Born on July 13, 1966, in Philadelphia, PA; raised in Cleveland, OH; son of Eddie Levert (founder and lead vocalist of the O'Jays); three children. Addresses: Record company--Elektra/Asylum, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019. Website--Gerald Levert Official Website: http://www.geraldlevert.com.
Following his father's tradition, Gerald Levert has carved out a successful career as a writer, arranger, producer, and performer. The son of Eddie Levert Sr., vocalist and lead arranger of the long-standing R&B group the O'Jays, Gerald Levert produced a string of top-selling albums and singles, first as a member of the trio LeVert, then as a solo artist. After releasing five albums with LeVert--four of which achieved gold- or platinum-selling status--Levert began recording on his own. The artist's solo career is marked by such albums as Private Line, Groove On, Love & Consequences, and G. Levert "has such an incredible and creative way of expression, and it sounds like he's really lived what he's talking about," Michael Saunders, a radio executive at WJLB and WMXD, two Detroit R&B radio stations, told Billboard. "That's what people want today: They want to hear the truth."
Born on July 13, 1966, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which was homebase for the O'Jays, Levert was raised in Cleveland, Ohio. Fueled by the musical household he grew up in--and access to his father's fully-equipped studio--Levert formed a trio with his brother Sean and friend Marc Gordon. While still in high school, the group began performing at clubs in Ohio under the name LeVert. The group released its first single, "I'm Still," on the independent record label Tempre. In 1985 "I'm Still" peaked at number 70 on the Billboard R&B charts and led to a record deal with Atlantic Records the next year.
LeVert's Atlantic debut, Bloodline, produced a number one single, "(Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop) Goes My Mind," and the group became an instant success. All told, the group scored five number one, seven top ten, and four top twenty singles on Billboard's R&B charts, including the number one single, "Casanova." The group's albums, The Big Throwdown, Just Coolin', and Rope-a-Dope, were all top-sellers.
Levert made his solo debut in 1991 with Private Line. The album produced four R&B hits--the title song, plus "Baby Hold on to Me," "School Me," and "Can You Handle It." The success of the album was cemented by a 20-city headlining tour with R&B crooner R. Kelly in 1992. "I didn't feel comfortable at first going out without the group for the first time," Levert told Billboard, "but I must say the responses we got went way beyond what I expected." The album was certified gold in February of 1992 and peaked at number two on Billboard's Top R&B Albums chart. Although he went solo, Levert wasn't leaving the group in the dust. The trio regrouped to record the album For Real Tho', released in 1992, and The Whole Scenario, released in 1997.
One key to Levert's success was that he followed his father's lead in producing a string of tender and romantic songs which--compared to the raw hits of early 1990s R&B acts like Jodeci, Silk, and R. Kelly--left something to the imagination. Like his dad, he believes audiences, especially female fans, "want to be romanced and teased," he told Newsweek. He also credits the influence of Marvin Gaye on his soft approach. "Marvin was the master of romance and knew how to say it without saying it, which he did with 'Let's Get It On,'" Levert continued in Newsweek. "He was so smooth, he didn't have to say it because you knew what he meant."
Levert further cemented his reputation as an R&B writer and producer. In addition to selling more than nine million albums, he has produced or written more than 15 number one hits, including Barry White's "Practice What You Preach" and Chuckie Booker's "Games." Early in his career, he produced albums for new R&B groups Men at Large and Drama, a solo album for Rude Boys lead singer Joe Little, and tracks for a Barry White album.
After turning down the chance to cover the country song "I Swear," Levert watched as the group All-4-One took the single to number one. When offered another country song, "She'd Give Anything," he took it. The song was produced by Grammy Award-winning producer David Foster, renamed "I'd Give Anything," and released as the first single on Levert's second album, 1994's Groove On. Although lushly produced and retaining its country-western melody, the single was a hit among Levert's R&B fans and reached number two on Billboard's Top R&B Albums chart.
After performing live together on several occasions over the years, Levert and his father bowed to fans' requests and teamed up to record 1995's Father and Son. "People kept asking when were we going to record an album together because of the response we would get whenever I'd do a show and dad would join me on stage for a couple numbers," Gerald Levert told Billboard. The album featured the duo singing original material written expressly for them, as well as a selection of cover songs, including several originally performed by the O'Jays. "Actually we've always dreamed of making an album together," the senior Levert told Essence. "Of all my children, Gerald is most like me. We're both very opinionated workaholics. But we're both just happy that so many people look at the album as morally uplifting for the family." Soul and R&B fans alike were pleased, and the two toured together to support the album. Gerald and Eddie Levert had recorded together once before, on the duet "Baby Hold on to Me," which appeared on Private Line and reached the top of the American R&B singles chart in January of 1992.
In 1997, Levert joined forces with fellow R&B singers Keith Sweat and Johnny Gill to record the album Levert. Sweat. Gill. People critic Amy Linden called Levert. Sweat. Gill an "all-star" project that is "free of egomania and mighty fine on the ears." The album went platinum, led by the top-selling hit, "My Body All Over Your Body."
The 1998 album Love & Consequences was an exceptionally painful work for Levert. He wrote the album following a breakup so difficult he considered quitting the music business. "I was so devastated by the situation," he said in an interview with Ebony, "I didn't want to do music any more." Levert also told Ebony it was his fault the year-long engagement failed, and he said he poured his pain and regret into songwriting. Considering his admission of responsibility, it is somewhat ironic that, in the album's first single, "Thinkin' about It," Levert demands a cheating partner change her philandering ways. In any case, the album struck a chord with his fans--Love & Consequences was yet another platinum seller for Levert. In a review, Linden noted that Levert's voice is both tender and tough--"hallmarks of the great soul singers of the past."
Although he had not planned to release a new album so soon, Levert was ready with new material after tours with Patti LaBelle and as part of the Budweiser Superfest. Fearing his new songs would get stale, the artist told Billboard, he worked the recording for G into his already hectic schedule. Having recovered from the breakup that had fueled Love & Consequences, Levert recorded a slew of new and upbeat tunes. Songs like "Application (I'm Looking 4 a New Love)," "She Done Been," and the album's first single, "Nothin' to Somethin'," reflected Levert's new mood. By March of 2000, G had climbed to the number two position on Billboard's R&B album chart and to number eight on Billboard's 200 album chart, marking a career-high sales peak and the first time the artist had broken into the chart's top ten. The album's debut single, "Mr. Too Damn Good," also made it onto the charts. Levert released Gerald's World in 2001.
by Brenna Sanchez
Gerald Levert's Career
Formed the group LeVert with brother Sean Levert and friend Marc Gordon, early 1980s; with LeVert released album I Get Hot on independent Tempre label, 1985; signed to Atlantic Records, 1986; with LeVert released Bloodline, first of a series of commercially successful albums, 1986; began producing albums for other artists, including Stephanie Mills, James Ingram, and Miki Howard, among others, late 1980s; released debut solo album, Private Line, 1991; recorded and performed with Eddie Levert, 1995; with Keith Sweat and Johnny Gill, released Levert. Sweat. Gill, 1997; released Love & Consequences, 1998; released G, 1999; released Gerald's World, 2001.
- Selected discography
- Private Line , Atlantic, 1991.
- Groove On , Atlantic, 1994.
- (With Eddie Levert)Father and Son , East West, 1995.
- (With Keith Sweat and Johnny Gill)Levert. Sweat. Gill , East West, 1997.
- Love & Consequences , East West, 1998.
- G , Elektra/Asylum, 1999.
- Gerald's World , Elektra/Asylum, 2001.
- With LeVert
- I Get Hot , Tempre, 1985.
- Bloodline , Atlantic, 1986.
- The Big Throwdown , Atlantic, 1987.
- Just Coolin' , Atlantic, 1988.
- Rope-a-Dope , Atlantic, 1990.
- For Real Tho' , Atlantic, 1992.
- The Whole Scenario , Atlantic, 1997.
November 30, 2004: LeVert's album, Do I Speak for the World, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_3/index.jsp, December 2, 2004.
October 4, 2005: LeVert's album, Collaborations, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_3/index.jsp, October 7, 2005.
- Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 22, Gale Group, 1999.
- Larkin, Colin, Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Muze UK Ltd., 1998.
- Billboard, August 6, 1994, p. 18; September 3, 1994, p. 17; September 16, 1995, p. 11; October 23, 1999, p. 33; March 25, 2000, p. 27.
- Ebony, July 1999, p. 38.
- Entertainment Weekly, September 18, 1998, p. 88.
- Essence, November 1995, p. 58.
- Jet, November 27, 1995, p. 57.
- Newsweek, April 6, 1998, p. 68.
- People, December 22, 1997, p. 30; August 3, 1998, p. 31.
- "Gerald Levert," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=1GERALD|LEVERT (December 6, 2001).