On this day in 1967, R&B singer Ricky Bell was born in Boston. Bell has
enjoyed major pop- and R&B-chart success with New Edition and that quintet's
offshoot, Bell Biv DeVoe.
New Edition, also including Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant, Michael Bivins and
Ronald DeVoe, began making a name for themselves at Boston talent shows.
Pop manager/producer Maurice Starr got the band a residency at New York
City's Copacabana Club and signed it to Streetwise Records in 1983.
Starr fashioned New Edition as a new Jackson Five and the group immediately
hit the Top 40 with "Candy Girl." But early in 1984, New Edition had an
acrimonious split with Starr and signed to MCA Records. Later that year, the
group broke through to the top 10 of Billboard's Hot 100 chart with "Cool
It Now." Their accompanying eponymous second album -- filled with ballads
and light funk -- hit #6. The LP's next single, "Mr. Telephone Man," made it to
New Edition's next album, All for Love, didn't contain any smash hits, but
the group took a remake of the Crewcuts' "Earth Angel" (from The Karate Kid
II soundtrack) to #21. After New Edition's collection of '50s and '60s
R&B/pop standards, Under the Blue Moon (1986), Brown left the group
for a solo career. New Edition issued two more albums – with Brown's
replacement, Johnny Gill -- before disbanding. Their biggest hit with Gill was
1988's "If It Isn't Love."
Bell, Bivins and DeVoe stayed together to form Bell Biv DeVoe, a funkier, racier,
more hip-hop combo. Bell described their music as "mentally hip-hop,
smoothed out on the R&B tip, with a pop-feel appeal to it." The trio was
influenced by working with superstar producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis on
New Edition's 1988 Heart Break album. The producing duo was present
on Bell Biv DeVoe's 1990 debut, Poison (which produced the hit title-
track), as were Public Enemy producers Hank and Keith Shocklee. Other hits
from the 3 million-selling album included the pop smash "Do Me!" and the R&B
favorites "B.B.D. (I Thought it Was Me)," "When Will I See You Smile Again?"
and "She's Dope!"
After a remix album, the group took a break, during which Bell and DeVoe
signed a production deal with PolyGram. Bell Biv DeVoe reunited for 1993's
Hootie Mack, which wasn't as popular as their debut. Bell Biv DeVoe's
music was a far cry from the by-then-huge gangsta-rap. In 1996, all three
members of Bell Biv DeVoe participated in a reunion of New Edition, resulting in
the Home Again album, which included production by Jam and Lewis,
Sean "Puffy" Combs and Gerald Levert.
Bell is reportedly working on a solo album now and has signed a group
called Anthem to his Slickwolf Productions.
Other birthdays: Frankie Avalon, 59; Alan King (Ace), 52; Kerry Livgren
(Kansas), 49; Dee Dee Ramone (Ramones), 46; Joanne Catherall (Human
League), 36; and Ian Spice (Breathe), 32.