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David Townsend (May 17, 1955 - October 26, 2005) was an Americanmarker musician best known as the guitarist for the R&B band Surface, and the son of singer/songwriter Ed Townsend.


Early years

Townsend was born in Inglewood, Californiamarker, the son of Ed Townsend, a singer/songwriter who co-wrote and produced "Let's Get It On" with Marvin Gaye in 1972. The younger Townsend showed an interest in music from an early age and soon learned to play an array of instruments, including the guitar, piano and synthesiser.

Early career

After graduationg from college in the mid-1970s, Townsend joined The Isley Brothers' backing band, as guitarist, before forming a group called Port Authority with David Conley, another singer and musician. They found another member in Bernard Jackson and formed a songwriting partnership, which led to them becoming staff writers at EMI.

After having written songs for New Edition ("Let's Be Friends"), Gwen Guthrie and Sister Sledge ("You're So Fine"), the group decided to record some of their own material. They chose the name Surface and released "Falling in Love" and "When Your 'Ex' Wants You Back" on the disco label Salsoul Records.

Peak success (1989-1991)

Although Surface achieved some club success, Townsend felt the band could have gone a lot further on a larger label. In 1985, he went to Mississippimarker to visit his father, who was building a recording studio there. (Ed) Townsend pulled some strings to get Surface a contract with Columbia. They convinced the label to let them continue recording at The Lab, the 24-track studio they had built in Conley's living room in New Jerseymarker.

Surface's first single on Columbia, "Let's Try Again", was a small hit, however, "Happy" reached #2 on the US R&B charts and #20 on the US Pop charts in 1987, and the groups debut album sold well. Their 1989 follow-up album, 2nd Wave saw the band become staples of the quiet storm urban radio format with the success of the single "Closer Than Friends", which reached #1 on the R&B charts on March 18, 1989 and was there for two weeks, and "Shower Me With Your Love," a Jackson written song, reached #1 on the R&B Charts on July 29, which crossed over to the US Pop charts. Their next single, "You Are My Everything", featured Regina Belle as a guest vocalist and on November 4, 1989, took over the top of the R&B charts, replacing her single "Baby Come to Me," it also crossed over onto the British charts.

Townsend had a song that he co-wrote with David Conley reach #1 on the US R&B charts. "Don't Take It Personal" by Jermaine Jackson, reached #1 on November 18, 1989, replacing "You Are My Everything" by Surface.

In 1991, Surface released the album 3 Deep which included the singles "Can We Spend Some Time", "All I Want Is You", "Never Gonna Let You Down" and "The First Time", which topped the US pop charts. "The First Time" reached #1 on the US R&B charts on January 19, 1991 and became the groups biggest hit.

However, Townsend and Conley decided to concentrate on songwriting and producing and helped Aretha Franklin record the album What You See Is What You Sweat in 1991, while Jackson went solo.

Later years

The group disbanded in 1994 after Townsend and Jackson left the group. However, in 1999, the band reunited and released their final studio album Love Zone. Plans were being made for a reunion tour, however those plans where cancelled when Townsend was found dead in his home.



Year Title Chart positions
1987 Surface (Columbia) #55 #11
1989 2nd Wave (Columbia) #56 #5
1990 3 Deep (Columbia) #65 #19
1991 The Best Surface: A Nice Time for Loving (Columbia) - -
1999 Love Zone - -
2001 The First Time: The Best of Surface (Sony) - -


Year Song US Hot 100 US R&B US A.C. US Hot Dance
1983 "Falling in Love" - #84 - -
1984 "When Your Ex Wants You Back" - #84 - -
1986 "Let's Try Again" - #22 - -
1987 "Happy" #20 #2 #24 #16
1987 "Lately" - #8 - -
1988 "I Missed" - #3 - -
1989 "Can We Spend Some Time" - #5 - -
1989 "Closer Than Friends" #57 #1 - #39
1989 "Shower Me With Your Love" #5 #1 #3 -
1989 "You Are My Everything" #84 #1 - -
1990 "The First Time" #1 #1 #1 -
1991 "All I Want Is You" - #8 - -
1991 "Never Gonna Let You Down" #17 #24 #17 -
1991 "You're the One"/"We Don't Have to Say Good-bye" - #35 - -
1992 "A Nice Time for Lovin'" - #52 - -

See also


  1. "Billboard" Albums on Allmusic
  2. "Billboard" Hot 100 Singles on Allmusic
  3. "Billboard" R&B Singles on Allmusic
  4. "Billboard" AC Singles on Allmusic
  5. "Billboard" Club Play Singles on Allmusic

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