Back Stabbers

Album: Back Stabbers (1972)
Charted: 14 3
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • The O'Jays were formed in 1958 and named after Cleveland DJ Eddie O'Jay. This was their first Top-40 hit.
  • Gene McFadden and John Whitehead wrote this song along with Leon Huff, who along with Kenny Gamble produced the track and released it on their Philadelphia International label. The song was inspired by problems Whitehead faced with his family and friends. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Brad Wind - Miami, FL, for above 2
  • McFadden and Whitehead had a hit of their own in 1979 with "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now."
  • This directly quotes The Undisputed Truth's American #3 hit "Smiling Faces Sometimes," which has a similar theme.
  • This song starts with a piano roll that Leon Huff played. He explained in an interview with National Public Radio: "'Back Stabbers sounds like something eerie, so that roll was like something horrible, because that's what back stabbers are. It reflected that type of drama."
    Regarding the elaborate production and orchestral sound, he added: "Our dream was to play so many counter-melodies that came with those songs, and the orchestra was able to put that together. Plus, stereo radio had just come around, and you had a lot of space to fill up. Stereo was much more soothing than mono, so we thought about the mixes we could do. The music was funky and classical at the same time."
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 13

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn this day in 1972 {September 23rd} the O'Jays performed "Back Stabbers" on the nationally syndicated television program, 'Soul Train'...
    At the time "Back Stabbers" was in it's first of two weeks at #4 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, two weeks later it would peak at #3 {for 1 week} and it spent fifteen weeks on the Top 100...
    And on September 3rd, 1972 it peaked at #1 {for 1 week} on Billboard's Hot R&B Singles chart...
    Between 1965 and 2004 the Canton, Ohio group had fifty nine records on the Hot R&B Singles chart, twenty five made the Top 10 with ten* reaching #1...
    Sadly, original member William Powell passed away on May 26th, 1977 at the young age of 35 {cancer}...
    May he and Don Cornelius {1936 - 2012} R.I.P.
    * They just missed having three more #1 records when their "Time To Get Down" {1973}, "Out Your Hands Together" {1973}, and "Don't Let Me Down" {1991} all peaked at #2...
  • Ginny White from Bay Areawho played guitar and drums on this song?
  • Markantney from Biloxi, MsJun 2014,

    William if OUR music was to pass before 3rd Grade English Teachers; we wouldn't have/had: The Beatles, The Stones, Mommas and the Poppas, George Michael, Ray Charles, James Brown, The Doors, 3Dog Night, Clapton, Mellencamp, U2, Elton John, Joplin, Bill Whiters, Bo Didley, Tina Turner, Chaka-Chaka-Chaka Khan, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Lynrd Skynrd, Anita Baker, The 4 Tops, Stevie Wonder, and many more.

    I prefer a world where 3rd Grade English Teachers and Famous Songs/Singers/Song Writers can co-exist.
  • Ed from Canton, OhThe O'Jays are from Canton, Ohio. they even have their own road downtown named after them.
  • Angie from East Coast, VaWow. That's tragic about Whitehead. So is that comment by William N. below.
  • Ted from Phoenix, AzThe chorus of "Backstabbers," includes the lines: "They smile in yur face All the time they wanna take your place, The Backstabbers," that are a classic description of the American competitive business model. It's definitely a rat race out there and the higher up the corporate ladder you go, the more you have to worry about those "backstabbers".
  • John from Nashville, TnGene Mcfadden and John Whitehead parked themselves at Leon Huff's office at Philadelphia International Records. When Huff came out of his office to get a soft drink, the two writers followed him quoting some of the lyrics to the song. Leon liked what he heard, restructured some of the music, and a classic was born.
  • William from Naperville, IlThis song from beginning to end is a study in ebonics and wouldn't have passed a third grade English teachers desk with a passing grade.
  • Cesare from Savona, Italyit's a masterpiece
  • Shonda from Los Angeles, CaI like how Angie Stone sampled the background in here song.
  • Steve E. from Des Moines, IaProbably the most popular of the OJays tunes... did you know that the OJays were once given the keys to the City of Los Angeles!
  • Don from San Antonio, TxO my Godd!! I didn't know that (about the shooting)
  • Charles from Charlotte, NcJohn Whitehead was shot and killed in Philadelphia recently (May 11, 2004).
see more comments

Director Mark Pellington ("Jeremy," "Best Of You")Song Writing

Director Mark Pellington on Pearl Jam's "Jeremy," and music videos he made for U2, Jon Bon Jovi and Imagine Dragons.

WeezerFact or Fiction

Did Rivers Cuomo grow up on a commune? Why did they name their albums after colors? See how well you know your Weezer in this Fact or Fiction.

Philip CodySongwriter Interviews

A talented lyricist, Philip helped revive Neil Sedaka's career with the words to "Laughter In The Rain" and "Bad Blood."

Did They Really Sing In That Movie?Fact or Fiction

Michael J. Fox, Colin Farrell, Reese Witherspoon, Gwyneth Paltrow and George Clooney: Which actors really sang in their movies?

Kip WingerSongwriter Interviews

The Winger frontman reveals the Led Zeppelin song he cribbed for "Seventeen," and explains how his passion for orchestra music informs his songwriting.

Martyn Ware of Heaven 17Songwriter Interviews

Martyn talks about producing Tina Turner, some Heaven 17 hits, and his work with the British Electric Foundation.