Vocal prowess has always been Boyz II Men’s forté. In fact, the harmony-rich “One Sweet Day” -- billed to Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men -- continues to reign as the longest-running No. 1 single in history on the Billboard Hot 100 at 16 weeks. Another of the group’s five Hot 100 chart-toppers, “I’ll Make Love to You,” is tied for the second-longest run on that tally.
Now Boyz II Men’s Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman are harmonizing on a new project: the story of doo-wop. The trio is simultaneously recording an album for release later this year through its MSM Music Group label and executive producing a documentary chronicling doo-wop’s colorful journey from the streets to mainstream radio.
During a recent sit-down at Los Angeles’ East West Studios, Nathan Morris and Stockman (sans Wanya) dropped a few hints about the acts and producers involved (Claude McKnight of Take 6, Jimmy Merchant of Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, Lamont Dozier). To helm the documentary half of the package, the trio has partnered with Tango Films’ Tim Headington (Young Victoria), Hatcreek Films’ Brent Wilson (The Last Reunion) and Footnote Films’ Theresa Page.
Billboard: Why is it important to tell the doo-wop story?
Nathan: It’s the backbone of all urban music. This is the stuff that guys did when they didn’t have instruments. They’d stand around on street corners and use their voices to put harmonies together; make sounds with their lips to create the drums and other instruments. Move forward to today: it’s pretty watered down to where there are people singing just one or two lines and now that’s a song. You kind of forget that vocals were what was supposed to carry a song years ago. This documentary will let people see where it all came from and why it’s important to put the vocal part back into what we listen to today.
Shawn: And doo-wop isn’t just a one-genre type of music. For example, I saw actor Jimmy Smits when we were promoting our last album. He told me, “I love you guys because you remind me of a doo-wop group I was in back in New York.” He’s Latino and was in a doo-wop group. Doo-wop cross-pollinates every nationality: white, black, Latino; it’s across the board. There’s something about harmony; something about a couple of guys or girls getting together and singing a few notes. It’s magical and feels good to do it.