THE CRUSADERS: WILTON FELDER
The Crusaders were a remarkably versatile group with a career has encompassed R&B, jazz, soul, and funk styles.
On August 31, 1940, was born Wilton Felder of the The Crusaders.
Wilton Felder spent over 30 years with the group known as the Jazz Crusaders (and later the Crusaders). In the mid-'50s while in high school in Houston, Felder, Joe Sample, and Stix Hooper became the founding members of the group which soon picked up Wayne Henderson as an additional member. Felder moved to Los Angeles with the other musicians in the late '50s and by 1961, they were recording for Pacific Jazz as the Jazz Crusaders. Felder's soulful blues-based tone and hard bop style fit well in the popular band. Around 1968, he started doubling on electric bass and has backed many top players outside of the group on that instrument. However, his own solo albums (for World Pacific in 1969, MCA, and Par) have generally found him cast as a third-rate Grover Washington, Jr. and have not caught on. Felder remained with the Crusaders until its end in the late '80s and had a reunion with Wayne Henderson in the '90s in a new version of the group.
Back in 1954, Houston pianist Joe Sample teamed up with high school friends tenor saxophonist Wilton Felder and drummer Stix Hooper to form the Swingsters. Within a short time, they were joined by trombonist Wayne Henderson, flutist Hubert Laws, and bassist Henry Wilson and the group became the Modern Jazz Sextet. With the move of Sample, Felder, Hooper, and Henderson to Los Angeles in 1960, the band (a quintet with the bass spot constantly changing) took on the name of the Jazz Crusaders. The following year they made their first recordings for Pacific Jazz and throughout the 1960s the group was a popular attraction, mixing together R&B and Memphis soul elements with hard bop; its trombone/tenor frontline became a trademark. By 1971, when all of the musicians were also busy with their own projects, it was decided to call the group simply the Crusaders so it would not be restricted to only playing jazz. After a few excellent albums during the early part of the decade (with guitarist Larry Carlton a strong asset), the group began to decline in quality. In 1975, the band's sound radically changed when Henderson departed to become a full-time producer. 1979's "Street Life" was a hit, but also a last hurrah. With Hooper's decision to leave in 1983, the group no longer sounded like the Crusaders and gradually disbanded. In the mid-'90s, Henderson and Felder had a reunion as the Crusaders but in reality only Joe Sample has had a strong solo career.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Legendary 1960s act led by inimitable Ronnie Spector embodied all that was cool about the girl-group aesthetic.
On August 31, 1963, The Ronettes first entered the US singles chart with 'Be My Baby' the girl group's only top 10 hit. Lead singer, Veronica Bennett who became Ronnie Spector, took producer and ex-husband Phil Spector to court in the late 1990s for unpaid royalties.
The Ronettes weren't the most commercially successful girl group, but their music was some of the most groundbreaking in the field, thanks to their association with the legendary Wall of Sound producer Phil Spector. Their biggest hit, "Be My Baby," is widely regarded as one of the crowning achievements of Spector's oeuvre, and of girl-group pop in general. In fact, many critics have deemed it one of the most supremely romantic records of the rock & roll era; Spector's production frames the song's yearning lyrics and Ronnie Bennett's sweetly sultry vocals in a sweeping, near-symphonic level of emotion. Even though the Ronettes never managed another hit as big as "Be My Baby," many of their subsequent singles boasted the same kind of creative synergy between Spector and Bennett. It apparently carried over into real life as well, since the two were married in 1968, not long after Bennett went solo. Unfortunately, the union was an unhappy one, as Spector soon turned reclusive and controlling, largely preventing her from recording (or even leaving the house). After their divorce, she recorded sporadically without much success, but became something of a female rock icon when she published her survivor's-tale autobiography.
The Ronettes were formed in the Washington Heights/Spanish Harlem area of New York City. Sisters Veronica (aka Ronnie) and Estelle Bennett and their cousin Nedra Talley first started harmonizing together as teenagers in 1959, inspired by doo wop groups like Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers and Little Anthony & the Imperials. First calling themselves the Darling Sisters, the trio also worked on their dance moves, and won the famed amateur talent contest at the Apollo Theater; afterward, they began formal vocal training. In 1961, they were standing in line to get into the Peppermint Lounge -- epicenter of the twist dance craze -- when a manager mistook them for an act he'd booked. They performed to great response, and were quickly hired as regulars. Later that year, they appeared in the film Twist Around the Clock, and danced in shows staged by disc jockey Murray the K. They also got a record deal with the Colpix label, issuing their debut single "I Want a Boy" as Ronnie & the Relatives that year. Follow-up singles credited the group as the Ronettes, including "I'm on the Wagon," "Silhouettes," and "Good Girls," but none were anything more than regionally popular.
The Ronettes caught their big break when they met Phil Spector, who saw in them talent he could mold to his specifications; he was already tiring of his association with the Crystals, substituting outside singer Darlene Love on several records credited to them. Spector signed the Ronettes to his Philles label, where they were given a more defined image than most female artists of the time. They were still sweet and feminine, to be sure, but they had hints of attitude -- they were photographed with tall hairdos, heavy eyeliner, and tight skirts. Moreover, their songs dared to address the objects of their affection directly ("I love you" as opposed to "I love him"), even -- on a subliminal level -- seductively. Spector lavished all his attention on his new protégées, collaborating on material with some of the top Brill Building songwriting teams. Their first Philles single was "Be My Baby," a tune Spector co-wrote with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich especially as a showcase for Ronnie Bennett. Right from the often-imitated drum kick that opened the song, "Be My Baby" announced itself as a pop classic;Spector's lush arrangement seemed to echo into infinity, while Bennett's sweet vulnerability captured the hearts of enough teenage male listeners to send the song to number two on the pop charts and number four R&B. It also became the all-time favorite record of Beach Boy Brian Wilson, who was directly inspired to emulate Spector's arsenal of production innovations; he also penned "Don't Worry Baby" for the Ronettes in tribute, but when Spector refused the song, the Beach Boys recorded it themselves for a hit.
None of the Ronettes' other singles even managed to make the Top 20, but they continued to turn out high-quality work over the next two years. Their next hit, 1964's "Baby, I Love You," featured Leon Russell as the session pianist, as well as backup vocal support from Darlene Love and a young Cher. Subsequent singles like "(The Best Part Of) Breakin' Up," "Do I Love You?," "Walking in the Rain," and "Is This What I Get for Loving You?" still rank as all-time girl-group classics; "Walking in the Rain" went on to win a Grammy for Best Sound Effects, the only one Spector ever received. Meanwhile, Spector was testing the waters for Bennett as a solo artist; she recorded a song under the name Veronica, "So Young," which nonetheless included backup harmonies by the other two Ronettes (it was withdrawn not long after release).
With his attention consumed by Tina Turner in early 1966, Spector put the Ronettes on the back burner; one of his final sides with the group, the lovely "I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine," was never even released. Jeff Barry produced the final Ronettes single for Philles, "I Can Hear Music," in late 1966. Shattered by the cool reception afforded his magnum opus, the Ike & Tina Turner single "River Deep-Mountain High," Spector soon shut down the Philles label, and the Ronettes disbanded. Spector left his wife to marry Bennett in 1968, and the two lived together in Spector's L.A. mansion. However, his behavior grew increasingly erratic and controlling. In spite of Ronnie's ambitions for a solo career, Spector took pains to ensure that she remained at home -- not just refusing to book recording sessions, but not even allowing her to leave the house without his permission. He became psychologically abusive, allegedly threatening to kill her, monitoring her phone calls, and forbidding her to read books or see friends. When the couple failed to conceive children, Spector adopted three -- the last two without even consulting his wife -- which ensured that she was kept busy at home. Even amid all of this, two singles made their way to release -- 1969's aptly titled "You Came, You Saw, You Conquered" (which was credited to the Ronettes Featuring the Voice of Veronica), and 1971's "Try Some, Buy Some," issued on the Beatles' Apple label.
Ronnie left her husband in 1973, and their divorce was finalized the following year; reportedly, Spector made a substantial alimony payment by sending Ronnie a truckload of dimes. Nonetheless, Ronnie kept his last name, and formed a new version of the Ronettes with Denise Edwards and Chip Fields; they recorded a couple of singles for Buddah over 1973-1974, but none charted. Ronnie Spector released several solo records during the late '70s without much success; she did return to the spotlight as a guest vocalist on rocker Eddie Money's Top Five hit "Take Me Home Tonight" in 1986. Two years later, on the heels of a "Be My Baby" revival in the film Dirty Dancing, the three original Ronettes sued Spector for nonpayment of royalties; the case dragged on for years and years. In 1990, Ronnie published her autobiography Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness; the book was a sensation thanks to its detailed account of her bizarre relationship with Spector, though she maintained that she had been genuinely in love with him at the start, and that he was never physically abusive to her. In late 2001, a New York court announced a verdict in favor of the Ronettes, ordering Spector to pay nearly three million dollars in back royalties; the judgment was later overturned on appeal, but part of the case was sent back to a lower court, renewing the group's hopes.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
THE FIFTH DIMENSION: MARILYN McCOO
One of the most popular faces in pop and soul, from her days in the Fifth Dimension to her solo career and hosting duties for Solid Gold.
On August 30, 1943, was born Marilyn McCoo, singer, 1977 US No.1 & UK No.7 single 'You Don't Have To Be A Star'. Also a member of The 5th Dimension.
Vocalist Marilyn McCoo is featured on the 5th Dimension's million-selling hits "Wedding Bell Blues," "One Less Bell to Answer," and "(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All." A daughter of a doctor, McCoo started singing at an early age and continued to sing throughout her grammar and high school years. As a teen, she appeared on Art Linkletter's Talent Scouts. Her family moved to Los Angeles when she was around 19. While pursuing a modeling career and entering beauty contests (she won the title of Miss Bronze California, 1962), McCoo met photographer Lamonte McLemore. In the early '60s, McLemore and McCoo joined with Floyd Butler and Harry Elston to form the Hi-Fis. Performing in local clubs, the group came to the attention of Ray Charles. They toured with "the Genius of Soul" in 1965. Charles produced a single, the jazzy "Lonesome Mood." Butler and Elston left the Hi-Fis to form the Friends of Distinction ("Grazing in the Grass," "Going in Circles," "Love or Let Me Be Lonely").
McLemore was contacted by his childhood friend from St. Louis, Billy Davis, Jr. Davis said that he was offered a record deal with Motown. McLemore contacted another St. Louis native, Ron Townson, and he, along with Davis, McCoo, and school teacher/1963 Miss Bronze California winner Florence LaRue, started the Versatiles. The group was signed to Bob Keene's Bronco Records where their A&R director was future "Icon of Love" Barry White. After getting a contractual release from Bronco, the Versatiles signed to singer/producer Johnny Rivers' ("Secret Agent Man") Soul City label where the group became the 5th Dimension and was paired with producer Bones Howe. Howe used top L.A. session players the Wrecking Crew: bassist Joe Osborn, drummer Hal Blaine, keyboardist Larry Knechtel, and arranger Bob Alcivar on their sessions. Their first hit was a cover of the Mama and the Papas' "Go Where You Wanna Go," making it into Billboard's Top 20 pop charts in early 1967. "Up Up and Away," written by Jimmy Webb, went to number seven pop during the summer of 1967. The song won four 1968 Grammy Awards and was the title track to their first hit LP. In 1969, McCoo and Davis were married. That same year, the 5th Dimension enjoyed their greatest success. After being impressed by Ronnie Dyson's performance in the hit Broadway musical Hair, the group decided to cover one of the show's songs. "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" parked at number one pop for six weeks and number six R&B in spring 1969. The group performed the song in Milos Forman's 1979 movie version of Hair. The Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In LP, their best album, went gold, and included "Workin' on a Groovy Thing" written by Neil Sedaka.
The next album, Portrait, yielded the hits singles "Save the Country," the gold "One Less Bell to Answer" -- written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David -- and "Puppet Man."
Though the gold "(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All" and "If I Could Reach You" were the group's last two singles to make it into the Top Ten, the 5th Dimension continued to have hits: "Living Together, Growing Together" -- another Bacharach/David song written for the Peter Finch movie Lost Horizon -- and "Ashes to Ashes."
In the mid-'70s, McCoo and Davis left the 5th Dimension and began performing as a duo. Landing a contract with ABC Records, they recorded their 1976 debut album, I Hope We Get to Love in Time, with Detroit producer Don Davis (Johnny Taylor, the Dramatics). The first single was the title track, which was a mid-chart hit. The second single, "You Don't Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)," went to number one on both the R&B and the pop charts during January 1977. Motown great James Jamerson is featured on bass. Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. were awarded a gold single and a gold album their first time out. The third single, "Your Love," went Top Ten R&B and Top 20 pop. In the summer of 1977, the couple had their own variety show, The Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. Show, on CBS.
Their next ABC album, 1977's The Two of Us, was produced by Motown alumni Frank Wilson (Eddie Kendricks, New Birth) and boasted the singles "Look What You've Done to My Heart," "Wonderful," the ballad "My Reason to Be Is You," and the tender title track. Switching to Columbia Records, their Marilyn & Billy album was released during the fall of in 1978. One charting single, a cover of "Shine on Silvery Moon," became a favorite in disco clubs. McCoo recorded her first solo LP for RCA Records, with the single "Heart Stop Beating in Time," written by the Bee Gees, being a small hit. Other solo albums by McCoo are White Christmas (Laserlight, 1996) and The Me Nobody Knows, produced by Chris Christian and Humberto Gatica (EMI Special Products, 1991). During the '80s, McCoo hosted the nationally syndicated pop music show Solid Gold and appeared on NBC shows Night Court and the soap opera Days of Our Lives. She also took to the stage, appearing in Dreamgirls, Showboat, and Man of La Mancha. McCoo co-hosted with Glynn Turman McDonald's Gospelfest Pt. 1 in 1990, available on home video.
The couple continues to perform around the country in concerts (some being 5th Dimension reunions) and musicals such as It Takes Two, Hit With a Hot Note!: The Duke Ellington Songbook, and celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary with a cover story in the August 9, 1999 issue of Jet Magazine.
THE FIFTH DIMENSION:
The Fifth Dimension's unique sound lay somewhere between smooth, elegant soul and straightforward, adult-oriented pop, often with a distinct flower-power vibe. Although they appealed more to mainstream listeners than to a hip, hardcore R&B audience, they had a definite ear for contemporary trends; their selection of material helped kickstart the notable songwriting careers of Jimmy Webb and Laura Nyro, and their biggest hit was a medley from the hippie musical Hair, "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In." The group's soaring, seamless harmonies were given appropriately sweeping, orchestrated period production by Bones Howe, which often placed their records closer to California-style sunshine pop. That's actually part of the reason why the best singles from The Fifth Dimension's heyday of the late '60s and early '70s still evoke their era with uncanny precision.
The Fifth Dimension began life in Los Angeles in 1965 as the Versatiles. Lamonte McLemore, Ron Townson, and Billy Davis, Jr. all grew up in St. Louis, and moved to Los Angeles independently of one another; each was trained in a different area -- jazz, opera, and gospel/R&B, respectively. Marilyn McCoo was the first female singer to join, and she was soon augmented by Florence LaRue; both were ex-beauty pageant winners who'd attended college in the L.A. area. Their demo tape was rejected by Motown, but after a one-off single for Bronco, they caught the attention of singer Johnny Rivers, who'd just set up his own label, Soul City. Rivers signed the group in 1966 on the condition that they update their name and image, and thus The Fifth Dimension was born. Their first Soul City single, "I'll Be Lovin' You Forever," was a flop, but a cover of the Mamas & the Papas' "Go Where You Wanna Go" climbed into the Top 20.
Budding young songwriter Jimmy Webb ("Macarthur Park," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," etc.) supplied The Fifth Dimension with their breakthrough hit, 1967's "Up, Up and Away." An ode to the pleasures of flying in a beautiful balloon, the song became the group's first Top Ten hit, peaking at number seven, and went on to sweep the Grammy Awards, taking home five total (including Record of the Year and Song of the Year). Its success pushed The Fifth Dimension's first album, also titled Up, Up and Away, to gold sales status. The group stuck with Webb for its second album, The Magic Garden, which featured only one non-Webb composition; it produced a couple of minor hits in "Paper Cup" and "Carpet Man," but nothing on the level of "Up, Up and Away." Their third LP was thus more diverse, featuring several compositions by another up-and-coming songwriter, Laura Nyro. The title cut, Nyro's "Stoned Soul Picnic," went all the way to number three in the spring of 1968, selling over a million copies and putting Nyro on the map. The Nyro-penned follow-up single, "Sweet Blindness," also reached the Top 20.
The Fifth Dimension's success peaked in 1969 when the group caught a Broadway production of Hair, and immediately decided to cut a medley of two songs from the show. "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" was a monster hit and grew to become one of the era's defining pop records; it spent six weeks at number one, sold a whopping three million copies, and won the group its second Record of the Year Grammy. Accompanying LP The Age of Aquarius went gold and nearly hit number one, and their Nyro-penned follow-up single, "Wedding Bell Blues," followed its predecessor to number one as well. The song was something of a mirror of real life; Billy Davis and Marilyn McCoo were married that year, and Florence LaRue also married group manager Marc Gordon.
Johnny Rivers sold Soul City to the Bell label in 1970, and the first Fifth Dimension LP on Bell was that year's Portrait, which spawned several minor hits and the Top Five smash "One Less Bell to Answer," a Burt Bacharach composition. 1970 also brought a controversial performance at the White House; although the group sang "The Declaration," a socially conscious critique, the simple act of appearing before President Nixon further alienated The Fifth Dimension from the black wing of their fan base, at a time when their releases had already begun to peak higher on the pop charts than on the R&B side. Indeed, their Bell recordings moved farther into soft pop and away from R&B and the gently trippy vibes of their late-'60s material. Their album sales began to taper off, and their vocal arrangements now tended to spotlight soloists rather than unified harmonies. McCoo emerged as a focal point, singing lead on the 1972 Top Ten hits "(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All" and "If I Could Reach You." They proved to be the group's last major successes; another Bacharach tune, 1973's "Living Together, Growing Together," barely made the Top 40, and the following year's Soul & Inspiration LP marked the end of their relationship with producer Bones Howe. 1975's Earthbound was another full-length collaboration with Jimmy Webb, and much like The Magic Garden, its thematic unity failed to produce a significant hit single. It was also the last album by the original lineup; McCoo and Davis left the group to form a duo, and scored a big hit in 1976 with "You Don't Have to Be a Star."
The remaining trio carried on with new members, and nearly had a hit in 1976 with the LaRue-sung "Love Hangover"; unfortunately, Motown issued Diana Ross' own version shortly after The Fifth Dimension's hit the charts, and hers proved far more popular. Strangely enough, The Fifth Dimension signed with Motown not long after, releasing two albums in 1978. Townson briefly left the group to try a solo career, but soon returned, as the group resigned itself to the nostalgia circuit; meanwhile, McCoo served a stint as the host of Solid Gold. Phyllis Battle joined in the mid-'80s, and the original quintet reunited in 1990 for a tour. In 1995, the quintet of LaRue, Townson, McLemore, Battle, and Greg Walker recorded a new album, In the House, for Click Records. In 1998, Willie Williams replaced Townson, who passed away in 2001 due to kidney failure. Battle departed in 2002, to be replaced by Van Jewel.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
A hugely successful balladeer who possesses an incredibly distinctive voice, and shows remarkable durability and professionalism.
On August 30, 1935, was born Johnny Mathis, US singer, 1976 UK No.1 single 'When A Child Is Born', plus 10 other UK Top 40 singles. 1978 US No.1 single 'Too Much Too Little Too Late' and over 15 other Top 40 singles). His Greatest Hits album spent over nine years on the US chart.
One of the last and most popular in a long line of traditional male vocalists who emerged before the rock-dominated 1960s, Johnny Mathis concentrated on romantic readings of jazz and pop standards for the ever-shrinking adult contemporary audience of the '60s and '70s. Though he debuted with a flurry of singles chart activity, Mathis later made it big in the album market, where a dozen of his LPs hit gold or platinum and over 60 made the charts. While he originally concentrated on theme-oriented albums of show tunes and traditional favorites, from the '70s onward Mathis began incorporating more varied styles of music into his recordings, including soft rock, R&B, and country. This stylistic eclecticism, combined with ubiquitous vocal chops, helped Mathis remain a popular concert attraction well into the 21st century.
Unsurprisingly, given his emphasis on long sustained notes and heavy vibrato, Mathis studied with an opera coach prior to his teenage years, and was almost lured into the profession; his other inspirations were the smoother crossover jazz vocalists of the 1940s -- Nat "King" Cole, Billy Eckstine, and Lena Horne. Mathis was an exceptional high-school athlete in San Francisco, but was wooed away from a college track scholarship and a potential spot on the Olympic squad by the chance to sing. He was signed to a management contract by club owner Helen Noga, who introduced the singer to George Avakian, jazz producer for Columbia Records. Avakian signed him and used orchestras conducted by Teo Macero, Gil Evans, and John Lewis to record Mathis' self-titled debut album in 1957. Despite the name talent and choice of standards, it was mostly ignored upon release.
Columbia A&R executive Mitch Miller -- known for his desperately pop-slanted Sing Along albums and TV show -- decided the only recourse was switching Mathis to Miller's brand of pop balladry, and the formula worked like a charm; the LP Wonderful Wonderful didn't include but was named after a Top 20 hit later in 1957, which was followed by the number five "It's Not for Me to Say" and his first number one, "Chances Are." From that point on, Johnny Mathis concentrated strictly on lush ballads for adult contemporary listeners.
Though he charted consistently, massive hit singles were rare for Johnny Mathis during the late '50s and '60s -- half of his career Top Ten output had occurred in 1957 alone -- so he chose to focus instead on the burgeoning album market, much like Frank Sinatra, his main rival during the late '50s as the most popular traditional male vocalist. Mathis moved away from show tunes and traditional pop into soft rock during the '70s, and found his second number one single, "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late," in 1978. Recorded as a duet with Deniece Williams, the single prompted Mathis to begin trying duets with a variety of partners (including Dionne Warwick, Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight, and Nana Mouskouri), though none of the singles enjoyed the success of the original.
Mathis continued to release and sell albums throughout the '90s -- his fifth decade of recording for Columbia -- and beyond, among them 1998's Because You Loved Me: Songs of Diane Warren and 2000's Mathis on Broadway. Mathis followed the Broadway album with 2002's The Christmas Album and 2005's Isn't it Romantic: The Standards Album, both of which found the iconic vocalist in fine form. In 2008,Mathis released the Walter Afanasieff-produced and arranged A Night to Remember, his first straight-ahead adult contemporary album in over a decade. Let It Be Me: Mathis in Nashville, Mathis' first full-length album of country music, appeared in September of 2010. The album ultimately garnered a Grammy Award nomination for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
An important but underappreciated figure in the history of R&B, Cissy Houston founded the legendary Sweet Inspirations and is the mother of superstar Whitney Houston.
On August 30, 1933, was born soul singer Cissy Houston, and mother of Whitney Houston. Member of Sweet Inspirations, The Drinkard Singers, (with Dionne Warwick), back-up singer with Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Luther Vandross.
A soul singer who is known primarily as Whitney Houston's mother rather than for her own considerable talents, Cissy Houston was born Emily Drinkard and began her career as a member of her family's gospel group, the Drinkards. In the early '60s, she joined forces with a floating group of singers known simply as the Group (including at various points Doris Troy and Dee Dee Warwick) to provide backup vocals on numerous soul, pop, and rock sessions. They contributed to many Atlantic sessions in particular, and Atlantic executive Jerry Wexler signed the act to the label in 1967. Named the Sweet Inspirations, they recorded some excellent gospel-flavored soul in the late '60s, managing a few hits (as well as continuing to back up other artists, most notably Aretha Franklin) before Houston left to go solo at the end of 1969. She recorded an impressive album for Commonwealth United in 1970, Presenting Cissy Houston, which yielded a couple of small R&B/pop hits: "I'll Be There" and "Be My Baby." Much in the manner of the Sweet Inspirations, although the material consisted of fairly well-worn soul, rock, and pop tunes, the state-of-the-art arrangements and gospel-ish vocals made them sound fresh. Her contract was sold to Janus Records later in the year, and while she issued a few singles there until the middle of the '70s, she never received the support and promotion she deserved. A case in point was her little-known original version of "Midnight Train to Georgia," taken to the top of the charts about a year later by Gladys Knight & the Pips. Houston recorded several albums for Private Stock beginning in the late '70s, as well as continuing her regular work on sessions and commercial jingles. She recorded a duet with daughter Whitney ("I Know Him So Well") in 1987, and cut a duet album with veteran soul singer Chuck Jackson in 1992.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
RAULÍN ROSENDO "EL SONERO ENFADADO"
Sonero dominicano transplantado a Nueva York
El 30 de agosto del año1957, nace Raulín Rosendo "El Sonero Enfadado" en Santo Domingo, República Dominicana. Exitoso sonero dominicano quien surgiera de la agrupación merenguera “Los Hijos del Rey” donde compartía con Fernandito Villalona.
El sonero dominicano transplantado a Nueva York y estrella de la salsa, Raulín Rosendo, nació en Santo Domingo el 30 de agosto de 1957. Influido por los ritmos de la música afro-antillana durante su infancia, comenzó su carrera a la edad de 12 años como miembro de un grupo de merengue, El chivo y su banda, que luego aparecería con actuaciones incluyendo a Fernandito Villalona, Conjunto Clásico y Los Vecinos.
Conocido como "El sonero enfadado", Rosendo hizo su debut solista con "Salsa, Solamente Salsa" de 1991; en 1993 él estaba grabando en Nueva York con el productor Ricky González sus éxitos "Amor en secreto" y "Santo Domingo". El triunfo de los álbumes subsiguientes, incluyendo "¡Lo Máximo!", "Dominicano para el mundo" de 1996, ¡Contrólate!" de 1997, y "Llegó la ley" de 1998, lo puso entre los más grandes músicos de salsa del período. Luego vendría, "Donde me coja la noche" de 1999.
De paso, hay que decir que "Donde me coja la noche" sigue siendo uno de los temas predilectos de este autor, El Caobo.
Tresista, percusionista, arreglista, compositor y director musical cubano
El 30 de agosto del año 1911, nace Ignacio de Loyola Rodríguez Scull “Arsenio Rodríguez”, “El Cieguito Maravilloso”, “El Padre del Son Montuno” (1911 - 1970) en Matanzas, Cuba. Tresista, arreglista, compositor y director musical cubano. Auténtica leyenda, pionero y referencia indiscutible de la salsa. compuso alrededor de 2.000 temas salseros.
Arsenio Rodríguez, una de las más importantes figuras en la historia de la música cubana, fue un compositor prolífico, tresero, percusionista y líder de banda, cuyas innovaciones cambiaron la cara de la música bailable latina e hizo posible lo que eventualmente sería conocido como 'salsa'.
Es considerado el padre del "conjunto", un formato instrumental que fue revolucionario para su tiempo porque introdujo el tambor de conga, que había sido previamente considerado prohibido por su origen africano. Sus composiciones, muchas de las cuales llegaron a ser típicas en los repertorios salseros de Cuba y Nueva York, enfatizan los elementos afrocubanos, esencialmente congoleses, en sus temas.
Arsenio Rodríguez, descendiente de esclavos congoleses, nació el 30 de agosto de 1911 en Guira de Macurije en la provincial occidental de Cuba, Matanzas. A los siete años, Rodríguez quedó ciego por la patada de un caballo y sería más tarde conocido como "El Ciego Maravilloso". De niño, comenzó a tocar una variedad d einstrumentos, incluyendo tambores afro-cubanos y percusión, bajo, y tres, una guitarra cubana de seis cuerdas que llegaría a ser su instrumento principal. Algunos influencias importantes juveniles en el tres incluyen a Nene Malfugas, Isaac Oviedo y Eliseo Sirviera.
Rodríguez comenzó a componer en su adolescencia y a comienzos de los años treinta formó El Sexteto Boston En 1937 se unió al Septeto Bellamar del trompetista José Interain. 1937 también vio las primeras grabaciones de las composiciones de Rodríguez; Miguelito Valdés cantaba "Bruca Manigua", "Ven acá, Tomás", y ""Funfuñando" con la Orquesta "Casino de la Playa".
Durante este período el formato estándar para tocar son era el Setpteto, consistente en trompeta, quitarra, tres, bongoes, bajo, maracas y claves con dos o más miembros de la banda cantando. La tendencia general en los años treinta ha sido que el son se apartara en parte de sus raíces africanas, adoptando un sonido más apagado. Esto cambiaría totalmente a partir de 1940 cuando Rodríguez agregó tambor de conga, piano y una segunda (y hasta una tercera) trompeta al tipico ensamble de son , dando nacimiento al "conjunto".
El formato del conjunto revolucionó el son con el agregado provisto por el tono profundo de la conga y el poder de la sección de trompetas. Por esta época, Rodríguez introdujo el son montuno, un son con una sección de montuno, donde se destacaban partes cantadas improvisadas (soneos) a cargo de la voz líder (sonero) sobre un coro repetido; solos de trompeta, tres y piano también eran frecuentes.
Rodríguez es también el responsable, junto con Antonio Arcaño y Pérez Prado, de haber desarrollado el ritmo del mambo durantes este período. Otra innovación clave fue la adaptación de la bando del guaguancó en le formato del conjunto de baile. El guaguancó es un estilo afrocubano tradicionalmente ejecutado con voces y percusión; Rodríguez mezcló algunos de estos elementos formales y melodicios con los del son. Estas "afrocubanizaciones" del son están entre las contribuciones más duraderas e importantes de Rodríguez. El formato del conjunto, el son montuno y e lmambo son tres elementos esenciales de lo que luego se llamaría salsa.
Los cuarenta fueron un periodo clásico en la carrera de Rodríguez y en la historia del son. Muchos de su más famosas composiciones se grabaron entonces, inclusive "A Belén le toca ahora", "La Yuca de Catalina", "Juventud Amaliana" y quizás su obra a más famosa, el bolero "La vida es un sueño" que fue escrita luego de un intento sin éxito de recuperar la vista en 1947. Entre los miembros de su banda durante los cuarenta hubo varias figuras claves en el desarrollo del son, tales commo los vocalistas Miguelito Cuní, Marcelino Guerra y René Scull, los trompetistas Féliz Cahppotin y Chocolate Armenteros, y la pianista Lilí Martinez.
En 1953, Rodríguez se mudó a Nueva York, dejando a su conjunto en Cuba baja el liderazo del trompetista Chappotin, quien llegaria a ser una leyenda por derecho propio. Composiciones tales como "La Gente del Bronx" y "Como se goza en el barrio" continúan reflejando el don para escribir sobre cuestiones cotidianas. Su popularidad en Nueva York, si bien fuerte, nunca sería lo que había sido en Cuba. A mediados de los cincuenta fue lanzado el álbum "Sabroso y Caliente", donde agregó flauta y timbales al diseño del conjunto. "El Ciego Maravilloso" continuaría experimentando con diferentes instrumentaciones el resto de su carrera, a veces agregando uno o más saxos a su banda.
A fines de los ’50, Rodríguez grabó "Primitivo" y apareció en el lanzamiento de Blue Note,"Palo congo", bajo el liderazgo del conguero Sabú Martínez y que tenía a sus hermanos y compañeros del conjunto, Quique y César Rodríguez. Este álbum incluye cantos de Palo congo, una religión afrocubana de origen congolés. A principios de los sesenta, Rodríguez grabó "Quindembo/AfroMagic", un albúm innovador y experimental en el cual escribió y cantó en todos las pistas. Rodríguez llamó a este estilo, que mezclaba influencias del jazz con son y más elementos religiosos afrocubanos autóctonos, "Quindembo", una palabra congolesa que significa una mezcla de muchas cosas.
En sus años finales continuo experimentando, desarrollando un estilo que el llamó "swing son". El último disco grabado por Rodríguez fue "Arsenio Dice", un lanzamiento de 1968 para Tico. El 30 de diciembre de 1970 murió de neumonía en Los Ángeles. Como compositor, interprete y experimentador musical, Arsenio Rodríguez fue uno de los gigantes indudables de la música cubana. En los Estados Unidos, fue una decisiva influencia en el movimiento típico de los años ’60 y ’70, y su experimentación apuntaba a algunos de los desarrollos por los más aventurados arquitectos de la salsa, como Willie Colón.
The most popular blues singer of the '50s, with simple lazy shuffles and a laconic drawl that made him the most influential as well.
On August 29, 1976, dies Jimmy Reed (1925 - 1976) in San Francisco following an epileptic seizure just before his 51st birthday. Reed was a major influence on The Rolling Stones, he had the 1957 hit ‘Honest I Do’ in 1957 and ‘Baby What You Want Me To Do’ in 1960.
There's simply no sound in the blues as easily digestible, accessible, instantly recognizable, and as easy to play and sing as the music of Jimmy Reed. His best-known songs -- "Baby, What You Want Me to Do," "Bright Lights, Big City," "Honest I Do," "You Don't Have to Go," "Going to New York," "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby," and "Big Boss Man" -- have become such an integral part of the standard blues repertoire, it's almost as if they have existed forever. Because his style was simple and easily imitated, his songs were accessible to just about everyone from high-school garage bands having a go at it, to Elvis Presley, Charlie Rich, Lou Rawls, Hank Williams, Jr., and the Rolling Stones, making him -- in the long run -- perhaps the most influential bluesman of all. His bottom-string boogie rhythm guitar patterns (all furnished by boyhood friend and longtime musical partner Eddie Taylor), simple two-string turnarounds, country-ish harmonica solos (all played in a neck-rack attachment hung around his neck), and mush-mouthed vocals were probably the first exposure most white folks had to the blues. And his music -- lazy, loping, and insistent and constantly built and reconstructed single after single on the same sturdy frame -- was a formula that proved to be enormously successful and influential, both with middle-aged blacks and young white audiences for a good dozen years. Jimmy Reed records hit the R&B charts with amazing frequency and crossed over onto the pop charts on many occasions, a rare feat for an unreconstructed bluesman. This is all the more amazing simply because Reed's music was nothing special on the surface; he possessed absolutely no technical expertise on either of his chosen instruments and his vocals certainly lacked the fierce declamatory intensity of a Howlin' Wolf or a Muddy Waters. But it was exactly that lack of in-your-face musical confrontation that made Jimmy Reed a welcome addition to everybody's record collection back in the '50s and '60s. And for those aspiring musicians who wanted to give the blues a try, either vocally or instrumentally (no matter what skin color you were born with), perhaps Billy Vera said it best in his liner notes to a Reed greatest-hits anthology: "Yes, anybody with a range of more than six notes could sing Jimmy's tunes and play them the first day Mom and Dad brought home that first guitar from Sears & Roebuck. I guess Jimmy could be termed the '50s punk bluesman."
Reed was born on September 6, 1925, on a plantation in or around the small burg of Dunleith, MS. He stayed around the area until he was 15, learning the basic rudiments of harmonica and guitar from his buddy Eddie Taylor, who was then making a name for himself as a semi-pro musician, working country suppers and juke joints. Reed moved up to Chicago in 1943, but was quickly drafted into the Navy where he served for two years. After a quick trip back to Mississippi and marriage to his beloved wife Mary (known to blues fans as "Mama Reed"), he relocated to Gary, IN, and found work at an Armour Foods meat packing plant while simultaneously breaking into the burgeoning blues scene around Gary and neighboring Chicago. The early '50s found him working as a sideman with John Brim's Gary Kings (that's Reed blowing harp on Brim's classic "Tough Times" and its instrumental flipside, "Gary Stomp") and playing on the street for tips with Willie Joe Duncan, a shadowy figure who played an amplified, homemade one-string instrument called a Unitar. After failing an audition with Chess Records (his later chart success would be a constant thorn in the side of the firm), Brim's drummer at the time -- improbably enough, future blues guitar legend Albert King -- brought him over to the newly formed Vee-Jay Records, where his first recordings were made. It was during this time that he was reunited and started playing again with Eddie Taylor, a musical partnership that would last off and on until Reed's death. Success was slow in coming, but when his third single, "You Don't Have to Go" backed with "Boogie in the Dark," made the number five slot on Billboard's R&B charts, the hits pretty much kept on coming for the next decade.
But if selling more records than Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Elmore James, or Little Walter brought the rewards of fame to his doorstep, no one was more ill-equipped to handle them than Jimmy Reed. With signing his name for fans being the total sum of his literacy, combined with a back-breaking road schedule once he became a name attraction and his self-description as a "liquor glutter," Reed started to fall apart like a cheap suit almost immediately. His devious schemes to tend to his alcoholism -- and the just plain aberrant behavior that came as a result of it -- quickly made him the laughingstock of his show-business contemporaries. Those who shared the bill with him in top-of-the-line R&B venues like the Apollo Theater -- where the story of him urinating on a star performer's dress in the wings has been repeated verbatim by more than one old-timer -- still shake their heads and wonder how Reed could actually stand up straight and perform, much less hold the audience in the palm of his hand. Other stories of Reed being "arrested" and thrown into a Chicago drunk tank the night before a recording session also reverberate throughout the blues community to this day. Little wonder then that when he was stricken with epilepsy in 1957, it went undiagnosed for an extended period of time, simply because he had experienced so many attacks of delirium tremens, better known as the "DTs."Eddie Taylor would relate how he sat directly in front of Reed in the studio, instructing him while the tune was being recorded exactly when to start to start singing, when to blow his harp, and when to do the turnarounds on his guitar. Jimmy Reed also appears, by all accounts, to have been unable to remember the lyrics to new songs -- even ones he had composed himself -- and Mama Reed would sit on a piano bench and whisper them into his ear, literally one line at a time. Blues fans who doubt this can clearly hear the proof on several of Jimmy's biggest hits, most notably "Big Boss Man" and "Bright Lights, Big City," where she steps into the fore and starts singing along with him in order to keep him on the beat.
But seemingly none of this mattered. While revisionist blues historians like to make a big deal about either the lack of variety of his work or how later recordings turned him into a mere parody of himself, the public just couldn't get enough of it. Jimmy Reed placed 11 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 pop charts and a total of 14 on the R&B charts, a figure that even a much more sophisticated artist like B.B. King couldn't top. To paraphrase the old saying, nobody liked Jimmy Reed but the people.
Reed's slow descent into the ravages of alcoholism and epilepsy roughly paralleled the decline of Vee-Jay Records, which went out of business at approximately the same time that his final 45 was released, "Don't Think I'm Through." His manager, Al Smith, quickly arranged a contract with the newly formed ABC-Bluesway label and a handful of albums were released into the '70s, all of them lacking the old charm, sounding as if they were cut on a musical assembly line. Jimmy did one last album, a horrible attempt to update his sound with funk beats and wah-wah pedals, before becoming a virtual recluse in his final years. He finally received proper medical attention for his epilepsy and quit drinking, but it was too late and he died trying to make a comeback on the blues festival circuit on August 29, 1976.
All of this is sad beyond belief, simply because there's so much joy in Jimmy Reed's music. And it's that joy that becomes self-evident every time you give one of his classic sides a spin. Although his bare-bones style influenced everyone from British Invasion combos to the entire school of Louisiana swamp blues artists (Slim Harpo and Jimmy Anderson in particular), the simple indisputable fact remains that -- like so many of the other originators in the genre -- there was only one Jimmy Reed.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Motown man with Stax soul, somewhat lost in shuffle, but breathtakingly talented, best known for 1971 #1 smash "War."
On August 29, 1970, Edwin Starr started a three week run at No.1 on the US singles chart with 'War', his only No.1. It west to No.3 in the UK.
Rightly revered for the storming protest classic "War," Edwin Starr didn't really need another hit to achieve legendary status in soul circles, so electrifying was that single performance. Starr first made his name as "Agent Double-O-Soul," and when his contract was transferred to Motown, he instantly became one of the roughest, toughest vocalists on the crossover-friendly label, with his debt to James Brown and the Stax soul shouters. Even if nothing else ever matched the phenomenon of "War," Starr had several Top Ten hits on the R&B charts over the late '60s and early '70s, and also enjoyed a brief renaissance during the disco era.
Starr was born Charles Hatcher in Nashville, TN, on January 21, 1942 (his cousin was deep soul singer and songwriter Roger Hatcher). He grew up in Cleveland and formed a doo wop quintet called the FutureTones while still in high school. They won numerous local talent competitions and even recorded a single for a small label, but Starr was drafted into the military in 1960, stalling the group's momentum. When he returned in 1962, he tried to get things going again, but to no avail; instead, he wound up joining Bill Doggett's group as a featured vocalist in 1963. Two years later, Starr wrote what he felt was a surefire hit in the spy-themed "Agent Double-O-Soul," and left Doggett's band to sign with Ric Tic Records and settle in Detroit. "Agent Double-O-Soul" hit the R&B Top Ten later in 1965, and just missed the pop Top 20. Starr capitalized on the song's novelty appeal by appearing on-stage in a spy costume complete with toy gun, but proved he was no one-trick pony by returning to the Top Ten a year later with "Stop Her on Sight (S.O.S.)."
Motown head Berry Gordy subsequently bought out Ric Tic and took over its artist roster, with Starr the crown jewel. Contract negotiations took some time, but Starr rebounded with his biggest hit yet in 1969's "25 Miles," which reached the Top Ten on both the pop and R&B charts. The follow-up, "I'm Still a Struggling Man," wasn't as successful, and Starr was something of a forgotten man for several months. When he returned to the studio, it was with producer Norman Whitfield, who'd been reinventing the Temptations as a psychedelic soul act. Whitfield had co-written a strident anti-war protest song, "War," for the Temps' Psychedelic Shack LP, and in spite of growing demand for a single release, Motown didn't want the group to take such an aggressive stance. Whitfield recut "War" with Starr, and the resulting version was arguably the most incendiary song Motown ever released. It zoomed to the top of the pop charts in 1970, and its chorus -- powered by Starr's guttural delivery -- remains a catch phrase even today.
The follow-up single, "Stop the War Now," was blatantly derivative, but made the R&B Top Five anyway, and Starr went on to land another significant hit with "Funky Music Sho' Nuff Turns Me On." In 1974, he handled the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film Hell Up in Harlem, a sequel to the James Brown-scored Black Caesar (Brown had originally been slated to do the follow-up as well). The lack of promotion signaled that Starr's days with Motown were likely numbered; he charted again in 1975 with "Pain," and bade farewell to the label with "Who's Right or Wrong." He recorded albums for small labels, including 1975's Free to Be Myself on Granite and 1977's Afternoon Sunshine on GTO, before finding a new home on 20th Century in 1978. Here he briefly reinvented himself as a disco singer, scoring his biggest hits in years with 1979's "Contact" and "H.A.P.P.Y. Radio"; his final release with the label came in 1980.
Starr moved to the U.K. during the '80s, recording a Marvin Gaye tribute album for Streetwave and a handful of singles for Hippodrome over 1985-1986. His participation in the Ferry Aid charity project led to a deal with Virgin and a session with the hot production team of Stock, Aitken & Waterman, but he didn't take to their high-tech dance-pop style and instead moved to Ian Levine's Motown revival label Motorcity from 1989-1991. Later he guested on dance remakes of his past hits by Utah Saints ("Funky Music") and Three Amigos ("25 Miles"), but otherwise recorded little until his death in 2003.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
The biggest pop star of the '80s, and one of the most popular artists of all time, with a brilliant, soulful voice and breathtaking dance moves.
On August 29, 1958, was born Michael Jackson (1958 - 2009); singer, key member of The Jackson 5 and solo artist.
Michael Jackson was unquestionably the biggest pop star of the '80s, and certainly one of the most popular recording artists of all time. In his prime, Jackson was an unstoppable juggernaut, possessed of all the tools to dominate the charts seemingly at will: an instantly identifiable voice, eye-popping dance moves, stunning musical versatility, and loads of sheer star power. His 1982 blockbuster Thriller became the biggest-selling album of all time (probably his best-known accomplishment), and he was the first black artist to find stardom on MTV, breaking down innumerable boundaries both for his race and for music video as an art form. Yet as Jackson's career began, very gradually, to descend from the dizzying heights of his peak years, most of the media's attention focused on his increasingly bizarre eccentricities; he was often depicted as a man-child in a state of arrested development, completely sheltered from adult reality by a life spent in show business. The snickering turned to scandal in 1993, when Jackson was accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy; although he categorically denied the charges, his out-of-court settlement failed to restore his tarnished image. He never quite escaped the stigma of those allegations, and while he continued to sell records at superstar-like levels, he didn't release them with enough frequency (or, many critics thought, inspiration) to once again become better known for his music than his private life. Whether as a pop icon or a tabloid caricature, Jackson always remained bigger than life.
Michael Joseph Jackson was born August 29, 1958, in Gary, Indiana. The fifth son of steelworker Joe Jackson, Michael displayed a talent for music and dance from an extremely young age. His childhood was strictly regimented; from the start he was, to an extent, sheltered from the outside world by his mother's Jehovah's Witness faith, and his father was by all accounts an often ill-tempered disciplinarian. Joe began to organize a family musical group around his three eldest sons in 1962, and Michael joined them the following year, quickly establishing himself as a dynamic stage performer. His dead-on mastery of James Brown's dance moves and soulful, mature-beyond-his-years vocals made him a natural focal point, especially given his incredibly young age. Dubbed the Jackson 5, the group signed to Motown in 1968 and issued their debut single in October 1969, when Michael was just 11 years old. "I Want You Back," "ABC," "The Love You Save," and "I'll Be There" all hit number one in 1970, making the Jackson 5 the first group in pop history to have their first four singles top the charts. Motown began priming Michael for a solo career in 1971, and his first single, "Got to Be There," was issued toward the end of the year; it hit the Top Five, as did the follow-up, a cover of Bobby Day's "Rockin' Robin." Later in 1972, Jackson had his first number one solo single, "Ben," the title song from a children's thriller about a young boy who befriends Ben, the highly intelligent leader of a gang of homicidal rats. Given the subject matter, the song was surprisingly sincere and sentimental, and even earned an Oscar nomination. However, the momentum of Jackson's solo career (much like that of the Jackson 5) soon stalled. He released his fourth and final album on Motown in 1975, and the following year, he and his brothers (save Jermaine) signed to Epic and became the Jacksons.
In 1977, Jackson landed a starring role alongside Diana Ross in the all-black film musical The Wiz, a retelling of The Wizard of Oz; here he met producer/composer Quincy Jones for the first time. Encouraged by the success of the Jacksons' self-produced, mostly self-written 1978 album Destiny, Jackson elected to resume his solo career when his management contract with his father expired shortly thereafter. With Jones producing, Jackson recorded his first solo album as an adult, Off the Wall. An immaculately crafted set of funky disco-pop, smooth soul, and lush, sentimental pop ballads, Off the Wall made Jackson a star all over again. It produced four Top Ten singles, including the number one hits "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and "Rock with You," and went platinum (it went on to sell over seven million copies); even so, Jackson remained loyal to his brothers and stayed with the group.
No group could have contained Jackson's rapidly rising star for long; however, there was still no sign (if there ever could be) that his next album would become the biggest in history. Released in 1982, the Quincy Jones-produced Thriller refined the strengths of Off the Wall; the dance and rock tracks were more driving, the pop tunes and ballads softer and more soulful, and all of it was recognizably Michael. Jackson brought in Paul McCartney for a duet, guitarist Eddie Van Halen for a jaw-dropping solo, and Vincent Price for a creepy recitation. It was no surprise that Thriller was a hit; what was a surprise was its staying power. Jackson's duet with McCartney, "The Girl Is Mine," was a natural single choice, and it peaked at number two; then "Billie Jean" and the Van Halen track "Beat It" both hit number one, for seven and three weeks, respectively. Those latter two songs, as well as the future Top Five title track, had one important feature in common: Jackson supported them with elaborately conceived video clips that revolutionized the way music videos were made.
He treated them as song-length movies with structured narratives: "Billie Jean" set the song's tale of a paternity suit in a nightmarish dream world where Jackson was a solitary, sometimes invisible presence; the anti-gang-violence "Beat It" became an homage to West Side Story; and the ten-plus-minute clip for "Thriller" (routinely selected as the best video of all time) featured Jackson leading a dance troupe of rotting zombies, with loads of horror-film makeup and effects. Having never really accepted black artists in the past, MTV played the clips to death, garnering massive publicity for Jackson and droves of viewers for the fledgling cable network. Jackson sealed his own phenomenon by debuting his signature "moonwalk" dance step on May 16, 1983, on Motown's televised 25th anniversary special; though he didn't invent the moonwalk (as he himself was quick to point out), it became as much of a Jackson signature as his vocal hiccups or single white-sequined glove.
Showing no signs of slowing down, Thriller just kept spinning off singles, including "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," the airy ballad "Human Nature," and "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)"; in all, seven of its nine tracks wound up in the Top Ten, obliterating conventional ideas of how many singles could be released from an album before it ran its course. Thriller stayed on the charts for over two years, spent 37 non-consecutive weeks at number one, and became the best-selling album of all time; it went on to sell 29 million copies in the U.S. alone, and around another 20 million overseas. Naturally, Jackson won a slew of awards, including a record eight Grammys in one night, and snagged the largest endorsement deal ever when he became a spokesman for Pepsi (he would later be burned in an accident while filming a commercial). At the end of 1983, Jackson was again on top of the singles charts, this time as part of a second duet with McCartney, "Say Say Say." In 1984, Jackson rejoined his brothers one last time for the album Victory, whose supporting tour was one of the biggest (and priciest) of the year. The following year, he andLionel Richie co-wrote the anthemic "We Are the World" for the all-star famine-relief effort USA for Africa; it became one of the fastest-selling singles ever.
Even at this early stage, wild rumors about Jackson's private life were swirling. His shyness and reluctance to grant interviews (ironically, due in part to his concerns about being misrepresented) only encouraged more speculation. Some pointed to his soft-spoken, still girlish voice as evidence that he'd undergone hormone treatments to preserve the high, flexible range of his youth; stories were told about Jackson sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber to slow the aging process, and purchasing the skeleton of John Merrick, the Elephant Man (Jackson did view the bones in the London Hospital, but did not buy them). Jackson bought a large ranch in California which he dubbed Neverland, and filled it with amusement park rides and animals (including his notorious pet chimpanzee Bubbles), which only fueled the public's perception of him as a somewhat bizarre eccentric obsessed with recapturing his childhood. He also underwent cosmetic surgery several times, which led to accusations from the black community that his gradually lightening skin tone was the result of an intentional effort to become whiter; a few years later, Jackson revealed that he had a disorder called vitiligo, in which pigment disappears from the skin, leaving large white blotches and making direct sunlight dangerous. One of the rumors that was definitely true was that Jackson owned the rights to the Beatles' catalog; in 1985, he acquired ATV Publishing, the firm that controlled all the Lennon-McCartney copyrights (among others), which wound up costing him his friendship with McCartney.
During his long layoff between records, Jackson indulged his interest in film and video by working with George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola on the 3-D short film Captain Eo. The special-effects extravaganza was shown at the enormous widescreen IMAX theaters in Disney's amusement parks for 12 years, beginning in 1986. Finally ,Jackson re-entered the studio with Quincy Jones to begin the near-impossible task of crafting a follow-up to Thriller. Bad was released to enormous public anticipation in 1987, and was accompanied by equally enormous publicity. It debuted at number one, and the first single, "I Just Can't Stop Loving You," with vocal accompaniment by Siedah Garrett, also shot up the charts to number one. Like Thriller, Bad continued to spin off singles for well over a year after its release, and became the first album ever to produce five number one hits; the others were "Bad," "The Way You Make Me Feel," "Man in the Mirror," and "Dirty Diana." Jackson supported the album with a lengthy world tour that featured a typically spectacular, elaborate stage show; it became the highest-grossing tour of all time. Although Jackson's success was still staggering, there were faint undercurrents of disappointment, partly because of the unparalleled phenomenon of Thriller (Bad "only" sold eight million copies in America, along with at least double that number overseas), and partly because the album itself didn't seem quite as exuberant or uniformly consistent when compared to its predecessors.
Jackson took another long hiatus between albums, giving the media little to focus on besides his numerous eccentricities; by this time, the British tabloids delighted in calling him "Wacko Jacko," a name he detested. When Jackson returned with a new album in late 1991, he'd come up with a different moniker: "The King of Pop." Dangerous found Jackson ending his collaboration with Quincy Jones in an effort to update his sound; accordingly, many of the tracks were helmed by the groundbreaking new jack swing producer Teddy Riley. As expected, the album debuted at number one, and its lead single, "Black or White," shot to the top as well. Jackson courted controversy with the song's video, however; after the song itself ended, there was a long dance sequence in which Jackson shouted, grabbed his crotch, and smashed car windows in a bizarre display that seemed at odds with the song's harmonious message. With the video given a high-profile, prime-time network premiere, Jackson was criticized for the inappropriate violence and the message it might send to his younger fans. However, Jackson would not be the biggest story in popular music for long. In early 1992, Nirvana's Nevermind symbolically knocked Dangerous out of the number one spot; after the alternative rock revolution, the pop charts would never be quite the same. Jackson scored several more hits off the album, including the Top Tens "Remember the Time" and "In the Closet," but the aggressive "Jam" and the saccharine "Heal the World" both performed disappointingly.
Jackson had long preferred the company of children over other adults, and befriended quite a few, inviting them to stay at his Neverland Ranch and enjoy the massive playground he'd assembled over the years. In 1993, Jackson was accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy who'd become a frequent guest at Neverland. Predictably, there was a tabloid feeding frenzy, and a mainstream media circus as well. In the court of public opinion, the charges seemed all too plausible: Jackson was near-universally perceived as a weirdo, and here was a handy explanation for his heretofore asexual persona and distaste for adult companions. Additionally, Jackson entered rehab for a short time, seeking treatment for an addiction to pain killers. Investigations were unsuccessful in turning up any other boys who echoed the allegations, and Jackson countersued his accusers for attempting extortion; however, in spite of the fact that no criminal charges were ever filed against Jackson, he settled the boy's family's suit out of court in early 1995, paying an estimated 18 to 20 million dollars. Many felt the settlement was tantamount to an admission of guilt, and when Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley in 1994, the move was perceived as a desperate ploy to rehabilitate his image; the marriage broke up just 19 months later, seemingly lending credence to the charge.
In 1995, Jackson attempted to put the focus back on his music by preparing HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book 1, a two-CD set featuring one disc of new material and one of his greatest hits. The album debuted at number one, but the format backfired on Jackson: his fans already owned the hits, and the new album simply wasn't strong enough to offset the added cost of the extra disc for many more casual listeners. There were some encouraging signs -- the lead single "Scream," a duet with sister Janet, debuted at number five, setting a new American chart record that was broken when the follow-up, "You Are Not Alone," became the first single ever to enter the Billboard Hot 100 at number one. But on the whole, HIStory was something of a disappointment. Additionally, Jackson collapsed during rehearsals for an awards show later that year, and had to be rushed to the hospital; what was more, the Eagles' Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) was threatening to catch Thriller's American sales record (it eventually did, and the two continued to run neck and neck). There were signs that Jackson was grasping at his self-proclaimed King of Pop status; the cover of HIStory depicted an enormous statue of Jackson, and he performed at the 1996 BRIT Awards dressed as a Messiah, with children and a rabbi surrounding him worshipfully (Pulp lead singer Jarvis Cocker stormed the stage to protest Jackson's hubris during the middle of the song). The 1997 remix album Blood on the Dance Floor failed to even go platinum, although remix albums historically don't perform nearly as well as new material.
In late 1996, Jackson remarried, to nurse Debbie Rowe; over the next two years, the couple had two children, son Prince Michael Jackson, Jr. and daughter Paris Michael Katherine Jackson. However, Jackson and Rowe divorced in late 1999. In 2001, Jackson was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and later held a massive concert at Madison Square Garden celebrating the 30th anniversary of his first solo record. Among many other celebrity guests, the show featured the first on-stage reunion of the Jacksons since the Victory tour. In the wake of September 11, Jackson put together an all-star charity benefit single, "What More Can I Give." His new album, Invincible, was released late in the year, marking the first time he'd issued a collection of entirely new material since Dangerous; it found him working heavily with urban soul production wizard Rodney Jerkins. Invincible debuted at number one and quickly went double platinum; however, its initial singles, "You Rock My World" and "Butterflies" had rather disappointing showings on the charts, with the latter not even reaching the Top Ten. To compound matters, the expensive "What More Can I Give" single and video were canceled by Sony when executive producer Marc Schaffel was revealed to have worked in pornography. Jackson's camp tried to distance the singer from Schaffel, and the various corporations that were attached to it (McDonalds, Sony) claimed they had minimal involvement if any with the song. Sony and Jackson began a press war in the summer of 2002, starting with Jackson's claims that the label asked for 200 million dollars to pay them back for marketing costs. Although they had spent 55 million on his disappointing comeback, Sony released a statement saying that no such request had ever been made. Jackson stewed for a few weeks before launching a press attack on Sony Music chairman Tommy Mottola, calling him "devilish" and making claims that he used racist language and held down black artists. Many Sony artists, including Mariah Carey and Ricky Martin, defended Mottola, but Jackson and his family maintained that racism ended their professional relationship.
From that point on, Jackson's career took an extreme turn toward the bizarre, starting with MTV's annual Video Awards. When Britney Spears presented him with a birthday cake, an offhand remark about being the artist of the millennium inspired a rambling Jackson to accept a meaningless trophy (which everyone presenting on-stage received) as an actual Artist of the Millennium award. Next came accusations from a promotional company over his promises of a tour and several appearances that he then canceled. Jackson arrived in court late, gave a drowsy testimony, and inspired gasps when he removed a surgical mask to reveal his nose had caved in from a botched cosmetic surgery. Only days later, German fans were horrified when Jackson came to the balcony of his hotel suite and briefly dangled his 11-month-old baby Prince Michael II (nicknamed "Blanket" by Jackson) over the edge with one arm. Although he apologized the next day, claiming he had gotten caught up in the moment, this only did more to cement the King of Pop's public image as an out-of-control millionaire. The year 2003 turned out not to be a good one for Jackson: in November, his Neverland Ranch was extensively searched by police, whereby he was subsequently arrested on charges of child molestation. That same month the single-disc retrospective Number Ones hit the stands with one new song, "One More Chance." A year later -- nearly to the day -- the four-CD/one-DVD box set The Ultimate Collection appeared with numerous rarities, including the original demo for "We Are the World." In January 2005, his child molestation trial began, and by May he was acquitted on all counts. Jackson soon relocated to the Persian Gulf island of Bahrain and began working on new music, including a charity single that would benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina. The single never appeared, but the two-disc The Essential Michael Jackson did, and in 2006 the strange box set Visionary was released, featuring 20 DualDiscs replicating 20 big hit singles with their videos included on the DVD side. In early 2007, it was announced that a comeback album was planned for late in the year, but the album never materialized.
In early 2009, Jackson announced an ambitious comeback, dubbed This Is It, including a series of ten concerts at O2 Arena in London. (After high ticket sales, the number was later increased to 50.) He rehearsed extensively in Los Angeles during the spring, but on the afternoon of June 25, 2009, he was found unresponsive at his home. Jackson was rushed to the UCLA Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at the age of 50. His death was later ruled a homicide, the result of ingesting a lethal amount of prescription drugs.
Unsurprisingly, in the wake of his death, a slew of releases ensued -- planned prior to and after Jackson's death -- including Motown's Michael Jackson: The Remix Suite and the soundtrack album Michael Jackson's This Is It (from a film based on Jackson's rehearsals for the comeback concerts). Michael Jackson's Vision, a comprehensive DVD set, and Michael, a collection of finished outtakes largely recorded in the years following Invincible but also containing some songs dating back to Thriller, appeared during the holiday season of 2010. In 2012, Epic celebrated the 25th anniversary of Bad with an expanded reissue, and Jackson's estate released the DVD Live at Wembley 7.16.1988, featuring the late pop icon performing at the storied British venue on the second leg of his Bad World Tour.
In early 2014, Epic announced the release of Xscape, a second posthumous album of unreleased tracks. Masterminded by executive producers L.A. Reid and Timbaland, the eight-song album reworked demos recorded between Thriller and Invincible, adding new instrumentation to give them a feel that was simultaneously classic and contemporary. The first results were heard in February when "Slave to the Rhythm" was played in an advertisement by Sony Mobile, but the first single, "Love Never Felt So Good," appeared just prior to the album's May 2014 release.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
One of the finest and most versatile vocalists in American musical history, who moved effortlessly from pop to gospel to jazz.
On August 29, 1924, was born Dinah Washington (1924 - 1963); jazz, r&b and blues vocalist.
Dinah Washington was at once one of the most beloved and controversial singers of the mid-20th century -- beloved to her fans, devotees, and fellow singers; controversial to critics who still accuse her of selling out her art to commerce and bad taste. Her principal sin, apparently, was to cultivate a distinctive vocal style that was at home in all kinds of music, be it R&B, blues, jazz, middle of the road pop -- and she probably would have made a fine gospel or country singer had she the time. Hers was a gritty, salty, high-pitched voice, marked by absolute clarity of diction and clipped, bluesy phrasing.Washington's personal life was turbulent, with seven marriages behind her, and her interpretations showed it, for she displayed a tough, totally unsentimental, yet still gripping hold on the universal subject of lost love. She has had a huge influence on R&B and jazz singers who have followed in her wake, notably Nancy Wilson, Esther Phillips, and Diane Schuur, and her music is abundantly available nowadays via the huge seven-volume series The Complete Dinah Washington on Mercury.
Born Ruth Lee Jones, she moved to Chicago at age three and was raised in a world of gospel, playing the piano and directing her church choir. At 15, after winning an amateur contest at the Regal Theatre, she began performing in nightclubs as a pianist and singer, opening at the Garrick Bar in 1942. Talent manager Joe Glaser heard her there and recommended her to Lionel Hampton, who asked her to join his band. Hampton says that it was he who gave Ruth Jones the name Dinah Washington, although other sources claim it was Glaser or the manager of the Garrick Bar. In any case, she stayed with Hampton from 1943 to 1946 and made her recording debut for Keynote at the end of 1943 in a blues session organized by Leonard Feather with a sextet drawn from the Hampton band. With Feather's "Evil Gal Blues" as her first hit, the records took off, and by the time she left Hampton to go solo, Washington was already an R&B headliner. Signing with the young Mercury label, Washington produced an enviable string of Top Ten hits on the R&B charts from 1948 to 1955, singing blues, standards, novelties, pop covers, even Hank Williams' "Cold, Cold Heart." She also recorded many straight jazz sessions with big bands and small combos, most memorably with Clifford Brown on Dinah Jams but also with Cannonball Adderley, Clark Terry, Ben Webster, Wynton Kelly, and the young Joe Zawinul (who was her regular accompanist for a couple of years).
In 1959, Washington made a sudden breakthrough into the mainstream pop market with "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes," a revival of a Dorsey Brothers hit set to a Latin American bolero tune. For the rest of her career, she would concentrate on singing ballads backed by lush orchestrations for Mercury and Roulette, a formula similar to that of another R&B-based singer at that time, Ray Charles, and one that drew plenty of fire from critics even though her basic vocal approach had not changed one iota. Although her later records could be as banal as any easy listening dross of the period, there are gems to be found, like Billie Holiday's "Don't Explain," which has a beautiful, bluesy Ernie Wilkins chart conducted by Quincy Jones. Struggling with a weight problem, Washington died of an accidental overdose of diet pills mixed with alcohol at the tragically early age of 39, still in peak voice, still singing the blues in an L.A. club only two weeks before the end.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Celebrated multi-genre bass player who also writes and records as a solo artist.
On August 29, 1968, was born Meshell Ndegeocello; bassist, singer, songwriter.
Although Meshell Ndegeocello scored a few hits early in her career, the bassist, singer, and songwriter later opted to concentrate on more challenging material by exploring the politics of race and sex, among other topics. From her 1993 Maverick label debut through her releases of the 2010s for Naïve, she built a discography of recordings that defied classification through progressive mixtures of jazz, R&B, hip-hop, and rock. Initially held in regard primarily for her bass playing and bold lyrics, her songwriting, which often examined dark interpersonal issues, was just as exceptional.
Michelle Lynn Johnson, born on August 29, 1968, spent the first few years of her life in Germany. Her father was both a military man and a jazz saxophonist. She relocated with her family to Virginia in the early '70s. As a youngster, Johnson developed an interest in music; during her teenage years, she began to play regularly in the clubs of Washington, D.C., but eventually settled down in New York City after a stint of studying music at Howard University. By this point, she was going by Me'Shell Ndegéocello -- her adopted last name Swahili for "free like a bird." After auditioning for several bands, including Living Colour, Ndegéocello struck out on her own and often performed solo with just a bass, drum machine, and keyboard. In the early '90s, she was one of the first artists signed to Madonna's Warner-affiliated Maverick label.
Ndegéocello's debut album, 1993's Plantation Lullabies, was produced with David Gamson, as well as with André Betts and Bob Power, and involved input from a wide range of musicians, including DJ Premier, Joshua Redman, Bill Summers, Wah-Wah Watson, and David Fiuczynski. An impressive first album, it spawned the hit "If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)" and received three Grammy nominations. A duet with John Mellencamp on a cover of Van Morrison's "Wild Night," released a year later, brought her more mainstream attention; it peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100.
Almost three years passed between the release of Ndegéocello's first and second albums, but during the wait, she collaborated with Chaka Khan on the track "Never Miss the Water," and she appeared on movie soundtracks (White Man's Burden, Money Talks) and on such multi-artist releases as Ain't Nuthin' But a She Thing and Lilith Fair, Vol. 3. Peace Beyond Passion finally saw release in 1996, peaked higher on the Billboard 200 (at number 63), and was also nominated for a Best R&B Album Grammy. Its cover of Bill Withers' "Who Is He (And What Is He to You?)" topped Billboard's club chart. Produced by Gamson, it featured a longer list of noted associates, including several heard on the debut, as well as Billy Preston, Bennie Maupin, David Torn, Wendy Melvoin, and Paul Riser.
Another three-year break between albums occurred, during which time she collaborated with rapper Queen Pen on the track "Girlfriend." Bitter, for which she was billed as Meshell Ndegéocello, was released in 1999. She took another three-year break and emerged with Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape -- as Meshell Ndegeocello -- in 2002. Comfort Woman followed in 2003 and Dance of the Infidel, a sprawling album made with numerous collaborators from the jazz world, surfaced in 2005. Two years later, her fantastic Decca debut, The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams, which included guest appearances from Pat Metheny and Oumou Sangare, was released.
Her first pop-related recording in half a decade, 2009's Devil's Halo featured Ndegeocello in a quartet setting. The album also included guest spots from Lisa Germano and Oren Bloedow. Ndegeocello toured the album in opera houses and concert halls across the United States and Europe. In 2011, she partnered with Grammy-winning producer Joe Henry for the album Weather; it was issued on the Naïve label. In 2012, Ndegeocello released Pour une Âme Souveraine: A Dedication to Nina Simone, a collection of tunes intimately associated with the legendary vocalist and pianist. Comet, Come to Me, another deep set of introspective songs, followed in 2014.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
On August 29, 1934, was born Gene Allison (1934 - 2004); singer.
Best remembered for the R&B classic "You Can Make It if You Try," singer Gene Allison was born Versle Eugene Allison in Pegram, TN, on August 29, 1934. Seven years later, his family relocated to Nashville, where he and brother Leevert (later a professional gospel singer) honed their vocal talents singing in their church choir. While still in high school, Allison was asked to fill in with the famed gospel quartet the Fairfield Four. A stint with the Skylarks followed, and brought him to the attention of songwriter and producer Ted Jarrett, who convinced him to sign to his Calvert label and pursue a career in secular music. When Vee-Jay Records began courting another Jarrett protégé, singer Larry Birdsong, the producer insisted the label could only sign Birdsong if they took on Allison as well -- the latter's first single, the Jarrett-penned, gospel-inspired ballad "You Can Make It if You Try" was recorded at Owen Bradley's Nashville studio and released on Vee-Jay in 1957, cracking the top five on Billboard's R&B chart and crossing over into the pop Top 40.
The record was such a success that Allison was able to open his own Nashville restaurant, a 24-hour soul food joint called Gene's Drive-In -- his mother was even installed as manager. He returned to the R&B charts with two more Top 20 hits, "Have Faith" and "Everything Will Be Alright," but although the raw, soulful power of his voice remained undiminished in the years to follow, he never again matched his initial success. Allison died from liver and kidney failure on February 28, 2004, at the age of 69.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
CHARLIE PARKER "BIRD"
Jazz giant who changed the face of the entire form, practically inventing modern jazz and shaping the course of 20th century music.
On August 29, 1920, was born Charlie Parker "Bird" (1920 - 1955); jazz giant.
One of a handful of musicians who can be said to have permanently changed jazz, Charlie Parker was arguably the greatest saxophonist of all time. He could play remarkably fast lines that, if slowed down to half speed, would reveal that every note made sense. "Bird," along with his contemporaries Dizzy Gillespie and Bud Powell, is considered a founder of bebop; in reality he was an intuitive player who simply was expressing himself. Rather than basing his improvisations closely on the melody as was done in swing, he was a master of chordal improvising, creating new melodies that were based on the structure of a song. In fact, Bird wrote several future standards (such as "Anthropology," "Ornithology," "Scrapple from the Apple," and "Ko Ko," along with such blues numbers as "Now's the Time" and "Parker's Mood") that "borrowed" and modernized the chord structures of older tunes. Parker's remarkable technique, fairly original sound, and ability to come up with harmonically advanced phrases that could be both logical and whimsical were highly influential. By 1950, it was impossible to play "modern jazz" with credibility without closely studying Charlie Parker.
Born in Kansas City, KS, Charlie Parker grew up in Kansas City, MO. He first played baritone horn before switching to alto. Parker was so enamored of the rich Kansas City music scene that he dropped out of school when he was 14, even though his musicianship at that point was questionable (with his ideas coming out faster than his fingers could play them). After a few humiliations at jam sessions, Bird worked hard woodshedding over one summer, building up his technique and mastery of the fundamentals. By 1937, when he first joined Jay McShann's Orchestra, he was already a long way toward becoming a major player.
Charlie Parker, who was early on influenced by Lester Young and the sound of Buster Smith, visited New York for the first time in 1939, working as a dishwasher at one point so he could hear Art Tatum play on a nightly basis. He made his recording debut with Jay McShann in 1940, creating remarkable solos with a small group from McShann's orchestra on "Oh, Lady Be Good" and "Honeysuckle Rose." When the McShann big band arrived in New York in 1941, Parker had short solos on a few of their studio blues records, and his broadcasts with the orchestra greatly impressed (and sometimes scared) other musicians who had never heard his ideas before. Parker, who had met and jammed with Dizzy Gillespie for the first time in 1940, had a short stint with Noble Sissle's band in 1942, played tenor with Earl Hines' sadly unrecorded bop band of 1943, and spent a few months in 1944 with Billy Eckstine's orchestra, leaving before that group made their first records. Gillespie was also in the Hines and Eckstine big bands, and the duo became a team starting in late 1944.
Although Charlie Parker recorded with Tiny Grimes' combo in 1944, it was his collaborations with Dizzy Gillespie in 1945 that startled the jazz world. To hear the two virtuosos play rapid unisons on such new songs as "Groovin' High," "Dizzy Atmosphere," "Shaw 'Nuff," "Salt Peanuts," and "Hot House," and then launch into fiery and unpredictable solos could be an upsetting experience for listeners much more familiar with Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. Although the new music was evolutionary rather than revolutionary, the recording strike of 1943-1944 resulted in bebop arriving fully formed on records, seemingly out of nowhere.
Unfortunately, Charlie Parker was a heroin addict ever since he was a teenager, and some other musicians who idolized Bird foolishly took up drugs in the hope that it would elevate their playing to his level. When Gillespie and Parker (known as "Diz and Bird") traveled to Los Angeles and were met with a mixture of hostility and indifference (except by younger musicians who listened closely), they decided to return to New York. Impulsively, Parker cashed in his ticket, ended up staying in L.A., and, after some recordings and performances (including a classic version of "Oh, Lady Be Good" with Jazz at the Philharmonic), the lack of drugs (which he combated by drinking an excess of liquor) resulted in a mental breakdown and six months of confinement at the Camarillo State Hospital. Released in January 1947, Parker soon headed back to New York and engaged in some of the most rewarding playing of his career, leading a quintet that included Miles Davis, Duke Jordan, Tommy Potter, and Max Roach. Parker, who recorded simultaneously for the Savoy and Dial labels, was in peak form during the 1947-1951 period, visiting Europe in 1949 and 1950, and realizing a lifelong dream to record with strings starting in 1949 when he switched to Norman Granz's Verve label.
But Charlie Parker, due to his drug addiction and chance-taking personality, enjoyed playing with fire too much. In 1951, his cabaret license was revoked in New York (making it difficult for him to play in clubs) and he became increasingly unreliable. Although he could still play at his best when he was inspired (such as at the 1953 Massey Hall concert with Gillespie), Bird was heading downhill. In 1954, he twice attempted suicide before spending time in Bellevue. His health, shaken by a very full if brief life of excesses, gradually declined, and when he died in March 1955 at the age of 34, he could have passed for 64.
Charlie Parker, who was a legendary figure during his lifetime, has if anything grown in stature since his death. Virtually all of his studio recordings are available on CD along with a countless number of radio broadcasts and club appearances. Clint Eastwood put together a well-intentioned if simplified movie about aspects of his life (Bird). Parker's influence, after the rise of John Coltrane, has become more indirect than direct, but jazz would sound a great deal different if Charlie Parker had not existed. The phrase "Bird Lives" (which was scrawled as graffiti after his death) is still very true.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
El director y fundador del Gran Combo de Puerto Rico
El 29 de agosto del año 1926, nace Rafael Ithier en Río Piedras, Puerto Rico. Brillante y talentoso pianista, compositor, arreglista, productor y director fundador de la Universidad de la Salsa “El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico”. Ex integrante de “Cortijo y su Combo”. Don Rafael Ithier es por mérito propio una auténtica leyenda viva de la salsa mundial.
La guerra de Corea era inminente. El joven soldado puertorriqueño Rafael Ithier, al servicio del ejército norteamericano, temía ser enviado al campo de batalla. Lo suyo era la música. Había sido pianista de varias agrupaciones en su natal San Juan antes del servicio militar.
Su misión en esa época (año 1950) era organizar una orquesta para amenizar las fiestas de la base militar. Pero el grupo no progresaba porque el soldado con alma de músico no apuraba el acople de la incipiente banda. Quería ganar tiempo. “Lo siento mi sargento, el grupo no está listo para presentarse”, decía Ithier cada vez que lo requerían. Al final, su astucia lo salvó de la guerra. Varios de esos músicos conformarían luego la banda Borinqueña Mambo Boys. A partir de entonces Ithier se ganaría la vida en un piano.
Con esa misma astucia, y después de seis años gloriosos y una dolorosa separación del Combo de Cortijo, uno de los conjuntos más exitosos de la música antillana, este músico autodidacta fundó al Gran Combo de Puerto Rico. Llamó a varios de los mejores músicos del desaparecido Combo y a dos cantantes muy jóvenes: Andy Montañez y Pellín Rodríguez. El 26 de mayo de 1962 marca la fecha de nacimiento de la orquesta, convertida hoy en una leyenda viviente del género, con 48 años de vigencia en el pentagrama musical de la salsa y 57 producciones discográficas.
Desde su primera presentación en el salón Rock and Roll de Bayamón (Puerto Rico) el Gran Combo revolucionó la música antillana con un ritmo de clave innovador para entonces, que apuntaba al oído del bailador. Las letras jocosas de sus canciones en el vozarrón de Andy Montañez y de Pellín Rodríguez impactaron de entrada. A eso se sumaron una imagen fresca y sus vistosas coreografías, que pronto le dieron una identidad propia a la banda, en tiempos en que las orquestas proliferaban. Para su fundador, “la fidelidad a un estilo original, pero al mismo tiempo la adaptación a la evolución musical y la disciplina de grupo nos han permitido llegar hasta donde estamos hoy”, dice el director del grupo, de 84 años de edad. Con esta fórmula sobrevivieron a los tiempos difíciles de la industria, el género y el paso de los años y las modas.
Uno de los momentos difíciles que recuerda Ithier fue cuando en los años setenta partieron las dos voces insignia del grupo. Según el músico, “muchos decretaron la muerte del Gran Combo”. Pero de nuevo la sapiencia del director salió a relucir al encontrar dos voces que se acoplaron al estilo de la banda. La llegada de los nuevos cantantes (Jerry Rivas y Charlie Aponte) refleja el conocimiento y liderazgo de Ithier para manejar su orquesta. Cuando Rivas, blanco y rubio, se presentó en reemplazo del estelar Andy Montañez, los demás músicos, la mayoría morenos, lo miraron con recelo. Ithier, con su tradicional buen humor, les salió al paso: “Ustedes quédense tranquilos, es un negro pintado de blanco”.
En la cúspide del éxito hoy pocos recuerdan las vicisitudes para consolidarse, tras la desintegración de Cortijo y su Combo (por indisciplina de los músicos, entre ellos Ismael Rivera), de donde procedía la base de músicos del Gran Combo. Ithier recuerda cómo fueron tildados de “traidores” por el público y el medio musical. “Varias veces nos contrataron en clubes y cuando llegábamos a tocar y nos veían nos cerraban las puertas. Fueron tiempos difíciles, no teníamos ni dónde ensayar”. La orquesta estuvo a punto de desaparecer, cuenta su director, quien desilusionado se encerró en su casa, decidido a abandonar la música.
“Los músicos me fueron a buscar y después de rogarme que dirigiera un tiempo, regresé. La verdad es que con tantos problemas pensé que el grupo duraría uno o dos años como máximo y mira donde estamos ahora”, confiesa Ithier. Pero la constancia, la férrea, pero amistosa disciplina y el virtuosismo de los 14 integrantes del grupo dieron sus frutos. Solo en 2005 se presentaron en 137 en todo el mundo. Ya son 48 años los que cumplen Los Mulatos del Sabor, La Bandera Musical de Puerto Rico o la Universidad de la Salsa, apelativos con los que se conoce al legendario grupo.
La exitosa vida musical del Gran Combo de Puerto Rico está ligada en cada nota musical al estilo y la personalidad de su director y fundador Rafael Ithier. Este pianista se califica como un músico autodidacta que nunca pasó por un conservatorio. Su escuela musical fue la calle y su disciplina para aprender de los músicos de su época. Ithier, nacido en Río Piedras (Puerto Rico), en 1926, ha probado a lo largo de 63 años de carrera ser un visionario de la música latina. En los años sesenta, cuando fundó la agrupación, cimentó su propio estilo con base en los ritmos que dominaban la escena musical de la época como el bogaloo, el jala-jala, la bomba y la plena. En cuanto a él, siempre fue un pianista clásico.
En los años setenta entendió el nuevo rumbo que tomó la música antillana, ya denominada salsa y se adaptó a los cambios. Introdujo el trombón a la sección de vientos para darle un sonido moderno. Treinta años después, cuando surgió la corriente de la salsa romántica el Gran Combo supo mantenerse vigente y trabajó en esta línea, aunque sin perder su estilo, pero aún así las críticas llegaron. “La música evoluciona como todo y nosotros nos adaptamos a los cambios. Muchos ortodoxos del género no lo aceptan y nos criticaron, pero por esta razón muchas orquestas desaparecieron”. Sin embargo, Ithier es uno de los defensores de la salsa clásica y un crítico de la llamada salsa monga (romántica), hoy en decadencia por el resurgimiento de la salsa dura. ”A esos chiquitos les falló la fórmula. No sabían lo que era la clave y le quitaron todo el sabor a nuestra música, todos hacían lo mismo y eso espantó al bailador. Hasta decían que la clave era un atraso en la música”.
En los círculos del género y la industria musical latina, su influencia es más que reconocida. Fue a Ithier a quien buscó Gilberto Santa Rosa para pedirle consejo y apoyo para convertirse en solista tras pasar por orquestas como la de Willie Rosario. En la actualidad Rafael Ithier continúa en la dirección del Gran Combo y no tiene planes de retiro, aunque hace tres años no se sienta al piano debido a la pérdida de audición, según el mismo, “por una enfermedad mal cuidado por no dejar de viajar con la orquesta”.
Virtuoso bajista, chelista, pianista, arreglista, compositor y director musical. Hermano mayor de Cachao.
El 29 de agosto del año 1908, nace Orestes López (1908 - 1991) en La Habana, Cuba: Virtuoso bajista, chelista, pianista, arreglista, compositor y director musical de destacada participación con “Antonio Arcaño y sus Maravillas”. Hermano mayor de Israel “Cachao” López. (También, se ha reportado la fecha de su nacimiento como el 28 de agosto.)
Con su madre estudió solfeo. Con su padre, el contrabajista Pedro López, estudió el contrabajo y con Fernando Carnicer estudió armonía y piano.
En 1922 tocó su primer baile en la Sociedad El Pilar. Más tarde integró la orquesta de Miguel Vázquez (El Moro), y en 1924 trabajó como contrabajista de la Orquesta Filarmónica de La Habana, que dirigía el español Pedro Sanjuán.
Fue cellista de la Orquesta de Armando Valdespí; contrabajista de los hermanos Contreras y de la orquesta de Armando Romeu, y en 1930 de la de Ernesto Muñoz Justiniani. También fue pianista de la Ideal, de Joseíto Valdés.
A fines de la década del 20 fundó su primera agrupación. En 1933, la orquesta López-Barroso, integrada también por Raúl Valdés, Irael López (Cachao), Manolo Morales, Juan Pablo Miranda, Abelardo Barroso, Dargelez, Ángel López, y Abelardo Valdés.
Gozó de gran popularidad en la década del 30, cuando estaba de moda el danzonete y Abelardo Barroso en el apogeo de su carrera artística. A mediados de la década del 30 creó la Orquesta Unión. Después, en 1937, integró la orquesta Arcaño y sus Maravillas, hasta su disolución en 1958, cuando pasó definitivamente a la Filarmónica.
En la agrupación de Arcaño contribuyó a crear el danzón de nuevo ritmo. Para Orestes López, mambear quería decir:
"Hacer otro danzón con el mismo ritmo del mambo. La primera parte del danzón era la del clarinete, la segunda la del violín, y, por último, la del mambo. Introduje el ritmo con el propósito de enriquecer los grupos musicales, porque antiguamente tocaban la parte final muy cortica, y no daban oportunidad a que ningún instrumento se luciera, ni a que los bailadores disfrutaran. Con la existencia del mambo ya comenzó un estado de ánimo diferente entre los bailadores: esperaban esa parte contentos de que fuera largo y sacaban pasillos... [...]."
Bravo sonero de destacada participación con “La Orquesta Mulenze”, “La Puerto Rican Máster” y su propia orquesta
El 28 de agosto del año 1952, nace Pedro Brull Irizarry “Pedro Brull”, “El Sonero del Peso Pesado” en Bayamón, Puerto Rico.
En 1979 tuvo la oportunidad de trabajar con el maestro Bobby Valentín, y fue entonces que conoció a Edwin Morales y la Mulenze, porque ellos estaban grabando en su estudio. Ese mismo año, grabó con la Mulenze y al siguiente año empezaron a trabajar juntos, lo que se prolongó hasta el 2004. Grabó con la Mulenze unos quince o dieciséis discos, además de hacerlo con Don Perignon y en otros trabajos que reunían a varios cantantes, y que le sirvieron para poder difundirlo a nivel internaciona”.
Con la Mulenze grabó temas que se hicieron éxitos como Al pasar los años, Anoche aprendí, Me vinieron a decir, Para ti bailador, Mi negrita, Yo prometo, Con pocas palabras basta, Te damos las gracias, Puede, Buscando aventuras y otras más. Tuvo mucho éxito con la Mulenze.
Llega un punto en el que cada cantante desea ser solista. La Mulenze siempre hizo cosas increíbles, pero hacía buen tiempo que no grababan nada, y Pedro tenía el deseo de hacer lo suyo. No existió nada personal en la decisión, porque Edwin Morales quien es director del conjunto es su compadre y consideró a cada uno de los integrantes de la orquesta como parte de su familia. La Mulenze sigue, porque el único que se salió fui Pedro; y tienen ahora un cantante talentosísimo que se llama Juan García. Entonces, Pedro Brull, llamado ‘El sonero de peso completo”, no sólo por su voluminosa figura, sino por la gran talla de su voz y su talento, se despidió de La Mulenze, para abrirse paso como solista, de la mano nada menos que de un caballero, el gran Gilberto Santa Rosa.
"Soy el conejillo de indias de Gilberto Santa Rosa. Ahora canto en tonos más altos", dice ‘El sonero de peso completo’, quien tiene entre sus compositoras a la caleña María Isabel Saavedra.
On August 28, 1966, was born Melanie Susan Appleby "Mel" (1966 - 1990), half of the sister duo, Mel & Kim.
English-born sisters Mel and Kim Appleby rose to prominence in the late '80s thanks to the producing team of Stock, Aitken & Waterman. In late 1986, Mel and Kim released their debut single, "Respectable." The song combined '80s dance-pop with Stock, Aitken & Waterman's trademark slick production. "Respectable" became a huge international success, helping to launch their debut album F.L.M. up the charts in 1987. The album produced two other singles: "F.L.M." and "Showing Out."
F.L.M. was to be the sisters' only album. In 1988, Mel was diagnosed with cancer and died of the disease early in 1990.Kim recorded a solo album in the early '90s, but it was not as successful as her work with Mel and Kim.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
A popular American soul/R&B group, formerly the Jackson Five, before leaving Motown Records.
On Augsut 28, 1984, The Jacksons' Victory Tour broke the record for concert ticket sales after they surpassed the 1.1 million mark in two months.
Jackie (b. Sigmund Esco Jackson, 4 May 1951, Gary, Indiana, USA), Tito (b. Toriano Adaryll Jackson, 15 October 1953, Gary, Indiana, USA), Marlon (b. Marlon David Jackson, 12 March 1957, Gary, Indiana, USA), Michael (b. Michael Joseph Jackson, 29 August 1958, Gary, Indiana, USA) and Randy Jackson (b. Steven Randall Jackson, 29 October 1962, Gary, Indiana, USA) changed their collective name from the Jackson Five to the Jacksons in March 1976, following their departure from Motown Records. At the same time, Randy Jackson replaced his brother Jermaine Jackson, handling percussion and backing vocals. The group’s new recording contract with Epic offered them a more lucrative agreement than they had enjoyed with Motown, although at first they seemed to have exchanged one artistic strait-jacket for another. Their initial releases were written, arranged and produced by Gamble And Huff, whose expertise ensured that the Jacksons sounded professional, but slightly anonymous. ‘Enjoy Yourself’ and ‘Show You The Way To Go’ were both major hits in the US charts, and the latter also topped the UK sales listing.
The group’s second album with Gamble And Huff, Goin’ Places, heralded a definite decline in popularity. Destiny saw the Jacksons reassert control over writing and production, and produced a string of worldwide hit singles. ‘Blame It on The Boogie’ caught the mood of the burgeoning disco market, while the group’s self-composed ‘Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)’ signalled Michael Jackson’s growing artistic maturity. The success of Michael’s first adult solo venture, Off The Wall in 1979, switched his attention away from the group. On Triumph, they merely repeated the glories of their previous album, although the commercial appeal of anything bearing Michael’s voice helped singles such as ‘Can You Feel It?’, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and ‘Lovely One’ achieve success on both sides of the Atlantic. The Jacksons’ 1981 US tour emphasized Michael’s dominance over the group, and the resulting Live included many of his solo hits alongside the brothers’ joint repertoire. Between 1981 and the release of Victory in 1984, Michael issued Thriller, which regularly heads the bestselling album of all time list. When the Jacksons’ own effort was released, it became apparent that he had made only token contributions to the record, and its commercial fortune suffered accordingly. ‘State Of Shock’, which paired Michael with Mick Jagger, was a US hit, but sold in smaller quantities than expected. Hysteria surrounded the group’s ‘Victory Tour’ in the summer of 1984; adverse press comment greeted the distribution of tickets, and the Jacksons were accused of pricing themselves out of the reach of their black fans. Although they were joined onstage by their brother Jermaine for the first time since 1975, media and public attention was focused firmly on Michael.
Realizing that they were becoming increasingly irrelevant, the other members of the group began to voice their grievances in the press; as a result, Michael Jackson stated that he would not be working with his brothers in the future. The Jacksons struggled to come to terms with his departure, and it was five years before their next project was complete. 2300 Jackson Street highlighted their dilemma: once the media realized that Michael was not involved, they effectively boycotted its release. Randy Jackson was sentenced to a one-month jail sentence in November 1990 for assaulting his wife. In 1992, ABC aired the five-hour mini-series The Jacksons: An American Dream.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Motown girl group the Marvelettes scored a Number One smash with "Please Mr. Postman," later covered by the Beatles.
On August 28, 1961, Tamla Records; one of Barry Gordy's label's, released the Marvelettes first single, 'Please Mr. Postman'. The song went on to sell over a million copies and become the group's biggest hit, reaching the top of both the Billboard Pop and R&B charts. The song is notable as the first Motown song to reach the number-one position on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart.
Probably the most pop-oriented of Motown's major female acts, the Marvelettes didn't project as strong an identity as the Supremes, Mary Wells, or Martha Reeves, but recorded quite a few hits, including Motown's first number one single, "Please Mr. Postman" (1961). "Postman," as well as other chirpy early-'60s hits like "Playboy," "Twistin' "Postman," and "Beechwood 4-5789," were the label's purest girl group efforts. Featuring two strong lead singers, Gladys Horton and Wanda Young, the Marvelettes went through five different lineups, but maintained a high standard on their recordings. After a few years, they moved from girl group sounds to up-tempo and mid-tempo numbers that were more characteristic of Motown's production line. They received no small help from Smokey Robinson, who produced and wrote many of their singles; Holland-Dozier-Holland, Berry Gordy, Mickey Stevenson, Marvin Gaye, and Ashford-Simpson also got involved with the songwriting and production at various points. After the mid-'60s Wanda Young assumed most of the lead vocal duties; Gladys Horton departed from the group in the late '60s. While the Marvelettes didn't cut as many monster smashes as most of their Motown peers after the early '60s, they did periodically surface with classic hits like "Too Many Fish in the Sea," "Don't Mess With Bill," and "The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game." There were also plenty of fine minor hits and misses, like 1965's "I'll Keep Holding On," which is just as memorable as the well-known Motown chart-toppers of the era. The group quietly disbanded in the early '70s after several years without a major hit.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Inspired by 1970s soul music (as well as the lord), the Texan singer swiftly became one of Gospel's rising stars.
On August 27, 1964, was born Yolanda Adams; gospel singer.
Another in the line of gospel artists putting the soul and fervor back in R&B music, Yolanda Adams was a school teacher in Houston during the mid-'80s and occasionally did modeling work. Her mother had studied music while at college, so Adams grew up listening to jazz and classical music as well as gospel artists such as James Cleveland and the Edwin Hawkins Singers and R&B vocalists like Stevie Wonder and Nancy Wilson.
Yolanda Adams' debut album, Just as I Am appeared in 1988 on Sounds of Gospel. Though she was initially criticized in the Christian community for embracing secular music and fashion to accompany her gospel-themed music, the growth of publicly popular gospel in the mid-'90s pushed her into the spotlight; Adams toured with Kirk Franklin & the Family, and her 1996 album Yolanda Live in Washington was nominated for a Grammy. Songs From the Heart followed in 1998, and a year later she returned with Mountain High Valley Low which topped her live album by winning a Grammy. In 2000 she ventured into new territory by issuing a Christmas album, A Yolanda Adams Christmas. Experience followed a year later.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
A tenor sax legend, known as Pres, whose melodic, smooth-flowing lines made him the most influential and inventive player of the pre-bop era.
On August 27, 1909 was born Lester Young, "Pres" (1909 - 1959); tenor sax legend of the pre-bop era.
Lester Young was one of the true jazz giants, a tenor saxophonist who came up with a completely different conception in which to play his horn, floating over bar lines with a light tone rather than adopting Coleman Hawkins' then-dominant forceful approach. A non-conformist, Young (nicknamed "Pres" by Billie Holiday) had the ironic experience in the 1950s of hearing many young tenors try to sound exactly like him.
Although he spent his earliest days near New Orleans, Lester Young lived in Minneapolis by 1920, playing in a legendary family band. He studied violin, trumpet, and drums, starting on alto at age 13. Because he refused to tour in the South, Young left home in 1927 and instead toured with Art Bronson's Bostonians, switching to tenor. He was back with the family band in 1929 and then freelanced for a few years, playing with Walter Page's Blue Devils (1930), Eddie Barefield in 1931, back with the Blue Devils during 1932-1933, and Bennie Moten and King Oliver (both 1933). He was with Count Basie for the first time in 1934 but left to replace Coleman Hawkins with Fletcher Henderson. Unfortunately, it was expected that Young would try to emulate Hawk, and his laid-back sound angered Henderson's sidemen, resulting in Pres not lasting long. After a tour with Andy Kirkand a few brief jobs, Lester Young was back with Basie in 1936, just in time to star with the band as they headed East. Young made history during his years with Basie, not only participating on Count's record dates but starring with Billie Holiday and Teddy Wilson on a series of classic small-group sessions. In addition, on his rare recordings on clarinet with Basie and the Kansas City Six, Young displayed a very original cool sound that almost sounded like altoist Paul Desmond in the 1950s. After leaving Count in 1940, Young's career became a bit aimless, not capitalizing on his fame in the jazz world. He co-led a low-profile band with his brother, drummer Lee Young, in Los Angeles until re-joining Basie in December 1943. Young had a happy nine months back with the band, recorded a memorable quartet session with bassist Slam Stewart, and starred in the short film Jammin' the Blues before he was drafted. His experiences dealing with racism in the military were horrifying, affecting his mental state of mind for the remainder of his life.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
One of contemporary R&B's heaviest hitters got his start early.
On August 27, 1986, was born Mario, (Mario Dewar Barrett), US R&B singer.
Born and raised in Baltimore, MD, R&B vocalist Mario started to develop his natural talent while singing along with his mom using a karaoke machine at home. Discovered at the age of 11 in a local talent show, he later traveled to New York City to establish a career and scored a contract with Clive Davis' J label. Following his contribution to the Dr. Doolittle 2 soundtrack and a captivating performance of Stevie Wonder's "You and I" at Davis' Grammy party in February 2002, the newcomer was primed for stardom. At the age of 15, Mario debuted with the release of "Just a Friend 2002," produced by Warryn Campbell and based on rapper Biz Markie's hit "Just a Friend." His self-titled album followed in July, featuring contributions by Grammy-winning Alicia Keys. Turning Point, released in 2004, went to number two on the R&B album chart, hoisted by the ubiquitous smash "Let Me Love You," a single that also helped launch the career of Ne-Yo, the song's writer. The December 2007 release of Mario's third album, Go, was preceded by several delays and projected release dates; its initial date was November of the previous year. The album featured productions from Polow da Don, Timbaland, Stargate, the Neptunes, the Underdogs, and Akon. The album's last song, "Do Right," dealt with his relationship with his mother, a heroin addict; just prior to its release, MTV aired I Won't Love You to Death: The Story of Mario and His Mom, a program documenting the pair's struggle. Go peaked at number four on the R&B chart, just prior to Mario's appearance on the sixth season of Dancing with the Stars. D.N.A., Mario's fourth album, was released in October 2009. At the time, two of its songs, "Break Up" and "Thinkin' About You," were already on the singles charts.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Harlem rapper, the late-1990s pride of Bad Boy Entertainment, scored major crossover hits before retiring to concentrate on God.
On August 27, 1977, was born Mase, US male rapper (Mason Betha).
Best known as Puff Daddy's favorite sidekick, Mase secured his place as a Bad Boy label favorite through a series of guest appearances on hit singles by other artists. By the time he issued his debut album, the Bad Boy promotional machine had effectively already made him a star. His flow was slow and relaxed, and his raps often unabashedly simple, which helped make him especially popular with the younger segment of Puff Daddy's pop-rap audience (they could understand him and rap along). Of course, he was never much of a critical favorite for exactly the same reason, but that became a moot point when, just before the release of his second album, he announced his retirement from rap to pursue a career in the ministry.
Mase was born Mason Durrell Betha in Jacksonville, FL, on August 27, 1977. His family moved to Harlem when he was five, but at age 13, he was sent back to Florida amid concerns that he was falling in with the wrong crowd. He returned to New York two years later, and began rapping to entertain the other members of his school basketball team. He was a good enough basketball player to win a scholarship to SUNY, but hip-hop soon grew to be more important; under the name Mase Murder, he joined a rap group called Children of the Corn, which disbanded when one of its members died in a car accident. Mase went solo and started making connections around New York's hip-hop club scene. In 1996, he traveled to Atlanta for a music conference, hoping to hook up with Jermaine Dupri; instead, he met Sean "Puffy" Combs, who signed him to Bad Boy after hearing him rap.
Mase debuted on Combs' remix of the 112 single "Only You," and quickly became a near-ubiquitous guest rapper on Bad Boy releases and other Combs-related projects. He was a credited featured guest on the Puff Daddy smashes "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" and "It's All About the Benjamins," handled the first verse of the Notorious B.I.G.'s number one hit "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems," and made prominent appearances on Mariah Carey's "Honey," Brian McKnight's "You Should Be Mine (Don't Waste My Time)," Junior M.A.F.I.A.'s "Young Casanova," and Busta Rhymes' "The Body Rock," among others. By showcasing Mase in such high-profile settings, not to mention spotlighting him in several videos as well, Combs ensured that by the time Mase actually released his own album, every hip-hop fan in America would already know who he was.
Thus, when Mase's debut album, Harlem World, appeared in late 1997, it was an instant smash, spending its first two weeks of release on top of the Billboard album charts. It was a star-studded affair, naturally featuring Combs (both rapping and producing) and a galaxy of guests: Busta Rhymes, Jay-Z, DMX, Lil' Kim, Monifah, 112, the L.O.X., Eightball & MJG,Black Rob, and Lil' Cease, not to mention additional production by the Hitmen, Jermaine Dupri, and the Neptunes, among others. Reviews of the record were mixed; some critics praised Mase's unique rapping style, but others were far more harsh (this writer is fairly sure it was Ira Robbins who called Mase "the luckiest no-talent sidekick since Ed McMahon"). Nonetheless, Harlem World was a smash hit, eventually going platinum four times over; its first single, "Feels So Good" (which also appeared on the soundtrack of Money Talks), was a Top Five pop hit, and the follow-up "What You Want" was a fast-selling success as well.
In the meantime, Mase's string of guest spots continued unabated, with appearances on Brandy's "Top of the World,"Puff Daddy's "Lookin' at Me," Cam'ron's "Horse and Carriage," 112's "Love Me," and the Rugrats soundtrack collaboration with Blackstreet and Mya, "Take Me There." In April 1998, Mase made headlines with his arrest in New York on disorderly conduct charges (he had initially been accused of soliciting a prostitute, which he denied). But the controversy was short-lived, and by year's end Mase had put together his own group of protégés, also dubbed Harlem World, who issued its debut album, The Movement, in early 1999. With Puffy's Bad Boy empire still riding high, Mase's second album, Double Up, looked to be another blockbuster. But shortly after it was completed (and before it was released), Mase stunned close associates and observers alike by announcing his immediate retirement from the music business, calling it incompatible with his new calling to the ministry (he'd experienced a vision of himself leading people into Hell). He refused to promote Double Up with any live performances, although he did give interviews on its behalf. Perhaps it was the lack of promotional support, or perhaps audiences gave up their investment in him, but Double Up made a disappointing chart debut at number 11 upon its summer 1999 release, and only reached gold sales status. Mase worked extensively with inner-city youth, became an in-demand inspirational speaker on the religious circuit, and published a memoir titled Revelations: There's a Light After the Lime. He returned with a new album, Welcome Back, in 2004.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
BOYZ II MEN
R&B vocal quartet, inspired by Motown and Philly, whose aching, tremulous harmonies lifted some of the biggest pop hits of the 1990s.
On August 27, 1994, Boyz II Men started a 14 week run at No.1 on the US singles chart with 'I'll Make Love To You', a No.5 hit in the UK. The record- breaking 14 week stay came to an end when they knocked themselves from the top with 'On Bended Knee'.
I always have enjoyed the vocalizations of Boyz II Men and consider them to be an exceptional R&B group. As with many of their fans, I have to admit that could not possibly name any of the group's individual members; a fact that I contribute to their mellifluous four-part harmonies; so perfectly blended!
However, I had not realized, until doing my research for this post, that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has deemed them the most commercially successful R&B group of all time! Indeed, during the first half of the '90s, the group had an amazing string hits; which proved for them to be impossible to repeat!
The group's big break came in 1989, after having snuck backstage at a Bell Biv DeVoe concert and impressed Michael Bivins with an a cappella version of New Edition's "Can You Stand the Rain." Bivins at the time was an aspiring music producer and he offered Boyz II Men a deal on the spot!
Soon afterwards, Boyz II Men entered the studio to record their debut album, Cooleyhighharmony, for the legendary Motown Records. At this time, they called their sound "hip-hop doo wop," although their vocal harmony, even then, was more reminiscent of the R&B sound of the '60s and '70s. Cooleyhighharonty was released in 1991.
The first single from Cooleyhighharmony, the dance track "Motownphilly," quickly climbed the charts and went Top Five on the pop charts and #1 R&B charts. Their a cappella ballad "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday," a cover of a song from the film Cooley High, also hit the pop Top Five and topped the R&B charts, and went gold. The album would go on to wen the group a Grammy for the Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.
Briefly entering the studio in between concert gigs, Boyz II Men cut a smooth Babyface ballad called "End of the Road" for the soundtrack of the Eddie Murphy film Boomerang. Released as a single, it became not just a blockbuster, but one of the biggest hits in history; it spent 13 weeks at number one on the pop charts, an incredible run that broke the record of 11 weeks Elvis Presley had held ever since 1956 with the double-sided single "Don't Be Cruel"/"Hound Dog." "End of the Road" won a slew of awards and cemented Boyz II Men's star status beyond any doubt; while crafting their next album during 1993, the group released a couple of placeholders: a Top Five cover of the Five Satins doo wop classic "In the Still of the Nite," from the TV movie The Jacksons: An American Dream, and the holiday album Christmas Interpretations. (Also that year, Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" broke "End of the Road"'s record with 14 weeks at number one.)
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
El Caobo &