Harvey's Top Matches
About Harvey Fuqua
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, the nephew of the Ink Spots’ Charlie Fuqua, Harvey Fuqua was a jack-of-all-trades music man whose behind the scenes achievements as a talent scout, producer, label owner, songwriter, arranger, confidante to soul stars and leader of an organization he founded to work with underprivileged inner-city and third world youth made him one of the most important figures in popular music in the last half of the 20th Century. The whirlwind that was Fuqua’s life came to an end on July 6, when he died of a heart attack in a Detroit hospital.
Writing in an exclusive piece for Mark Anthony Neal’s website NewBlackMan, industry veteran Bob Davis summed up Fuqua thusly: “What you could never piece together is the impact that he had on American popular music. He could play any role that you wanted him to, onstage or offstage. He was a great singer, but he also put together and managed a tour. He wrote hit songs, but he also managed record companies.”
The unassuming start of Fuqua’s legendary career came in 1951, when he and his friend Bobby Lester began singing Ink Spots songs on street corners, hoping to impress the girls. After serving in the Army, Fuqua and Lester joined with Prentiss Barnes and Alexander Graves in a jazz-oriented vocal group, the Crazy Sounds. After being spotted singing in a nightclub by the powerful pioneering rock ‘n’ roll disc jockey Alan Freed, the Crazy Sounds signed with Freed for management and, at his behest, changed their name to The Moonglows, a spin on Freed’s own on-air nickname of Moondog. (In a practice common in the music industry practically from the beginning of recorded music, Freed also took co-writer credit on Fuqua’s original tunes for the Moonglows.) Freed’s Champagne label released the first Moonglows recordings, then Freed moved the group to Chicago’s Chance label before negotiating a recording deal with another Chi-town label, Chess Records. Fuqua’s romantic ballad “Sincerely” propelled the Moonglows into the upper ranks of the R&B world when it topped the Billboard R&B chart and rose to #20 on the pop chart in 1954. Freed continued to promote the group not only on the air but also by casting it in his rock ‘n’ roll jukebox movies of the ‘50s, including the classic of the genre, Rock! Rock! Rock! and its sequel, Mister Rock and Roll.
Following the success of “Sincerely” and another single, “See Saw,” Fuqua replaced his fellow Moonglows with a group called the Marquees, whose membership included young Marvin Gaye. Renamed Harvey and the Moonglows, the reconstituted group cut one of the defining romantic ballads of the first rock ‘n’ roll era in Fuqua’s song “Ten Commandments of Love,” with Fuqua singing lead. It too was a crossover success, peaking at #22 on the Hot 100. Restless for change, Fuqual left the Moonglows after “Ten Commandments” cooled off, and joined the fledgling Anna label in Detroit. Having become something of a mentor to Gaye, he introduced the ambitious young singer to the brother of Anna Gordy, the label’s namesake, Berry Gordy, whose sister Gwen soon became Mrs. Harvey Fuqua. At Anna, Fuqua mentored not only Gaye but also Billy Davis, Lamont Dozier and Johnny Bristol. Following his brief tenure at Anna, Fuqua founded his own labels, Tri-Phi and then Harvey, to which he signed both the Spinners and Junior Walker. When he tired of running day to day operations, Fuqua accepted an offer from Berry Gordy to join Gordy’s new Motown label as head of Artist Development and staff producer. He brought the Spinners and Bristol with him, signed Tammi Terrell to the label and had the inspired idea to team her in duets with Marvin Gaye, resulting in arguably the greatest male-female duo in soul history, rivaled only by the Carla Thomas and Otis Redding pairing and Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson. Gaye-Terrell had their first hit in mid-’67 with the rousing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (#19 pop), and four other Top 30 singles in less than two years’ time after that, including “If I Could Build My Whole Around You” (1967, #10 pop), “You’re All I Need To Get By” (1968, #7 pop, #1 R&B for five weeks),”Keep On Lovin’ Me Honey” (1968, #24 pop) and “God Lovin’ Ain’t Easy To Come By” (1969, #30 pop; although this was billed as a Marvin and Tammi recording, Terrell was in such poor health that Valerie Simpson sang the female lead).
Fuqua bolted Motown for a new production deal with RCA in 1971, and flourished in all the trends of that crazy decade, starting with his production of the funk band New Birth and his productions of disco stars Two Tons O’ Fun (later known as the Weather Girls of “It’s Raining Men” fame) and the cross dressing diva Sylvester, whose hits “Dance (Disco Heat)” and “You Make Me Feel (Might Real)” were Fuqua productions. Returning to recording in 1979, Fuqua had some minor success with his own solo album, Stars. Reuniting in the studio with Gaye in 1982, he produced the singer’s classic Midnight Love album, with its career reviving single, “Sexual Healing,” one of Gaye’s greatest performances.
In his later years Fuqua devoted his time and energy the Foundation for the S.T.A.R.S. (Singers Taking Action Reaching Souls), a non-profit traveling vocal ensemble he formed with his wife Dr. Carolyne Fuqua, “with the sole purpose of uplifting the planet with song,” according to the organization’s website, http://stars.circlesoflight.net/. In addition to working with underprivileged youth in inner cities in America, S.T.A.R.S. professes to have a global mission: “The songs themselves will touch people’s hearts in a way that will connect us all, casting away any perceived differences in culture, race, age, economic status or nationality,” the website states. “As Ambassadors of the United States, our intention is to bridge the gulf currently existing between the peoples of the world, through art and song.”
The From Me to We Foundation, a division of S.T.A.R.S., was formed in 1996 to focus on improving the plight of youth in developing countries by introducing programs in education, housing and medicine, with Dr. Fuqua making frequent trips abroad to assist in humanitarian efforts in small villages and to meet with local and national political and cultural leaders.
The Moonglows were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. During the group’s rehearsal of “Sincerely,” Paul Simon was standing off to the side alone, and was overhead saying, “This is what rock ‘n’ roll sounded like when it first started.” Covering the induction ceremonies as a reporter, Bob Davis recalls being in the press room when a woman from VH-1 entered and began checking credentials of all those in the room, then ejecting those who were not properly accredited. Pointing to Harvey Fuqua, she inquired of Davis as to the man's identity. After being told the short version of Fuqua’s history, she said to Davis, “I thought he was the janitor.”
Source: The Blue Grass Special