The O'Jays conducted by Hugo Lunny  

The O Jays

September 2004

MVRemix: To the generations that have hopped on the soul or R&B bandwagon but know nothing about The O'Jays, how would you school them on The O'Jays music?

Eric Grant: Here's what I would do - first of all I'd have a big meeting up there in New York and invite all those groups and I would tell them, man, "If you're gonna be in this business, you have to know this business. That means you have to go back and try to chorale those groups and those singers, the ones who have the talent and dug deep in their soul where they lived. That's the one thing that I try to tell young people today; if you haven't lived it. It's really kind of hard to sing about it. Because you don't really know what that pain is. When I watch Walter and Eddie sing in the studio. I wonder how they get that soul that they portray on record and it's because they lived it. And I would have them to actually take out time and chorale your talent and know what your strengths are and what you're weaknesses are. Whatever your weaknesses are, you need to strengthen that. Do whatever you've got to do.

I remember having a group on tour with us one time. There was three guys and The O'Jays are three guys and those guys never ever came to see The O'Jays sing. They were on a show with us but they never came to see us perform. I never understood that. I never understood how you could have three guys and you don't watch the masters of this, do that. When I was coming up I watched up The O'Jays, I watched The Temps, I watched Smokey Robinson, The Dramatics... it didn't matter. I learned something from every one. So I would tell those young groups today "Learn this! Whatever you're trying to do, learn it!" I mean, if you Usher, you should be watching James Brown and Michael Jackson and Jackie Wilson and Joe Tecks. You should know the history of this business. Not just 'cause you get a hit record. A hit record don't make you have longevity. The O'Jays, The Temptations, The Four Tops and The Whispers, that's longevity. Patti Labelle, that's longevity.

Walter Williams: And that's because you put time in and you worked on having a hit act. You sustained yourself for much longer with a hit act than you do with a hit record. You need 'em both, but you really need a hit act.

MVRemix: Now, you've been sampled a lot in Hip Hop. How do you feel about having your music sampled?

Walter Williams: I think it gives you staying power because again, you're being put out there with other artists, other acts, and especially if they're younger then younger people are listening to what you've done. If they accept it and they like it then they gravitate to you as well. So I think it's a plus. Although, I think sampling diminishes your skills to come up with new licks and new ideas. So, there's got to be a happy medium there somewhere.

MVRemix: What do you think about the fundamental differences between our R&B and your classic material? What do you think contributes to lack of romanticism nowadays?

Walter Williams: Now's R&B compared to our older material...

Yeah, what I mean is R&B today is more sexual. Whereas your R&B tended to be more loving - there was more depth to it...

Eric Grant: Once again, and I said this earlier. You can't sing about what you don't know about. If all you doin' is hittin' the skins and runnin', that's all you know. If you haven't been in love, if you haven't been hurt - you can't sing about joy and pain. You can't sing.

Walter Williams: And I think skillfully, and very understandably, you have to convey it simply in a song where people can understand it in good lyrics. That it's not complicated and make it plain and clear. We talk about men/women relationships a lot. We explain it, just how it happens, how it goes down, so it isn't complicated. I think that's the difference; the tenderness, the lovingness, the way it's explained. Sometimes it's sexual or with sexual overtones. That's involved in a relationship and especially a good relationship.

Eric Grant: But it's not blatant.

Walter Williams: No. And distasteful.

Eric Grant: You have to have some type of reservation for other people's listening ears. Some of these artists don't care about how a person receives it as long as they're receiving it.

Walter Williams: There's a thousand ways to say "I wanna lick you up and down." There's a better way to say it than that. There's a much more tender and loving way to say it and a way it'll be received and digested in a good manner. Instead of saying "That's distasteful, I don't want my child to hear that."

MVRemix: Is there anything out there right now that you can see standing the test of time?

Eric Grant: As far as music?

Walter Williams: I like what Beyonce's doing.

Eric Grant: Love what she's doing! I put Beyonce.

Walter Williams: Hmmmm. [chuckles]

Eric Grant: It gets rough after that. It gets rough after that because when you look at the substance and you look at... Maybe Alicia Keys.

Walter Williams: Yeah, Alicia's talented. Her stories are tasteful and you can digest them without any negative reaction. But the field gets very small after that.

MVRemix: Do you have any last words to your fans that are going to be reading this?

Walter Williams: Yeah, thank you! Yeah, thank you for being with us all this time. Its been forty-four years and that's a long time to be with anyone. Thank you, we love you and we appreciate the love that you've shown us over the years.

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