Soul Train may have a history of churning out the hottest moves for the dance floor, but during the 1970s and 1980s, the show was also responsible for several dance floor-filling hit singles, courtesy of Shalamar. Though not the first group spun off from the show, Shalamar secured a spot as the most successful.
Created by then-Soul Train booking agent and then-soon-to-be-founder of SOLAR Records, Dick Griffey, Shalamar went from an anonymous group of session singers to a young, wildly popular group. Future chanteuse Jody Watley and fellow Soul Train dancer Jeffrey Daniels (who reportedly taught Michael Jackson the Backslide, now better known as the Moonwalk) made up two-thirds of the trio, while the final slot in the group’s most well-known incarnation was filled by the warm, strongly passionate vocals of Howard Hewett.
Shalamar’s sound took elements of disco, funk, R&B and pop and blended them into a palate-pleasing fusion that found much success on the R&B and dance charts. Who can forget the upbeat melodies of “The Second Time Around,” “Make That Move” and “A Night to Remember”? Younger audiences have also heard Shalamar’s tunes re-hashed, such as Stargazer’s club record “Feel Good,” which — not so ironically — samples “I Can Make You Feel Good,” and Babyface’s “This Is for the Love in You,” on which the three reunited to handle the chorus on the crooner’s new take of their song with the same name.
But all good things must come to an end and in the mid-’80s, the members went their separate ways. Though replacements were brought in, Shalamar never quite captured the magic that existed during the group’s golden era. Their Midas touch continued, however, with individual endeavors.
Jeffrey Daniels is a well-respected choreographer, with a résumé boasting Michael Jackson’s “Bad,” “Smooth Criminal” and “Ghosts” videos. Howard Hewett has a string of R&B hits to his credit, including the classics “I’m for Real,” “Show Me” and his gospel-flavored “Say Amen.” Howard reunited with Jeffrey and the pair recently recruited Carolyn Griffey — daughter of the group’s founder — and continue to tour under the name of Shalamar.
Jody Watley is less interested in rejoining the group full-time. She experienced great success with her debut, self-titled album, which produced top hits such as the defining “Looking for a New Love” and the dance floor favorite, “Don’t You Want Me.” She earned a Best New Artist Grammy for her initial solo effort and the hits continued from albums Larger Than Life, Affairs of the Heart and Intimacy. Eventually, Jody started her own label and is a recurring favorite on Billboard’s Dance/Club Play charts, having embraced a smooth jazz and electronic sound. Her edgy sense of style also secures regular modeling gigs, including a spot in Vogue Italia’s famous “all-black” issue from 2008.
— Joel Lyons
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Joel Lyons is a New York City-based aficionado of dance, pop and R&B. Experience his appreciation at www.ThatsMyJam.net.