The Legendary Story of New Edition

Who is New Edition?

Throughout African American music, it is evident the influence of black people performing in groups. This has been shown with groups such as the Miles Davis Quintet, Fisk Jubilee Singers, and the Golden Gate Quartet. Many years later, this is still evident today. Groups such as New Edition have a story that not only is impactful to their fans but also to other group artists as well. This is apparent through the history of their career, influences they had, and the awards that they received. Without New Edition, the experience we have had with boy bands today may have looked much  different.

How It Started

It all started in Roxbury, a section of Boston MA. Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Bobby Brown began singing together while they were in elementary school in 1978. Ralph Tresvant was eventually recruited as a 4th member after winning a talent show at Boston’s Strand Theatre in 1982. Ronnie Devoe was later added as well. The group ended up taking second place, but Starr was impressed and offered them a deal on his label Streetwise Records. The next day they started working on what would become their debut album, Candy Girl.
Candy girl came out in  1983  and was both a critical and commercial success. Candy Girl sold over a million copies and the title track was No. 1 hit in the U.S. and U.K. They subsequently embarked on a major tour to promote the album. 

Money Issues:

After the tour wrapped and the boys returned home they each received a check for the low amount of $1.87. Starr explained that tour expenses prevented them from being paid more. In 1984 they split with Starr and sued his label. New Edition won the lawsuit and they scored a recording deal with MCA Records following a bidding war with several other major labels.Their self-titled second album, which was released in 1984, was even more successful than their first. It eventually sold over 2 million copies and generated multiple singles, including “Cool It Now” and the Top 5 hit “Mr. Telephone Man.”
Their third effort, All for Love, was released in 1985. Though not nearly as successful as New Edition, it still went platinum and yielded the hit singles “Count Me Out,”A Little Bit of Love (Is All It Takes)” and “With You All the Way.

That's My Prerogative: The Departure of Bobby Brown

Bobby Brown became the center of conflicts due to onstage antics and missed engagements. He also was involved in hardcore drug use.  Consequently, Bell, Bivins, DeVoe, and Tresvant voted him out of the group in 1986.  With this having taken place, Bobby decided to start a solo career. In December 1986, Brown released his first solo album, King of Stage. This album did not generate the popularity like he had hoped. However in 1988, Bobby released a new album called “Don’t Be Cruel” which ended up selling over 7 million copies.” Dont Be Cruel” was also the home to one of Bobby’s hit songs, My Prerogative. In 1990 Brown recorded “On Our Own,” the smash-hit theme song for the movie Ghostbusters II and in 1992 he released his third album,Bobby featuring the singles “Humpin’ Around” and “Good Enough.”

If it isn't love: The addition of Johnny Gill

With the departure of Bobby Brown, there were rumors that Ralph Tresvant would be following in the footsteps and obtaining a solo career.The group did not want to take that chance so they made the executive decision to take on Johnny Gills, who was once a solo artist.  Even though Ralph ended up staying he was not happy about the added new member, as he had no input in it. With this new addition, the group went on to produce their 5th album. Their fifth album, Heart Break was released in 1988. It marked New Edition’s departure from kiddie-pop and their entry into a smoother, stronger, more mature sound that resonated with critics and fans. It went on to sell more than 2 million copies in the U.S.

Splitting Up

With Bobby Brown experiencing substantial solo success, the boys of New Edition felt inspired to pursue side projects and they temporarily broke up.Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe formed the trio Bell Biv DeVoe. Their 1990 debut album, Poison which served as a fixture of the New Jack Swing movement, sold more than 4 million copies.Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill each released solo albums and enjoyed platinum success.The group reunited at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards when all six members, including Bobby Brown, performed a remix of the Bell Biv DeVoe song “Word to the Mutha!”

Diving deeper into the solo careers

Ronnie DeVoe, Ricky Bell, and Michael Bivins ended up deciding to stay together. Here was the birth of  the group, Bell Biv Devoe. Their quadruple platinum  hit album Poision won many awards. In 1991, the group received the award for Best R&B/Urban Contemporary Album of the Year, Group, Band or Duo at the Soul Train Awards The group also received an American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B

Band/Duo/Group in 1992.

Johnny Gill  eventually released many solo albums one which was titled “Johnny Gill ‘‘ which achieved multi-platinum success.  The album produced four hit singles: “ Rub You the Right Way”, “My,My,My”, “Wrap My Body Tight”, and “Fairweather Friends” .

Ralph Tresvant was the last member to release a solo project of his own. Signing to MCA Records as a solo artist. Tresvant expressed his apprehension about becoming a solo artist and trying to match his previous successes in various interviews.  He was later asked to sing the lead and background vocals on the song “Sensitivity”, which later ended up selling over a million copies. Shortly after his solo debut, Ralph Tresvant, was released November 27, 1990, and went platinum, parking at number one R&B for two weeks.

New Edition Today

The New Edition group occasionally gets together and goes on reunion tours. Some of these times are like in 2009 when the group performed a medley of Jackson 5 hits in tribute to Michael Jackson on  the BET Awards. In 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana, all six members of New Edition reunited at the Essence Music Festival  kick off and celebrated their 30th anniversary tour.Their most recent performance was at the 2017 BET awards with the cast of the new mini series.


New Edition’s influenceis diverse and deep and goes from classic R&B, and rap to pop. From the NewKids and Boyz II Men, Guy, Jodeci to Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, 112 and One Direction. Even beyonce mentioned how for her 2011 “Love on Top” video she drew inspiration from New Edition’s classic clip for their 1988 hit “ If it isn’t love”borrowing the group’s memorable steps, mic work and sequined jackets. This just shows that New Edition’s reach is sturdy and deep.



1997,1989: Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/ Soul Album

1987/1997: American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B

2012: Soul Train Music Special Lifetime Achievement Award 

2017: Lifetime Achievement Award 2017: BET Lifetime Achievement Award

Parting Quotes

“We’ve gone through a lot of challenges, up and down, personally and professionally. It’s been an uphill battle for New Edition. And look where we are now.

-Member of New Edition

“New Edition deserves to be in the hall of fame.”

-Tito Jackson.


Although often compared to the hit group “ The Jackson 5”, New Edition created their own narrative. Through trials and turmoil , the group still tried to prevail. Even though their journey ended with solo careers their impact as a group will forever be influential. They helped pave the way for many artists such as Boyz II Men, the backstreet boys, and many more. Their energy, stage presence, and hit classics  took the hearts of many fans. Without the impact of New Edition, who knows what the future would have held for other boy groups today. 


Freeman, Macy. “BET’s ‘The New Edition Story’ Shows How the Boy Band Changed the World of R&B.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 25 Jan. 2017,


Nero, Mark Edward. “How R&B Group New Edition Pioneered New Jack Swing.” LiveAbout, 


“New Edition Biography.”, 


New Edition – Biography, Purcell, Kerry. “New Edition Biography.” 


Boston Herald, Boston Herald, 17 Nov. 2018, 


Huey, Steve. “New Edition: Biography & History.” AllMusic, 

George, N. (1990, 03). THE NEW JACK ON THE BLOCK. Emerge, 1, 39. Retrieved from


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