New Edition is an American boy band from Boston, Massachusetts, formed in 1978. The group reached its height of popularity during the 1980s. They were the progenitors of the boy band movement of the 1980s and 1990s and led the way for groups like New Kids on the Block (also formed in the Boston area), The Boys, Boyz II Men, Hi-Five, Backstreet Boys, and N’Sync. The group recorded mostly as a quintet.
During the group’s first bout of fame in 1983, its members were Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Bobby Brown, Ronnie DeVoe, and Ralph Tresvant. Early hits included “Candy Girl,” “Cool It Now”, and “Mr. Telephone Man”. Brown was voted out of the group in 1985 and embarked on a solo career. The group continued for a time with its remaining four members, but eventually recruited singer Johnny Gill, who would be introduced on their 1988 album Heart Break. The group went on hiatus in 1990, while its various members worked on side projects, such as the group Bell Biv DeVoe. Gill and Tresvant also recorded successful solo albums.
All six members of New Edition reunited in 1996 to record the group’s sixth studio album Home Again. During the ill-fated Home Again Tour, both Bobby Brown and Michael Bivins eventually quit the group, forcing the remainder of the tour to be cancelled. Various reunions have occurred since, usually with the 1987-1990 lineup, though occasionally also including Brown. Their last studio album was 2004’s One Love. As of 2010, two New Edition descendants were recording and touring: Bell Biv DeVoe and Heads of State (which features Brown, Tresvant, and Gill).
On May 3, 2011 New Edition issued a press release on their official website announcing that all six members were reuniting as New Edition to kick off the 30th anniversary celebration of “Candy Girl” with their fans.
In 1978, childhood friends Bobby Brown, Michael Bivins, and Ricky Bell started a vocal group. The group had included two other friends Travis Pettus and Corey Rackley. All five kids lived in the Orchard Park housing projects in Roxbury, Boston. They later met Brooke Payne, a local manager and choreographer, who encountered the boys at a local talent show in Roxbury. After an audition for Payne, he gave them the name New Edition to signify they were a new edition of the Jackson 5. Rackley left the group and was replaced by another neighborhood friend Ralph Tresvant, whom Bell, Bivins, and Brown were already acquainted with and who sang with Ricky in a group called Ricky & Ralph. Travis Pettus eventually would leave the group as well. Later, Payne brought in his nephew Ronnie DeVoe to replace Pettus as the group’s fifth member.
The group scored its big break in 1982, performing at the local Hollywood Talent Night held at Boston’s Strand Theatre by singer/producer Maurice Starr. The first prize was $500 and a recording contract. Though the group came in second place, an impressed Starr decided to bring the group to his studio the following day to record what would become their debut album, Candy Girl. Released in 1983 on New York producer Arthur Baker’s Streetwise Records, the album featured the hits: “Is This The End”, “Popcorn Love”, “Jealous Girl”, and the title track, which went to number one on both the American R&B singles chart and the UK singles chart.
Returning from their first major concert tour, the boys were dropped off back at their homes in the projects and were given a check in the amount of $1.87 apiece for their efforts. Tour budget and expenses were given as the explanation as to why they were not paid more. Due to these financial reasons, New Edition parted company with Starr in 1984 (Starr responded by promptly creating the group New Kids on the Block, essentially formatted after New Edition, but with white teenagers.) The group, meanwhile, hired the law firm of Steven and Martin Machat and sued Streetwise for release from a contract that was unenforceable as well as materially breached by Streetwise. The Machats won the legal game and then secured the group a bigger recording deal with major label MCA Records, which won the bidding war among various other major labels. In need of management, the group signed with Steven Machat and his two management partners Rick Smith and Bill Dern. The management company, AMI, proceeded to escalate the group’s profile in both the urban and pop music worlds. Through the production affiliate of AMI, Jump and Shoot, MCA released the group’s self-titled second album the same year. Eclipsing their debut album, New Edition spun off the top five hit “Cool It Now” and the top twenty “Mr. Telephone Man”, and went on to be certified double platinum in the United States.
While promoting their second album, the group was dismayed to realize that they weren’t actually signed to MCA Records, but instead with the production company Jump and Shoot, which had its own deal with MCA; subsequently, all business matters pertaining to the group were controlled by the former. To buy themselves out of the stifling production deal, each of the five members borrowed $100,000 from MCA. Though it effectively separated the group from Jump and Shoot and allowed them to sign a new (and very long-term) contract to record for MCA directly, they were now in mortgage to the label. As a result, the group would be forced to continually record and tour during this period in order to pay off its debt.
New Edition’s third album, All for Love, was released in the latter half of 1985. While not duplicating the success of its predecessor, the album was certified platinum, and spawned the hits “Count Me Out”, “A Little Bit Of Love (Is All It Takes)”, and “With You All the Way”. The growing popularity of the group led to a guest appearance (as themselves) in the 1985 film Krush Groove, performing “My Secret”. Toward the year’s end, Christmas All Over The World, a holiday EP, was released as well as an oldies album of tunes from the ’50s sung by the group with an ’80s production style.
Under pressure from MCA and their management, the group voted Bobby Brown out in December 1985, due to behavioral problems. Brown embarked on a solo career in 1986, while New Edition continued to promote All for Love as a quartet. In spite of their financial and internal conflicts, New Edition continued to peak. During this era of the group’s evolution, the group appeared in the episode of Knight Rider titled “Knight Song”, performing Count Me Out. As 1986 wound to a close, they recorded a cover of The Penguins 1954 hit “Earth Angel” for the soundtrack to The Karate Kid, Part II. The song peaked at number twenty-one and inspired the group to record Under the Blue Moon, an album of doo-wop covers.
After having already lost a member when Bobby Brown was terminated from the group, New Edition’s future became uncertain when murmurings began to surface that lead singer Ralph Tresvant was eyeing a solo career as well. To pad his potential departure, singer Johnny Gill was voted into the group by Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ron DeVoe in 1987, despite Tresvant ultimately deciding to remain in place. A native of Washington, D.C., Johnny Gill is the only non-Boston native among the group’s six members. According to IMDb:
“Ralph (who was working on a solo album at the time) felt uneasy with Johnny taking Bobby Brown’s place. After Ralph and Johnny laid some vocals, the two became very close friends and have been that way ever since.”
New Edition’s fifth studio release, Heart Break— which also featured Gill as the co-lead vocalist — was released in the summer of 1988. Primarily produced by the production team of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, the album was a departure from the group’s previous bubblegum sound, and instead took on a smoother, stronger, and more adult resonance. Spinning off five hit singles: “If It Isn’t Love,” “You’re Not My Kind of Girl,” “Can You Stand The Rain,” “Crucial” and “N.E. Heartbreak”; Heart Break became New Edition’s most commercially successful album up to that point, certified double platinum in the United States, with worldwide sales of close to four million. The success of Heart Break would launch the group on a successful concert tour as well in the closing months of 1988; Serving as the opening act along with Al B. Sure! and former member Bobby Brown.
Inspired by the substantial success Bobby Brown was having with his multi-platinum 1988 breakthrough album Don’t Be Cruel, after the run of Heart Break, New Edition went on hiatus to pursue side projects away from the group. At the suggestion of producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ron DeVoe formed a trio, Bell Biv DeVoe. Their 1990 debut album, Poison, went quadruple platinum. The same year, lead singers Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill (who had already recorded as a solo act prior to joining New Edition) also released self-titled solo albums, which also achieved multi-platinum success. Later that year, the group (including Bobby Brown) had a semi-reunion of sorts when they performed at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards. In 1991, all six members again reunited to record a remix of the Bell Biv DeVoe track “Word to the Mutha!”; Brown, Gill and Tresvant also appeared in the music video. Prior to this, Brown also appeared in the music videos for Bell Biv DeVoe’s “BBD (I Thought It Was Me)” video, as well as Tresvant’s “Stone Cold Gentleman” and “Sensitivity” remix videos.
By 1996, the members of New Edition had arguably achieved greater commercial success with their own side projects than the group had during its run. However, after having promised fans that there would be a reunion—and still contractually owing MCA Records another New Edition album—the group (with Bobby Brown) reunited to record Home Again, their first new album in eight years. The album debuted at number one on both the Billboard 200 and R&B Albums chart, and became the most commercially successful album of the group’s career; reaching double platinum status in the United States and selling over four million copies worldwide. Meanwhile, Home Again produced several hits, including the top ten pop hits: “Hit Me Off” and “I’m Still In Love With You”. However, the ensuing 1997 Home Again Tour would prove disastrous for the group. Despite not having toured together in close to a decade (and over ten years for Brown), old rivalries and struggles for on stage dominance resurfaced as if no time had passed. By the middle leg of the tour, one evening at a concert in Las Cruces, NM as Brown was extending his solo set, Ronnie DeVoe attempted to pull Brown off the stage. Brown responded by dropping his microphone and a fist fight between the two ensued. This led to both members’ security guards confronting each other, gun play was brought in, and the concert was halted. Bivins and Brown left the tour early, while DeVoe, Bell, Gill, and Tresvant finished out the rest of the tour as a quartet. Brown later admitted during an interview that he was intoxicated during the tour. Each of the group members again went their separate ways, this time on more hostile terms than ever; resulting in an indefinite hiatus that appeared to be the swan song for New Edition.
Also in 1996, the three solo members of New Edition (Brown, Gill and Tresvant) joined Monica and Faith Evans to collaborate with Whitney Houston on a recording of the gospel standard Somebody Bigger Than You and I that appeared on the soundtrack to Houston’s movie The Preacher’s Wife.
After their second wave of solo pursuits proved less than successful, New Edition (sans Bobby Brown) reunited once more and began touring clubs, casinos, and small arenas in 2002; including appearing on The Tom Joyner Sky Show. After having caught the attention of rapper/producer Sean Combs, who was present at one of their shows, he signed the group to his Bad Boy Records label, after their long term contract with MCA Records finally expired.
In the fall of 2004, New Edition’s seventh studio album and Bad Boy debut, One Love, was released. Though the album debuted at number twelve on the Billboard 200, it had a steady descent from the chart. The lead-off single, “Hot 2Nite,” underperformed; peaking at number thirty-five and number eighty-seven on the R&B and Pop singles charts, respectively. During production of the album, the group disagreed with Combs on its creative direction. In an interview, Ricky Bell later revealed that Combs’ had refused to pay New Edition’s long time producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis for a track that the group wanted on the album. Reportedly, Combs told the group they were over budget, despite their having used many of Bad Boy’s in-house team of writers and producers on the album. Ultimately, the group asked to be released from their Bad Boy contract. Despite the messy divorce with Bad Boy, New Edition soldiered on and continued to tour.
In the fall of 2005, New Edition performed a medley of hits at BET’s 25th Anniversary Special. During their set, they brought Bobby Brown out onstage for an impromptu rendition of their 1985 hit “Mr. Telephone Man”. It was later announced on BET and Access Hollywood that Brown had reconciled with New Edition and planned to rejoin the group for its future concert dates and studio albums.
On August 26, 2006, New Edition filmed a concert at the University of South Carolina’s Koger Center in Columbia set for a future DVD release, the concert was billed as “Spend the Night with New Edition”, a BET special presented by Lincoln with whom the group has advertised. Bobby Brown also made an appearance at the show.
In 2008, the group (minus Brown) recorded a new song with New Kids on the Block called “Full Service” for their latest album, The Block. Meanwhile, Brown, Tresvant and Gill formed a new side group called Heads of State, which performed at “The Summit Tour” in 2009. According to Gill, their group name “is inspired by the original name for The Rat Pack called “The Summit” or “The Heads of State”.
On June 28, 2009, the group performed a medley of Jackson 5 hits in tribute to Michael Jackson on the BET Awards. Led by Ralph Tresvant, Bobby Brown, and Ricky Bell, New Edition sang and danced through classics such as “I Want You Back”, “ABC” and “The Love You Save”. Later that year, Ricky Bell and Johnny Gill joined New Kids on the Block onstage at a House Of Blues benefit show for Toys for Tots in Boston, performing “Full Service” and “This One’s for the Children”.
Gill later confirmed that New Edition had signed with manager Irving Azoff, that they are currently signed with Geffen Records (which absorbed the group’s old label, MCA, and controls the group’s back catalog) and was slating to release a comeback album.
On July 3, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana, all six members of New Edition reunited at the Essence Music Festival to kick off and celebrate their 30th anniversary tour. “This is just the beginning. We’re preparing for a world tour and many other exciting things that we’ll be announcing soon. The next chapter of New Edition is going to be an incredible celebration to thank our fans for all of their support over the last 30 years,” said Bell speaking on behalf of the group.
In February 2012, Brown would miss a handful of dates due to the death of ex-wife Whitney Houston. On March 9 and 11, 2012, Bobby Brown and Bell Biv DeVoe made their African debut by performing in Nigeria.
In late 2012, New Edition received the Lifetime Achievement Award during the Soul Train Awards ceremony. All six members appeared together onstage that evening.
In August 2015, B.E.T announced a three night miniseries about the group would be made for release in January 2017. Five members signed on to be co-producers of the production, Ronnie DeVoe, Ricky Bell, Johnny Gill, Michael Bivins, and Ralph Tresvant. Jesse Collins Entertainment will be the executive producer of the original miniseries, which will be B.E.T’s first scripted music-focused TV movie. The group’s original choreographer and longtime manager Brooke Payne will also serve as a co-producer. Bobby Brown has now signed off to co-produce the film as well making it all six members to sign on.
On June 28 2016, Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and Walk of Famer Vin Di Bona announced New Edition’s induction into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Recording. On January 23, 2017, New Edition received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for their contributions to the music industry, located at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard. On January 24, 2017 BET featured a biopic The New Edition Story which chronicles the band members life from the childhood into Hollywood fame. It was directed by Chris Robinson and Executive Producer Jessie Collins. The group served as co-producers.
Listen to some of their songs below
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