Four voices, two cities: Boyz II Men connect Philadelphia and Detroit, the Motor City.
- First hit: “Motownphilly”
- Biggest hit: “I’ll Make Love To You”
- Top album: II
- Career highlight: A chartbusting total of 50 weeks – count ’em, 50 – at No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100
- March 1989 in Philadelphia, a group of young men from the city — baritone Nathan Morris, bass Michael McCary and tenors Shawn Stockman and Wanya Morris —sneak backstage to audition, impromptu, for members of New Edition. They confidently sing “Can You Stand The Rain,” New Edition’s most recent No. 1 on the R&B charts, and member Michael Bivins is impressed. He signs the group, then called Unique Attraction, to Motown Records. “When we got our deal,” says Stockman, “our managers had to tell us to shut up because all we did was sing.”
- Re-named Boyz II Men, after, yes, a New Edition song, the group records their debut album, Cooleyhighharmony. It was an immediate breakthrough, yielding several major R&B/pop hits in 1991-92 while selling five million copies. The group was nominated for Best New Artist at the 1992 GRAMMY® Awards and won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. One of the album’s biggest hits is “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday,” a remake of a 1975 ballad by Motown’s G.C. Cameron, originally featured in the cult film Cooley High – the movie that inspired Boyz II Men’s debut LP title. “We grew up on the Motown sound and the Philadelphia sound,” says Wanya Morris. “We’re trying to reconnect those two and bring them back.
- Boyz II Men catapult to international success with the album II, which becomes one of the biggest-selling albums of the decade. From the LP, “I’ll Make Love To You” is No. 1 for 14 weeks, breaking their own record run; “On Bended Knee” immediately follows it at the top, making the group only the third act ever to replace itself at the Hot 100 summit, after Elvis Presley and the Beatles. In a duet with Mariah Carey, “One Sweet Day,” which spends 16 weeks at No. 1, Boyz II Men top themselves again. “We sing about love,” says Stockman. “Finding love, enjoying love, dealing with not having love.”
- Following The Remix Collection, the group issues Evolution, which includes the smash hits “4 Seasons Of Loneliness,” another No. 1, and “Song For Mama,” featured in the film Soul Food and a perennial favorite. Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya, including “Pass You By,” is their final LP for Universal/Motown in 2000.
- Michael McCary departs the group in 2003, but Nathan Morris, Shawn Stockman and Wanya Morris rediscover their roots with the 2007 album Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA, featuring new interpretations of “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me),” “The Tracks Of My Tears,” “I Was Made To Love Her,” “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” and more. Issued by Decca, the album also includes a fresh, acappella version of “End Of The Road,” with Brian McKnight adding guest vocals.
- “I want to thank the great music legends who came before us, the ones whose musical traditions we still try to uphold and maintain to this day,” says Nathan Morris. “We’ve got some years to go to catch all those Motown guys, but let’s enjoy the chase.”