In an era where you favorite recording artists are on ‘where are they now specials’ working at a car wash or desperately trying to stay relevant via the latest reality television show, a local group made good, kept God first and managed to stay relevant for over five decades without selling their souls or dumbing down their sound to become superstars. While never achieving supergroup status, they were one of the most consistently successful and underrated groups of their era. The industry may not recognize them as superstars because they did it their way, but to the black community, they are and always were superstars and to Westchester they are legends. I’m talking about the Ambassadors from the town of Greenburgh, Atlantic Starr.
The group who met in Woodlands High School and grew up together started out as a nine member group that was a merger of two smaller groups. The roster has changed over the years but they continue to tour and do spot dates in the States and overseas, under the leadership and artistry of the Lewis brothers, the core songwriters of the group.
The Atlantic Starr story is an authentic Greenburgh story of nine youth, who came together and figured out how to go from local musicians to international recording artists who the world would come to love. Each member was raised in “the heart of Fairview” including Gibson, Longdale, Manhattan, Maple, Prospect, Riverdale, Warren Avenues, Dobbs Ferry, Midway, North and Tarrytown Roads. They were all friends, neighbors, school mates, brothers and graduates of Woodlands High School during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
The original group successfully performed together for more than two decades. The original lineup included: Clifford Archer, Sharon Bryant (who was later replaced by Barbara Weathers), Porter Carroll, Jr., Koran Daniels, David Lewis, Jonathan Lewis, Wayne Lewis, Joseph Phillips, William Sudderth and, just prior to adopting the official name, Atlantic Starr, Duke Jones who was a key band member and instrumental in the development of the group.
“I grew up around these brothers, Greenburgh superstars, I used to hang with their younger brother and I didn’t even know there were Atlantic Starr,” Black Westchester Publisher Damon K. Jones says jokingly as he reminisces. “My mother was playing their music at home and I’m hanging with Chris and I’m always used to seeing these guys. I didn’t know it was them until the video came out and I was like yo, whoa, wait a minute.”
In 2017, the group is still making music, dropped a new CD titled, ‘Metamorphosis’ and received one of the biggest honors a group can receive from their hometown. On Monday, June 5th, the Town of Greenburgh honored the chart-topping R&B group by renaming a section of Old Tarrytown Road — between Knollwood Road and Hillside Avenue — Atlantic Starr Way.
Wayne and Jonathan appeared on Episode 119 of the People Before Politics Show, Sunday, April 2nd. I must admit it may have been one of my favorite interviews so far in 2017. What was supposed to be an interview with some local legends promoting their new album and release party at the Crown Plaza Hotel in White Plains quickly turned into so much more. Wayne who did most of the talking quickly showed unlike a lot of artists to be knowledgeable on much more than his lyrics, the music business and who did what or say what to who on the latest celebrity based “reality” shows.
He began to express his love for reaching and teaching the youth, that they can be so much more than what they see on TV. Showing them how to write about more than sexy women, guns and drugs. Taking about local politics, the education or lack thereof in the urban cities. How the system was set up for our youth to fail or go to jail. He actually fit in on our show than some politicians who were elected to have these conversations.
Yeah, we all love Secret Lover, Always and Silver Shadow, but what most impressed me was a group who managed not to lose their identity and even 5 decades later they were not about to just play it safe and do what everyone else is doing. You can hear that on ‘This Is My Life’ off their latest music offering, ‘Metamorphosis‘ (a very apropos title, I must say). While they have grown and changed a little with the times they somehow managed not to disturb the integrity of the Atlantic Starr we’ve come to love all these years.
“We’re not just balladeers kicking love songs, we’re talking about issues,” Wayne shares with BW discussing the new album. “These songs and lyrics, we’ve metamorphosized into something different. It’s still song form that makes it pop or makes it digestible but at the same time, I wanted to gear the young black people into lyrics again. Into meaningful stuff, like loving one another, helping people and helping your family not just being baby mommies and baby daddies. This is an important record, it’s more than just music. This is my life is a message to the youth.”
This is my life
And I refuse to waste it
You only get one
I’m going to do something great
I can taste it
You only get one
The band continued to tour everywhere from across the United States, Singapore, England, Germany and Japan, but, their foundation had always been, and will always be Greenburgh.
“Greenburgh is the origin,” Jonathan Lewis tells BW. “It’s the beginning. It’s where the chemistry is. We really put Greenburgh on the map.”
Black Westchester salutes our Westchester Legends, Atlantic Starr. The new CD, Metamorphosis is available everywhere music is sold, pick up a copy or two.
“Being a young person in Greenburgh having you guys do what you do, gave us hope,” Damon shares.
Originally appeared in the August 2017 print edition of Black Westchester.