Hailed as “the Miles Davis of boogie”, Leroy Burgess is the name behind countless disco and funk classics from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s. From his early R&B days in Harlem founding Black Ivory, to writing singles for Diana Ross and Rick James, and with major hits like “Let’s Do It”’ released under his Convertion group, Burgess’s influence on the history of dance music is understated to say the least. Catch this history with his live band performance at Prince Charles Saturday, November 18, co-supported by the now legendary house producer Motor City Drum Ensemble.
How do you feel the scene in Harlem has changed over the years since you emerged from it in the 1970s? Do you still live there?
No, but I don’t live very far from Harlem. I’m in the South Bronx now. Harlem is a very different place from what it was when I grew up there. The place has changed, it’s more diverse now, there’s different amounts of ethnicities as opposed to being predominantly black when I came up. It’s becoming more diverse, but at the same time, I really hope that it doesn’t lose the energy that it was famous for back in the day.
You’ve worked with artists from Motown and R’n’B to disco and house – what have been some of your favourite collaborations over the years?
Well I enjoyed the collaborations with Rick James, although the business left something to be desired. We’re still trying to work out details of what’s going on with that. But I liked working with everybody. I think my favourite might be working with Bobbi Humphrey and having my mentor Stevie Wonder play on the harmonica. That was very cool. It was around 1985 or something for a record called No Way. It was produced by Ralph MacDonald and originally released on Mercury Records.
And what about the collaborations that never happened? You came quite close to working with Larry Levan during his heyday as resident DJ for the iconic New York nightclub Paradise Garage…
I did work with Larry Levan. He also worked on a number of my compositions without us working together, such as Class Action – Weekend. However, the only person I regret not meeting, and who I’d really love to work with someday, is Quincy Jones. I’ve never met him and would love to do so.