by Kenneth Miller
Special to the NNPA from the Los Angeles Sentinel
It was just another “Golden Time of Day” at the Gibson Amphitheater last Sunday when Maze featuring Frankie Beverly played for the 28th consecutive year, and the final time a place that Beverly calls “home.”
The Gibson will be renovated into a Harry Potter Theme Park next month closing its doors on concerts, but none will be remembered like last Sunday when the positive soulful lyrics waved goodbye.
Times change and buildings close, but for Frankie Beverly and Maze the beats just continues to go on, and with a loyal legion of fans that have supported the group for the past four decades, it shall forever move forward.
Beverly never envisioned that 50 years after he first started out that he would still be singing today, let alone be as popular as him and Maze have become.
“Not at all! In fact I was thinking of this just the other day because we are on a tour now with Ronnie Isley and I remember always looking up to him and here I am headlining over this guy and the people are recognizing me like never before,” Beverly told the Sentinel during a rare and exclusive interview.
“This is totally different, I never anticipated this.”
Beverly, a Philadelphia native, spoke of how strangers recognize him in airports all over the world, although he hasn’t produced a new record in over 20 years.
“The way this is working is just mind boggling in what has happened to me,” he emotionally added. “It’s a good thing too because I was raised to be humbled by my gifts and all. From parents, to good people around me, so I understand it from that point that it’s not me, it’s a blessing.”
Few in the history of music have enjoyed a run that Maze has.
His raspy voice belting out hits as joyful as the chart popping slow melodies such as “Lady of Magic,” “Happy Feelings,” “Southern Girl” and the one that kept the crowd at Gibson on their feet, “We Are One,” have become like anthems among his core of African American followers.
There have been estates of deceased performers that just keep their music relevant, but for a living act and not to even record any new material for two plus decades defies all logic.
There just isn’t a model like Maze and Beverly.
Beverly doesn’t own any of his masters and does not have a contract with any record company, but he performs 150 per year and wherever he goes, the fans of his music flock to sing along with him in droves.
“Ray Charles was the only one who ever owned his masters and I don’t anticipate that would ever be done again because the business is way beyond that now,” he explained. “Record companies are signing acts now with this three sixty deal. They want part of the concerts, they want part of the publishing even to sign acts now.”
Beverly feels the only way around the greedy labels is the do your own, but he says that’s contrary to why he became a musician in the first place.
Most of Maze music was on Capitol Records and his last deal with Warner Brothers last four years; each of those stops included multiple platinum albums.
However, Maze and fans of Beverly are so comfortable listing to ‘Running Away,” “Joy and Pain” and “The Morning After,” which he wrote for Anita Baker, but just couldn’t give it to her.
Another album is forthcoming. “Absolutely. I think what’s held me up is that we kind of changed the band a little bit. This band now is what I call right. I was waiting for this band to get what the other bands has and this band is really ready now.”
He added, “But most of it was that I wasn’t comfortable with what I saw all of the record labels doing. I thought of doing independent stuff, but I’m an artist and I am not a record executive and so I don’t want to be bothered with that. I just want to think about my music.”
Beverly indicated that the record executives of the past were concerned about the artist and wanted to make music, but today they just want to make money.
His advice to young artist is, “Just do your thing and stop letting people talk you into things just to make money. Do you!”
He said that if young artist did, that their music would be distinguishable.
“When a song came on the air, people would immediately say that, ‘bloom-bloom-bloom!’ That’s the only way you are going to get that. Do You!”
Beverly says that people can equate their feelings with any of his songs because they are simple lyrics and most of the music he writes, people can relate to it.
He was touched by the legend of Sam Cooke when he was 12 years old and he’d go to the Uptown Theatre in Philadelphia when they would have a dozen shows a day.
He remembers on one occasion he was standing in line in an effort to obtain one of the stars autographs.
“Me and a friend of mine said, ‘Mr. Cooke can you sign an autograph.’ He said, ‘sure’ and reached over and signed a picture and stuff and then asked if we had been back stage?”
“We said, ‘um—naw.’ He asked, ‘do you want to come back?’”
Cooke brought the two of them back stage and had one of his guys to watch them and gave them what ever they wanted.
Explaining the story, Beverly became very choked up and emotional.
“It inspired me to be like him and to this day, I can be eating and I will stop eating and sign autographs and take pictures.”
Marvin Gaye who bought equipment for them and took them on the road discovered Beverly and his group, but Beverly vowed that he didn’t want to be anybody’s back up.
Well just look at him now!