Tavares Talks Disco and "Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel"
For over 40 years, Tavares has been one of the best Northern Soul acts in America, smoothest R&B groups in Europe, and most celebrated disco bands in the world.
The live show has always impressed, and the five brothers who make up this band continue to harmonize for packed concerts everywhere they go.
Lead singer Chubby Tavares is a longtime South Florida resident, and he's bringing the whole family to Charlie Rodriguez's Miami Disco Fever night at BankUnited Center. Here's what he has to say about disco, R&B, working with James Brown, Marvin Gaye, and Michael Jackson, and why "people just wanna dance."
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Crossfade: How has your Cape Verde heritage influenced your sound?
Chubby Tavares: It's always been an influence. My dad, Flash, was an entertainer for 60 years, and my voice and my brothers' voices were a gift from our father. The Cape Verde thing was big for all of us, especially me. He would always ask who wanted to go to his shows and I was always first to say, "Me!" He sang in Cabo Verde, the language of our country, a chain of ten islands off the west coast of Africa. I didn't know the language yet, but I learned the lyrics phonetically. Later, my grandmother and father taught me how to speak it and I ended up learning to sing it. The rhythm of the music is wonderful.
What was the first song you learned?
It went "si boujeman man cabre te jeure." It's a song about a goat. That's a famous song for Cape Verdeans.
What's your history with South Florida?
I've lived here I wanna say 30 some odd years. Right now, I live in Tamarac. This is my place. Back in the day, one of the biggest places we used to play was called Mr. Pips in Fort Lauderdale. There was also the Marco Polo Lounge in Miami. I'm goin' back to the early '70s when we started there. It was great. There was 9,000 women for every man. That's when we had our first hit on Capitol Records, called "Check It Out."
What was it like for you when your songs took off?
It was the nicest thing to ever happen to me. And being all brothers, it was a big, big inspiration that Tavares finally hit the map. In 1976, we came with our big hit "Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel." And soon after that, we hooked up with the Bee Gees for a three- or four-day tour. One day, Barry Gibb said he had a song that he thought Tavares would do a great job on. That was "More Than a Woman" on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, which came out in 1977, and we got a Grammy for Best Album of the Year. To this day, that album still sells.
What is the disconnect people have between R&B and disco?
Disco was just a name, like everything else. When we ended up doin' some disco, they put a label on us, but we are fundamentally a great R&B group. Disco just put us in the limelight, and that let us crossover from R&B to pop.
Any of your music been sampled?
We had quite a few samples. I believe one of our tunes got sampled by J-Lo.
How you guys doing today?
Tavares haven't stopped. We've been in the business four decades now, all the same original lineup. We have surpassed the majority of the groups we came up with in the '70s. The Four Tops are down to one original member. The Temptations are down to one original member. But Tavares have stayed together as a unit. It probably wouldn't have been like that if we weren't all brothers. But this is what it is. The same momma and the same poppa.
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