like most print media these days.

    Sade’s fans were obviously anxious for a new album by the jazzy star. “Soldier of Love,” her first album in a decade, sold 502,000 copies within the first seven days of its release, making it the No. 1 album in the country and earning Gold certification.

    When Jennifer Hudson makes a decision to get in shape, she means it. In preparation for her next film role, portraying Winnie Mandela, she has lost a whopping 56 pounds. Proper eating and regular exercise are the keys, not surgery.

    Patti LaBelle always has some sort of new project going on (books, barbeque sauce, etc.)  Soon she will introduce a line of fine linen, to be sold at Macy’s.

    IT WAS A surprise to hear that Kevin Eubanks will leave “The Tonight Show” shortly after Jay Leno returns on March 1. It was (reportedly) the bandleader’s decision. He wants to get back to other aspects of his career, including recording and performing. Eubanks was perfect as Jay Leno’s bandleader and sidekick.

    Jeff Tarpley, who used to be married to actress/comedienne Sherri Shepherd (“The View”), says he wishes his ex-wife would stop bashing him and dragging his reputation through the mud every chance she gets. Shepherd has told the world many times that Tarpley was unfaithful, but he says enough is enough.

    Sly Stone, the mysterious legend, will have a new album this summer. Hmmm…wonder if he’s still “got it.”

    Relatives: Edwin Starr’s younger brother, Angelo, is in a band called the Team. Paul Williams Jr., son of the late, great Temptations singer, performs with Dennis Edwards & the Temptations Review. Marvin Ruffin, a cousin of David Ruffin and Jimmy Ruffin, is also in the business, as a singer.

    Diana Ross is now a grandmother. Rhonda Kendrick, her daughter with Berry Gordy, had a son recently.

    Kudos Bobby “Blue” Bland, who turned 80 last month and is still working. My favorite song by the blues legend is “That’s the Way Love Is.”

    MEMORIES: “Outstanding” (the Gap Band), “Do Me Baby” (Meli’sa Morgan), “Save Your Love (For #1)” (René and Angela), “Sweet Baby” (Stanley Clarke and George Duke), “When Love Calls” (Atlantic Starr), “Mama Used to Say” (Junior), “Private Line” (Gerald Levert), “Holding On (When Love Is Gone)” (L.T.D.), “Groovin’” (the Rascals), “These Things Will Keep Me Loving You” (the Velvelettes).

    BLESSINGS to Terry Cabell, Marcus Belgrave, Tom Constand, Katherine J. Adams, Georgella Muirhead, Calvin Brooks, Kevin Keegan, R.J. Watkins, Bob Berg, Rogers Foster, Dwayne Page and Carol Prince.

    WORDS OF THE WEEK, from Bishop Carlton Pearson: “You can’t teach what you don’t know, and you can’t lead where you don’t go.”

    Let the music play!

    (Steve Holsey can be reached at and PO Box 02843, Detroit, MI 48202.)


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