Marvin said; “One of the reasons why some Americans prefer Blues over Rhythm and Blues, is because Blues is pretty simple. Blues is easy to play and it’s easy to relate to. Blues is straightforward, simple, and reflects a back to a time that is simple and uncomplicated. Rhythm and Blues on the other hand was born first of the complexities of the great migration of Blacks from the south, then the complexities of WW II and the integration movement of the 1950’s/1960’s. Rhythm and Blues is complex, it’s harder to play, harder to interpret, it’s complicated and carries with it implications for America that some Americans don’t want to deal with.”
Of course I smiled and when I did, I thought about all of the people from the major music publications who questioned why the Dells belonged in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. They told me that they thought the Dells weren’t significant enough, that they hadn’t accomplished enough, etc. I could look into their eyes and know what they were really thinking.
They were thinking; “the Dells are nothing but a broken down, bunch of dumb doo wop singers.”
They never bothered to get to know Marvin Junior. And that was their loss. They just might have missed out on their opportunity to learn something about Rhythm and Blues. But then again, maybe that is what they were afraid of?
Back to that “leadership thing” for just a moment….
Whenever I was around Marvin and started talking about artists like Smokey Robinson or Lionel Ritchie, Marvin would always say the same thing…
“Bob, what I don’t understand is why when these guys decide to go solo, they don’t take the rest of the group with them? Seems to me that even as a solo artist, you still need background singers, why not keep the same background singers who made you successful in the first place? After all, these are the people who best know how to maximize your strengths & minimize your weaknesses…”
No to be perfectly clear, speaking as someone who knows the Dells very well, I can tell you that the Dells don’t have a “leader.”
They are the shining example of “harmony” on multiple levels, which each member making a valuable contribution to the whole, if often unseen by the general public. Notice I didn’t say that they always agree on everything. But they always found a way to make “harmony” out of a disagreement. That’s the reason why the Dells have been together for so long, unlike many of their contemporaries.
But Marvin was their lead singer, on most of their songs. And he certainly could have become a “solo artist” had he wanted to. But instead he stands as a shining example of “leadership among equals.” And that my friends is something that we can all take inspiration from.
RIP – Marvin Junior
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