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Osborne Marks 30th Year in the Business

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Los Angeles

In the cul de sac of a sleepy suburban Southern California community one afternoon, a fit, mild mannered neighbor in workout garb stands in front of his spacious ranch style home, seeing to it that the car of an approaching visitor in the distance doesn’t get lost in the maze that is this quiet tree-lined neighborhood.

But that’s no mild-mannered neighbor – it’s singer, songwriter producer Jeffrey Osborne, the man who brought the world such pop and R&B classics as “On The Wings Of Love” and “Stay With Me Tonight.” And while the comfy, tastefully appointed ranch style digs are inconspicuous enough, just off the kitchen of is the state of the art recording studio in which Osborne has for years crafted some of pop/R&B’s most memorable songs.

Osborne has invited a guest to hear Music Is Life, a long awaited collection of new Osborne music with impeccable timing: Not only is it the christening release from his new Jay Oz label through a unique agreement with the Number One independent record company in America, KOCH Entertainment, but the project also commemorates Osborne’s 30th anniversary in pop music.

“Some days I ask myself, ‘Have I really been doing this for 30 years?’” says the laid back, good-natured Osborne, who maintains his lean, sinewy figure with a daily six AM run. “And then I think back to a situation or event in my career and say, ‘Wow, I have been doing this a while. I’m blessed.’”

Written and produced by Osborne, Music is Life is the artist at his apex. Tracks such as the mid-tempo “Ain’t No More,” about a love gone bad, the catchy “When You Love Me” and “I Don’t Know,” a so-right groove about a day that went so wrong is the Osborne longtime fans know and love. Similarly, “The Rest of Our Lives,” a big sweeping ballad Osborne wrote specifically as a wedding song, will find favor with Osborne stalwarts. But the hip-hop flavored “Kisses,” the urgent “Caller I D” and the lush, expansive “Pretty Thing” find Osborne forging terrain new to his trademark voice.

Another CD highlight: a revitalized “Stranger,” the R&B classic Osborne first recorded while with L.T.D., the band he fronted for almost a decade in the ‘70s before launching an impressive solo career that yielded such hit singles as “I Really Don’t Need No Light,” “We’re Going All The Way,” “You Should Be Mine (The Woo Woo Song),” “The Last Time I Made Love” and “Only Human.”

Osborne was creatively involved in every facet of the album, from composing the songs, to the final mix. Known primarily as a singer, few realize Osborne is a multifaceted songwriter/musician (he co-wrote the song “All At Once” for Whitney Houston’s 1984 multimillion selling debut album) who has always played an integral role in the production of his albums.

“This music is more youthful than my last recording (2000’s Private Music/Windham Hill single and album That’s For Sure),” says Osborne, lowering himself into one of the plush leather chairs behind the studio control board. “My goal with this CD was to combine a more youthful musical sound, while maintaining my lyrical integrity. I think I succeeded at that.”

Particularly personal to Osborne is the CD’s title track, “Music Is Life.” A funky, impassioned ode to mother music, the song reflects precisely how music makes him feel. “It’s who I am,” he says wistfully. “Music has always been a big part of my life, long before I did it for a living. I’m listening to it in the car, in bed, wherever. I’ve always enjoyed sharing new music with people--saying, ‘Hey, check this out.’ Music runs through my veins.”

The love affair began at childhood in Providence, Rhode Island, where Osborne was born and raised among twelve siblings and a dad who played trumpet.

Osborne too played trumpet in grade school, before switching to drums in his teens. But he was also a fan of singers--Johnny Mathis, Gloria Lynne, Sarah Vaughn, Joe Williams, the Temptations and the Four Tops, among others--and began to develop his skills as a vocalist.

The talent would serve him well in 1970 when, while sitting in as drummer for L.T.D. (Love, Tenderness and Devotion) during a Providence gig, the band recruited him as their new lead singer.

Led by Osborne’s distinctive pipes, on the A&M label L.T.D. enjoyed a ‘70s hit streak – “Love Ballad” and “Back In Love Again” were their biggest – that in 1982 would launch Osborne’s A&M solo turn. So consistent was Osborne on the charts that music industry publication Radio and Records declared him “the number one hit maker of the 1980s.”

Armed with a vocal prowess not duplicated (note: there aren’t any Osborne clones) and a repertoire of great songs, in three decades Osborne has outlasted many of his peers, most of the Johnny-come-latelys, and remains one of the most popular live entertainers in the States and abroad. His secret: “I’m just glad that I came along when I did, and learned how its really done – how to entertain and how to write a song. Those things will always have appeal.”

Osborne’s popularity extends beyond the concert stage, though: As the official singer of the National Anthem for NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers, he has the peculiar distinction of being the most requested singer of the Anthem in the history of professional sports, having earned four Laker championship rings.

He’s sung for the Oakland Raiders for a decade, and the San Francisco 49ers have called on his magic, as has boxer Mike Tyson. “It’s the funniest thing,” says Osborne, laughing about it all. “I don’t know if there is anything to it, but when I sing at home court, the Lakers usually win.”

When out of the spotlight, family is where Osborne’s heart is, specifically his longtime wife Sheri and daughters Dawn, Jeanine and Tiffany (a student at Howard University majoring in Fashion Design) son, Jeffrey Jr. and five grandchildren.

However it is music that makes Osborne’s soul sing. “I’ve made a lot of music in my life,” he says, his face betraying his excitement, “and I can’t remember when I was so eager for people to hear my new music.” Figures. After all, as Osborne so aptly put it, music IS life.

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