As solo acts in the ’90s, they sold millions of records worldwide. The fellas of New Edition are legends! Ralph Tresvant, Ricky Bell, Ronnie DeVoe, Michael Bivins, Johnny Gill and Bobby Brown.
Let’s take it back, to where it all started. 1983 Roxbury district, an area in Boston, Massachusetts. Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky, Mike and Ralph were already champs of the local talent show circuit when producer Maurice Starr took them into the studio to record a Jackson 5-styled ditty called “Candy Girl” for the independent Streetwise label (the single reached #1 on the UK charts). Subsequent singles from their debut Candy Girl — “Popcorn Love” and “Is This The End” – and their show-stopping, tightly choreographed live performances helped establish N.E. as one of the hottest teen acts pop music had seen in years.
That position was solidified in 1984, when the group broke ties with Starr and Streetwise and signed with MCA, scoring with catchy top ten singles like “Cool It Now” and “Mr. Telephone Man” from the group’s second LP, New Edition and “Count Me Out,” “A Little Bit Of Love (Is All It Takes)” and “With You All The Way” from the 1985 release “All For Love.”
Still capitalizing on the success of their platinum selling album, New Edition followed in the footsteps of R&B artists before them & recorded “Christmas All Over The World.”
“Christmas All Över The World” became one of the biggest selling Christmas albums to date and was certified gold, selling over 500,000 copies due in part to the classic songs “Give Love Ön Christmas Ðay” & New Edition‘s special remake of “All I Want For Christmas (Is My Girl).”
1986 saw the release of “Under The Blue Moon.” A collection of ’50s/’60s oldies, including their hit revival of the Crewcuts’ ’50s classic, “Earth Angel,” from the ’86 film “Karate Kid II” (a year later N.E. would participate in another movie soundtrack via “Helplessly In Love” from the Dan Ackroyd/Tom Hanks movie, “Dragnet”).
Within the span of three years, New Edition released five albums, two surpassing platinum status & two going gold, with over 10 Top Ten hits & three #1 R&B smash singles to add to their credits, New Edition accomplished more in three years than many artists do in a career.
In 1987, Bobby Brown amicably left the group to make his MCA solo debut, “King Of Stage.” With more creative control then they ever received from MCA Records, the group recruited soul singer Johnny Gill, the 22-year old Washington, D.C.-based discovery of singer Stacy Lattisaw. By the time he joined N.E., Johnny Gill had already enjoyed success as a solo recording artist.
“Heart Break,” unlike any other New Edition album was a turning point in their careers… “Heart Break” would produce a set of unforgettable songs, a string of Top Ten Hits & usher in the New Jack era in music. The 1989 platinum-plus MCA release, which first teamed the unit with super producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, spawned the hits, “If It Isn’t Love,” “You’re Not My Kind Of Girl” and the ballad “Can You Stand The Rain.” “Can You Stand The Rain” sold over 750,000 copies & remained on Billboard’s R&B charts for over 18 weeks.
That project set the stage for solo projects at heady, rapid-fire succession.
Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe joined forces to create the cutting-edge hip-hop trio Bell Biv DeVoe which hit with the multi- platinum 1990 release “Poison” including the title track and the hits “Do Me,” “B.B.D. (I Thought It Was Me)” and “When Will I See You Smile Again.” Gill‘s multi-platinum Motown release, “Johnny Gill,” featured the singles “Rub You The Right Way” and “My, My, My”; Ralph Tresvant‘s platinum Ralph Tresvant produced the sultry smash “Sensitivity.” Meanwhile, Bobby Brown’s 1987 breakthrough “ Don’t Be Cruel” album, featuring the title track single, “My Prerogative,” “Roni,” “Every Little Step” and “Rock Wit’ Cha,” and ’92’s Bobby ushered Brown into superstar status.
Indeed, New Edition, responsible for spawning five internationally hot acts in eight years, is one of the very few units in pop music history to actually achieve what most successful groups only talk about: to have its individuals find solo success, yet keep the group intact. As if this wasn’t enough, Bivins became a successful music executive, discovering and developing through his Biv1O Entertainment company, the superstar vocal group Boyz II Men, 702 and Subway were among the successful acts. Brown made a fine showing as an actor in films such as “Panther” and “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate.” “Making another N.E. album with all of us, that was always the plan,” Tresvant once stated. Hence, the “Home Again” album and concert tour.
All six members returned for their much-lauded reunion album, “Home Again” in 1996. The album was a success, the albums lead single “Hit Me Off” went gold and topped the R&B chart (and reached #3 pop), “I’m Still In Love With You” went Top 10 pop and R&B and “You Don’t Have To Worry” scored yet another R&B Top 10.
As a solo artist, Ricky Bell released a solo album as well entitled “Ricardo Campana,” in 2000.
In 2004, New Edition’s seventh studio album and Bad Boy Entertainment debut “One Love” was released. The lead single, “Hot 2Nite,” under-performed; peaking at #35. The group disagreed with Sean Combs on its creative direction. The album was the last studio New Edition project.
In 2008, the group recorded a new song with New Kids on the Block called “Full Service” for their album, “The Block.” Brown, Tresvant and Gill formed a new group called Heads of State, which went on tour. The group name “is inspired by the original name for The Rat Pack called “The Summit” or “The Heads of State,” stated Gill.
Ralph Tresvant also released the solo single “It Must Be You” that year.
Over the years Bobby Brown released his last album in 2012, entitled “The Masterpiece,” Johnny Gill released “Still Winning” in 2011 and “Game Changer” in 2014, with the release of the single “This One’s for Me and You” featuring New Edition. Bell Biv DeVoe just released their new album “Three Stripes” last month.
New Edition has released 8 albums together and sold over 40 million records worldwide collectively.
Listen to the classics and watch the videos here.
Check out our gallery of NE album covers.
Over the years, the guys have spoken to UB, here are some of our favorite quotes.
UrbanBridgez.com: You clearly have very tough skin due to the fact that people always seem to have something negative to say about you, but yet you rarely respond and you just let them go with it.
Bobby Brown: Yeah that’s my mother man. My mother always told me, just stay down to earth and don’t let what people say bother you. You know, I just hold my head up despite of everything. I know who I am, so it makes no difference to me what people think.
UrbanBridgez.com: What has been NE’s biggest challenge and the biggest reward throughout the years?
“The challenges have been the right business deals and getting the respect we feel we deserve. We’ve never had an album sell over two million.”
Michael Bivins went on to say, everyday has been a lot of hard work and us trying to make sure NE stays true to who we are. The reward is to still be here after 20 years and inspiring other groups who have came out. When they come up to us and tell us they look up to us and we inspired them.
Ronnie DeVoe: Also being able to support our families has been a huge reward. We are able to put food in our families mouths and the respect that comes from that is a great reward.
UrbanBridgez.com: Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis once again contribute to this release, what makes you guys keep returning to them?
Michael Bivins: We keep going because we know we’re going to get hits. They have captured our signature sound and they always bring it to life unlike any other producers. They’ve worked with us for a long time and they bring out the adult NE, but without losing that sound. To not have them on an NE album isn’t heard of, there will always have to be a Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis record on our album.
In 1986 Bobby embarked on a solo career with the album King Of Stage, which gave him his first #1 R&B single with “Girlfriend.” But it was the 1988 LP Don’t Be Cruel that forever altered Bobby’s life. The LP went to number one on the Billboard charts and generated four Top 5 singles, “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Roni,” “My Prerogative” and “Every Little Step,” which earned Brown a 1989 Best R&B Vocal Performance Grammy Award. The album pulled down a Soul Train Music award for R&B/Urban Contemporary Album of the Year, Male in 1989 and American Music Awards for Favorite Soul Album & Favorite Male Pop Vocalist in 1990, among a trophy case of other honors.
Don’t Be Cruel’s phenomenal success (a collection of re-mixed versions of the singles, “Don’t Be Cruel”, “Dance …Ya Know It!” reached #9 on the Billboard pop chart) jettisoned Bobby Brown–whose rep as a dynamic stage performer precedes him–into a whirlwind headline world tour, a well-received cameo in the 1990 movie “Ghostbusters II” and a hit single, “On Our Own,” from the soundtrack album. Bobby also opened Bosstown, a state-of-the-art recording studio in Atlanta, Georgia, where he was based, and still found time to make cameos on the projects of Now Edition alumni, appearing on the single and in the video of Ralph Tresvant’s “Stone Cold Gentleman” and Bell Biv DeVoe’s re-mix hit, “Word To The Mutha”.
The artist’s next recording, 1992’s Bobby, continued the Brown Bomber’s success streak with the hit singles “Humpin’ Around,” “Good Enough” and “Something In Common”, a duet with his wife, superstar Whitney Houston. Bobby, which promptly attained multi-platinum status, simply confirmed what core fans already knew–that Bobby Brown was the real thing, a true artist with a career’s worth to give.
While working on Forever, in 1996 Bobby joined his old New Edition buddies to create the Home Again reunion album and accompanying 1997 concert tour. Propelled by the hit singles “Hit Me Off” and “You Don’t Have To Worry,” the album was the group’s most successful ever, selling more than two million copies. Not only did the reunion LP prove that New Edition remained a viable entity pop music’s ever-competitive marketplace, but Bobby’s appearances on the recordings, in the videos and on stage simply heightened the anticipation of fans for a new album from the man himself.
Bell Biv DeVoe found a soulmate in Elliott Straite, a.k.a. Dr. Freeze, who wrote and produced the energetic “Poison,” released as a 12-inch radio and club single in the spring of 1990.
The track, “Poison” exploded on the airwaves and in the clubs reaching #1 R&B and #3 pop, setting the stage for MCA’s Poison album, to be released on the first day of April.
The album was already platinum when “Do Me!,” the second single, appeared. An unapologetically sexually hip-hop song—without being graphic or mysogynistic—“Do Me!” hit #4 R&B and #3 pop.
Poison sold more than the first solo releases from Gill and Tresvant combined.
“Our music is mentally hip-hop, smoothed out on the R&B tip with a pop feel appeal to it,” the group announced right on the Poison cover, and the third single, “B.B.D. (I Thought It Was Me”) sealed the deal. Bell turned in the best lead-vocal performance of his career on this dramatic track, produced (as was much of the album) by Public Enemy’s producers Hank and Keith Shocklee. “B.B.D. (I Thought It Was Me)” was the group’s second R&B chart-topper.
Poison produced two more big hits, Dr. Freeze’s “Dope!” a.k.a. “She’s Dope!” and the aching ballad “When Will I See You Smile Again?” With so many big ones out of the box, the group spent most of ’91 and ’92 on the road.
Brown, Gill and Tresvant re-joined their comrades for a remix of the Poison track “Word To The Mutha!,” the lead-off single from WBBD – Boocity! (Remix Album), released in mid-summer of ’91. The all-remix project went gold,
Johnny Gill was born and raised a “P.K.” – preacher’s kid – in Washington, DC. At age five, he was already singing lead with his three older brothers in the gospel quartet, Wings of Faith. Most of the time they performed at their father’s church.
Reverend Gill Sr. didn’t allow secular music in his home. Johnny discovered a love of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Teddy Pendergrass and Luther Vandross through family picnics, parties and functions. He practiced singing with his friend Stacy Lattisaw, who eventually hit the charts with Atlantic Records.
Lattisaw brought Johnny to Atlantic, where they scored with several duets. “Perfect Combination” was a smash. But Johnny’s body hadn’t caught up with his voice, and his two solo albums were uneven.
Then, seemingly out of the blue, Bobby Brown left New Edition in 1988. Michael Bivins tapped Johnny Gill to replace Brown. Heartbreak, their first album together, was an instant classic, propelling the once teen icons to full-grown success. The hit-making producing duo Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis provided the perfect backdrop for Johnny’s soulful vocals. The following year, Johnny collaborated with the late George Howard on “One Love,” an overlooked gem that’s the soulful saxist’s biggest chart hit.
Johnny Gill hovered on the brink of super-stardom. He’d grown into his voice. Jheryl Busby, head MCA Black Music when Johnny was in New Edition, was now Motown’s new president. He signed Johnny to a solo deal to the celebrated label, bringing in Jam & Lewis and L.A. Reid & Babyface Edmonds to produce. The results: the delicious “Rub You The Right Way,” “Wrap My Body Tight” and the L.A./ ’Face jewel, “My, My, My.” Johnny leapt into multi-platinum dreamland.
Johnny recorded two more albums for Motown. The sexy Provocative featured Boyz II Men singing and producing on “I Got You.” For the irresistible ballad “Quiet Time To Play,” Motown issued to radio a live version with Karyn White. Let’s Get The Mood Right delivered deep, sensual grooves. Johnny plays bass on many of his own tracks and shows his songwriting skills on “It’s Your Body,” which featured Roger Troutman in one of his last recordings.
From Ralph’s youth he has been compared to the king of pop Michael Jackson, with his candy girl vocals and amazing stage presence it was very clear that Mr. Tresvant was destined for greatness. Legendary music icon, Dick Clark himself has said that Ralph Tresvant is an amazing and timeless artist.
Ralph Tresvant truly is a super star entertainer known around the globe as the man with “Sensitivity ” and with his silky smooth vocals heart pounding Ballad’s, stage presence and undeniable good looks, it is no wonder why the ladies love him and the gentlemen want to be just like him.
Born May 16, 1968, to Patricia Ann Tresvant and Ralph Tresvant Sr., Ralph Tresvant grew up in the Roxbury section of Boston. He joined Bobby Brown, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe in a group formed by producer/songwriter Maurice Starr. Starr’s concept was to form a group that was basically a “new edition” of the Jackson 5. Paradoxically, Motown founder Berry Gordy wanted to mold the Jackson 5
into a “New Edition” of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers.
Signing to MCA Records as a solo artist, Tresvant expressed his apprehension about becoming a solo artist and trying to match his previous successes in various interviews. Producers/songwriters Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis felt confident in Tresvant’s abilities having work with him on the group’s double-platinum LP Heartbreak. They had him sing the lead and background vocals on the song they had written for him, “Sensitivity.” “Sensitivity” sold over a million copies, going to number one R&B and number four pop on Billboard’s charts in fall 1990. His solo debut, Ralph Tresvant, was released November 27, 1990, and went platinum, parking at number one R&B for two weeks. The LP also yielded the charting hits “Stone Cold Gentleman,” “Do What I Gotta Do,” and “Rated R.”
For Jam & Lewis’ Perspective Records, Ralph sang on the 1992 hit “The Best Things in Life Are Free” issued as “Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson with BBD and Ralph Tresvant.” That was followed by his own hit single, “Money Can’t Buy You Love,” from the Damon and Marlon Wayans movie Mo’ Money. Ralph has also appeared in the movie House Party 2. 1996 the New Edition reunion album, Home Again was released with much success, and there was a 1998 MCA Special Products CD It’s Goin’ Down, and the XMG Record’s release in 2006 RizzWaFaire that entered Billboard’s Top 200 Charts the day of it’s release, and spawned two successful singles My HomeGirl & Never Noticed where Ralph’s production and writing skills shined through.