D.J. Rogers – 1975 – It’s Good To Be Alive
An excellent LP by one of the most underrecognized talents of 70’s soul!
DJ’s deep soul voice is smooth and mellow, with the kind of honest heartbreaking quality that you find in the best work by Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder. This great LP’s got DJ in a nice set of arrangements that have a cool stripped-down feel, with a little bit of electronics, as on some of Stevie’s best LPs from the early 70’s.
A1 Hold On, Be Strong 3:28
A2 It’s Good to Be Alive 3:22
A3 Faithful to the End 3:53
A4 Love Will See You Through 3:24
A5 Say You Love me 5:41
B1 (It’s Alright Now) Think I’ll Make It Anyhow 2:56
B2 If You Didn’t Love Me (Don’t Go Away) 4:00
B3 Living Is All That Matters 3:18
B4 Love You Forever 3:30
B5 Bula Jean 5:27
D.J. Rogers is best known for the tender acoustic piano-based ballad “Say You Love Me” a charting single from his 1976 debut RCA album It’s Good to Be Alive. Natalie Cole’s cover of the song was the first single from her album Snowfall in the Sahara, released by WEA/Elektra Entertainment in June 1999. Like most soul singers, DeWayne Julius Rogers began singing and playing piano in church in his native Los Angeles. He later worked with Rev. James Cleveland when he was the director of the Watts Community Choir and a member of the Los Angeles Community Choir. The gospel influence was very evident in Rogers’ later secular releases, with many of his songs filled with inspirational messages. After signing with RCA Records, Rogers’ debut album It’s Good to Be Alive was released. Initially gaining radio airplay as an album track, the single “Say You Love Me” peaked at number 51 R&B on Billboard’s charts in spring 1976. The 45 was a “turntable hit,” meaning that it received a substantial amount of radio play, but for whatever reasons the exposure didn’t translate into the single being a big seller. The lackluster chart success of “Say You Love Me” (and his other RCA releases) lead to Rogers’ angry tirades in an article in the premier Soul Magazine, as he attributed the label’s seemingly slothful attitude towards his music as a result of the record division’s main purpose as being that of a “tax write-off.” After listening to “Say You Love Me,” one would have to wonder why the record wasn’t a bigger hit. Besides the aforementioned Cole and others, Jennifer Holliday covered the song; her version can be found on Best of Jennifer Holliday, UNI/Geffen. Another track from It’s Good to Be Alive that received radio play was the poignant tale of “Bula Jean” a girl that had beauty that “the world” couldn’t see. On “Bula Jean,” Rogers’ gospel-born fervor was at its peak.
Hold On, Be Strong, a track that burst brightly into life with keyboards, horns and rhythm section combining, before DJ sings, accompanied by joyous sounding backing vocalists. It’s Good To Be Alive, is a similar sounding track to the opening one. It has an uptempo, feelgood sound, complete with DJ’s great vocal and an arrangement that mixes, soul, funk and even gospel. Horns, guitar and rhythm section open the track, producing a horn laden funky sound, that reminds me of Shuggie Otis.
It’s a funky sounding introduction to Living Is All That Matters that greets the listener. Together with DJ and the backing vocalists, the sound is complete, and they combine to produce a track that’s a melting pot where soul, funk and gospel have been mixed together, to produce three minutes of the most joyous music your ears will ever hear.
Why wasn’t this album a much more successful album, and why wasn’t DJ Rogers a huge star? After all, he has a great voice, is a talented multi-instrumentalist, writes, arranges and produces music. Sadly, he remains one of the nearly men of music. Most people are unaware of his music, and that’s is a shame, as they’re missing out on some brilliant music. It’s Good To Be Alive features ten great songs, which are a mixture of styles and influences. On the album there are slow and fast tracks, and the music fuses soul, funk and gospel brilliantly. On the album, DJ plays five instruments, wrote nine songs and cowrote the other, and produced the album. He truly is a hugely talented man, who should’ve been a much bigger star. If you’ve never heard his music, the three albums he recorded for RCA including It’s Good To Be Alive are available as part of a two disc set on the BMG label. This is a good way to introduce yourself to one of the most talented, yet underrated artists ever.
You can listen to both 1973 “DJ Rogers” and 1976 “On The Road” Lp’s in our back pages here.