From its inception, the popular female soul group The Emotions was a family affair. From their early childhood, sisters Jeanette, Wanda and Sheila Hutchinson were singing publicly with their dad Joe Hutchinson, performing Gospel shows around their native Chicago as The Hutchinson Sunbeams. Their regional popularity garnered the attention of Pervis Staples of the famed Staples Singers and in 1969 they were signed by the R&B powerhouse label Stax Records.
At Stax, the group was teamed with famed songwriters Isaac Hayes and David Porter and scored a number of soul hits, including "Show Me How" and "So I Can Love You." After Stax ran into financial troubles, the Emotions went looking for a new record contract, and found one with Columbia, thanks to Earth Wind & Fire's Maurice White, who was a fan of the trio and who agreed to produce them. At this time, Jeanette took a year off to have a baby and was replaced by younger sister Pamela (who went back to school a year later but continued to work both on record and in concerts as the "fourth Emotion") . The association with White hit pay dirt immediately, and the group's 1976 Columbia debut single and album "Flowers" were R&B smashes. However it was 1977's Rejoice that brought the Emotions to the top of the pop and soul charts. That album's first single, "Best of My Love," was one of the year's greatest cuts, with the Hutchinson sisters' tight harmonies working perfectly with White's joyous production. The follow-up single was equally strong. A beautiful ballad, "Don't Ask My Neighbors," took the group to the top of charts and became one of the most covered tunes of the next 20 years.
The Emotions scored again the following year with the single "Smile" and the hit album Sunbeam. Then in 1979 the topped the pop, soul and disco charts with "Boogie Wonderland," an infectious dance duet with Earth Wind & Fire that became one of that year's biggest hits. Their next album, Come Into My World, was solid but began the decline of the group's sales (as well as mentor White's midas touch).
In the mid 80s the group moved to Red Label Records and then Motown, scoring modest hits with "You're the One" and "Miss Your Love," before briefly retiring. They regrouped in the early 90s to perform a music version of their careers entitled Bigger than Bubblegum and releasing a live album in 1997. An excellent career retrospective was issued in 2016 titled Blessed: The Emotions Anthology. The Emotions continue to perform at smaller venues around the world and at private parties.
By Chris Rizik