I have a fascination with white musicians that have found success in the world of R&B, a traditionally "Black" field. There are many of them and I'm sure I'll be posting about some others in the future. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I think they are better than their darker-skinned brothers making funky music, but they do face a bit of a reverse-racism in their chosen field.
I can relate. I think that's why I like them, being white myself and unapologetically fanatical about "black" music. Funk is color-blind, but let's just say as a rule, it comes off as "darker than blue." Rod Temperton, is by no means my favorite, but following on the "Thriller" post I thought I could drop some classic Heatwave tracks from their first album, "Too Hot To Handle" from 1976.
Heatwave is best known for their hit disco-era jams "Boogie Nights" and "Groove Line," two ubiquitous disco chart-toppers and songs that by now most of us have learned to tune out from mere over-exposure. But, I dare you to listen to "Boogie Nights" again with some fresh ears. The intro is completely jazzy with some fresh vocal harmonizing before the beat drops HARD - BOOGIE NIGHTS!
My brother, Charlie, turned me on to Heatwave because of the song "Lay It On Me."
It's a bit of a slowie, but man is it sweet and it had e hooked immediately. Then I picked up the LP which is easy to come by and found the songs "Ain't No Half Steppin'"
and "Super Soul Sister" along with the anthemic "Boogie Nights." A solid debut and one of the corner-stones of the often overshadowed side of the disco boom, the Funky Disco or Disco Funk, however you prefer to refer to it.
The band itself was quite an eclectic one with band members from Spain (bassist Mario Mantese), Czechoslovakia (drummer Emest Berger), England (keyboardist Rod Temperton) and the U.S. (guitarists Jesse Whittens and Eric Johns and vocalists brothers Johnnie and Keith Wilder) and the band first came together in Germany!
Rod was recruited to join the band and they relocated from Germany to London. Rod became one of the driving forces of the band and in the process, caught the attention of super-producer Quincy Jones. Jones asked Rod to collaborate with him for Michael Jackson's breakthrough album "Off the Wall," penning the title track and the classic "Rock With You" for MJ. He also wrote several albums for MJ's "Thriller" including the title track, "Baby Be Mine" (a personal favorite and a would-be classic if "Thriller" didn't already have so many other immortal tracks) and "The Lady In My Life." He also worked with other Quincy Jones' artists: the Brothers Johnson and Patti Austin in addition to Herbie Hancock and Rufus & Chaka Khan. Rod, welcome to Soul Spectrum's "Funky White Boys Hall of Fame."