This song about a difficult breakup was written by Babyface, L.A. Reid and Daryl Simmons for the 1992 Eddie Murphy film Boomerang - the trio were working on the soundtrack for the film and pegged it for a specific scene, but it ended up being used elsewhere in the film. They had Boyz II Men in mind to sing it from the start, but after Babyface sang the demo, he considered doing it himself. He decided to hand it over to the group, which ended up being the right call. Boyz II Men nailed it and the song became a massive hit.
Boyz II Men were on the rise when they recorded this song; they had sold about 4 million copies of their 1991 debut album Cooleyhighharmony
and had reached #2 with the song "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday
." Managed by Michael Bivens, they were part of the "East Coast Family" along with Another Bad Creation and Bivens' group, Bell Biv DeVoe. They were known for harmony vocals, with all of them singing at once. "End Of The Road" had them singing individually on the verses, which was very effective.
The song was included on the Boomerang
soundtrack and released as a single on June 30, 1992. It entered the Hot 100 on July 18 at #53, and on August 15 went to #1, elevating Boyz II Men to stardom. Over the next few years they dominated the charts in America.
Boyz II Men recorded all of their vocals in one three-hour session - a very tight window. Babyface and L.A. Reid flew from Atlanta to Philadelphia to record them, and when they got there, they found out Boyz II Men had to leave for a tour the next day and they had just the one session to work with.
When Boyz II Men heard Babyface's demo, they weren't all thrilled - Wanya Morris in particular didn't like it. But there was never any question of whether or not they would record it - Babyface and L.A. Reid were a very big deal, and the group knew it was a huge honor to record one of their songs.
In the US, this was the biggest hit of 1992, spending 13 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, breaking the record of 11 weeks Elvis Presley had held ever since 1956 with the double-sided single "Don't Be Cruel
." Boyz II Men was displaced the next year by Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You
," but in 1995 they tied Houston's 14-week record with "I'll Make Love To You
." And they weren't done setting chart records: At the end of 1995 and into 1996 their Mariah Carey collaboration "One Sweet Day
" stayed at the top for 16
This song was written for the movie but drew on real relationships that had reached the end of the road. Daryl Simmons recalled the story of the song to Songwriter Universe
: "At the time, Kenny (Babyface) had been through a divorce, and I was going through a divorce. So here we go with this concept, thinking about the end of the road. That's how the concept came along. So we know this is sad... we know it's just a sad story. So we hit on it... 'Damn, I think we got something.'"
"So we work on it all day," Simmons continued. "Then L.A. comes in from the LaFace office with his suit on. He says, 'Okay, you say you all got something - let me hear it.' I can still see him sitting on the couch, throwing his arms on the couch. Kenny plays it, and we sing it, and he goes, 'That's just a smash!'"
After recording their vocals, Boyz II Men left for the 2 Legit 2 Quit tour, where they opened for MC Hammer along with a little-known female trio called TLC. When the tour started on April 1, 1992, Hammer was already on the wane; his 2 Legit 2 Quit
album wasn't getting nearly as much heat as its predecessor, Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em
. On "End Of The Road" started climbing the charts during this tour, and on August 15 took the #1 spot with TLC's "Baby-Baby-Baby
" at #2. That song was also written and produced by the Reid/Babyface/Simmons team. It stayed at #2 for six weeks, with "End Of The Road" holding it back the entire time.
Boyz II Men's bass singer, Michael McCary, got a spoken interlude on this song where he tells the girl he knew she was cheating but stayed with her anyway because he loved her so much. This section is an homage to vocal groups of the '50s and '60s that would often give their bass singer a similar spoken part.
In this song, Boyz II Men vacillate between hopeful confidence ("You'll be mine forever baby, you just wait") and despondent heartache ("Pain in my head, oh, I'd rather be dead"). If there's any doubt that he should put her in the past and move on, it's settled in the spoken section when we find out she's been unfaithful.
This supplication got the attention of the comedy show In Living Color
, which parodied the song
as by "Boyz II Wimps." In this bit, we find out that she took out a restraining order against him and also slept with all his bandmates.
"End Of The Road" won the 1992 Grammy Awards for Best Rhythm & Blues Performance by a Group with Vocal, & Best Rhythm & Blues Song for the writers L.A. Reid, Babyface and Daryl Simmons.
The song's producers had to finish it quickly so it could get edited into the Boomerang movie. L.A. Reid ended up pulling an all-nighter mixing the song in the studio. When his personal trainer came by in the morning, Reid was still there and decided to put him to work. "When he saw that I hadn't slept all night, I knew he'd be mad," he told Blues & Soul. "When he came round I quickly sent him in the booth in the studio and got him and his partner to do fingersnaps and handclaps to the record so they wouldn't have the chance to say anything to me about staying up all night. What you hear on that record, the claps and snaps, is them!"
As Michael Bivens tells it in the Netflix series This Is Pop, when he made the deal to have Boyz II Men record this song, he didn't tell Motown boss Jheryl Busby, who liked to know everything that was going on under his watch. Soon after the song was released, Bivens got a call from Busby. He braced for a verbal lashing, but Busby was thrilled: The song he didn't even know about was getting a great reaction and was sure to be a huge hit. Bivens was very relieved.
The cast of A Different World sang this on the sitcom's series finale in 1993 as the characters Dwayne and Whitley get ready to leave for Japan. Incidentally, Boyz II Men also sang the show's theme song in its final season.
This was re-released in 2007 in Britain to coincide with the re-release of Boyz II Men's greatest hits collection Legacy, returning the song to the UK Top 50. The reactivation of Legacy was a spoiler by their old label Motown to coincide with the release of their first album for new label Decca, Motown Hitsville USA.
There is a striking musical similarity between "End Of The Road" and "Love Don't Love Nobody
," a 1974 track by another soulful vocal group, The Spinners. Thom Bell, who produced The Spinners from Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, is OK with it. "We all borrow somewhere along the line," he said.