I’d never heard of Harvey Fuqua when I picked up that Moonglows 45 from the Goodwill store where I worked when I was in college. I’d never even heard of The Moonglows really, although, by then, they’d already been inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. The reason I bought the single: the label, of course. It was on Chess Records. It looked like it was in good, playable shape, and even if it wasn’t, it was only going to cost me the price of a soda. If nothing else, with that elegant blue and silver label and its stately chess piece logo, it would look cool hanging on a wall, or from the ceiling of my dorm room. Of course, that 45 never had a chance to become such an ornament. I fell too hard in love with both sides of it. I didn’t know which was the “plug” side and which was the “b”. Frankly, I still don’t. They’re both just that great. On one side was “Over and Over Again”, an almost comical recounting of one man’s woeful inability to learn from his romantic miscalculations, delivered with full-throated devotion by Bobby Lester, Harvey’s singing partner since their high school days; on the other side was the quirky love-at-first-sight doo-wop testimonial “I Knew From the Start”.
“Over and Over Again”
“I Knew From the Start”
As it turns out, neither side was much of a hit, although they were both featured in a 1956 movie put together by a rising-star DJ named Alan Freed who had been the Moonglows’ manager and earliest champion, a movie called Rock, Rock, Rock, starring Tuesday Weld which also featured performances by The Flamingoes, Chuck Berry, and Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. I’d never heard of it either. But when the soundtrack album was re-mastered and reissued on CD a couple of years ago in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of rock ‘n’ roll’s ascendance, I was very quick to snatch up a copy. Of course, I didn’t wait that long to expand my Moonglows collection. Shortly after I picked up that 45, I was eager to hear more of the group, and special-ordered a 2-CD anthology of the group that had, at the time, just been released via MCA.
It was from that collection that I learned who Harvey Fuqua was, and learned not just the pivotal role the Moonglows played in bridging the gaps between rock ‘n’ roll, the dramatic vocal pop of their forebears the Ink Spots (Harvey’s Uncle Charlie was a member), and their contemporaries The Platters, and what would soon be called soul music (Marvin Gaye’s first recorded lead vocal was on a Moonglows single); but also the role Fuqua would play in the formative success of the Motown label as a songwriter, producer and A&R man working with the Spinners and Shorty Long (both of whom migrated with Fuqua to Motown after recording for Fuqua’s own Harvey and Tri-Phi labels), along with Marvin Gaye and Tami Terrell on songs like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. (He also married Berry Gordy’s sister.) Even after leaving Motown in the early 70s, Fuqua went on to some of his greatest successes, producing one of the most iconic singles of the disco era in the form of Sylvester’s “(You Make Me Feel) Mighty Real”; and in 1982, closing a 25-year career circle by collaborating with Marvin Gaye on his final album Midnight Love. Few people know his name, but there’s no question that Harvey Fuqua had a direct hand in some of the most enduring music of the last 60 years. He was the last remaining Moonglow when he passed away on July 6, 2010, just a couple weeks shy of his 81st birthday.
Here’s the song that put The Moonglows on the map, the Fuqua-penned 1954 hit “Sincerely” (which, yes, appeared in Goodfellas – what an awesome soundtrack that is!).