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Starpoint was an American R&B sextet from Maryland that began recording in the 1980s, releasing a string of solid albums first on the Casablanca sub-label Chocolate City, and later on Elektra. While the band's earlier albums, especially 1980's Keep on It were more funk than R&B, vocalist Renée Diggs brought the R&B elements to the forefront with her powerful vocals which had both presence and sophistication, coupled with near perfect pitch and very pleasing tone.
Starpoint's producers over the years included Lionel Job, Keith Diamond, Bernard Edwards, Teddy Riley, Ernesto Phillips, George Phillips, and Starpoint
Initially performing under the name "Licyndiana," Starpoint was originally formed in 1969 near Annapolis, Maryland by the children of two local doctors. Kayode Adeyemo, whose parents had been immigrants from Nigeria and Barbados, was born and grew up in Crownsville, Maryland. His father, a doctor, worked with Dr. George Phillips at Crownsville Hospital. As a result, a young Kayode Adeyemo was introduced to Dr. Phillips' five sons: Ernesto, Orlando, Lloyd, Greg, and George, Jr. Soon thereafter, Adeyemo began jamming with four of the Phillips brothers, each of whom were multi-instrumentalists. Initially, Adeyemo played bass guitar in the group. After this foundation had stabilized, Renée Diggs came on board as the lead singer, Terre Holland as the new bassist, and Marvin Ennis as the keyboardist completing the Licyndiana line-up.
With so much musical/instrumental talent between them, the Phillips brothers each came to specialize in particular instruments within the band, with Ernesto Phillips handling lead guitar and trumpet; Orlando Phillips on bass guitar, keyboards, and saxophone; Greg Phillips on drums; and George Phillips, Jr. on keyboards. Additional musical contributors included Terre Holland on bass, Lonnie Allen and sometimes Clifton Hoyt on congas and percussion, and MARZ- "Make it Right" band leader Marvin Ennis on keyboards as well. Renee Diggs handled most of the lead parts. By the end of the 1970s, the band had scored a recording contract with Cecil Holmes' Chocolate City Records, at which point, at the suggestion of Marvin Ennis, they changed their name to "Starpoint."
The group released their self-titled debut album in 1980. One of the singles from this album, "I Just Wanna Dance with You," became their first top 20 hit on the R&B chart. They would continue to release at least one album every year throughout the first half of the 80s, scoring several more minor hits on the R&B chart. When Chocolate City Records went out of business, they remained with that label's parent company, Casablanca Records for one more album. Following that album the group signed with Neil Bogart's Boardwalk Records, the label Marvin Ennis penned the Cliff Dawson and Renee Diggs hit "Never Say I Do...if you don't mean it" for. After Boardwalk Records filed for bankruptcy protection the group signed with Elektra Records. Renée Diggs and Ernesto Phillips also were romantically involved.
Major success in the R&B/soul market was elusive until 1985, when the band released their Restless album. This album not only made them superstars in the R&B world, but it also brought them significant crossover success onto the pop charts with the Top 30 single "Object of My Desire." Co-written by band members Kayode Adeyemo and Ernesto Phillips (along with noted R&B musician/producer Keith Diamond), the tune also became Starpoint's first of several R&B top-ten hits. The follow-up single "What You've Been Missin'" followed "Object..." into the R&B top ten. The title track "Restless" was also released as a single and did decently on both the pop and R&B charts. The band embarked on a lengthy tour in support of the album, during which Renée Diggs became well respected for her explosive vocal abilities, with Greg Phillips also earning a reputation for his dynamic drumming skills which garnered many standing ovations.
Later in 1985, the band was on tour with Morris Day directly after his big screen success in the motion picture Purple Rain. The second half of the "Restless Tour" had the group touring with Luther Vandross, Isley Jasper Isley, and Atlantic Starr. At the peak of their success, Renée Diggs was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. While touring became more of a challenge for the band at this point, Diggs was determined to continue touring and recording with the band and living up to her potential. She remained with the band and persevered without sacrificing any of her exuberant stage presence.
In 1987, the band released their next album, Sensational. While the single "He Wants My Body" became the band's third top-ten hit on the R&B chart, it barely made a dent on the pop charts, and the overall success of the album paled in comparison to its predecessor. The band released two more albums before eventually breaking up in 1990.
In 1990, shortly after the band's break-up, Renée Diggs recorded a solo album titled Oasis that was not initially released in the U.S., although it did see a release in Europe. Several of the tracks on this album were co-written by Diggs and Starpoint guitarist Ernesto Phillips, her longtime lover. She remained involved in the music industry throughout her life. She also created the Renée Diggs Foundation for Multiple Sclerosis, to help bring attention to the disease.
Other band members became involved with songwriting and session work for various other R&B artists. In 1988, Adeyemo was credited with co-writing Milli Vanilli's hit "Girl You Know It's True." Milli Vanilli's accompanying American album, titled after the hit single, also featured a song composed by Ernesto Phillips, entitled "More Than You'll Ever Know."
In 1989, Marvin Ennis joined the group E.U. (Experience Unlimited) of the #1 hit song "Da Butt" fame and co-penned and produced the group's last Billboard charted hit "Taste of Your Love" (#2 R&R/#4 Billboard R&B).
Orlando Phillips and Greg Phillips launched international projects which still are successful to date and have been witnessed and enjoyed by fans all over the world.
In 2000, Ernesto began working with singer-songwriter Terry Cole (Sly Boots) and signed him to his label, Longevity Records. The pair would collaborate on many tracks from 2000-2001.
Ernesto Phillips' death
On March 25, 2004, Ernesto Phillips died as the result of a stroke. The Ernesto Phillips Scholarship for Talented Youth was established in his memory and as a tribute to his efforts in helping younger children to realize their ambitions of becoming musicians.
Renée Diggs' death
Just a week shy of the one-year anniversary of the death of longtime companion Ernesto Phillips, Renée Diggs also died (March 18, 2005) at the age of 50, due to a heart condition. Her album Oasis was finally released in the U.S., posthumously.