R&B music has seen its share of bad boys (David Ruffin, Aaron Hall, Jodeci, Rick James, Chris and Bobby Brown immediately come to mind), we’ve loved their music, admired their images, shook our heads at their antics and witnessed their crash and burn, but we reveled in the passion that emanates from the souls of these troubled men. Lost in the litany of arrests, rehab stints and comebacks is the original bad boy, Eddie Kane Jr., former lead singer of The Five Heartbeats. Eddie had it all – millions of dollars, a voice to make women melt, a cool the fellas admired and fans all around the world, but he also had demons that grabbed control of him and robbed him of all he had come to covet.
The rise of Eddie Kane Jr. and the Five Heartbeats is the stuff of legend; they rehearsed in a nonoperational tunnel, wrote their own material, performed in some of the rowdiest spots in New York City and then it all turned with one famed performance at the Apollo. The music was dragging, crowd booing and throwing everything but the kitchen sink, but the Heartbeats stayed in tune and in step. Finally, Duck underwhelmed by the house band, shoved the pianist aside and pandemonium ensued. Choir Boy ran off stage, the booing got louder, the objects came faster and then Eddie grabbed the mic and hit a note that dramatically changed the course of the Heartbeats future. The Heartbeats regrouped and finished the song acapella, winning the crowd over and impressing Big Red of Big Red Records.
They were on their way, their first single “Nothin’ but Love” raced to the top of the charts and subsequent hit records and albums turned The Five Heartbeats into stars and by the time “Nights Like This” became a #1 hit, Eddie Kane Jr. was a superstar! However, fame and fortune is not for everybody. Eddie, who always seemed to be barely escaping death before the group made it big, flirted with disaster by experimenting with alcohol and cocaine. His addictions and womanizing cost him Baby Doll, his longtime girlfriend and inflated his role within the group.
Eddie began missing rehearsals, being late for shows and overall became a cancer to the group, while thinking he was bigger than The Five Heartbeats. Big Red, sensing the rift in the group and dollar signs in Eddie’s talent, cut a separate deal with Eddie, drawing a wedge between Eddie and the group. Even wider was the gap between Eddie and the group’s manager Jimmy Potter. Jimmy knew what type of shady business Red was into and threatened to out his deceit, but was mysteriously killed before he could report Big Red’s dealings. This left the group devastated and understandably sent Eddie deeper into his addictions, landed him on the outside of the group after Big Red’s involvement in Jimmy’s death and other illegal activities were revealed.
The money was gone, the prestige and all that came along with it as well, the solo career never happened, Eddie was the failure his father had always thought he’d become. He harbored delusions of grandeur, undoubtedly from the drugs and began to show up outside of Heartbeat tour stops. He infamously confronted new lead singer Flash and the rest of the group after the show, clad in one of the group’s old stage outfits and tried to prove he was ready to return by singing “Nights Like This”, but the effects of years of boozing and snorting had taken its toll.
It would take years for Eddie to beat his addictions, he hit bottom many times, but kept struggling to overcome his addiction. After a turbulent decade or so, Eddie Kane Jr. had finally overcome the pain and disappointments of his life, finding solace in God and sobriety in life, he reconciled with Baby Doll and found his way to Choir Boy’s church. It was in this church that the spark that led to the reformation of The Five Heartbeats began. Duck was in attendance one Sunday as Eddie and Baby Doll performed a duet and after speaking with Eddie afterwards, sought to mend his relationship with brother J.T. The group dissolved years earlier after Flash went solo and bad blood between the two brothers became too much to bear.
In the interim, Eddie Kane Jr. suffered great losses, but the victory of getting clean was an accomplishment greater than any Grammy Award, check he cashed or car he’d driven. It takes a special man to deal with the life Eddie lived and live to tell the story, but Eddie had been special since the first time his hoarse vocals were heard. It’s unfortunate that his career was derailed and we were robbed of the further magic he may have made with The Heartbeats, but the memories we have are priceless…
Between rhetoric and reality is where you’ll find Al-Lateef Farmer;
Black man, husband, social documentarian, and slinger of Soul by the
pound. His brand of social commentary, rooted in independent thought
can be found at http://www.worldaccording2teef.comand on Twitter