Bass-baritone from Jackson, Mississippi, who grew up listening to Ray Charles and Nat “King” Cole and sang with The Carvettes whilst attending Jim Hill High School. They were popular locally, and recorded “A Lover’s Prayer” backed with “You’re Never Gonna Leave Me”, but their success did not translate to Chicago or New York.
Al moved to New York in 1962 and found work singing with The Vipers and sound-mixing at All Platinum Studios, which was run by Joe and Sylvia Robinson. It was here he was “discovered” while singing at work. Sylvia hired him and Billy Brown to replace Mark Greene and Richard Gross of The Moments in 1968. John Morgan was the only remaining founding member of the group and he was soon supplanted by John Moore.
The Moments vaulted into the top ten on the R&B chart with “I Do”, and it was only the beginning of two decades’ worth of hits. In 1970, they enjoyed the view from the top of the R&B chart with “Love on a Two-Way Street”, a cross-over hit that peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Harry Ray took John Moore’s place and the group did not miss a beat, capturing the #9 spot on the R&B chart and #55 on the Hot 100 with “All I Have”. “Sexy Mama” hit #3 and #17 on the R&B and pop charts, respectively, in 1973. In 1974, they reached #3 on the British chart with “Girls”, recorded in tandem with The Whatnauts. Their appearance on Top of the Pops helped further endear them to U.K. audiences, and this was cemented when “Dolly My Love” and “Jack in the Box” became hits across the pond.
Al co-produced and co-wrote much of their material, such as “Look at Me (I’m in Love)”, which was a hit in 1975. Other songs he had a hand in writing include “It Don’t Rain in My Backyard”, “I May Be Right, I May Be Wrong”, “I’ve Got to Keep My Head”, “Lady in Blue”, “Lovely Way She Loves”, “Sho ‘Nuff Boogie”, “To You With Love”, and “What’s Your Name”.
In 1979, they parted ways with All Platinum’s Stang Label and signed with Polydor. All Platinum contended they owned the name “The Moments”, so the trio billed themselves by their surnames, Ray, Goodman and Brown. They released a self-titled album to re-introduce themselves to their fans with their new name, and immediately paid dividends for their new label with the R&B chart-topping “Special Lady”, which crossed over to the #5 on the pop chart. Their follow-up effort, “Inside of You”, reached #14 on the R&B chart.
In 1980, they released Ray, Goodman & Brown II. It cracked the Billboard Top 100 and spawned a pair of hits, “Happy Anniversary” and a remake of “My Prayer”, which had been a hit for The Platters. Their time with Polydor was brief but productive: They cranked out an album a year for the label, including 1981’s Stay and 1982’s Open Up.
In the 1980s, they peppered the R&B chart with hits such as the title track from Take it to the Limit, which cracked the top ten in 1986. “Where Did You Get That Body, Baby?” was their last chart success in 1988, although “Another Day” became a club favourite in the U.K. In 1988, they sang backing vocals on the CD, You’re All I Need, by Sarah Dash.
Harry Ray had a stroke and died in 1992. He was replaced by one of Luther Vandross’s backing singers, Kevin “Ray” Owens. Thus, they were able to continue to record as Ray, Goodman and Brown, as they did on 1992’s Live album. One of the album’s highlights featured Al covering “Ebony & Ivory” by Paul McCartney.
In 1994, a Greatest Hits package was released and it was succeeded by The Best of Ray, Goodman & Brown in 1996. The Best Of album includes several songs co-written by Al, such as “Each Time is Like the First Time”, “Heaven in the Rain”, “How Can Love So Right (Be So Wrong)”, “Pool of Love”, and “Slipped Away”. It was a banner year for Ray, Goodman & Brown fans, as they could also take home The Best of the Moments: Love on a Two-Way Street. In addition, Al composed music for and helped produce 1996’s Pillow Talk: The Sensuous Sounds of Sylvia. Bearing his name on the collection are “Didn’t I” and “Next Time That I See You”. Lucky Me: A Golden Classics Edition hit the shelves in 1997.
Ray, Goodman and Brown started their own record label in the 2000s, Defourovus Music. They released two CDs in 2003, Intimate Moments and A Moment With Friends, which comprises covers of some of their contemporaries’ songs: “Break Up To Make Up” and “You Are Everything” by The Stylistics, “It Feels So Good To Be Loved So Bad” by The Manhattans, and “Sideshow” and “Three Ring Circus” by Blue Magic. They also sang background vocals on 2003’s The Diary of Alicia Keys, which included the #1 R&B hit, “You Don’t Know My Name”, and toured with the titular artist in support of the album. The mobile press junket included appearances on Ellen DeGeneres, Good Morning America, Jay Leno, 106 & Park, The Vibe Awards, and The View.
They performed live in concert in December 2006 at Club Inferno and Constant Spring Golf Club in Jamaica. A live CD and DVD were made available in 2007. In August 2007, they shared the stage with Aretha Franklin at The Dell East.
Al contributed background vocals and produced the 2008 album, Gerald Alston Sings Sam Cooke. Only the Best of the Moments was released the same year.
In August 2009, Ray, Goodman & Brown and Larry “Ice” Winfree entertained concert-goers at Plainwood Square Park, in Plainfield, New Jersey. Al partnered with Keith Beaton, Darryl Hayes, Jerome V. Knight and Wendell Sawyer in the establishment of Elegant Affairs Promotion.
In February 2010, Ray, Goodman & Brown performed at The Arie Crown Theater in Chicago, Illinois. It would be one of Al’s last concert appearances. On 26th July 2010, he died of a heart attack after having a tumor removed from his liver at Hackensack Medical Center. His funeral was held on 2nd August 2010. He was buried in Maple Grove Park Cemetery in Hackensack, New Jersey.
It did not take long to see in what high regard Al was thought of by his peers. On 21st August 2010, Ted Wizard Mills of Blue Magic covered “Not on the Outside”, an early hit for The Moments and one of their concert staples, at Newark Symphony Hall. A tribute concert featuring Millie Jackson and The S.O.S. Band was held on 16th October 2010.
On 9th April 2011, The Big Classic Soul in Paradise Al Goodman Tribute Concert took place at the Paradise Theater in The Bronx, New York. The concert included performances by Atlantic Starr, Black Ivory, Blue Magic, Blue Notes, GQ Rahiem, Ladies of Sky, Legendary Escorts, Legendary Intruders, Melissa Morgan, Persuaders Revue, Soul Generation, and Alyson Williams. They reprised the show on 10th April 2011 at Newark Symphony Hall in Newark, New Jersey.
The Moments recordings
Jack in the Box (Al Goodman/ Tommy Keith/Harry Ray)
All Platinum 6146 318 (UK single)
Love on a Two-Way Street (Burt Keyes/Sylvia Robinson) (Uncredited Lyrics: Lezli Valentine)
(LP: Not on the Outside, but on the Inside, Strong!)