Alexander O'Neal

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Alexander O'Neal
O'Neal performing live in Bristol, England, 2014
O'Neal performing live in Bristol, England, 2014
Background information
Born (1953-11-15) November 15, 1953 (age 69)
Natchez, Mississippi, U.S.
OriginMinneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • arranger
Years active1973–present

Alexander O'Neal (born November 15, 1953)[1] is an American R&B singer, songwriter and arranger from Natchez, Mississippi.

O'Neal came to prominence in the mid-1980s as a solo artist, with eleven Top 40 singles on the US R&B chart, three of which also reached the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100. However, he enjoyed more mainstream success in the United Kingdom, achieving fourteen Top 40 singles on the UK Singles Chart between 1985 and 1996, along with three top ten albums on the UK Albums Chart.

His solo singles, sometimes dealing with lost love, include "If You Were Here Tonight", "Fake", "Criticize", "The Lovers", "(What Can I Say) To Make You Love Me", "All True Man", "Love Makes No Sense" and "In the Middle". He is also known for duets with Tabu labelmate Cherrelle such as "Saturday Love" and "Never Knew Love Like This". AllMusic described O'Neal as having a "tough voice [that] has the same grain and range as that of Otis Redding."[1]

Early life[edit]

Alexander O'Neal was born November 15, 1953, in Natchez, Mississippi, United States,[1] just a few months after his father died. After graduating from high school in Natchez, he attended Alcorn State University.[2] At the age of 20, he relocated to Minneapolis, where he performed with several bands including the Mystics and Wynd Chymes.[3][4] He became a member of Enterprise for a brief period before joining Flyte Tyme, a band which included Monte Moir, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.[3][4]

O'Neal released his debut album, the eponymous Alexander O'Neal, in 1985. Since then, he has released nine studio albums, six compilation albums and two live albums.

Early career[edit]

According to Jimmy Jam, In 1980/1981 O'Neal (along with fellow members of the band Flyte Tyme) met with Prince and Morris Day at Perkins restaurant in Minneapolis to discuss forming a band that would be called The Time that would be signed to Prince under the Warner Bros. label. Following a disagreement with Prince, O'Neal was replaced as lead singer by Morris Day.

O'Neal subsequently formed an R&B band called Alexander and recorded a couple 12" singles, "Do You Dare/Playroom" and "Attitude" for a Chicago area independent label, based in Merrillville, Indiana, called Erect Records.[citation needed]

In 1984 O'Neal signed a deal with Clarence Avant's Tabu Records.[2] He did some backing vocals for other artists on the same label, including The S.O.S. Band and Cherrelle.[citation needed]

1985–present: solo career[edit]

In 1985, O'Neal released his self-titled debut album under the production of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis as well as Monte Moir.[5] It included three singles that reached the Top 20 of the R&B Singles Chart. The same year, he also scored his first R&B Top 10 single with "Saturday Love", a duet with Cherrelle from her High Priority album. The song peaked at #2 on the R&B chart and #26 on the pop chart, while also beginning a string of UK hit singles for O'Neal by peaking at #6 on the UK Singles Chart in early 1986. This UK success continued when "If You Were Here Tonight", which had previously peaked at #81, re-entered the charts to reach #13 in March 1986.[citation needed]

In 1987, O'Neal released the album Hearsay, which was certified gold in the US and yielded his biggest US hit in "Fake", which topped the R&B chart and reached #25 on the pop chart.[6] The song also peaked at #7 on the Billboard dance chart. The follow-up single, "Criticize", peaked at #4 on the R&B chart and #70 on the pop chart. The third single, "Never Knew Love Like This", another duet with Cherrelle, peaked at #2 on the R&B chart and #28 on the pop chart. However, by this time O'Neal was enjoying much greater success in the UK,[7] where Hearsay peaked at #4 on the UK Albums Chart, eventually being certified triple platinum and spawning six Top 40 hits on the UK Singles Chart. The most successful of these gave O'Neal his biggest UK hit when "Criticize" peaked at #4 on the chart in late 1987. "Fake" became a UK Top 40 hit twice, first in 1987 followed by a remix ("Fake '88") in 1988. The "Hit Mix" (a megamix of O'Neal's hits) also reached the UK Top 20 in December 1989.[citation needed]

In December 1988 O'Neal released a Christmas album, My Gift to You, featuring a cover of "The Christmas Song" that reached the UK Top 40.[7]

In 1991, O'Neal released his fourth album, All True Man.[7] The album was certified gold in the US, with the title track reaching #5 on the R&B chart and #43 on the pop chart. The album became his highest charting release in the UK, reaching #2 and going gold, although it ultimately sold fewer copies than Hearsay. The title track reached #18 on the UK Singles Chart. In 1992, his first greatest hits album, This Thing Called Love: The Greatest Hits of Alexander O'Neal, became another Top 5 success in the UK.[7]

In 1993, O'Neal's final album with the Tabu label, Love Makes No Sense, was released. This was the first album made without production from Jam and Lewis. Although it reached the UK Top 20 and two singles from the album reached the UK Top 40, sales were not as strong as his earlier releases. After leaving Tabu O'Neal signed for Motown, but no singles or albums were released.[8] In 1995, another greatest hits compilation, The Best of Alexander O'Neal, was released. A year later the compilation was re-released with three added tracks from O'Neal's short period with Motown.[9]

In 1996, his first album with One World Records, Lovers Again, was released. The album did not chart in the UK, though the single "Let's Get Together" reached the UK Top 40. In 2001, he released an album on Eagle Records, Saga of a Married Man. The album was produced by former Prince drummer, Bobby Z. In 2005, he recorded his first live album, Alexander O'Neal Live at Hammersmith Apollo, featuring songs from throughout his career.[citation needed]

In 2008, O'Neal released Alex Loves..., his first studio album in six years. The album peaked at #49 in the UK, and was his first charting album of new material in 15 years.

In 2014, O'Neal signed a new management deal with Howard Perl Management (Beverly Hills),[10] which awarded him extensive tours and a cast member on Celebrity Big Brother.

In June 2016, O'Neal collaborated with Manchester-based funk band, Mamma Freedom, on the single, "Fake", a re-recording of his 1987 single of the same name. The single was released shortly before O'Neal embarked upon a UK tour, with Mamma Freedom providing support.[citation needed]

In 2017, O'Neal collaborated with Manchester-based funk band Mamma Freedom on the album "Hearsay30", a re-recording of his 1987 album. The album was released on December 1, 2017.

In 2019, O'Neal made an appearance alongside Cherrelle at the Soul Train Awards[11] to pay tribute to long-time collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

In 2021, O'Neal made an appearance alongside Whyso, O'Mega Red, and J Dore of The High Children on "Say His Name," a song dedicated to the memory of George Floyd.[12]


In 2006 O'Neal appeared on the Weakest Link, All Singing All Dancing Edition, where he was the 5th contestant voted off the show. In 2006 and 2007, O'Neal participated on the British reality singing contest show Just the Two of Us. In 2008 O'Neal took part in a Wife Swap UK special, swapping his wife Cynthia with broadcaster and TV personality Jilly Goolden. The programme included an in-depth interview with O'Neal by noted UK R&B writer Pete Lewis of the award-winning magazine Blues & Soul. The interview was featured in full in the August 2008 issue of the magazine.[13]

In 2011 the TV One series Unsung profiled O'Neal's rise to fame, along with the story of Cherrelle.[14]

In 2015 O'Neal took part in the Channel 5 reality series Celebrity Big Brother. On Day 12, O'Neal decided to leave the show.[15]

Honors and awards[edit]

Star honoring Alexander O'Neal on the outside mural of the Minneapolis nightclub First Avenue

O'Neal was honored with a star on the outside mural of the Minneapolis nightclub First Avenue,[16] recognizing performers that have played sold-out shows or have otherwise demonstrated a major contribution to the culture at the iconic venue.[17] Receiving a star "might be the most prestigious public honor an artist can receive in Minneapolis," according to journalist Steve Marsh.[18]


Studio albums



  1. ^ a b c "Alexander O'Neal Biography, Songs, & Albums". AllMusic. Retrieved October 2, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Ebony Man: EM. Vol. 6. Johnson Publishing Company, Incorporated. November 1990. p. 72. UP-FRONT Alexander O'Neal the All True Man Returns in much the same fashion that legendary Motown singer Marvin Gaye ... Upon finishing high school in Natchez, he attended predominantly Black Alcorn State University in Lorman, Mississippi, before moving to . [...] In 1984, he inked a contract with Tabu/Epic Records, and the rest, as they say, is history.
  3. ^ a b Robert E. Rosenthal; Portia K. Maultsby (1985). Who's who in Black music. Edwards Print. Co. p. 180. Performed with local bands The Mystics, Wynd Chymes, Enterprise, and Flyte Tyme before joining he Time under Prince's direction. The Time recorded "Ice Cream Castles," "The Bird," and "Jungle Walk." O'Neal then formed Alexander, ...
  4. ^ a b Adam White; Fred Bronson (1993). The Billboard Book of Number One Rhythm & Blues Hits. Billboard Books. p. 393. ISBN 978-0-8230-8285-8. O'Neal was born in Natchez, Mississippi, but moved to Minneapolis when he was 20. He joined a ... After being replaced as lead vocalist by Morris Day, he formed a rock and roll band called Alexander. [...] O'Neal spent a short time in a group called Enterprise before being recruited into Flyte Tyme, a band that included Jam and Lewis as well as Monte Moir.
  5. ^ Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (March 9, 1985). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 33. ISSN 0006-2510. Alexander O'Neal's self-titled debut on Epic-distributed Tabu Records is quite impressive. ... Bred lo install Morris Day as lead singer of The Time, has a strong, masculine voice that is well produced by the Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis team with the aid of another ex-Time member, Monte Moir {{cite book}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  6. ^ Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (February 22, 2003). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 30. ISSN 0006-2510. {{cite book}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  7. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 913. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  8. ^ "Alexander O'Neal". May 5, 2007. Retrieved March 4, 2018.
  9. ^ "The Best of Alexander O'Neal releases". Retrieved March 4, 2018.
  10. ^ "| PR on datsyn - data syndication platform". Retrieved October 5, 2019.
  11. ^ "Soul Train Awards 2019: Watch All The Performances Here". Vibe. November 17, 2019. Retrieved January 23, 2020.
  12. ^ Say His Name ft Alexander O'Neal, Whyso, O'Mega Red, and J Dore, retrieved April 29, 2022
  13. ^ Pete Lewis (August 2008). "ALEXANDER O'NEAL: Life swap!".
  14. ^ Douglas, William (June 3, 2011). "TV series puts 'Unsung' black music stars back in the spotlight". Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 3, 2015.
  15. ^ "Day 12: Alexander leaves the Celebrity Big Brother House". Retrieved January 23, 2015.
  16. ^ "The Stars". First Avenue & 7th Street Entry. Archived from the original on April 18, 2020. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  17. ^ Bream, Jon (May 3, 2019). "10 things you'll learn about First Avenue in new Minnesota History Center show". Star Tribune. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  18. ^ Marsh, Steve (May 13, 2019). "First Avenue's Star Wall". Mpls.St.Paul Magazine. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. Retrieved May 10, 2020.

External links[edit]