While spending most of their existence in the shadow of Motown's biggest acts, the Originals had a brief shining moment and a couple now-classic songs that will forever secure their place in Soul Music history.
At their prime consisting of bass singer/songwriter Freddie Gorman (most noted for his composition "Please Mr. Postman" for the Marvelettes), falsetto singer Tyrone Hunter, tenors C.P. Spencer and Hank Dixon, and baritone Walter Gaines, the group broke out in 1970 after several years as a 2nd tier Motown group. Their vehicle was an absolutely beautiful ballad written by labelmate Marvin Gaye, "Baby I'm For Real." The song's arrangement and the group's performance were both perfect, and it became an instant soul classic that quickly topped the Soul charts. Gaye helped the following year with a successful sequel, the similarly strong "The Bells." However, while similar help from Stevie Wonder ("It's a Shame") gave the Spinners the foundation for a sterling 20 year chart career, the Originals' star fell quickly after the two hits. Their visibility within Motown decreased when the label moved to Los Angeles and the Originals chose to stay in Detroit. Though they landed a couple more Soul top 20 hits in 1971 ("We Can Make It Baby" and "God Bless Whoever Sent You"), it would be a half decade and a move to the West coast before the Originals would again have a hit, as the group reemerged as a disco act in 1976 with the hit "Down to Love Town." They left Motown in the late 70s and signed with Fantasy Records, where they scored a minor dance hit with a remake of the 50's hit "Blue Moon."
The Originals ceased recording by 1981 and, after a brief comeback in Europe as part of Ian Levine's Motorcity Recordings project in 1982, broke up. Hunter died, but the remainder of the group reunited from time to time to play the oldies circuit, mostly in Europe. Gorman died on June 13, 2006 at age 67. Baritone Walter Gaines died in 2012.
By Chris Rizik