Chi-Lites leader Marshall Thompson sets sights for Spectacular 2020

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The world has been dancing to Chicago’s own Chi-Lites for more than 50 years: “Have You Seen Her” and “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power To The People” have epitomized both romance and revolution. In 2019 BMI has ranked “Oh Girl” as the #36 song of the 20th Century.

PHOTOGRAPH OF The Chi-Lites from the 70s.

But Marshall Thompson, leader of The Chi-Lites and last man standing of the original group, is in no mood to slow down in this century. He just released two slamming singles and will be touring well into the new year.

This fall, Marshall Thompson released the scintillating “Low Key” along with “Hot On A Thing.” Both tracks are tearing up the online world with more than 1,800 spins a week on Internet Broadcasting Alliance radio stations.

“‘Low Key’ surprised me,” Thompson said. “We did a remix and you never know how it’s going to come out, but it took off right away. That’s my wife singing on it, too. ‘Hot On A Thing’ is also taking off like crazy because it’s what the kids like. It’s a great song and I love watching it go up the charts like crazy.”

ATTENDING THE EVENT to award a Hollywood Star for Jackie Wilson on the Hollywood Walk of Fame are Director, Producer, and Entrepreneur Berry Gordy, Jr., Chi-Lites Vocalist Marshall Thompson, founding member of the Supremes, singer Mary Wilson, and singer, songwriter and Record Producer Smokey Robinson.

But Thompson will not just sit back and watch his new records zoom up the charts. The Chi-Lites recently headlined the Maywood Festival in Maywood, IL in front of 9,000 fans, and will be playing more than 40 dates in 2020. He also made a high-profile appearance last September in Hollywood as he celebrated his former Brunswick label mate Jackie Wilson receiving his sidewalk star on the city’s Walk Of Fame. In a much-viewed YouTube clip of Thompson’s talk at the event, he stands beside such luminaries as Smokey Robinson, Berry Gordy and Wilson’s goddaughter, Jody Watley.

Thompson’s energy and commanding baritone keep The Chi-Lites going.

“I started The Chi-Lites and have always been the group’s driving force,” Thompson said. “It’s all about knowing how to do what you do.”

Thompson formed The Chi-Lites in the late 1950s and the group’s audience grew in Chicago throughout the next decade. By the time they signed to Brunswick on the city’s famed Record Row in 1968, The Chi-Lites had coalesced around its classic lineup of Thompson, bass singer Creadel “Red” Jones,” tenor vocalist Robert “Squirrel” Lester and lead vocalist Eugene Record, who wrote and produced most of the group’s timeless songs. With intricately layered harmonies on top of strings from Chicago’s best arrangers, The Chi-Lites blew up worldwide with a string of smash tunes on the pop and R&B charts. They were not just a singles band, either, as their music filled such classic albums as Give It Away, A Letter To Myself, A Lonely Man and Toby. While the group’s lineup changed throughout the next few decades and the world has lost Record, Lester and Jones, Thompson continues to carry the name throughout the world. And new generations continue to absorb The Chi-Lites’ music: Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” from 2003 was built entirely around a sample of the group’s “Are You My Woman (Tell Me So).”

At the same time, Thompson said that The Chi-Lites has succeeded in its mission to provide for a wider community.

“We helped more people in this business than anybody,” Thompson said. “The community is what holds you together, so when people wanted something—the city, the churches, they called me. We’ve done shows that have fed a lot of homeless people. We play for everybody because everybody loves The Chi-Lites.”

Chicago Crusader Entertainment Editor Elaine Hegwood Bowen, second from right, and her high school buddy Regina Hill, third from left, pose with The Chi-Lites after a performance around 1974 at the High Chaparral on Chicago’s South Side. (Photo courtesy Elaine Hegwood Bowen)

For more tour dates, videos, CDs and DVDs go to: chi-lites.info.

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