(Read about the Manhattans after the video)
The Manhattans are an American popular R&B vocal group. Their work includes million-selling songs "Kiss and Say Goodbye" recorded in 1976 and 1980's "Shining Star". The Manhattans have recorded twelve top 10 R&B hits in the United States charting on the Billboard chart for the first time in 1965. Their 1983 song "Forever By Your Side" remains especially popular in Brazil thirty years after its release.
The Manhattans, originally from Jersey City, formed in 1962 with members George "Smitty" Smith (born December 18, 1939, Florida; died December 16, 1970), Edward "Sonny" Bivins (born Edward Jessie Bivins, Jr., January 15, 1936, Macon, Georgia; died December 3, 2014, Basking Ridge Bernards Township, New Jersey), Winfred "Blue" Lovett (born Winfred Lorenzo Lovett, November 16, 1936, Jersey City; died December 9, 2014, Arizona), Kenny "Wally" Kelley (born Kenneth Bernard Kelly, January 9, 1941, Jersey City; died February 17, 2015), and Richard "Ricky" Taylor (born in 1940; died December 7, 1987). Bivins, Lovett, and Kelley were graduating from Lincoln High School, while Taylor and Smith were graduating from Snyder High School. All five enlisted in the armed forces and came together as a group following their discharges from their respective branches.
The group's first single was "For the Very First Time," released in 1964 by Carnival Records. They continued recording successfully with songs written by various members of the group. In 1968, the group received the "Most Promising Group" award by NATRA. In 1969, the group moved to the De Luxe record label, a subsidiary of King Records, subsequently embarking on a college tour. While playing at Kittrell College in North Carolina, the group met another group, the New Imperials, featuring Gerald Alston, nephew of The Shirelles' lead singer, Shirley Alston-Reeves. They were so impressed with Alston that they asked him to join the group, but he declined.
Misfortune hit the group late in 1970 when George Smith fell down a flight of stairs and later took ill. With him unable to perform, the group began to search for a new lead. First they attempted to woo The Cymbals' lead, Lee Williams, but he was unwilling to leave his current group. The group then renewed their request to Gerald Alston (born November 8, 1951, North Carolina), who accepted and took over the lead spot. Original lead singer George Smith died of a brain tumor on December 16, 1970.
The Manhattans continued recording throughout the 1970s with Alston singing lead vocals. They struck chart gold in 1973 with the Bivins-written song "There's No me Without You". Then their biggest song to date was "Kiss and Say Goodbye," written by Blue Lovett and arranged/co-produced with the group by the Philadelphia-based record producer Bobby Martin, a former member of the MFSB band of session musicians. The song quickly became a #1 chart topper on both the US Billboard Pop and R&B charts. It also became only the second single to go platinum, after the RIAA introduced the award in 1976. Taylor left in 1976 to concentrate on his conversion to Islam. He died in 1987 after a long illness. The group continued as a quartet, and found further success in March 1980 with the release of "Shining Star," which reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #4 on the R&B Chart. Produced and co-written by the Chicago-based record producer, Leo Graham, it received a Grammy Award the following spring.
In 1983, The Manhattans released the album "Forever By Your Side", by Columbia Records, which brought the two singles the group that year. The first was the song "Crazy", the great success of this album, peaked at #4 on the R&B chart. The second single was the title track "Forever By Your Side", which had moderate success in the United States, peaked at #30 on the R&B chart, but has become a great success and a romantic classic in Brazil two years later, when she was part of the soundtrack of a soap opera in the country in 1985. The success made "Forever By Your Side" gain a Portuguese version the following year, called "Pra Sempre Vou Te Amar", which also was successful in Brazil and was recorded by several Brazilian artists. Another highlight of this album "Forever By Your Side" was the song "Just The Lonely Talking Again", written by the American singer and songwriter Sam Dees, which was originally recorded by The Manhattans this 1983 album and was later re-recorded by Whitney Houston on her second studio album "Whitney" in 1987.
The group celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1985 with the release of Too Hot To Stop It. It included the Evans/Smith-penned "When We're Made As One," originally recorded in 1966 but covered in an a cappella, doo wop style to emphasize the group's doo wop roots. The album was also dedicated to George Smith.
The group continued until 1988. That year, Alston left to record as a solo artist, scoring with several major R&B hits in the late 1980s and early 1990s for Motown. Roger Harris was recruited as the new lead singer for the group, which moved to the new label, Valley Vue, when their Columbia recording contract expired.
The group's largest shake-up was in December 1990, when Blue Lovett left the group, upon his doctor’s request, for health reasons. And Kenny Kelley left to return to college to pursue his PhD. Bivins continued along with lead singer Roger Harris who had replaced Gerald Alston in 1988-89 along with new members. He recruited new members Charles Hardy & Harsey Hemphill, who in October 1990 had auditioned for Bivins but didn't come aboard until after Lovett & Kelly left at the end of 1990. In early 1991 Bivins added Alvin Pazant, bringing the group back to a quintet. Harris proved to be only a short-term lead, and in April 1991 he was replaced by Wade Taylor. Taylor was replaced in July 1991 when Bivins recruited Lee Williams, the person whom they had originally wanted to replace George Smith.
In the 2000s, there were two versions of The Manhattans. One version featured Original founding member Bivins, plus Hardy, Hemphill, Pazant and Williams. They released the CD Manhattans Now in 1994. In 1996 the group formed their own full service music corporation company called Manhattan Entertainment Inc. In 2003 and 2007 they were featured artists in two theater plays, Girl He Aint Worth It and The Chicken Shack. In June 2013, the group released a single called "Just For Tonite" written by Bivins and Pazant and produced and arranged by Leroy Burgess. In 2015 Lee Williams retired and was replaced by Keni Jackson as the new lead singer.
The other version of The Manhattans featured original member Blue Lovett and Gerald Alston, lead singer on the group's biggest hits. Other members include Troy May and David Tyson, brother of The Temptations' Ron Tyson. In the past, the group also featured Eban Brown, now the lead vocalist for The Stylistics. This group has also released some CDs, including Even Now. This version of the group was featured in two PBS specials and performed at casinos and theaters across the United States. Alston appeared on Wu-Tang Clan's album, 8 Diagrams, on the song "Stick Me for My Riches" in 2007.
Edward "Sonny" Bivins, founding member of the Manhattans, died on December 3, 2014, at the age of 78. He sang on every Manhattans hit since the group's inception, and wrote many of their hit songs. He led the Manhattans up until his death.
Winfred "Blue" Lovett, the group's original bass singer and songwriter, died on December 9, 2014, at the age of 78. His bass voice was heard on many Manhattans hits, including the spoken word intro to "Kiss and Say Goodbye".
Kenneth "Wally" Kelly, the last surviving original member of the group, died on February 17, 2015, at the age of 74.
Lead singer, Gerald Alston is the only member alive of the group's heyday lineup.