James Dunn-The Stylistics

1950 – Born on this day, James Dunn, vocals, The Stylistics, (1975 US No.1 single ‘You Make Me Feel Brand New’, 1975 UK No.1 single ‘Can’t Give You Anything But My Love’ plus 15 other UK Top 40 singles).

The Stylistics were one of the best-known Philadelphia soul groups of the 1970s. They formed in 1968, and comprised lead Russell Thompkins, Jr., Herbie Murrell, Airrion Love, James Smith, and James Dunn. All of their US hits were ballads, graced by the soaring falsetto of Russell Thompkins, Jr. and the lush yet graceful productions of Thom Bell, which helped make the Stylistics one of the most successful soul groups of the first half of the 1970s.” During the early 1970s, the band had twelve straight U.S. R&B top ten hits, including “Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)”, “You Are Everything”, “Betcha by Golly, Wow”, “I’m Stone in Love with You”, “Break Up to Make Up”, and “You Make Me Feel Brand New”

Career
Early years

The Stylistics were created from the remaining members of two defunct Philadelphia groups, The Percussions and The Monarchs.
Success: The Bell/Creed years

After signing to Avco, the record label approached producer Thom Bell, who had already produced a catalogue of hits for The Delfonics, to work with the group.

The first song the Stylistics recorded together with Bell and his collaborator, lyricist Linda Creed, was the lush “Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)” . Bell imported the sweet soul techniques he had perfected with The Delfonics, and his arrangements worked perfectly with Thompkins’ falsetto. The bittersweet lyrics from Creed were a key factor in creating memorable music.

Their hits—distilled from three albums—from this period included “Betcha by Golly, Wow” (U.S. #3), “I’m Stone in Love with You”, “Break Up To Make Up” (U.S. #5), “You Make Me Feel Brand New” featuring a rare double lead with Airron Love, the aforementioned “Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)”, “You Are Everything”, and the minor hit “Rockin’ Roll Baby” (U.S. #14). “You Make Me Feel Brand New” was the group’s biggest U.S. hit, holding at #2 for two weeks in the spring of 1974, and was one of five U.S. gold singles the Stylistics collected. The Stylistics’ smooth sound also found an easier path onto adult contemporary airwaves than other soul artists, and the group made Billboard magazine’s Easy Listening singles chart twelve times from 1971 to 1976, with three entries (“Betcha by Golly, Wow”, “You Make Me Feel Brand New”, and “You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart)”) reaching the Top 10. Every single that Bell produced for the Stylistics was a Top Ten R&B hit, and several—”You Are Everything”, “Betcha by Golly Wow!”, “I’m Stone in Love with You”, “Break Up to Make Up”, and “You Make Me Feel Brand New”—were also Top Ten pop chart hits. This commercial success was not confined only to the U.S., with the band also having big hits with this material throughout Europe.
Changing style

Thom Bell stopped working with the Stylistics in 1974,

Notwithstanding this, the Stylistics began to struggle with what many saw as increasingly weak material after 1976. Although the singles and albums came out as before, chart success vanished. This decline also coincided with the rise of New Wave in Europe around this time. It was also stated by Russell Thompkins Jr. (in the re-issue sleevenotes for the 1976 album Fabulous) that the band began to feel that the music they were recording was becoming increasingly dated, and not in keeping with the emerging disco sound of the late 1970s.

In 1979, they had a small part in the movie Hair, directed by Milos Forman, where they play conservative army officers. They double Nell Carter in singing a tongue-in-cheek song called “White Boys”.
Later years

In 1980, James Dunn departed due to health problems, and James Smith left shortly thereafter. The group continued, recruiting new member Raymond Johnson, and releasing the album Some Things Never Change, in 1985. Johnson departed shortly afterward, leaving the group a trio. Love, Murrell, and Thompkins continued to tour until 2000, when original lead Russell Thompkins, Jr. left. Love and Murrell brought in two new members, Harold “Eban” Brown, formerly of the Delfonics, as lead and tenor Van Fields. The present group is featured live on the DVD The Stylistics Live at the Convention Center (2006), as well as along with other artists of the 1970s on the DVD, The Big Show.

In 2004, Russell Thompkins, Jr. started a new group, the New Stylistics, with the returning Raymond Johnson, James Ranton, and Jonathan Buckson. They are featured on the DVD Old School Soul Party Live!, which was part of the PBS My Music series.

In 2006, their hit single “Can’t Give You Anything (But My Love)” was used as the base for a Japanese advertisement campaign by Gatsby, to launch their new male hair styling product, ‘Moving Rubber’. The campaign was successful and featured one of Japan’s most popular celebrities Takuya Kimura of the pop group SMAP. They were also featured guests on SMAP’s television show, SMAP×SMAP, one of the highest rated shows in Japan to promote the ‘Moving Rubber’ product.

In October 2009, they featured on the UK BBC One television program, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.

Their song “People Make the World Go Round” was used by Spike Lee in the soundtrack for his movie Crooklyn, made in 1994.

Discography
Studio albums
Year     Album     Chart positions     US
certifications
Record label
US
Pop     US
R&B     UK
Pop
1971     The Stylistics     23     3     —     Gold     Avco
1972     Round 2     32     3     —     Gold
1973     Rockin’ Roll Baby     66     5     42     —
1974     Let’s Put It All Together     14     4     26     Gold
Heavy     43     8     —     —
1975     From the Mountain     —     —     36     —
Thank You Baby     72     9     5     —
You Are Beautiful     99     12     26     —
1976     Fabulous     117     32     21     —     H&L
Once Upon a Juke Box     209     45     —     —
1977     Sun & Soul     —     —     —     —
Wonder Woman     —     —     —     —
1978     In Fashion     —     43     —     —     Mercury
1979     Love Spell     —     —     —     —
1980     Hurry Up This Way Again     127     11     —     —     TSOP
1981     Closer Than Close     —     44     —     —
1982     1982     —     —     —     —     Philadelphia Int’l
1984     Some Things Never Change     —     63     —     —     Streetwise
1986     A Special Style     —     —     —     —
1991     Love Talk     —     65     —     —     Amherst
1996     Love Is Back in Style     —     —     —     —     Bellmark
“—” denotes the release failed to chart or was not certified
Other albums
Year     Album     Chart positions     Record label
US
Pop     US
R&B     UK
Pop
1992     Christmas     —     —     —     Amherst
“—” denotes the release failed to chart
Compilation albums
Year     Album     Chart positions     Record label
US
Pop     US
R&B     UK
Pop
1975     The Best of the Stylistics     41     13     1     Avco
1976     The Best of the Stylistics, Vol. 2     —     —     1     H&L
1990     Greatest Love Hits     —     —     —     Amherst
1992     The Greatest Hits of the Stylistics     —     —     34     Mercury
2005     The Very Best of the Stylistics…and More!     —     —     —     Amherst
2007     The Very Best of the Stylistics     —     —     30     UMTV
“—” denotes the release failed to chart
Singles
Year     Single     Chart Positions
US
Pop     US
R&B     UK
Pop
1971     ”You’re a Big Girl Now”     73     7     —
“Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)”     39     6     —
“You Are Everything”     9     10     —
1972     ”Betcha by Golly, Wow”     3     2     13
“People Make the World Go Round”     25     6     —
“I’m Stone in Love with You”     10     4     9
1973     ”Break Up to Make Up”     5     5     34
“You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart)”     23     8     —
“Peek-a-Boo”     —     —     35
“Rockin’ Roll Baby”     14     3     6
1974     ”You Make Me Feel Brand New”     2     5     2
“Let’s Put It All Together”     18     8     9
“Heavy Fallin’ Out”     41     4     —
1975     ”Star on a TV Show”     47     13     12
“Thank You Baby”     70     7     —
“Sing Baby Sing”     —     —     3
“Can’t Give You Anything (But My Love)”     51     18     1
“Na-Na Is the Saddest Word”     —     —     5
“Funky Weekend”     76     23     10
1976     ”You Are Beutiful”     79     17     —
“Can’t Help Falling in Love”     —     52     4
“Because I Love You, Girl”     —     43     —
“Sixteen Bars”     —     —     7
“You’ll Never Get to Heaven” (EP)     —     —     24
“Only You (And You Alone)”     —     —     —
“Satin Doll”     —     —     —
1977     ”Shame and Scandal in the Family”     —     —     —
“$7000 and You”     —     —     24
“I’m Coming Home”     —     —     —
“Fool of the Year”     —     —     —
1978     ”First Impressions”     —     22     —
“You’re the Best Thing in My Life”     —     —     —
1979     ”Love at First Sight”     —     —     —
1980     ”Hurry Up This Way Again”     —     18     —
1981     ”And I’ll See You No More”     —     70     —
“What’s Your Name?”     —     79     —
“Mine All Mine”     —     —     —
“I’ve Got This Feeling”     —     —     —
1982     ”Call on You”     —     —     —
“We Should Be Lovers”     —     —     —
1984     ”Give a Little Love”     —     47     —
1985     ”Some Things Never Change”     —     86     —
“Love Is Not the Answer”     —     —     91
1986     ”Special”     —     77     —
“Let’s Go Rockin’ (Tonight)”     —     63     —
1990     ”Me – U = Blue” (Glenn Medeiros featuring the Stylistics)     78     —     —
1991     ”Love Talk”     —     68     —
1992     ”Always on My Mind”     —     89     —
“—” denotes the release failed to chart
Awards and recognition

* The Stylistics were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004.

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