SoulTracks 3 Minute Update: Catch up with The Manhattans

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    3 Minute Update is the newest SoulTracks feature. It is designed to give classic soul fans a chance to catch up with what’s going on with their favorite soul music artists of the 60s, 70s and 80s. All in three minutes. Our latest in the series is a 3 minute update on: The Manhattans. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section and hit us up with your suggestions of future 3 Minute Updates by using the "Contact Us" button below.

    For six decades they’ve been singing of love – both licit and on the down low – and in the process have become one of the greatest R&B vocal groups of all time. And they are still going strong as we enter 2022. Of course, we’re talking about The Manhattans.

    3 Minute Update is the newest SoulTracks feature. It is designed to give classic soul fans a chance to catch up with what’s going on with their favorite soul music artists of the 60s, 70s and 80s. All in three minutes. Our latest in the series is a 3 minute update on: The Manhattans. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section and hit us up with your suggestions of future 3 Minute Updates by using the "Contact Us" button below.

    For six decades they’ve been singing of love – both licit and on the down low – and in the process have become one of the greatest R&B vocal groups of all time. And they are still going strong as we enter 2022. Of course, we’re talking about The Manhattans.

    The group was formed in the early 60s in New Jersey as a quintet led by writer/bass vocalist Winfred "Blue" Lovett and George Smith, along with Edward "Sonny" Bivins, Richard "Ricky" Taylor and Kenneth "Wally" Kelly. They performed together in high school, but didn't really focus on a career in music until they had all had just returned from service in the armed forces. 

    After some local hits, The Manhattans were signed by Columbia Records in the early 70s, but sadly the Columbia signing coincided with the sudden illness of talented lead singer Smith.  During a tour through North Carolina, the Manhattans came upon a college student with an amazing Sam Cooke-like voice.  Recognizing the incredible talent of this 21 year old, the group invited Gerald Alston to join, and he became the lead singer who would bring stardom to the quintet, with the blessing of Smith, who sadly died just a few months later. 

    With Alston's smooth lead vocals, solid songwriting talent within the group and the always wonderful work of Philly producer/arrranger Bobby Martin, the Manhattans began to score hits on the R&B charts.  Then in 1976, the quintet released Lovett's composition "Kiss and Say Goodbye," a song originally written with country star Glen Campbell in mind, but which instead become the group's signature tune.  "Kiss" rocketed to the top of the R&B and Pop charts, and the companion self-titled LP became the first of several charttopping albums for the act. But the long awaited success also became the sign for Taylor that he should retire the group to follow his religious path in Islam, leaving The Manhattans as a quartet.

    The next ten years were a decade of success upon success on the R&B charts, with The Manhattans staying true to their roots as soul balladeers, even as many peers were chasing trends. Great singles such as "It Feels So Good to be Loved So Bad," "I Kinda Miss You," "We Never Danced To A Love Song" and "Am I Losing You" kept the group charting, and then in 1980 they had their second signature #1 smash, the loping ballad, "Shining Star."

    The hits slowed down by the late 80s, and Gerald Alston left the group for a moderately successful solo career in 1988. But in 1993, in time for a 30th anniversary of the group's founding, Alston and Blue Lovett reformed The Manhattans with David Tyson (brother of the Temptations' Ron Tyson) and Troy May, and hit the road in a version of the group that continued for two decades, until Lovett’s passing in 2014. Sadly, remaining original members Sonny Bivins and Kenny Kelly also died around that time.

    The Manhattans  continued touring as the trio of Alston, Tyson and May, and in 2021 released their first album in more than a decade, The Legacy Continues. The followed it at the end of 2021 with their version of “The Christmas Song,” and are starting 2022 picking up where they left off before COVID, treating their fans to a brand new national tour. Sadly, David Tyson died in early 2022 after a brief illness. Alston and May vowed to continue performing, and in July of 2022 announced the addition of Philly-based singer Lawrence "Weas" Newton, as they readied their international tour. 

    Here is wishing more great music from a group that has long been an important part of the lives of soul music fans everywhere.

    By Chris Rizik

     
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