With dashing good looks (like a singing version of Philip Michael Tho—oh, wait…) and a suave demeanor, Gregory Abbott briefly topped the charts in the mid-late Eighties with hits like the smash slow jam “Shake You Down.” Born in New York City of Venezuelan and Antiguan parents (accounting for his exotic good looks,) Gregory took to music at a young age—in addition to a variety of other pursuits. The vocalist and multi-instrumentalist majored in psychology, and taught English at U-Cal/Berkeley before scoring his first hit. He was also married to “Band of Gold” singer/TV host Freda Payne for a time, which may have also spurred him to become a professional musician.
Signed to Columbia Records, “Shake You Down” appeared in late summer of 1986. With classy yet sexual lyrics and a smooth, island-flavored groove that strongly recalled Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing,” “Shake” rocketed to the top of the R&B charts at the end of the year, then crossed over to hit #1 on the pop list at the beginning of 1987. Want proof that the guy was an academic? “Shake You Down” is probably the only #1 hit that utilized the word “telepathy” in it’s lyrics. The hit also won him a pair of trophies at the 1st annual Soul Train Music Awards ceremony-taking Best New Artist and Best Soul/Urban Contemporary Single, Male against competition that included Freddie Jackson, Prince and Luther Vandross. A follow-up/soundalike single, “I Got The Feelin’ (It’s Over),” hit the top 5 of the R&B charts in 1987 and grazed the pop charts. An album of the same title was certified Gold.
Gregory wasn’t the only one who got the feeling it was over…’cause it pretty much was over for him within a year and a half of his initial success. Abbott scored one more top 10 R&B hit in 1988 with “I’ll Prove It To You,” a song that sounded enough like his previous two hits that you could assume it was the same guy, but wasn’t an exact ripoff, and then…DONE. By the time “Prove” hit, new jack swing was on the horizon, and artists like Bobby Brown and Keith Sweat had knocked Abbott off of his short tenure on the pop/R&B perch. He left Columbia Records, hasn’t had a hit of any significance since, but continues to make music to this day, and still deserves props for rocking the “Miami Vice” look better than any other R&B singer that decade.
Bio: Gregory Abbott
Born: 4/2/54 (New York, NY)
Peak Years: 1987
Essential Tracks/Albums: “Shake You Down” (1986)
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