D.J. Rogers, the underappreciated soul singer-songwriter who died Aug. 22 at the age of 72, had one of those voices that just stuck in your head.
Start your day by listening to the Southern California native croon through a number — such as the exquisite ballad “Say You Love Me” — and Rogers’ voice might just stay with you past nightfall. There was just something so warmly reassuring about the way he sang, like hearing from a dear old friend — an incredibly talented friend, that is — while you’re going through rough times.
It’s a voice that definitely still brings comfort during these times, which are rough in so many ways, and makes us feel a little less alone.
Rogers — whose cause of death was not immediately available — will be greatly missed by his loyal fan base, which, unfortunately, never was as big as his talent.
DeWayne Julius “D.J.” Rogers was born May 9, 1948, in Los Angeles and released his eponymous debut in 1973 on Shelter Records, the label founded by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Leon Russell and acclaimed producer Denny Cordell.
He’d move over to the mighty RCA label for his sophomore effort, 1975’s “It’s Good to Be Alive,” which would turn out to be a commercial highlight of his career, becoming his first and only album to reach the top 40 on the R&B charts.
That album was chock full of good songs, including the attention-grabbing opener “Hold On, Be Strong” and the joyous title track, but it’s best remembered for delivering the minor (but excellent) hit “Say You Love Me.”
That single just managed to crack the top 100 on the pop charts, rising as far as No. 98, and hit No. 51 on the R&B charts. But, given the quality of the song, it should have been much bigger than that — just like Rogers’ overall career.
The great Natalie Cole, however, knew a good thing when she heard it and decided to cover “Say You Love Me” on her 1999 album, “Snowfall on the Sahara.”
Rogers remained on RCA for two more records — including 1976’s “On the Road Again,” which did decent business — before continuing his career on Capitol and Arc record labels.
It was on Capitol that Rogers delivered the fan favorite “Love Brought Me Back” in 1978. The title track from the album would turn out to be Rogers’ biggest hit, at least in terms of chart numbers, as it reached No. 20 on the R&B charts.
Rogers continued to be a presence on the charts through the ’70s, with his final “hit” coming in 1980 with a cover of Kenny Rogers’ “She Believes In Me,” which reached No. 66 on the R&B chart.
In the 1980s, Rogers — who grew up singing in church — began pursuing a career in gospel music and recording such songs as “I Told Him I Would Sing” and “Jesus Chant.” Many of his best-known gospel songs can be found on the 1982 album “Hope Songs, Vol. 1.”
Going back and listening to “Save You Love Me,” “Love Brought Me Back” and other Rogers tracks certainly serves as a potent reminder of this singer-songwriter’s immense talent. And if there is a soul/funk fan out there who has yet to experience his music then we highly recommend devoting some time to it today.
Rogers is truly one of the genre’s most underappreciated talents. But here’s hoping that someday they’ll be no need to mention the underappreciated part.