Frankie Beverly, the Soul of Maze

Singer Frankie Beverly, head of the soul band Maze, tells Ed Gordon about his group's long musical career. "Maze featuring Frankie Beverly" will headline this weekend's Essence Music Festival in New Orleans.

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(Soundbite of unidentified song)

MAZE FEATURING FRANKIE BEVERLY: (Singing) Whoa, whoa-oa...

ED GORDON, host:

The music of Maze featuring Frankie Beverly needs little introduction. For more than 30 years, Beverly and his band have been making hit after soulful hit and winning an exalted place in the hearts of their fans.

(Soundbite of unidentified song)

MAZE FEATURING FRANKIE BEVERLY: (Singing) You make me happy, this you can bet. You stood right beside me, yeah, and I won't forget.

GORDON: Frankie Beverly grew up in Philadelphia, where he founded a couple of doo-wop and soul vocal groups. Thirty-five years ago, Beverly formed Raw Soul, the R&B band that relocated to San Francisco. From those beginnings, the band that became Maze featuring Frankie Beverly has toured the world several times. Today Maze is still being called to the stage. They're headlining this weekend's Essence Festival in New Orleans, but Beverly still likes to reminisce about those early days. He recalls how Marvin Gaye, who discovered Maze, influenced his music.

Mr. FRANKIE BEVERLY (Maze featuring Frankie Beverly): Long before I met him, I mean, Marvin Gaye was the quintessential male act...

GORDON: Right.

Mr. BEVERLY: ...and to befriend him and to become almost like a little brother to him was just more than I ever thought would happen to me, just a guy that--being around is going to change the way you do things.

(Soundbite of "Silky Soul")

MAZE FEATURING FRANKIE BEVERLY: (Singing) Do you remember that special one, very special one? I can remember how much he's done, how much the man has done. I can still hear his sweet song. Yeah. Silky, silky soul singer. Silky, silky soul singer. Silky, silky soul singer.

GORDON: Frankie, one of the things that Maze is known for is live performing, and you will go down, quite frankly, in the annals of live performances, you and the group, as one of the best. And I'm curious whether or not you see that as your high when you do music.

Mr. BEVERLY: Yes, that is unquestionably the favorite part of this whole thing to me. I think there's not a doubt that whatever we do and whatever people like about us--I think mostly they like what they see live.

(Soundbite of live performance)

Mr. BEVERLY: How y'all Southern girls doin' out there? Y'all right? Well, let's get down, sugar. Come on. One, two, three, hah!

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BEVERLY: When you're cookin', it starts cookin'. It doesn't matter how many people is in the room. It's just a special thing. It's probably the most powerful form of art, is the music thing and the live thing. You know, you say `Hey,' they say `Hey.' You say `Ho,' they say--and it just comes right back at you. It's--just nothin' like it, man. Nothin' like it.

(Soundbite of unidentified song)

MAZE FEATURING FRANKIE BEVERLY: (Singing) Girl, you rocked me from the start, from the bottom of your he-aa-art. You done gone and heard my song. Southern girl!

Mr. BEVERLY: Oh, yeah. Come on, girls. Come on, sing it.

MAZE FEATURING FRANKIE BEVERLY: (Singing) Southern girl.

Mr. BEVERLY: All right. Get down. Get down. Get down. Get-a down, down, down.

MAZE FEATURING FRANKIE BEVERLY: (Singing) Southern girl.

GORDON: When you think about all of the songs that Maze has given to us--and, I mean, you know, you can go down the list: "Happy Feelin's," "While I'm Alone," "I Can't Get Over You," "Before I Let You Go," "Running Away"--you can tell I'm a fan. I can just, you know...

Mr. BEVERLY: Oh, man, I can hear that. I can hear.

GORDON: You know, I can kick them off. But let me ask you: Is there a song that if you had to say, `This is the ultimate Maze; this is what I would like to represent us,' is there one?

Mr. BEVERLY: If somebody was to say, `What depicts the body of Maze, where Maze comes from?'--it's two songs that really stick out to me. One: "Happy Feelin's". That is Maze.

(Soundbite of "Happy Feelin's")

Mr. BEVERLY: (Singing) And these happy feelin's...

MAZE FEATURING FRANKIE BEVERLY: (Singing) You feel that happy feelin'.

Mr. BEVERLY: (Singing) ...I'll spread them...

MAZE FEATURING FRANKIE BEVERLY: (Singing) ...all over the world. From deep in my soul, I wish you happy feelin's.

Mr. BEVERLY: (Singing) What I mean...

MAZE FEATURING FRANKIE BEVERLY: (Singing) ...happy feelin's.

Mr. BEVERLY: The second one which really, really says who we are and where we come from--we come from the '60s, we're kind of flower children...

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BEVERLY: "We Are One" would be the song I would say, `That's how I feel inside.' I really believe that in my heart.

(Soundbite of "We Are One")

Mr. BEVERLY: (Singing) Can't understand why we treat each other in this way, takin' up time with the silly, silly game we play. We've got our love, and no matter how it's said and done, oh-ho-ho...

MAZE FEATURING FRANKIE BEVERLY: (Singing) We are one.

Mr. BEVERLY: (Singing) No matter what we do...

MAZE FEATURING FRANKIE BEVERLY: (Singing) We are one.

Mr. BEVERLY: (Singing) Love will see us through.

MAZE FEATURING FRANKIE BEVERLY: (Singing) We are one.

Mr. BEVERLY: (Singing) And that's the way it is.

MAZE FEATURING FRANKIE BEVERLY: (Singing) We are one.

GORDON: You're going to play the Essence Music Festival again in New Orleans, and I would think, based on the conversation we just had about the idea of coming from that generation of flower children and peace and love, when you see that, particularly with the sea of black faces...

Mr. BEVERLY: Oh!

GORDON: ...that is there, that must be something for you, Frankie.

Mr. BEVERLY: Man, I can't even explain. I mean, you know, it--we've seen nights when it was 50 and 60,000 people doing the electric slide all down there, and to be a part of it is--makes me feel very, very lucky, man. Yeah.

GORDON: Frankie, now you have for a long enough time now, for those of us who love your music, kept us waiting for something new out of the studio. And I know a person like yourself is always working on music.

Mr. BEVERLY: Oh, yeah.

GORDON: Can those of us who love it look for something soon?

Mr. BEVERLY: Absolutely. Working on something now. One of the things, Ed, is I've had some throat problems; I mean, nothing cancerous or nothing like that, but it psychologically freaks an artist out for a while. I got freaked out, you know, for some years about that. So I'm back now. I'm really, really flowing now. I've been writing. I look to have something out the first of next year. I even have the title for the album. It's--I'm going to call it "Anticipation."

GORDON: Well, Frankie Beverly, those of us who've loved the music for so long will, indeed, be waiting in high anticipation for what comes next. And we know, like everything else you've released, it's going to be great. Thank you, man, for spending some with us today.

Mr. BEVERLY: Oh, man, thank you, Ed.

(Soundbite of unidentified song)

Mr. BEVERLY: (Singing) You know there's nothin', nothin', nothin' I would no do, oh, no, whoa. Before I met you, girrrrrrrllll...

(Credits)

GORDON: To listen to the program, visit npr.org. NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

I'm Ed Gordon. This is NEWS & NOTES.

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