“Feeling good is part of why I’m still out here, why I’m still performing and writing, and why I still have the energy I have.” It’s an assertive declaration courtesy of veteran singer-songwriter Jeffrey Osborne, who continues to achieve career milestones and attribute his success to practicing great health and wellness.
Osborne, 70, recently released his first album of original material in 13 years, Worth It All, on the jazz imprint Mack Avenue Records. The Grammy-nominated baritone wrote and produced the entire 12-track collection of uptempo funk (“Just Can’t Stand It,” “Can’t Help Myself”), tender ballads (title track, “Say My Love”) and midtempo numbers (“Greatest Night,” “Stay The Way You Are”). Saxophonist Gerald Albright, trumpeter Rick Braun and DJ Kid Capri each make cameo appearances on Osborne’s return to his original element. For the first time in his career, Osborne collaborated with his son, Jeffrey Jr., on co-writing “Work It.” “I thought it should’ve been the first single,” a chuckling Osborne says, “but you don’t want to force anything.”
Worth It All was originally slated to be a smooth jazz LP. By the time Osborne started writing the bulk of the material, the vocalist behind timeless, crossover pop/R&B and power ballads like “Stay With Me Tonight,” “On the Wings of Love,” “I Just Wanna Be Your Friend,” “You Should Be Mine (The Woo Woo Song),” “Love Power” (featuring Dionne Warwick), “She’s On the Left,” “Only Human,” “We’re Going All the Way” and “Don’t You Get So Mad” thought it was best to make an album of grown folks music for his core audience.
“It’s been a minute for me,” Osborne reflects. “As veteran artists, we don’t get that many opportunities. My writing was taking me back to my old school stuff. I didn’t want to try and sound like what was going on today. They didn’t have anything like that on the label.”
Creating Worth It All, Osborne adds, provided him the space and nostalgia to revisit the same passion he delivered in his pre-solo recordings with funk/R&B outfit L.T.D, an acronym standing for Love, Togetherness and Devotion. As the band’s original drummer-turned-lead vocalist, Osborne’s full-bodied vocal performances on cuts such as “(Every Time I Turn Around) Back in Love Again,” “Love Ballad,” “Holding On (When Love is Gone),” “Never Got Enough of Your Love,” “Concentrate on You” and “Shine On” made the band dancefloor and radio favorites. The common denominator for Osborne’s music spanning five decades, he believes, is keeping love at the core of the music’s subject matter.
“I think I’ve seen every phase of love and lived it all,” the self-proclaimed romanticist said, sharing he’s been married for 36 years. “Lyrically, I’m basically gonna write about what I’ve written about all of my life, which is something I think is missing in a lot of today’s music. The world is connected to love, and I’d like to see the world get more in tune with love.”
A few lifestyle changes combined with a good health regimen encouraged Osborne to focus on consistently delivering solid performances in the studio and on stage. Osborne runs two miles per day, a routine he’s taken seriously since he was 17 years old. He normally works out in the gym four or five times a week. Taking pride in his health and wellness stems from Osborne visiting a throat doctor at the height of his tenure with L.T.D.
Performing four shows a night seven days a week at the time, his throat doctor advised him to sing from his diaphragm and run because it would open up his chest cavity. The singer believes more performers should run because it enhances their vocal technique. “It was a lot of work,” the musician born the youngest of 12 children in Providence, Rhode Island confides. “I run every day still, and it’s amazing what it’s done for me in terms of learning the proper way to sing. It does open you up and cleans you out every day.”
Reiterating how he’s always been in shape, Osborne also traded in his undying taste for seafood and steak last year for veganism. He doesn’t take any medications nor does he have any wild cravings. Osborne confirms that Jeffrey, Jr. actually introduced his entire family to the benefits of adapting to a vegan diet. The first month was tough for Osborne, but he eventually embraced the change. “If I can preserve a few more years of life, then it was worth diving into this vegan diet,” Osborne said. “I feel better now than I’ve ever felt; I have way more energy, less aches and pains. If you feel good, you perform good.”
Osborne believes he’s setting a great example for black recording artists who may or may not take their health seriously. Outliving his musician peers like George Duke, Al Jarreau, Whitney Houston and Dennis Edwards, he thinks the black music community should speak more openly about physical health. “It takes people like myself who have actually changed their diet and can testify to it,” he insists. “I’m completely straight up healthy. I don’t need anything. It’s about eating to live, not living to eat.”
Keeping Osborne in good spirits outside of music and performing is his humanitarian work with his nonprofit organization, The Jeffrey Osborne Foundation. His programming primarily supports music and art programs for kids and families. For the last seven years, the legend has hosted a golf tournament: his efforts have morphed into a comedy show and bowling tournament.
Osborne has donated over $1 million to six charities based in his hometown. The benevolent acts make Osborne proud to share his longevity with the community he comes from. “That’s the greatest feeling I’ve had in a very long time,” Osborne explains. “This is one thing I like for people to know I’m doing. A lot of people don’t know that I’m doing it.”
Osborne is still in-demand onstage, performing well over 100 shows a year. The music industry has changed drastically since Osborne’s heyday thanks to digital music and streaming services. Still, Osborne is confident his core audience will continue to support his music and performances. He admits to not being fully aware of all of the streaming platforms, but prefers that listeners autonomously access and curate music from his catalog.
“I wondered how people were going to get Worth It All,” Osborne said. “I understand now people have the ability to get what they want off the record. They don’t have to download the whole record. In that respect, it’s better for the people because they can pick what they like.”