The Friends of Distinction

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The Friends of Distinction
Friends of Distinction 1973.JPG
The Friends of Distinction in 1973.
Background information
Origin Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Genres R&B, pop, soul, sunshine pop, psychedelic soul
Years active 1968–present
(until 1975 in original incarnation)
Labels RCA Records

The Friends of Distinction is an American vocal group best known for their late 1960s hits, "Grazing in the Grass", "Love or Let Me Be Lonely", and "Going in Circles". Founded by Harry Elston and Floyd Butler, The Friends of Distinction also included Jessica Cleaves and Barbara Jean Love (plus Charlene Gibson, who replaced Love during her pregnancy).


The Friends of Distinction formed in 1968 in Los Angeles with original members Floyd Butler (June 5, 1937 – April 29, 1990), Harry Elston (born November 4, 1938), Jessica Cleaves (December 10, 1948 – May 2, 2014), and Barbara Jean Love (born July 24, 1941). Butler and Elston had worked together in The Hi-Fi's in the mid 1960s, often opening for Ray Charles. Other members of the Hi-Fi's were Marilyn McCoo and Lamont McLemore, who would later co-found The Fifth Dimension.

The Friends of Distinction were discovered by American football player Jim Brown, who also discovered Earth, Wind & Fire[citation needed], and were signed to RCA Records.

The Friends' first major hit, "Grazing in the Grass", was an Elston-sung vocal cover version of an instrumental hit by Hugh Masekela, with lyrics written by Elston. Released in March 1969, this gold record went Top 5 on both the pop and soul charts in the U.S., peaking at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in June.[1] The follow-up ballad "Going in Circles" also charted highly, hitting #15 in November.[1]

When Love took time off during her pregnancy, Charlene Gibson replaced her, singing lead on the Friends' third hit, "Love or Let Me Be Lonely", which peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1970. The Friends were prolific between 1969 and 1971, releasing five albums, with a sixth in 1973. They also released numerous singles, including "Check It Out" and a cover of Neil Sedaka's "Time Waits For No One".

The group quit touring in 1975, and broke up soon afterward. Cleaves sang with Earth, Wind & Fire for a number of years.

"Going in Circles" has been covered by Isaac Hayes, The Gap Band and Luther Vandross, and "Love or Let Me Be Lonely" by Paul Davis. "Grazing in the Grass" was redone by Disney television star Raven-Symone.

In 1990, Elston and Butler planned to revive the Friends of Distinction, but Butler suffered a heart attack and died at the age of 52 on April 29 of that year. He had already written songs for the group and one composition he co-wrote, "Check It Out", was a hit for the group Tavares. Elston formed a new quartet, also called the Friends of Distinction, and the group continues to give live performances.

Jessica Cleaves died on May 2, 2014, from a stroke at the age of 65.[2]


Studio albums

Year Title Peak chart positions Record label

1969 Grazin' 35 10 17 RCA Records
Highly Distinct 173 14
1970 Real Friends 68 9 49
Whatever 179 42
1971 Friends & People 166
1973 Love Can Make It Easier
1975 Reviviscence – Live to Light Again
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Compilation albums

  • Greatest Hits (1973, RCA)
  • Golden Classics (1989, Collectables)
  • Best of the Friends of Distinction (1996, RCA)
  • Going in Circles (2005, Sony BMG)


Year Title Peak chart positions Certifications


1969 "Grazing in the Grass" 3 5 98 5
"Going in Circles" (A-side) 15 3 24
"Let Yourself Go" (B-side) 63 34
1970 "Love or Let Me Be Lonely" 6 13 9 55 2
"Time Waits for No One" 60 37 37
1971 "I Need You" 79 28
"It Don't Matter to Me"
"Long Time Comin' My Way"
1972 "Love Is the Way of Life"
"Now Is the Time"
1973 "Easy Evil"
"Love Can Make It Easier"
1975 "Honey Baby Theme"
"Love Shack (Opened Up a Shop) Pt. 1"
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 259. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Former Earth Wind & Fire and Friends of Distinction singer Jessica Cleaves dies at age 65". Retrieved May 3, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 "US Charts > The Friends of Distinction". Billboard. Retrieved 2014-09-03. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 "CAN Charts > The Friends of Distinction". RPM. Retrieved 2014-09-03. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. David Kent (1993). Australian Charts Book 1970—1992. Australian Chart Book Pty Ltd, Turramurra, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 "US Certifications > The Friends of Distinction". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 2014-09-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

RCA Records released in 1974 a Quadraphonic album "The Greatest Hits Of The Friends Of Distinction in CD-4, Quadradisc.

External links