The Undisputed Truth

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The Undisputed Truth was a 1970s Motown recording act, assembled by record producer Norman Whitfield as a means for being able to experiment with his psychedelic soul production techniques. Joe Harris served as main lead singer, with Billie Rae Calvin and Brenda Joyce Evans, formerly of The Delicates, on additional leads and background vocals.

History[edit]

The group's music and unusual costuming (large Afros and white makeup) typified the then-popular trend of "psychedelic soul" which producer Norman Whitfield had inaugurated. A number of their singles became minor hits, and many of them were also songs for Whitfield's main act, The Temptations, among them 1971's "You Make Your Own Heaven and Hell Right Here on Earth" and "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone". Their single Top 40 hit in the United States was the ominous "Smiling Faces Sometimes," originally recorded by The Temptations, which hit #3 on the US pop charts in 1971.

Although they could never recreate the success of "Smiling Faces" they continued to make chart appearances throughout the early 1970s. Still under the production of Norman Whitfield, they found some success with songs like "What It Is" (1972) and "Law Of The Land" (1973; also recorded by The Temptations) making it onto the US R&B Charts. In 1973, nevertheless, dissatisfied with the lack of major success, Brenda Evans left. Norman Whitfield then took the opportunity to expand the group, and Joe Harris and Billie Calvin were joined by Virginia "V" McDonald, Tyrone "Big Ty" Douglas and Tyrone "Lil Ty" Barkley. The latter three were all members of The Magictones, a Detroit soul group with similarities to George Clinton's pre-Funkadelic Parliament. This group was in existence briefly before Billie Calvin left and Calvin "Dhaak" Stephenson, another former Magictone, joined. Joe Harris continued as lead male singer and Virginia McDonald took over as female lead, while the others carried out backing vocals.

This new group scored several minor hits, like "Help Yourself" and "I'm A Fool For You" (both 1974). "Help Yourself" became their second ever Top 20 R&B hit, peaking at #19, and reached #63 on the Hot 100, the highest position attained by any Undisputed Truth record for Motown besides their hit "Smiling Faces Sometimes". In 1975, the group's costuming and style changed, becoming even more unusual and Funkadelic-influenced. Their final albums for Motown, Cosmic Truth and Higher Than High (both 1975), yielded minor R&B chartings, although the latter landed them a #3 on the US Dance Charts with the song "Spaced Out".

The Undisputed Truth, along with Rose Royce and Willie Hutch, followed Whitfield during his exodus from Motown to set up Whitfield Records in 1975. Both Virginia McDonald and Tyrone Douglas then left. The group went through many personnel changes thereafter, although original member Joe Harris remained with the group throughout. Taka Boom, Chaka Khan's sister, took over as female lead singer for 1976's Method To The Madness and Marcy Thomas replaced her for 1979's Smokin. Former member Billie Calvin later wrote songs for Whitfield's other group Rose Royce, including the hit single "Wishing On A Star".

The group had relatively little success at their new label, and faded into obscurity after two more albums. They did make their only ever entry into the UK Singles Chart in January 1977 (#43) with the disco single "You + Me = Love" from the album Method to the Madness.[1] The song reached #48 on the Billboard Hot 100, their second highest position ever on the chart (and the highest during their tenure at Whitfield Records). It also performed well on the Dance Charts, reaching #2.

The group disbanded in the early 1980s following the collapse of Whitfield Records.

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Gordy releases
Whitfield releases
  • 1976: Method To The Madness (US #66, R&B #19)
  • 1979: Smokin'

Singles[edit]

Year Title US US
R&B
US
Dance
US
AC
UK Album
1971 "Save My Love for a Rainy Day"
43
The Undisputed Truth
"Smiling Faces Sometimes"
3
2
34
"You Make Your Own Heaven and Hell Right Here on Earth"
72
24
1972 "What It Is"
71
35
Face to Face With the Truth
"Papa Was a Rollin' Stone"
63
24
"Girl You're Alright"
107
43
1973 "Mama I Got a Brand New Thing (Don't Say No)"
46
Law of the Land
"Law of the Land"
40
1974 "Help Yourself"
63
19
Down To Earth
"I'm a Fool for You"
39
"Lil' Red Ridin' Hood"
106
1975 "UFO's"
62
Cosmic Truth
"Spaced Out"
3
"Earthquake Shake"
"Higher Than High"
77
Higher Than High
1976 "Let's Go Down to the Disco"
48
68
2
Method To The Madness
"You + Me = Love"
37
43
"Sunshine"
109
1979 "Show Time (Part I)"
55
Smokin'

References[edit]

  1. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 576. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 

External links[edit]