The Undisputed Truth Biography

The Undisputed Truth was assembled by Motown Records producer Norman Whitfield in 1970, as a vehicle for the studio experimentation he had already begun on singles by the Temptations and Edwin Starr. Joe Harris, an ever-present member of the group, was originally teamed up with singers Billie Calvin and Brenda Evans, who had previously worked on the Four Tops’ Still Waters. The group debuted with a stunning slice of psychedelic soul, ‘Smiling Faces Sometimes’, written by Whitfield with his regular lyricist, Barrett Strong. The song was an exercise in urban paranoia, widely interpreted as an oblique comment on President Richard Nixon’s administration, and it allowed Whitfield room to preview new studio techniques which he hoped to use on Temptations’ releases. It reached the US Top 3, encouraging Whitfield to use the Undisputed Truth as a laboratory for testing his new material. The group enjoyed a small hit with Whitfield/Strong’s ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone’ several months before the Temptations’ classic rendition reached the shops, and among their other hit songs were ‘Ball Of Confusion’, ‘Friendship Train’, and ‘Just My Imagination’ - all numbers which Whitfield had also recorded with other Motown acts.

Whitfield continued to produce the Undisputed Truth throughout the 70s, switching them in 1976 to his own Whitfield label, where they scored a US R&B hit with ‘You + Me = Love’. By this time, only Joe Harris remained of the original trio, accompanied by Tyrone Berkeley and Taka Boom, the sister of vocalist Chaka Khan. In the late 70s, their producer’s attention was focused on the most successful act on his roster, Rose Royce, and the Undisputed Truth were among those who suffered from his lack of attention. The group eventually split in the early 80s after the collapse of Whitfield’s label. In 1991 Joe Harris and Brenda Evans, together with ex-Brainstorm vocalist Belita Woods, recorded a new version of ‘Law Of The Land’ on Ian Levine’s Motor City label.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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