This week Foxy remembers one of R&B’s greatest balladeers, GERALD LEVERT
Gerald Levert was born to The O’Jays frontman Eddie Levert and his wife Martha in Philadelphia on July 13, 1966. Levert grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and due to his father’s career, Levert would travel with the band regularly. While in high school, Levert’s inclination towards music became apparent when he formed the R&B trio LeVert, with his younger brother Sean Levert (deceased, March 30, 2008) and friend Marc Gordon in 1984. The group proved to be very successful with four of its seven albums going platinum. These include, I Get Hot in 1985, Bloodline in 1986, The Big Throwdown in 1987, and Just Coolin in 1988. Among the group’s memorable hits were, “(Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop) Goes My Mind”, “Casanova”, and “ABC-123” (not to be confused with the Jackson 5 hit of the same name).
GERALD LEVERT Second generation R&B star Gerald Levert took the lessons of his father, Eddie Levert of the O’Jays, seriously. When the Shaker Heights High teenager seemed determined to follow in his father’s steps, his dad warned him that performers often get cast aside and he should secure his legacy by being a producer and songwriter as well. So Levert was a triple threat, both with the trio he formed with his brother Sean and friend Marc Gordon in the mid-’80s and in his own solo career launched in 1991. He was also a mentor to other artists such as the Rude Boyz and Men at Large and the hub of a local recording scene. His resume included production, songwriting and duets with top R&B stars such as the O’Jays, Patti LaBelle, Yolanda Adams, Keith Sweat, Johnny Gill, Barry White, Teddy Pendergrass and Stephanie Mills.
Solo career & collaborations
In 1991, Levert went solo with the album, Private Line, which went to number one on the R&B charts. The following year, Gerald and his father, Eddie Levert, hit number one on the R&B charts with the single, Baby Hold On to Me. Levert recorded a string of albums throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, that spawned the hit singles, “Thinkin’ About It” (Pop #12), “Taking Everything” (Pop #11), “Funny”, “Mr. Too Damn Good to You”, “U Got That Love”, and a remake of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly”, along with gospel singer Yolanda Adams.
Levert also sung lead vocals in two songs on the 2002 film documentary “Standing in the Shadows of Motown” – the story of The Funk Brothers. Gerald performed “Shotgun” and “Reach Out I’ll Be There” in what many have called his best performance ever.
Gerald wrote and produced songs for other artists such as, Barry White, Stephanie Mills, Teddy Pendergrass, James Ingram, The Winans and The O’Jays. In the mid 1990s, he also helped launch the careers of three Cleveland-area R&B ensembles: The Rude Boys, Men at Large and 1 of the Girls. In 1997, Levert teamed up with fellow R&B singers Keith Sweat and Johnny Gill, to form the supergroup, LSG. The trio released the album Levert-Sweat-Gill, the same year, followed by LSG2 in 2003. In 1999, Levert sang the chorus on the Chris Rock spoken-word comedy piece, “No Sex (In the Champagne Room)”. Levert performed a duet with Teena Marie on the latter’s 2004 album La Doña. One of Levert’s last collaborations was with pianist Jim Brickman on the song “My Angel”, for Brickman’s 2006 album entitled Escape.
Levert released his tenth album,Voices, in 2005.
On November 10, 2006, Gerald Levert was found dead in his bed at his Newbury home when a cousin tried to wake him. Initial reports stated that Levert had died of an apparent heart attack. In February 2007, an autopsy report conducted by the Cuyahoga County coroner’s office concluded that Levert’s death was caused by a fatal combination of prescription narcotics and over-the-counter drugs. The drugs in his bloodstream included the narcotic pain relievers Vicodin, Percocet, and Darvocet, along with anxiety medication Xanax and two over-the-counter antihistamines. The autopsy also revealed that Levert had pneumonia. The official cause of death was acute intoxication, and the death was ruled accidental. Gerald Levert was only 40 years old.
Following the disclosure of Gerald Levert’s cause of death, a family spokesman stated that all the drugs found in Levert’s bloodstream were prescribed to the singer. Levert was taking the pain medication because of chronic pain from a lingering shoulder problem and surgery in 2005 to repair a severed Achilles tendon.
Cover for Levert’s final album, In My Songs, released after his death
Shortly before his death, Levert completed work on what would be his final album, In My Songs. The album was released on February 13, 2007. In June 2007, a book Gerald was working to complete entitled, I Got Your Back: A Father and Son Keep it Real About Love, Fatherhood, Family, and Friendship, was released. The book was initially planned as a tie-in for a Levert album of the same name. I Got Your Back explores Gerald and Eddie’s father/son relationship, the necessity of male bonding, and importance of repairing fractured families.Levert was also working on a reality show in which he was losing weight along with 12 of his female fans, who were training with him at his palatial home.