Roy Ayers (born September 10, 1940) is an American funk, soul, and jazz composer and vibraphone player. Ayers began his career as a post-bop jazz artist, releasing several albums with Atlantic Records, before his tenure atPolydor Records beginning in the 1970s, during which he helped pioneer jazz-funk. He is a key figure in the acid jazz movement, which is a mixture of jazz into hip-hop and funk, and has been dubbed by many as "The Godfather of Neo Soul". He is most well known for his signature compositions "Everybody Loves The Sunshine" and "Searchin". and is also famous for having more sampled hits by rappers than any other artist.
Ayers was born in Los Angeles, California, and grew up in a musical family, where his father played trombone and his mother played piano. At the age of five, he was given his first pair of vibraphone mallets by Lionel Hampton. The area of Los Angeles that Ayers grew up in, now known as "South Central" but then known as "South Park", was the epicenter of the Southern California Black music scene. The schools he attended (Wadsworth Elementary, Nevins Middle School, and Thomas Jefferson High School) were all close to the famed Central Avenue, Los Angeles' equivalent of Harlem's Lenox Avenue and Chicago's State Street. Roy would likely have been exposed to music as it not only emanated from the many nightclubs and bars in the area, but also poured out of many of the homes where the musicians who kept the scene alive lived in and around Central. During high school, Ayers sang in the church choir and fronted a band named The Latin Lyrics, in which he played steel guitar and piano. His high school, Thomas Jefferson High School, produced some of the most talented new musicians, such as Dexter Gordon.
In the early 70's, Roy Ayers started his own band called Roy Ayer's Ubiquity, which he chose to name because ubiquity means a state of being everywhere at the same time.
Ayers was responsible for the highly regarded soundtrack to Jack Hill's 1973 blaxploitation film Coffy, which starred Pam Grier. He later moved from a jazz-funk sound to R&B, as seen on Mystic Voyage, which featured the songs "Evolution" and the underground disco hit "Brother Green (The Disco King)", as well as the title track from his 1976 album Everybody Loves the Sunshine.
In 1977, Ayers produced an album by the group RAMP, Come Into Knowledge, commonly and mistakenly thought to stand for "Roy Ayers Music Project". That fall, he had his biggest hit with "Running Away".
In late 1979, Ayers scored his only top ten single on Billboard's Hot Disco/Dance chart with "Don't Stop The Feeling," which was also the leadoff single from his 1980 album "No Stranger to Love", whose title track was sampled in Jill Scott's 2001 song "Watching Me" from her debut album Who Is Jill Scott?
In the late 70's, Ayers toured in Nigeria for six weeks with Fela Anikulapo Kuti, widely acknowledged as Africa's number one musician.
Ayers performed a solo on John "Jellybean" Benitez's production of Whitney Houston's "Love Will Save The Day" from her second multi-platinum studio album Whitney. The single was released in July 1988 by Arista Records.
Ayers has played his live act for millions of people across the globe, including Japan, Australia, England and other parts of Europe.
Pharrell Williams cites Roy Ayers as one of his key musical heroes.
Ayers is known for helping to popularize feel good music in the 70's, stating that "I like that happy feeling all of the time, so that ingredient is still there. I try to generate that because it's the natural way I am". The types of music that he used to do this consisted of funk, salsa, jazz, rock, soul and rap.
In 1992, Ayers collaborated with Rick James for an album and is quoted to have been a very close friend of his.
In 1993, Ayers appeared on the record Guru's Jazzmatazz Vol.1 featuring on the vibraphone in the song "Take a Look (At Yourself)".
In 1994, Ayers appeared on the Red Hot Organization's compilation album Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool. The album, meant to raise awareness and funds in support of the AIDS epidemic in relation to the African-American community, was heralded as "Album of the Year" by Time Magazine.
Ayers started two record labels, Uno Melodic and Gold Mink Records. The first released several LPs, including Sylvia Striplin's, while the second folded after a few singles.
In 2004, Ayers put out a collection of unreleased recordings called Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased recordings 1976-1981 which allowed fans to hear cuts that didn't make it onto the classic Polydor albums from his more popular years.
Currently, there is a documentary in progress called the Roy Ayers Project featuring Ayers and many hip hop producers who have sampled his music and other people who have been influenced by him and his music. It has since snowballed into a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation, education and documentation of Ayers' career and its effect on music by people of color. The documentary is planned for release in early 2014.
Ayers is a recipient of the Congress of Racial Equality Lifetime Achievement Award.
- West Coast Vibes (United Artists) – 1963
- Virgo Vibes (Atlantic) – 1967
- Stoned Soul Picnic (Atlantic) – 1968
- Daddy Bug (Atlantic) – 1969
- Ubiquity (Polydor) – 1971
- He’s Coming (Polydor) – 1972
- Live At The Montreux Jazz Festival (Verve) – 1973 (Recorded 1972)
- Red, Black And Green (Polydor) – 1973
- Coffy (soundtrack) (Polydor) - 1973
- Virgo Red (Polydor) – 1973
- Change Up The Groove (Polydor) – 1974
- A Tear To A Smile (Polydor) – 1975
- Mystic Voyage (Polydor) – 1975
- Everybody Loves the Sunshine (Polydor) - 1976
- Vibrations (Polydor) – 1976
- Daddy Bug & Friends (Atlantic) – 1976 (Recorded 1969)
- Crystal Reflections (Muse) – 1977
- Lifeline (Polydor) – 1977
- Let's Do It (Polydor) – 1978
- Step Into Our Life (Polydor) – 1978 (w/ Wayne Henderson)
- You Send Me (Polydor) – 1978
- Fever (Polydor) – 1979
- No Stranger To Love (Polydor) – 1979
- Love Fantasy (Polydor) – 1980
- Prime Time (Polydor) – 1980 (w/ Wayne Henderson)
- Music Of Many Colors (With Fela Kuti) (Celluloid) – 1980
- Africa, Center Of The World (Polydor) – 1981
- Feelin’ Good (Polydor) – 1982
- Lots Of Love (Uno Melodic) – 1983
- Silver Vibrations (Uno Melodic) – 1983
- Drivin' On Up (Uno Melodic) – 1983
- In The Dark (Columbia) – 1984
- You Might Be Surprised (Columbia) – 1985
- I’m The One (For Your Love Tonight) (Columbia) – 1987
- Drive (Ichiban) – 1988
- Wake Up (Ichiban) – 1989
- Fast Money (Live At Ronnie Scott’s) (Essential) – 1990
- Searchin’ (Live) (Ronnie Scott's Jazz House) – 1991
- Double Trouble (With Rick James) (Uno Melodic) – 1992
- Hot (Live At Ronnie Scott’s) (Ronnie Scott's Jazz House) – 1992
- Good Vibrations (Live) (Ronnie Scott's Jazz House) – 1993
- The Essential Groove - Live (Ronnie Scott's Jazz House) – 1994
- Vibesman (Live At Ronnie Scott’s) (Music Club) – 1995
- Nasté (Groovetown) – 1995
- Spoken Word (AFI) – 1998
- Smooth Jazz (AFI) – 1999
- Juice (Charly) – 1999
- Live At Ronnie Scott’s - London 1988 (Castle) – 2001
- "Our Time is Coming" (single with Masters at Work) (MAW Records)—2001
- For Café Après-midi (Universal Japan) – 2002
- "Good Vibrations" (single with Kerri Chandler) (Mad House Records)—2003
- Snoop (Chrysalis) – 2003
- Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981 (Rapster) – 2004
- Mahogany Vibe (Rapster) – 2004
- My Vibes (Snapper Music) – 2005
- Virgin Ubiquity II: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981 (Rapster) – 2005
- Virgin Ubiquity Remixed (Rapster) – 2006
- Perfection (Aim) – 2006