The O'Jays

Back Stabbers

Composed by Gene McFadden / John Whitehead / Leon Huff

Song Review by

As the hope and optimism of the '60s gave way to the fear and loathing of the '70s, few records evoked the creeping paranoia of the post-Altamont/pre-Watergate period quite so vividly as the O'Jays' 1972 smash "Back Stabbers." Although the betrayals Eddie Levert's anguished vocals relate are specific to the two-timing and lies lurking behind friendship and romance, it's not difficult to read the song as an allegory for the insidious hypocrisies sweeping across the sociopolitical landscape as a whole. As records like Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," Curtis Mayfield's "Freddie's Dead," and the Undisputed Truth's "Smiling Faces Sometimes" (the title of which "Back Stabbers" directly quotes) attest, it was a paranoia particularly acute throughout the African-American community. It was an especially bitter pill to swallow from the O'Jays, whose next hit, "Love Train," made a 180-degree reversal to celebrate the fantasy of a global utopia. Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff's trademark Philadelphia International production is as smooth as the song's message is biting, however -- the lush orchestrations and slithering rhythm anticipate the emergence of disco, and the gorgeous harmonies cushion the blow as well.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Box Set Series 1972 Legacy / Legacy Recordings / Philadelphia International / Sony Music Entertainment 3:04
The O'Jays Live in London 1974 Epic/Legacy 8:16
Collectors' Items 1977 Philadelphia International/EMI 3:07
Greatest Hits [Philadelphia Intl.] 1984 Sony Music Distribution 3:06
No Image 1989
Various Artists
Rhino
Sounds of the Seventies: 1972 1989
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:09
Soul Hits of the 70s: Didn't It Blow Your Mind!, Vol. 8 1991
Various Artists
Rhino 3:06
Carlito's Way [Music from the Motion Picture] 1993
Original Soundtrack
Epic 3:07
Disco Fever [Dominion] 1993
Various Artists
Dominion 3:05
Love Train: The Best of the O'Jays 1994 Epic / Epic/Legacy / Legacy 3:06
Stardust: Soul, Vol. 3 1994
Various Artists
Stardust Records
Superfunk: The Funkiest Album in the World...Ever! 1995
Various Artists
Virgin
Rock On 1972: Summer Breeze 1996
Various Artists
Excelsior Recordings
Only Dance 1970-1974 1997
Various Artists
Rhino / JCI Associated Labels 3:10
Best Disco Album in the Universe, Vol. 6 1997
Various Artists
Essex 4:43
Superstars Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 1997
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 3:10
The Philly Sound: Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and the Story of Brotherly Love (1966-1976) 1997
Various Artists
Epic/Legacy 3:06
Rock 'N Roll Relix: 1972-1973 1997
Various Artists
BCI-Eclipse Distribution 3:08
Rock 'N Roll Relix: 1970-1978 1997
Various Artists
BCI-Eclipse Distribution / Eclipse Music Group 3:07
Looking for Mr. Goodbar 1997
Original Soundtrack
P.E.G. 3:09
Super Hits 1998 Sony Music Distribution / Custom Marketing Group / Sbme Special Mkts. 3:07
The Very Best of the O'Jays [1998] 1998 Sony Music 3:06
Turn Back the Hands of Time: Vintage Soul 1998
Various Artists
Delta Distribution 3:08
Sounds of the Seventies: Classic 70's 1998
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Time/Life Music 3:09
Blaxploitation: The Payback, Vol. 3 1998
Various Artists
Global 3:01
The Best of Old School 1999 American Recordings / A M W Music
Old School Love Songs, Vol. 5 1999
Various Artists
Thump Records 3:03
Sony Music 100 Years: Soundtrack for a Century 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:03
Soul Hits of the 70's [Sony] 2000
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:08
No Image 2000
Various Artists
Delta Distribution
Survivor: The Official Survivor Party Survival 2000
Various Artists
TVT 3:08
Old School Love Songs [Box Set] 2001
Various Artists
Thump Records 3:03
The Ultimate O'Jays 2001 Legacy / Columbia/Legacy 3:04
Real Cinema 2001
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:04
Pure Soul Power 2001
Various Artists
UTV / Uptown/Universal 3:07
Can You Dig It? The '70s Soul Experience 2001
Various Artists
Rhino 3:07
The Sound of Philadelphia [Movie Play] 2001
Various Artists
Double Platinum 2:50
All Music Guide: Super Soul Singles 2001
Various Artists
All Music Guide / Medalist Entertainment 3:08
The Ultimate Jukebox Hits of the '70s, Vol. 2 2001
Various Artists
Collectables 3:07
Then: The Soundtrack of Your Life 1972-73 2002
Various Artists
Brentwood Records 3:08
Blues & Soul, Vol. 3: 1972-1973 2002
Various Artists
Connoisseur 3:10
Jukebox Hits of the '70s [Collectables] 2002
Various Artists
Collectables 3:08
Soul Spectacular! The Greatest Soul Hits of All Time 2002
Various Artists
Rhino 3:08
Sampled, Vol. 3 2002
Various Artists
Virgin 3:01
40 Years of Jukebox Hits: The 50's, 60's, 70's & 80's 2002
Various Artists
Collectables 3:08
Superbad!: The Soul of the City 2002
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:10
Philly Super Soul Hits 2002
Various Artists
Sbme Special Mkts. 3:04
No Image 2003
Various Artists
Sony BMG
Best of Soul Let's Get It On 2003
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 3:09
The Sounds of Philadelphia [Double Platinum] 2003
Various Artists
Double Platinum 2:50
No Image 2004
Various Artists
Sony BMG
The Collection [Madacy] 2004 Madacy 3:07
70's Soul Sessions 2004
Various Artists
Sessions Records 3:03
Message in Our Music: The Best of the O'Jays 2005 Music Club International Records 4:42
The Essential O'Jays 2005 Legacy / SMG 3:05
Old School Soul Party 2005
Various Artists
Shout! Factory/TJL 3:03
Mega Disco Collection 2005
Various Artists
BR Music 3:05
Mastercuts: Soul Weekender 2005
Various Artists
Mastercuts 3:05
R&B: Let's Stay Together 2005
Various Artists
BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) / Brentwood Records 3:07
Rock On: Breakout Years 2005 Madacy 3:07
Love Fever/Let Me Touch You 2006 Edsel 4:40
Love Train: The Best of the O'Jays [2-CD] 2006 Music Deluxe (UK) / Demon Deluxe / Music Club Records 4:42
The Soul Story, Vol. 1 2006
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:09
Best of the O'Jays [Mastercuts] 2007 MTG Productions
Pride [Soundtrack] 2007
Original Soundtrack
Lionsgate 3:07
Mastercuts Blaxploitation 2007
Various Artists
Mastercuts 3:05
Soul Story Infomercial Set 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:09
Forever Pop der 70er 2007
Various Artists
Ar-Express / Sony BMG 3:05
The No. 1 70s Pop Album 2007
Various Artists
Music Club Deluxe 3:06
100 Hits: Soul 2007
Various Artists
100 Hits 3:04
The Sound of Philadelphia: Gamble & Huff's Greatest Hits 2008
Various Artists
Legacy / Philadelphia International/EMI / Philadelphia/Legacy 3:07
Love Train: The Sound of Philadelphia 2008
Various Artists
Legacy / SMG 3:06
Playlist: The Very Best of the O'Jays 2008 Legacy 3:04
The Pop Years: 1972-1973 2009
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 3:05
The Best Year of My Life: 1972 2009
Various Artists
Sony Music
Triple Feature 2009 Sony BMG / Custom Marketing Group 3:07
Sweet Soul of the '70s: The Sound of Philadelphia 2009
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:08
The  Pop Years: The 70s 2010
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 3:05
The Best of Soul Train 2010
Various Artists
Time/Life Music
Sweet Soul of the '70s [Time Life] 2011
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:08
Haynes Ultimate Guide to the 70s 2011
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:06
Golden Gate Groove: The Sound of Philadelphia Live in San Francisco 1973 2012
Various Artists
Philadelphia International/Legacy 4:41
Philadelphia International Records: The 40th Anniversary Box Set 2012
Various Artists
Harmless 3:04
Original Album Classics, Vol. 1 2012 Legacy
Live in Concert 2012 Cleopatra
Disco Wonderland 2013
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:02
Original Album Classics, Vol. 2 2014 Legacy 3:07
Sweet Soul Music: 1972 2014
Various Artists
Bear Family Records 3:08
The Very Best Of 2014 Sony Music
Philadelphia International Records: The Collection 2014
Various Artists
Legacy 3:08
The Box Set Series: '70s Soul 2014
Various Artists
Legacy / Legacy Recordings 3:05
Soul: The O'Jays 2016 BMG / Sony Music / Sony Music Entertainment 3:05
100 Essential Tracks: Disco Hits
Various Artists
Sony Music
100 Hits: Soul [2015]
Various Artists
100 Hits
50th Anniversary Concert Wienerworld 3:14
Pure... Disco/Funk
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:04
No Image
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:05
No Image
Various Artists
Time/Life Music
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