If you were a fan of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, you knew that Ashley Banks was in LOVE with teen heartthrob Little T. If you were a fan of R&B in the 90s, you also knew that real life teen heartthrob, Tevin Campbell, portrayed the object of Ashley’s obsession on the sitcom.
Born in Waxahachie, Texas, Tevin Campbell showed a passion and talent for music early and began singing in his church choir. In 1988, a family friend arranged for Campbell to sing for Jazz flutist Bobby Humphrey. Campbell’s audition tape passed through the hands of Benny Medina and then finally landed in front of the legendary Quincy Jones. Jones would formally introduce Campbell to the world in 1989 as a feature on his ensemble album Back on the Block . His debut single “Tomorrow (A Better You A Better Me) was released in 1990 and eventually nabbed the number one spot atop the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop chart. Campbell’s vocal abilities drew comparisons to other legends such as Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. It also brought the attention of another legend, the Purple One himself; Prince. Impressed, Prince wrote and produced what would become Campbell’s second and first solo hit, “Round and Round” and added it to the soundtrack to his film Graffiti Bridge.
In 1991 Campbell released his debut album, T.E.V.I.N which spawned the hit “Tell Me What You Want Me To Do.” His sophomore effort, I’m Ready, arrived in 1993 and introduced a more mature Campbell. It contained the top ten Pop and R&B number one hit, “Can We Talk.” It was followed by the top five “I’m Ready.” On a hot streak, Campbell dabbled outside of music. In 1995 he voiced the character of the musician Powerline in Disney’s A Goofy Movie. He also recorded two original songs; “Eye To Eye” and “Stand Out” for the film. By the release of his third album Back to the World in 1996, Campbell’s steam began to sizzle. Although the album’s title track was a minor hit, the following singles failed to make a dent on the charts. Campbell’s last studio release came in 1999, Tevin Campbell but it too failed to make any noise. There were some personal issues that occurred in 1999 and as result Campbell disappeared from the scene. He reappeared in 2009 at the BET Awards performing in a tribute to The O’Jays. One year later on The Mo’Nique Show he hinted at a possible comeback. He was also featured on the remake of his mentor, Quicny Jones’; hit “Secret Garden” in 2010.
As with many teen artists, it is quite common that their immense popularity surpasses their actual talent. That wasn’t the case with Tevin Campbell. A gifted vocalist with a baby face, Tevin Campbell’s voice was the soundtrack to millions of people during his run at the top. He may not have been the total package like an Usher, but there is no question that whatever success he did accumulate was more than deserved.