The Stylistics In-depth Biography
After the Spinners} and the O'Jays}, the Stylistics} were the leading Philly soul} group produced by Thom Bell}. During the early '70s, the band had 12 straight Top Ten hits, including "You Are Everything,"} "Betcha by Golly, Wow,"} "I'm Stone in Love With You,"} "Break Up to Make Up,"} and "You Make Me Feel Brand New."} Of all their peers, the Stylistics} were one of the smoothest and sweetest soul} groups of their era. All of their hits were ballads}, graced by the soaring falsetto of Russell Thompkins, Jr.} and the lush yet graceful productions of Bell}, which helped make the Stylistics} one of the most successful soul} groups of the first half of the '70s.
The Stylistics} formed in 1968, when members of the Philadelphia soul} groups the Monarchs} and the Percussions} joined forces after their respective band dissolved. Thompkins}, James Smith}, and Airrion Love} hailed from the Monarchs}; James Dunn} and Herbie Murrell} were from the Percussions}. In 1970, the group recorded "You're a Big Girl Now,"} a song their road manager Marty Bryant} co-wrote with Robert Douglas}, a member of their backing band Slim and the Boys}, and the single became a regional hit for Sebring Records}. The larger Avco Records} soon signed the Stylistics}, and single eventually climbed to number seven in early 1971.
Once they were on Avco}, the Stylistics} began working with producer/songwriter Thom Bell}, who had previously worked with the Delfonics}. The Stylistics} became Bell}'s pet project and with lyricist Linda Creed}, he crafted a series of hit singles that relied as much on the intricately arranged and lush production as they did on Thompkins}' falsetto. Every single that Bell} produced for the Stylistics} was a Top Ten R&B} hit, and several -- "You Are Everything,"} "Betcha by Golly, Wow,"} "I'm Stone in Love With You,"} "Break Up to Make Up,"} and "You Make Me Feel Brand New"} -- were also Top Ten pop} hits.
Following "You Make Me Feel Brand New"} in the spring of 1974, the Stylistics} broke away from Bell} and began working with Van McCoy}, who helped move the group towards a softer, easy listening} style. In 1976, they left Avco} and signed with H&L}. The group's American record sales declined, yet they remained popular in Europe, particularly in Great Britain, where "Sing Baby Sing"} (1975), "Na Na Is the Saddest Word"} (1975), "Can't Give You Anything"} (1975), and "Can't Help Falling in Love"} (1976) were all Top Five hits. The Stylistics} continued to tour and record throughout the latter half of the '70s, as their popularity steadily declined. In 1980, Dunn} left the group because of poor health, and he was followed later that year by Smith}. The remaining Stylistics} continued performing as a trio on oldies shows into the '90s. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide