You’ve heard it: “Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky, Mike, Ralph, and Johnny,” the famous titled song from three members of N.E. Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe make up the 90s band Bell Biv DeVoe, best known for “Poison,” released in 1990. Before so, BBD belonged to the Boston, Massachusetts discovered super group, New Edition. Ralph Tresvant, whom later became the lead singer as we’ve come to know, Bobby Brown, Mike, and Ricky were the original four members of N.E, playing on the playground in Orchard Park Projects in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood in 1978 is where it all started. Ronnie DeVoe later joined in 1980. There you have it, a boy band that tugged the heart strings of young girls from that era to hang posters on their bedroom walls and in their school lockers. They had the vocals, the steps, the stage presence, and the looks. They were on fire, the best since J5, and you can say that manager and Ronnie’s uncle, Brooke Payne was responsible for the vision. He gave the boys their name and their image. He knew those boys had it and they did.
They had major success with first single, “Candy Girl,” which gave the boys their own unique sound early in 1983. It was a very profound rich R&B, but teen Popish vibe and also, at that time with a very mature feel; like “I’m young, but I’m ready.” Their style, music, and dance gave breath to the new jack swing infused with Hip-Hop and pop culture. Their popularity grew and so did they. After being cheated out of money, like $1.87, with false promises and real dreams, N.E. wised up with age and experience and with the help of the “moms”. Michael Bivins stepped up to learn the business real quick and fired their then crooked manager and agent, Gary Evans. The guys were under fake pretenses this whole time about their contract and label. Mike found out about “Fast Break Productions,” and confronted MCA executive, Jheryl Busby and he gave it to him straight. While all along, solo deals were in the works. Fights, babies, and drugs had also started to play apart, in addition to the start to climb out of the financial hole, getting the money issue resolved.
At this point the guys had already been strong in the money, but they never saw it. ‘N.E. Heartbreak’ went on to be their biggest and best selling album thus far after touring all over the states and internationally, the guys still were in debt trying to play catch-up; still they were living large and in charge. Bobby’s ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ was dominating the charts and Ralph started sorting out his solo business that the other guys soon learned. Bobby remained the ‘WILD CARD,’ causing stress on the group, still the brotherhood always existed. Forgiveness is the key. Washington DC native, Johnny Gill, whom the guys already knew from mutual shows, joined the group. There were talks about which group member he was replacing, Bobby or Ralph. Instead of letting the controversy permanently damage the future of the group, they joined forces as a five man group while Bobby had it his way, it was his prerogative. They even toured together. During this time, Michael Bivins discovered Boyz II Men, that is one of today’s biggest and most accomplished R&B groups, also group ABC. While all the other guys were embarking on their solo deals, Bell Biv DeVoe was also born. “Our music is mentally Hip-Hop smoothed out on the R&B tip with a pop feel appeal to it,” is the bona fide category of music they labeled themselves. Lead, Ricky Bell, Mike Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe hit the ground swinging and ready to give the fans something they never heard. New Edition became the mother and each member had something unique to bring to the table individually and expressively.
Johnny Gill went on to have the success of hits, like “My My My,” as well as Ralph with, “Sensitivity.” The 6-member group sort of split separate ways for a moment, venturing in different directions, all while remembering where they started. Six years later, in 1996, they came back together to record their comeback album as a union, ‘Home Again.’ Hardships, while still living large, were taking over. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That became a testament more and more each day for the fellas’. In 1997, while on tour, an incident happened that led to another incident, which caused the group’s breaking point. Ronnie’s wedding is what brought the brothas’ back like they never left. Around the same time, New Edition united on stage once more for the 2005 BET Awards, which they stole the stage taking us down memory lane in reminisce.
Fast forward, years later, New Edition graces us with a mini-series event, “The New Edition Story” on BET on January 24th, 25th, and 26th. The series has been in the works for 10 years, Bell Biv DeVoe recently disclosed. Thankfully, the deal didn’t work out at that time. It wouldn’t have been as awesome as it was today. There were several names behind the making of this epicness. Chris Robinson directed the life story, as well as Jesse Collins produced it, amongst others, as well as N.E. themselves. Elijah Kelley as Ricky Bell, Woody McClain as Bobby Brown, Keith T. Powers as Ronnie DeVoe, Luke James as Johnny Gill, and Bryshere Y. Gray played Michael Bivins. The gentlemen embodied the roles effortlessly and authentically.
While watching, you felt like you were watching the real deal guys. That could have been because of the help and input of the real members. They gave them a truthful look into their lives and what went on behind and in front of cameras to re-create those moments. They even put them through ‘30-day boot camp’ to get the dances down and to assure they had what it took and they did, now never being able to detox. That’s how deep they became them. The young New Edition were the cutest bunch you ever want to see as well. Job well done!
There were things about each other that New Edition learned regarding one another that they didn’t even know for years. They each spoke with the writers individually to make sure there were no fabrications, as well as spoke to everyone that had been affiliated with their careers just the same. The same week of release on TV, which happened to break records as well, New Edition was also given the “Hollywood Walk of Fame” star on Jan. 23rd. Major congrats!
The New Edition Story ! Brought families together and helped heal , what’s going on in the world today . The people have been heard and numbers dont lie 19million viewers.Every executive that works at a movie building , tv channel or agent in NY or LA ! Was caught off guard with the success of this movie and how it broke numbers on cable TV#weshowedup! When @bet made the announcement they where doing our life story, alot of the community said why them and when the cast was decided folks said why them? BET is the only network that believed in our story and went out and raised millions of dollars to shoot it raw and real and quality, because they didn’t wanna let you all down or our journey #grateful ! Black entertainment has reopened doors for black executives to be heard at the table now and other artist wanna fix their internal issues and tell their story now.Make your deals and read your paperwork ladies and gents in the game , let’s raise the bar of business and entertainment! We are coming for our chip and we got 19million NE4LIFERS rocking and talking with us ! Thank you on behalf of my brothers and our families ….God bless NE …..
The television “event” was cleansing, they admitted to recently on 105.1’s The Breakfast Club. The mini-movie covered everything from 1978 to 2005. There is still a lot more to cover since that time, which would be another 3-night epic event in itself. This past Friday, January 27, 2017, Bell Biv DeVoe released a gem, their first album in fifteen years. ‘Three Stripes,’ is a perfect combination of what’s new and refreshing, but also not leaving behind that classic and raw sound that made BBD. Also, according to Johnny Gill and BBD, there will be a new project (album) and more from New Edition coming soon, stay tuned. Live on as the legends that you are!
Here is the best clip from ‘The New Edition Story,’ the cast recreating the moment, “Can You Stand The Rain”:
Photo Credit(s): BET, The Undefeated, NBC Boston, The New York Times, @NewEdition twitter, pinterest, Hollywood, Blackfilm