Osborne still old school

Published on October 20th, 2019

By Jim Dail

Times are certainly different in the music business, but singer Jeffrey Osborne is still old school, whether talking about his new record from 2018 Worth it All, his time on stage or just life.

Osborne, who released his first album in 13 years in 2018, will bring a career of hits to Thornton Winery as part of the 2019 Champagne Jazz Concert Series on Sunday.

“I wanted to do an old school record that covered my roots,” he said. “That was my thing. I wanted to go back to some of the LTD days and do songs like we used to do. I wanted to use real musicians, especially from my band. They are all over my record.”

He knew it probably wasn’t going to be big on radio.

“It was just you get to the point where you are not getting much airplay, so I had to think do I want to sell out and be like these kids today or stay in my roots,” he said. “The radio will play the old stuff but not all that often. A lot of these radio DJs and personalities don’t have the liberty to play what they want to play. They are given a list and this is what they play.”

Yet, it doesn’t shock him.

“It’s all good, and I understand it because when I was coming up with LTD, my favorite artists were getting what I was getting now,” he said. “It’s a demographic they are shooting for, people 16-25 years of age, and that seems to be what generates record sales.”

Osborne grew up in Providence, R.I., the youngest of 12, which definitely affected his ability to listen to his music.

“Back then I was listening to Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Night, Barbra Streisand and Tony Bennett,” he said. “Growing up I’d listen to Motown and Otis Redding, people like that but I was the youngest of 12 so I had to wait my turn to listen to what I wanted to hear.”

Of course, he turned the tables on his kids.

I became my father, my parents, yelling “Get that stuff off,” he laughed. “Funny thing is my son now works with me, and the most incredible thing is he’s going backwards and now he’s into old school music. He understands how to do it so he appreciates it!”

He definitely doesn’t want to copy what is going on today.

“Auto-tune is a sound today,” he said. “Even though it’s covering up all the pitch problem, the sound to me is just not exciting. These kids today don’t have an identity.”

Osborne definitely has his own.

“I have without a doubt,” he said. “I’ve always felt it’s important to stay true to who you are instead of trying to change.”

Some know, but many do not, that Osborne was actually a drummer at first.

“When I first joined LTD as a drummer/singer, I played and sang at the same time,” he said. “In 1975 when we had the record ‘Love Ballads,’ we were told we have five horn players standing in front of the drummer and no one can see me sing. Well, I came out from behind the drums, but I didn’t know what to do with my hands and off they went. I got a theater teacher named Winston Butler from Los Angeles City College, and he worked with me for a few months and taught me how to be comfortable.”

There was an acting secret that worked the same for a musician.

“He taught me the most important thing is to project and reach the last person in the last seat, which is why actors will reach out with their arms on stage,” he said. “If you reach the last person, you reach the whole audience.”

He’s also a master of appealing to the audience through his songs and the arrangement in terms of order. For example, “On the Wings of Love” is not the show stopper or encore.

“It’s a great song, but it’s not the most exciting,” he said. “Encores to me sometimes work the opposite way. You have the whole crowd going then it fizzles out as opposed to making the show better. That’s why I don’t do encores. My thing has been to leave everyone wanting more. Now, sometimes a promoter wants you to do an encore and that’s okay.”

On the other hand, “You should be mine,” is an audience grabber, particularly because the audience gets to try out the vocals.

“That’s a great one because it really has the audience going,” he said. “Some can sing and some can’t, and that’s what makes it fun is the bad ones! The audience loves it.”

He’s having fun every day in his life and on stage.

“It’s hard to fool people,” he said. “They kind of feel the energy, and they can tell if you are going through the motions.”


Where: Thornton Winery, 32575 Rancho California Rd. Temecula

When: 4 p.m. Sunday, October 20

Admission: General admission $85. Gourmet supper: $170

Information: Call 951-699-3021 or visit Website, www.thorntonwine.com


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