Eddie Levert was in a jovial mood shortly after the New Year’s holiday when we chatted about his upcoming concert at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, located at 250 Bedford Park Blvd. West in the Bronx, on Saturday, Jan. 11 at 8 p.m. Levert intends to “Give the People What They Want” when he and his fellow O’Jays regale the audience with their favorite O’Jay tunes like “Love Train,” “The Backstabbers,” “For the Love of Money,” “I Love Music,” “Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby” and “Use ta Be My Girl,” et al.
Levert talked about what he did for the Christmas and New Year holidays. “A lot of the family opted to stay home. So I spent Christmas with my wife, Raquel, my daughters and some of my nephews and nieces,” said Levert. “I fried the turkey and cooked the dessert. I stuffed the turkey with vegetables and injected orange juice into the turkey. It turned out to be wonderful. My wife cooked her famous dressing and cabbage greens, which consists of collard greens and cabbage greens.
“We went to Freeport, La., then Oklahoma, eventually arriving home in Las Vegas for New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Day, my family and I sat around watching the home movies my wife put together that included years of our travels and family events. I really enjoyed watching it. I loved seeing my 11-year-old trying to play the piano and observing how my kids, now grown, were as kids. I was able to reminisce about people in the video who have passed. The video proved special and memorable. I realized how much I have achieved and how blessed I am, and that made me feel very thankful,” remarked the enduring artist.
Levert reflected on when the O’Jays were formed in his high school days. He started the group with Walter Williams, Bobby Massey, Bill Isles and William Powell. “Between exams and school work, we were messing around and started singing, and the group eventually came together. It started off five guys and then it ended up with three. We began replacing departing members with other guys like Sammy Strain. It’s a business and a marriage. People come and go. We aim to be professional and love the music, so we continue to work and try to make the music something special with Eric Nolan-Grant, who has been with the group for nearly 20 years now.”
Levert is in the process of writing new music for an eventual CD. “I am writing about life and the things that are going on around me. I was thinking about former relationships and how people grow apart because couples become selfish and stop putting the commitment into the relationship. I have had those experiences, and I know other people have as well.
“I think about how much time entertainers are on the road. I look back and realize how much of my family’s life I’ve missed. I missed being in the house for my children during their growing up period. I missed much of my boys growing up and my daughter’s prom, and just being in that part of their lives. It seems these are little things, but they are the important things that make my children the people they are today.
“I think about all the stupid things one does when they are young, but as you mature, you realize what the important things are in life. So now, I enjoy spending time with my wife and my family. The things I didn’t see before, I see now.”
The O’Jays were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005 and honored at the BET Award Show with BET’s 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award, and in August 2013, they were inducted into the Official R&B Music Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Their charitable works have helped raise money to help youth pay for college tuition and books.
“I’ve had a great life and done just about everything. One of the more special moments in my life was spending five hours chatting with Nelson Mandela. It was just me and my son Gerald and Nelson. I got to see how great the man was. I wanted to attend his funeral in South Africa but wasn’t able to get there. I will be there, however, to perform at Lehman Center, and I hope the fans will come out and see me and the O’Jays. We plan to put on a pretty good show.”
Fans who wish to attend the O’Jays show on Saturday, Jan. 11 can call the Lehman Center box office at 718-960-8833 or visit www.LehmanCenter.org.