THE SECRET OF OUR 30YRS SUCCESS - MIDNIGHT STAR, AMERICA R&B GROUP
By Prince Osuagwu
The double platinum selling R&B group that ruled the 80's, Midnight Star, was one of the two international acts brought into Nigeria by MTN to launch a loyalty programme tagged MTN Platinum Plus for high value customers of the company in Lagos recently.
Belinda Lipscomb, Melvin Gentry, Kenneth Gant, Bobby Lovelace, Bo Watson and Bill Simmons gave a performance that earned them a standing ovation of the audience made up of top company executives, and other high network individuals at the Oceanview Gardens, Victoria Island, Lagos.
After the performance Belinda, Melvin and Bo granted Weekend Groove an interview where they talked about their career and their experience in Nigeria.
How was the Midnight Star formed?
Melvin: Midnight Star was formed at Kentucky State University in 1976. It started small, but as you already know, it quickly earned a strong live reputation throughout the world.
In 1978 Solar Records Chief Dick Griffey signed the group, and in early 80's we rolled out albums like The Beginning, Standing Together, and Victory, which instantly shot us into limelight in the US. The certified double platinum plus No Parking on the Dance Floor was what it took to bring us into world reckoning.
In 1983 we came out with the dance floor hits like 'Freaka Zoid', 'No Parking on the Dance Floor', 'Wet My Whistle' and the lovers ballad of the mid 80's, 'Slow Jam'.
In 1985, we made No. 1 with 'Operator' and 'Curious'. In 1986 we struck gold with 'Midas Touch' and the title cut from the Headlines LP. 'Don't Rock the Boat' (which featured rapper Ecstasy of Whodini) again took us to the top of the chart in 1988. And there was also 'Snake in the Grass', which was another great commercial success. In short, it has been a very exciting time, with lots of memorable moments.
So what can we expect from Midnight star today?
Belinda: We are bringing back all the things our fans know us for: high energy performance, and music rendered from the depth of our souls, letting everybody's light shine.
Bo: We've all been able to go out and have our individual success and we've learned different things. Our music is more exciting than ever'
How long have you been together?
Gentry: More than three decades.
Have you been together all of the three decades?
Gentry: Not really. After having such a wonderful time together, doing extensive international touring, some of us took time off to pursue personal projects.
Deep down inside, everyone had the intentions of getting back together again. I was for some time behind the scenes, doing production projects on Toni Braxton, Shanice Wilson and some others. Bo has co-written songs with renowned songwriter/producer Kenneth 'Babyface' Edmonds, including hits on Toni Braxton and After Seven, among other activities.
Belinda has done wonderful stuff at the theatre, starring in several musical comedies and gospel musicals. Like I said, everyone took time off to execute some other projects, with resounding success. In 2000, we came back together, and have been waxing strong ever since.
Two founding members are no longer with us today, but all of the original lead singers of such hits as: 'Operator', 'Midas Touch', 'Headlines', 'Slow Jam', 'Curious', 'Freak-A-Zoid', 'Don't Rock The Boat' and 'No Parking On The Dance Floor' to name a few are still in the group and waxing strong.
So, what's the secret of the bond?
Gentry: Communication is key. I'd say to you, it's been a journey full of challenges as well as excitement. We had our ups and downs, but the important thing is that we have kept the group alive.
Your favourite songs?
Gentry: That's a tough one. It's like asking 'Who's your favourite child?'. You know you do have one, but you don't wanna tell (Laughter). But more seriously, it has been an interesting journey. We've waxed 10 albums. We've had a lot of songs.
Actually, I like a few more than the others. If I must pick one, perhaps No Parking on the Dance Floor, or Slow Jam, Wet My Whistle or Operator. You see what I mean? (Laughter).
What can we look forward to from Midnight Star?
Gentry: We are working on this really great new project, a totally new material, never done before. We may have a live track in it. That is coming soon. Very soon.
How does it feel being the only woman in the group?
Belinda: I have to say it's been fun. We've become family. They are like brothers. We are business people and we have love for each other. That's what has kept us together. We came together seeking one goal: to become number one in our hearts and in the hearts of all our fans.
You have maintained your great voices over three decades. Is there anything you do to keep your voices in their excellent forms?
Bo: Nothing really. Of course, we try to live responsibly, which means that you do not do excess of anything. And we do try to get some rest as much as possible. You know what? Above anything else, let's just say we have been lucky to be blessed by God.
What has been your experience in Nigeria so far?
Gentry: Wonderful. Nigerians radiate happiness and warmth. Somehow, you cannot help but feel and get drawn into that warmth. Many people were very eager to meet and chat with us right from touch down at the airport. And when we mounted the MTN Platinum launch stage, the reception was overwhelming.
You know as performers, we feed off the energy of our audience, just as fans feed off our energy on stage. Nigeria loves Midnight Star, and we love Nigeria too. I'll tell you we had a very exciting time out there tonight.
When do we hope to have you in Nigeria again?
Hmmmm. Let's just say soon. MTN has done very well to bring us here tonight to connect with our fans. We believe there are more opportunities on the horizon. We will be back soon.