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In Memoriam: One-Hit Wonders on Buddah Records – The 5 Stairsteps’ James Burke and singer-songwriter Jim Weatherly

Remembering James Burke of The 5 Stairsteps’ “O-o-h Child” and Jim Weatherly’s “The Need to Be” plus “Midnight Train to Georgia” as a songwriter
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In 1970, as the late 1960s bubblegum music era ended for Buddah Records, the label successfully promoted their soul group, The 5 Stairsteps, who had a pair of Top 40 soul hits on the label in 1968, “Something’s Missing” and “A Million to One.” As the new decade began, the Chicago Burke siblings achieved their sole Top 40 pop hit, “O-o-h Child,” with the members singing lead on different parts, beginning with the only female, Alohe “Lannie,” along with her brothers Keni on bass, Dennis on drums and guitar, Clarence, Jr. on guitar, and also on guitar, James, who passed away on February 19 at the age of 70. The soothing “O-o-h Child” became a gold single for the quintet in the year when The Jackson 5 scored 4 consecutive No. 1 singles for Motown.

The 5 Stairsteps

O-o-h Child

Top 100 debut: May 2, 1970

Peak position: 8

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As Motown moved from Detroit to Los Angeles in the early 1970s, Gladys Knight & The Pips left the Motown family, joined the east coast Buddah team, and achieved their sole No. 1 pop hit with “Midnight Train to Georgia,” written by Jim Weatherly, who passed away on February 3 at the age of 77. In his Goldmine 2008 interview Jim revealed that his original composition, called “Midnight Plane to Houston,” was inspired by a conversation with Farah Fawcett and said, “I’ve had so many people all over the world say, ‘That is absolutely my favorite song of all-time.’” Jim also wrote two other Top 5 hits for Gladys Knight & The Pips, “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” and “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.”

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In addition to being a songwriter for others in the 1970s, Jim also achieved his sole Top 40 hit as a performer with his composition “The Need to Be.” This soft ballad fell just one notch short of the pop Top 10 in 1974. The following year, Jim would reach the country Top 10 with “I’ll Still Love You.”

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Jim Weatherly

The Need to Be

Top 100 debut: September 14, 1974

Peak position: 11

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