Blue Lovett, Sonny Bivins, Ken Kelley and George Smith all contributed fine songs as the act moved from their first hits, typified by the gentle certitude of 1965’s breakthrough, Lovett’s I Wanna Be (Your Everything) – which echoed The Impressions – to Bivins’ Baby I Need You, which sounds like an early Smokey Robinson production of The Temptations.
The Manhattans came together in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1962, following their military service.
Lead singer George Smith died of a brain tumour in 1970. Gerald Alston replaced him as lead vocalist, and in 1972 the group signed to CBS.
They struck chart gold in 1973 with the Bivins-written song, There’s No Me Without You. Their biggest hit came with their March 1976 release, Kiss and Say Goodbye, written by Blue Lovett. The song became a #1 chart-topper and the second-ever single to go platinum after that certification level was introduced in 1976.
Ricky Taylor left in 1976 to concentrate on his conversion to Islam. He died in 1987 after a long illness.
The group continued as a quartet and found further success in March 1980 with Shining Star, which reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100.
1983 saw the release of the album Forever by Your Side, which spawned the singles Crazy and Forever by Your Side.
The group continued until 1988 when Alston left to record as a solo artist. Roger Harris was recruited as the new lead singer for the group. Blue Lovett left the group in 1990 for health reasons, with Kenny Kelly leaving soon after to return to college to pursue his PhD.
Bivins and Harris continued with new members Charles Hardy, Harsey Hemphill and Alvin Pazant. In April 1991, Harris was replaced by Wade Taylor (who only lasted until July before himself being replaced by Lee Williams).
Williams retired in 2015 and was replaced as lead singer by Keni Jackson.
Meanwhile, another version of The Manhattans appeared on the scene, featuring original member Blue Lovett, plus Gerald Alston, the lead singer on the group’s biggest hits. Other members included Troy May and David Tyson.
Founding member Edward “Sonny” Bivins died on 3 December 2014, at the age of 78. Winfred “Blue” Lovett died six days later on 9 December 2014, at the age of 78.
Kenneth “Wally” Kelly, the last surviving original member of the group, died on 17 February 2015, at the age of 74.
George “Smitty” Smith
Winifred “Blue” Lovett
Edward “Sonny” Bivins
Ken “Wally” Kelly
Richard “Ricky” Taylor