Soul music suffered a loss this week with the death of Major Harris, a Philadelphia Sound alum who scored a hit with the 1975 quiet storm jam "Love Won't Let Me Wait." Thanks to his smooth vocals and backup singer Barbara Ingram's sensual moans, the song ranks as one of of the sexiest ballads ever recorded. Numerous R&B artists covered the track--most notably Luther Vandross--but younger fans may not know about Harris' long journey to that hit.
Born in Richmond Virginia in 1947, Harris came from a musical family. According to AllMusic, his grandparents were vaudeville veterans, his father played guitar, and his mother was a choir leader. His brother, Joe Jefferson, penned many huge hits for the Spinners, including "One of a Kind Love Affair"; other brother Norman Harris is a well-known guitarist, producer, and songwriter. Major Harris did not rely on his connections, however--he worked his way up by serving in many groups, including Frankie Lymon's Teenagers. But his big break came in 1971, when he joined the Philly Soul act the Delfonics; his voice graces many of their singles, including "Think It Over Baby," "Lying to Myself," and "I Told You So." Major's tenure proved brief, as he left the group in 1974 to pursue a solo career.
Signing with Atlantic, he released his first single, "Each Morning I Wake Up," to moderate success. The second single, "Love Won't Let Me Wait," proved to be the charm, topping the R&B charts and peaking at number five on the Billboard Hot 100 in summer 1975. The subsequent album My Way fared well on both the R&B and pop charts. While he recorded other moderately successful ballads, he eventually rejoined the Delfonics, touring with them and occasionally recording solo albums.
Major Harris may be primarily known for one song, but oh, what a song. According to AllMusic, Major recorded the song in a dark studio, the only light illuminating the music stand. Members of Philadelphia International's house band, MFSB, provide a lush cushion of sound for Major's silky voice. A single horn sets the sensual mood, and the vocalist wastes no time in his seduction: "The time is right," he asserts. "Please tell me, yes/ And don't say no, honey/ Not tonight," he pleads. Clearly his love will not take no for an answer: "And I refuse to leave/ Till I see the morning sun/ Creep through your window pane," he softly croons. This leads to the chorus, with backing singers Ingram, Carla Benton, and Evette Benson joining in on the line "'Cause love won't let me wait." Unlike some of today's songs, the lyrics are sexy without being overly explicit. While Major certainly brags of his prowess--"When I make love to you/ We'll explode in ecstasy," he promises--he does so in a respectful manner, wooing his lover with words and emotion.
To this day, the most talked-about aspect of "Love Won't Let Me Wait" is Ingram's rather enthusiastic performance on the extended version of the track. As Major ad-libs toward the end, Ingram begins moaning and sighing with obvious pleasure. Interestingly, this occurred several months before Donna Summer would record her sensual vocals for "Love to Love You Baby," another racy hit for its time. While not crucial to the song, Ingram further sets the mood, and proves that Major follows through on his plan to "take a flight and spend the night in wonderland."
While he did not experience a lengthy stay on the charts, Major Harris impacted 1970s soul. The full version challenged radio to air such a relative explicit tune, although the lyrics were sexy without being crude. Perhaps the song now serves as a reminder of the sexually free time of that decade. Even so, "Love Won't Let Me Wait" remains a timeless classic, a love song in every sense of the word.