The O’Jays and Donald Trump were willing bedfellows in the past for, well, the love of money. But that doesn’t make the long-lived R&B vocal group fans of the Trump presidency.
The O’Jays’ 1974 Philadelphia International hit “For The Love Of Money” was famously the theme song for Trump’s hit reality series The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice. “I made a nice buck with Donald Trump from using ‘For The Love Of Money,'” co-founder Eddie Levert tells Billboard. “He’s not a bad paymaster. His check cleared.” But earlier this year Levert and his fellow O’Jays asked Trump to stop using their 1972 single “Love Train” at his presidential campaign rallies, which drew a bit of ire from the now President-elect’s camp.
“They got on me about it, said I got enough money from him so now I can kick dirt in his face,” Levert recalls. “But I have a right to like what I like. I have the right to pick the people I want to follow and want to be associated with. I’m for change, but I don’t think [Trump] is the guy who will take us to the change he was talking about. All I hear from him is ‘we’re gonna build a wall’ and ‘Hillary Clinton is a crook.’ What the hell? I never hear anything about how we’re gonna make America great again, just that we are.
“I wish him the best, but I don’t think he’s the man to run our country. So when he started using ‘Love Train,’ I called him up and told them, ‘Listen, man, I don’t believe in what you’re doing. I’m not with you. I don’t want you to use my voice. I’m not condoning what you’re doing.”
Even tough Trump “did not take that well,” the O’Jays managed not to become a Twitter target from Trump’s famously acidic fingertips.
“Maybe I’m not big enough to be tweeted about,” Levert quips. “He can be seen with Kanye West. I know how people are. You’d rather be seen with Snoop Dogg instead of Eddie Levert. I’m not bad-rapping those guys, but what about the people who are not in the club, who are just trying to be citizens and good people that are part of the world. There’s nothing for us, right?”
Like many, Levert was disappointed by the disparity between Trump’s Electoral College victory and the popular vote, which Clinton won by more than 2.8 million votes. And he was disturbed by some of the rhetoric he heard from Trump’s supporters during, and since, the campaign. “His followers were like…they were racist!” Levert notes. “Everybody has the right to like and dislike what they want, but all of these people were just blatant out and out crazy, and then you ask them, ‘Why are you following Donald Trump?’ and they’d say some shit like ‘he has a TV show.’ That’s why you follow him? What the fuck are you talking about?!”
Trump’s ascendance hasn’t stopped the O’Jays from performing “For The Love Of Money” — “You can’t stop me from doing THAT song,” Levert says — but the group is hoping to add to its catalog during 2017. “We’re not that far along yet. We’re still picking the material, and then we’re debating on producers,” Levert reports. We really would love to get Ron Fair and Gamble & Huff involved in it. We feel like we’ve had great success with the two of them, so we’re still working on getting the components together. We hope to have it done by the time summer comes.”