With five Number One hits between 1992 and 1997, the group Boyz II Men has secured a permanent place in music history. Through their wonderful harmonies and poetic lyrics, and a career that has spanned 20 years, the band has truly come full circle as members who started as teenagers but are now in their mid-30s, reflecting the name Boyz II Men. VOA's Larry London has this exclusive story about one of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania's best-loved bands.
Before the Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync, or 98 Degrees, there was Boyz II Men. Starting in 1988 as a quintet, the group found fame as a quartet with Motown Records in 1991 with its debut CD, Coolyhighharmony.
Nathan Morris, Michael McCary, Shawn Stockman, and Wanya Morris have sold close to 100 million records around the world. The Recording Industry Association of America recently named Boyz II Men as the Best Selling R&B group of all time.
"16 years of hard work and dedication to try to be the best. It's weird because we didn't get in to the business to be that," says Nathan Morris. "As a matter of fact, we weren't really looking to get a record deal when we got into the music industry. Everything has just been one blessing after another for us. We try to work hard and maintain."
Unlike many artists who have survived in the industry this long, Boyz II Men have been with five record companies. Now with Decca Records, it's interesting that the band would choose to cover songs from their first label on its latest album, titled, Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville U.S.A.
"On this album we have chosen, along with the record label, hits from the Motown era. The only thing we can possibly do with these songs is mess them up," laughs Wanya Morris.
"As Boyz II Men, we tried to make sure we maintain the integrity of the songs, yet gave our little flavors to it here and there. We believe that this is one of our best albums to date," he adds.
The new CD was produced by American Idol judge Randy Jackson. Boyz II Men is enjoying its return to the world charts.
"Actually, we just found out that we are in the top 10 in [Britain]. It's a place where we haven't been in a long time," says Shawn Stockman. "It's a compliment to the work we have done. We are happy about the reception around the world."
In 1995, Mariah Carey included Boyz II Men on her Daydream album that featured the duet "One Sweet Day." The song earned two Grammy nominations. Boyz II Men's 1992 hit, "End of the Road", remained at Number One for 13 weeks. The group remains appreciative of its international fans.
"They really pay attention. They have a sentiment when it comes to music and lyrical content. They are really into that type of thing over there. It lets us know that our job is being done," Wayna said.
Boyz II Men went through a change in 2003 as Michael McCary left the band due to health issues.
Nathan Morris says McCary is doing well. "He's doing good. He actually moved to L.A., and is doing some acting and things like that," said Nathan. "We're not happy that it's a trio, but unfortunately this is what it is. We have worked too hard for 20 years, like you said, to just stop. So we have got to keep moving."
Boyz II Men is on a world tour with stops in France, Jamaica, and the U.K., and will spend 2008 touring the U.S.
"We didn't plan on any of this happening. Some people grow up and say they want to do certain things. I know we all had different aspirations as individuals to be singers or something eventually," says Nathan Morris. "To be in the group and do the things that we have done, the records we have broken, the people's lives we've touched, the things that we've done ? its mind-blowing."