1985 R&B Flashback: Kool & The Gang, Freddie Jackson, Klymaxx, Whodini, Midnight Star

Kool & The Gang had major success in the early 80’s with their most recognized hits, “Celebration” and “Ladies Night”. But their 1984 album, Emergency, was the pinnacle of the band’s career. Three #1 hits including “Cherish”, “Fresh”, and “Misled” on a seven song album. The video here was full of low-budget special effects and oozes with 80’s charm but you can’t deny the voice of JT Taylor and their funky guitar work here.

“Rock Me Tonight, for old time sake……” does it get any better than this?    One of the smoothest R&B voices of the decade, Freddie Jackson was the go-to slow jam artist of 1985. “You Are My Lady” and “Rock Me Tonight” both came from his debut CD. Sadly his career stalled by the end of the 80’s, the victim of albums that sounded like he was copying his own style.

One of my favorites from 1985 came from the L.A. all-girl band, Klymaxx. Produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, lead vocals by Joyce “Fenderella” Irby, “I Miss You” became the third biggest selling single of the year. The sensitive ballad was the perfect compliment to their dancefloor hits, “The Men All Pause” and “Meeting In The Ladies Room”.

Whodini was the first rap group that emphasized putting on a show for the ladies with choreographed dance moves, sing-a-long lyrics about relationships mixed with their old school rhymes, and Chippendale-like costumes whipped the ladies at their concert into a frenzy. The lyrics are unforgettable: “Friends, how many of us have them, Friends, ones we can depend on….” – they compare true homeboys who always have your back with the fake ones, remember this line – “But as she shook your hand, she stole your man, And it was done so swift, it had to be a plan.Couldn’t trust her with cheese, let alone your keys, with friends like that you dont need enemies.

Vocoders, electro-funk, and synthesizers were the signature sound of bands like Zapp (Computer Love) and Midnight Star. “Freak-A-Zoid” and “No Parking On The Dance Floor” were the other big hits by the Kentucky band. You may recognize the lead vocals of Calloway, who later went solo and scored the big hit, “I Wanna Be Rich”.