(November 18, 2019). The legendary songwriting and producing team of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis were honored with “Legend Awards” at this year’s Soul Train Music Awards.
Gospel/soul Queen Yolanda Adams was also bestowed with the “Lady of Soul” honor earlier in the evening.
Both acts were part of fitting tributes on a show that was long on soul and short on hip-hop (not a bad thing, by the way) that aired on BET at 8pm on Sunday night.
Yolanda’s tribute was setup by fellow gospel great Kirk Franklin who earlier had used a long, microwave-oven metaphor to make the point that one’s blessings – by way of their God-given gifts – may not always be quick in coming, but they will happen in due time with patience and persistence.
Clearly an example of an artist whose career has endured the test of time, Yolanda Adams was as deserving as anyone to receive the Lady of Soul Award. When she accepted the honor, she gave a speech that matched the enormity of the event, thanking the usual family, friends, fans and God, as well as Jam & Lewis themselves, but giving an especially heartfelt thanks to her daughter who was seated in the audience.
When it came time for Yolanda’s song tribute, there’s no one who can quite sing her songs the way she can, and so no one else did. Adams alone performed a medley of her own hits, beginning with my personal fave, “Victory,” and including “Only Believe,” “Open My Heart” and more.
Adams’ performance was the most rousing, musically speaking, but even it couldn’t live up to the night’s biggest moment – the long overdue award and tribute to master producers James “Jimmy Jam” Harris, III, and Terry Lewis.
The Jam & Lewis tributes were plentiful and they went from start to finish, beginning with the show’s hosts Tichina Arnold and Tisha Campbell of ‘90s sitcom Martin fame. They opened the awards show with a rousing song-and-dance routine featuring the music of Janet Jackson (who later appeared as part of a recorded video tribute to her longtime producers and friends).
New-school R&B singer K. Michelle, who rocked a bright-red hairdo, gave an alternate take on New Edition’s Jam & Lewis-produced classic ballad “Can You Stand The Rain,” or more accurately, a “Can You Make it Rain” variation for the millennials and Gen Z’s in the audience.
Legendary ‘90s group Boys II Men then contributed with a show-stopping medley that included the piano-driven “Tender Love,” the Krush Groove song Jam/Lewis produced for Force MDs back in 1985, followed by a mic-drop-worthy performance of “On Bended Knee,” their own Jam/Lewis classic from 1994.
Immediately following the Philly trio was former Mint Condition lead-singer and Jam & Lewis protégé Stokley Williams, who graced the stage with a two-song medley including the one that started it all for his band – the 1992 classic “Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes).” Mint Condition initially recorded for Jam & Lewis’ label, Perspective Records.
After the Minneapolis legends both gave masterful speeches (following an inspiring introduction by fellow songwriting and producing legend Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds), the real music celebration began.
First up were the gospel group Sounds of Blackness with their 1991 classic “Optimistic,” followed by Mary Davis and Abdul Ra’oof of the S.O.S. Band who performed “Just Be Good To Me” (the song Jam & Lewis were producing in Atlanta, which led to a missed flight back to Minneapolis and their subsequent “freedom” from former boss Prince and the group The Time).
“Just Be Good To Me” was followed by their signature ballad “Tell Me If You Still Care,” another Jam & Lewis masterpiece from the same 1983 album.
Cherrelle and Alexander O’Neal then took the crowd back to the mid ‘80’s with their classic crossover soul/pop hit “Saturday Love,” the song that ironically was held at a No. 2 peak on the Billboard R&B charts in March 1986 by another Jam & Lewis hit, Janet Jackson’s breakthrough single “What Have You Done For Me Lately.”
Finally, former Time bandmates Morris Day and Jerome Benton joined Jam & Lewis (and guest guitarist Babyface) onstage for the group’s 1984 hits “Jungle Love” and “The Bird” – both memorably featured in the Purple Rain motion picture. By the time those two songs were hits, however, Jam & Lewis had already been “freed” (as Terry put it) from their Time duties by Prince.
Still the connection between the two producers and The Time’s remaining key members Day and Benton was undeniable. Benton was his trademark ‘80’s self as Day’s sidekick, providing the lead-singer with a huge mirror to check his ‘stache and ‘do, with both showing off some nifty dance moves as Jam, Lewis and Babyface backed them.
A newly slimmed-down Lewis in an oversized suit said it best regarding their music: “if our music has uplifted you, if our lyrics have spoken for you in those moments when you didn’t quite have the words to say, if we made your booty shake in the club, or your spirits rise in praise, or been the soundtrack for you living your best life, then thank you for listening.”
You’re welcome, Sir!
But, more importantly, thank YOU Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis for providing us fans with the soundtrack of a lifetime! You are indeed living legends.
DJRob is a freelance blogger who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.
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