Niagara Gazette

August 19, 2013

Legendary R&B acts taking the Artpark stage this week

By Thom Jennings
Niagara Gazette

The Tuesday in the Park series has typically featured rock acts, but this week the series features a double bill of legendary R&B acts, both are inductees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The evening starts at 6:30 p.m. with a performance from “The Empress of Soul,” Gladys Knight, who began her career in the late 1950s as Gladys Knight and the Pips, who recorded several hit singles for the legendary Motown record label, including “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” and “Midnight Train to Georgia.”

The group was inducted into the Rock Hall in 1996 and later inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001. In addition they won seven American Music Awards and three Grammy Awards.

Knight embarked on a solo career in the late 1980s and continued her success, winning a Grammy in 1989 for her part in the single “That’s What Friends are For” a single recorded with Dionne Warwick, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder.

Knights other solo recordings have fared well, garnering Knight four Grammy Awards as a solo performer and one gold-selling album. She has also authored two books and made several guest appearances on television.

The O’Jays formed in Canton, Ohio, in 1958. They first saw national success in 1963 with the single “Lonely Drifter.”

The group was one of many that worked with the legendary songwriting and production team headed by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff who are generally credited with the rise of the “Philly Soul” sound. The duo, known simply as Gamble and Huff, were central figures of the Philadelphia International Records label. The pair produced seven O’Jay’s albums.

Their first million selling single was “Back Stabbers,” their most popular single is “Love Train.”

Their song “For the Love of Money,” has been used as the theme for “The Apprentice” and “The Celebrity Apprentice.” The famous bass line in the song is the result of a Fender Precision Bass being run through a wah-wah peddle and a phaser. The song was nominated for a Grammy but lost to “Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus.

The group’s last hit single was the million selling “Use ta Be My Girl” in 1978. Over their career the group has recorded 29 studio albums, and released 92 singles, and around half of those singles have charted.

The current lineup consists of two of the groups founding members, Eddie Levert and Walter Williams along with Eric Grant who has performed with the group for more than 20 years.

The group has been a major influence on modern groups like Hall and Oates.

Both Gladys Knight and The O’Jay’s are American treasures and important figures in the history of recorded music. Opportunities to catch two Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Acts in the same evening are rare.

Speaking of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, the last three weeks of the 2013 Tuesday’s in the Park series features four members of the Rock Hall, last week Lynyrd Skynyrd, and next week ZZ Top. This show may be the last chance to catch a Rock Hall inductee this year since ZZ Top is already completely sold out.

Tickets for Gladys Knight and The O’Jay’s are $15 for general admission and available at Artpark.net or the Artpark box office. The VIP and front row seats are all sold out.