A Night in Motown with a stellar lineup of soul and rhythm and blues performers gets NJPAC’s 2012-2013 season underway Saturday, October 6, at 7:00 p.m. The gala occasion stars En Vogue, the rhythm and blues women’s vocal quartet, and their male soul counterparts the Four Tops. Other artists include Valerie Simpson, Darlene Love, and Ray Chew.
Conceived in 1988 in Oakland, California, as a female trio, the original members of En Vogue—Cindy Herron, Maxine Jones, and Dawn Robinson—soon became four, after Terry Ellis auditioned. Lately three original group members (Ellis, Herron, and Jones) are joined by Rhona Bennett. Their four studio albums—Born to Sing, Funky Divas, Runaway Love, and EV3—and numerous hit singles have won them prestigious awards and seven Grammy nominations.
En Vogue’s all-time most successful songs include:
- “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)”
- “Don’t Let Go (Love)”
- “Hold On”
- “Giving Him Something He Can Feel”
- “Give It Up Turn It Loose”
- “Too Gone, Too Long”
- “Runaway Love”
Will any of these numbers figure among the Opening Night performance program? Or will the audience hear something new from the group?
“Impressive” would describe En Vogue’s 24-year performance history. But their longevity achievement makes them mere beginners next to the Four Tops. Some 58 years ago, a 1954 Detroit high-school party saw the virtual spontaneous combustion of four singers who produced their harmonies as if by instinct: Levi Stubbs, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson, and Lawrence Payton. Only with the latter’s death in 1997 did the first change in lineup occur. Presently Ronnie McNeir, Harold “Spike” Bonhart, and Payton’s son Roquel Payton accompany Fakir, the only original member remaining.
The quartet’s hits include:
- “Kiss Me Baby”
- “Baby I Need Your Loving”
- “I Can’t Help Myself”
- “It’s the Same Old Song”
- “Are You Man Enough”
Valerie Simpson, owner of Manhattan’s Upper West Side Sugar Bar, continues a 48-year career in music despite the loss last year of her longtime collaborator and 38-year marriage partner, Nickolas Ashford. She has recorded and performed duo and solo throughout the decades and continues writing and producing countless songs. The team composed prolifically for themselves and others—among them, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, Ben E. King, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Quincy Jones, and Diana Ross—and a 1966 number-one Ray Charles R&B hit got the attention of Motown. There they wrote their best-known songs, which include:
- “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”
- “You’re All I Need to Get By”
- “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” and
- “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).”
For Valerie Simpson’s contributions to music, she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002.
Singer and stage, film, and television actress Darlene Love, inducted in 2011 to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has created multiple successes in a variety of musical styles, from pop to soul to rock. A backup singer for countless artists including Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin, the California native first came to attention as a member of The Blossoms, a female quartet. Her recording stand-outs include “He’s a Rebel,” “Da Doo Ron Ron,” and “He’s Sure the Boy I’m Gonna Marry.”
Musical director, producer and composer of scores for television and film, Ray Chew also appears October 6, billed as the evening’s music director. Born down the street from New York City’s Apollo Theater, New Jersey laid claim to him in 2009 when he became a Teaneck resident. Ray Chew has performed in venues as diverse as the Apollo, Carnegie Hall, and television’s wildly popular American Idol. Name your favourite performers, most likely Ray Chew has appeared with, composed for, or recorded them, from Ludacris to Barry Manilow to Quincy Jones.
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