Just for accuracy's sake, I will begin this mini-bio by explaining that Maxayn is a group. Maxayn Lewis was a member of that group. Just like the members of Blondie had to explain to fans and press that Debbie Harry was one member of the group Blondie, that her name was indeed not "Blondie," I want to make clear that Ms. Maxayn Lewis was just one part of a strong collective including Andre Lewis, Emilio Thomas, and fellow super-session musician Marlo Henderson (later, Hank Redd). But, as you see, the band was named after her, featured her as a leader, and plastered her face on all album covers. So any confusion between whether Maxayn was a group or a solo act is completely warranted.
Maxayn (the band) was a brilliant showcase for the songs and voice of this sister, who also doubled as a talented pianist and French horn player. Unlike Blondie, the group did not have much commercial success, though their music is respected by fans of rare groove and is remembered fondly by those who had hip musical tastes in the early 70s. Their music was part funk, part gospel, part Roberta Flack-ish introspective soothers. And Maxayn's voice played the part at all times, whether it was to belt out the grittier soulful tunes with toughness or use a more subdued, relaxed style for the slower numbers.
Their/her music reminds me of what Lauryn Hill does today with her work. By combining spiritual grooves, an assertive attitude, updated urban sounds, and plenty 'o soul and funk, whatever Maxayn and her comrades did worked, and we've got 3 (out-of-print) albums to show for it.
However, when the Maxayn band called it quits in 1974, the group did not die. Rather, it morphed into one of the strangest projects that the Motown label has ever recorded. This new group, born in 1977, was called Mandre and kept the core of the Maxayn group intact. This time the concept was futuristic space funk/disco complete with tons of synthesizers and blipping electronics. Maxayn's hubby Andre was at the helm, and album covers featured illustrations of his face covered by a mask, apparently (according to an insider) because Motown thought Andre was too ugly to show a picture of. Ms. Lewis was no longer singing lead in this group, but doing backup vocals, as well as songwriting and playing. And the Motown promotions machine tried to hype Mandre as being "funkier than Parliament." No one else seemed to think so, and after three albums, Mandre finally funked itself out in 1979.
By the early 1980s, Maxayn (the woman) was singing on albums by the Gap Band. Today, I have no idea what she is doing. But I hope she is still around somewhere to enjoy the respect that she has earned in the burgeoning rare groove collectors' community.
Unless otherwise noted, all written material copyright 1999, Melissa A. Weber.
No part of these pages may be reproduced on another site without my prior written consent.
Trying For Days by Maxayn, 1972
Fun by Maxayn, 1974
Third World Calling (Opus II) by Mandre, 1977
Maxayn by Maxayn, Capricorn, 1972
Mindful by Maxayn, Capricorn, 1973
Bail Out for Fun by Maxayn, Capricorn, 1974
Mandre by Mandre, Motown, 1977
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