R&B trio SWV performs at MGM National Harbor

Hear our full chat on my podcast “Beyond the Fame with Jason Fraley.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews SWV at MGM National Harbor (Part 1)

They remain one of the top-selling female groups of all time, selling over 25 million records worldwide.

This Sunday, the beloved R&B vocal trio SWV (Sisters with Voices) — made up of Cheryl “Coko” Gamble, Tamara “Taj” George and Leanne “Lelee” Lyons — will be performing live at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.

“I’m excited about the show on Sunday,” Lyons told WTOP. “D.C. always gives us a good time, that’s one of our biggest markets, the DMV area, and we’re just so excited that we’re able to do it on our own at this particular moment, so this show is very special for us. … It’s a celebration. They have this saying, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ so we’re going to give you so many throwback songs, some album cuts, as well as all of the hits.”

Formed in New York City in the late 80s, the trio burst onto the scene with its breakthrough album “It’s About Time” (1992). The album featured a string of hits, including “I’m So Into You” and “Right Here,” the latter sampling Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” with the King of Pop’s enthusiastic permission.

“We found out that Michael was a fan of SWV, so that made it a lot better and easier for us,” Lyons said. “He just loved the song and we didn’t have to pay for it, it was just his gift to us, so we are very appreciative of that.”

Of course, the album’s biggest song was “Weak,” which topped the R&B chart and the overall Billboard Hot 100.

“When we heard it, of course it was so beautiful, but we never could have imagined that it would have the life span that it had for so long,” Lyons said. “Everywhere we look, social media just kind of made that song just something different, breathing new life into that record. Everybody loves it. It’s one of those songs that will never go away. Look, we’re 31 years later and people still love that song. That song is as relevant now as it was in 1992.”

In 1994, SWV was nominated for Best New Artist at the Grammys, losing to the phenomenal Toni Braxton.

“Child, if there’s anybody that was deserving of a Grammy in that moment, it’s Toni Braxton,” Lyons said. “Of course, you want to take home that trophy. At the end of the day, it’s that friendly competition, I don’t think we even liked Toni Braxton for the first 30 seconds when she won that award! We were young, we felt that we were deserving and we still feel like the Grammys didn’t really do us right … but you can’t do it for that.”

After recording “Anything” for the 1994 basketball flick “Above the Rim,” their second album “New Beginning” (1996) dropped “You’re the One,” topping the R&B chart and reaching No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Their third album “Release Some Tension” (1997) featured Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs on the song “Someone,” while their fourth album “I Missed Us” (2012) featured a fresh take on Patti LaBelle’s “If Only You Knew.” That dynamite cover earned a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional R&B Performance, losing to Beyoncé’s “Love on Top.”

“You know what? Who gets mad at that?” Lyons said. “I think it becomes a badge of honor like, ‘Oh my God, I lost against Beyoncé, I mean, are you kidding me?’ It’s a great loss. I’m telling you, it’s a celebratory loss for sure.”

After their fifth album “Still” (2016), SWV received career honors with the Soul Train Music Lady of Soul Award at the 2017 Soul Train Awards, saluting them for paving the way for other R&B trios like TLC and Destiny’s Child.

“While I think we still have work to do, I know our position in this industry,” Lyons said. “We deserve every honor, some are way overdue, but patience is a virtue. You have a lot of these younger groups who give us our props. We see them all the time and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, you guys have paved the way for so many people,’ just like the older groups have paved the way for us. … We’re standing in the gap for all of those girl groups who didn’t make it.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews SWV at MGM National Harbor (Part 2)

Listen to the full conversation on the podcast below:

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up