Songwriter Joseph B. Jefferson's best-known songs are the Spinners' three number one R&B hits -- "Mighty Love, Part 1," "One of a Kind (Love Affair)," "(They Just Can't Stop It) Games People Play" --…
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Joseph B. Jefferson Biography

by Ed Hogan

Songwriter Joseph B. Jefferson's best-known songs are the Spinners' three number one R&B hits -- "Mighty Love, Part 1," "One of a Kind (Love Affair)," "(They Just Can't Stop It) Games People Play" -- and the O'Jays' "Brandy."

While growing up in Richmond, VA, Jefferson would listen to his mother's record albums and peruse the jackets for information on the songwriters, producers, arrangers, and musicians. A self-taught drummer (he also plays bass and keyboards), Jefferson began pursuing a songwriting career when he returned from the army. While touring with the Manhattans, he met Tony Bell, who introduced him to his brother, Philly soul arranger/songwriter/producer Thom Bell. He mentored the aspiring songwriter and set him up in his own office with a piano.

When a romantic relationship suddenly fizzled, Jefferson turned the bitter experience into a hit song. Bell thought that it would be perfect for the Spinners. Jefferson's "One of a Kind (Love Affair)" b/w a cover of Wilson Pickett's hit "Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You" parked at number one R&B for four weeks, number 11 pop on Billboard's charts during summer 1973. "One of a Kind (Love Affair)" was included on their gold 1972 Atlantic LP, Spinners, which hit number 14 pop in spring 1973 and was later reissued as a Rhino CD in 1995.

Bell introduced Jefferson to two songwriters who would become his frequent collaborators, Bruce Hawes and Charles Simmons. Bell, generally regarded as one of pop music's true geniuses, would often make the trio perform their original songs live and sometimes a cappella so that the true caliber of the song could be tested. The first Jefferson/Hawes/Simmons song was "Mighty Love." Another hit for the Spinners, "Mighty Love, Part 1" b/w "Part 2" stayed at number one R&B for two weeks, number 20 pop in spring 1974. Mighty Love was the title of their gold 1974 Atlantic LP (number 16 pop, spring 1974) with the extended LP version receiving massive radio play. Amusingly during TV performances of the song, lead singer Phillippe Wynne would be so engrossed in his finale-based gospel-flavored testifying vocals that he would run back on stage dancing and singing while the other group members would try to gingerly lead him off-stage, similar to James Brown's robed stage performances of "Try Me." The Mighty Love LP included the prolific songwriting trio's "Since I Been Gone," "Ain't No Price on Happiness," "I'm Glad You Walked Into My Life" (Barrett/Hawes/Jefferson/Simmons), and "Love Has Gone Away" (Jefferson/Simmons). Hawes/Jefferson/Simmons wrote the classic mother tribute ballad, "Sadie," which made it to number seven R&B in spring 1975. The flip side, "Lazy Susan," got some radio play. Both were on their gold 1974 Atlantic LP New and Improved (number nine pop, late 1974) along with the trio's popular radio-aired album tracks "Sitting on Top of the World" and "Smile, We Have Each Other." Also on the album was the Spinners' number one pop duet with Dionne Warwick, "Then Came You." The songwriting trio gave the group their fifth number one R&B hit. Originally released as "Games People Play," Atlantic reissued the single as "(They Just Can't Stop It) Games People Play" to avoid confusion and conflicting airplay credit with Joe South's "Games People Play." The single, which went to number five pop in summer 1975 and was backed with an airplay-receiving cover of Phyllis Hyman's classic "I Don't Want to Lose You," featured Spinners harmony that was reminiscent of the Mills Brothers and the Ink Spots, and all of the group members got a chance to sing lead. Besides "(They Just Can't Stop It) Games People Play," their gold 1975 Atlantic LP Pick of the Litter (number eight pop, summer 1975) boasted the hit-writing trio's radio-aired album track "Love or Leave" and "You Made a Promise to Me."

The Jefferson/Simmons song "Love Don't Love Nobody" was another Spinners hit peaking at number four R&B, fall 1974. Just as with "Mighty Love," the flip side was a continuation ("Part 2") and the elongated version got scads of radio play. The tune was later a popular radio-aired LP track by Luther Vandross who covered it on his platinum 1993 Epic LP Never Let Me Go. On the group's 1976 gold Atlantic LP Happiness Is Being With the Spinners (number 25 Pop, summer 1976), Jefferson's name is listed in the credits for "If You Can't Be in Love," "Toni My Love," and "Four Hands in the Fire." Happiness Is Being With the Spinners was included on the double 1998 Collectables CD with the group's 1977 Atlantic album Spinners 8, which listed the Jefferson/Simmons song, "I'm Tired of Giving."

Other Jefferson-associated songs are the O'Jays' tender ballad "Brandy" (number 21 R&B, summer 1978) from their platinum 1978 Philadelphia International LP So Full of Love (number six pop, spring 1978) and the Temptations' steppers cut "Aiming at Your Heart" (number 36 R&B, summer 1981) from their Thom Bell-produced Gordy/Motown LP The Temptations. "Jealousy" (Jefferson/Simmons) was the title track of former Delfonics member Major Harris' 1976 Atlantic LP which charted as a single (number 46 R&B, spring 1976) and can be found on Harris' 1994 Hot Records CD, Best of Then & Now. Dionne Warwick also covered the tune on her 1975 Thom Bell-produced Warner Bros. LP Track of the Cat.

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