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The voters have spoken and we have a winner. The #1 R&B love song is Heatwave’s “Always and Forever,” which just beat out “Here and Now” by Luther Vandross at #2 and Whitney Houston’s signature song “I’ll Always Love You” at number 3.

Heatwave was part of the Dayton, Ohio connection that spawned funk bands like The Ohio Players, Lakeside and Slave. Although lead singer Johnnie Wilder, Jr. was from Dayton, he formed Heatwave while in the service in Germany. Once he left the service, he stayed in Europe, hooking up with English organ player Rod Temperton, who would become the creative catalyst behind many an R&B hit, including “Always and Forever.” The 7 member band scored with hits like “The Groove Line” and “Boogie Nights” but “Always and Forever,” written by Temperton, was the song that would outlast the band.

Temperton, who is still alive and kicking at 65 years old, is likely living a very comfortable life as he also wrote the songs “Rock With You,” “Lady in My Life” and ” “Thriller” for Michael Jackson, “The Secret Garden” for Quincy Jones” and “You Put a Move on My Heart” for Tamia, among many other hits. “Always and Forever” was a single from Heatwave’s 1977 album “Too Hot To Handle,” which also contained the hits “Boogie Nights” and “The Groove Line,” also written by Temperton. “Always and Forever” peaked at #2 on the Billboard Soul Singles chart.

Unfortunately, despite their success as one of the leading funk bands of the 70’s and after recording one of the most enduring love songs of all time, Heatwave was plagued with tragedy. Not one, but two band members were stabbed (one fatally) and lead singer and founder Johnnie Wilder, Jr., was paralyzed from the  neck down in a car accident and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. The  band’s full story was told on the TV One show “Unsung,” and remarkably, given his biggest hit, his wife stayed by his side for the next two decades until his death in 2006.

“Always and Forever” has been covered by numerous artists, most successfully by Luther Vandross in 1994, earning him a Grammy nomination.