RIP Gerald Levert
- Shocking news from the O'Jays family. A TV report here says the
autopsy found evidence of heart disease.
R&B star Levert dies at home in Geauga
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Margaret Bernstein and John Soeder
Plain Dealer Reporters
Gerald Levert, the son of Eddie Levert of the O'Jays who became a
soulful R&B superstar in his own right, was found dead Friday morning
at his home in Newbury Township. He was 40.
"It seems like he died in his sleep, but we don't know yet," said
family friend Malaika Malone.
A cousin who found Levert was unable to wake him, Malone said.
Levert was pronounced dead at University Hospitals Geauga Medical
Center in Chardon, said hospital public-relations manager Dan Bomeli.
The cause of death has not been determined.
Eddie Levert is "devastated," said O'Jays co-founder Walter Williams.
"He's a wreck, and rightfully so."
In a statement, Levert's family said: "As everybody knows, Gerald was
a man who loved and breathed music. To his family and friends he was a
man of strong character, who had an infectious personality and a zest
for life. For his fans, his greatest love was touching the hearts and
souls of all people through his music. At this very difficult time, we
thank you for your prayers and hope you will understand our need for
Levert often performed with the O'Jays. They were supposed to share a
bill on Thanksgiving in Marysville, Ind.
Levert "was a go-getter," Williams said. "He didn't just come out and
sing songs. He went after an audience."
Levert, a 1984 graduate of Shaker Heights High School, got his start
in the trio LeVert, best known for its 1987 Top 5 smash "Casanova."
The group also included his younger brother, Sean, and their friend
Gerald Levert launched a solo career in 1991. A fixture on
Billboard's R&B charts, he also found success on the pop charts with
such hits as "Taking Everything," "Thinkin' Bout It" and "Baby Hold on
to Me." His major-label albums "Love & Consequences," "Groove On" and
"Private Line" sold 1 million copies each, according to the Recording
Industry Association of America.
In 1988, Levert launched Trevel Productions, a Cleveland songwriting
and music production firm whose clients included Anita Baker and Teddy
Pendergrass, as well as the local acts Men at Large and the Rude Boys.
Levert considered himself the heir apparent to the late Luther
Vandross, a notion shared by fans everywhere but especially in his
All of Levert's CDs are strong sellers here, even his earliest work,
said Sanders Henderson, owner of Nikki's Music in Cleveland's Buckeye
neighborhood. "It's different from the music today - that stuff's just
going to last for a minute. But Gerald's catalog constantly sells."
His powerful voice and romantic ballads earned him a loyal fan base,
said Henderson, who keeps a brown teddy bear in his office, a
sought-after souvenir from a Levert concert. "This is his trademark,"
said Sanders. "Women fight over them."
As word of Levert's death spread, a wave of grief rolled over
Cleveland. Disc jockeys at R&B station WZAK FM/93.1 played his hits
nonstop and shared memories.
"I think everybody in Cleveland felt like they knew him," said Terry
Stewart, president and chief executive of the Rock and Roll Hall of
Fame and Museum, who sat on the board of the Philadelphia-based Rhythm
and Blues Foundation with Levert.
Levert's music was in the tradition of the O'Jays, who were inducted
into the Rock Hall in 2005, Stewart said.
"He took it to the next generation," Stewart said.
Levert collaborated with Eddie Levert on the 1995 album "Father &
Son." They toured together, too, performing last month in South
One of Levert's final recording projects was "My Angel," a ballad on
pianist Jim Brickman's new CD, "Escape." "My love goes with you,
wherever you are / And there may be distance, but we're never apart,"
They recorded the song this summer in Cleveland and performed it
together last month at the House of Blues on Euclid Avenue.
"I can't even listen to it now," Brickman said. "It's about kids, but
it could be interpreted as being about loss."
In 2004, Levert said: "People always ask in interviews, 'What do you
want people to think about when you're gone?' I just want to leave a
mark, to say I was bold enough to say what I felt."
In addition to his father, Levert's survivors include his mother,
Martha; brothers, Sean and Eddie Jr.; a sister, Kandice; and three
children, a relative said. Funeral arrangements have not been made.