The Dilemma: Go Solo or Stay with the group?

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    It is tough situation when the lead singer of a popular vocal group has other aspirations that cannot be fulfilled in a group setting.

    There is the matter of being true to one’s self, but at the same time being cognizant of the fact that if they choose to go the solo route, there is a good chance — a certainty in some cases — that the group will suffer.

    Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes had a long string of hits from 1972 to 1976, including “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “The Love I Lost” and “I Miss You.” When Teddy Pendergrass decided that he would prefer working alone, Melvin recruited a sound-alike, David Ebo, but the group only had one more hit, “Reaching For The World.”

    L.T.D. did a virtual free fall following the departure of their outstanding lead singer, Jeffrey Osborne, in 1980. (His brother, Billy Osborne, also left.) It was quite an adjustment because the band had become accustomed to regular hits, including three that reached No. 1 on the national charts, “Love Ballad,” “(Every Time I Turn Around) Back in Love Again” and “Holding On (When Love Is Gone).”

    THE COMMODORES are still working today, but Lionel Richie pulling out was a blow of major proportions. After enjoying smashes like “Just To Be Close To You,” “Sweet Love” and “Too Hot ta Trot,” the group had to get into a different mindset. They did, however, have one post-Richie superhit, “Nightshift,” that hit No. 1 and stayed there for a month. Their new member was J.D. Nicholas.

    Richie left sooner than he otherwise would have because other members of the band had become resentful of the attention he was receiving from the media and the public.

    It was essentially over for Rufus once Chaka Khan decided to make that move in 1978, after leading the band on such gems as “Tell Me Something Good,” “Sweet Thing” and “You Got the Love.”

    Fortunately for them, Khan, although a solo act, still made records with them from time to time, and therefore the group had some additional hits, most notably “Do You Love What You Feel?” and “Ain’t Nobody.” At one point Rufus made records minus Khan, but they flopped.

    THE SUPREMES and the Miracles managed to keep the hits coming following the exit of Diana Ross and Smokey Robinson, respectively.

    The Supremes had major success with “Up the Ladder to the Roof,” “Stoned Love” and “Floy Joy,” among others. The Miracles, meanwhile, scored with “Do It Baby,” “Don’t Cha Love It” and their No. 1 smash, “Love Machine.”

    Same for the Spinners and the Impressions.

    With Philippé Wynne singing at least half of the leads, the Spinners were consistent hitmakers — “Ill Be Around,” “Mighty Love,” “Sadie” and “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love?” to name a few.

    The Spinners recruited John Edwards and made the Top 10 with two medleys, “Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me, Girl” and “Cupid/I’ve Loved You For A Long Time.” It wasn’t like the glory years, but they “kept it moving.”

    Philippé Wynne’s solo career faltered.

    IT WOULD be impossible to overstate the importance of lead singer-guitarist-songwriter-producer Curtis Mayfield to the Impressions, deeply entrenched in music history with hits, hits and more hits. Among them, “It’s All Right,” “Gypsy Woman,” “People Get Ready,” “Keep On Pushing,” “I’m So Proud” and “We’re a Winner.”

    The first replacement was Leroy Hutson, followed by Ralph Johnson. The new Impressions enjoyed Top 10 hits with “Finally Got Myself Together (I’m a Changed Man),” “Same Thing It Took” and “Sooner or Later.”

    DeBarge, the family group from Grand Rapids (they had also lived in Detroit), helped keep Motown Record Corp. on the charts in the 1980s with hits like “All This Love,” “Rhythm of the Night” and “Time Will Reveal.”

    Since El DeBarge was not only singing lead but also writing and producing the records, it was not really surprising when he became a solo attraction. The group made an album without him but there was little or no interest.

    The 5th Dimension were one of the most successful pop groups of the 1960s and early 1970s, with such memorable hits as “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” “Up, Up and Away,” “Wedding Bell Blues,” “Stoned Soul Picnic” and “One Less Bell to Answer.” (Some of their songs did well in the R&B market as well.)

    The other three members of the group were shocked when Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., who were married, informed them in 1976 that they were leaving to work as a duo.

    Replacements singers were hired and the 5th Dimension continued, but the golden, high-profile era was past and there were no additional hits. Original member Florence LaRue is still working with a new incarnation of the group that is billed as the 5th Dimension featuring Florence LaRue.

     

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