SWV Through The Years

While there aren't any popular girl groups today, back in the 1990's there were plenty and SWV was the cream of the crop. Touting members Tamara "Taj" Johnson-George, Cheryl "Coko" Clemons and Leanne "LeLee" Lyons, the New York City threesome gave us some of R&B's most memorable hits like "Weak," "Right Here" and "You're The One." In April 2012, the ladies released their fifth album "I Missed Us," and since we did long for SWV, here's a look back at the trio's history. Make sure you get your tickets to see the ladies at the 2012 ESSENCE Music Festival!
ESSENCE.COM Jun, 04, 2012

1 of 11 Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

In 1992, SWV, comprised of Leanne “Lelee” Lyons, Cheryl “Coko” Clemons, and Tamara “Taj” Johnson-George, released their first album, produced by the king of New Jack Swing Teddy Riley. “It’s About Time” changed this threesome into R&B stars. Here are Taj, LeeLee and Coko eight months after their debut’s release, backstage at Northern California’s KMEL Summer Jam concert in 1993.

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Here the ladies are, giving early 1992 tough sweetness for their debut album “It’s About Time” cover. Little did we know that at the time LeLee had two young children at home and Taj was battling her own demons.

“I lost my mother at age 14 and had nothing or anyone to step in for her. I fell in many traps and have tons of scars. I was emotional, scared of everything, lacked self-esteem and confidence immensely and suffered from anxiety,” Taj told the Huffington Post when asked what advice she’d give her younger self. “I would have told myself that the only person able to deter you is you! You’re strong enough to nurture yourself. Everything that you think of yourself was filtered to you through people who feel that same way about themselves. It only matters if you believe it yourself.”

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In April 1994 SWV released their biggest hit, a balled called “Weak.” Detailing an all consuming love, “Weak” shot up the R&B charts and eventually went platinum, selling one million copies. In addition, the song, written by songwriter producer Brian Alexander Morgan, was meant to express his feeling toward another singer Chante Moore.

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Released in April 1994, SWV’s bouncy “Anything” kicked off the “Above The Rim” movie soundtrack. The film, starring Duane Martin and Tupac Shakur and the single peaked at no. 4 on the R&B charts. In the clip for “Anything” you can see Coko cuddling up to a young supermodel, Tyson Beckford.

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In July 1993, the trio released “Right Here (Human Nature mix)” and the singe went gold. Borrowing the dizzying keys from Jackson’s track along with his vocal, Coko’s alto encouraged anyone listening to this summer jam.

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SWV’s “You’re The One” hit radio stations in April 1996 and quickly hit no. 1 on the R&B charts. Selling 500,000 copies, this was the group’s first single from their sophomore album, “New Beginnings.”

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Here are the ladies in September 1996 out and about, promoting their second single, “Use Your Heart” from their sophomore album, “New Beginnings.” The ballad reached no. 6 on the R&B charts.

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While songs like “Weak” and “Right Here” peaked atop the R&B charts, these SWV tracks also topped the pop charts, which allowed the ladies to perform abroad in cities like London, England. Here are Taj and Coko in January 1996.

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“Rain,” SWV’s smooth jam hit stations in March 1998 and rose to no. 7 on the R&B charts.

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In 1998 SWV disbanded. Coko went on to release her debut solo album 1999’s “Hot Coko” to moderate success.

SWV were going through some changes,” Coko told MTV radio in 1999. “You know, we had communications problems. The unity was gone and the friendship was gone, basically. That’s the whole thing in a nutshell. It was either we were gonna get it together or we weren’t. And we couldn’t get it together, so we had to go. And that was it.”

Coko then began a career in Gospel music, releasing 2006’s “Grateful.” Marrying Mike Clemons, the couple have a son along with Coko’s son from another relationship.

Taj married husband Eddie George in 2004 and welcomed a son as well as a stepson through their union.

Here the ladies are reuniting at the 2010 Soul Train Awards in November 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.

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In April 2012, a reformed SWV released their fifth album, “I Missed Us.” The LP’s first single “Co-Sign” kicked off the project and the album entered the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums at No. 6. Here are the ladies leaving a taping for the “Wendy Williams Show” in New York City.


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