He later worked with Rev. James Cleveland when he was the director of the Watts Community Choir and a member of the Los Angeles Community Choir. The gospel influence was very evident in Rogers' later secular releases, with many of his songs filled with inspirational messages. After signing with RCA Records, Rogers' debut album It's Good to Be Alive was released.
Initially gaining radio airplay as an album track, the single "Say You Love Me" peaked at number 51 R&B on Billboard's charts in spring 1976. The 45 was a "turntable hit," meaning that it received a substantial amount of radio play, but for whatever reasons the exposure didn't translate into the single being a big seller. The lackluster chart success of "Say You Love Me" (and his other RCA releases) lead to Rogers' angry tirades in an article in the premier Soul Magazine, as he attributed the label's seemingly slothful attitude towards his music as a result of the record division's main purpose as being that of a "tax write-off." After listening to "Say You Love Me," one would have to wonder why the record wasn't a bigger hit. Besides the aforementioned Cole and others, Jennifer Holliday covered the song; her version can be found on Best of Jennifer Holliday, UNI/Geffen.
Another track from It's Good to Be Alive that received radio play was the poignant tale of "Bula Jean," a girl that had beauty that "the world" couldn't see. On "Bula Jean," Rogers' gospel-born fervor was at its peak. On his next album, Rogers began his collaboration with composer/keyboardist/arranger/producer Jerry Peters (co-wrote "Going in Circles" with Anita Poree, a 1969 gold single for the Friends of Distinction and a number two R&B hit for the Gap Band in 1986). Beginning with a swirling strings intro, "Let Your Life Shine" was Rogers' jubilant single that charted at number 78 R&B, fall 1976.
It was included on the 1976 On the Road Again LP. Rogers signed with Lonnie Simmons' Total Experience Records (the Gap Band, Yarbrough and Peoples) and the LP Love, Music & Life was issued in 1977. Rogers' first single for the RCA-distributed label, "Love Is All I Need," featured multi-tracked vocals by Deniece Williams ("Free," "Let's Hear It for the Boy," "Too Little Too Late" with Johnny Mathis). The second single was the passionate "Saved by Love." Other highlights were "She Has Eyes for Me," "You Against You," and the pumping "Love Will Make It Better." Signing with Columbia Records, the singer/songwriter finally enjoyed some upper chart success.
His highest charting single was "Love Brought Me Back," maybe Rogers' most biographical song. In it, the singer seems to "testify" to his music industry travails. Record buyers heard him, taking the track to number 20 R&B during summer 1978. The follow-up, the playful "All My Love (Part 1)" made it to number 87 R&B, late 1978.
Rogers was on Earth, Wind & Fire leader Maurice White's Columbia-distributed label ARC when one of his most enduring tracks, the percolating steppers' favorite "Trust in Me (Part 1)" mid-charted at number 68 R&B, spring 1979. The track has a "shucking" string arrangement by Coleridge Taylor Perkinson. The follow-up, "Love Cycles," went to number 44 R&B, spring 1980. Rogers dueted with singer/keyboardist Patrice Rushen on "Givin' It up Is Givin' Up" from her 1980 Elektra LP Pizzaazz.
Released as a single, it peaked at number 47 R&B, summer 1980. The album also yielded her number seven R&B hit "Haven't You Heard." Both tracks are on the 1996 Rhino greatest-hits set Haven't You Heard-The Best of Patrice Rushen. Rogers' last charting single was a cover of Kenny Rogers number five pop hit "She Believes in Me" which charted number 66 R&B. During the mid- and late '80s, he recorded gospel albums.
He co-wrote "My Faith in Jesus" with John Black for gospel artist Keith Pringle ("Call Him Up") and wrote and performed a duet with Pringle on "One More Day." Rogers appeared as a choir member on the 1997 UPN-TV sitcom Good News. Another gospel-influenced singer/keyboardist, Billy Preston, was in the cast too. Some of Rogers' RCA/Columbia sides can be found on Collectables Records' 1996 set D.J. Rogers: Golden Classics.
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