What is your favorite O’Jays song? Forever Mine? Used Ta Be My Girl? For The Love of Money? Back Stabbers? Brandy? Didn’t reading those song titles take you back to the good ole days just for a moment? I don’t know about you but they’ve had so many wonderful songs it’s hard for me to choose. However, Mr. Levert reveals his favorite O’Jays song later in our interview! The O’Jays formed in 1958 and are still going strong today. Mr. Eddie Levert granted me an interview and I will be forever grateful. I hope you enjoy reading it.
OM: I recently saw you perform after the Tampa Bay Rays game. You have over five decades in this business, you are still in demand and you’re still performing which is absolutely incredible. How do you continue to do it?
Eddie: Wow! Lexi, I will pose this question to you, what else would I do? This is all I have ever done. If I stop doing this then I might as well wither up and die. This is the driving force and the driving force is to please the people that have supported us throughout the years. That is our fan base and wanting to always do well and to always represent my family is enough motivation for me.
OM: Do your legs ache or back hurt after a show now?
Eddie: (Laughs) What do you mean? Always! Are you crazy? Are you out of your mind? I’m 72, I earned that pain! They didn’t just give it to me, I earned that pain!
OM: I see we have a comedian in the O’Jays too!
Eddie: (Laughs) You have be able to laugh at yourself. I always have this thing where I say to myself, being in show business, you always want to be that individual that does something to get the people talking. Now, in doing that you are always one step away from making a fool of yourself. Just think about this; Prince may have worn the pants with the butt out but, you know, that could have been construed as “what an ass!” He should have never done that but it was conceived as “man look at that genius, Prince!” You are always one step away from being a genius or a fool.
OM: The O’Jays have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What did that mean to you guys?
Eddie: It solidified and gave you an achievement with an elite group of people. You are in a group of people that have had an influence on the business and on the history of music and being a part of that is really gratifying. We’ve been nominated at least five or six times and never made it. We had an ongoing argument whether we would be the group that has been nominated the most times and never got in. We finally got in. I don’t know if that means a lot to the black community that we are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but it means a great deal to Apple Pie America! Now, that is the way we are looking at the Grammy. We have never won a Grammy. We’ve been nominated but never won a Grammy. We now have our eyesight set on that in some form or other. You know my son won one and that’s not cool (laughing).
OM: (Laughs)…The old man didn’t get one; the O’Jays didn’t get one!
Eddie: (Laughs)…That’s not cool.
OM: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has inducted other people in other genres of music. Let’s move to Hip Hop music; what’s your opinion of Hip Hop music today?
Eddie: I respect good if you understand what I mean when I say that. When it’s good whether it’s Opera, Country, Rap, R&B, whatever genre, I respect it. I respect good, for example, Kanye and Jay Z. I’m going to leave it at that.
OM: If you could speak to the young Eddie Levert, as yourself now, what advice would you give yourself?
Eddie: There was a gentleman that said to me when I was around 16-20 years old “you guys are good but all you got to do is pay your taxes and leave the girls alone.” I would add to that pay your taxes, leave the girls alone, and work work work – stay busy. Don’t ever stop working; keep digging trying to find your way to that place. Don’t stop giving your all hard work and dedication. And, like I said, pay your taxes and leave those girls alone!
OM: Who was always the one who got the dance steps wrong?
Eddie: (Laughs) No doubt, Walter Williams. He might say it’s me but I would say Walter Williams! And he still doesn’t do it right.
OM: If there was something that you would do differently with the O’Jays what would it be?
Eddie: The only thing I would do differently would be to make sure that we are more visible. Not so anonymous from the music industry. They would see our faces more and relate our faces more to the music.
OM: How does it make you feel to witness the first African American President elected in the United States in your lifetime?
Eddie: It’s something. I am a big supporter of President Obama and a big supporter of his wife and the things she does. I think she is such a beautiful black woman and she represents what black women stand for – the ultimate black woman. I think it’s a great accomplishment to see where we have come and to see that we were able to elect a black president in a society that is geared strictly for white people is truly an accomplishment.
OM: What is your favorite O’Jays song and why?
Eddie: I love Back Stabbers. I was there from day one where it went from piano to a rhythm section to background vocals to lead vocals to strings to the radio. It was such a process that I saw and this became a monster record.
OM: We talked about Hip Hop but what newer artists do you like?
Eddie: I would say Bruno Mars. I like him because it has taken old school and is presenting it well to the young people. I like Jill Scott because she is like another Nancy Wilson, an expressive story-teller. I like Charlie Wilson, Yolanda Adams, and Gladys Knight. I like Beyoncé but I think she will have to dig a little harder to come up and give us something that we think is worthy of her.
OM: What is your favorite color?
Eddie: At this time I would say green or blue.
OM: Tell me something that happened on stage that had you doubled over in laughter.
Eddie: There is always something going on up there. They are funny people and you get motivation to go on stage from different things. Some days those knees are not feeling as great as they should. You have to get it up and ready to go do what you need to do so that is the funny thing to me. You can come in and feel lousy but when you get up there and hear them say “the O’Jays” something happens and you go out there and you act like you haven’t felt any pain all day. You are doing all this and having the time of your life. It’s all funny to me.
OM: There is something I want to know from you. I think perhaps your answer may minister some other people who will read this. How have you dealt and coped with that loss of your sons over the years? How do you stay strong? What keeps you going?
Eddie: At the end of the day some of my greatest moments were with my sons. I really enjoyed and treasure those moments. There was nothing I could do to avoid what happened to them. They were in one part of the country and I was in another part of the country. They were living their lives and I was living my life. There was nothing I could have done. When I got the call it was at a point where it was too late for me to have done anything. I really went through a period where I blamed myself because I could have done more if I would have been there. That was not feasible and it was not going to happen. I had to bring myself out of that place of blaming myself because I had to realize it was God’s will and that is what he wanted to do there was nothing I could have done about it. They knew I loved them because we told each other. We spent time and had personal relationships and we were close with each other. We got mad with one another and cursed at one another. We did the things that human people do when human people love one another. At the end of the day, there was nothing I could do but go on and help those that are still alive and those lives I could still be an influence in like my grandchildren and their mothers. You know someone has to be there to do these things so that they stay focused on what they are supposed to and just help as much as I could. That is enough to keep me going.
OM: Wow! Thank you so much for answering that question. I have often wondered about you and prayed for you and your family over the years as I’m sure many fans have.
Eddie: Thank you, I needed those prayers. Like I said the biggest problem the world has today is selfishness. We have a tendency to be very selfish where we only think about ourselves. You can be selfish and say you will take all the blame for this when others may want to share the blame. We can’t be selfish in things. We have to stop and think how is this going to affect my mom or my friends or my friend’s friend.
OM: Describe how you feel about the legacy the O’Jays have created.
Eddie: Well one thing I can say is that we have been able to keep it clean. We’ve been able to keep it all business. We haven’t tarnished it by going to jail or any adverse publicity. The only adverse publicity has been tragedy and that is something you can’t direct or have control of. The legacy is one of hard work and dedication and to try to keep as good of an image as much as you possibly can.
OM: When people say “Mr. Eddie Levert you are a living legend!” How does it feel?
Eddie: I feel blessed! You can’t say that it doesn’t pump you up when you hear “living legend.” You mean people have been talking about me like they have been talking about Jesse James?? You have all these legendary stories about me and folklore. They are telling stories around the campfire about me!
OM: At least they are talking about you!
Eddie: Absolutely! At the end of the day that is what it means to me. I made some type of impact where they have made up a story or telling the truth or I will live in somebody’s memory.
I loved the time spent with Mr. Levert! He is one funny man in addition to being an incredible vocal force. For more information on the O’Jays go to www.theojayshomepage.com