The O’Jays, a remarkable American R&B group hailing from Canton, Ohio, have etched their name into the annals of music history. Formed in 1958, this ensemble originally comprised of Eddie Levert, Walter Lee Williams, William Powell, Bobby Massey, and Bill Isles. The O’Jays embarked on their musical journey, leaving an indelible mark in the world of rhythm and blues. Let’s unravel the story of this iconic group, from their humble beginnings to their lasting legacy.

The Early Years and Formation

The story of The O’Jays began in the hallways of Canton McKinley High School in Canton, Ohio, where their shared passion for music brought them together. Initially known as The Mascots and later as The Triumphs, their musical aspirations took flight. The year 1961 marked a significant moment with the recording of “Miracles,” a song that garnered local success and set the stage for their future endeavors. In 1963, a nod to Cleveland radio disc jockey Eddie O’Jay led to the adoption of their iconic name, ‘The O’Jays.’ The release of “Lonely Drifter” followed, securing their first national chart hit, and shortly thereafter, their debut album “Comin’ Through” was introduced to the world.

The Road to Success in the 1960s

The 1960s saw The O’Jays making their mark in the music scene with a string of hits, including “Lipstick Traces,” “Stand In for Love,” and “Let It All Out.” While they enjoyed success on the R&B charts, breaking into the US top 40 proved to be a challenge during this era. Nevertheless, their music continued to resonate, captivating the hearts of fans and laying the foundation for their future triumphs.

The Turning Point: Collaboration with Gamble & Huff

The pivotal moment arrived in 1972 when The O’Jays aligned forces with the prodigious duo of Gamble & Huff, renowned producers and songwriters, and joined the esteemed Philadelphia International label. This partnership propelled them into the mainstream with the release of “Back Stabbers” (1972), marking their transition into a trio after the departure of Isles and Massey. This album not only yielded their first million-seller but also showcased the emergence of Philadelphia soul. Following this success, the group continued to ride the wave, topping the US Billboard Hot 100 the following year with the smash hit “Love Train.”

Continued Triumphs and Evolution

The O’Jays’ musical journey gained momentum, yielding a plethora of hit singles in the 1970s, including “Put Your Hands Together,” “For the Love of Money,” and “I Love Music.” Their influence reached international shores, with nine hit singles in the United Kingdom, solidifying their global reputation. Despite the departure of original members and changing trends in the music industry, The O’Jays persevered, leaving an indelible mark with their soulful melodies and captivating performances.

Honors and Legacy

The O’Jays’ impact on the music industry has been duly recognized, with their induction into prestigious halls of fame, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004, and the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2013. These accolades are a testament to their enduring legacy and profound influence on the world of rhythm and blues. Notably, their songs “Love Train” and “For the Love of Money” were also honored as two-time Grammy Hall of Fame inductees.

Remembering the Legends

In March 2019, the world bid farewell to Bill Isles, a founding member of The O’Jays, who passed away at the age of 78. His legacy and contributions to the group and the music industry at large will forever be remembered and celebrated.


The O’Jays’ journey is a testament to the power of perseverance, talent, and collaboration. Their timeless music continues to resonate with audiences, transcending generations. From their humble beginnings at Canton McKinley High School to their global recognition and enduring legacy, The O’Jays have left an indelible mark on the world of rhythm and blues. Their story is a source of inspiration for aspiring musicians and a reminder of the profound impact that music can have on our lives.