It’ll Never Be The Same: Music Groups That Tried To Go On Without Some Of Their Members
Although they may have started out as a cohesive group, fame, fortune and/or conflict drove a wedge within these musical acts and they were forced to carry on the torch after losing a member.
Boys II Men
Four young men in matching sweater vests and striped ties from the city of brotherly love emerged on the music scene bringing back that old Motown sound of acapella harmonies and emotional ballads in the ’90s. Co-signed by New Edition’s Michael Bivins, Boyz II Men dominated the R&B airwaves with their hits “I’ll make Love To You,” “Water Runs Dry” and “End of The Road,” which stayed at the number one spot on the Billboard charts for 13 straight weeks, breaking the record previously held by Elvis Presley. Nathan Morris, Shawn Stockton, Wanya Morris and Michael McCary would record six albums together until McCary left the group in 2003 due to his battle with scoliosis. After a brief hiatus, the three remaining members re-emerged on an independent label and continued to release more music but never reached their previous height of success. McCary tried to rejoin the group in 2011 for their 20th anniversary but negotiations broke down. Boyz II Men went on the road with boy bands New Kids On The Block and 98 Degrees as part of The Package Tour in 2013.
Beyonce was reunited with her former group Destiny’s Child group members during her halftime performance at the Super Bowl earlier this year, but the group looked a lot different from when they emerged on the scene back in 1998. By her side back then were Kelly Rowland, LeToya Luckett and LaTavia Roberson. Although they were on the verge of massive success, Luckett and Roberson were unhappy with the group’s manager and Beyonce’s father and when they expressed their concerns, they soon found themselves on the sidelines. Former back up singer Michelle Williams and Farrah Franklin were called in to substitute, but after just five months, Franklin called it quits. Luckett and Roberson filed a lawsuit against and tried to continue on with their music careers but struck out on both attempts. Meanwhile, the three members of Destiny’s Child continued to dominate the charts until the group officially disbanded in 2006 so Beyonce could fly solo.
Natina Reed, Shamari Fears and Brandi Williams formed the girl group Blaque and caught the attention of TLC’s Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, who signed them to her production company. Blaque’s debut single “808” was a success and it was quickly followed up with a platinum album. After their taste of fame and success, the girl group was ready to continue on but the sudden death of Left Eye in 2002 had everything coming to a screeching halt. They struggled to find a hit song and after their next two albums were shelved, Blaque took a break. Reed left for the ministry and was briefly replaced by singer/rapper Erica Pullins. The original members got together again to work on their fourth album but tragically Reed was killed while crossing the street in Atlanta last October.
Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Rozonda “Chili” Thomas oozed crazy, s*xy, and cool as the popular group TLC. Selling more than 65 million album copies worldwide, TLC came out in the early 90’s and by the time they dropped their sophomore album, they were one of the biggest groups on the planet. Despite their success, Left Eye was unhappy and wanted to try her hand at a solo career. She challenged group mates to all release solo albums and let fans decide which one they loved the best and put out her own solo project, but the 30-year-old was killed in a car crash while on sabbatical in the tiny tropical island of Honduras in 2002. Though there was tension in the group and Left Eye parted ways in a less than amicable split, T-Boz and Chili were devastated by her death. After a hiatus, they continued on and finished up TLC’s fourth album and starred in a competition reality show in search of another member, who was featured on one single with the now two-member group. Vowing to never replace Left Eye, TLC has performed together and was most recently featured on rapper J. Cole’s “Crooked Smile.” Most recently, Lil Mama has been chosen to go on tour with the girls.
Don Cornelius may forever be known as the long-standing host of “Soul Train,” but the late legend was also the mastermind behind the disco group Shalamar. He recruited two of “Soul Train’s” dancers, Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniel, to join Gary Mumford to form the group and while they had some hits, “I Can Make You Feel Good” and “A Night To Remember,” the group went through several different line-ups. Watley left to start a solo career and other members left due to non-payment and conflicts within the group and the record label, and after going through more than half a dozen singers, Shalamar now consists of Daniel, Howard Hewett and Carolyn Griffey. Shalamar, always popular across the pond, toured the UK in 2010.
In the late 80’s, four women in Oakland, CA formed a group that would go on to be one of the most successful female groups of all time. As En Vogue, Terry Ellis, Dawn Robinson, Maxine Jones and Cindy Herron would go on to sell millions of records, win various awards and spend a total of 2,400 weeks on the Billboard charts, an amazing feat from any artist in any genre of music. However, Robinson abruptly left the group in 1997 when talks over contract negotiations failed. Jones followed several years later to focus on her family and singer Amanda Cole was brought in as a replacement. But before she could warm her seat or fans could get used to her, Cole was out and in came Rhona Bennett. The lineup shuffled back and forth with all four original members briefly reuniting before the group finally settled on Ellis, Herron and Bennett. Jones and Robinson left to form their own En Vogue, which, of course, led to a showdown in the courtroom. After losing, Robinson and Jones announced they would be changing their name. Most recently, Robinson starred on TV One’s “R&B Divas: Los Angeles.”
Back in the 60’s and 70’s, R&B singing group The Temptations helped define Motown’s sound. With their distinct harmonies, flashy wardrobes, and killer looks, Otis Williams, Elbridge “Al” Bryant, Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks, and Paul Williams were the original five members. As the group went through various levels of success, the lineup went through numerous changes. Throughout the group’s career, which spanned over five decades, The Temptations earned three Grammys, had four number one Billboard chart hits and 14 number one R&B hits with 22 different members. Otis is the only living original member and is still part of the group, which put out another album in 2010.
Under their father’s strict (some say too strict) tutelage, Jackie, Jermaine, Tito, Marlon and Michael Jackson, otherwise known as the Jackson 5, began one of the biggest music groups on the planet. Although he was the youngest in the group, there was no denying Michael’s star appeal, and after seven years with his brothers, Michael decided to spread his wings and fly solo. Marlon followed his younger brother’s footsteps out the door. And while he was too young to be a part of the original Jackson 5 group, baby brother Randy became an unofficial member and played the instruments until he officially joined in 1975. Once Michael’s solo career took off, he overshadowed his former group. The brothers reunited in 2001 at Madison Square Garden to celebrate Michael’s 30 years as a solo artist. That was the last time they would all perform together. Michael passed away in 2009, and although they tried to capitalize on the buzz, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon just wasn’t a big tour draw.
Though there were four members in the group by the time they dropped their debut album in 1993, Xscape actually started out with five members. Sisters LaTocha and Tamika Scott, Kandi Burruss and Tameka “Tiny” Cottle signed with producer Jermaine Dupri and watched the “Hummin’ Comin At ‘Cha” album go platinum. After several years of success, LaTocha went on to start a solo career and the group went on hiatus. In 2005, Tiny and the Scott sisters tried to breathe new life into Xscape and brought in new member Kiesha Miles but their album was shelved. Tiny went on to become the wife of Atlanta rapper T.I. and star on several reality shows. Burruss continued on in the music industry behind the scenes and penned hits for some of the biggest names in music, including TLC’s massively popular “No Scrubs” hit (co-written by Tiny).
The early 90’s spawned several R&B groups including Brownstone. Comprised of Monica “Mimi” Doby, Charmayne “Maxee” Maxwell and Nichole “Nicci” Gilbert, the three ladies scored a hit with “If You Love Me.” Doby was the first one to leave the group. Initially citing health reasons, it was later revealed she had a problem with the other members of the group. Another singer was brought in and after she left then another one but no matter the lineup, the group failed to achieve its previous success. Gilbert, star of the original “R&B Divas” reality show, announced Brownstone will be reuniting for a new album and will hit the road and tour once again.
In the mid-80’s, Ralph Tresvant, Bobby Brown, Michael Bivins, Ronnie DeVoe and Ricky Bell, better known as New Edition, had female fans screaming across the country. The group scored hits with “Cool It Now” and “Mr. Telephone Man,” but during the height of the group’s success, Brown decided it was his time to shine and left the group for a solo career. His replacement was Johnny Gill and the group continued on but soon split up. Tresvant and Gill embarked on solo careers while the three remaining members formed Bell, Biv DeVoe.
R&B group Pretty Ricky came out in 1997 and is perhaps best known for their biggest hit “Grind With Me.” The group started out with five brothers, much like the Jacksons more than 30 years before them. Baby Blue, Spectacular, Slick’em, and Pleasure P were the original four but Pleasure P parted ways with his siblings in 2007 soon in hopes of starting a solo career. The group went through several members and tried to make a name for itself, but in 2012 after 15 years and eight members, the group disbanded. However, Pleasure p has hinted that the group, with all of the members, will once again record new music.
Originally a quintet, Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, Betty McGlown, and Mary Wilson formed The Supremes, and along with a few other acts, they helped put the city of Detroit on the map and became synonymous with the Motown sound. After achieving early success, the group was renamed Diana Ross & The Supremes, but not satisfied with front billing, Ross felt she was destined for bigger things and pursued a solo career. The tension within the group was legendary and was the basis behind the musical Dreamgirls, which was remade for the silver screen in 2006. After Ross’ departure, the lineup went through several singers. After almost 20 years and 10 members, The Supremes disbanded in 1977. While Ross went on to have a very successful solo career, Ballard fell into depression and struggled with poverty and alcoholism and tragically died from cardiac arrest at the age of 32.
Earth, Wind & Fire
Earth, Wind & Fire came out in the early 70’s and their fusion of jazz, R&B, rock, soul and disco helped them become one of the most successful and critically acclaimed groups from its era. Founded by Maurice White, the lineup for Earth, Wind & Fire went through a host of members, including more than 30 singers and musicians, but only Philip Bailey, Verdine White, Ralph Johnson, Larry Dunn, and Al McKay, the original members, were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Still a popular act that sells out shows, Earth, Wind & Fire released their first album in eight years in September and is currently on tour.
Ever the puppet master, Sean “Diddy” Combs used MTV’s “Making The Band 4” to handpick Robert Curry, Brian Andrews, Willie Taylor, Qwanell “Que” Mosley, and Michael McCluney to form Day 26. Using the show to promote their music, Day 26 released their debut album in 2008. As with most acts, there was tension within the group and Que found himself on the outs with several members of the group. Que was dropped from Day 26 at the end of 2009 and for a brief time they fell off the map. The group tried to revamp two years later and announced they were working on their third album but after only dropping a single that failed to garner any attention, the group officially disbanded in the summer of 2012.