It is amazing how a simple comment or Facebook status message can lead to clarity, but that’s exactly what happened that has me out here doing it for the culture and providing some definitive information to settle bets that have languished for years. Hell, I, myself, lost $20 on this very discussion because of a bet that I placed where I just KNEW The Five Heartbeats lead singer was, in fact, Eddie Kane, Jr.
I was, in fact, wrong. So let’s set the table.
Kendrick Lamar - you may have heard of him - recently released his latest album, DAMN., to much fanfare and discussion on the Internets. The discussions have spread low and wide and if you’re Black and listen to music, there’s a better than 90 percent chance you have at some point in the past four days had a discussion about this album.
On this discussion-heavy album, there is a song called “GOD.” which I love. I listen to it all the time. It features many things held near and dear to Black people including the statement “don’t judge me” and a reference to El Debarge and his finger waves, long held to be one of the 9 wonders of the Black world. I cannot name the other 8 because that would be snitching, which is frowned upon, and that credo may or may not be a wonder of the Black world. You can see how complicated Blackness gets.
In this song - and this is NOT snitching - Kendrick drops the line, “slick as El Debarge with finger waves, work it JT!” which is a nod (I assume) to none other than J.T. Matthews, one of the members of The Five Heartbeats, a fictional group, long thought to be patterned after The Dells, for which a movie of the same name, The Five Heartbeats, exists. The other members of the group are Donald “Duck” Matthews (J.T.’s brother and songwriter of the group), Terrence “Dresser” Williams (whose real name you only find out through google because I’m not sure his real name is ever said in the movie), Anthony “Choir Boy” Stone (whose name DOES get said in the movie), and the lead singer, the one and only, Eddie King, Jr., a man for whom the pronunciation of his name has caused actual arguments and fist fights. It’s been said (though Snopes.com cannot prove it) that the first World Star fight video was between a grandmother and her 2nd cousin about whether Eddie’s last name was King or Kane.
“Work it, JT” derives from an early scene in the movie where J.T. and Duck run a scam on women that I’m pretty sure does not still work today, where Duck would go over to a woman and get her number for J.T. by convincing said woman that J.T. was too shy (I’m guessing that shit was cute back then) to come over himself. After a show where former lead singer (another fact verified by the interview that will be mentioned), Bobby, who lost his spot to Eddie by way of getting shot in the leg after running from a card game - we never hear from Bobby again - J.T. and Duck run the scam and then Duck asks J.T. to work the scam for him. It looks like it’s going really well, hence the line, “work it J.T., work it!” by Duck, only it turns out that J.T. selfishly got the chick’s number for himself. But because God has a sense of humor and also doesn’t like ugly, the woman whose number J.T. got was at the restaurant with a man who uttered the quotable ass quote, often heard at nightclubs and Black game nights everywhere, “every night I have to fight to prove my love” as he goes off to whip J.T.’s ass.
Long explanation aside, that “work it J.T.” line is one of my favorites. Always has been. Me and my boys use it all the time.
I made mention of this on Facebook and one of my friends from college, and real talk I always give him credit for this, one of the reasons I ever started blogging in the first place, Calvin, jumps into the comments with this:
“My favorite Five Heartbeats pet peeve/nit pick is that people refuse to call Eddie King Jr by his real name….it's not Eddie Kane or Eddie Cain or any other such variation! It's almost as bad as people saying "who else wanna eff with Hollywood Cole" (it's Hollywood Court)”
I, too, detest that everybody refers to that Hollywood Court as Hollywood Cole, a nod to Outkast’s song “Spottieottiedopalicious” where Dre’s Atlanta accent confused way too many people, but if you aren’t from Atlanta then there is literally NO reason to know about Hollywood Court, a now demolished housing project on the West side of the city in Zone 1.
An-t-way, Calvin’s comment reminded me of the time that I got verification from one person who could provide such verification of what Eddie’s ACTUAL last name is: Robert Townsend, the who directed The Five Heartbeats, and co-wrote it with Keenan Ivory Wayans. If anybody knows the truth, it’s him. Right? Right.
It just so happens that through the power of the Internets I once got the opportunity to speak to him and ask him directly. A woman I knew through VSB and I were talking about me wanting to ask Robert Townsend himself. Turns out, she was a publicist with The Caraway Group AND doing work for her firm on another movie he directed called In The Hive. She said she’d set up an interview with him if I agreed to interview him about the movie and write a piece on VSB about it. (I still have all of the emails from September 2011 to prove it.)
Bruh. Sign me up.
She set up the interview and I had the opportunity to talk to him about In The Hive. We chopped it up for about 30 minutes and toward the conclusion of the interview I told him that I had to ask him a question that was going to settle bets everywhere: in The Five Heartbeats, what is Eddie’s last name?
He said, definitively, that it was King. We laughed about that and I told him that I was about to lose a bet because I swore his last name was Kane (like so many people do). We got off the phone and I never did write up that feature (my bad).
But from there, every time it comes, I make sure to reference that convo to people and make sure that I’m doing my part for the culture. So if you are indeed wondering and have been calling that man Eddie Kane, Jr., since the 90s, the truth is, his real name is Eddie King, Jr.
His name is his name. Sharing is caring and the more you know…ding.
So in case you ever wondered, to quote Maxwell, don’t ever wonder.