The naming of Boyz II Men Boulevard kicked off a series of special honors for the legendary R&B group
By Bill Gelman
When Nathan Morris reflects on his days back in Philly, the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts is a big part of the story. We’re talking about the place where the Boyz II Men — the best-selling R&B group of all time — story begins.
“Without the school there would be no Boyz II Men. I really had no desire to go to the school, my mom and my previous music teachers made me go,” Morris said during last week’s interview with SPR. “And being there with no sports teams, I got bored … FAST! “So to occupy my time I started Boyz II Men. So in a way, CAPA raised Boyz II Men.”
Morris along with fellow group members Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman returned home last month to perform at the Wells Fargo Center with New Kids on the Block and Paul Abdul. Earlier on that June 24th day, they paid a visit to their old school for a special ceremony — Philadelphia City Council honored the hometown history-makers by renaming South Broad Street between Christian and Carpenter streets (right outside of CAPA, 901 S. Broad St.) Boyz II Men Boulevard (street sign included).
“It is absolutely incredible not just part of music, but to truly be a part of Philadelphia history,” he said. “This street naming puts us in the space.”
It’s blocks away from where Morris grew up.
This was the first of several Philly appearances heading into the Fourth of July holiday. Performing at the Wells Fargo Center later that night was an added bonus to the historic day. Boyz II Men previously toured with NKOTB back in 2013, but Abdul is the new addition.
“It was a great show with an amazing vibe,” Morris said. “The audience has a blast singing along with every song. This experience has been even better as we added Paula to the roster.”
The group recently celebrated 25 years in the music industry, a run that has included winning four Grammy Awards, nine American Music Awards and three Billboard Awards. Those accomplishments have not gone unnoticed back home as Boyz II Men is being honored their achievements in music and philanthropy at the Celebration of Freedom ceremony taking place at Independence Mall on July 4 at 10 a.m.
“We are thrilled to be honored especially on the July 4th holiday,” Morris said. “We look forward to seeing all our fans, friends and family as they celebrate with us.”
The holiday celebration moves to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway where they will be honored during the Wawa Welcome America July 4th concert featuring Mary J. Blige (7 to 9:30 p.m.).
THE BOYZ II Men Boulevard ceremony, of course, had a little extra meaning as it’s the place where their legendary story begins. Sharing the moment with current CAPA students — many whom dream of one day following in their footsteps — made the day even more memorable. The student tribute included performances by the school choir and band.
“It was great on many levels. To see that they are there trying to follow in our footsteps is special in itself,” Morris, who also attended the William M. Meredith School, said. “And for them to share in the moment with us was even better.”
Making it in the music industry is far from an easy task, especially for those looking to become more than a one-hit wonder. But like Morris learned back in high school, education is the first step along the road to success.
“The first step is staying in school and to follow your dreams,” he said. “Work hard and stay true to yourself.”
The group has sold more than 60 million albums. “End of the Road,” “I’ll Make Love to You,” “One Sweet Day” and Motownphilly” are just a handful of their hit songs. Besides the Total Package Tour, which includes a July 5 stop at the PPL Center in Allentown, Boyz II Men also has a residency at the Mirage in Las Vegas.
There is more to come.
“We are working on a new doo-wop album that is going to be released this fall,” Morris said. “It’s going to be unlike any album we have done before as we tell the story of doo-wop — the backbone of urban music.”