Boyz II Men were one of the most popular music groups around during the 1990s. So fans were shocked when one member of the band decided to leave in 2003. But then, 13 years later, Michael McCary opened up about the devastating real reason behind his departure.
Boyz II Men formed in Philadelphia in 1985 when classmates Marc Nelson and Nathan Morris started the a cappella group at the local High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. Initially, three school friends joined them, but they had to leave in 1988 once they had graduated.
By that point, though, the remaining members had enlisted Wanya Morris to be in the band. And before long, Michael McCary and Shawn Stockman had also joined the group. They then performed for Michael Bivins when the New Edition star came to Philadelphia and convinced him to serve as their manager. So it looked liked Boyz II Men were on their way to stardom. Founding member Nelson left the group before they hit the big time, however, because he clashed with his bandmates.
The group then became a foursome and remained that way for over a decade. They released their first album, Cooleyhighharmony, in 1991 and won a Grammy for it the following year. And in 1992, they broke records with their song End of the Road, which is their greatest hit.
Boyz II Men continued to record throughout the ’90s and had further success with songs including “I’ll Make Love To You,” “On Bended Knee” and “4 Seasons of Loneliness.” In 2002, though, the band released the album Full Circle, the last record McCary made with the group before his January 2003 departure.
Like the other band members, McCary had joined the group while in high school. But he did not have a routine audition. In fact, the boys would regularly practice in the school bathrooms because of the strong sound quality there. Then one day McCary began singing along after walking in on one of their rehearsals. The others soon asked him to join them permanently.
McCary later became the band’s bass singer and took the stage name Mike Bass as a result. “Mike came into the group on a whim, but he was a phenomenon,” Morris said during an appearance on Oprah: Where Are They Now? in September 2016. “His voice was ridiculous. There was no voice like it.”
When McCary left the band in 2003, he cited personal reasons and chronic back pain. But Morris admitted that he doubted the bass singer’s ailment was untreatable. “One of the problems was he had a back issue,” he claimed. “It could have been fixed. Instead, he stopped coming to work, and we had to move forward without him – and he wasn’t happy about that.”
So the group continued as a trio and cut ties with McCary. But in October 2016 McCary decided to speak out. Yes, the singer revealed why he really left the band while appearing on the OWN network series Iyanla: Fix My Life. For those not in the know, Iyanla: Fix My Life is a TV show in which relationship expert Iyanla Vanzant helps people through their personal problems.
McCary, for instance, appeared on the episode because he hoped to deal with the emotional pain that leaving Boyz II Men caused him. “I want to get over the hurt and abandonment that I feel from the group that I’ve been with for so long and gave my life to,” he said.
“I want to be able to go in a room with them and not feel like I want to choke them,” McCary explained. During the show, the singer also revealed, “If I had to sum up what I got from my brothers in Boyz II Men, I would have to say betrayal, a broken bond. I mean, at this point, we don’t even talk.” Then, while chatting to the other people featured on the self-help show, McCary dropped a bombshell.
“I have M.S.,” the singer said. “It sent me into a depression.” It turned out that McCary had been fighting the debilitating disease for over two decades. In fact, he said it began while he was a part of the band. But he had never shared the truth with the people he was closest to, including the other members of the group.
“It was like little back spasms at first,” McCary said. “And then they would get stronger and stronger. Each time it would get more harsh.” And as Boyz II Men’s success grew, it only became worse. The bass singer added, “Once I was about 22, it started going to full-scale.”
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder that can affect the brain and spinal cord. This is caused by damage within the central nervous system that leads to disruption of communication between the brain and body. M.S. actually reduces life expectancy by up to ten years, too, and there is currently no cure for it.
And as if that weren’t bad news enough, physicians told McCary that continuing to perform with Boyz II Men could cause permanent injury to his body. “They were saying that I have a nerve around the sciatica that was locked in place that could sever if I stepped wrong,” the singer explained. “It’s a possibility that [I] could be paralyzed.”
However, McCary never told his bandmates just how bad things were. “I stopped trusting the brothers when I was about 29,” the singer said. “I went through a depression, and it just started to separate me [even] more.”
McCary added that the other band members did have an idea of the pain that he was suffering. “They knew I had all the symptoms of M.S., still, but they didn’t know [it was] M.S.,” McCary revealed on the show. “Giving it a label wouldn’t have changed the symptoms.”
The musician was reportedly diagnosed with the autoimmune disease when he was 28 years old. And McCary said the illness affected his marriage as well as his career. After all, the bass singer didn’t even admit to his then wife what was going on with his health. He said, “It became a situation where I didn’t trust her anymore.”
And although McCary has yet to make peace with his bandmates, fans have sent the singer nothing but support following his revelation. Yes, viewers were quick to praise him for speaking out about his battle with M.S. and for his contribution to the music industry.
“I miss him in the group. It’s a huge void. Wishing him well,” one YouTube user shared. Another agreed, “His voice was a huge influence on Boyz II Men’s unique sound.” And one commenter added, “I’m so sad that [Michael McCary] is going through what he’s going through. I pray for a long, healthy life for him.”