Boyz II Men celebrates longevity
26th September 2011 · 0 Comments
By Kimberly C. Roberts
(Special to the NNPA from the Philadelphia Tribune) — Philadelphia natives Wanya Morris, Shawn Stockman and Nate Morris, collectively known as the 13-time Grammy Award-winning vocal group Boyz II Men, celebrated their 20th anniversary with a concert at the Temple Performing Arts Center.
The best-selling R&B group of all time, Boyz II Men originally formed as a quintet, which also included Mike McCary and Marc Nelson, while the members were all students at the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts. Nelson, however, left to pursue a solo career before the group cut its first studio album.
The group was discovered by New Edition member Michael Bivins and released its debut album, Cooleyhighharmony, in 1991, featuring the joyous dance tune “Motownphilly.” A cavalcade of hits would follow, including “End of the Road,” “I’ll Make Love to You” and “One Sweet Day.” In the ensuing years, Boyz II Men would capture 16 American Music Awards, nine Soul Train Awards, three MTV Awards and three Billboard Awards. Bass singer McCary retired from the group in 2004 due to a chronic back ailment.
In a recent interview, Nate Morris reflected on the highs and lows of an amazing 20-year career, saying, “It feels pretty old, but it’s all good, right? I mean, it was all one big blur! The years just flew by. Just yesterday we were at the High School for Performing Arts — this morning I dropped my son off there. My son is 15!”
In addition to marking 20 years in show business, the gala concert on the campus of Temple University will also be Boyz II Men’s first charity event.
“We just thought with it being the 20th anniversary, it was the best time to kick off our charity, which is called the Boyz II Men House and helps support people in need,” Morris explained. “Whether it’s disaster relief, whether it’s building playgrounds in urban areas, whether it’s public housing — whatever it’s possible to do, that’s what we support. This is our first year.”
In addition to benefiting this worthy cause, Morris promises that the evening will be special, in that the group will be performing with Temple University’s 34-piece orchestra.
“It’s going to be different, because most people have never seen Boyz II Men or heard Boyz II Men music with a live orchestra before,” said Morris. “We’ve taken this tour on the road before, but it’s only been internationally that we’ve done dates, and the Asian region, which have done very well. So we thought to make it special, other than just doing a regular old Boyz II Men concert, we decided to bring the orchestra out here, and people really seem to be excited about it.”
Boyz II Men fans should also be excited about the group’s upcoming album Twenty, which is scheduled for release October 25. Available exclusively at Walmart and online, the 20-track disc will feature 12 new, original songs and eight “re-recordings” of some of Boyz II Men’s timeless hits.
“A lot of people think that we’ve kind of been dormant because they haven’t seen us a lot, but the truth is that we do about 110 shows a year, whether they be domestic or international, so we’ve always been a touring a group,” Morris said. “We’ve just stayed out of the record business for a minute because it’s taken a minute for the record industry to decide that they really want to hear R&B music again. So in our case, we’ve got to see what the industry and what the public calls for. There are a lot of things that we’d like to do, but if it doesn’t work with what the status quo is, then it doesn’t make sense. So we just try our best to do what we love to do, but make sure it fits in with the status quo.”
While there admittedly have been bumps in the road along the way, Morris is most proud of Boyz II Men’s longevity, and to this day remains in contact with Michael Bivins. “I’m just proud that we were able to do what we’ve done,” Morris said. “Who knew that the biggest R&B group in the history of mankind would come from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania? Who knew that? We went to the High School for Performing Arts, we sang, and we did what we loved to do, and that was pretty much the gist of it. Anything else that came along was extra, so all of this is a plus for us. If you ask for one particular thing, I think for me, 20 years in the business would probably be the biggest feat, considering all of the things that we’ve gone through and the way the industry has changed. People have grown up with different lives and families, and things like that tend to pull a group apart, so for us to still want to do this and be around each other for 20 years, that’s a feat in itself.”
Morris credits Boyz II Men’s loyal following of 60 million fans with the group’s success and said in conclusion, “For us, they’re the lifeline to what we do. The reason why we try to stay true to the type of music that we make is because of the people that bought it 20 years ago.”
This article was originally published in the September 26, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper