Richie's magical memories


Richie's magical memories

Observer writer

Friday, October 11, 2019

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BEING the first Jamaican artiste signed to the legendary Motown Records, is a distinction Richie Stephens will always treasure. He said the association was a great benefit to his career.

“Being the first Jamaican artiste that the label signed, it wasn't difficult for Motown to market me to the American audience. My first single for the label was a R&B ballad titled Every Time You're There which did pretty well for me”, Stephens said in an interview with Jamaica Observer's Splash.

“That song took me to a lot of places that I wouldn't have been, if it wasn't for that sound. It was number one in Bermuda and it was also huge in Japan.” It was Stephens' 1992 performance with British soul band Soul II Soul on the highly-rated Arsenio Hall Show that attracted Motown executives to the singer.

“I did a song with Soul II Soul called Joy and we performed it on the Arsenio Hall Show. Some folks from the label were in attendance at the time, and they made contact with my management team, Clifton “Specialist” Dillon and Olivia Grange. That's how the Motown deal came about,” Stephens recalled.

Joy was a huge hit, entering the Top 10 of several European countries, including the United Kingdom where it peaked at number four. The song reached number 14 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart in the United States.

Motown — which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year — released Stephens' Pot of Gold album in 1993. It contained the number 83 Billboard R&B hit Body Slam, which featured Patra.

“Overall, signing with Motown was a great part of my development. It was a move that I will always be grateful for,” said Stephens.

“While I was doing the Every Time You're There video in Central Park in New York City, an executive at Motown introduced me to some very important people in the business at the time,” he added.

“We had about 70 persons on that video shoot and it was a major highlight for me. I also went on promotional tours, did interviews with several mainstream media outlets, performed at venues like House of Blues and venues where you didn't find reggae acts performing, only major mainstream artistes. That really helped to build my confidence.”

Motown continued to eye the Jamaican market. In 1996, its sub-label Tamla Records released the single New Immigration Law by Cocoa Tea. The following year, they released his album, Holy Mount Zion, which contained the massive hit song of the same name. Damian Marley's Grammywinning album, Half Way Tree, was released by Motown by 2001.

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