The Manhattans bring energy and excitement to the Tuscaloosa AmphitheaterBy Emilee Benos | 09/27/2015 1:02pm
Photo courtesy of The Manhattans.
The Manhattans performed some of their greatest hits on Friday, Sept. 25 at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater as part of a joint concert called “Sounds of Motown,” which also featured the Spinners and the Whispers.
The Manhattan’s energy was infectious, and not long after they first danced their way onstage to perform “Crazy,” the entire crowd was on their feet and dancing along. Their stage presence was strong, and they never missed a beat.
Originally hailing from Jersey City, the Manhattans took their name from the cocktail drink. The original Manhattans, founder Edward “Sonny” Bivins, George “Smitty” Smith, Richard Taylor, Kenneth Kelly and Winfred “Blue” Lovett, were all friends in high school, but it wasn’t until they came back from serving in the military that they formed the group.
“Even though we were good in sports, the music just took us over as time went on, and we knew that was our true calling from God,” Bivins said in one of his last interviews before his death.
Although all original members have passed away, the current lineup, featuring Charles Hardy, Harsey Hemphill Jr., Alvin Pazant and Keni Jackson, capture the smooth and sophisticated sound of the original Manhattans and carry on the legacy they’ve left behind.
The Manhattans performed every song with fervor and excitement, filling the amphitheater with incredible energy. “Kiss And Say Goodbye,” in particular was a crowd favorite. Within the first few notes of the song the entire crowd was on their feet cheering.
The Manhattans have enjoyed a long and prosperous career. Since their formation in 1962, they’ve had eight songs in the R&B Top 10 charts, with “Kiss And Say Goodbye” going to Number 1 in both the R&B and Pop Charts. They have travelled around the world and were personally invited to perform at the White House Christmas Gala for President and First Lady Clinton in 1998. Still, the group is quick to cite their fans as their biggest inspiration.
“The music we give to them. It makes us want to make better music each time we record,” Bivins said.
Although Bivins passed away in 2014, this still rings true for the band. The group recognizes how important their music is to their fans. Perhaps the most memorable moment of their career is when they got to see the positive effects their music had on a fan. A woman who was contemplating suicide changed her mind when she heard that the Manhattans were performing near her.
“She thought twice about it, came to the show, and got backstage to meet us,” Hardy said. “That’s when she told us her story. We never forgot that.”
The group has experienced a lot of change throughout their career, but one thing has remained the same: their devotion to the fans. The group’s favorite song to perform is “There’s No Me Without You,” a song that perfectly sums up their feelings towards their fans.
“The title says it all,” Pazant said. “Without the public supporting our music there wouldn’t be a Manhattans.”
After so many years of playing together, it can be difficult to find a reason to stay in the business, but not for the Manhattans, who said their love for the music and the fans as their reason for staying in the industry. Their many years of playing together has not taken a toll on their performance, but rather strengthened it. Their chemistry onstage is enchanting, something they attribute to their mutual respect for each other.
“It always feels like one great big family,” said Toye Kates Jr, original road manager and current business agent.
The message the Manhattans convey is simple: love. Love what you do, love why you do it and love who you do it for.