They look sharp. They sound funky. And they're probably the only R&B group featuring twin lead singers. The Los Angeles-based group The Whispers are arguably one of the most underrated soul acts of all time; while they cranked out hit after hit in the late 1970s and 1980s, the members remain relatively unknown to today's audiences. Younger listeners may know them best from their biggest hit, 1987's "Rock Steady" (produced by then up-and-comers L.A. Reid and Babyface), which inspired The Whispers' signature move: rocking side to side while swaying their arms in rhythm. But the quintet's patented harmonies, energetic stage presence, and soulful twin lead vocalists set them apart from other R&B groups, and their 1983 single "Keep on Lovin' Me" encapsulates all these distinctive qualities.
Formed in the early '60s by original members Walter and Wallace Scott, Nicholas Caldwell, Marcus Hutson, and Gordy Harmon, the quintet recorded nine singles for the Dore label from 1964-1967, ultimately scoring top ten R&B singles with 1969's "The Time Will Come" and "Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong." Subsequently Harmon left The Whispers and was replaced by Leaveil Degree; this lineup remained throughout their hitmaking days. Although they were the first artist to be featured on the newly formed Soul Train label, their most successful period occurred during their tenure on Solar (Sound of Los Angeles Records). A series of smashes followed: the 1980 disco classic "And the Beat Goes On," "It's A Love Thing," and "In the Raw," among many others. Despite the ever-present '80s synthesizers, "Keep on Lovin' Me" seems timeless due to its danceable beat, memorable keyboard riff, and the group's tight harmonies.
Written by Kevin Spencer, Wardell Potts, Jr., and William Zimmerman, "Keep on Lovin' Me" features a groove that orders listeners to the dance floor, along with the introduction of the keyboard riff that drives the song. The Scott brothers sing of a woman who "stands by her man" no matter what, and the narrator appreciates her loyalty. "How many times, I took for granted/ But you know our love was sound," they croon, utilizing their voices' upper ranges. Toward the end, the back-and-forth repartee between the Scott twins and the other singers is not only fun, but represents the easy camaraderie that the band exudes. "Hey Scottie!/ Yeah?/ What does that mean?/ That means I'll never give up the love that's good to me," The Whispers sing, entering into a kind of dialogue. Brief scatting completes the track's catchiness and sophistication. Interestingly "Keep on Lovin' Me" was co-produced by Leon F. Sylvers, III and Ricky Sylvers of the 1970s family group The Sylvers; by 1983, Leon had become a very successful songwriter and producer.
Included on the album Love for Love, "Keep on Lovin' Me" reached number four on the R&B charts, propelling the LP to number two on the soul album charts. The Whispers would experience greater crossover success four years later, but their early 80s work equals or even surpasses the slicker "Rock Steady." "Keep on Lovin' Me" exemplifies not only The Whispers' unique talent, but some of the best of early 1980s soul.