About the song
Welcome to the Soul Music Blog, where we explore the stories behind some of the most iconic songs of the genre. Today, we are going to talk about “Use Ta Be My Girl”, a 1978 hit by The O’Jays, one of the most successful vocal groups of the 1970s.
“Use Ta Be My Girl” was written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, the legendary producers and songwriters who created the Philadelphia soul sound. The song was inspired by Gamble’s own experience of losing his girlfriend to another man. He told Billboard in 1978: “I was going with this girl for a long time and she just walked out on me. I was hurt and I wrote ‘Use Ta Be My Girl’ as a way of expressing my feelings.”
The song was recorded by The O’Jays, who had already scored several hits with Gamble and Huff, such as “Back Stabbers”, “Love Train” and “For the Love of Money”. The group consisted of Eddie Levert, Walter Williams and William Powell, who had been singing together since the late 1950s. They had a distinctive style of harmonizing, with Levert’s powerful lead vocals and Williams and Powell’s smooth background vocals.
“Use Ta Be My Girl” was released as a single in April 1978 and became an instant success. It reached number one on the Billboard R&B chart and number four on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also topped the charts in Canada and South Africa, and was a top ten hit in several other countries. The song sold over two million copies and was certified platinum by the RIAA.
The song was praised by critics and fans alike for its catchy melody, soulful groove and emotional lyrics. It also showcased The O’Jays’ vocal talents and charisma. The song has been covered by many artists over the years, such as Al Green, Teddy Pendergrass and Boyz II Men. It remains one of the most popular songs by The O’Jays and a classic of soul music.