By the Way

Jeffrey Osborne talks 'We are the World,' The King of Pop, Prince before Gulfport show


Jeffrey Osbourne
Jeffrey Osbourne Courtesy photo

The 1980s was filled with magical epic moments. It was the decade that saw the release of “Purple Rain,” “Born in the USA,” “Thriller" and “Synchronicity.” But something happened in March 1985 that was the “where were you” moment of the first half of the decade.

Where were you when you heard “We are the World” by USA for Africa for the first time?

It was huge moment in music history. The thought of a supergroup raising money to help feed the children in Africa was enough for me and my friends to put the Motley Crue and Prince down and pay attention.

And what a supergroup it was. Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Tina Turner, Lionel Richie and on and on. Seeing the video on MTV or “Friday Night Videos” for the first time was also quite a treat.

“Hey man, that’s Steve Perry -- awesome,” and “Check out Willie Nelson’s tracksuit” were among the highlights.

I had the pleasure of talking with R&B and jazz musician Jeffrey Osborne recently. Osborne, who will be at the Island View Casino in Gulfport on Saturday, is an interesting guy, to say the least. He’s the real deal.

Not only does he have that smooth classic voice that brought us “On the Wings Of Love,” he was also the lead singer for the funk outfit LTD. And Osborne was also a part of history as one of the contributors to “We are the World.”

“Quincy (Jones) approached me to do, but it was a late call, which is why I didn’t get a solo section,” he said. “It was done the night of the American Music Awards, so everybody was in LA -- it was set up that so we would all go over to A&M Studios and do it after the show and man it started late as hell and went until like six in the morning and it was  amazing because everybody was in that room.”

Although the song is packed with a who’s who of stars, one star was noticeably absent from the recording, which worked out well for Osborne.

“The person I replaced was Prince because he backed out,” Osborne said. “Quincy called and said, ‘Hey man, Prince just backed out and I know you’re in town and I want you to come tonight,’ so, I was like ‘Great.’ It’s just ironic that Prince was the guy that backed out.”

Osborne said he had known Prince, who died April 6, for years.

“I was a huge fan of his music, but the ironic thing is that he was a huge fan of LTD and he used to be at all the shows -- he was a pretty special kind of guy, man, he was a once in a lifetime guy and we’ve lost so many like that recently -- we’ve lost some special people in the last four or five years. It’s scary to think about all of the people that I grew up with and toured with and how many of them have left.”

He also spoke fondly about another fallen friend, the King of Pop.

“LTD toured with the Jacksons and Michael had just put out ‘Off the Wall,’ ” Osborne said. “The Jacksons would play a set and then Michael would come out and do his songs from ‘Off the Wall’ and it was just amazing -- it’s one of my favorite tours I’ve ever done.”

Jeff Clark is a staff writer for the Sun Herald. He hopes Jeffrey Osborne plays “Back in Love Again” on Saturday night.