The undisputed Queen of Soul, her gospel-tinged R&B displays one of the greatest voices in recording history.
On March 25, 1942, was born Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul, who garnered much success and respect with songs such as "Respect", "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," "Think," and "I Say a Little Prayer." These hits and more helped her to gain the title The Queen of Soul by the end of the 1960s decade.
Aretha Franklin is one of the giants of soul music, and indeed of American pop as a whole. More than any other performer, she epitomized soul at its most gospel-charged. Her astonishing run of late-'60s hits with Atlantic Records -- "Respect," "I Never Loved a Man," "Chain of Fools," "Baby I Love You," "I Say a Little Prayer," "Think," "The House That Jack Built," and several others -- earned her the title "Lady Soul," which she has worn uncontested ever since. Yet as much of an international institution as she's become, much of her work -- outside of her recordings for Atlantic in the late '60s and early '70s -- is erratic and only fitfully inspired, making discretion a necessity when collecting her records.
Franklin's roots in gospel ran extremely deep. With her sisters Carolyn and Erma (both of whom would also have recording careers), she sang at the Detroit church of her father, Reverend C.L. Franklin, while growing up in the 1950s. In fact, she made her first recordings as a gospel artist at the age of 14. It has also been reported that Motown was interested in signing Aretha back in the days when it was a tiny start-up. Ultimately, however, Franklin ended up with Columbia, to which she was signed by the renowned talent scout John Hammond.
Franklin would record for Columbia constantly throughout the first half of the '60s, notching occasional R&B hits (and one Top 40 single, "Rock-a-bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody") but never truly breaking out as a star. The Columbia period continues to generate considerable controversy among critics, many of whom feel that Aretha's true aspirations were being blunted by pop-oriented material and production. In fact, there's a reasonable amount of fine items to be found on the Columbia sides, including the occasional song ("Lee Cross," "Soulville") where she belts out soul with real gusto. It's undeniably true, though, that her work at Columbia was considerably tamer than what was to follow, and suffered in general from a lack of direction and an apparent emphasis on trying to develop her as an all-around entertainer, rather than as an R&B/soul singer.
When Franklin left Columbia for Atlantic, producer Jerry Wexler was determined to bring out her most soulful, fiery traits. As part of that plan, he had her record her first single, "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)," at Muscle Shoals in Alabama with esteemed Southern R&B musicians. In fact, that was to be her only session actually at Muscle Shoals, but much of the remainder of her '60s work would be recorded with the Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section, although the sessions would actually take place in New York City. The combination was one of those magic instances of musical alchemy in pop: the backup musicians provided a much grittier, soulful, and R&B-based accompaniment for Aretha's voice, which soared with a passion and intensity suggesting a spirit that had been allowed to fly loose for the first time.
In the late '60s, Franklin became one of the biggest international recording stars in all of pop. Many also saw Franklin as a symbol of black America itself, reflecting the increased confidence and pride of African-Americans in the decade of the civil rights movement and other triumphs for the black community. The chart statistics are impressive in and of themselves: ten Top Ten hits in a roughly 18-month span between early 1967 and late 1968, for instance, and a steady stream of solid mid- to large-size hits for the next five years after that. Her Atlantic albums were also huge sellers, and far more consistent artistically than those of most soul stars of the era. Franklin was able to maintain creative momentum, in part, because of her eclectic choice of material, which encompassed first-class originals and gospel, blues, pop, and rock covers, from the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel to Sam Cooke and the Drifters. She was also a fine, forceful, and somewhat underrated keyboardist.
Franklin's commercial and artistic success was unabated in the early '70s, during which she landed more huge hits with "Spanish Harlem," "Bridge Over Troubled Water," and "Day Dreaming." She also produced two of her most respected, and earthiest, album releases with Live at Fillmore West and Amazing Grace. The latter, a 1972 double LP, was a reinvestigation of her gospel roots, recorded with James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir. Remarkably, it made the Top Ten, counting as one of the greatest gospel-pop crossover smashes of all time.
Who's Zoomin' Who?Franklin had a few more hits over the next few years -- "Angel" and the Stevie Wonder cover "Until You Come Back to Me" being the most notable. Her Atlantic contract ended at the end of the 1970s. She signed with the Clive Davis-guided Arista and scored number one R&B hits with "Jump to It," "Get It Right," and "Freeway of Love." Many of her successes were duets, or crafted with the assistance of contemporaries such as Luther Vandross and Narada Michael Walden. In 1986 Franklin released her follow-up to Who's Zoomin' Who?, the self-titled Aretha, which saw the single "I Knew You Were Waiting for Me," a duet with George Michael, hit the top of the charts. There was also another return to gospel in 1987 with One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. Franklin shifted back to pop with 1989's Through the Storm, but it wasn't a commercial success, and neither was 1991's new jack swing-styled What You See Is What You Sweat.
Now solidly an iconic figure and acknowledged as one of the best singers of her generation no matter what her record sales were, Franklin contributed songs to several movie soundtracks in the next few years before releasing the R&B-based A Rose Is Still a Rose in 1998. So Damn Happy followed five years later in 2003 and again saw disappointing sales, but it did generate the Grammy-winning song "Wonderful." Franklin left Arista that same year and started her own label, Aretha's Records, two years later. A duets compilation, Jewels in the Crown: All-Star Duets with the Queen, was issued in 2007, followed by her first holiday album, 2008's This Christmas. The first release on her own label, A Woman Falling Out of Love, appeared in 2011. She signed to RCA and realigned with Clive Davis, who connected her with the likes of Babyface and OutKast's André 3000 for Sings the Great Diva Classics, for which she covered Gladys Knight, Barbra Streisand, and Adele, among others. Despite sometimes poor health, she continued to select new projects to work on; ever the institution, her reputation is secure as one of the best singers of the modern era.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
With his Blue Notes, the gentle crooner was at the forefront of the 1970s Philly soul movement.
On March 24, 1997, dies singer and band leader Harold Melvin of the Philly soul group Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, at age 57. Had the 1972 US No.3 & 1974 UK No.9 single 'If You Don't Know Me By Know' and 1973 hit ‘The Love I Lost.’
Harold Melvin was one of the driving forces behind Philadelphia soul, leading his group the Blue Notes to the top of the charts during their stint on Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff's Philadelphia International label. Despite Melvin's billing out front, the Blue Notes' focal point was lead singer and onetime drummer Teddy Pendergrass, whose surging baritone graced the Blue Notes' recordings during their glory years of 1972-1975 and gave them a truly distinctive sound. Their output ranged from sweeping, extended proto-disco dance tracks to silky, smoldering ballads, all wrapped up in Gamble and Huff's lushly orchestrated production. When Pendergrass left for a solo career, Melvin & the Blue Notes' commercial fortunes largely reverted to the pre-Pendergrass days (of which there were quite a few), although they did continue to record for a time. They never really disbanded, and by the time Melvin passed away in 1997, he'd been leading the Blue Notes for over four decades.
Melvin was born June 25, 1939, in Philadelphia. A self-taught pianist, he began singing doo wop as a teenager with a group called the Charlemagnes, and put together the very first edition of the Blue Notes in 1954. The original lineup was a quintet featuring Melvin as the lead singer (for a time), songwriter, arranger, and choreographer; ironically, he would mostly relinquish those duties by the time the group achieved its greatest success. the Blue Notes cut their first single, "If You Love Me," for Josie in 1956, and scored R&B chart hits in 1960 with "My Hero" and again in 1965 with "Get Out (And Let Me Cry)." Numerous personnel shifts kept the group in flux despite steady recording activity, and Melvin kept assembling new versions of the Blue Notes. During the late '60s, the group toured often with the Cadillacs, whose young drummer Teddy Pendergrass would prove to be Melvin's greatest discovery.
Pendergrass first joined the Blue Notes' backing band, but demonstrated so much vocal talent that Melvin soon elevated him to the post of lead singer. This move helped them land a deal with Gamble and Huff's Philadelphia International label in 1972, just as the company was taking its place as soul music's new epicenter. With Gamble and Huff now supplying top-quality material and production, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes would become one of the most popular groups in R&B over the next few years. They ran off a string of hits and topped the R&B charts with the classic ballad "If You Don't Know Me By Now" (1972), the string-laden dance track "The Love I Lost" (1973), a duet with Melvin discovery Sharon Paige called "Hope That We Can Be Together Soon" (1975), and "Wake Up Everybody" (also 1975). By that time, tension was building within the group. The heavily spotlighted Pendergrass was hungry for separate billing, but Melvin, still the group's chief organizing force, turned him down. In 1976, Pendergrass left the Blue Notes for a solo career, which signaled the end of Melvin's relationship with Philadelphia International. Melvin soldiered on, helming several more albums of new material for several labels up through 1984, although his group only managed one more significant hit, 1977's "Reaching for the World." Melvin continued to tour with versions of the Blue Notes steadily into the '90s. Sadly, he suffered a stroke and never fully recovered; he passed away on March 24, 1997, in his beloved hometown of Philadelphia.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Sweet soul diva scored 1970s hits backed by Rufus, notched solo classics into the '80s.
On March 23, 1953, was born Chaka Khan, (Yvette Marie Stevens), US singer, (1984 UK No.1 & US No.3 single 'I Feel For You'), Rufus, (1974 US No.3 single 'Tell Me Something Good').
Best known in the mainstream for her superb 1984 cover of Prince's "I Feel for You," R&B singer Chaka Khan enjoyed solo success as well as popularity as a member of the group Rufus. Born Yvette Marie Stevens in Great Lakes, IL, on March 23, 1953, she was raised on Chicago's South Side, and at the age of 11 formed her first group, the Crystalettes. While still in high school, she joined the Afro-Arts Theater, a group which toured with Motown great Mary Wells; a few years later, she adopted the African name Chaka Khan while working on the Black Panthers' breakfast program. After quitting high school in 1969, Khan joined the group Lyfe, soon exiting to join another dance band, the Babysitters; neither was on the fast track to success, but her fortunes changed when she teamed with ex-American Breed member Kevin Murphy and André Fisher to form Rufus.
Debuting in 1973 with a self-titled effort on the ABC label, Rufus was among the pre-eminent funk groups of the decade; distinguished by Khan's dynamic vocals, the group earned half a dozen gold or platinum albums before she went solo in 1978. Produced by Arif Mardin, Chaka proved to be a significant hit on the strength of the single "I'm Every Woman" (a hit over a decade later for Whitney Houston); however, Khan's success was somewhat tempered by her public rivalry with the remaining members of Rufus, to whom she was still contractually bound for two more LPs. (Their differences were eventually resolved in a 1982 concert at New York's Savoy Theater, issued as Stompin' at the Savoy.) As a solo artist, Khan recorded backing vocals for Ry Cooder's 1979 effort Bop Till You Drop, then cut her sophomore album, 1980's Naughty; it was not a hit, however, nor was its follow-up, What Cha' Gonna Do for Me.
In 1982, Khan recorded Echoes of an Era, a collection of jazz standards featuring performances from Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Stanley Clarke, Chick Corea, and Lenny White. Her pop career was on shaky ground when she released 1984's I Feel for You, a platinum-seller launched by its title cut, a Grammy-winning, rap-inspired rendition (featuring memorable cameos from Melle Mel and Stevie Wonder) of a fairly obscure Prince album track. Still, while subsequent LPs like 1986's Destiny and 1988's C.K. kept Khan riding high on the R&B charts, her standing in pop's mainstream again began to wane, and at the end of the 1980s, she relocated to Europe.
In 1990, she won another Grammy for "I'll Be Good to You," a duet with Ray Charles. Come 2 My House, released on Prince's independent label, appeared in 1998, years after Khan had a falling out with Warner Bros. Just after penning the autobiography Chaka! Through the Fire, she collected another Grammy -- in 2004 -- for performing Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" with the Funk Brothers in Standing in the Shadows of Motown. Classikhan, featuring several interpretations of jazz standards, followed later that year. As she continued an active touring schedule, she recorded Funk This, a set of relatively funky originals and covers (produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis), released in 2007.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Stephanie Mills is an R&B singer and stage performer who appeared in the original production of The Wiz, and enjoyed a successful dance-pop career with hits like “I Never Knew Love Like This Before.”
On March 22, 1957, was born Stephanie Mills, r&b, soul and gospel singer, songwriter and Broadway star.
Stephanie Mills first came to fame as "the little girl with the big voice" as the star of the hit Broadway play, The Wiz, an adaptation of L. Frank Baum's classic book, The Wizard of Oz. She had many R&B hits such as "I Have Learned to Respect the Power of Love," "I Feel Good All Over," "(You're Puttin') A Rush on Me," "Something in the Way (You Make Me Feel)," and "Home," along with one certified, million-selling single, "Never Knew Love Like This Before." In addition, she also had five gold albums: Whatcha Gonna Do with My Lovin', Sweet Sensation, Stephanie, If I Were Your Woman, and Home.
Born on March 22, 1957 in Brooklyn, NY, Mills honed her rich vocals singing gospel music at Brooklyn's Cornerstone Baptist Church as a small child. At age nine, she began appearing in the Broadway play Maggie Flynn. She was presented with first prize after winning "The Amateur Hour" talent contest six weeks straight at New York's famed Apollo Theater when she was nine. That success led to her being chosen as the opening act for the Isley Brothers, eventually becoming good friends with lead singer Ronald Isley. Many years later, Isley would manage and later marry singer/songwriter Angela Winbush, who co-wrote one of her number one R&B hits. Mills' debut album, Movin' In The Right Direction was recorded for ABC Records in 1974. A year later, she won the role of Dorothy in The Wiz. Her rendition of the beautiful ballad "Home" was a showstopper, mesmerizing audiences nightly for a number of years. The original cast recording of The Wiz was produced by Jerry Wexler and issued by Atlantic Records in spring 1975. Curiously, when The Wiz was made into a full-length feature film by Motown Records' film division and Universal Pictures, Diana Ross played the role of Dorothy instead of Mills. The film ended up being a major flop.
Singer Jermaine Jackson referred Mills to Motown head Berry Gordy, who signed her to the label. Her Motown debut was For the First Time, written and produced by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, issued in October 1976. For the First Time is a sweet affair with Mills convincingly covering Bacharach/David standards, most of which were originally recorded by Dionne Warwick. In 1978, she signed to 20th Century Records and was teamed with the hit production duo of James Mtume -- later leader of Mtume, who had a gold single with "Juicy Fruit" -- and Reggie Lucas. Her first LP for the label, Whatcha Gonna Do with My Lovin', went gold, going to number 12 R&B and number 22 pop on Billboard's charts in summer 1979 and spawned the singles "Whatcha Gonna Do with My Lovin'" and "You Can Get Over." Her next LP, Sweet Sensation (number three3 R&B, number 16 Pop, spring 1980) yielded "Sweet Sensation," "Never Knew Love Like This Before," and the radio-aired LP track, "Try My Love." Around this time, she briefly married former Soul Train dancer Jeffrey Daniels of the group Shalamar. Next came the LP titled Stephanie in spring 1981, which also was a huge hit, peaking at number three R&B and number 30 Pop. The album included notable songs such as "Two Hearts" -- a midtempo duet with Teddy Pendergrass -- "Night Games," and the radio-aired LP cut, "Don't Stop Doin' What Cha Do."
In 1981, Mills switched to Neil Bogart's Casablanca Records. Her LPs for the label included Tantalizingly Hot, Merciless, and I've Got The Cure. During 1983, she had her own NBC-TV daytime talk show, and reprised her role in a Broadway revival of The Wiz. She also signed with MCA Records, where she released her Stephanie Mills album.
The first single from the Stephanie Mills album was "Stand Back," in late 1985, which also included the passionate ballad "I Have Learned to Respect the Power of Love." "I Have Learned to Respect the Power of Love" was initially written by Rene Moore and Angela Winbush -- best known as the hit singing duo Rene & Angela -- as a gospel song and originally was recorded by Alton McClain and Destiny on their self-titled 1978 Polydor LP. The original version is available on Polygram's Power of Love: Best of Soul Essentials Ballads. Because of its massive radio play as an album track, Mills' version of "I Have Learned to Respect the Power of Love, -- produced by Philly soul keyboardist Ron Kersey -- was reissued as an A-side holding the number one R&B spot for two weeks in spring 1986. Its follow-up, "Rising Desire," reached number 11 R&B in summer 1986.
Her next LP's title cut was the Clay McMurray/Gloria Jones/Pam Sawyer song, "If I Were Your Woman," originally a 1971 number one R&B, number nine Pop smash for Gladys Knight & the Pips. Philly-based producer Nick Martinelli gave Mills her second number one R&B hit with "I Feel Good All Over," written by husband-and-wife songwriting duo, Gabriel Hardeman and Annette Hardeman. The song held the number one R&B spot for three weeks in spring 1987. Originally submitted to Mills' fellow MCA labelmate Patti Labelle by the Hardemans, the track was included on Mills' LP If I Were Your Woman in issued June 1987, which peaked at number 30 Pop in summer 1987. Paul Laurence and Timmy Allen produced and co-wrote the chugging "(You're Putting) a Rush on Me" giving the singer her third number one R&B hit in fall 1987. The single made it to number 85 Pop and was followed by "Secret Lady," which landed at number seven R&B in late 1987. Her covers of "If I Were Your Woman" and "Where Is the Love" followed. All were included on her If I Were Your Woman album, which peaked at number one R&B, number 30 Pop in summer 1987. Following these hits, Mills contacted Ronald Isley about working with singer/songwriter/producer Angela Winbush, who'd had hits as half of Rene & Angela and was forging a hit-filled career as a recording artist and producer for the group Body among others. The collaboration between Mills and Winbush resulted in another number one R&B single, "Something in the Way You Make Me Feel," in summer 1989.
Having starred for five years in the smash Broadway show The Wiz and recorded the song "Home for the play's 1975 original cast soundtrack album, she wanted to record the song again as a posthumous tribute to the play's producer, Ken Harper, and the song's composer, Charlie Smalls. On her new version of "Home," Take 6 sung the background vocals. The song went to number one R&B in late 1989 and was followed by "Comfort of a Man" and "Real Love." The Home LP ended up peaking at number five R&B, number 82 Pop in summer 1989. She then recorded a charting single with J.T. Taylor titled "Heart to Heart" in late 1991. Her final MCA album, Something Real, included the hit "All Day All Night" and "Never Do Wrong." Following this album, she recorded a gospel album, Personal Inspirations, for Interscope Records and in the late '90s, recorded several tracks at Philadelphia International Records with Bunny Sigler, among others.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
The definitive modern jazz guitarist, whose bluesy, soulful grit and gospel-tinged singing made him a commercial and critical success.
On March 22, 1943, was born George Benson, ten-time Grammy Award winning jazz and /pop singer, songwriter guitarist who began his professional career at twenty-one, as a jazz guitarist.
Simply one of the greatest guitarists in jazz history, George Benson is an amazingly versatile musician, whose adept skills find him crossing easily between straight-ahead jazz, smooth jazz, and contemporary R&B. Blessed with supreme taste, a beautiful, rounded guitar tone, terrific speed, a marvelous sense of logic in building solos, and, always, an unquenchable urge to swing, Benson's inspirations may have been Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery, but his style is completely his own. Not only can he play lead brilliantly, he is also one of the best rhythm guitarists around, supportive to soloists and a dangerous swinger, particularly in a soul-jazz format. Yet Benson can also sing in a lush, soulful tenor with mannerisms similar to those of Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway, and it is his voice that has proven more marketable to the public than his guitar. Benson is the guitar-playing equivalent of Nat King Cole -- a fantastic pianist whose smooth way with a pop vocal eventually eclipsed his instrumental prowess in the marketplace -- but unlike Cole, Benson has been granted enough time after his fling with the pop charts to reaffirm his jazz guitar credentials, which he still does at his concerts.
Benson actually started out professionally as a singer, performing in nightclubs at eight, recording four sides for RCA's X label in 1954, and forming a rock band at 17 while using a guitar that his stepfather made for him. Exposure to records by Christian, Montgomery and Charlie Parker got him interested in jazz, and by 1962, the teenage Benson was playing in Brother Jack McDuff's band. After forming his own group in 1965, Benson became another of talent scout John Hammond's major discoveries, recording two highly regarded albums of soul-jazz and hard bop for Columbia and turning up on several records by others, including Miles Davis' Miles in the Sky. He switched to Verve in 1967, and, shortly after the death of Montgomery in June 1968, producer Creed Taylor began recording him with larger ensembles on A&M (1968-1969) and big groups and all-star combos on CTI (1971-1976).
While the A&M and CTI albums certainly earned their keep and made Benson a guitar star in the jazz world, the mass market didn't catch on until he began to emphasize vocals after signing with Warner Bros. in 1976. His first album for Warner Bros., Breezin', became a Top Ten hit on the strength of its sole vocal track, "This Masquerade," and this led to a string of hit albums in an R&B-flavored pop mode, culminating with the Quincy Jones-produced Give Me the Night. As the '80s wore on, though, Benson's albums became riddled with commercial formulas and inferior material, with his guitar almost entirely relegated to the background. Perhaps aware of the futility of chasing the charts (after all, "This Masquerade" was a lucky accident), Benson reversed his field late in the '80s to record a fine album of standards, Tenderly, and another with the Basie band, his guitar now featured more prominently. His pop-flavored work also improved noticeably in the '90s. Benson retains the ability to spring surprises on his fans and critics, like his dazzlingly idiomatic TV appearance and subsequent record date with Benny Goodman in 1975 in honor of John Hammond, and his awesome command of the moment at several Playboy Jazz Festivals in the '80s. His latter-day recordings include the 1998 effort Standing Together, 2000's Absolute Benson, 2001's All Blues, and 2004's Irreplaceable. Three songs from 2006's Givin' It Up, recorded with Al Jarreau, were nominated for Grammy Awards in separate categories.
Benson began to see numerous reissues of his catalog material from his years with producer Creed Taylor on Verve, A&M, and CTI, from 2008 on. In 2009, he signed to Concord and released Songs and Stories for the label; he followed it up with his first primarily instrumental album in 35 years entitled Guitar Man in 2011. Two years later, in 2013, Benson released Inspiration: A Tribute to Nat King Cole, featuring arrangements by Nelson Riddle and Randy Waldman. Recorded at the age of 70, it was one of Benson's finest albums.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
R&B vocal quartet with a career marked by amazing versatility and perseverance.
On March 19, 1946, was born Ruth Pointer of the Pointer Sisters; originally an r&b vocal quartet with a career marked by amazing versatility and perseverance; later to become a trio.
On January 23, 1948, was born, Anita Pointer, singer, with the Pointer Sisters.
On July 11, 1951, was born Bonnie Pointer of the Pointer Sisters.
On April 11, 2006, June Pointer, the youngest of the four Pointer Sisters who went from teenage Gospel singers to the top of the Pop charts with such hits as 'Fire', 'Slow Hand' and 'I'm So Excited', died of cancer at the age of 52.
The Pointer Sisters were as chameleonic as David Bowie, if not more so. The sibling group backed Grace Slick and Boz Scaggs, made stops at Sesame Street and the Grand Ole Opry, won a country Grammy, and appeared in the movie Car Wash, all before scoring four consecutive Top Ten Billboard Hot 100 hits in the mid-‘80s. From their early ‘70s releases on Blue Thumb through their ‘80s commercial run on Planet and RCA, the Pointers moved through boogie-woogie, bebop, blues, country, funk, disco, soft rock, electro-pop, hard rock, and several other subgenres as if they were all second nature. The sisters covered Willie Dixon, were covered by Elvis Presley, and released 15 Top 40 Hot 100 singles while sustaining a steady presence on the R&B, club, and adult contemporary charts.
Ruth, Anita, Bonnie, and June Pointer grew up in Oakland, California, daughters of a mother and reverend father who encouraged gospel singing and forbade blues and rock & roll. They developed their love for various forms of secular music through visits and slumber parties at the homes of friends, where they could listen to music and watch programs like American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show. The sisters’ public performances were limited to church, but once they were older, Bonnie and June formed a duo and were eventually joined by Anita; they provided background vocals for a number of artists, including Grace Slick, Boz Scaggs, and Sylvester. While performing with Walter Bishop, they caught the eyes and ears of the Atlantic label, who released The Pointer Sisters' first two singles: 1971’s Honey Cone-like “Don’t Try to Take the Fifth” and the following year’s “Destination No More Heartaches.” Neither song charted, but the abundant potential was obvious.
By the end of 1972, the group was a quartet that also featured Ruth. the Pointers left Atlantic for Blue Thumb, where they released five eclectic albums: The Pointer Sisters (1973), That’s a Plenty (1974), Live at the Opera House (1974), Steppin’ (1975), and Having a Party (1977). Among the hit singles from these releases were the empowering “Yes We Can Can” (written by Allen Toussaint), “How Long (Betcha Got a Chick on the Side)” (a Toussaint-flavored song written by Bonnie and Anita with David Rubinson), and “Going Down Slowly” (a grinding take on Toussaint's “Going Down”). The most successful song of all was “Fairtyale,” a Bonnie- and Anita-penned departure into country music that peaked at number 13 on the Hot 100. This enabled the Pointers to perform at the Grand Ole Opry -- as the first African-American vocal group to do so -- and the song also won the 1974 Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. It was covered by Elvis Presley. The same year Having a Party was issued, the popular children’s television program Sesame Street first aired a classic animated segment called Pinball Number Count, which featured vocals the Pointers recorded several years earlier.
Between the release of Having a Party and the end of 1977, June and Bonnie departed from the group, with the latter initiating a solo career. Ruth and Anita signed a deal with producer Richard Perry's Elektra-affiliated Planet label, and June re-joined in time to record Energy (1978), which featured a cover of Sly & the Family Stone's “Everybody Is a Star” and the Toussaint-written “Happiness” (the group’s first single to hit the disco chart) but was otherwise rooted in rock, with interpretations of Steely Dan, Bob Welch-era Fleetwood Mac, and the Doobie Brothers, along with the second released recording -- following a version by Robert Gordon -- of Bruce Springsteen's “Fire,” a song intended for Elvis Presley. the Pointers took it to number two on the Hot 100 chart. The rest of the group’s years with Perry and Planet were extremely successful, culminating with 1983’s Break Out, an album that went multi-platinum due to a string of four state-of-the-art dance-pop singles. “Automatic,” “Jump (For My Love),” a remix of 1982’s “I’m So Excited,” and “Neutron Dance” all peaked in the Hot 100’s Top Ten. The women won two additional Grammys.
During the latter half of the ‘80s and the early ‘90s, The Pointer Sisters released five more albums on RCA, Motown, and SBK. 1985’s Contact, featuring the crossover hit “Dare Me,” was the group’s last album to go platinum. While they did not record any albums after 1993’s Only Sisters Can Do That, they continued to perform on an infrequent basis. Issa, Ruth’s daughter, provided backing vocals on the final album and joined as a full member when June left for health reasons. A victim of lung cancer, June passed away in 2006. The Pointer Sisters, however, continued performing throughout the rest of the decade.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
R&B singer/songwriter Luther Ingram is best known for his 1972 hit “If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want to Be Right), and for co-authoring the Staple Singers' smash “Respect Yourself.”
On March 19, 2007, US soul singer Luther Ingram died from a heart attack at the age of 69. Ingram scored the 1972 US No.2 hit '(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right' and wrote the Staple Singers' hit 'Respect Yourself'.
While R&B singer Luther Ingram remains best remembered for the piercing 1972 ballad "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right," he was also a gifted songwriter, teaming with Mark Rice to co-write the Staple Singers' classic empowerment anthem "Respect Yourself." Born November 30, 1944, in Jackson, TN, Ingram spent the majority of his adolescence in Alton, IL, launching his singing career in a group featuring his siblings. As a teen he also began writing songs, and later ventured out as a solo act, most notably opening for Ike Turner in East St. Louis. Ingram eventually migrated to New York City, where according to legend he briefly roomed with a then-unknown Jimi Hendrix. In 1965 he signed to Decca and cut his debut single, "You Never Miss Your Water," followed by a cover of Jamo Thomas' "(I Spy) For the FBI" on Smash. After little-heard efforts for indies Hurdy-Gurdy ("Run for Your Life") and HIB (the instrumental "Exus Trek"), Ingram relocated to Memphis, signing to producer Jimmy Baylor's fledgling KoKo label. Initial efforts like the 1967 single "I Can't Stop" and the next year's "Missing You" failed to generate much interest, but when Baylor negotiated a distribution deal with Stax Records in 1969, Ingram's fortunes improved dramatically. Later that same year he scored his first R&B Top 20 hit with "My Honey and Me." 1970's "Ain't That Loving You (For More Reasons Than One)" not only cracked the R&B Top Ten, but also peaked just outside the pop Top 40.
With his recording career flourishing, Ingram expanded into freelance songwriting, partnering with R&B veteran Rice in 1971 for the Staples' "Respect Yourself." The single was a crossover smash, fall just shy of the Billboard Top Ten, and in the years to come received cover treatments by everyone from Joe Cocker to actor Bruce Willis. A year later Ingram notched a blockbuster of his own with "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right," a potent tale of infidelity written by Homer Banks, Raymond Jackson, and Carl Hampton. Ingram's rich, intimate vocal proved a perfect match for the material, selling over a million copies and reaching number three on the pop charts, although country crossover queen Barbara Mandrell later scored a smash cover version as well. A series of R&B chart hits including "You Were Made for Me," "Always," and "Love Ain't Gonna Run Me Away" followed, and in 1973 he returned to the pop Top 40 one final time with the sublime "I'll Be Your Shelter (In Time of Storm)." At the peak of Ingram's fame, however, KoKo ran into financial turmoil and during the remainder of the 1970s he issued only a handful of additional singles, all of them undermined by distribution and marketing issues. After more than a decade out of the limelight, Ingram signed to Profile in 1986 and resurfaced on the R&B Top 40 with "Baby Don't Get Too Far." The minor hits "Don't Turn Around" and "Gotta Serve Somebody" followed, and in 1992 he wrapped his recording career with the Ichiban single "I Like the Feeling." After years of health struggles including kidney disease and diabetes, Ingram died of heart failure on March 19, 2007.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
One of the first politically conscious female rappers, she also became a successful actress.
On March 18, 1970, was born Queen Latifah (Dana Elaine Owens), rapper (1989 - 2002 and 2010 - present), singer (2003 - 2009), songwriter, singer, actress, model, television producer, record producer, comedienne, and talk show host. Her work in music, film, and television has earned her a Golden Globe award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Image Awards, a Grammy Award, six additional Grammy nominations, an Emmy Award nomination and an Academy Award nomination. She most recently hosted her own talk show, The Queen Latifah Show, which was canceled in 2014.
Queen Latifah was certainly not the first female rapper, but she was the first one to become a bona fide star. She had more charisma than her predecessors, and her strong, intelligent, no-nonsense persona made her arguably the first MC who could properly be described as feminist. Her third album, Black Reign, was the first album by a female MC ever to go gold, a commercial breakthrough that paved the way for a talented crew of women rappers to make their own way onto the charts as the '90s progressed. Latifah herself soon branched out into other media, appearing in movies and sitcoms and even hosting her own talk show. Yet even with all the time she spent away from recording, she remained perhaps the most recognizable woman in hip-hop, with a level of respect that bordered on iconic status.
Queen Latifah was born Dana Owens in Newark, NJ, on March 18, 1970; her Muslim cousin gave her the nickname Latifah -- an Arabic word meaning "delicate" or "sensitive" -- when she was eight. As a youngster, she starred in her high school's production of The Wiz, and began rapping in high school with a group called Ladies Fresh, in which she also served as a human beatbox. In college, she adopted the name Queen Latifah and hooked up with Afrika Bambaataa's Native Tongues collective, which sought to bring a more positive, Afrocentric consciousness to hip-hop. She recorded a demo that landed her a record deal with Tommy Boy, and released her first single, "Wrath of My Madness," in 1988; it was followed by "Dance for Me." In 1989, Latifah's full-length debut, All Hail the Queen, was released to strongly favorable reviews, and the classic single "Ladies First" broke her to the hip-hop audience. In addition to tough-minded hip-hop, the album also found Latifah dabbling in R&B, reggae, and house, and duetting with KRS-One and De La Soul. It sold very well, climbing into the Top Ten of the R&B album charts. Latifah quickly started a management company, Flavor Unit Entertainment, and was responsible for discovering Naughty by Nature. Her 1991 sophomore album, the lighter Nature of a Sista, wasn't quite as popular, and when her contract with Tommy Boy was up, the label elected not to re-sign her. Unfortunately, things got worse from there -- she was the victim of a carjacking, and her brother Lance perished in a motorcycle accident.
Latifah emerged with a new sense of purpose and secured a deal with Motown, which issued Black Reign in 1993. Dedicated to her brother, it became her most popular album, eventually going gold; it also featured her biggest hit single, "U.N.I.T.Y.," which hit the R&B Top Ten and won a Grammy for Best Solo Rap Performance. By this point, Latifah had already begun her acting career, appearing in Jungle Fever, House Party 2, and Juice, as well as the TV series The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. In 1993, she was tabbed to co-star in the Fox comedy series Living Single, which ran until 1997; during that period, acting was her primary focus, and she also co-starred as a bank robber in the 1996 film Set It Off. That same year, Latifah was pulled over for speeding and was arrested when a loaded gun and marijuana were discovered in her vehicle; she pled guilty to the charges and was fined.
After Living Single was canceled in 1997, Latifah returned to the recording studio and finally began work on her fourth album. Order in the Court was released in 1998 and found her playing up the R&B elements of her sound in a manner that led some critics to draw comparisons to Missy Elliott; she took more sung vocals, and also duetted with Faith Evans and the Fugees' Pras. The album sold respectably well on the strength of the singles "Bananas (Who You Gonna Call?)" and "Paper." The same year, she appeared in the films Sphere and Living Out Loud, singing several jazz standards in the latter. The Queen Latifah Show, a daytime talk show, debuted in 1999 and ran in syndication until 2001. In November 2002, Latifah ran afoul of the law again; she was pulled over by police and failed a sobriety test, and was placed on three years' probation after pleading guilty to DUI charges. However, this mishap was somewhat overshadowed by her performance in the acclaimed movie musical Chicago, which garnered her Best Supporting Actress nominations from both the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globes.
In 2004, she released The Dana Owens Album, a diverse collection of covers and interpretations -- from Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band's "Hard Times" to Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life" -- that highlighted her singing skills rather than her rapping. Trav'lin' Light followed with a similar format in 2007, ranging from the Pointer Sisters to Shirley Horn, with guest appearances from Joe Sample, George Duke, Erykah Badu, and Jill Scott. During the years between the releases, she acted in several movies, including Taxi, Beauty Shop, Last Holiday, and Hairspray. In 2009, she released the star-studded Persona, a pop-flavored album produced by Cool & Dre.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
The "wicked Pickett," raucous, sensual, was one of the greatest southern soul singers to emerge during the 1960s.
On March 18, 1941, was born Wilson Pickett, US soul singer, (1965 UK No.12 & US No. 21 single 'In The Midnight Hour' plus 15 other US Top 40 singles). Pickett died of a heart attack on 19th Jan 2006 aged 64.
Of the major '60s soul stars, Wilson Pickett was one of the roughest and sweatiest, working up some of the decade's hottest dancefloor grooves on hits like "In the Midnight Hour," "Land of 1000 Dances," "Mustang Sally," and "Funky Broadway." Although he tends to be held in somewhat lower esteem than more versatile talents like Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin, he is often a preferred alternative of fans who like their soul on the rawer side. He also did a good deal to establish the sound of Southern soul with his early hits, which were often written and recorded with the cream of the session musicians in Memphis and Muscle Shoals.
Before establishing himself as a solo artist, Pickett sang with the Falcons, who had a Top Ten R&B hit in 1962 with "I Found a Love." "If You Need Me" (covered by the Rolling Stones) and "It's Too Late" were R&B hits for the singer before he hooked up with Atlantic Records, who sent him to record at Stax in Memphis in 1965. One early result was "In the Midnight Hour," whose chugging horn line, loping funky beats, and impassioned vocals combined into a key transitional performance that brought R&B into the soul age. It was an R&B chart-topper and a substantial pop hit (number 21), though its influence was stronger than that respectable position might indicate: thousands of bands, black and white, covered "In the Midnight Hour" on-stage and record in the 1960s.
Pickett had a flurry of other galvanizing soul hits over the next few years, including "634-5789," "Mustang Sally," and "Funky Broadway," all of which, like "In the Midnight Hour," were frequently adapted by other bands as dance-ready numbers. The king of that hill, though, had to be "Land of 1000 Dances," Pickett's biggest pop hit (number six), a soul anthem of sorts with its roll call of popular dances, and covered by almost as many acts as "Midnight Hour" was.
Pickett didn't confine himself to the environs of Stax for long; soon he was also cutting tracks at Muscle Shoals. He recorded several early songs by Bobby Womack. He used Duane Allman as a session guitarist on a hit cover of the Beatles' "Hey Jude." He cut some hits in Philadelphia with Gamble & Huff productions in the early '70s. He even did a hit version of the Archies' "Sugar, Sugar." The hits kept rolling through the early '70s, including "Don't Knock My Love" and "Get Me Back on Time, Engine Number 9."
One of the corollaries of '60s soul is that if a performer rose to fame with Motown or Atlantic, he or she would produce little of note after leaving the label. Pickett, unfortunately, did not prove an exception to the rule. His last big hit was "Fire and Water," in 1972. He continued to be active on the tour circuit; his most essential music, all from the 1960s and early '70s, was assembled for the superb Rhino double-CD anthology A Man and a Half. It's Harder Now, his first new material in over a decade, followed in 1999. Pickett spent the early part of the 2000s performing, before retiring in late 2004 due to ill health. He passed away on January 19, 2006, following a heart attack.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
One of the great pop vocalists of all time, and a major figure in the development of jazz piano.
On March 17, 1919, was born Nat King Cole, singer, (1955 US No.2 single 'A Blossom Fell', 1957 UK No.2 single 'When I Fall In Love' plus over 20 other US & UK Top 40 singles). Father of singer Natalie Cole. Cole died of lung cancer on February 15th 1965.
For a mild-mannered man whose music was always easy on the ear, Nat King Cole managed to be a figure of considerable controversy during his 30 years as a professional musician. From the late '40s to the mid-'60s, he was a massively successful pop singer who ranked with such contemporaries as Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and Dean Martin. He shared with those peers a career that encompassed hit records, international touring, radio and television shows, and appearances in films. But unlike them, he had not emerged from a background as a band singer in the swing era. Instead, he had spent a decade as a celebrated jazz pianist, leading his own small group. Oddly, that was one source of controversy. For some reason, there seem to be more jazz critics than fans of traditional pop among music journalists, and Cole's transition from jazz to pop during a period when jazz itself was becoming less popular was seen by them as a betrayal. At the same time, as a prominent African-American entertainer during an era of tumultuous change in social relations among the races in the U.S., he sometimes found himself out of favor with different warring sides. His efforts at integration, which included suing hotels that refused to admit him and moving into a previously all-white neighborhood in Los Angeles, earned the enmity of racists; once, he was even physically attacked on-stage in Alabama. But civil rights activists sometimes criticized him for not doing enough for the cause.
Such controversies do not obscure his real talent as a performer, however. The dismay of jazz fans at his abandonment of jazz must be measured against his accomplishments as a jazz musician. An heir of Earl Hines, whom he studied closely as a child in Chicago, Cole was an influence on such followers as Oscar Peterson. And his trio, emerging in the dying days of the swing era, helped lead the way in small-band jazz. The rage felt by jazz fans as he moved primarily to pop singing is not unlike the anger folk music fans felt when Bob Dylan turned to rock in the mid-'60s; in both cases, it was all the more acute because fans felt one of their leaders, not just another musician, was going over to the enemy. Less well remembered, however, are Cole's accomplishments during and after the transition. His rich, husky voice and careful enunciation, and the warmth, intimacy, and good humor of his approach to singing, allowed him to succeed with both ballads and novelties such that he scored over 100 pop chart singles and more than two dozen chart albums over a period of 20 years, enough to rank him behind only Sinatra as the most successful pop singer of his generation.
Nat King Cole was born Nathaniel Adams Coles on Montgomery, AL, on March 17, 1919. (In his early years of music-making, he dispensed with the "s" at the end of his name.) As a black child born to a poor family in the American South at that time, he did not have a birth certificate; his March 17 birthday was recalled because it was also St. Patrick's Day. He listed conflicting years of birth on legal documents during his life; most sources give the year as 1917. (Biographer Daniel Mark Epstein, for his 1999 book Nat King Cole, consulted the 1920 census to determine that the Coles household had a male infant at that time and confirm the birth year as 1919.) Cole's father was a butcher who aspired to the Baptist ministry, and when Cole was four the family moved to Chicago, where his father eventually succeeded in becoming a preacher.
Like his older brother Eddie, who became a bass player, Cole showed an early interest in music. He was taught piano by his mother as a child and later took lessons. Also like his brother, he turned professional early; by his teens, he was leading a band, called either the Royal Dukes or the Rogues of Rhythm, and he dropped out of high school at 15 to go into music full-time. The following year, Eddie, who had been touring with Noble Sissle's band, returned to Chicago and the brothers organized their own sextet. On July 28, 1936, as Eddie Cole's Swingsters, they recorded two singles for Decca Records, Nat King Cole's recording debut. That fall, they were hired to perform in a revival of the all-black Broadway musical revue Shuffle Along. Unlike his brother, Cole remained with the show when it went on tour, in part because his girlfriend, dancer Nadine Robinson, stayed with it as well. The two married in Michigan on January 27, 1937, even though Cole was only 17 years old. The tour made its way around the country, finally closing in Los Angeles in May. Cole and his wife remained there, living at first with her aunt, while Cole sought employment as a musician. He briefly led a big band, then played solo piano in clubs.
While performing at the Café Century during the summer of 1937, Cole was approached by the manager of the Swanee Inn, who invited him to put together a small band to play in the club. With guitarist Oscar Moore and bassist Wesley Prince, the act debuted that fall, drawing upon the children's nursery rhyme ("Old King Cole was a merry old soul...") for the name the King Cole Swingsters, later simply the King Cole Trio. The group gradually built up a following, with Cole emerging as a singer as well as a pianist. By September 1938, they had begun making radio transcriptions, originally not intended for commercial release, though they have since been issued. In 1939 and 1940, they made occasional recordings for small labels while expanding their live performing to include appearances across the country and radio work. In late 1940 they were contracted by Decca. Their 1941 recording of Cole's composition "That Ain't Right" hit number one on Billboard magazine's Harlem Hit Parade (i.e., R&B) chart on January 30, 1943, Cole's first successful record. By that time, Prince had left the group to work for the war effort, replaced by Johnny Miller.
The King Cole Trio's contract with Decca expired before "That Ain't Right" became a hit. Their next single, "All for You," was recorded for the tiny Excelsior label in October 1942. After its initial release, it was purchased by Capitol Records and reissued. On November 20, 1943, it became the group's second number one hit on the Harlem Hit Parade. It also crossed over to the pop chart. With that, Capitol signed Cole directly. The trio's first Capitol session produced both the Cole composition "Straighten Up and Fly Right," which topped the black chart for the first of ten weeks on April 29, 1944, spent six weeks at the top of the folk (i.e., country) chart, and reached the Top Ten of the pop chart, and "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You," which topped the black chart on October 21 and also crossed over to the pop chart.
The trio placed another four titles in the black chart during 1944, and Capitol released its debut album, The King Cole Trio (catalog number BD-8) that fall. The collection of four 78 rpm discs contained eight tracks, only three of them featuring Cole vocals. When Billboard instituted its first album chart on March 24, 1945, The King Cole Trio was ranked at number one, a position it held for 12 weeks. At the same time, big-band swing music was declining in popularity, and many jazz fans were beginning to turn to the emerging style of bebop, a development that, whatever its artistic significance, spelled the end of jazz as a broadly popular style of music.
The King Cole Trio -- and particularly the singer/pianist then known as "King Cole" -- on the other hand, was going in exactly the opposite direction, as its success on records and at clubs and theaters around the country led to appearances in films and on radio. After numerous guest-star stints on Bing Crosby's Kraft Music Hall radio series, the trio, along with pianist Eddy Duchin, was hired to host the show's summer replacement program for 13 weeks beginning May 16, 1946. During that run, on August 17, The King Cole Trio, Vol. 2 (Capitol BD-29), another set of four 78s, hit number one. Over the next five days, the trio recorded two songs that would add to their pop success. Mel Tormé and Robert Wells' "The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)" (better known by its opening line, "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire"), recorded August 19, was Cole's first disc to feature strings. "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons," though it only featured the trio, demonstrated that Cole was more than capable of handling a straight romantic ballad, not just the uptempo novelties with which he and the group had succeeded up until this point.
"(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons" became Cole's first number one pop single on December 28, 1946; "The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)" peaked at number three, going on to become a holiday perennial and million seller. While these hits were developing, the trio went from its summer replacement berth to its own network radio series, King Cole Trio Time, a 15-minute Saturday afternoon program that debuted on October 19, 1946, and ran until April 1948. The group's recording schedule during the first half of 1947 was relatively light, but the pace picked up considerably starting in August, in anticipation of the musicians' strike called for January 1, 1948. On August 22, 1947, with an orchestral backing, Cole recorded "Nature Boy," an unusual philosophical ballad. Released March 29, 1948, and credited to "King Cole," it hit number one for the first of eight weeks on May 8, becoming a gold record.
Oscar Moore, the trio's original guitarist, left the group in October 1947 after ten years and was replaced by Irving Ashby. In March 1948, Cole divorced his wife and married singer Marie Ellington. Among the couple's children was Natalie Cole, who became a singer. Bass player Johnny Miller quit the trio in August 1948 and was replaced by Joe Comfort. In February 1949, Cole added percussionist Jack Costanzo to the group, which thereafter was billed as "Nat 'King' Cole & the Trio." As of the spring of 1950, Cole's recordings were being credited simply to "Nat 'King' Cole." On July 8 of that year, his recording of the wistful movie theme "Mona Lisa," featuring a string chart arranged by Nelson Riddle, became Cole's third number one pop hit and gold record.
That September, he traveled to Europe for his first international tour, beginning a pattern that would find him giving concerts almost continually in a combination of top nightclubs in major cities and concert halls around the U.S., with occasional trips to Europe, the Far East, and Latin America and extended stays at Las Vegas casinos. In these appearances, he stood for most of the show, only occasional sitting down to play a number or two at the piano. Ashby and Comfort left in 1951, and an announcement was made that the trio was officially dissolved, but that simply meant that Cole henceforth would be billed as a solo act. In practice, he continued to carry a guitarist, John Collins, and a bassist, Charles Harris, along with Costanzo (until he left in 1953 and was replaced by drummer Lee Young), while often augmenting them with an orchestra.
Cole scored his fourth number one pop hit and gold record with "Too Young," which topped the charts on June 23, 1951. His recording of "Unforgettable" peaked at only number 12 on February 2, 1952, but it went on to become one of his better remembered recordings; in 1991, a version of the song by Natalie Cole with the Nat King Cole recording dubbed onto it became a gold record and won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. With his 1952 LP Penthouse Serenade, Cole showed that he was not yet ready to dispense with his jazz chops entirely. The disc was an instrumental collection that spent one week at number ten in the album chart in October. Meanwhile, he was also looking for new challenges, taking on small acting roles in the films The Blue Gardenia and Small Town Girl and the television drama Song for a Banjo in 1953. His 1953 album Nat King Cole Sings for Two in Love, arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle, was a Top Ten hit in early 1954 that predated similar "concept" albums by Frank Sinatra.
Although Cole did not score a number one hit in 1953 ("Pretend" peaked at number two), his seven chart entries were enough to rank him among the ten most successful singles artists of the year. His five chart singles in 1954, among them the gold-selling Top Ten hit "Answer Me, My Love," allowed him to repeat this ranking the following year, and he did the same thing in 1955 with another eight chart entries, including the Top Ten hits "Darling Je Vous Aime Beaucoup," "A Blossom Fell," and "If I May." Nine more chart entries allowed him to stay among the most successful singles artists in 1956, even though none of them reached the Top Ten, and he maintained his rank for the fifth straight year in 1957, reaching the Top Ten (and the top of the R&B chart) with "Send for Me." Though he managed one more Top Ten hit, "Looking Back," in 1958, the rise of rock & roll diminished his success on the singles chart. Meanwhile, he returned to a jazz approach on his 1957 LP After Midnight, which paired his backup group with jazz musicians Harry "Sweets" Edison, Stuff Smith, Willie Smith, and Juan Tizol. It was a modest commercial success, quickly followed by the ballad album Love Is the Thing, arranged and conducted by Gordon Jenkins, which hit number one for the first of eight weeks on May 27, 1957, and eventually was certified platinum.
Meanwhile, in the fall of 1956, Cole became the first African-American host of a network television series when The Nat "King" Cole Show debuted as a 15-minute weekly program on November 5. The show was expanded to a half-hour in July 1957 and ran until December of that year, though it never attracted a national sponsor that might have made it an ongoing success. Cole attributed advertisers' reticence to racism. He returned to his acting career during 1957, appearing in Istanbul and China Gate, and got his most substantial role in 1958 playing blues musician W.C. Handy in a film biography, St. Louis Blues. His last acting role came in Night of the Quarter Moon in 1959. In 1960, he turned his attention to the theater, putting together a musical revue intended for Broadway. The songs were by Dotty Wayne and Ray Rasch, and the album Cole made of them, Wild Is Love, became his first Top Ten LP in three years. The corresponding stage show, I'm With You, was not as successful, opening what was intended to be a pre-Broadway tour in Denver on October 17, 1960, but closing in Detroit on November 26. Cole, however, salvaged the concept of the show for a stage production he called Sights and Sounds: The Merry World of Nat King Cole, featuring a group of dancers and singers, with which he toured regularly from 1961 to 1964.
Cole returned to the Top Ten of the singles chart for the first time in four years with the country-tinged "Ramblin' Rose" in 1962; his album of the same name also reached the Top Ten and eventually was certified platinum. "Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer" became his last Top Ten hit in the summer of 1963. In December 1964, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Two months later, he died of it at the age of 45.
After his death, Cole continued to appeal to the two almost mutually exclusive audiences that had appreciated him during his life. Jazz fans continued to treasure his recordings of the 1930s and 1940s and to dismiss the non-jazz recordings he had made later. (In 1994, German discographer Klaus Teubig compiled Straighten Up and Fly Right: A Chronology and Discography of Nat "King" Cole, which pointedly cut off in the early '50s.) Pop fans clamored for reissues of Cole's 1950s and '60s music, awarding gold record status to compilations that Capitol continued to assemble, without much worrying about the singer's talent as a piano player. (And, as his recordings fell into the public domain in Europe, where there is a 50-year copyright limit, a spate of low-quality reissues assumed flood levels.) But the ongoing debate was only testament to Cole's ongoing attraction for music lovers, which, in the decades following his untimely end, showed no signs of abating.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Soulful and dynamic jazz singer whose crisp, intricate phrasing helped her cross over into the pop and adult contemporary markets.
Diva Nancy Wilson was among contemporary music's most stylish and sultry vocalists; while often crossing over into the pop and R&B markets -- and even hosting her own television variety program -- she remained best known as a jazz performer, renowned for her work alongside figures including Cannonball Adderley and George Shearing. Born February 20, 1937, in Chillicothe, OH, Wilson first attracted notice performing the club circuit in nearby Columbus; she quickly earned a growing reputation among jazz players and fans, and she was recording regularly by the late '50s, eventually signing to Capitol and issuing LPs including 1959's Like in Love and Nancy Wilson with Billy May's Orchestra. Her dates with Shearing, including 1960's The Swingin's Mutual, solidified her standing as a talent on the rise, and her subsequent work with Adderley -- arguably her finest recordings -- further cemented her growing fame and reputation.
In the years to follow, however, Wilson often moved away from jazz, much to the chagrin of purists; she made numerous albums, many of them properly categorized as pop and R&B outings, and toured extensively, appearing with everyone from Nat King Cole and Sarah Vaughan to Ruth Brown and LaVern Baker. She even hosted her own Emmy-winning variety series for NBC, The Nancy Wilson Show, and was a frequent guest performer on other programs; hits of the period included "Tell Me the Truth," "How Glad I Am," "Peace of Mind," and "Now, I'm a Woman." Regardless of how far afield she traveled, Wilson always maintained her connections to the jazz world, and in the 1980s, she returned to the music with a vengeance, working closely with performers including Hank Jones, Art Farmer, Ramsey Lewis, and Benny Golson. By the 1990s, she was a favorite among the "new adult contemporary" market, her style ideally suited to the format's penchant for lush, romantic ballads; she also hosted the Jazz Profiles series on National Public Radio.
In the early 2000s, Wilson recorded two albums with Ramsey Lewis for Narada (2002's Meant to Be and 2003's Simple Pleasures). Her 2004 album R.S.V.P. (Rare Songs, Very Personal) was a blend of straight-ahead jazz and ballads, similar to her next record, 2006's Turned to Blue, which, like R.S.V.P., used a different instrumentalist for each track. In 2005, Capitol released a three-part series to pay tribute to Wilson's contributions to music in the '50s and '60s: Guess Who I Saw Today: Nancy Wilson Sings Songs of Lost Love, Save Your Love for Me: Nancy Wilson Sings the Great Blues Ballads, and The Great American Songbook.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Gifted soul singer known for a string of hits with the Mowon label, but perhaps tragically best known for her early death from a brain tumor a only 24 years old
On April 29, 1945 was born Tammi Terrell (born Thomasina Montgomery); a soulful singer who died of a brain tumour, at age 24, three years after collapsing into Marvin Gaye's arms on stage during a duet of ‘You're All You Need To Get By’. Terrall had undergone eight brain operations in 18 months. She had hits with Marvin Gaye, including the 1967 US No.5 ‘Your Precious Love’.
On March 16, 1970, Motown singer Tammi Terrell died of a brain tumour at the age of 24. She had collapsed onstage on October 14, 1967 into Marvin Gaye's arms during a concert in Hampton, Virginia. Initially Terrell recorded solo, but from 1967 onwards she recorded a series of duets with Marvin Gaye, including the 1967 US No.5 'Your Precious Love' and the 1968, ‘Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing’. Marvin Gaye reacted to her death by taking a four year hiatus from concert performance and went into self-isolation.’
Singer Tammi Terrell joined forces with the immortal Marvin Gaye to create some of the greatest love songs ever to emerge from the Motown hit factory; sadly, their series of classic duets -- "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," and "You're All I Need to Get By" among them -- came to an abrupt and tragic halt with her premature death. Terrell was born Thomasina Montgomery in Philadelphia on April 29, 1945; after winning a number of local talent contests, by the age of 13 she was regularly opening club dates for acts including Gary "U.S." Bonds and Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles. In 1961, she was discovered by producer Luther Dixon and signed to Scepter. Credited as Tammy Montgomery, she made her debut with the single "If You See Bill," followed early the next year by "The Voice of Experience." After James Brown caught Terrell's live act, she was signed to his Try Me label, issuing "I Cried" in 1963 and also touring with his live revue. "If I Would Marry You" appeared on Checker a year later, during which time she also studied pre-med at the University of Pennsylvania.
While performing with Jerry Butler in Detroit in 1965, Terrell was spotted by Motown chief Berry Gordy, Jr., making her label debut with "I Can't Believe You Love Me." When subsequent outings "Come On and See Me," "This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)," and "Hold Me Oh My Darling" earned little notice, she was paired with Gaye, who previously recorded duets with Mary Wells and Kim Weston. His chemistry with Terrell was immediate and in 1967, they entered the pop Top 20 with the magnificent "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," the first in a series of lush, sensual hits authored by the husband-and-wife team of Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson. "Your Precious Love" cracked the Top Five a few months later and in 1968, the twosome topped the R&B charts with both "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" and "You're All I Need to Get By." The success of these later hits was nevertheless tempered by Terrell's off-stage travails -- after an extended period of severe migraine headaches, in 1967 she collapsed in Gaye's arms while in concert at Virginia's Hampton-Sydney College, and was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Although the tumor forced Terrell to retire from performing live, she continued to record with Gaye even as her health deteriorated; however, as time went on, Valerie Simpson herself assumed uncredited vocal duties on a number of hits, including 1969's "Good Lovin' Ain't Easy to Come By" and "What You Gave Me." (For several other tracks, Gaye's vocals were added to pre-existing Terrell solo recordings.) In all, Terrell endured eight operations, ultimately resulting in loss of memory and partial paralysis; she finally died in Philadelphia on March 16, 1970. Gaye was so devastated by her decline and eventual passing that he retired from the road for three years; her loss also contributed greatly to the spiritual turmoil which informed his 1971 masterpiece What's Going On. At the time of her death, Tammi Terrell was just 24 years old.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Funk trailblazer who upended rock and soul in the '60s and '70s as leader of Sly & the Family Stone.
On March 15, 1944, was born Sly Stone, vocals, guitar, keyboards, Sly and the Family Stone, (1968 UK No.7 & US No.8 single 'Dance To The Music', 1969 US No.1 single 'Everyday People').
James Brown may have invented funk, but Sly Stone perfected it; his alchemical fusion of soul, rock, gospel, and psychedelia rejected stylistic boundaries as much as his explosive backing band the Family Stone ignored racial and gender restrictions, creating a series of euphoric yet politically charged records that proved a massive influence on artists of all musical and cultural backgrounds. Sylvester "Sly Stone" Stewart was born March 15, 1943, in Denton, Texas, and raised primarily in Vallejo, California, where he sang with his family's gospel group. After singing lead with a doo wop group called the Viscaynes, at 16 he recorded the local hit "Long Time Gone," concurrently spinning records for Bay Area radio station KSOL. After studying trumpet, composition, and theory at Vallejo Junior College, in 1964 Stewart signed to local label Autumn Records, where he cut a series of solo singles in addition to serving as a house producer; there he helmed Bobby Freeman's national chart smash "C'mon and Swim" as well as sessions by the Beau Brummels, the Mojo Men, and the Great Society.
In 1966, Stewart formed the group Sly & the Stoners, while his younger brother Freddie led his own band, Freddie & the Stone Souls; soon the siblings merged the two acts, and with bassist Larry Graham, trumpeter Cynthia Robinson, saxophonist Jerry Martini, and drummer Greg Errico, Sly & the Family Stone were born. After issuing their debut single, "I Ain't Got Nobody," on the local Loadstone imprint, the group signed to Epic to release their 1967 debut LP, A Whole New Thing; Dance to the Music followed in 1968, and generated a Top Ten hit with the title cut. Later that year, Sly & the Family Stone topped both the pop and R&B charts with the two-sided smash "Everyday People" b/w "Sing a Simple Song"; and with the classic Stand!, the band's music became increasingly politicized on standouts like the hit title track and "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey." As the group's chief vocalist, songwriter, and producer, Stone pushed the envelope further with each successive release; and with the 1970 chart-topper "Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin," he essentially created the sonic blueprint for the funk and disco that dominated the decade to follow via a percussive groove propelled by Graham's pop-and-slap bassline. Stone also launched his own label, Stone Flower Records, where he wrote and produced sides for other artists, working out sounds and textures that would inform his later work. (The Stone Flower label's output was collected on a 2014 anthology, I'm Just Like You: Sly's Stone Flower 1969-1970.)
However, as the utopian ideals of the '60s gave way to the paranoia and corruption of the '70s, the celebratory sound that once epitomized Sly & the Family Stone gave way to the bleakly unsettling There's a Riot Goin' On, a dark, militant masterpiece that yielded the hits "Family Affair" and "Running Away." Stone's grim world view was due in no small part to his increasing narcotics problem, and he became notorious for arriving late to live gigs or missing shows altogether. Released in 1973, Fresh was Sly & the Family Stone's last truly great album, and after issuing Small Talk the band unraveled, with 1975's High on You credited to Stone alone. As his drug problems and legal battles became public knowledge, efforts like 1976's Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I'm Back and 1979's Back on the Right Track attracted little interest, as did a subsequent tour with George Clinton & the P-Funk All-Stars and a 1983 comeback effort, Ain't But the One Way. After a 1987 single, "Eek-a-Bo-Static," failed to even chart, Stone instead made headlines for a cocaine bust that led to his incarceration. Despite Sly & the Family Stone being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, Stone failed to make a substantial comeback in the '90s, or in the new millennium.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
A fine trumpeter, a terrific arranger and composer, and one of the landmark executives in the history of the music industry.
On March 14, 1933, was born Quincy Jones, the bandleader, musician, and producer who scored the 1978 US No.1 single 'Stuff Like That', has a record 79 Grammy Award nominations. Jones was the producer of the three albums by Michael Jackson, Off The Wall, Bad and Thriller, which has now sold more than 100 million copies worldwide.
In a musical career that has spanned six decades, Quincy Jones has earned his reputation as a renaissance man of American music. Jones has distinguished himself as a bandleader, a solo artist, a sideman, a songwriter, a producer, an arranger, a film composer, and a record label executive, and outside of music, he's also written books, produced major motion pictures, and helped create television series. And a quick look at a few of the artists Jones has worked with suggests the remarkable diversity of his career -- Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Lesley Gore, Michael Jackson, Peggy Lee, Ray Charles, Paul Simon, and Aretha Franklin.
Jones was born in Chicago, Illinois, on March 14, 1933. When he was still a youngster, his family moved to Seattle, WA, and he soon developed an interest in music. In his early teens, Jones began learning the trumpet, and started singing with a local gospel group. By the time he graduated from high school in 1950, Jones had displayed enough promise to win a scholarship to Boston-based music school Schillinger House (which later became known as the Berklee School of Music). After a year at Schillinger, Jones relocated to New York City, where he found work as an arranger, writing charts for Count Basie, Cannonball Adderley, Tommy Dorsey, and Dinah Washington, among others. In 1953, Jones scored his first big break as a performer; he was added to the brass section of Lionel Hampton's orchestra, where he found himself playing alongside jazz legends Art Farmer and Clifford Brown. Three years later, Dizzy Gillespie tapped Jones to play in his band, and later in 1956, when Gillespie was invited to put together a big band of outstanding international musicians, Diz chose Quincy to lead the ensemble. Jones also released his first album under his own name that year, a set for ABC-Paramount appropriately entitled This Is How I Feel About Jazz.
In 1957, Jones moved to Paris in order to study with Nadia Boulanger, an expatriate American composer with a stellar track record in educating composers and bandleaders. During his sojourn in France, Jones took a job with the French record label Barclay, where he produced and arranged sessions for Jacques Brel and Charles Aznavour, as well as traveling American artists, including Billy Eckstine and Sarah Vaughan. Jones' work for Barclay impressed the management at Mercury Records, a American label affiliated with the French imprint, and in 1961, he was named a vice president for Mercury, the first time an African-American had been hired as an upper-level executive by a major U.S. recording company. Jones scored one of his first major pop successes when he produced and arranged "It's My Party" for teenage vocalist Lesley Gore, which marked his first significant step away from jazz into the larger world of popular music. (Jones also freelanced for other labels on the side, including arranging a number of memorable Atlantic sides for Ray Charles.) In 1963, Jones began exploring what would become a fruitful medium for him when he composed his first film score for Sidney Lumet's controversial drama The Pawnbroker; he would go on to write music for 33 feature films, including In Cold Blood, In the Heat of the Night, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, and The Getaway. In 1964, Jones' work with Count Basie led him to arrange and conduct sessions for Frank Sinatra's album It Might as Well Be Swing, recorded in collaboration with Basie and his orchestra; he also worked with Sinatra and Basie again as an arranger for the award-winning Sinatra at the Sands set, and would produce and arrange one of Sinatra's last albums, L.A. Is My Lady, in 1984.
While Jones maintained a busy schedule as a composer, producer, and arranger through the 1960s, he also re-emerged as a recording artist in 1969 with the album Walking in Space, which found Jones recasting his big-band influences within the framework of the budding fusion movement and the influences of contemporary rock, pop, and R&B sounds. The album was a commercial and critical success, and kick started Jones' career as a recording artist. At the same time, he began working more closely with contemporary pop artists, producing sessions for Aretha Franklin and arranging strings for Paul Simon's There Goes Rhymin' Simon, and while Jones continued to work with jazz artists, many hard-and-fast jazz fans began to accuse Jones of turning his back on the genre, though Jones always contended his greatest allegiance was to African-American musical culture rather than any specific style. (Jones did, however, make one major jazz gesture in 1991, when he persuaded Miles Davis to revisit the classic Gil Evans arrangements from Miles Ahead, Sketches of Spain, and Porgy and Bess for that year's Montreux Jazz Festival; Jones coordinated the concert and led the orchestra, and it proved to be one of the last major events for the ailing Davis, who passed on a few months later.)
In 1974, Jones suffered a life-threatening brain aneurysm, and while he made a full recovery, he also made a decision to cut back on his schedule to spend more time with his family. While Jones may have had fewer projects on his plate in the late '70s and early '80s, they tended to be higher profile from this point on; he produced major chart hits for the Brothers Johnson and Rufus & Chaka Khan, and his own albums grew into all-star productions in which Jones orchestrated top players and singers in elaborate pop-R&B confections on sets like Body Heat, Sounds...And Stuff Like That!!, and The Dude. Jones' biggest mainstream success, however, came with his work with Michael Jackson; Jones produced his breakout solo album, Off the Wall, in 1979, and in 1982 they teamed up again for Thriller, which went on to become the biggest-selling album of all time. Jones was also on hand for Thriller's follow-up, 1987's Bad, and the celebrated USA for Africa session which produced the benefit single "We Are the World" (written by Jackson and Lionel Richie), and he produced a rare album in which Jackson narrated the story of the film E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.
Having risen to the heights of the recording industry, in 1985 Jones moved from scoring films to producing them; his first screen project was the screen adaptation of Alice Walker's novel The Color Purple, which was directed by Steven Spielberg and starred Whoopi Goldberg. In 1991 he moved into television production with the situation comedy The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, which gave Will Smith his first starring role. Jones' production company also launched several other successful shows, including In the House and Mad TV. He also produced a massive concert to help commemorate the 1993 inauguration of president Bill Clinton, and at the 1995 Academy Awards won the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, a prize that doubtless found its place beside Quincy's 26 Grammy awards. In 1996 Jones performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival to celebrate his 50th anniversary in the music business. The concert was captured on video and released as a DVD by Eagle Rock. Jones spent the rest of the '90s and first decade of the new century concentrating on his music publishing business and being an "unofficial" cultural ambassador for the United States.
In 2004 he helped to launch the We Are the Future (WAF) project, benefiting children in conflict-inhibited situations all over the globe. The program is the result of a strategic partnership between the Glocal Forum, the Quincy Jones Listen Up Foundation, and Hani Masri, with the support of the World Bank, UN agencies, and corporations. Jones personally lobbied President Barack Obama to create a secretary of the arts position in his cabinet. He also spent considerable time in Brazil, and in 2009 announced his plans for a film about Carnival and some of the nation's musicians and producers. In 2010 Jones released Q: Soul Bossa Nostra through his Qwest imprint, his first album in 15 years. The set featured appearances by popular vocalists Amy Winehouse, Usher, Tyrese, Tevin Campbell, and LL Cool J, among others. Ludacris and Naturally 7 reprised Jones' 1962 hit "Soul Bossa Nova"; the album's lead single/video was a cover of "Strawberry Letter 23" with lead vocals from Akon. In 2013, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a recipient of the Ahmet Ertegun Award.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Powerful, gospel-influenced soul singer, best remembered for her 1967 hit "Hypnotized."
On March 14, 1972, soul singer, Linda Jones, died at age 26 in New York after collapsing into a diabetic coma following a performance at Harlem's Apollo Theatre in new York. Jones scored the 1967 US No.21 single 'Hypnotized'.
R&B singer Linda Jones earned a cult following for her fervent, gospel-influenced style and powerful vocal acrobatics, and she's still celebrated by soul music fans despite her career being cut down prematurely at the age of 27. Linda Jones was born in Newark, New Jersey on December 14, 1944; her family was steeped in gospel music, and at the age of six she began performing with her siblings in a sacred group, the Jones Singers. As a teenager, Jones began performing rhythm & blues music, and cut her first solo record under the name Linda Lane in 1963, a cover of "Lonely Teardrops," but the record sank without a trace.
Linda's fortunes improved when she met George Kerr, a producer and songwriter who had been a member of Little Anthony & the Imperials. The first two singles Kerr produced for Linda Jones (one on Atco, the other on Blue Cat) fared no better, but in 1967 they landed a deal with Loma Records, an R&B imprint of Warner Bros., and her first 45 for the label, "Hypnotized," was a hit, rising to number 21 on the Pop Singles charts and number four on the Rhythm & Blues survey. The single prompted the release of Jones' first album, also called Hypnotized, and Jones' follow-up, "What've I Done (To Make You Mad)," was a Top Ten hit on the R&B charts, but struggled to 61 on the Pop listings, and 1968's "Give My Love a Try" was a greater disappointment, struggling to number 34 R&B and a dismal number 93 on Pop. While "Hypnotized" found Jones taking a relatively subtle approach to her music, her subsequent sides captured her forceful, melismatic style at full strength, and though soul purists (especially Northern soul collectors in the U.K.) treasured her records, she was a bit too much for Top 40 to take, and Jones would never have another major pop hit.
In 1968, Warner Bros. shut down Loma, and briefly bumped Jones up to their flagship label, but after one single, Jones was a free agent again, and she briefly recorded for Neptune Records, an early label run by Philly soul legends Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. In 1971, Jones landed a new deal with Turbo Records, an offshoot of Sylvia Robinson's All Platinum label, and in 1972, Jones enjoyed her greatest success in four years when her forceful, gospel-leaning cover of Jerry Butler's "For Your Precious Love" made its way on the R&B charts, peaking at number 15, and even enjoying some Pop airplay, where it rose to number 72. Sadly, Jones' comeback would be short-lived. Jones, who struggled with diabetes, toured hard in support of "For Your Precious Love," and she was booked to play two shows at New York's famed Apollo Theater on March 14, 1972. After a matinee performance, Jones went to her mother's house in Newark to eat dinner and take a nap before playing her evening show, but when her mother tried to wake her, she discovered Linda had slipped into a diabetic coma; she died shortly afterwards. Turbo released a pair of posthumous albums following Jones' unexpected death, and in 2014, Real Gone Music released The Complete Atco-Loma-Warner Brothers Recordings, bringing together the bulk of her recordings of the '60s.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Motown protégé of the 1970s and '80s whose writing, production, and singing adroitly combined many genres (funk, rock, pop, R&B).
On March 5, 1956, was born Teena Marie (Mary Christine Brockert, March 5, 1956 – December 26, 2010); soulful singer, songwriter and producer who had a string of US hits in the early '80s, including I Need Your Lovin', Square Biz, It Must Be Magic, Portuguese Love, and the 1980 UK No. 6 single 'Behind The Groove'.
No white artist sang R&B more convincingly than Teena Marie, whose big, robust vocals were so black-sounding that when she was starting out, some listeners wondered if she was a light-skinned African-American. Marie grew up in west Los Angeles in a neighborhood that was nicknamed "Venice Harlem" because of its heavy black population. The singer/songwriter/producer was in her early twenties when, around 1977, she landed a job at Motown Records. It was at Motown that she met her mentor and paramour-to-be, Rick James, who ended up doing all of the writing and producing for her debut album of 1979, Wild and Peaceful. That LP, which boasted her hit duet with James, "I'm Just a Sucker for Your Love," didn't show Marie's picture -- so many programmers at black radio just assumed she was black. When her second album, Lady T, came out, much of the R&B world was shocked to see how fair-skinned she was. But to many of the black R&B fans who were eating her music up, it really didn't matter -- the bottom line was she was a first-rate soul singer whose love of black culture ran deep.
By her third album, 1980's gold Irons in the Fire, Marie was doing most of her own writing and producing. That album boasted the major hit "I Need Your Lovin'," and Marie went gold again with her next album, It Must Be Magic (which included the major hit "Square Biz"). It Must Be Magic turned out to be her last album for Motown, which she had a nasty legal battle with. Marie got out of her contract with Motown, and the case ended up with the courts passing what is known as "The Teena Marie Law" -- which states that a label cannot keep an artist under contract without putting out an album by him or her.
Switching to Epic in 1983, Marie recorded her fifth album, Robbery, and had a hit with "Fix It." In 1984, Marie recorded her sixth album, Starchild, and had her biggest pop hit ever with "Lovergirl." Though Marie had often soared to the top of the R&B charts, "Lovergirl" marked the first time she'd done so well in the pop market. Ironically, Marie was a white singer who had enjoyed little exposure outside the R&B market prior to "Lovergirl."
Three more Epic albums followed: 1986's Emerald City, 1988's Naked to the World (which contained her smash hit "Ooh La La La"), and 1990's Ivory. Unfortunately, Marie's popularity had faded considerably by the late '80s, and Epic dropped her. In 1994, the singer released Passion Play on her own Sarai Records label. Ten years later, she signed to Cash Money and released La Doña, featuring assistance from Gerald LeVert, Rick James, and MC Lyte. Sapphire followed two years later. Though both La Doña and Sapphire peaked at number three on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, she switched to Stax for her next album, 2009's Congo Square. On December 26 the following year, Marie died in her sleep at her home in Pasadena, California; she was 54 years of age. Marie's daughter Alia Rose subsequently oversaw the mixing, mastering, and release of Beautiful, an album recorded prior to Marie's passing. It was released through UMe in 2012.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
One of soul music's great survivors, with an influential approach to guitar, songwriting skills that earned many covers, and a trademarked raspy voice.
On March 4, 1944, was born Bobby Womack, soul singer, session guitarist, (1974 US No.10 single 'Lookin' For A Love', and the 1993 UK No.27 single with Lulu 'I'm Back For More'). Womack died at his home in Tarzana, California at age 70 on June 27, 2014.
A veteran who paid his dues for over a decade before getting his shot at solo stardom, Bobby Womack persevered through tragedy and addiction to emerge as one of soul music's great survivors. Able to shine in the spotlight as a singer or behind the scenes as an instrumentalist and songwriter, Womack never got his due from pop audiences, but during the late '60s and much of the '70s, he was a consistent hitmaker on the R&B charts, with a high standard of quality control. His records were quintessential soul, with a bag of tricks learned from the likes of Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett, and Sly Stone, all of whom Womack worked closely with at one time or another. Yet often, they also bore the stamp of Womack's own idiosyncratic personality, whether through a lengthy spoken philosophical monologue or a radical reinterpretation of a pop standard. An underrated guitarist, Womack helped pioneer a lean, minimalist approach similar to that of Curtis Mayfield, and was an early influence on the young Jimi Hendrix. Additionally, his songs have been recorded by numerous artists in the realms of both R&B and rock, and the best of them rank as all-time classics.
Bobby Dwayne Womack was born in Cleveland on March 4, 1944. His upbringing was strict and religious, but his father Friendly also encouraged his sons to pursue music as he had (he sang and played guitar in a gospel group). In the early '50s, while still a child, Bobby joined his siblings Cecil, Curtis, Harry, and Friendly Jr. to form the gospel quintet the Womack Brothers. They were chosen to open a local show for the Soul Stirrers in 1953, where Bobby befriended lead singer Sam Cooke; following this break, they toured the country as an opening act for numerous gospel groups. When Cooke formed his own SAR label, he recruited the Womack Brothers with an eye toward transforming them into a crossover R&B act. Learning that his sons were moving into secular music, Friendly Womack threw them out of the house, and Cooke wired them the money to buy a car and drive out to his Los Angeles offices. The Womack Brothers made several recordings for SAR over 1960 and 1961, including a few gospel sides, but Cooke soon convinced them to record R&B and renamed them the Valentinos. In 1962, they scored a Top Ten hit on the R&B charts with "Lookin' for a Love," and Cooke sent them on the road behind James Brown to serve a boot-camp-style musical apprenticeship. Bobby eventually joined Cooke's backing band as guitarist. The Valentinos' 1964 single "It's All Over Now," written by Bobby, was quickly covered by the Rolling Stones with Cooke's blessing; when it became the Stones' first U.K. number one, Womack suddenly found himself a rich man.
Cooke's tragic death in December 1964 left Womack greatly shaken and the Valentinos' career in limbo. Just three months later, Womack married Cooke's widow, Barbara Campbell, which earned him tremendous ill will in the R&B community; many viewed him as a shady opportunist looking to cash in on Cooke's legacy, especially since Campbell was significantly older than Womack. According to Womack, he was initially motivated to look after Campbell in an unstable time, not to tarnish the memory of a beloved mentor. Regardless, Womack found himself unable to get his solo career rolling in the wake of the scandal; singles for Chess ("I Found a True Love") and Him ("Nothing You Can Do") were avoided like the plague despite their quality. The Valentinos cut a couple of singles for Chess in 1966, "What About Me" and "Sweeter Than the Day Before," which also failed to make much of a splash. To make ends meet, Womack became a backing guitarist, first landing a job with Ray Charles; he went on to make a valuable connection in producer Chips Moman, and appeared often at Moman's American Studio in Memphis, as well as nearby Muscle Shoals, Alabama. In the process, Womack appeared on classic recordings by the likes of Joe Tex, King Curtis, and Aretha Franklin (Lady Soul), among others. He recorded singles for Keymen and Atlantic without success, but became one of Wilson Pickett's favorite songwriters, contributing the R&B Top Ten hits "I'm in Love" and "I'm a Midnight Mover" (plus 15 other tunes) to the singer's repertoire.
Womack had been slated to record a solo album for Minit, but had given Pickett most of his best material, which actually wound up getting his name back in the public eye in a positive light. In 1968, he scored the first charting single of his solo career with "What Is This?" and soon hit with a string of inventively reimagined pop covers -- "Fly Me to the Moon," "California Dreamin'," and "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," the former two of which reached the R&B Top 20. A songwriting partnership with engineer Darryl Carter resulted in the R&B hits "It's Gonna Rain," "How I Miss You Baby," and "More Than I Can Stand" over 1969-1970. A series of label absorptions bumped Womack up to United Artists in 1971, which proved to be the home of his greatest solo success; in the meantime, he contributed the ballad "Trust Me" to Janis Joplin's masterpiece Pearl, and the J. Geils Band revived "Lookin' for a Love" for their first hit. He also teamed up with jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo on the LP High Contrast, which debuted Womack's composition "Breezin'" (which, of course, became a smash for George Benson six years later). Most importantly, however, Womack played guitar on Sly & the Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On, a masterpiece of darkly psychedelic funk that would have an impact on Womack's own sound and sense of style.
Womack issued his first UA album, Communication, in 1971, which kicked off a string of excellent releases that ran through the first half of the decade. In addition to several of Womack's trademark pop covers, the album also contained the original ballad "That's the Way I Feel About 'Cha," which climbed all the way to number two on the R&B chart and became his long-awaited breakout hit. The 1972 follow-up Understanding spawned Womack's first chart-topper, "Woman's Gotta Have It," co-written with Darryl Carter and stepdaughter Linda (Womack divorced Barbara Campbell in 1970). The follow-up "Harry Hippie," a gently ironic tribute to Womack's brother, also hit the R&B Top Ten. Later that year, Womack scored the blaxploitation flick Across 110th Street; the title cut was later revived in the 1998 Quentin Tarantino film Jackie Brown. Released in 1973, The Facts of Life had an R&B number two hit in a rearrangement of the perennial "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," and the following year's Lookin' for a Love Again found Womack revisiting his Valentinos hit; the re-recorded "Lookin' for a Love" became his second number one R&B single and his only Top Ten hit on the pop charts. Follow-up single "You're Welcome, Stop on By" made the R&B Top Five.
Womack was by this time a seasoned veteran of the rock & roll lifestyle, having befriended the likes of the Rolling Stones, the late Janis Joplin, and Sly Stone. After his brother Harry was murdered by a jealous girlfriend in 1974 (in Bobby's own apartment), the drug usage began to take a more serious turn. Womack scored further R&B Top Ten hits with 1975's "Check It Out" and 1976's "Daylight," the latter of which seemed to indicate a longing for escape from the nonstop partying that often masked serious depression. Despite Womack's new marriage to Regina Banks, the song was a sign that things were coming to a head. Womack pushed UA into letting him do a full album of country music, something he'd always loved but which the label regarded as commercially inadvisable (especially under the title Womack reportedly wanted to use: Step Aside, Charley Pride, Give Another Nigger a Try). They eventually relented, and when BW Goes C&W met with predictably minimal response, UA palmed the increasingly difficult Womack off on Columbia. A pair of albums there failed to recapture his commercial momentum or reinvent him for the disco age, and he moved to Arista for 1979's Roads of Life, which appeared not long after the sudden death of his infant son.
At a low point in his life, Womack took a bit of time off from music to gather himself. He appeared as a guest vocalist on Jazz Crusader Wilton Felder's 1980 solo album, Inherit the Wind, singing the hit title track, and subsequently signed with black entrepreneur Otis Smith's independent Beverly Glen label. His label debut, 1981's The Poet, was a critically acclaimed left-field hit, rejuvenating his career and producing a number three R&B hit with "If You Think You're Lonely Now." Unfortunately, money disputes soured the relationship between Womack and Smith rather quickly. The Poet II was delayed until 1984, and featured several duets with Patti LaBelle, including another number three R&B hit, "Love Has Finally Come at Last." Beverly Glen released a final LP culled from Womack's previous sessions, Someday We'll All Be Free, in 1985, by which time the singer had already broken free and signed with MCA. Another hit with Wilton Felder, "(No Matter How High I Get) I'll Still Be Looking Up to You," appeared that year, and his label debut, So Many Rivers, produced a Top Five R&B hit in "I Wish He Didn't Trust Me So Much." Released in 1986, Womagic reunited Womack with Chips Moman, and he also backed the Rolling Stones on their remake of "Harlem Shuffle." By the following year he'd christened himself The Last Soul Man, which proved to be his final recording for MCA.
In the following years, Womack made high-profile returns to the music business only sporadically. Released in 1994, Resurrection was recorded for Ron Wood's Slide label and featured an array of guest stars including Wood, Keith Richards, Rod Stewart, and Stevie Wonder. In 1999, he fulfilled a longstanding promise to his father (who passed away in 1981) by delivering his first-ever gospel album, Back to My Roots. While he continued to perform throughout the following decade, his guest appearance on the 2010 Gorillaz album Plastic Beach seemed like a return. A couple years later, after being the subject of TV One's Unsung documentary series, he released The Bravest Man in the Universe, a collaboration with the XL label's Richard Russell and Gorillaz's Damon Albarn. However, Womack had experienced a number of health challenges in his latter years, and he died in June 2014 at the age of 70.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Soulful Detroit quartet with immaculate four-part harmonies, lasting almost half a century and giving voice to many of Motown's most enduring songs.
On March 2, 1938, was born Lawrence Payton, vocalists, songwriter, vocal arranger and record producer for the Motown quartet, The Four Tops, (1965 US No.1 single with ‘I Can’t Help Myself’ and a 1967 UK No.6 single with ‘Standing In The Shadows of Love’).
Payton sang lead on the songs "Feel Free"(from the Catfish album), "Until You Love Someone" and "The Girl From Ipanema" from the Four Tops Live! album (from their Motown days) but he was often overshadowed by the more popular Levi Stubbs. He died on June 20, 1997, aged 59, from liver cancer in Southfield, Michigan. One of his sons, Roquel, later went on to sing with the Four Tops.
The Four Tops:
The Four Tops' story is one of longevity and togetherness: these Motown legends teamed up in high school and spent over four decades without a single personnel change. In between, they became one of the top-tier acts on a label with no shortage of talent, ranking with the Temptations and the Supremes as Motown's most consistent hitmakers. Where many other R&B vocal groups spotlighted a tenor-range lead singer, The Four Tops were fronted by deep-voiced Levi Stubbs, who never cut a solo record outside of the group. Stubbs had all the grit of a pleading, wailing, gospel-trained soul belter, but at the same time, the Tops' creamy harmonies were smooth enough for Motown's radio-friendly pop-soul productions. From 1964-1967, The Four Tops recorded some of the Holland-Dozier-Holland team's greatest compositions, including "Reach Out, I'll Be There," "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)," "Standing in the Shadows of Love," "Bernadette," and "Baby I Need Your Loving." The group's fortunes took a downturn when their chief source of material left the label, but they enjoyed a renaissance in the early '70s, which saw them switching to the ABC-Dunhill imprint. Regardless of commercial fortunes, they kept on performing and touring, scoring the occasional comeback hit.
The Four Tops began life in 1953 (some accounts say 1954), when all of the members were attending Detroit-area high schools. Levi Stubbs and Abdul "Duke" Fakir went to Pershing, and met Northern students Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton at a friend's birthday party, where the quartet members first sang together. Sensing an immediate chemistry, they began rehearsing together and dubbed themselves the Four Aims. Payton's cousin Roquel Davis, a budding songwriter who sometimes sang with the group during its early days, helped them get an audition with Chess Records in 1956. Although Chess was more interested in Davis, who went on to become Berry Gordy's songwriting partner, they also signed the Four Aims, who became The Four Tops to avoid confusion with the Ames Brothers. The Four Tops' lone Chess single, "Kiss Me Baby," was an unequivocal flop, and the group moved on to similarly brief stints at Red Top and Riverside. They signed with Columbia in 1960 and were steered in a more upscale supper-club direction, singing jazz and pop standards. This too failed to break them, although they did tour with Billy Eckstine during this period.
In 1963, The Four Tops signed with longtime friend Berry Gordy's new label, specifically the jazz-oriented Workshop subsidiary. They completed a debut LP, to be called Breaking Through, but Gordy scrapped it and switched their style back to R&B, placing them on Motown with the Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team. After a full decade in existence, The Four Tops finally notched their first hit in 1964 with "Baby I Need Your Loving," which just missed the pop Top Ten. Early 1965 brought the follow-up ballad hit "Ask the Lonely," and from then on there was no stopping them. "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" went all the way to number one that spring, and the follow-up "It's the Same Old Song" reached the Top Five. The hits continued into 1966, with "Something About You" "Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)," and "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever" all coming in succession. The fall of 1966 brought the group's masterpiece in the form of the virtual soul symphony "Reach Out, I'll Be There"; not only did it become their second number one pop hit, it also wound up ranking as the creative peak of the group's career and one of Motown's finest singles ever. During this period, the Tops also earned a reputation as one of Motown's best live acts, having previously honed their performances for years before hitting the big time.
The Four Tops kicked off 1967 with the dramatic Top Ten smash "Standing in the Shadows of Love," which was followed by the Top Five "Bernadette." "7-Rooms of Gloom" and "You Keep Running Away" reached the Top 20, but toward the end of the year, Holland-Dozier-Holland left Motown over a financial dispute, which didn't bode well for The Four Tops' impressive hit streak. Their next two hits, 1968's "Walk Away Renee" and "If I Were a Carpenter," were both covers of well-known recent songs (by the Left Banke and Tim Hardin, respectively), and while both made the Top 20, they heralded a rough couple of years when top-drawer material was in short supply. They enjoyed a resurgence in 1970 under producer Frank Wilson, who helmed a hit cover of the Tommy Edwards pop standard "It's All in the Game" and a ballad co-written by Smokey Robinson, "Still Water (Love)." the Tops also recorded with the post-Diana Ross Supremes, scoring a duet hit with a cover of "River Deep, Mountain High" in 1971.
When Motown moved its headquarters to Los Angeles in 1972, The Four Tops parted ways with the company, choosing to remain in their hometown of Detroit. They signed with ABC-Dunhill and were teamed with producers/songwriters Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, who did their best to re-create the group's trademark Motown sound. The immediate result was "Keeper of the Castle," The Four Tops' first Top Ten hit in several years. They followed it in early 1973 with "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)," a gold-selling smash that proved to be their final Top Five pop hit. That year they also recorded the theme song to the film Shaft in Africa, "Are You Man Enough." Several more R&B chart hits followed over the next few years, with the last being 1976's "Catfish"; after a final ABC album in 1978, the Tops largely disappeared from sight before resurfacing on Casablanca in 1981. Incredibly, their first single, "When She Was My Girl," went all the way to number one on the R&B charts, just missing the pop Top Ten. The accompanying album, Tonight!, became their last to hit the Top 40.
The Four Tops rejoined Motown in 1983, the year of the company's 25th anniversary, and toured extensively with the Temptations. They also recorded a couple albums of new material that failed to sell well, and wound up leaving Motown amid confusion over proper musical direction. Meanwhile, Levi Stubbs provided the voice for Audrey the man-eating plant in the film version of Little Shop of Horrors. The Four Tops next caught on with Arista, where in 1988 they scored their last Top 40 pop hit, the aptly titled "Indestructible." The Four Tops were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, and continued to tour the oldies circuit. In 1997, Lawrence Payton passed away due to cancer of the liver, which proved to be the only thing that could break up The Four Tops. After some consideration, the remaining members hired Theo Peoples to take Payton's place on tour.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
A crucial link between rhythm-and-blues and early rock ‘n’ roll during the 1950s.
On March 2, 2003, singer, songwriter Hank Ballard died from throat cancer. Wrote and recorded 'The Twist' but it was only released on the B-side of a record. One year later, Chubby Checker debuted his own version of 'The Twist' on Dick Clark's Philadelphia television show. It topped the charts and launched a dance craze that prompted the creation of other Twist songs, including 'Twist and Shout' by the Isley Brothers and 'Twistin' the Night Away' by Sam Cooke.
In the world of early rhythm & blues and doo wop, Hank Ballard was the very definition of earthiness. Though influenced by high-energy gospel vocal groups, Ballard's music with the Midnighters couldn't have been more diametrically opposed in terms of subject matter: his lyrics were filled with raunchy double-entendres that left little to the imagination, pushing the envelope of what was considered acceptable in the '50s. His songs were sometimes banned on the radio, but that only made him an even bigger jukebox favorite among black audiences. Ballard's hard-driving, rhythmic style was also an underappreciated influence on the rawer side of R&B, particularly on a young James Brown; plus, his composition "The Twist" -- recorded for a hit by Chubby Checker -- became one of the biggest hits in rock & roll history.
Hank Ballard was born November 18, 1927 (according to his birth records) in Detroit, but moved to Bessemer, AL, as a young child following his father's death. There he began singing in church and when he returned to Detroit at age 15, he set about forming a doo wop group while working on the Ford assembly line. Around the same time, singers Henry Booth and Charles Sutton were organizing a doo wop outfit called the Royals, which reputedly at one time also featured Jackie Wilson and future Four Top Levi Stubbs; it eventually grew to include vocalists Lawson Smith and Sonny Woods, plus gritty guitarist Alonzo Tucker. Initially copying the smooth style of Sonny Til & the Orioles, the Royals were discovered by Johnny Otis in 1952 and signed with Federal Records. However, when Hank Ballard replaced Smith in 1953, they adopted a rougher, more hepped-up sound in keeping with Ballard's numerous original compositions and Clyde McPhatter influence. Ballard's first recording with the group was 1953's "Get It," which hit the Top Ten on the R&B charts, but it was the following year's ribald "Work With Me Annie" that really broke the group (they changed their name to the Midnighters around this time, to avoid confusion with the Five Royales). "Work With Me Annie" topped the R&B charts and nearly reached the pop Top 20, despite a number of radio stations refusing to air the song. It inspired a number of answer records and the Midnighters themselves entered the fray with the sequels "Annie Had a Baby" (another R&B chart-topper) and "Annie's Aunt Fannie." They also scored another major smash with the Ballard-penned "Sexy Ways," which solidified their reputation as R&B's most risqué act.
However, after the momentum of "Work With Me Annie" slowed, the Midnighters seemed at a loss as to how to recapture it. They went nearly three and a half years without another big hit, and with the decline in their fortunes came numerous personnel shifts. Lawson Smith returned to the fold to replace Sutton, Norman Thrasher replaced Sonny Woods, and Tucker's guitar post was taken first by Arthur Porter, then Cal Green. Ballard attempted to take his 1958 composition "The Twist" to Vee-Jay, which declined to release the version they recorded; King, Federal's parent label, issued it as the B-side of the Midnighters' R&B comeback ballad hit "Teardrops on Your Letter" in 1959. Still, "The Twist" gained some notice and found a fan in American Bandstand host Dick Clark, who brought the song to Chubby Checker's attention; the rest was history, as "The Twist" became the first song to hit number one during two completely separate chart runs. Ballard and the Midnighters benefited from the exposure, scoring their first Top Ten pop singles in 1960 with "Finger Poppin' Time" and "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go." A few more R&B hits followed, generally dance-oriented songs in the vein of "The Twist," before the well dried up for a second time. the Midnighters gradually disintegrated and Ballard became a solo act; by the end of the '60s, he was working with longtime fan James Brown, who produced several singles for Ballard during the late '60s and early '70s. After a lengthy absence from music, Ballard re-formed the Midnighters during the mid-'80s, first as a female group, then male, and began touring once again. In 1990, Ballard received his due as an R&B innovator with his election into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. After suffering for several years with throat cancer, Ballard died quietly at his Los Angeles home in March of 2003.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Seminal R&B guitarist whose hypnotic rhythmic attack and declamatory, boasting vocals became one of the most overpowering sounds in rock & roll.
On March 2,1955, Bo Diddley has his first recording session at Universal Recording Studio in Chicago, where he laid down 'Bo Diddley', which went on the top the US R&B chart by the following June.
He only had a few hits in the 1950s and early '60s, but as Bo Diddley sang, "You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover." You can't judge an artist by his chart success, either, and Diddley produced greater and more influential music than all but a handful of the best early rockers. The Bo Diddley beat -- bomp, ba-bomp-bomp, bomp-bomp -- is one of rock & roll's bedrock rhythms, showing up in the work of Buddy Holly, the Rolling Stones, and even pop-garage knock-offs like the Strangeloves' 1965 hit "I Want Candy." Diddley's hypnotic rhythmic attack and declamatory, boasting vocals stretched back as far as Africa for their roots, and looked as far into the future as rap. His trademark otherworldly vibrating, fuzzy guitar style did much to expand the instrument's power and range. But even more important, Bo's bounce was fun and irresistibly rocking, with a wisecracking, jiving tone that epitomized rock & roll at its most humorously outlandish and freewheeling.
Before taking up blues and R&B, Diddley had studied classical violin, but shifted gears after hearing John Lee Hooker. In the early '50s, he began playing with his longtime partner, maraca player Jerome Green, to get what Bo's called "that freight train sound." Billy Boy Arnold, a fine blues harmonica player and singer in his own right, was also playing with Diddley when the guitarist got a deal with Chess in the mid-'50s (after being turned down by rival Chicago label Vee-Jay). His very first single, "Bo Diddley"/"I'm a Man" (1955), was a double-sided monster. The A-side was soaked with futuristic waves of tremolo guitar, set to an ageless nursery rhyme; the flip was a bump-and-grind, harmonica-driven shuffle, based around a devastating blues riff. But the result was not exactly blues, or even straight R&B, but a new kind of guitar-based rock & roll, soaked in the blues and R&B, but owing allegiance to neither.
Diddley was never a top seller on the order of his Chess rival Chuck Berry, but over the next half-dozen or so years, he produced a catalog of classics that rival Berry's in quality. "You Don't Love Me," "Diddley Daddy," "Pretty Thing," "Diddy Wah Diddy," "Who Do You Love?," "Mona," "Road Runner," "You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover" -- all are stone-cold standards of early, riff-driven rock & roll at its funkiest. Oddly enough, his only Top 20 pop hit was an atypical, absurd back-and-forth rap between him and Jerome Green, "Say Man," that came about almost by accident as the pair were fooling around in the studio.
As a live performer, Diddley was galvanizing, using his trademark square guitars and distorted amplification to produce new sounds that anticipated the innovations of '60s guitarists like Jimi Hendrix. In Great Britain, he was revered as a giant on the order of Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters. the Rolling Stones in particular borrowed a lot from Bo's rhythms and attitude in their early days, although they only officially covered a couple of his tunes, "Mona" and "I'm Alright." Other British R&B groups like the Yardbirds, Animals, and Pretty Things also covered Diddley standards in their early days. Buddy Holly covered "Bo Diddley" and used a modified Bo Diddley beat on "Not Fade Away"; when the Stones gave the song the full-on Bo treatment (complete with shaking maracas), the result was their first big British hit.
The British Invasion helped increase the public's awareness of Diddley's importance, and ever since then he's been a popular live act. Sadly, though, his career as a recording artist -- in commercial and artistic terms -- was over by the time the Beatles and Stones hit America. He would record with ongoing and declining frequency, but after 1963, he never wrote or recorded original material on par with his early classics. Whether he'd spent his muse, or just felt he could coast on his laurels, is hard to say. But he remains a vital part of the collective rock & roll consciousness, and occasionally reached wider visibility via a 1979 tour with the Clash, a cameo role in the film Trading Places, a late-'80s tour with Ronnie Wood, and a 1989 television commercial for sports shoes with star athlete Bo Jackson.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
One-time King of Calypso and major civil-rights activist whose career took countless twists and turns over seven decades.
On March 1, 1927, was born Harry Belafonte, singer,and civil rights activits who had the 1957 UK No.1 & US No.12 single with ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ and a 1957 UK No.2 & US No.5 with ‘Banana Boat Song’. He also scored over 15 US Top 40 albums, including the 1956 Calypso.
An actor, humanitarian, and the acknowledged "King of Calypso," Harry Belafonte ranked among the most seminal performers of the postwar era. One of the most successful African-American pop stars in history, Belafonte's staggering talent, good looks, and masterful assimilation of folk, jazz, and worldbeat rhythms allowed him to achieve a level of mainstream eminence and crossover popularity virtually unparalleled in the days before the advent of the civil rights movement -- a cultural uprising which he himself helped spearhead.
Harold George Belafonte, Jr., was born March 1, 1927, in Harlem, NY. The son of Caribbean-born immigrants, he returned with his mother to her native Jamaica at the age of eight, remaining there for the next five years. Upon returning to the U.S., Belafonte dropped out of high school to enlist in the U.S. Navy; after his discharge, he resettled in New York City to forge a career as an actor, performing with the American Negro Theatre while studying drama at Erwin Piscator's famed Dramatic Workshop alongside the likes of Marlon Brando and Tony Curtis.
A singing role resulted in a series of cabaret engagements, and eventually Belafonte even opened his own club. Initially, he put his clear, silky voice to work as a straight pop singer, launching his recording career on the Jubilee label in 1949; however, at the dawn of the 1950s he discovered folk music, learning material through the Library of Congress' American folk songs archives while also discovering West Indian music. With guitarist Millard Thomas, Belafonte soon made his debut at the legendary jazz club the Village Vanguard; in 1953, he made his film bow in Bright Road, winning a Tony Award the next year for his work in the Broadway revue John Murray Anderson's Almanac.
With his lead role in Otto Preminger's film adaptation of Oscar Hammerstein's Carmen Jones, Belafonte shot to stardom; after signing to the RCA label, he issued Mark Twain and Other Folk Favorites, which reached the number three slot on the Billboard charts in the early weeks of 1956. His next effort, titled simply Belafonte, reached number one, kick-starting a national craze for calypso music; Calypso, also issued in 1956, topped the charts for a staggering 31 weeks on the strength of hits like "Jamaica Farewell" and the immortal "Banana Boat (Day-O)."
Following the success of 1957's An Evening with Belafonte and its hit "Mary's Boy Child," Belafonte returned to film, using his now considerable clout to realize the controversial film Island in the Sun, in which his character contemplates an affair with a white woman portrayed by Joan Fontaine. Similarly, 1959's Odds Against Tomorrow cast him as a bank robber teamed with a racist accomplice. Also in 1959 he released the LP Belafonte at Carnegie Hall, a recording of a sold-out April performance that spent over three years on the charts; Belafonte Returns to Carnegie Hall followed in 1960 and featured appearances by Odetta, Miriam Makeba, and the Chad Mitchell Trio.
At the turn of the 1960s, Belafonte became television's first black producer; his special Tonight with Harry Belafonte won an Emmy that same year. Although dissatisfied with filmmaking, he continued his prolific album output with 1961's Jump Up Calypso and 1962's The Midnight Special, which featured the first-ever recorded appearance by a young harmonica player named Bob Dylan. As the Beatles and other stars of the British Invasion began to dominate the pop charts, Belafonte's impact as a commercial force diminished; 1964's Belafonte at the Greek Theatre was his last Top 40 effort, and subsequent efforts like 1965's An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba and 1966's In My Quiet Room struggled even to crack the Top 100. 1969's Homeward Bound earned Belafonte his final Billboard chart appearance, although he continued to record. He then made his first film appearance in over a decade in 1970's The Angel Levine and continued to focus on his work as a civil rights activist.
In addition to his continued work in recording (albeit less frequently after leaving RCA in the mid-'70s) and film (1972's Buck and the Preacher and 1974's Uptown Saturday Night), Belafonte spent an increasing amount of the 1970s and 1980s as a tireless humanitarian; most famously, he was a central figure of the USA for Africa effort, singing on the 1985 single "We Are the World." A year later, he replaced Danny Kaye as UNICEF's Goodwill Ambassador. After a long absence from the screen, Belafonte resurfaced in the mid-'90s in a number of film roles, most notably in the reverse-racism drama White Man's Burden and Robert Altman's jazz-era period piece Kansas City. Although at this point Belafonte had stopped recording new music, he kept his name in the news by releasing the occasional live album (including 1997's An Evening with Harry Belafonte & Friends) as well as being an outspoken proponent of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and opponent of the Bush government.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
El Caobo &