This Day in Black History: June 16, 1942

Eddie Levert, the lead singer of the O'Jays, was born.

Posted: 06/16/2013 10:57 AM EDT

Known for his raspy and passionate vocals, the O'Jays' lead singer, Eddie Levert, was born on June 16, 1942, in Bessemer, Alabama. Arriving in Canton, Ohio, at the age of six, Levert began singing at school performances and in the church choir before seriously considering a professional singing career as a teen.

Levert recruited his fellow high school classmates Walter Williams, William Powell, Bobby Massey and Bill Isles to form the Triumphs in 1958. The group received their major break after performing at every available opportunity in Canton, culminating in a prosperous meeting with King Records President Sid Nathan. After signing to Nathan's label, the Triumphs became the Mascots and gained major radio airplay on Cleveland stations. In 1963, the group members made a final name change to the O'Jays.

The O'Jays' debut album, Let Me Touch You, climbed to number three on the R&B charts, with the hit single "Lovin' You" becoming the number one R&B hit the summer of 1987. As the lead singer and frequent writer and producer, Levert drew in listeners with his husky voice, which boasts an impressive range from alto to second tenor, and his sensual performance style. He has garnered a long list of achievements and awards both through the O'Jays and as a solo artist, including four Grammy nominations, four American Music Awards, a 2009 BET Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2011 Trumpet Lifetime Achievement Award.

In addition to his work with the O'Jays, Levert mentored and recorded several songs with his sons, Sean and Gerald, both of whom formed the platinum-recording R&B group LeVert. Gerald and his father would go on to record hit songs like "Baby Hold on to Me" (1992) and "Already Missing You" (1995), as well as the successful album Father & Son.

Tragedy struck when Levert lost both of his sons to complications involving prescription medicine in 2006 and 2008, respectively. He and his late son Gerald were honored with the "Best Duo or Group" Image Award in 2008.

Having left an indelible mark on R&B music, Levert continues to tour the world with the O'Jays and performs as a solo artist with Johnny Gill, Keith Sweat and other legendary singers.

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 (Photo: Ethan Miller/WireImage)

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