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By Day, Richie Weeks Sorted Mail. At Night, He Was a Disco Mastermind.


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When Richard (Richie) Weeks recalls his working life, the 78-year-old Bronx native sounds as if he’s describing two divergent selves.

For 30 years, he was a United States Postal Service worker, toiling mostly within the vast mail-sorting room beyond the imposing columns of what was Recent York City’s general post office in Midtown Manhattan.

At the identical time, Weeks moonlighted as a dance-music producer, songwriter, arranger and artist, releasing albums on the seminal Recent York labels Salsoul and Prelude. He collaborated with a number of the leading lights of the town’s disco and post-disco boogie scenes, including the studio wizard Patrick Adams, the chart-topping vocalist Jocelyn Brown and the soulful singer-songwriter Leroy Burgess.

Adams, who died in June at 72, once favorably compared Weeks’s prowess within the recording studio to that of the masterful Quincy Jones. “He’s that good,” Burgess agreed in a recent phone interview. “Richie is the true deal by way of talent, humility and bona fide real genius. Not enough people find out about him.”

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During his heyday within the late Seventies and the early ’80s, Weeks was prolific. He would sometimes go to the recording studio within the evening, quitting at sunrise to move to the post office. “I used to be doing so much, I’m not going to lie,” Weeks said with a chuckle over the phone from his home in Newark, N.J. “I used to be burning the candle in any respect ends.”

He took the recommendation of his father, Ricardo Weeks — co-writer of the doo-wop hit “I Wonder Why,” first recorded by Dion and the Belmonts — who counseled him about retaining copies of his recordings. “And I kept them in my possession,” Weeks said, “just in case.”

That material — just about all of it unreleased — sat in storage for many years. Now, on Monday, the Chicago label Still Music will release “The Love Magician Archives,” a trove of previously unheard songs. It’s the primary of a planned multivolume set dedicated to Weeks’s unsung body of labor.

The height of Weeks’s music profession got here in 1981, when his group Weeks & Co.’s anthemic single “Rock Your World” became a Top 10 hit on Billboard’s U.S. dance chart. “People were on the market everywhere in the city, riding their bicycles while playing my song, riding the bus while playing my song,” Weeks recalled. “It was just in every single place.”

Recent York’s nightclubs and roller discos put “Rock Your World” on heavy rotation. “It has this aggressive chant, and is a really well-recorded track that sounds incredible played loud on club stereo systems,” said the veteran D.J. Danny Krivit, who was then a fixture on the legendary club the Loft and the roller rink the Roxy. He still recurrently drops the song into sets at his monthly 718 Sessions parties. “It really keeps people moving.”

Riding high off the song’s popularity, Weeks & Co. — a loose collective that included Jocelyn Brown a few years before her first No. 1 dance single — became an in-demand live act overnight, performing just a few times every week at Studio 54, Paradise Garage and Roseland Ballroom. Onstage, Weeks would often don a funkadelic costume befitting his musical alter ego, the Love Magician: a gold lamé jumpsuit topped off with a shiny headband. Mere hours after ending a concert, normally after little to no sleep, he would slip back into his Postal Service uniform and punch the clock.

He desired to tour the world, but “I couldn’t hand over my pension, because I assumed the music thing is likely to be frivolous,” Weeks said, “that someday it could just stop.”

Then, someday, it did. In 1985, amid disco’s decline, Salsoul Records folded. Weeks worked on a handful of house singles, but nothing got here near the precipitous success of “Rock Your World.” After retiring from the service in 1993, he moved to Recent Jersey and joined a bricklayers union.

“Once Salsoul went out of business, I assumed, That’s curtains — it’s over,” Weeks said. “I figured I’d had a superb run, did my little shows. I never really looked back.”

Out of the blue in 2018, Weeks received a phone call that sent him back into his past. On the road was a French former radio D.J. and record collector. Henri Claude had been a longtime admirer of Weeks’s boogie group the Jammers, whose self-titled 1982 album from Salsoul produced the Top 20 dance single “And You Know That.”

Weeks mentioned that he happened to be sitting on a mountain of unreleased music. Claude connected him with a French friend and fellow D.J., Jerome Derradji, who had moved to Chicago in 2004 and founded the record label Still Music. Its Past Due imprint has for the past 15 years championed Black music neglected by the mainstream — like Memphis gospel and Bay Area funk — with lush packaging that tells the stories of artists and labels overlooked of popular narratives.

Derradji’s father is Algerian, which made him an outsider amongst his peers in France. “My refuge was African American music, partly because I felt like we matched by way of stories,” he said. “I could relate to those stories of racism and xenophobia, because I used to be living it.”

Over the phone, Derradji bowled Weeks over together with his crate digger’s passion for discovery. When he was 10 years old, Derradji participated in an archaeological dig at a Gallo-Roman burial site, where scraping into the dirt with a small shovel, he got here upon the skull of a person who had been buried vertically. “Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated by finding stuff,” Derradji said. “It’s about never taking anything without any consideration. There’s at all times more to a story.”

Weeks shared his own formative experiences with Derradji. As a boy, he first practiced singing harmony in an echoey storm drain that he found while fishing within the Bronx River. In his teens, he performed on the Apollo Theater with a gaggle called the Fascinators, which was fronted by Timothy Lymon, whose older brother Frankie would go on to attain doo-wop fame with the Teenagers. Later, Weeks explained, Patrick Adams heard a demo of his vocal group, Central Park West. The producer was soon recurrently hiring him for sessions, and have become his mentor, teaching Weeks the best way to use the studio as an instrument.

Throughout the winter and spring of 2019, Weeks packed his life’s work — a pair hundred cassette and reel-to-reel audiotapes — into 4 plastic shipping totes. When Derradji opened the primary crate, something gave him a flutter of pleasure: an Ampex tape cover carrying a vintage sticker on which someone had doodled in red pen “HOT,” beside the listing of a track titled “On the Disco.” Written in script at the highest of the label was “Patrick’s Mix,” which Derradji accurately assumed was a reference to Adams.

When the engineer who was digitizing the songs threaded up the reel-to-reel tape of “On the Disco” and hit play, Derradji’s spine straightened. “That is pure Recent York, the true deal,” he said of the song, a celebration of the liberty and possibilities of the dance floor, which contains a lead vocal by the singer Tanyayette Willoughby harking back to the disco queen Donna Summer. “We are literally digging into historical disco from Recent York — stuff that nobody has ever heard. Even Richie hasn’t heard it since he made it.”

As a part of their deal, Derradji agreed to assist Weeks reclaim the rights to music he released on Salsoul. The method, formally known as termination of copyright transfers, requires the writer to file notice with the U.S. Copyright Office inside a selected window of time, together with an associated fee.

“On the time, I didn’t think that anybody could try this,” Weeks said. “I used to be shocked.” Derradji, he added, “appeared like an angel, like he was sent from the Lord or something.” The termination opened the door to Still Music reissuing albums by Weeks & Co. and the Jammers in 2019.

The primary time Weeks talked to Derradji, he mentioned that, from way back to 2015, he had not received royalties or accounting statements regarding his music. That’s when BMG Rights Management acquired Verse Music Group, which had controlled the Salsoul Records catalog since 2010. “Since BMG took over, that they had been selling Richie’s music, licensing it, they usually never sent him a dollar,” Derradji said. “It’s the perpetual exploitation of African Americans.”

Within the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the surge of Black Lives Matter activism that followed in the course of the summer of 2020, BMG publicly declared it could review historic record contracts, “mindful of the music industry’s record of shameful treatment of Black artists.” So what had happened with Weeks’s checks?

“Should you are Richie Weeks, you think that to yourself, ‘Who’re these schmucks? They bought my music they usually can’t even pay me,’” Steve Redmond, BMG’s senior vp of world corporate communications, said in an interview. “But that wasn’t because we didn’t wish to pay.” The issue, Redmond said, was that the corporate’s royalties department didn’t have Weeks’s current address and banking information.

Eventually, as he has done for other artists on his label, Derradji clawed back a modest sum for Weeks. The cash wasn’t life-changing, Weeks said, however the fight was more a matter of principle than economics. He hopes “The Love Magician Archives” helps contextualize his role within the story of Recent York dance music, but nowadays he isn’t counting on his songs to do anything for him financially. He collects a pension that has made him the envy of his musician friends.

“Now,” Weeks said, “lots of guys have a look at me and say, ‘I wish I did what you probably did.’”

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