Get to know underrated R&B group Aurra

In the latter half of the ‘70s, the funk group Slave was of the top bands in the business, and in 1979, that band’s co-founder, Steve “the Fearless Leader” Washington, wanted to create an offshoot that would parallel the band’s success. That group would become known as Aurra, and during the early ‘80s, they would be one of the pioneers of the electro-funk movement that would be widespread throughout the sound.

Originally, Aurra featured Curt Jones, Starleana Young, Charles Carter, and Buddy Hankerson, and they initially signed with Dream Records, where they released their self-titled 1980 debut album. When that album went nowhere, Washington moved Aurra to Salsoul Records, one of the leading labels of the disco era, and the band took off.

Their sophomore effort (and first for Salsoul) was 1981’s Send Your Love, and it featured the number 16 smash “Are You Single.” That single was ahead of its time, as it featured a fat bassline and soaring synths, and the smooth vocals of Young and Jones added to the track’s appeal. Led by “Are You Single,” Send Your Love was a hit, and it would set the stage for their biggest smash, 1982’s A Little Love.

A Little Love featured the same synths and bassline sounds of Send Your Love, but it was more polished, and it contained the smash single “Make Up Your Mind.” To some, “Make Up Your Mind” sounded like a re-hash of “Are You Single,” but fans ate it up, and the song became their biggest hit, reaching number six on the R&B charts and crossing over onto the Hot 100, stalling at number 71.

But Aurra’s success wouldn’t last long as financial and legal troubles began to take hold of the group. Around the time 1983’s Live and Let Live was released, Young and Jones was becoming weary of how Washington was handling the group. Tensions between the three became so bad, that in 1984, Washington left the group and offered to sell the name to Young and Jones.

That deal fell through, and Washington ended up keeping the name and tried to release a new Aurra album with a new lineup in 1985. That LP never saw the light of day thanks to lawsuits from Young and Jones that blocked the released of the album and the closing of Salsoul Records that same year.

Young and Jones, who were now with Next Plateau Records, themselves tried to release an album under the Aurra name, but protests from Washington forced them to change their name to “Deja.” The duo did have a hit in 1987’s “You and Me Tonight,” but Young and Jones would split up in 1988, and that would be the end of Aurra/Deja.