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Gerald Levert, 40; raw and explosive R&B singer, son of O'Jays vocalist

November 11, 2006|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Gerald Levert, a fiery singer of passionate R&B love songs and son of O'Jays singer Eddie Levert, died Friday. He was 40.

His label, Atlantic Records, confirmed that Levert died at his home in Cleveland. The Detroit Free Press said the cause of death was a heart attack.

"All of us at Atlantic are shocked and deeply saddened by his untimely death," a company statement read. "He was one of the greatest voices of our time, who sang with unmatched soulfulness and power, as well as a tremendously gifted composer and an accomplished producer."

"It's very sad. He was an amazing talent, obviously," friend and fellow rhythm and blues singer Will Downing told the Associated Press. "Gerald was a hard worker. He would go out there and do his thing, and be in places where the folks were. He would touch the people, and that's really what it's all about."

Over his two-decade music career, Levert sold millions of albums and had numerous R&B hits.

Levert was born July 13, 1966, in Philadelphia and was raised in Cleveland. He first gained fame in 1986 as a member of the R&B trio LeVert, which also included his brother Sean and childhood friend Marc Gordon. They quickly racked up hits, including "(Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop) Goes My Mind," "Casanova" and "Baby I'm Ready."

But Gerald Levert's voice -- powerful and soulful, almost a carbon copy of his father's -- was always the focal point, and in 1991, he made his solo debut with the album "Private Line," which included a hit duet with his father, "Baby Hold on to Me." His father also recorded the successful album "Father & Son."

"We wanted to express some of our feelings for each other," the younger Levert said of the father-son collaboration in a 1995 interview with The Times.

Eddie Levert said he cherished their work together.

"I never talked much to my dad," Eddie said of his steelworker father in The Times interview. "My dad was always working or he was coming home tired....

"Don't get me wrong -- he took care of the family. But that's why I made it a point to have the kind of relationship that I have with my sons. I made it a point that I would know them and I would let them know me a lot more than I knew my father."

But the elder Levert initially had concerns when his sons got involved in the music business. "I didn't discourage them," he told a Times reporter in 1989, "but I really wanted them to go to college, learn a craft, and then, if they wanted to do music and it happened for them, great, but they would already have a craft that would generate a living. But they didn't want to hear that; they wanted to be in show business."

Gerald Levert was known for his sensual, romantic songs, but unlike Luther Vandross, whose voice and songs were more genteel, Levert's music was explosive and raw -- his 2002 album was titled "The G Spot."

"When we would do shows together, we would get on stage and battle for the hearts of women," Downing said. "Every night, that was our thing."

Although Levert was successful as a solo singer, in 1997 he got into group mode again -- joining with R&B singers Johnny Gill and Keith Sweat to form the supergroup LSG. The self-titled album sold more than two 2 million copies, and their hits included the sensual "My Body."

Levert also worked with other artists as a songwriter and producer.

His most recent album was 2005's "Voices."

Levert had four children.

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