O’Jays Celebrate 60 Years at Paramount Theater in Oakland

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The Paramount Theater was filled to capacity last night with long black gowns, fedoras and fancy suits as pretty much everyone in Oakland decided to show up and celebrate 60 years of the O’Jays. Party buses filled with mature women adorned with elegant furs and glittery shawls pulled up one by one at the entrance of the prestigious venue for a night of funk and soul, celebrating an era that formed the soundtrack for so many in attendance.

As the opening comedian pointed out early in his set, the O’Jays might not be doing full spins this time around, maybe just a quarter turn at the time. It was a friendly little jab at the trio well into their 70s, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Spins, twirl, and slides were performed flawlessly throughout the entire two-hour performance and all without missing a beat.

Classics like “Backstabbers” and “For the Love of Money” to R&B singles including “Love Train,” “Put Your Hands Together,” “I Love Music,” “Livin’ For The Weekend,” “Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby (Sweet, Tender, Love)” and “Use Ta Be My Girl,” were played passionately and with the same soul and tenderness as when they were first introduced to us almost six decades ago.

To keep things classy the boys wore their trademark vintage green suits for the occasion and pulled out the same charming smiles that propelled them to be the first black vocal group to perform in arenas throughout America during the 70s and 80s. Each one a force in their own right, the two original members of the group, Eddie Levert Sr. and Walter Williams Sr., have been friends and partners for almost 65 years now. “We still appreciate our friendship, dedication to each other and the group and our love for good music,” Walter said in a statement that appears on their website. “We probably could have had great solo careers, but I don’t think either one of us could have ever have been as big as The O’Jays.”

And big they were, having scored an impressive 10 Gold albums, 9 Platinum albums, and 10 #1 hits. And so it came as no surprise when these pros stopped the show halfway into the set because of technical difficulties. “We’re not continuing until they have their shit figured out over there,” said Levert. “Sometimes this happens when they have too much turkey you know?” The crowd chuckled and didn’t mind the interruption as it gave the singer a chance to share a couple of personal anecdotes about his longtime partner Walter, a friend he met when both were just six years old.

It was this friendship that eventually led them to be honored at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2005 and they haven’t stopped since. The trio went on to win BET’s Life Time Achievement Award in 2009, and in 2013, they were inducted into The Official R&B Music Hall of Fame. Last night they won the hearts of all of those in attendance with a show that will be hard to forget. To further help solidify their legacy they’re set to release a new album The Last Word next year and they recently released their new single “Above the Law.”

Photos by Louis Raphael

 

An avid drummer whose discography includes albums on Digital Nations (a Steve Vai imprint), music critic Louis Raphael has always kept a pulse on the San Francisco music scene. After many years as the San Francisco Music Examiner for Examiner.com and AXS.com, he decided to start Music in SF® as a way to showcase what the San Francisco music scene really has to offer.

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