LeVert had a head start on their successful run of singles in the 1980s and 1990s. After all, two of its members--Gerald and Sean LeVert--boasted an impressive pedigree, notably their father Eddie Levert. The founder and lead singer of the O'Jays, Eddie was initially not on board with his sons following in his musical footsteps. Yet Gerald's powerful voice could not be denied, and his charisma led the trio to chart a number of hits, including the 1986 crossover smash "Casanova." To fully appreciate Gerald's impressive range and emotional quality, however, one need only hear their first R&B hit, "(Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop) Goes My Mind."
Growing up in Cleveland, brothers Gerald and Sean Levert could hardly escape their musical heritage. Deciding to pursue his own career, Gerald recruited Sean and family friend Marc Gordon to form the trio appropriately dubbed LeVert. Starting in 1983, they honed their songwriting and performing skills, eventually convincing Eddie Levert of their genuine talent. After shopping LeVert's demos to several labels, Eddie eventually formed his own label, Tempre, and released the trio's debut album I Get Hot in 1985. While the album did not chart in the U.S., it did spawn the minor R&B hit "I'm Still." The ballad initially engendered controversy, as listeners were convinced that the lead singer was actually Eddie Levert. Once LeVert began performing live, however, it was clear that Gerald's sound was his own.
While I Get Hot did not sell many copies, it did persuade the Atlantic label to sign the trio. Their 1986 major label debut Bloodline fared much better, featuring the number one R&B slow jam "(Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop) Goes My Mind." But it was their followup, The Big Throwdown, that would introduce LeVert to a crossover audience. Their huge hit "Casanova" blended R&B, dance and pop, as did the next single "Sweet Sensation." The Levert brothers and Gordon continued recording together through 1997's Whole Scenario, but broke up due to Gerald's burgeoning solo career. Still, their old school vocals combined with modern beats left a lasting imprint on 80s and 90s R&B.
"(Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop) Goes My Mind" was firmly in Gerald's wheelhouse, namely enabling him to assume his "lover man" persona. Yet his supple voice demonstrates his range, effortlessly alternating between deep huskiness and soaring falsetto. Compare his desperate pleas on lines such as "baby I admit I was wrong" and "please have pity on me" with his final lyric in the refrain, "goes my mind." Gerald defines an effective soul singer, one that can communicate vulnerability an strength. He never wanted his lover to leave, he croons, but "now I see girl / My best, my best was no good." At just 19 years old, he demonstrated remarkable control over his voice; in addition, he clearly understood the power of the "hook." Cowriting the lyrics with Gordon, Gerald knew a repetitive, catchy title phrase would cement the tracks in listeners' minds. Sean Levert and Gordon provide backing harmonies, emulating the O'Jays sound without copying it. Instead, the synthesizers and heavier beat place the ballad firmly in the 1980s, perhaps suggesting that LeVert would become the O'Jays of the 1980s and 1990s.
Gerald's voice had a malleable quality, enabling him to sing passionate ballads as well as uptempo cuts (just listen to his funky performance on his hip hop-inflected solo single "Private Line"). When he departed LeVert in 1997, Gerald sought to become one of the great R&B crooners. While his untimely death in 2006 prevented him from fully attaining that goal (sadly, brother Sean would also pass away two years later), Gerald Levert established a legacy as one of the modern R&B era's best soul singers. LeVert's blend of R&B, hip hop, soul, and pop endeared them to a wide variety of fans, and newer generations can take lessons from Gerald's versatility and passion.