| Courtesy of Panther PR
R & B singer Howard Hewett knew early on that he wanted to be a star. He was born and raised in Akron, OH but later moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dreams. Hewett got his shot when he was introduced to Soul Train dancers Jody Watley, famous for hits like “Looking for a New Love,” and “Don’t You Want Me” and Jeffrey Daniels.
The trio formed the most successful version of the group Shalamar. Hewett was the group’s lead singer. Shalamar released several albums before disbanding and had several top hits such as “Second Time Around,” and a “Night to Remember.” Recently, the Banner caught up with Hewett to chat about two of his major interests, music and education.
I read online that you’ve never performed in Boston is that true?
That’s not true. I’ve been to Boston many times through the years.
Nice. When you visit, did you have a chance to check out the city and if so what was your favorite local spot?
I didn’t have much time. I always came to Boston and worked. Years ago when I was with the group [Shalamar] we went some places but that was so long ago, I don’t even remember. I don’t play Boston often, but when I do play especially the last few years, I play and then I’m gone.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Relax. You want to know what I’m doing right now. I’m sitting in my back yard, lying in a hammock. The sun is feeling real good. Just finished a bunch of stuff and I decided to chill out for 30 minutes. I took most of the month of January off. People ask ‘Where did you go?’ I didn’t go anywhere. I stayed home. [When I take time off] Last thing I want to see is an airport and a hotel.
I know that you’ve released some gospel music. When you first started your singing career, did you struggle with singing secular music over gospel?
I’ve really never done totally secular music. Secular really means without God. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything without God. When I did “Say Amen,” it became a standard. Ever since then, people always wonder if I still do R&B.
I was raised up in a house full of women. I have four older sisters. I’m aware of doing music that’s not going to explicit or offensive, I talk about romance and relationships. I can take you to the bedroom, but not into the bedroom. So, I never had a struggle with it. I kind of wondered. But it wasn’t the music, but more lifestyle situations.
I’m a huge fan of BET’s “UnSung.” I watched the episode on Shalamar. Was the group portrayed accurately? Were you contacted or consulted about it before it aired?
That’s one of the things I did like about “UnSung.” It’s pretty accurate. It’s up to the artist how much dirty laundry they want to air. They still stay on point. I remember when it happened. They asked me if the rest of the group would be interested. I asked for DVD’s because I’d never seen it. So they sent me the episodes on Debarge, Donny Hathaway, Phyllis Hyman and the Clark Sisters. I forgot where I was going but I was flying on an airplane and I had enough time to watch Donny and DeBarge. When I got to the hotel, I called the producer back. I told them I thought it would be a really cool thing. But, we don’t have any drug horror stories [like DeBarge].
Nobody really did any drugs in the group or had mental illness [like Donny Hathaway]. Although, that could be pretty subjective depending on who you’re talking to (chuckles). I always dug that format. They got some good info about what went down. They told a complete story.
You’ve been in a group and had a great solo career. Which do you prefer?
I feel a lot more comfortable doing my own thing. [In groups] people grow in their own individual lives so they have individual needs and agendas. That’s natural. I know my capacity for certain things. Limitations as far as what I want to do and don’t. It’s not predicated on anyone else’s situation. It’s better this way.
Will you be performing hits from Shalamar as well as solo stuff?
Both. Shalamar is my foundation. My recording foundation. That’s when I developed my recording artist situation. It helped develop my sound. I don’t believe anything can stand without a strong foundation. It strengthened my foundation for what I do now.
So, I’ll do a Shalamar medley and I have to do “For the Lover in You” it’s classic. I’ll get run out of town if I don’t do that one.
Are you involved in any charities?
Um, the things I enjoyed getting involved with in the past have been charities that deal with diabetes. My mom was diabetic. From as early as I can remember, I used to give her her shot. She died from complications with diabetes.
Now, I’m starting to research and get more into education. That’s such an important thing. To be a force in the global community, education is key.
Did you go to college?
I went to Kent State for a while. A really short time. Then I went out to Cali at 20. I also went to a city college for a short time. Bowling was the only class I completed. But education is needed even more today. I have this conversation with all my kids. They say, “ You didn’t go to college.” You know that saying ‘you have o be in the right place at the right time.’ There’s a part of that saying that people don’t grasp onto. It’s just as important to be at the right place at the right time and be prepared. Sometimes opportunities only knock once or twice in your life.
What the best advice you’ve ever received?
There’s a bunch. But, when I first started making money, someone said I need a good attorney and CPA and that’s it. I followed that advice. I had a couple of bad ones. But they weren’t that bad.
Also, Don Cornelius whenever I would see him, he would be in his car, a black convertible Rolls Royce. I would be up in Beverly Hills and he would be sitting in there. We would talk for an hour a half.
He would say ‘I’m not right 100 percent of the time, but I’m right about 80 percent of the time. If you can get 80 percent, then you’re doing really good.’ So I have my 80 percent rules. I’m an 80 percent man. That’s pretty good right?
Howard Hewett is performing at the Russell Auditorium on Saturday May 26th at 9:00pm. 80 Talbot Avenue Boston, MA 02124.
Tickets are on sale at: Nubian Notion, 146 Dudley Street, Roxbury (617-442-4425) Skippy Whites Records, 1971 Columbus Ave, Roxbury (617-524-4500) Mobile Gas Station, Blue Hill Ave, Mattapan Square (617-296-2245) Russell Auditorium (Jimmy @ 617-224-2147) * To purchase tickets over the phone: Call Brown Paper Tickets at 1-800-838-3006, option 1 (BrownPaperTickets.com) HOT97Boston.com