STORY WRITTEN BY JARREAU FREEMAN
R&B musician and singer-songwriter Jeffrey Osborne whisked listeners away with his smooth, buttery voice in the ’80s with the hit “On the Wings of Love” — a song that seemed to touch many and inspired people let love to take them to new heights.
“The most important thing for me as a vocalist is to touch someone and you can touch someone with a love song,” Osborne said in a recent interview. “There is so much emotion you can put into a love song. A love song is totally different than doing an up tempo song, which is all about dance and making people feel good. But with a love song you have to reach out and touch someone.
“The most important thing is having some kind of lyrical content that people can relate to and that makes people believe. I think that’s the hardest thing for any singer, to make people believe what they are singing.”
Osborne has been making people believe for more than 30 years. This five-time platinum and gold recording artist, in addition to “On the Wings of Love,” has had hits such as “Stay With Me Tonight” and “Only Human.”
For Osborne, the key to creating songs that connect with listeners is having a “happy marriage” of both lyrics and melody. Finding that balance, he said is essentially to creating a musical experience that resonates with people.
“You hear a lot of great singers and they are singing their hearts out, but they don’t connect, because the words don’t connect with someone and the melody doesn’t connect with the words,” he said. “I’ve written songs with great melodies, but knew right away the lyrics weren’t working. [For] ‘On the Wings of Love,’ I think I wrote three sets of lyrics for that song, because it just didn’t work [at first]. The melody was not matching the words. You have to take time and make sure the melody and lyrics complement each other. Then, the most important thing [after that], is putting feeling and emotion in a song.”
When writing “On the Wings of Love,” Osborne said he envisioned love in flight and what it’s like to feel a love that makes you want to sour. The uplifting lyrics and simple melody are the elements that Osborne said helped make the song a hit. However, let’s not forget Osborne’s voice, which has been described as “mighty,” “impassioned” and an entity that “bridges urban vitality and classic R&B sensibilities.”
With all that power contained in one voice, it seems that Osborne was born to sing. The youngest of 12, the Rhode Island-native, was the son of well-known jazz trumpet player Clarence “Legs” Osborne. He said he grew up in a household where just about everyone sung or was a musician.
“It was inbred in me,” he said with a chuckle. “I heard music all my life in my household. My mother told me I was singing for her friends at the age of three. As far back as I could remember, I have always been singing. I always loved it and always dreamed that one day it would be a way for me to make a living.”
By the age of 13, Osborne was singing in nightclubs and later he became the lead vocalist of the ’70s R&B/ Funk band L.T.D. before launching his solo career, he said.
With a passion that seems etched in his DNA and songs that lift us up and make us want to fly, Osborne’s soulful voice will be filling the Keswick Theatre Aug. 1 as he hits the stage to treat fans with an array of classics from “On the Wings of Love,” “Love Ballad” and many more.
“I want fans to come and feel like the live experience was better than the recordings,” Osborne said. “[I want them to] enjoy the concert and feel that I gave them what they came to hear. I want them to leave happy.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Jeffrey Osborne
WHEN: Aug. 1 at 8 p.m.
WHERE: The Keswick Theatre, 291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside.
TICKETS: $39. 50 to $49.50
INFO.: Call (215) 572-7650 or visit www.keswicktheatre.com.