keyboardist, producer, songwriter, and sometimes engineer and vocalist who
was instrumental—pun intended—in the long run of good luck
enjoyed by Philly soul in the ‘70s and early ‘80s.
songwriting partners included Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff, Gene McFadden and
John Whitehead, or some combination thereof. All five of them collaborated on
“I Will Always Love My Mama”, which was released by The
Intruders in 1973. He was also
a member of MFSB (which stands for Mother Father Sister Brother) and they
released a pair of albums in the same year, a self-titled affair and Love is the Message.
than not, the songwriting team responsible for writing some of the biggest
R&B hits of the ‘70s was bifurcated into two camps: Gamble and Huff on the one hand, Carstarphen, McFadden and Whitehead on the other. The three of them penned
“People Keep Tellin’ Me” on the
O’Jays album, Ship Ahoy, another release from a busy 1973.
One of their
biggest hits was “Wake Up Everybody”, which Harold Melvin &
the Blue Notes took to #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Hot Soul
Singles chart in 1976. It has
since been covered by several artists and appeared in a handful of films.
For a generous
sampling of Victor’s songwriting acumen, check out Archie Bell &
the Drells’ bicentennial release, Where Will You Go When the Party’s
Over, a mostly Carstarphen-McFadden-Whitehead-composed
album with one he penned himself, “On the Road”.
mid-‘70s, his production credits really began to accrue, and ranged
from Jean Carn’s eponymous LP to MFSB’s Summertime
to The O’Jays’ Message in the Music to Archie Bell and the Drells’
Hard Not to Like It. Again, about half of the Drells album featured compositions by the
aforementioned triad, and “Glad You Could Make It”, written by
multiple hats on Teddy Pendergrass’s
self-titled debut in 1977, co-writing three songs, “Easy, Easy, Got
to Take it Easy”, “The More I Get, The More I Want” and
“Somebody Told Me”, as well as playing keyboards and
producing. He would fulfill the
last two roles on Teddy’s follow-up, Life is a Song Worth Singing, in 1978.
In 1983, he
played piano and synthesizer on Back
to Basics by The Temptations, a group with which he would serve in a
variety of capacities, including musical director, and programmer and
rhythm arranger, as he did on 1984’s Truly for You. He
also co-wrote two of the songs on the album, “My Love is True (Truly
for You” and “Set Your Love Right”. The Temps’ 1987 effort, Together Again, includes “Do
You Wanna Go With Me” and “10 x
10”, a pair of tunes co-penned by Victor Carstarphen,
Ronald Tyson, and Otis Williams.
In 1991, he acted as arranger, assistant engineer, keyboardist and
producer on The Temptations’ Milestone. He would reunite with The
Temptations in 1998, as keyboardist and musical director on their album, Phoenix Rising.
In 2004, he
was nominated for a BMI Urban Award, along with Mary Y. Brown, Gene
McFadden and John Whitehead for the song “Fabulous”, recorded
by Jaheim feat. Tha’
returned “Wake Up Everybody” to the Billboard mix in 2004,
reaching a modest #119 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, as part of a
get-out-the-vote campaign. The
song has since been used in the film Akeelah and the Bee and appeared on The Essential Teddy Pendergrass and The Temptations’
album of covers, Back to Front,
Cyndi Lauper recorded “Set Your Heart” for
inclusion on her 2008 compact disc, Bring
You to the Brink.
Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
To Be Free To Be Who We Are (Victor Carstarphen,
Gene McFadden, John Whitehead)
International – SPIR 4909 (UK 45)