Debra Newman Ham
Guthrie P. Ramsey Jr.
The appearance of rhythm and blues or “R&B” marks one of the most important developments in American popular music. Before rhythm and blues, the swing style of jazz was considered the most popular music of the day. Artists like Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie reigned in America’s popular imagination and on the record sales charts. Things began to change during the mid-1940s, though. The term “rhythm and blues” describes a number of historically specific styles that have grown out of the African American vernacular music tradition since mid-century. Rhythm and blues laid the foundation for numerous subsequent styles including rock and roll, soul, disco, funk, jazz fusion, rap and, most recently, “smooth” (contemporary) jazz. R&B artists combined the conventions of several popular music styles: swing jazz, boogie woogie, gospel blues, blues, and, in some cases, novelty pop. From the swing tradition, rhythm and blues musicians adopted the riff-based horn arrangements and driving rhythms of groups such as Count Basie and His Orchestra. Gospel and blues music provided a system of dramatic vocal techniques, which were crafted by artists into highly stylized personal mannerisms. Gospel, jazz, and blues also provided musical forms such as 32-bar songs and 12-bar blues patterns to the new style. Unliketheswing era big bands, “jump blues” groups featured fewer horns and a heavy rhythmic approach marked by a walking boogie bass line, honking saxophone solos, and a two-four drum pattern. Among the greatest exponents of postwar jump blues were guitarist T-Bone Walker, saxophonist Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, and blues shouter Big Joe Turner.
Singer and saxophonist Louis Jordan fronted a supremely popular jump blues ensemble that featured his singing, which was a smooth gospel-influenced vocal style. In 1949, the popularity of the style championed by Jordan and others led producer Jerry Wexler, who was working at Billboard Magazine, to change its African American pop chart title to rhythm and blues, thus coining the name of this new music. The new sound, originally dubbed “jump blues” and later rhythm and blues, proved extremely popular beyond the African American community, marking one of many important “cross-over” moments in American popular music history. The melding of musical techniques that distinguished rhythm and blues is related to the specific socio-historical context of mid-century America. Due to an ample supply of jobs caused by World War II, black and white Southerners flooded the North seeking new opportunities and life chances. This migration created a dramatic shift in the demographics of major cities in the North, Midwest, and West. The burgeoning U.S. economy during the war provided these migrants with the resources to seek different kinds of entertainment in their new locales.
The lyrics of rhythm and blues songs reflected ways in which some migrants negotiated these changes. Many rhythm and blues lyrics speak of life in the South through a nostalgic lens; others use metaphors that reference country living; and others speak of hardships associated with life in the urban North. As African Americans pressured the U.S. government to end Jim Crow and the laws of the land that denied them equal rights, the color line between the races became less rigid, and as a result, white and black Americans gained greater access to each other’s cultures, especially music. Much as jazz music already was, rhythm and blues was an important source of cultural exchange. In fact, the popularity of rhythm and blues paved the way for rock and roll’s replacing jazz as the America’s quintessential popular music in the 1950s. But the music remained rooted in the sound of the African American church, though not exclusively. Some of the early recordings exemplifying the gospel influence on rhythm and blues were Cecil Grant’s 1945 hit “I Wonder,” Roy Brown’s 1947 classic “Good Rocking Tonight,” and Wynonie Harris’s 1949 disc “All She Wants To Do Is Rock.”
Dinah Washington was one of the earliest female rhythm and blues singers to make a mark on the entertainment industry during the 1940s. Her song stylings combined jazz, blues, gospel, and pop ballads. During her childhood, Washington honed her musical skills in the Baptist churches in Chicago, although she, as many others, was born in the South. After scoring hits with “Evil Gal Blues” and “Salty Papa Blues” early in her career, she recorded a string of hits for the Mercury label, with which she began an association in 1948. Washington’s recorded work sprawls over several categories including rhythm and blues, pop, jazz, and country.
Louis Jordan, however, is considered the most important jump blues or rhythm and blues performer during the 1940s. He formed his group Louis Jordan and His Tympani Five in 1938 with an eye toward entertaining and capturing some of the white market. His repertoire was eclectic: jump blues, ballads, and novelty songs. With titles such as “Beans and Cornbread,” “Saturday Night Fish Fry,” and “Ain’t Nobody Here but Us Chickens,” the group’s chart busting songs, as writer Nelson George has noted, “suggest country life, yet the subject of each is really a city scene.”
It was not long before this kind of raw-edged rhythm and blues emerged from hundreds of independent recording labels that appeared across the country in the postwar era. With the increased availability of rhythm and blues recordings, a handful of African American radio disc jockeys became locally famous as the first promoters and salesmen of this music. Bringing their colorful street language to the airwaves, pioneer African American DJs such as Al Benson and Vernon Winslow not only helped to popularize rhythm and blues, but set the trend for modern pop and African American radio programming.
RHYTHM & BLUES AND THE AFRICAN AMERICAN CHURCH
In the early 1950s, numerous gospel quartets and street corner singing groups set out to establish careers in the African American popular music scene. Influenced by gospel music groups such as the Golden Gate Quartet and the Harmonizing Four and the secular singing of groups such as the Inkspots, vocal groups appeared that performed complex harmonies in a capella style. As they would for rap artists in decades to come, street corners in urban neighborhoods became training grounds for thousands of young aspiring African American artists. This music, known as doo wop, first arrived on the scene with the formation of the Ravens in 1945. Not long afterward, there followed a great succession of doo wop “bird groups” including the Orioles who, in 1953, scored a nationwide hit with “Crying in the Chapel”—a song which, for the first time in African American popular music, walked an almost indistinguishable line between gospel and mainstream pop music. In the same year, Billy Ward formed the Dominoes, featuring lead singer Clyde McPhatter, the son of a Baptist minister.
In the wake of the success of these vocal groups, numerous gospel singers left the church to become pop music stars. In 1952, for example, the Royal Sons became the pop group Five Royales. They later changed their name to the Gospel Starlighters (with James Brown), and finally the Blue Flames. Five years later, a young gospel singer named Sam Cooke landed a number one pop hit with “You Send Me,” a song which achieved popularity among both black and white audiences.
The strong relationship between gospel and rhythm and blues was evident in the music of more hard-edged rhythm and blues groups such as Hank Ballard and the Midnighters. Maintaining a driving blues-based sound, Ballard’s music, while featuring gospel-based harmonies, retained secular themes, as evidenced in his 1954 hit “Work With Me Annie.” However, the capstone of gospel rhythm and blues appeared in the talents of Georgia-born pianist and singer Ray Charles, who in 1954 hit the charts with “I Got a Woman,” which was based upon the gospel song “My Jesus Is All the World to Me.” Charles’s 1958 recording “What I’d Say” is famed for its call-and-response pattern which directly resembled the music sung in Holiness churches.
ROCK AND ROLL
The rise of white rock and roll around 1955 served to open the floodgates for thousands of black rhythm and blues artists longing for a nationwide audience. A term applied to black rhythm and blues and its white equivalents during the mid-1950s, rock and roll represented a label given to a music form by the white media and marketplace in order to attract a mass multiracial audience. Alan Freed, a white DJ from Ohio is credited with being the first to air radio programming dubbed “rock ’n roll,” and thus he is remembered in some circles as the “Father of Rock and Roll.” While the term itself had been used in black vernacular language for years, it was used by white promoters of rock and roll to distinguish it from rhythm and blues, which was, of course, closely associated with black music culture. Many Southern whites expressed outrage at the growing interest in rhythm and blues and rock ’n roll among white teenagers, and various authorities mounted “Don’t Buy Negro Records” campaigns. As African American music writer Nelson George explained, naming this music rock and roll, “dulled down the racial identification and made young white consumers of Cold War America feel more comfortable.” Taken from a term common among the Delta and electric blues cultures, rock and roll was actually rhythm and blues rechristened with a more “socially acceptable” title. Of course, the term “rock and roll” had sexual connotations as well; this, along with its roots in black culture, allowed white cultural conservatives of the time to demonize the form.
Thus, the majority of rhythm and blues performers never made the distinction between rhythm and blues and rock and roll. Ike Turner, a talent scout for the pioneering Sun Studios record label, was a formidable bandleader and guitarist; his 1951 cut “Rocket 88” has been considered by some to be the very first rock and roll record. The song’s distorted guitar tone was achieved by accident—coming from a broken amplifier speaker—but would influence the gritty sound of many subsequent rock and blues guitarists. Turner achieved mainstream success in collaboration with his wife, singer Tina Turner, whose fame would later eclipse him. One rhythm and blues artist who established a prosperous career in rock and roll was New Orleans-born pianist Antoine “Fats” Domino. Although he had produced a great amount of strong rhythm and blues material before his career in rock and roll, Domino did not hit the charts until 1955 with “Ain’t That A Shame,” followed by the classics “Blueberry Hill,” “I’m Walkin,” and “Whole Lotta Loving.” Another rhythm and blues pianist/singer to enter the rock and roll field was Little Richard Penniman, a former Pentecostal gospel singer whose career in pop music began in 1956 with the hit “Tutti Frutti.” Little Richard’s fiery vocalizations featuring screams, hollers, and falsetto whoops was only matched for intensity by his very explosive and rhythmic piano playing, which drew on blues and gospel traditions. Before entering a Seventh Day Adventist seminary in 1959, Little Richard produced a string of hits: “Long Tall Sally,” “Rip It Up,” “The Girl Can’t Help It,” and “Good Golly Miss Molly.”
In 1955, as Fats Domino’s New Orleans style rhythm and blues tunes climbed the charts, a young guitarist from St. Louis named Chuck Berry achieved nationwide fame when his country-influenced song “Maybelline” reached number five on the charts. Backed by bluesman Muddy Waters’s rhythm section, “Maybelline” offered a unique form of rhythm and blues, combining white hillbilly, or rockabilly, with jump blues; Berry revolutionized rhythm and blues by featuring the guitar as a lead, rather than a rhythm instrument. Modeled after his blues guitar mentor T-Bone Walker, Berry’s double string guitar bends and syncopated up-stroke rhythm created a driving backdrop for his colorfully poetic tales of teenage life. A very eclectic and creative musician, Berry incorporated the sounds of urban blues, country, calypso, Latin, and even Hawaiian music into his unique brand of rhythm and blues. His classic “Johnny B. Goode” recorded in 1958 became a standard in almost every rock and roll band’s repertoire including 1960s rock guitar hero Jimi Hendrix. According to popular music scholar Timothy D. Taylor, many African American early rockers like Berry made a concerted effort to court an integrated audience, a notion that is evident in changes he made to a later recording of the song “Johnny B. Goode.”
African American musicians did not remain consigned to styles closely associated with African American culture. Dinah Washington, for example, recorded several pop tunes beginning with the mainstream title “What a Difference a Day Makes” in 1959, her first major hit. She also recorded what were known as “reverse crossovers,” songs that originally appeared in the country or pop category but which Washington performs in her patented jazz-blues-gospel manner. In addition, Chuck Berry was not the only African American to take an interest in country music. Ray Charles’s crossover into country music in the early 1960s caused controversy in many circles. In 1959, Charles recorded “I’m Moving On,” a country tune by Hank Snow. Despite opposition, Charles went on to record a fine collection of songs in 1962 entitled Modern Sounds in Country Music. Filled with soulful ballads and backed by colorful string sections, the session produced two classic numbers “You Don’t Know Me” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” Its popularity spawned a 1963 sequel Modern Sounds in Country Music Volume 2, producing several more hits including Hank Williams’s “Your Cheating Heart” and “Take These Chains From My Heart.”
Unlike other mainstream African American country artists, Charles’s renditions remained immersed in his unique gospel blues sound. Before Charles’s entrance into the country music field there had been many African American country artists such as Dedford Bailey, a partially disabled harmonica player who became a regularly featured performer on the Grand Ole Opry from 1925 to 1941. However, it was not until 1965, when Charley Pride arrived on the country music scene with his RCA recordings “Snakes Crawl at Night” and “Atlantic Coastal Line” that an African American artist emerged as a superstar in the country tradition. Pride’s songs were so steeped in the country tradition that many radio listeners were astounded when they found out his racial identity. With the arrival of Pride, there appeared other African American country artists such as Linda Martel from South Carolina, O. B. McClinton from Mississippi, Oklahoma-born Big Al Downing and Stoney Edwards. The most noted of these artists, Edwards recorded two nationwide hits in 1968 with Jesse Winchester’s “You’re On My Mind” and Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire.”
The tremendous social upheavals of the 1960s—including but not limited to the Civil Rights, Black Power, and women’s movements and the coalescence of a youth-based—were paralleled by numerous new musical forms. Perhaps no single genre of popular song encapsulated the highs and lows of this period more than soul music. Soul music drew on several idioms of African American music including gospel, jazz, and blues. According to music scholar David Brackett, gospel vocal techniques that signified spiritual ecstasy in the religious context were transplanted by soul singers into the secular context with important results. The most prominent of these is a sense of raw passion that identified the singers with the songs and the songs with the African American community. Thus, being born in the African American church, where testifying preachers and harmonizing choirs shepherded their congregations to weekly ecstasy, the form was escorted into the secular world by a handful of artists schooled simultaneously in gospel, jazz, country blues, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll.
Although he had precursors such as vocalist Clyde McPhatter, who recorded with the Dominoes and the Drifters, singer keyboardist Ray Charles has been credited as one of the founders of the soul genre. His earliest hits—notably, “What’d I Say” and “I Got a Woman”—brought the emotional testifying and call-and-response arrangements associated with gospel music into a non-religious context. He added the earthy pull of the blues and a jazz-influenced harmonic complexity to his distinctive musical blend. This hybrid of blue groove and spirit was the secular gospel known as soul music. Such innovations were controversial, but the sounds of soul sweetened and enriched rhythm and blues music from then on. Blind “Brother Ray” became a cultural icon in the ensuing decades.
While rhythm and blues had functioned for some time as gospel’s sinful, worldly counterpart—focusing largely on the concerns of the body while church music addressed the spirit—soul refused to deny either side of human experience. Even so, the young genre’s exuberance and ambition made it ideal for reflecting the growing aspirations of America’s black population. Inspired by the teachings and nonviolent organizing of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders, African Americans also responded to songs that trumpeted change. “People Get Ready” and “We’re a Winner” by Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions were early anthems as soul grew and drew many more listeners.
Singer-bandleader James Brown, meanwhile, combined uplift and hard groove, gradually moving from heady soul/rhythm and blues into a new territory called funk with hits such as “I Got You (I Feel Good)” and “Cold Sweat.” Brown ran one of the tightest ships around, alternately inspiring and browbeating his musicians; turnover was high, but the ensemble was always a well-oiled machine. Though he would refine the funk style—driving rhythms emphasizing the “one” or first beat of each measure; repetitive vocal phrases and improvised, “churchy” shouts; and minimal, almost dissonant, instrumental figures—during the early 1960s, its content remained largely sexual for some time. Brown’s mid-1960s work began laying the musical foundation for funk, and his music primarily celebrated the dynamic tradition of African American social dancing in songs such as “There Was A Time” and “Licking Stick,” often naming popular dances such as the “boogaloo” and the “funky chicken” in songs. Brown’s political message did not fully materialize until the end of the decade. By then, his funky sermons championed African American economic independence and freedom from addiction. Brown had a seismic affect on pop; not only funk artists but also scores of rock and rap musicians took his work as a point of departure.
Following Brown’s lead, Sly and the Family Stone—led by Sylvester “Sly Stone” Stewart, a Northern California DJ and producer—a psychedelic rock tinge and communal good vibes to the bedrock funk groove. Featuring musicians black and white, male and female, the group offered one of the most inclusive visions in pop history. While “Dance to the Music” mapped out their utopia in musical terms, they trumpeted tolerance and equality in happy hits such as “Everyday People,” “Everybody Is a Star,” and “You Can Make It If You Try.” Stone’s vision would darken substantially later on, however.
The syncopated rhythms of New Orleans were also fundamental to the development of modern funk. The Meters began as an instrumental foursome and eventually backed up acts as diverse as singer Lee Dorsey, vocal group The Pointer Sisters, and British popster Robert Palmer. During the 1960s they scored some instrumental hits-notably “Cissy Strut”—before adding vocals in the 1970s. Though they eventually disbanded and were partly subsumed by soul survivors the Neville Brothers, the Meters were profoundly influential.
SOUL NORTH AND SOUTH: STAX/VOLT, ATLANTIC, AND MOTOWN
Soul music’s increasing hold on the public imagination during the 1960s had a great deal to do with two record companies, the Atlantic Records subsidiary Stax/Volt in the South and Motown in the North. Stax/Volt was a Memphis-based label that introduced the world to the rough-hewn “funky” sound of Southern soul and rhythm and blues. The company’s greatest successes came during the 1960s, thanks to a roster of powerful artists, gifted songwriters, and one of the greatest “house bands” in music history. The band in question, led by keyboardist Booker T. Jones, was a formidable mixed race groove machine that not only backed the whole Stax roster and numerous acts on its parent label, Atlantic, but also achieved success as an instrumental recording act, Booker T. and the MG’s. Their smoldering workouts “Green Onions” and “Hip Hug-Her” became signature themes of the era.
Stax’s roster included vocal duo Sam and Dave, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Eddie Floyd, and Otis Redding. House songwriters Isaac Hayes and David Porter wrote hits such as “Soul Man” and “Hold On, I’m Coming” for Sam and Dave; Hayes himself would later become a pop/soul superstar. Redding was both an extraordinary singer and a gifted tunesmith; he penned the luminous “Dock of the Bay” and the righteous “Respect.” The latter song was transformed into an anthem of nascent feminism and African American dignity thanks to the alchemy of Atlantic Records and Aretha Franklin. Franklin a gospel-bred singer turned pop maven, would become the “Queen of Soul” and one of the most enduring figures in popular music. While Franklin made “Respect” and other celebrated recording tracks such as “Chain of Fools,” the incandescent “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman,” and “I Never Loved a Man” at the Fame studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, other Atlantic soul stars came to Memphis to make their hit records. The Stax crew collaborated with Wilson Pickett on hugely successful singles such as “In the Midnight Hour” and “Land of 1,000 Dances.” Ultimately, however, Stax lost its commercial momentum and by the 1970s was struggling to compete with a panoply of rivals.
As soul music gained a mass following in the African American community, an African American-owned and family-run Detroit record company emerged as one of the largest and most successful African American business enterprises in the United States. In 1959, Berry Gordy, a Detroit entrepreneur, songwriter, and modern jazz enthusiast, established the Motown Record Corporation.
With its headquarters located in a modest two-story home, the company proudly displayed a sign on its exterior reading Hitsville USA. Taking advantage of the diversity of local talent, Gordy employed Detroit-based contract teams, writers, producers, and engineers. Motown’s studio became a great laboratory for technological innovations, advancing the use of echo, multi-tracking, and over-dubbing. In the studio, Gordy employed the city’s finest jazz and classical musicians to accompany the young singing talent signed to the company.
Unlike the soul music emerging in studios such as Stax and Muscle Shoals, Motown’s music was also marketed at
the white middle class; Gordy called his music “The Sound of Young America” and sought to produce glamorous and well-groomed acts. “Blues and R&B always had a funky look to it back in those days,” explained Motown producer Mickey Stevenson. “We felt that we should have a look that the mothers and fathers would want their children to follow.” Indeed, a meticulously controlled and glamorous image was an extremely important component in Berry Gordy’s Motown ideology. He required artists signed to the label to attend classes on etiquette, stage presence, and choreography. In fact, the strict division of labor that Gordy established in this company might be compared to the automobile assembly lines for which Detroit is well-known.
Thus, Motown set out to produce a sound, which it considered more refined and less “off-key” than the music played by mainstream soul and blues artists. In its early years of operation, Motown retained a rhythm and blues influence as evidenced in songs such as the Marvelettes’ “Please Mister Postman” (1961), Mary Wells’s “You Beat Me to the Punch” (1962), and Marvin Gaye’s “Pride and Joy” (1963).
One of the main forces responsible for the emergence of a unique “Motown sound” appeared in the production team of Brian and Eddie Holland, and Lamont Dozier, or H-D-H, as they came to be known. Utilizing the recording techniques of Phil Spector’s “wall of sound,” the H-D-H team brought fame to many of Motown’s “girl groups” such as Martha and the Vandellas, and the Supremes, featuring Diana Ross.
During 1966 and 1967, H-D-H began to use more complex string arrangements based upon minor chord structures. This gave rise to what has been referred to as their “classical period.” As a result, many Motown songs reflected the darker side of lost love and the conditions of ghetto life. This mood was captured in such songs by the Four Tops as “Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” “Bernadette,” and “Seven Rooms of Gloom.”
After the Holland-Dozier-Holland team left Motown in 1968, the company, faced with numerous artistic and economic problems, fell into a state of decline. A year later, Gordy signed the Jackson Five, the last major act to join the label before its demise. The Jacksons landed 13 consecutive hit singles including “ABC” and “I’ll Be There,” championing a style that might be called “bubblegum soul”—African American music directed at a preteen and young adolescent audience, a legacy that was seen in 1980s and 1990s groups such as New Edition and Boyz II Men. In 1971, Gordy moved the Motown Record Corporation to Los Angeles, where the company directed its efforts toward filmmaking. Through the late 1970s and early 1980s, Motown continued to sign such acts as the Commodores, Lionel Richie, and DeBarge. But in 1984, Gordy entered into a distribution agreement with MCA records and eventually sold Motown to an entertainment conglomerate.
Disillusionment after the deaths of civil rights champion Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and black power advocate Malcolm X, along with the lingering trauma of the Vietnam War and the worsening plight of America’s inner cities, had a marked influence on soul’s direction. Curtis Mayfield projected a vision of wary hope in his early 1970s work. His landmark soundtrack for the “blaxploitation” film Superfly reflected the new soul paradigm: at once gritty and symphonic, encompassing soul’s far-reaching ambition and funk’s uncompromising, earthy realism. Isaac Hayes’s theme from Shaft, another urban action film, earned an Academy Award. Much of the funk and soul of this period drew not only on the percolating rhythms developed by Brown but also on the trailblazing guitar work of Jimi Hendrix.
Hailed by many as the greatest electric guitarist of all time, Hendrix had toiled as a sideman for numerous rhythm and blues acts but emerged as a rocker of the first order during the mid-1960s. By the time of his death in 1970, he had revolutionized lead guitar playing forever; his use of the wah-wah pedal, an effect that lent a powerful percussive dimension to the instrument, became a staple of funk. His melding of psychedelic rock, hard blues, and soul tropes, meanwhile, influenced the “psychedelic soul” that emerged in his wake.
Commercial soul addressed the tenor of the times. Trailblazers Sly and the Family Stone focused less on the rainbow-colored sentiments of the preceding era and more on urban turmoil with their landmark album There’s a Riot Going On, as did Marvin Gaye with hits such as “Trouble Man” and “What’s Goin’ On.” The O’Jays enjoyed chart success with such anxious singles as “Backstabbers” and “For the Love of Money,” and the Temptations wrapped their prodigious vocal chops around inner-city woes on “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” among other smashes.
These commercial laments were outstripped in daring—though not in sales—by the work of Detroit’s Funkadelic. Fronted by singer and hairstylist George Clinton, who led a doo wop group called The Parliaments in the 1950s, Funkadelic mixed acid rock’s cosmic guitar excursions with funk’s relentless grooves; a danger existed in their work that limited its commercial appeal, but profoundly influenced rock and rap.
Eventually, Clinton established another group, Parliament, which focused on horn-driven funk and elaborate, fantasy-oriented concept albums. Funkadelic and Parliament, though manifestly different at first, gradually moved into similar territory as “P. Funk”; the “P” meaning “pure.” Soon P. Funk was the umbrella term for a family of bands that included Bootsy’s Rubber Band and the Brides of Funkenstein. Clinton scored in the 1980s as a solo artist, most notably with the mega-hit “Atomic Dog.” P. Funk was so influential that for a time Parliament found itself competing with acts that appropriated its sound and themes including hitmakers such as the Ohio Players, Rick James, George Duke, and Earth, Wind and Fire. Though funk declined during the 1980s, artists such as Prince took it in a new, eclectic direction.
The decade did not lack for more traditionally romantic performers, however. Apart from Marvin Gaye, the period’s most seductive male vocalists were arguably Al Green and Barry White. Green’s rich falsetto and intimate phrasing on hits such as “Let’s Stay Together” and “Love and Happiness” quickly established him as a visionary in the genre; though he left pop music to sing gospel music and preach, he remained a beloved figure in the soul world and returned to the fold for a 1995 album. White’s bedroom soundtracks, meanwhile, kept lovers in thrall with an intoxicating blend of his baritone vocals and symphonic arrangements. Another funk direction coalesced in the work of jazz-based artists such as Herbie Hancock and Patrice Rushen, both of whom scored hits in the 1970s and 1980s that coincided with the appearance of the so-called “Quiet Storm” format in rhythm and blues radio programming. Each drew on jazz, rhythm and blues, and funk in their recordings, some of them featuring piano solos that extended them beyond the length of typical rhythm and blues recordings.
During the mid-1970s, club dance floors were increasingly dominated by the pulsating sounds of disco. With its thumping beat and lush arrangements, the music was viewed by many as a saccharine and escapist form that betrayed the mission of funk and soul. While a number of powerful performers emerged from the disco scene, few could approach the star power of diva Donna Summer, who enjoyed a wave of hits before a religious conversion moved her into gospel. Though disco’s “crossover” success meant that a number of artists who scored in that format were white, several all-African American acts, notably Chic, Kool and the Gang, and LaBelle, flourished during this period.
While funk sold millions of records and received extensive radio airplay in the mid-1970s, rap music emerged within a small circle of New York artists and entertainers in neighborhoods in Upper Manhattan and the South Bronx. Rap music belongs to a larger cultural system known as hip hop, which comprises graffiti writing and breakdancing (and its derivatives) together with rapping itself. Disc jockeys at private parties discovered how to use “little raps” between songs to keep dancers on their feet. From behind the microphone, DJs created a call and response pattern with the audience. Rapping consists of a vocalist performing nonto semi-melodic oral declamations over a rhythmic background, which can be as sparse as a single drum track or an elaborate, multi-textured, multiple instrumental track. Taking advantage of their master of ceremonies status, they often boasted of their intellectual or sexual prowess. “Soon a division of labor emerged,” explained Jefferson Morley. “DJs concentrated on perfecting the techniques of manipulating the turntables, while master of ceremonies (MCs or rappers) concentrated on rapping in rhymes.” Through the use of a special stylus, rappers moved records back and forth on the turntable in order to create a unique rhythmic sound, known within the rap culture as needle rocking and later as “scratching.” In its short history, both the MC and DJ aspects of rap music having undergone significant changes, and the genre has exploded in many artistic directions and satellite idioms such as hip hop soul, New Jack Swing, and gangsta rap, among other approaches. The subject matter addressed in rap music has been equally eclectic, covering many topics including male and female braggadocio, highly sexualized content, gender relationships, race politics, partying, and youthful leisure.
Long before the modern rap, or hip hop, culture appeared, however, there were African American artists who performed in a rap style idiom. In 1929, for instance, New York singer-comedian Pigmeat Markham gave performances representative of an early rap style.
Rap music is also rooted in the talking jazz style of a group of ex-convicts called the Last Poets. During the 1960s, this ensemble of African American intellectuals rapped in complex rhythms over music played by jazz accompanists. Last Poet member Jalal Uridin, recording under the name Lightning Rod, released an album entitled Hustler’s Convention. Backed by the funk band Kool and the Gang, Uridin’s recording became very influential to the early New York rappers.
Among one of the first New York rap artists of the early 1970s was Jamaican-born Clive Campbell, aka Cool Herc. A street DJ, Herc developed the art of sampling, the method of playing a section of a recording over and over in order to create a unique dance mix. Others to join the New York scene were black nationalist DJ Africa Bambaataa from the southeast Bronx and Joseph Saddler, known as Grandmaster Flash, from the central Bronx. Flash formed the group Grandmaster Flash and The Three MCs (Cowboy, Kid Creole, and Melle Mel). Later he added Kurtis Blow and Duke Bootee who founded the Furious Five.
However, rap music did not reach a broad audience until 1980 when the Sugar Hill Gang’s song “Rapper’s Delight” received widespread radio airplay. Small record companies began to affect the development of pop for the first time in years. Def Jam spearheaded the rise of influential rappers LL Cool J, Run-DMC, and Public Enemy, while Tommy Boy Records contributed to the rise of electro-funk. As rap groups assembled during the decade, they began to use their art to describe the harsh realities of inner city life. Unlike early rap music which was generally upbeat and exuberant in tone, the rap style of the 1980s exhibited a strong sense of racial and political consciousness. Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message” was the first blatantly political rap hit; its yearning and desperation recalled the angst-ridden soul records of the preceding decade and hinted as rap’s potential. Toward the end of the decade, rap came to express an increasing sense of racial militancy. Inspired by the Nation of Islam and the teachings of martyred race leader Malcolm X, rap groups such as Public Enemy turned their music into voice supporting black power. Public Enemy’s second LP It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back sold more than 1 million copies. Their song “Fight the Power” appeared in director Spike Lee’s film Do the Right Thing. The group’s third album Fear of a Black Planet was released in 1990. While it is a statement against “western cultural supremacy,” explained group member Chuck D., it is also “about the coming together of all races” in a “racial rebirth.” Rapper KRS-One of Boogie Down Productions provided eloquent, barbed political commentary as well.
Women have also played a role in the shaping of rap music. Rap artists such as Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, and the group Salt-N-Pepa represent a growing number of female rappers who speak for the advancement of black women in American society. Queen Latifah has emerged as critic of male dominance in the music
The late 1980s also saw the birth of the “Native Tongues” school of rap, the graduates of which employed an eclectic array of samples and more heavily relied on humor and baroque rhymes than did their hardcore and political counterparts. The best known groups of this school were De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and The Pharcyde; Digital Underground, meanwhile, openly aspired to be “Sons of the P.” and wove elaborate Parliament-esque concepts. Artists with a more bohemian bent began to rely heavily on jazz; some, such as Digable
Planets and US3, sold briskly. A few, such as Arrested Development and Spearhead, stayed close to their soul and funk roots.
The biggest story in rap during the 1990s was the rise of “gangsta” rap, which utilized old school funk beats and dwelt on hustling and violence—usually without soul’s veneer of guarded optimism. The group N.W.A. (Niggaz With Attitude) upset social conservatives with their megahit “F___ Tha Police,” and its alumni Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy E would all become major solo artists. Ice-T put a slightly more deliberative spin on his gangster tales, but it was Dre’s Snoop Doggy Dogg and former Digital Underground member Tupac Shakur, who would become the biggest crossover acts of all. Snoop’s laid-back style in particular earned him pop status with cuts such as “Gin and Juice,” “Murder Was the Case,” and “Doggy Dogg World.” The crossover success of these recordings was so worrisome to aforementioned conservatives that gangsta rap lyrics became a staple in political speeches, and politicians and activist groups threatened to take action against record companies that released such material. Shakur, Notorious B.I.G. (a.k.a. Biggie Smalls), and Lil’ Kim, all made impacts on hip hop culture with powerfully explicit lyrics. The murders of Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. sent shock waves throughout the entertainment industry and inspired passionate pleas from insiders to tone down some of the more violent lyrics in some artists’ work.
Some pop rappers, such as MC Hammer (who eventually dropped the “MC”) and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, enjoyed periodic success and then faded from the charts. Those who retained a bit more street-level credibility, on the other hand, such as Naughty By Nature, who had a mega-smash with “O.P.P.,” and Coolio, who ruled the charts and scored a Grammy Award for his “Gangster’s Paradise,” enjoyed a longer reign. Beginning in the mid-1980s and into the 1990s, rap artists such as Will Smith (the Fresh Prince), Ice Cube, Ice-T, Tupac Shakur, and Queen Latifah crossed over successfully into film and television projects (some of them with hip hop themes), confirming the widespread acceptance of these artists throughout American culture. Some of these films such as Do the Right Thing and Boyz N the Hood enjoyed critical acclaim and popularity.
In the mid-1990s, creative rhyme style and techniques were perpetuated by Das Efx, Fu-Schnickens, Mystikal, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Busta Rhymez, and the Fugees, among others. With its array of styles and points of view, rap has emerged as a primary cultural form for young African Americans. Similar to the music of its predecessors, rap is filled with artistic energy and descriptions of the human experience. As a 1999 Time magazine cover story exclaims, rap music and hip hop rose in 20 short years from a subcultural expression to one that has changed the course of American popular culture in profound ways.
Perhaps in part to counter the increasing dominance of hardcore hip hop in the marketplace, rhythm and blues and soul moved in a softer direction during the 1980s; as bands were replaced by sequenced keyboards and drum machines, recordings in this genre were increasingly dominated by producers and vocalists. Even longtime soul legends such as Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan moved in a glossier direction. This period saw the rise of a handful of phenomenally successful singers, notably Whitney Houston, whose mother Cissy had sung with Franklin and others. Following a monster debut, Houston collected a string of hits and awards; her apotheosis came with the gargantuan sales of the soundtrack to the film The Bodyguard in which she also had a starring role. Houston’s athletic vocal chops paved the way for a number of other new soul divas including Toni Braxton, Mariah Carey, and Mary J. Blige. Producers L.A. Reid and Babyface were among the preeminent hitmakers of this era; like Babyface, R. Kelley was successful both as producer and recording artist. Special mention should be made here of producer Teddy Riley, whose “New Jack Swing” combined the soul singing, hip hop grooves, and intermittent rap performances captured dance audiences in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Minneapolis-based producing team Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, also important innovators in the “New Jack Swing” idiom, helped to define the sound of pop-hip hop in the early 1990s. The duo is credited with crafting pop entertainer Janet Jackson’s extremely popular sound as her career matured. Perhaps the most successful producer/performer in the pop-hip hop arena has been Sean “Puffy” Combs, who almost single-handedly defined the sound of mainstream hip hop in the mid- to late 1990s.
While the soft-edged trend continued through the 1990s, some artists within the fold, such as the smash
groups TLC and En Vogue, flirted with old school soul. Meanwhile, “alternative” or “nuevo” soul emerged at the margins, thanks to artists such as bassist/singer-songwriter Me’Shell Ndeg Ocello, Arrested Development refugee Dionne Farris, and Marvin Gaye-disciple D’Angelo. Artists such as Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, and Faith Evans enjoyed popularity and critical success, with their unique blends of hip hop sensibilities and soul singing styles. Boyz II Men, Brandy, and Monica updated the bubble-gum soul style of previous decades.
Since the year 2000, a new classic soul style emerged that looked back to the early-mid-1970s for its inspiration. Personified best by the gifted vocalist and poet Jill Scott of Philadelphia, this loose network of artists sport hair styles and clothing closely identified with the Black Power Movement. Like an artists collective of the Movement’s cultural arm, new classic soul musicians combine poetry, social consciousness, and cultural critique with the sound of live funk bands and other production values of hip-hop, especially acid jazz a’ la Earth Wind and Fire, the Ohio Players, and the Gap Band. Themes of romantic love and gospel-drenched vocal techniques also link new classic soul to the past, but the subtle mixture of jazz fusion, funk, poetry, rapping, and soul singing of the highest order demonstrate a healthy eclecticism that has carried African American popular culture into the next century with a roar.
(To locate biographical profiles more readily, please consult the index at the back of the book.)
YOLANDA ADAMS. SEESACRED MUSIC TRADITIONS CHAPTER.
NICHOLAS ASHFORD AND VALERIE SIMPSON (1942– / 1946– ) Singers, Songwriters
One of the most enduring songwriting teams to emerge from Motown is the duo of Nicholas Ashford and Valerie Simpson. For over a quarter of a century, the team has written hit songs for artists from Ray Charles to Diana Ross.
Nick Ashford was born in Fairfield, South Carolina, on May 4, 1942; Valerie Simpson was born in the Bronx section of New York City on August 26, 1946. The two met in the early 1960s while singing in the same choir at Harlem’s White Rock Baptist Church. With Ashford’s gift for lyrics and Simpson’s exceptional gospel piano and compositional skills, the two began to write for the staff of Scepter Records in 1964. Two years later, their song “Let’s Go Get Stoned” became a hit for Ray Charles.
In 1962, Ashford and Simpson joined Motown’s Jobete Music, where they wrote and produced hit songs for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell including “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” “Good Loving Ain’t Easy to Come By,” and the “Onion Song.” Next, they worked with Diana Ross who had just set out to establish a solo career producing such hits as “Remember Me,” “Reach Out (and Touch Somebody’s Hand),” and an updated version of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
Ashford and Simpson’s success as songwriters led them to release their own solo recording Exposed in 1971. After signing with Warner Brothers in 1973, they recorded a number of hit LPS: Is It Still Good To Ya (1978); Stay Free (1979); A Musical Affair (1980); and their biggest seller Solid in 1985. The duo temporarily retired from recording in the late 1980s but they returned to the recording scene in 1996, when they launched their own label Hopsack and Silk. Their first release was a collaboration with renowned poet Maya Angelou titled Been Found. In 1999, the couple celebrated their 25 year wedding anniversary with a gala in New York.
On August 16th, 2006, Playbill Online reported that Ashford and Simpson are writing the score for a musical based on E. Lynn Harris’s novel Invisible Life. In January 2007, they, along with Tina Turner, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Sidney Poitier, director Spike Lee and comedian Chris Tucker, accompanied Oprah Winfrey when she opened up the school for disadvantaged girls in South Africa.
ANITA BAKER (1958– ) Singer
One of the most sophisticated soul divas to emerge in the 1980s, Baker considers herself “a balladeer” dedicated to singing music rooted in the tradition of gospel music and jazz. Inspired by her idols Mahalia Jackson, Sarah Vaughan, and Nancy Wilson, Baker brings audiences a sincere vocal style which defies commercial trends and electronic overproduction.
Born on January 26, 1958, in Toledo, Ohio, Baker was raised in a single-parent middle class family in Detroit. She first sang in storefront churches, where it was common for the congregation to improvise on various gospel themes. After graduating from Central High School, Baker sang in the Detroit soul/funkgroup Chapter 8. Although Chapter 8 recorded the album I Just Want To Be Your Girl for the Ariola label, the group’s lack of commercial success caused it to disband, and for the next three years, Baker worked as a receptionist in a law firm.
In 1982, Baker, after signing a contract with Beverly Glen, moved to Los Angeles, where she recorded the critically acclaimed solo album Songstress. Following a legal battle with Glen, Baker signed with Elektra and recorded her debut hit album Rapture in 1986. As the album’s executive producer, Baker sought “a minimalist approach” featuring simple recording techniques which captured the natural sounds of her voice. The LP’s single “Sweet Love” brought Baker immediate crossover success. Baker’s follow-up effort, the multiplatinum selling Giving You the Best I Got is considered one of the finest pop music albums of the 1990s. Her third effort Compositions, recorded in 1990, featured a number of backup musicians including Detroit jazz guitarist Earl Klugh.
After a nearly four-year hiatus, Baker released the double platinum Rhythm of Love in 1994. In 1996, Baker filed lawsuits against Elektra, her management and her legal staff. She subsequently joined the Atlantic label, but as of mid-1999 has yet to release an album on that label. Rhino however did put out a compilation album of Baker’s in 2002 entitled The Best of Anita Baker. Winner of five Grammys, two NAACP Image Awards, two American Music Awards, two Soul Train Awards, and a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, Baker has brought her audiences music of eloquence and integrity that sets her apart from most of her contemporaries.
Grammy-winning producer Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds filed suit in April 2006 against Anita Baker, claiming the singer failed to pay him for a song he produced for her. Babyface claimed he is owed $100,000 for co-writing “Like You Used to Do” during a Detroit session in May 2004. The song was used on Baker’s album “My Everything.” Babyface also asked for $150,000 for two cancelled shows that he agreed to do with Baker in July 2005.
HARRY BELAFONTE. SEEFILM AND TELEVISION CHAPTER.
CHUCK BERRY (1926– ) Singer, Songwriter, Guitarist
The first guitar hero of rock and roll, Chuck Berry’s jukebox hits of the 1950s remain some of the most imaginative poetic tales in the history of popular music. Influenced by such bluesmen as Aaron T-Bone Walker and the picking styles of rockabilly and country musicians, Berry’s solo guitar work brought the guitar to the forefront of rhythm and blues. His driving ensemble sound paved the way for the emergence of bands from the Beach Boys to the Rolling Stones.
Born on October 18, 1926, in San Jose, California, Charles Edward Anderson Berry grew up in a middle-class neighborhood on the outskirts of St. Louis. Berry first sang gospel music at home and at the Antioch Baptist Church. Although Berry was drawn to the sounds of bluesmen such as Tampa Red, Arthur Crudup, and Muddy Waters, he did not become serious about music until he was given a guitar by local rhythm and blues musician Joe Sherman. Taken by the sounds of rhythm and blues, Berry formed a trio with Johnny Jones on piano and Ebby Harding on drums. Hired to play backyard barbecues, clubs, and house parties, the trio expanded their repertoire to include Nat “King” Cole ballads and country songs by Hank Williams.
By 1955, the 28-year-old Berry had become a formidable rhythm and blues guitarist and singer. While in Chicago, Berry visited a club to hear his idol, Muddy Waters, perform. At the suggestion of Waters, Berry visited Chess Studios where he eventually signed with the label. Berry’s first hit for Chess was “Maybelline,” a country song formerly entitled “Ida May.” In 1956 Berry continued on a path toward superstardom with the hits “Roll Over Beethoven,”
“Oh Baby Doll,” followed by “Rock and Roll Music,” and the guitar anthem “Johnny B. Goode.”
Released from the Indiana Federal Prison in 1964 after serving a sentence for violating the Mann Act, Berry resumed his musical career, recording “Nadine” and “No Particular Place to Go.” Since the 1970s, Berry has continued to record and tour. Berry’s 1972 release of the novelty tune “My-Ding-a-Ling” became his best-selling single. In 1988, Taylor Hackford paid tribute to the guitar legend in his film Hail! Hail! Rock ’n Roll. Berry was also a featured performer at the opening of Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in 1995. In 2000 Berry was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors Gala as one of the twentieth century’s most influential musicians. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Chuck Berry number five on their list of The Immortals: 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
MARY J. BLIGE (1971– ) Hip Hop Singer
Born in 1971 in Yonkers, New York, Blige was raised in the Schlobohm housing projects. In her youth, Blige was
influenced by the rhythm and blues, soul, and funk albums that her mother played, as well as the early lessons her father, a professional jazz musician, gave her. She landed a record deal when Andre Harrell of Uptown Records heard a karaoke tape which she had recorded at age 16.
Called the inventor of “New Jill Swing” by Stereo Review, Blige’s debut album What’s the 411 (1992) sold more than 3 million copies and her second album My Life (1994) went multiplatinum, establishing her career as an international recording star. She won a Grammy Award in 1996 for “You’re All I Need,” which was a duet with the rapper Method Man. Her third project Share My World (1997) was also granted multiplatinum status. Blige has also been dubbed the “Queen of Hip Hop Soul,” a designation that characterizes the hallmarks her style: soulful melodies over hip hop rhythm tracks.
In 1999, Blige’s album Mary hit the charts with such singles as “All That I Can Say” and “Sexy.” In 2001, Blige released her fifth album No More Drama, a deeply personal album that remained a collective effort musically yet reflected more of Blige’s songwriting than any of her previous efforts. By 2007 Blige had sold over thirty four million albums.
In 2006 Blige released an album of duets, Mary J. Blige & Friends, with accompanying DVD. All of the proceeds from the album through February 2007 were to go the Boys & Girls Club of America.
On December 12, 2006, Reflections—A Retrospective was released. The album contained some of Blige’s top songs as well as four new songs including the singles “We Ride (I See the Future)” (the first single) and “Reflections (I Remember).” Both songs were written and produced with the help of Bryan Michael Cox and Johnta Austin, the team that made “Be Without You.” The first single from the album in the UK was “MJB Da MVP”, and this track was only included on the international version of the album.
She also received eight Grammy Award nominations at the 2007 Grammy Awards for The Breakthrough, the most of any artist for the 2007 awards. “Be Without You” was nominated for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Mary won three Grammy Awards: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, Best R&B Song (both for “Be Without You”), and Best R&B Album for The Breakthrough.
BOW WOW (1987– ) Hip Hop Singer
Bow Wow, who was born Shad Gregory Moss in Columbus, Ohio, started his career in rap when he was five using the name “Kid Gangsta”. One year later, in 1993, he performed at a Chronic tour in Columbus with rappers Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, who subsequently gave him the stage name “Lil’ Bow Wow”. Dr. Dre later hired him as an opening act, officially gaining him a spot on the Death Row Records roster. “Lil’ Bow Wow” appeared in a skit on Snoop’s debut Doggystyle. By 1998, Bow Wow was introduced to record producer Jermaine Dupri, who helped shape his career.
In 2000 he released his first album, Beware of Dog, and became a successful recording artist under Dupri’s mentor-ship; the same year, Bow Wow’s single, “Bounce With Me,” was also successful. After the success of Bow Wow’s debut album, he released 2002’s Doggy Bag, which contained, among others, the songs “Thank You” and “Take You Home”. During this time he removed the “Lil” from his professional name. He eventually broke out on his own in 2003 with the album Unleashed, which was his first without Dupri’s writing assistance; the album’s sales were lower than that of his first two. In addition to his own albums, Bow Wow has had a guest appearance on several TV shows.
Bow Wow made his acting debut in Like Mike, which was released on July 3, 2002, where he starred as a young orphan who gets a shot at the NBA. He also co-starred with Cedric the Entertainer, Vanessa Williams, and Solange Knowles in Johnson Family Vacation. In 2005, Bow Wow released his fourth album, Wanted, on which he once again worked with Jermaine Dupri. The album featured two singles that reached #1 on the R&B charts, “Let Me Hold You” (featuring Omarion) and “Like You”, featuring Ciara. Since the success of Like Mike, Bow Wow has starred in several Hollywood films, In 2005 he appeared in the movie Roll Bounce.
Bow Wow has also developed a clothing line entitled Shago. In July of 2006 he received a Hollywood Life award for being “the most exciting crossover artist”.
Bow Wow’s fifth album, The Price of Fame, was released on December 19, 2006. Bow Wow was a guest star on the television show Smallville in November 2006 in the episode entitled “Fallout”. Bow Wow owns several businesses.
BRANDY (1979– ) Singer, Actress
Although only a teenager, Brandy became one of the biggest pop stars of the 1990s. Her immense talent came through not only in her singing career, but also in her success as a television and film actress. Born Brandy Rayana Norwood on February 11, 1979, in McComb, Mississippi, Brandy’s family moved to Los Angeles when she was four. The daughter of a choir director, Brandy’s vocal training began in her church’s youth choir. Early on, she and her younger brother, Ray-J, displayed enough talent to be featured in choir performances. By age 11, Brandy had begun singing at local events, and even placed second in an all-ages talent show. Just a year later, she landed a spot as a backup singer for the R&B group Immature.
In 1993, at the age of 14, Brandy signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records. That year she also earned a role on the short-lived ABC sitcom, Thea. Brandy released her self-titled debut album in 1994, becoming a sensation with the singles “I Wanna Be Down,” “Baby” and “Brokenhearted.” She also experienced massive success as a contributor to the soundtracks for the films Waiting to Exhale (“Sittin’ Up in My Room”), Batman Forever (“Where Are You Now?”), and Set it Off (“Missing You”).
Brandy returned to acting, landing the starring role on the successful UPN sitcom, Moesha. The show ran from 1996-2001, earning Brandy an even larger following. In 1997, she appeared in the starring-role of Disney’s television film version of Cinderella, and in 1999, she appeared alongside Diana Ross in the television movie Double Platinum. Brandy also made her feature film debut that year with a role in the film I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.
Her second solo album release, Never S-A-Y Never (1998), proved to be even more successful than her first. “The Boy Is Mine,” a duet with fellow teen-sensation, Monica, topped both the pop and R&B charts for weeks. The single earned the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group. Never S-A-Y Never went on to sell more than five million copies. In 2002, Brandy released her third album, Full Moon, and caused a stir by anouncing that she had been secretly married for months to producer and songwriter, Robert Smith. Her fourth album was Afrodisiac in 2004 and her fifth, The Best of Brandy, in 2006.
One album is in the making in 2007. In addition to singing, Brandy also continues to work in TV and films.
BOBBY BROWN (1969– ) Singer
Savvy and street smart, singer Bobby Brown possesses a charismatic charm which has earned him numerous million-selling records. Born on February 5, 1969, in Boston, he was a founding member of the successful group New Edition. Brown remained with the group from 1984 to 1987. His solo debut album King of Stage featured the single “Girlfriend.” Brown’s second release Don’t Be Cruel produced the single “Don’t Be Cruel,” and the video hits “My Prerogative” and “Every Little Step.”
In 1990, Brown embarked on a worldwide tour after releasing a successful single from the soundtrack to the hit movie Ghostbusters II. In July of 1992 Brown married singer/actress Whitney Houston in a star-studded ceremony. Two years later, the two solo artists performed together for the first time on the televised 1994 Soul Train Music Awards program. Aside from maintaining a burgeoning music career, Brown is the owner of B. Brown Productions, as well as his own private recording studio.
Brown’s violent temper and brushes with the law continue the subject of much publicity up to 2007, even eclipsing the release of his 1993 recording Remixes in the Key of B and the album Forever in 1997. In early 1998 he was convicted of drunk driving. Later that year he was arrested for misdemeanor sexual battery, but the charges were eventually dropped In July of 2000, Brown served 65 days in jail for violating his probation. Brown tried to get his career back on track in 2001 by appearing in the movie Two Can Play at That Game. In June 2005, Brown launched his own reality series, “Being Bobby Brown,” on the Bravo television network.
In the fall of 2005 New Edition performed a some of their hits on BET’s 25th Year Celebration and brought Brown onstage to perform Mr. Telephone Man. Brown then brought the house down with his big solo hit My Prerogative. It was announced later that Brown has rejoined New Edition and the group was a six man group again. Although magazines, newspapers and gossip columns in 2006 and 2007 included reports about Houston’s separation and divorce from Brown and Brown’s child support issues, 2007 news stories report Houston-Brown rendez-vous with their daughter.
CHRIS BROWN (1989– ) Singer, Actor
Chris Brown was born on May 4, 1989 and raised in the small town of Tappahannock, Virginia. As a youth he performed in local talent shows. Before becoming a vocalist, Brown was interested in becoming a rapper, but he began to notice his singing talent by age 11. At the age of 13, he was discovered by a local production team who visted his father’s gas station searching for new talent.
Brown began his recording career and moved to New York, staying there for two years.
Other than his singing career, He has branched into some acting. He made short appearances on UPN’s One on One and The-N’s The Brandon T. Jackson Show on its pilot episode. In addition, Brown landed a small role as a band geek in the fourth season of FOX’s The O.C. in January 2007. Brown made his big screen debut in Stomp The Yard (originally titled Steppin’) alongside Ne-Yo, Meagan Good and Columbus Short in January 2007.
In 2006 Brown won the Soul Train Music Award for the best R & B/Soul New Artist, the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding New Artist, and BET awards for best new artist and viewers choice, Billboard Award for male artist of the year. He has received many other nominations. His two albums are Chris Brown, 2005, and Exclusive 2007.
JAMES BROWN (1933–2006) Singer, Bandleader
James Brown’s impact on American and African popular music has been of seismic proportion. His explosive onstage energy and intense gospel music and rhythm and blues-based sound earned him numerous titles such as “The Godfather of Soul,” “Mr. Dynamite,” and “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.” During the 1960s and early 1970s, Brown’s back-up groupcalled the Flames, the Famous Flames, and then the JBSe-merged as one of the greatest soul bands in the history of modern music, one that served as a major force in the development of funk and fusion jazz.
Born in Barnell, South Carolina, on May 3, 1933, Brown moved to Augusta, Georgia, at the age of four. Although he was raised by various relatives in conditions of economic deprivation, Brown possessed an undaunted determination to succeed at an early age. When not picking cotton, washing cars, or shining shoes, he earned extra money by dancing on the streets and at amateur contests. In the evening, Brown watched shows by such bandleaders as Louis Jordan and Lucky Millinder.
At 15, Brown quit school to take up a full-time music career. In churches, Brown sang with the Swanee Quartet and the Gospel Starlighters, which soon afterward became the rhythm and blues group the Flames. During the same period he also sang and played drums with rhythm and
blues bands. While with the Flames, Brown toured extensively, performing a wide range of popular material including the Five Royales’s “Baby Don’t Do It,” the Clovers’s “One Mint Julep,” and Hank Ballard and the Midnight-ers’s hit “Annie Had a Baby.”
In 1956, Brown’s talents caught the attention of Syd Nathan, founder of King Records. In the same year, after signing with the Federal label, a subsidiary of King, Brown recorded “Please Please Please.” After the Flames disbanded in 1957, Brown formed a new Flames ensemble, featuring former members of Little Richard’s band. Back in the studio the following year, Brown recorded “Try Me” which became a Top 50 pop hit. On the road, Brown polished his stage act and singing ability, producing what became known as the “James Brown Sound.” His 1965 hit “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” earned him a Grammy for best rhythm and blues recording, a feat he repeated in 1986 with “Living in America,” a song that appeared on the soundtrack of the film Rocky IV.
After the release of “Out of Sight,” Brown’s music exhibited a more polyrhythmic sound as evidenced in staccato horn bursts and contrapuntal bass lines. Each successive release explored increasingly new avenues of popular music. Brown’s 1967 hit “Cold Sweat” and the 1968 release “I Got the Feeling” not only sent shock waves through the music industry, they served as textbooks of rhythm for thousands of aspiring musicians. In 1970 Brown disbanded the Flames and formed the JBs, featuring Bootsy Collins. The group produced a string of hits such as “Super Bad” and “Sex Machine.” Universal James (1993) was Brown’s 79th album.
Despite the negative publicity generated by the oft “in trouble” performer, Brown’s career remained effervescent in the late 1980s to 1990s. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, the ever popular Brown received the Ray Charles Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation as part of the organization’s Pioneer Awards program in 1993. Later that year, he was awarded for his lifetime achievements at the Black Radio Exclusive awards banquet in Washington, D.C. Also, Steamboat Springs, Colorado, voted to name a bridge after the soulster and Brown’s hometown of Augusta, followed suit by naming a street after him. Perhaps the sweetest tribute paid to Brown has been the naming of the James Brown Cookeez by a Georgia-based cookie company. Many of his recordings were reissued in the 1990s, and hundreds of his records have been sampled by those in rap and hip hop circles, illustrating Brown’s continuing musical influence. Brown’s most recent appearance was at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., in “United We Stand: What More Can I Give,” a benefit for victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
On November 14, 2006, Brown performed at the ceremony when he was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame. In recognition of his accomplishments as an entertainer, Brown was a recipient of Kennedy Center Honors on December 7, 2003. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked James Brown as #7 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. James Brown was also honored in his hometown Augusta, Georgia for his philanthropy and civic activities. On November 20, 1993, Mayor Charles DeVaney of the city of Augusta, Georgia held a ceremony to dedicate a section of 9th Street between Broad and Twiggs Streets, renamed “James Brown Boulevard,” in the entertainer’s honor. On May 6, 2005, as a 72nd birthday present for Brown, the City of Augusta unveiled a life-sized bronze statue of the singer on Broad Street.
In January 2004, Brown was arrested in South Carolina on a domestic violence charge after Tomi Rae Hynie accused him of pushing her to the floor during an argument at their home, where she suffered scratches and bruises to her right arm and hip. Later that year in June 2004, Brown pleaded no contest to the domestic violence incident, but served no jail time. Instead, Brown was required to forfeit a $1,087 bond as punishment
Brown continued to perform regularly even when he was ill. On December 25, 2006 the entertainer died in Atlanta, Georgia. After Brown’s death on Christmas day, Brown’s relatives and friends, celebrities and thousands of fans attended public memorial services at the Apollo Theater in New York on December 28, 2006 and at the James Brown Arena on December 30, 2006 in Augusta, Georgia. A separate, private memorial service was also held in North Augusta, South Carolina on December 29, 2006, which was attended by Brown’s family and close friends. Celebrities who attended Brown’s public and/or private memorial services included Joe Frazier, Dick Gregory, MC Hammer, Jesse Jackson, Michael Jackson and Don King, among others. In early 2007 Brown’s family member had still not decided on a permanent burial site for Brown.
RUTH BROWN (1928–2006) Singer
Born Ruth Weston on January 30, 1928, in Portsmouth, Virginia, Ruth was initially influenced by jazz greats Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington, and Billie Holiday. She ran away from home in 1945 with trumpeter Jimmy Brown whom she soon married. Initial career frustrations including a serious car accident that hospitalized her for nine months from 1948 ;1949, delayed her debut. However, her first recording for Atlantic in 1949, “So Long,” was a torch ballad hit. In the early 1950s her seductive vocal delivery placed her on the rhythm and blues charts with such tunes as “Teardrops in My Eyes,” “I Know,” “5-10-15 Hours,” and “He Treats Your Daughter Mean.” By 1960 she had a dozen rhythm and blues chart hits before her career declined.
Brown raised two sons and worked a nine-to-five job before reviving her career in the mid-1970s with television, movie, and stage appearances including her 1989 Broadway show Black and Blue for which she won a Tony Award. In the 1990s Ruth has issued some fine recordings including: Fine and Mellow (1991); Songs of My Life (1993); Live in London (1996); R+B=Ruth Brown (1997); and Good Day for the Blues. She also hosted radio shows on National Public Radio, and formed the nonprofit Rhythm & Blues Foundation, an organization that helps musicians recoup their share of royalties (Ruth has personally endured a nine-year fight with Atlantic to win back her royalties). In 1999 Brown published Miss Rhythm: The Autobiography of Ruth Brown, Rhythm and Blues Legend chronicling her career and the rise of Blues music.
Ruth’s hit-making reign during the 1950s helped establish the prominence of the blues as a market force. She died at age seventy-eight in Las Vegas on November 17, 2006.
MARIAH CAREY (1970– ) R&B Singer and Songwriter
Mariah Carey was born in Long Island, NY, to an Irish mother and a black Hispanic father in 1970. A day after her high school graduation, Mariah moved to New York City to pursue a singing career. Her first album Mariah Carey in 1990 made it all the way to number one on the charts and her second album, Emotions, in 1991 was also successful. She released her third album, Music Box, in 1993 which included number one singles Dreamlover and Hero. In 1994 she released a holiday album, Merry Christmas, in 1995 the album, Daydream and in 1997, Butterfly. Carey released a compilation of her thirteen hit singles named #1s in 1998. She continued to be prolific releasing Rainbow in 1999 and after signing with Island/Def Jam, set up her own label, MonarC Music and released Charmbracelet in 2002 and The Emancipation of Mimi in 2005, a multiplatinum hit. The Emancipation of Mimi, featuring the hit single, “We Belong Together,” earned 8 Grammy nominations. She won three, including one for Best Contemporary R&B Album. Carey has also made a variety of television, video and movie appearances.
RAY CHARLES (1930–2004) Singer, Pianist, Bandleader
Ray Charles Robinson was born on September 23, 1930, in Albany, Georgia. Blinded by glaucoma at the age of six, Charles received his first musical training at a school for the blind in St. Augustine, Florida. His parents died while he was in his teens, and after playing with local bands Charles moved to Seattle in 1947 where he formed a trio. Influenced by the smooth pop/rhythm and blues style of Charles Brown and Nat King Cole, Charles scored a top ten rhythm and blues hit with “Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand.” In the early 1950s he teamed with Guitar Slim and Ruth Brown before scoring a number two rhythm and blues hit with “I Got a Woman” in 1955. This recording was the first to capture Charles’s gospel moan and horn-driven arrangements that became his trademarks.
Throughout the 1950s Charles released a string of rhythm and blues hits that combined sophisticated arrangements with the emotional grit of rhythm and blues that would become known as “soul” music. Charles also scored his first top ten pop hit with “What’d I Say,” which highlighted Charles’s pleading church vocals with a rock and roll piano line. His singing and piano playing drew on many sources including jazz, and he cut pure jazz sides with David “Fathead” Newman and Milt Jackson, helping to imbibe a sense of “soul” and instrumental “funkiness” to the jazz idiom.
By the end of the 1950s, Charles switched to ABC Records and gained artistic control of his work. His pop success was assured with “Hit the Road Jack” followed in 1962 by “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” a country and western song that topped the charts. Charles was immensely popular through the mid-1960s before his career was halted in 1965 by his involvement with drugs. He emerged with more hits in the late 1960s, although he had begun to focus almost entirely on pop music.
Charles was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, received a National Medal of Arts in 1993, and took part in the 1995 JVC Newport Jazz Festival. Recipient of more than ten Grammy awards and honorary life chairman of the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame, Charles is also an inductee to the Pop Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He received an honorary doctorate in 1999 from Wilberforce University. In 2001, Charles teamed up with Bally’s entertainment to create the first slot machine for the blind. Charles continues to perform and make music, releasing his newest album, Thanks For Bringing Love Around Again in 2002, marking his seventh decade in the music business. Charles was involved in the biopic Ray, an October 2004 film which portrays his life and career between 1930 and 1966 and stars Jamie Foxx as Charles. Foxx won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Actor for the role. Before shooting began Foxx met Charles and they sat down at two pianos and play together. For two hours, Charles challenged Foxx, who revealed the depth of his talent, and finally, Charles stood up, hugged Foxx, and gave his blessing. Ray Charles died on June 10, 2004 after a long battle with cancer.
CIARA (1985– ) R&B, Hip Hop Singer
Ciara Princess Harris, born on October 25, 1985 in Austin, Texas, grew up on army bases in the US and Germany because her parents were in the military. When she was a teenager Ciara, impressed when she watched performances of Destiny’s Child, decided that she wanted a career in music. Ciara joined a girl group called Hearsay and tried to perfect her songwriting skills but left the group because of differences. Ciara got a publishing deal, and met producer Jazze Pha who assister her in signing with LaFace Records after she graduated from high school in 2003.
Ciara made her debut in the summer of 2004 with the Billboard number-one single Goodies in an album of the same name. The album became a commercial success in the US selling over two and a half million copies and reached number one in both the US and the United Kingdom. The second and third single 1, 2 Step featuring Missy Elliott and Oh featuring Ludacris were top five singles in both countries. In 2006 Ciara won her first Grammy for Missy Elliott’s Lose Control in the category Best Short Form MusicVideo. In April 2006, Ciara was featured on Field Mob’s Billboard top ten single So What. The following month, she made acting debut in the MTV Films production All You’ve Got. Ciara completed her second album in December 2006 and planned to release Maximum Ciara in 2007.
GEORGE CLINTON (1942– ) Singer, Songwriter, Bandleader, Producer
The father of “P. Funk,” (i.e., “pure”) George Clinton spun the funk formula refined by James Brown into an institution. His groups Parliament and Funkadelic and a panoply of offshoots kept the rest of the rhythm and blues world straining to keep up during the 1970s; by
the 1990s, the prodigious body of work recorded under the P. Funk moniker exercised a huge influence on rap, soul, and rock. Though he relied heavily on a group of talented musicians to bring his visions to life, Clinton was the visionary behind the legendary “Parliafunkadelicment Thang.”
Born in North Carolina, Clinton moved with his family to New Jersey during his adolescence; there he helped form a doo wop group called The Parliaments. After years of struggling and a move to Detroit, the group managed to sell some songs to other artists, but never achieved success on its own. With the advent of psychedelic rock in the mid-1960s, The Parliaments began to change in form; they morphed into Funkadelic by 1968, adding hard rock guitar and spacey grooves. The early Funkadelic albums, notably Maggot Brain, became classics of untamed funk rock.
Clinton deployed Parliament as a slightly more conventional funk vehicle in the early 1970s, emphasizing horns and more dance-oriented arrangements. By the middle of the decade, Parliament had become a major hitmaker with its fantasy-themed concept albums and its circus-like performances. Songs such as “Flash Light,” “Bop Gun (Endangered Species),” “Mothership Connection,” and “Aqua Boogie” became funk staples.
Funkadelic began to take a more commercial turn, particularly after signing with Warner Bros. Records; its biggest hits came with the albums One Nation Under a Groove and Uncle Jam Wants You. Clinton helped his bassist Bootsy Collins become a funk legend in his own right, and oversaw albums by such P. Funk enterprises as The Brides of Funkenstein, Parlet, and the P. Funk All-Stars, among many others. He also released a slew of solo recordings; his biggest hit in this capacity was the boisterous “Atomic Dog.” Though business declined for these acts during the 1980s, Clinton’s influence was constant in African American pop; by the 1990s, P. Funk recordings were among the most sampled in hip hop. Clinton went so far as to set up an easy licensing system for rap artists who wanted to lift from his work. Thanks to the adoration of everyone from Dr. Dre to rockers such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Clinton became a ubiquitous figure on the pop culture scene. He fronted the P. Funk All-Stars at the Lollapalooza Festival and appeared in numerous films and television commercials.
In 1999 Clinton filed a lawsuit against his record company for the rights to his 1960 and 1970s songs. Clinton however lost his lawsuit in 2001 due to a contract that he signed in 1983. George Clinton continues to tour with the P. Funk All-Stars and can often be seen on college campuses and smaller venues.
NATALIE COLE (1950– ) Singer
With five gold records and her star on Hollywood Boulevard, Natalie Cole has emerged since the 1980s as a major pop music star. Born on February 6, 1950, in Los Angeles, Natalie was the second daughter of jazz pianist and pop music legend Nat “King” Cole. During the early 1970s, Cole performed in nightclubs, while pursuing a degree in child psychology at the University of Massachusetts. In 1975, she recorded her first album Inseparable at Curtis Mayfield’s Custom Studios. Her other albums include: Thankful (1978); I’m Ready (1983); Good to Be Back (1989); Take a Look (1993); and Holly and Ivy (1994), which coincided with her PBS special “Natalie Cole’s Untraditional Traditional Christmas.”
In 1991, Cole released a 22-song collection of her father’s hits. The album, which contains a remixed version of the original title track “Unforgettable,” features a duet between Cole and her father and earned her “Record of the Year” and “Album of the Year” Grammys, complementing the Grammys she won in 1976 for best new artist and in 1976 and 1977 for best rhythm and blues female vocal performance. Cole also won two NAACP Image Awards in the mid-1970s and an American Music Award in 1978.
In 1996, Cole released her next album Stardust. She put touring with the album on hold so that she could join the cast of the animated movie Cats Don’t Dance which arrived in theaters in 1997. In 1998, Cole published her autobiography entitled Angel on My Shoulder depicting her triumph over drug use and bad marriages. In late 2000, NBC aired Livin’ Large: The Natalie Cole Story, a television movie in which Cole actually starred. In 2002, Cole wed Bishop Kenneth H. Dupree and also signed a contract with Verve records to produce her next few albums. Her first Verve album is in fall of 2002. In September 2006, she released “Leavin”’, a cover album of tracks made popular by Shelby Lynne, Kate Bush, Sting, and Fiona Apple, among others; the album is a hybrid of rock, pop music, and R&B.
SEAN “PUFFY” COMBS (1969– ) Music Company Executive, Entrepreneur
Sean Combs was born in New York, New York, in 1969. His ear for rap and hip hop combined with his production skills are a proven combination. He began to be noticed at the age of 19 in New York’s hip hop scene. As an intern at Uptown Records, Combs’s talents earned him a permanent position. He headed Uptown’s Artist & Repertoire department where his primary responsibilities were signing and developing new talents.
In 1991 Combs’s luck took a turn for the worse. Anxious fans for a charity basketball game rushed the entrance, killing nine people. The event, staged by Combs, put a black mark on his young career. Media attacks and mayoral investigations pushed Combs into a depression. Unable to work, he confined himself to his Mt. Vernon, New York, home. Within a year, Uptown fired him.
Frustration and rejection inspired Combs to pursue his life’s dreams. His talent had earned him a reputation, prompting Arista Records to sign him to a deal. Combs called this division of Arista Records “Bad Boy Entertainment.” Success soon followed as Bad Boy released hits by rappers Craig Mack and the Notorious B.I.G., both of whom Combs is credited for discovering.
The ability to find such talent sets Combs apart from most other hip hop producers. The success of Bad Boy’s hip hop artists led to the development of new artists. Various projects including the 1996 release of singer Faith Evans’s debut kept Combs busy. After the shooting death of his friend, Notorious B.I.G., on March 7, 1999, Combs rewrote some of the lyrics on his own debut album No Way Out. The album produced three hit singles including “I’ll Be Missing You,” a tribute to Notorious B.I.G. Combs continues to be driven to succeed, opening up a soul food restaurant in Manhattan and a clothing label in the late 1990s.
In early 2000, Combs was indicted on two counts of criminal possession of a weapon. Later that year he pleaded not guilty to bribery charges related to a December 1999 shooting at a New York nightclub. Combs’s former driver Wardel Fenderson also sued the rap music producer for $3 million. Fenderson claims he suffered personal injuries while helping Combs flee the 1999 shootout in New York. Fortunately for Combs, he was acquitted of all four counts of criminal gun possession and one count of bribing a witness in 2001. Combs’s time in court did nothing to slow his music production. Combs’s 2001 album, The Saga Continues with the Bad Boy Family, peaked at number two on the pop charts. In 2002, Combs was back in court settling a paternity lawsuit brought by his ex-girlfriend, the mother of his son. Combs was also back in the studio recording We Invented the Remix which debuted at Number 1 on the album charts.
Diddy presides over a media empire that includes the record label Bad Boy Records, the clothing lines Sean John and Sean by Sean Combs, a movie production company, and two restaurants. He has taken the roles of recording executive, performer, producer of MTV’s “Making the Band,” writer, arranger, clothing designer, and Broadway actor. He hosted the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards, and was named one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2005 by Time magazine. Diddy released the album Press Play on October 17, 2006, his first album in 4 years. The album included a variety of popular and contemporary guest appearances including Christina Aguilera, Keyshia Cole, Mario Winans (signed to his label ’Bad Boy Records’), Nas, Will.i.am (Black Eyed Peas), Mary J. Blige, Nicole Scherzinger (of the Pussycat Dolls), Jamie Foxx, Big Boi (Outkast), Ciara, and Brandy. The album reached number one on its first week in the charts.
In the February 2007 issue of Blender Magazine Diddy discussed his wardrobe. Combs has continued to attract large audiences.
SAM COOKE (1931–1964) Singer, Songwriter
Sam Cooke’s sophisticated vocal style and refined image made him one of the greatest pop music idols of the early 1960s. One of the first gospel music artists to crossover into popular music, Cooke produced songs of timeless quality, filled with human emotion and spiritual optimism.
Born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, on January 2, 1931, Sam Cooke grew up the son of a Baptist minister in Chicago, Illinois. At the age of nine, Cooke, along with two sisters and a brother, formed a gospel group called the Singing Children. While a teenager, he joined the gospel group the Highway QCs which performed on the same bill with nationally famous gospel acts.
By 1950, Cooke replaced tenor Rupert H. Harris as lead singer for the renowned gospel group the Soul Stirrers. Cooke’s first recording with the Soul Stirrers, “Jesus Gave Me Water,” was recorded for Art Rupe’s Specialty label. Although the song revealed the inexperience of the 20-year-old Cooke, it exhibited a quality of immense passion and heightened feeling. Under the pseudonym Dale Cooke, Sam recorded the pop song “Loveable” in 1957. That same year, in a session for producer Bumps Blackwell on the Keen label, Cooke recorded “You Send Me” which climbed to number one on the rhythm and blues charts. On the Keen label, Cooke recorded eight more consecutive hits including “Everyone Likes to Cha Cha Cha,” “Only Sixteen,” and “Wonderful World,” all of which were written or co-written by Cooke.
After his contract with the Keen label expired in 1960, Cooke signed with RCA, and was assigned to staff producers Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore. In August, Cooke’s recording “Chain Gang” reached the number two spot on the pop charts. Under the lavish production of Hugo and Luigi, Cooke produced a string of hits such as “Cupid” in 1961, “Twistin’ the Night Away” in 1962, and “Another Saturday Night” in 1963. Early in 1964, Cooke appeared on the “Tonight Show,” debuting two songs from his upcoming LP which included the gospel-influenced composition “A Change Is Gonna Come.” On December 11, Cooke checked into a three-dollar-a-night motel where he demanded entrance into the night manager’s room. After a brief physical struggle, the manager fired three pistol shots which mortally wounded Cooke. Despite his tragic death, Cooke left behind a catalogue of classic recordings and over 100 original compositions including the hit “Shake,” which was posthumously released in 1965.
FATS DOMINO (1928– ) Singer
Antoine Domino was born on February 26, 1928, in New Orleans. As a teenager, Domino received piano lessons from Harrison Verret. In between playing night clubs, Domino worked at a factory and mowed lawns around New Orleans. At age 20, he took a job as a pianist with bassist Billy Diamond’s combo at the Hideaway Club. At some point in his early career, his five-foot five-inch, 200-pound frame led to the nickname “Fats.”
In 1949, while playing with Diamond’s group, Domino was discovered by producer and arranger David Bartholomew, a talent scout, musician, and producer for the Imperial label. During the following year, Domino hit the charts with the autobiographical tune “Fat Man.” After the release of “Fat Man,” he played on tour backed by Bartholomew’s band.
Although Domino released a number of sides during the early 1950s, it was not until 1955 that he gained national prominence with the hit “Ain’t That A Shame.” In the next six years, Domino scored 35 top hits with songs such as “Blueberry Hill” (1956), “Blue Monday” (1957), “Whole Lotta Lovin” (1958), and “I’m Walkin” (1959). Domino’s recording success led to his appearance in several films in the 1950s including The Girl Can’t Help It, Shake Rattle and Roll, Disc Jockey Jamboree, and The Big Beat.
After Domino’s contract with Imperial expired in 1963, he signed with ABC where he made a number of commercial recordings. In 1965 Domino moved to Mercury and then to Reprise in 1968. In the early 1970s, Domino began to tour with greater regularity than he had during the peak of his career. In 1995, while on tour in England, Domino was hospitalized for infection and exhaustion. Despite suggestions his health is in decline, Domino continues to work on new material, and honors flow his way. These honors include a Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 1995 and a National Medal for the Arts in 1998. Domino continues to tour, making special appearances at places such as Harrah’s Jazz Casino where he has done shows in 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002. In 2005 Domino’s childhood home was damaged by Hurricane Katrina but efforts were soon made to see it rebuilt. In May 2006 Domino’s biography Blue Monday—Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn Of Rock ‘n’ Roll, written by Rick Coleman was released by Da Capo Press.
DR. DRE (1965– ) Rap Singer, Producer
From the time he was four years old, Dr. Dre, born Andre Ramelle Young, was playing DJ at his mother’s parties. In 1981, he heard a song by Grandmaster Flash that inspired him to change his name in honor of basketball star Julius “Dr. J.” Erving and become a DJ. Dr. Dre began spinning records at a Los Angeles nightclub, producing the dance tapes in the club’s four-track studio. In addition to using the rap trademarks of sampling, scratching, and drum machines, he added keyboards and vocals.
In 1982, when Dre was 17 years old, he formed the World Class Wreckin’ Cru with another DJ. Their first independently released single sold 50,000 copies. The following year, Dre graduated from Compton, California’s Centennial High School. He was offered a mechanical drafting position with an aircraft firm, but he turned it down to devote himself to music. In 1985, Dr. Dre joined the newly formed group, N.W.A. (Niggaz With Attitude), along with Ice Cube, Eazy E, Yella, M. C. Ren, and Arabian Prince. That year he also produced Eazy E’s first platinum album Eazy-Duz-It.
N.W.A’s successful yet controversial body of work included the multiplatinum Straight Outta Compton, released in 1989 on Eazy E and Dr. Dre’s Ruthless Records. Dr. Dre produced the D.O.C., a rapper he had discovered in Texas. The result was that the album No One Can Do It Better went to number one on Billboard’s R&B album chart. Dre also produced a platinum album for Michel’le, another number one recording.
In January of 1990, Ice Cube left N.W.A. over a financial dispute; N.W.A. recorded the last of their four recordings without him in 1991. Later that year, Dre left Ruthless to co-found Death Row Records with Suge Knight. Dre’s first solo effort The Chronic was released in 1993. The work, featuring such budding rap artists as Snoop Doggy Dogg, sold 3 million copies. He went on to produce Snoop’s debut Doggystyle.
In 1994, Dre received a Grammy Award for best rap solo performance. At the Source Awards, he was named best producer, solo artist, and The Chronic was named best album. The following year he was named “One of the Top 10 Artists That Mattered Most, 1985 ;1995” by Spin. In 1996, Dre stunned the hip hop community by announcing that he was leaving Death Row. He had hoped that the label would spread into other genres such as jazz and reggae, but rap continued to bring in the money, and others did not share his vision. Instead, Dre started his own label, Aftermath Entertainment. He continued to edit videos, in addition to penning his biography. He also appeared in small acting role in the 1996 film Set It Off.
In 2000 Dre joined the rock group Metallica in a legal fight against Napster Inc., the company that produces software which allows Internet users to share music from their computer hard drives. They and other artists succeeded in protecting their copyrighted material from being downloaded from the site. Later that year, Dr. Dre received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Source Hip-Hop Music Awards. It was the first awards show dedicated to hip-hop music. 2001 was an even more momentous year for Dre. He won Grammys for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for “Forgot About Dre,” his duet with Eminem, and Producer of the Year (Non-Classical) from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences. He also was honored with an American Music Award in the “favorite rap/hip hop artist” category. As the founder and current CEO of Aftermath Entertainment he has produced many albums with a variety of artists. By 2007 Dre’s personal wealth is estimated to exceed $150 million.
KENNETH “BABYFACE” EDMONDS (1958– ) Songwriter, Producer
Edmonds was born in the late 1950s in Indianapolis, Indiana, and spent his high school years finagling interviews with pop star idols such as the Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder. After performing in a number of rhythm and blues bands, Edmonds began a collaboration with Antonio “L.A.” Reid in 1981; they were then members of an act called the Deele, but soon gained acclaim writing and producing songs for other artists such as Shalamar and Bobby Brown.
In 1989, Edmonds and Reid formed their own company, LaFace Records, backed by the Arista label. They continued their success in writing and producing pop, soul, and rhythm and blues hits for such artists as Paula Abdul and Whitney Houston, and Edmonds and Reid are also credited with giving considerable start to the careers of TLC and Toni Braxton. The duo has won numerous Grammy Awards including one for producer
Edmonds is also a popular solo artist and performer in his own right, with three well-received releases to his name including the 1993 release For the Cool in You, a platinum seller whose hit “When Can I See You” brought him the 1993 Grammy for best male rhythm and blues vocalist. For several months between 1994 and 1995 Edmonds was on the road, performing as an opening act for Boyz II Men, yet another one of the enormously successful groups he has written for and produced. In late 1995 he gained further accolades for producing for the soundtrack to the acclaimed film Waiting to Exhale. In 1997 Edmonds released the recording Babyface: MTV Unplugged and followed it up with a Christmas album in 1998. In 2001 Edmonds’s latest effort as “Babyface,” called Face2Face, was released. Edmonds continues to flourish as a record mogul, performer, and movie producer.
Edmonds filed a breach of contract lawsuit in 2006 against the singer Anita Baker, claiming she owes him more than $250,000. Filed in Los Angeles, the suit claims that Baker broke two oral agreements with Edmonds, who in 2004 co-wrote, produced and performed on the song “Like You Used to Do” on Baker’s album “My Everything.” The lawsuit claims Baker refused to pay Edmonds producer’s royalties equaling at least $100,000 from an estimated more than 500,000 albums sold. Edmonds also claimed that he and Baker had an agreement to play four concerts together, but that Baker canceled two shows and refused to pay $150,000 for those dates. Edmonds has written hits for a number of R&B stars.
MISSY ELLIOTT (1971– ) Rapper, Singer, Songwriter
Melissa Arnette Elliott, born July 1, 1971, in Portsmouth, Virgina, was first know as “Misdemeanor” Elliott, though now she uses the name “Missy” Elliott. By 2007 Elliott had sold over twenty-four million records worldwide which made her one of the highest selling female rappers. She was the fourth female rapper to ever go platinum, behind Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, and Da Brat. She is the only female rapper to have six platinum albums. Missy Elliott is also a critics’ favorite, with two of her singles ranked in the top five of the 2000s decade on Acclaimedmusic.net.
Elliott is known for a series of hits including “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” “Hit ’Em Wit Da Hee,” “Get Ur Freak On,” “One Minute Man,” “Work It,” and “Lose Control.” Her albums include Supa Dupa Fly (1997), Da Real World (1999), Miss E . . . So Addictive (2001), Under Construction (2002), This Is Not a Test! (2003), The Cookbook, (2005) and Respect M.E. (2006, a non U.S. release). In addition, she has received recognition as one of the most successful songwriters of the modern music era, having written many hit records for artists such as Melanie B, Fantasia, Aaliyah, 702, Total, Nelly Furtado, Ciara, Nicole Wray, and Tweet, often with her childhood friend Timbaland. Elliott has won four Grammy awards as a performer and some as a producer. She also has performed in film and TV.
ROBERTA FLACK (1939– ) Singer, Pianist
Born in Black Mountain, North Carolina, on February 10, 1939, Roberta Flack moved to Washington, D.C., with her parents at the age of nine. Three years later she studied classical piano with prominent African American concert musician Hazel Harrison. After winning several talent contests, Flack won a scholarship to Howard University, where she graduated with a bachelors degree in music education. During the early 1960s, Flack taught music in the Washington, D.C., public school system.
While playing a club date in 1968, Flack was discovered by Les McCann whose connections resulted in a contract with Atlantic Records. Flack’s first album First Take appeared in 1970 and included the hit song “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” Throughout the 1970s, Flack landed several hits such as “Killing Me Softly With His Song” and “The Closer I Get to You,” a duet with Donny Hathaway; both songs earned Grammys, and “Killing Me Softly” was remade in 1996 by the rap group the Fugees. In the early 1980s, Flack collaborated with Peabo Bryson to record the hit “Tonight I Celebrate My Love For You.” In 1991, Flack enjoyed another Top 10 hit “Set the Night to Music,” a duet with Maxi Priest. More recently, Flack has been involved in educational projects, and in 1994, she recorded the album Roberta, a Grammy nominated recording of jazz, blues and pop classics.
Flack’s music was brought to a whole new generation in 1996 when the Fugees remade her hit “Killing Me Softly With His Song.” She even played the song on her radio show Brunch with Roberta Flack, a two-hour syndicated radio program during which she spins discs and reminisces about her days in the pop limelight. In 1997, she put out her next album of holidays songs simply entitled Christmas Album. In 1999, Flack started an international tour and was allowed the honor of singing to Nelson Mandela during her stop over in South Africa. Flack continues to make and perform her music worldwide. In 2003 Flack released a Christmas album, “Holiday,” which include a collection of seasonal songs and a few of her classics. She participated in the album “Songs From the Neighborhood,” an all star tribute to the music of the late Fred “Mr.” Rogers in 3005 and in 2006 did a retrospective album called “The Very Best of Roberta Flack”
ARETHA FRANKLIN (1942– ) Singer, Pianist, Songwriter
During the 1960s, the collaboration of Aretha Franklin and Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler brought forth some of the deepest and most sincere popular music ever recorded. As “Queen of Soul,” Franklin has reigned supreme since the late 1960s. Her voice brings spiritual inspiration to her gender, race, and the world.
Daughter of the famous Reverend Charles L. Franklin, Aretha was born on March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee. Raised on Detroit’s east side, Franklin sang at her father’s New Bethel Baptist Church. Although she began to study piano at age eight, Franklin refused to learn what she considered juvenile and simple tunes. Thus, she learned piano by ear, occasionally receiving instruction from individuals such as the Reverend James Cleveland. Franklin’s singing skills were modeled after gospel music singers and family friends including Clara Ward and rhythm and blues artists such as Ruth Brown and Sam Cooke.
At 14, Franklin quit school to go on the road with her father’s Franklin Gospel Caravan, an endless tour in which the family traveled thousands of miles by car. After four years on the road, Aretha traveled to New York City to establish her own career as a pop artist. In 1960, she signed with Columbia Records talent scout John Hammond. Her six year stay at Columbia Records, however, produced only a few hits and little material that suited Franklin’s unique talents.
In 1966, Franklin signed with Atlantic Records, and, in the following year, recorded a session for Wexler that resulted in the hit “I Never Loved a Man (The Way That I Loved You).” That same year, Franklin’s career received another boost when her reworking of Otis Redding’s song “Respect” hit the charts. Franklin’s first LP I Never Loved a Man was followed by a succession of artistically and commercially successful albums: Aretha Arrives, Lady Soul, Aretha Now!, and This Girl’s In Love With You. Her prominence grew so great that Franklin appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1968. That year she performed at Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral and at the Democratic National Convention.
During the 1970s, Franklin continued to tour and record. In 1971, she released the live LP Aretha Live at the Fillmore West, backed by the horn and rhythm section of Tower of Power. Her next release Amazing Grace featured Reverend James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir. In 1977, she performed at President Jimmy Carter’s inauguration, later doing the same for U.S. president Bill Clinton in 1993.
In 1980, Franklin appeared in the film The Blues Brothers. No stranger to television, she appeared in the specials “Aretha,” “Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul,” and “Duets,” in 1986, 1988, and 1993, respectively. The 1980s also saw Franklin score her first big commercial success in more than a decade with the album Who’s Zooming Who?, featuring the single “Freeway of Love.” In 1988, she released a double-live LP One Lord, One Faithan effort dedicated to her father who passed away the previous year.
Franklin has won 15 Grammy Awards in her career including the lifetime achievement award, which was bestowed upon her in 1995. Other of her honors include an American Music Award and an Ebony magazine American Black Achievement Award, both in 1984; declaration as a “natural resource” of the state of Michigan in 1985; induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987; an Essence Award in 1993; and a Kennedy Center Honors Award in 1994. Only Janet Jackson has matched Franklin’s record of 14 gold singles, the most by a female solo artist.
Franklin has stayed active in the 1990s, a decade in which many of her classic recordings were reissued. She was a headliner at the 1994 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and lent a track to the 1995 Waiting to Exhale soundtrack. In 1995, Franklin embarked on a new venture, launching her own label, World Class Records. Franklin also performed on the 1998 VH-1 concert special “Divas Live,” along with Gloria Estefan, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Shania Twain, and others. The concert raised money to fund music education in elementary schools. Finally, in a celebrated July 17, 1999 concert of the “Three Tenors”Luciano Pavarotti, Jose‘ Carreras, and Placido Domingoin Detroit, Franklin performed the national anthem. Franklin also received the National Medal of Arts in 1999 from then President Bill Clinton.
In 2000, Franklin published her autobiography Aretha: From These Roots with help from Davis Ritz. In 2001, Franklin was saluted during VH1’s “Divas Live: The One and Only Aretha Franklin.” The event featured Franklin singing with other groups and soloists such as Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott, Celia Cruz, Marc Anthony, Kid Rock, Nelly Furtado, and the Backstreet Boys.
Numerous compilation albums of Franklin’s appeared 2002, including an album with her and late rock great Otis Redding. In 2003 Her album So Damn Happy was released. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked her ninth on their 2004 list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. She was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 by President George W. Bush. Her citation read: The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin has recorded more than 20 number-one singles and revolutionized American music. Her instantly recognizable voice has captivated listeners ever since she toured with her father’s gospel revue in the 1950s. She is among our Nation’s greatest musical artists and has captured the hearts of millions of Americans. The United States honors Aretha Franklin for her lifetime of achievement and for helping to shape our Nation’s artistic and cultural heritage.
In the same year, 2006, Franklin’s honors continued to accrue when she became the second woman to be inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame and was presented with an honorary Doctor of Music degree by the Berklee College of Music. In 2006 Aretha Franklin’s received her nineteenth Grammy with a best traditional R&B vocal award for “A House Is Not a Home,” a track from the Luther Vandross tribute So Amazing. In 2007 she released an ablum called A Woman Falling Out of Love.
KIRK FRANKLIN (1970– ) Gospel Singer
Franklin was born in Texas and was raised their by an elderly aunt who was a regular church attendee. He began playing the piano when he was only four years old and was offered a recording contract at seven. At eleven, he was appointed music minister of his church. Finally, at age 19, Kirk did his first home recording. In 1992, he formed The Family, picking seventeen singers. He released his first gospel album, Kirk Franklin & Family, in 1993, and led contemporary gospel choirs such as Kirk Franklin & the Family, Kirk Franklin’s Nu Nation, God’s Property and Kirk Franklin Presents 1NC. Kirk Franklin and the Family blasted to the top of the Billboard Gospel charts. All of his albums have done well. He has won many Grammys and has produces many platinum-selling albums. His music blends gospel, hip hop and R&B.
On October 4, 2005, his album Hero was released, with his singles “Looking For You” and “Imagine Me.” Franklin’s songs are published by Zomba Music Publishing, a division of BMG Music Kirk Franklin won two 2007 Grammy Awards, for his album, Hero. He was also recently featured on the song, “Lose My Soul” on the album Portable Sounds. Songs for the Storm, Vol. 1. Almost all of his albums were gold or platinum. Franklin has collaborated with the biggest names in gospel music, including Mary Mary, Tonex, Donnie McClurkin, Richard Smallwood, Crystal Lewis, Pastor Shirley Caesar, tobyMac, Jaci Velasquez, and Willie Neal Johnson.
THE FUGEES Hip Hop Singing Group
With a sound most often described as “eclectic,” the Fugees landed on the hip hop charts in 1993 with their Ruff House debut Blunted on Reality. Initially known as the Tranzlator Crew, Lauryn Hill, Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, and Wyclef Jean have been working together since they were teenagers in northern New Jersey. They were forced to change their name when a 1980s new wave band called Translator filed a legal protest.
Released under the name Fugees, their first album Blunted on Reality received rave reviews. Sales for the album were moderate, while critics announced that Hill should pursue a solo career.
With sales of 17 million, the trio’s second release The Score (1996) made them the biggest selling rap act in history. Produced by Jean and Hill, the album included covers of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly with His Song” and Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry.” The band made great strides in bringing hip hop with a positive attitude to a new generation.
The Fugees have stated that they plan future releases, but the success of the member’s individual projects leave the groups future in doubt. Jean released his multiplatinum solo debut The Carnival (1997). The album was well-received in the United States and in his native Haiti, and he followed it up with The Ecleftic: 2 Sides II a Book (2000). Michel’s solo efforts culminated in Ghetto Superstar (1998). Also in 1998, Hill released her debut solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which brought her an unprecedented five Grammy Awards. Her MTV Unplugged appearance was released as MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 in 2002. The group reunited for some performances in 2005 and 2006.
MARVIN GAYE (1939–1984) Singer, Songwriter
The son of a Pentecostal minister, Marvin Gay was born on April 29, 1939, in Washington, D.C. (the final “e” on his surname was not added until the early 1960s). Raised in a segregated slum-ridden section of Washington D.C., Gaye experienced a strict religious upbringing. As Gaye later recalled: “Living with my father was like living with a king, a very peculiar, changeable, cruel, and all-powerful king.” Thus Gaye looked to music for release. Around the age of three, he began singing in church. While attending Cardoza High School, Gaye studied drums, piano, and guitar. Uninspired by his formal studies, Gaye often cut classes to watch James Brown and Jackie Wilson perform at the Howard Theatre.
Soon afterward, Gaye served a short time in the Air Force, until obtaining an honorable discharge in 1957. Returning to Washington, D.C., Gaye joined the doo wop group the Marquees. After recording for Columbia Record’s subsidiary label, Okeh, the Marquees moved to the Chess/Checker label where they recorded with Bo Diddley. Although the Marquees performed their own compositions and toured regularly, they failed to gain popularity. It was not until they were introduced to Harvey Fuqua, who was in the process of reforming Moon-glows, that the Marquees attracted notice in the pop music world. Impressed by their sound, Fuqua hired the Marquees to form a group under the new name Harvey and the Moonglows. Still under contract at Chess, Fuqua brought the Moonglows to the company’s studio in Chicago to record the 1959 hit the “Ten Commandments of Love.”
In 1960, Fuqua and Gaye traveled to Detroit where Fuqua set up his own label and signed with Motown’s subsidiary, Anna. After a stint as a backup singer, studio musician, and drummer in Smokey Robinson’s touring band, Gaye signed a contract with Motown as a solo artist. Released in 1962, Gaye’s first album was a jazz-oriented effort entitled The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye. With his sights on a career modeled after the ballad singer Frank Sinatra, Gaye was not enthusiastic when Motown suggested he record a dance record of rhythm and blues material. Nevertheless, Gaye recorded the song “Stubborn Kind of Fellow” in 1962; it entered the Top 10 R&B charts. This was followed by a long succession of Motown hits, such as “Hitch Hike,” “Pride and Joy,” “Can I Get a Witness,” and “Wonderful One.”
Motown’s next projects for Gaye included a number of vocal duets, the first of which appeared with singer Mary Wells on the 1964 album Together. In collaboration with singer Kim Weston, Gaye recorded the 1967 hit LP It Takes Two. His most successful partnership, however, was with Tammi Terrell. In their two-year association, Gaye and Terrell recorded, under the writing and production team of Ashford and Simpson, such hits as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Your Precious Love” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” in 1968.
Back in the studio as a solo act, Gaye recorded the hit “Heard It Through the Grapevine.” With his growing success, Gaye achieved greater creative independence at Motown, which led him to co-produce the 1971 hit album What’s Going On, a session producing the best selling singles “What’s Going On,” “Mercy Mercy (the Ecology),” and “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler).”
After his last LP for Motown In Our Lifetime, Gaye signed with CBS Records in April 1981, and within the next year released the album Midnight Lover, featuring the Grammy Award-winning hit “Sexual Healing.” On Sunday, April 1, 1984, after a heated argument, Gaye was fatally shot by his father in Los Angeles, California. Despite his public image, Gaye had suffered from years of inner conflict and drug abuse. “This tragic ending can only be softened by the memory of a beautiful human being,” described long-time friend Smokey Robinson. “He could be full of joy sometimes, but at others, full of woe, but in the end how compassionate, how wonderful, how exciting was Marvin Gaye and his music.”
BERRY GORDY JR. (1929– ) Music Company Executive
From assembly line worker to impresario of the Motown Record Corporation, Berry Gordy Jr. emerged as the owner of one of the largest African American-owned businesses in American history. A professional boxer, songwriter, producer, and businessman, Gordy has been a self-made man. Through his determination and passion for music, the living legend helped create one of the most celebrated sounds of modern music.
The seventh of eight children, Berry Gordy was born on November 28, 1929, in Detroit. Berry Gordy Sr., the owner of a grocery store, a plastering company, and a printing shop, taught his children the value of hard work and family unity. Despite his dislike for manual labor, Berry possessed a strong desire to become commercially successful. After quitting high school to become a professional boxer, Berry won several contests before leaving the profession in 1950. A year later, Gordy was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he earned a high school equivalency diploma.
Upon returning from a military tour of Korea in 1953, Berry opened the 3-D Record Mart, a jazz-oriented retail store. Forced into bankruptcy, Berry closed the store in 1955, and subsequently took a job as an assembly line worker at the Ford Motor Company. His nightly visits to Detroit’s thriving jazz and rhythm and blues scene inspired Gordy to take up songwriting. In 1957, one of Gordy’s former boxing colleagues, Jackie Wilson, recorded the hit “Reet Petite,” a song written by Berry, his sister Gwen, and Billy Davis. Over the next four years, the Berry-Gwen-Davis writing team provided Wilson with four more hits: “To Be Loved,” “Lonely Teardrops,” “That’s Why (I Love You So),” and “I’ll Be Satisfied.”
By 1959, Billy Davis and Gwen Gordy founded the Anna label, which distributed material through Chess Records in Chicago. Barret Strong’s recording of “Money (That’s What I Want),” written by Gordy and Janie Bradford, became the label’s biggest selling single. With background as a writer and producer with the Anna label, Gordy decided to start his own company. In 1959, he formed Jobete Music Publishing, Berry Gordy Jr. Enterprises, Hitsville USA, and the Motown Record Corporation. Employing a staff of local studio musicians, writers, and producers, Berry’s label scored its first hit in 1961 with Smokey Robinson’s “Shop Around.” By the mid-1960s, Gordy assembled a wealth of talent including The Supremes, The Four Tops, The Marvelettes, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder.
In 1971, Gordy relocated the Motown Recording Corporation to Los Angeles. Although most of the original acts and staff members did not join the company’s migration to the West Coast, Gordy’s company became one of the country’s top African American-owned businesses. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Motown continued to produce artists such as the Jackson Five, the Commodores, Lionel Richie, Rick James, and DeBarge. Gordy also tried his hand at producing feature films. Lady Sings the Blues (1972), Mahogany (1975), and The Last Dragon (1985) were not critical successes, but attracted the participation of such celebrities as Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams, Richard Pryor, and Vanity. Faced with financial problems, Gordy signed a distribution agreement with MCA in 1984 and sold the label in entirety to the giant six years later.
Gordy’s induction into the Hall of Fame in 1988 brought recognition to a giant of the recording industry who helped transform the sound of popular music. He was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the 1993 Black Radio Exclusive awards banquet ceremony. Among Forbes’s 400 richest Americans in the mid-1980s, Gordy authored his autobiography To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown in 1994. In 1997 Berry gained co-composing credits on I’ll Be There, and You’ve Made Me So Very Happy. Gordy was honored in 1998 at the Essence Awards with the Image Maker award and in 2001, he was inducted into the Independent Music Hall of Fame. A renewed conversation about Gordy and Motown was engendered by the release of the movie Dreamgirls in 2006, a movie loosely based on the rise of the Supremes to stardom.
AL GREEN (1946– ) Singer, Songwriter, Preacher
Possessing one of the supplest voices in popular music, Al Green launched a series of hits up the soul charts during the 1970s. But the Arkansas native turned his back on pop later in that decade, singing gospel and preaching in a Memphis church. His influence on the development of soul was such, however, that he was tempted back to the secular realm for a 1995 album.
Green spent his early years singing gospel in the South, but switched to pop and scored a hit “Back Up Train” in 1967. It was not until he hooked up with producer Willie Mitchell, however, that he found his niche. Recording for Mitchell’s Hi Records in Memphis with an ace band, Green managed a remarkable synthesis of intimate, romantic pop and gritty soul. The fruits of this happy union included “Tired of Being Alone,” “Love and Happiness,” “Let’s Stay Together,” and “I’m Still in Love With You.” His smoldering “Take Me to the River” was covered by numerous other artists.
Though he was “born again” into Christianity in 1973, Green continued to record largely secular musical-beit with a religious tingefor several years. After founding his own church, the Full Gospel Tabernacle, in Memphis, he returned to gospel music. His recordings won regular honors in gospel circles and even a Grammy Award, but his presence continued to be felt in the soul/rhythm and blues world. Apart from the occasional duet, however, he steered clear of pop until his return in 1995 with Your Heart’s In Good Hands.
In 2000, Green, with help from Davin Seay, published his autobiography Take Me To the River. In 2001, Green was honored at the Rhythm & Blues Foundation holds 12th Annual Awards Gala with a Lifetime Achievement award. Green, who continues to release a series of retrospective and new albums both sacred and secular. His 2007 album—CD and DVD—is called Definitive Greatest Hits.
M.C. HAMMER (1963– ) Rap Singer
Born Stanley Kirk Burrell in 1963 in East Oakland, California, M.C. Hammer began his career with a group he formed called “The Holy Ghost Boys,” in which he performed religious raps during the mid-1980s in Oakland clubs. Hammer recorded his first song “Ring ’Em” in his basement and sold the 12-inch copies out of his car trunk. The song rose to number one in the San Francisco Bay area.
In 1988 Capitol Records re-released his first album, renaming it Let’s Get It Started. It produced three Top 10 singles and went double platinum. Hammer’s second album Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ’Em, released in 1990, remained on Billboard’s pop chart for 21 weeks. Hammer became internationally known for a “crossover” style rap, colorful costumes, and showy style of dance. His “Can’t Touch This” single produced a hit video hailed for its innovative production and Hammer’s energetic dancing. Hammer’s 1991 Too Legit to Quit, which went multiplatinum, leveled a critique at the use of samples in hip hop music, using live musicians and vocalists. Hammer’s star rose quickly, and he became a veritable cottage industry in the early 1990s.
Hammer turned to the production end of the business and launched the careers of 3.5.7., Angie B., and Special Generation; he also managed Heavy D & the Boyz, Troop, Ralph Tresvant and boxer Evander Holy-field for a short time. Hammer’s music has been featured in such films as Rocky V, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and The Addams Family. He has won many honors including three Grammy Awards, seven American Music Awards, three Soul Train Awards, and two MTV Awards. After a slump in popularity, mounting criticism from the hip hop critics about his blatant commercialism, and ensuing financial problems, Hammer returned to Christian music in 1997, proclaiming a new music ministry of evangelism with the project Family Affair. In 2001, Hammer continued his message of hope and religion with his new album Active Duty. Hammer filmed a music video by the Washington D.C. Capitol’s reflecting pool for the albums first single, “No Stoppin’ Us-USA.” All of the proceeds from the video and the single went to those affected by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
HERBIE HANCOCK. SEEBLUES AND JAZZ CHAPTER.
ANDRE HARRELL (1960– ) Music Company Executive, Producer, Musician
Andre O’Neal Harrell was born in the Bronx, New York on September 26, 1960. While growing up with hard times in the housing projects there, young Harrell developed a desire to succeed. As a teenager, Harrell teamed up with Alonzo Brown to form the playful rap duo Dr. Jekyll (Harrell) and Mr. Hyde (Brown). Before long, they had three Top 20 hits under their belts and were carving a niche for themselves in rap.
Despite the his early rap success, Harrell enrolled in classes at the Bronx’s Lehman College. After three years of study in communications and business management, Harrell met Russell Simmons in 1983. Simmons lured Harrell to come work for him at Rush Management, a company that helped define the hip hop of the day. Within two years, Harrell had worked his way to vice president and general manager and was instrumental in building the career of such rap icons as LL Cool J, Run-DMC, and Whodini.
Success continued to follow Harrell wherever he went. He left Rush Management to begin his own record company, Uptown Records. In 1988, the achievements of Uptown Records prompted a $75,000 record deal from music mega-company MCA. Artists such as Al B Sure!, Guy, and Heavy D all prospered under Harrell’s direction. By 1992, Uptown and their artists had blazed a shiny trail of gold and platinum albums and had landed an unprecedented $50 million multimedia agreement with MCA. Soon projects such as the television show “In Living Color” and a showcase of Uptown recording artists including Mary J. Blige and Jodeci on MTV’s “Unplugged” were in the works. In 1995, Harrell left the reins of Uptown to become the new president/CEO of Motown Records. He continues to produce chart topping albums such as Babyface’s Face2-Face and Mary J. Blige’s What’s the 411. After two years at Motown, Harrell resigned. He was unable to return Motown to its former glory. After his tenure at Motown, Harrell formed Harrell Entertainment and returned to doing what he does well—working and consulting with new artists. In the fall of 1998, Sean “Puffy” Combs, founder and CEO of Bad Boy Entertainment, hired Andre Harrell as a consultant. While talking about Harrell with writer Anita M. Samuels from Billboard, Combs said, “He’s one of the wisest men in the business’ he taught me almost everything I know.” In 2005 and 2006 Harrell developed two TV programs.
ISAAC HAYES (1942– ) Singer, Pianist, Producer
Born on August 20, 1942, in Covington, Tennessee, Isaac Hayes moved to Memphis at age seven, where he was introduced to the sounds of blues, country western, and the music of idol Sam Cooke. Through the connections of saxophonist Floyd Newman, Hayes began a career as a studio musician for Stax Records in 1964. After playing piano on a session for Otis Redding, Hayes formed a partnership with songwriter Dave Porter. Together they were responsible for supplying a number of hits to Carla Thomas, William Bell, and Eddie Floyd.
The first real break for the Hayes-Porter team came when they were recruited to produce the Miami-based soul duo Sam and Dave. In the span of four years, Hayes and Porter succeeded in making Sam and Dave Stax’s hottest selling act, producing such hits as “Hold On I’m Coming,” “Soul Man,” and “I Thank You!” During this period Hayes and Porter continued to perform in a group that established them as an underground legend in the Memphis music scene.
In the late 1960s, Hayes’s solo career emerged in an impromptu fashion, when a late night session with drummer Al Jackson and bassist Duck Dunn prompted Stax to release his next effort. Hot Buttered Soul went double platinum in 1969. Featuring a soul version of the country song “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” Hayes’s rendition set a trend for the disco/soul sound of the 1970s. Following the release of the albums To Be Continued and Isaac Hayes Movement, Hayes recorded the soundtrack for the “blaxplotation” film Shaft and the album Black Moses. In 1971, “Theme from Shaft” won an Academy Award for best song in a motion picture and Grammy Awards for best instrumental and best original score for a motion picture. Black Moses earned a Grammy, too, this one for best pop instrumental performance.
Hayes left the Stax label to join ABC in 1974. Hayes recorded a series of disco albums. In 1977, the commercial downturn in Hayes’s career forced him to file bankruptcy. Though he composed Dionne Warwick’s “Deja Vue” nominated for a Grammy in 1978his last gold record “Don’t Let Go” was released on the Polydor label in 1979. Hayes moved into the 1980s and 1990s appearing on television shows and in such films as the futuristic thriller Escape From New York (1981) and the comedy spoof Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993).
Winner of a 1994 Georgy Award, as bestowed by the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, Hayes has heavily influenced the music of the late 1980s and early 1990s; together with James Brown, Hayes has been one of the most frequently sampled artists by purveyors of rap. Choosing not to jump ship, however, Hayes has stuck to his own brand of “hot buttered soul.” In 1995, he issued his first new recordings in seven years Branded and Raw and Refined and contributed a track to the Hughes brothers’ film Dead Presidents. Hayes has also lent his voice to the role of “Chef” on the Cable Ace Award-winning animated show South Park, a role that has introduced him to a new generation of fans.
During 2000 and 2001, Hayes appeared on numerous soundtracks for movies including Shaft and South Park: The Movie. In 2002 Hayes was inducted into to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. During 2004, Hayes appeared as Jaffa Tolok on the TV series Stargate SG-1. The following year, he appeared in the independent film Hustle & Flow. Hayes was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 2006.
JIMI HENDRIX (1942–1970) Guitarist, Songwriter
When Jimi Hendrix arrived on the international rock music scene in 1967, he almost single handedly redefined the sound of the electric guitar. Hendrix’ extraordinary approach has shaped the course of music from jazz fusion to heavy metal.
On November 27, 1942, in Seattle, Washington, Johnny Allen Hendrix was born to an enlisted U.S. Army soldier and a teenage mother. Four years later, Johnny Allen was renamed James Marshall Hendrix. Because of his mother’s fondness for night club life and his father’s frequent absences, Hendrix was a lonely, yet creative, child. At school he won several contests for his science fiction-based poetry and visual art. At the age of eight, Hendrix, unable to afford a guitar, strummed out rhythms on a broom. Eventually, he graduated to a fabricated substitute made from a cigar box, followed by a ukelele, and finally an acoustic guitar that was purchased by his father.
By the late 1950s, Hendrix began to play in local bands in Seattle. While a teenager, he played along with recordings by blues artists such as Elmore James and John Lee Hooker. After a 26-month stint (1961 ;1962) in the 101st Airborne Division, Hendrix played in the Nashville rhythm and blues scene with bassist Billy Cox. For the next three years, Hendrix performed under the name Jimi James, backing up acts such as Little Richard, Jackie Wilson, Ike and Tina Turner, and the Isley Brothers.
In 1964 Hendrix moved to New York City where he performed in various Greenwich Village clubs. While in New York he formed the group Jimi James and the Blue Flames. After being discovered by producer and manager Chas Chandler, the former bassist with the Animals, Hendrix was urged to leave for England. Arriving in England in 1966, Hendrix, along with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience. In 1967, after touring Europe, the trio hit the charts with a cover version of the Leaves song “Hey Joe.” In the same year, the group released the groundbreaking album Are You Experienced?
In 1968 the Experience recorded Axis Bold As Love which led to extensive touring in the United States and Europe. On the Experience’s next LP Electric Ladyland, Hendrix sought to expand the group’s trio-based sound. A double record effort, Electric Ladyland featured numerous guest artists such as keyboardists Steve Winwood and Al Kooper, saxophonist Freddie Smith, and conga player Larry Faucette. The record also contained “All Along the Watchtower,” a song written by Hendrix’s musical and poetic idol Bob Dylan.
After the Experience broke up in 1969, Hendrix played the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival with the Gypsy Sons and Rainbows, featuring bassist Billy Cox. Along with drummer Buddy Miles, Hendrix and Cox formed the Band of Gypsys, and in 1970 the group released an album under the same title. Months later, Mitchell replaced Miles on drums. In August, the Mitchell-Cox lineup played behind Hendrix at his last major performance held at England’s Isle of Wight Festival. On September 18, 1970, Hendrix died of a sleeping pill overdose in a hotel room in England. Despite his short career, Hendrix established himself as a major figure in pop music history. In 1992, Hendrix was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
LAURYN HILL. SEE THE FUGEES.
WHITNEY HOUSTON (1963– ) Model, Singer, Actress
A multiple Grammy Award winner whose face has graced the covers of magazines from Glamour to Cosmopolitan, Whitney Houston emerged as one of the most vibrant popular music talents during the 1980s. A talented singer, model, and actress, Houston dominated the pop charts into the 1990s. Her biggest successes were associated with two motion pictures in which she had major roles.
Born on August 9, 1963, Houston grew up in East Orange, New Jersey. As a member of the New Hope Baptist Choir, she made her singing debut at age 11. Later, Houston appeared as a backup singer on numerous recordings, featuring her mother, Cissy Houston, and cousin Dionne Warwick. Despite her success as a fashion model, Houston found the profession “degrading,” and, subsequently, quit in order to seek a career in music. She backed up the likes of Chaka Khan, Lou Rawls, and the Neville Brothers.
By age 19, Houston had received several recording contract offers. In 1985, she released her debut album on the Arista label entitled Whitney Houston, which produced four hits: “Saving All My Love for You,” which won the Grammy for best female pop performance; “You Give Good Love”; “How Will I Know,” which earned an MTV Video Music Award for best female video; and “The Greatest Love of All.” The album won seven American Music Awards, a feat she would duplicate in 1994. Houston’s second LP Whitney appeared in 1987, and just as her first effort, the work led to a number of hits including “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” “Didn’t We Almost Have It All,” “So Emotional,” “Where Do Broken Hearts Go?,” and “Love Will Save the Day.” The album received four American Music Awards. Following the success of her second record, Houston released One Moment In Time (1988) and the slickly produced I’m Your Baby Tonight (1990).
In 1992, Houston married singer Bobby Brown and made her acting debut in the film The Bodyguard, co-starring Kevin Costner. The first single from the soundtrack, a remake of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” spent 14 straight weeks on top of the pop singles chart; according to statistics from Billboard magazine, Houston set a record for the most time spent at the top of the charts, edging out Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” (13 weeks) and Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” (11 weeks). Her vocal performance on the soundtrack won her seven American Music Awards including the 1994 Award of Merit; four Grammy Awards including record of the year, album of the year, and best female pop performance; two Soul Train Music Awards including the Sammy Davis Jr. Entertainer of the Year Award and the Female Rhythm and Blues Single Award for “I Will Always Love You;” four NAACP Image Awards; and the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters’s lifetime achievement award. Later in the year, AT& -Tsigned Houston as the spokesperson for the corporation’s “True Voice” campaign; Houston sang in two of the company’s commercials.
Houston’s next offering was not long in coming. With Angela Bassett, Lela Rochon, and Loretta Devine, Houston co-starred in the 1995 film adaption of Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale. A box office winner, the movie’s soundtrack was written by producer Babyface and featured, in addition to Houston, such performers as Aretha Franklin and Toni Braxton. Houston sang the very successful first single “Exhale (Shoop Shoop).” Her most recent film The Preacher’s Wife allowed Houston to return to her gospel roots. Her latest album My Love is Your Love was released in the fall of 1999.
In 2000 Houston released her greatest hits album, Whitney: The Greatest Hits. A few weeks later, Houston was officially charged with marijuana possession, stemming from an incident earlier in the year. Her lawyers announce that her marijuana possession case could be dismissed in three months if she met certain probation-like conditions. Houston met those conditions and in March of 2001, the charges against her were dropped. In August of 2001, Houston signed a contract with Arista Records worth over $100 million. Her first album for Artista, Love, Whitney came out a few months later. Houston, who continues to perform all over the world, has sold 130 million albums and 50 million singles. She filed for divorce from her husband Bobby Brown in 2006.
JENNIFER HUDSON Singer, Actress
Jennifer Hudson, born in Chicago, Illinois, on September 12, 1981, performed as a youth in her local church with the support and encouragement of her grandmother, Julia Hudson. After graduating from high school, she worked in a fast food restaurant while playing in a Chicago production of Big River where she sang professionally. Soon her singing talent began to became obvious to many after she was hired by the Disney’s Wonder cruise ship.
Hudson decided to try out for the 2004 American Idol program and made it to the Top 12. Her performance brought her to the attention of stars and fans en the US and Europe which led to many opportunities for her to perform. In 2005 she was cast as Effie White in the film Dreamgirls which appeared in theaters in 2006. Her electrifying dramatic and musical performances, especially the song And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going, led to a string of awards including the Golden Globe Award in 2006 and an Oscar in 2007, both for Best Supporting Actress. She also received a 2007 Image Award from the NAACP,
PHYLLIS HYMAN (1949–1995) Singer
Phyllis Hyman was a singer of the heart and was appreciated by connoisseurs of both romantic jazz and rhythm and blues singing. She was born in Philadelphia on July 6, 1949, and raised in Pittsburgh. An elementary school teacher noticed and nurtured her vocal talents, but she grew up poor and prepared for a career as a legal secretary.
Nevertheless, Hyman reached New York in her early twenties and soon began working as a vocalist. By 1974 she formed her own band, Phyllis Hyman and the PH Factor. She became a regular at the toney Upper West Side clubs, Rust Brown’s and Mikell’s. In 1976 she was discovered by percussionist and producer Norman Connors and was a featured performer on his album You Are My Starship singing the ballad “Betcha By Golly Wow,” which helped Hyman meet the co-writer of the song and her longtime good friend, Linda Creed.
Hyman signed with the record label Arista in 1977, and one of her first releases “Somewhere in My Lifetime” was produced by vocal star Barry Manilow and rose high in the rhythm and blues charts. Her signature hit was the ballad “You Know How to Love Me.” Personally, her marriage to manager Larry Alexander in the late 1970s ended in divorce.
Her career took an upswing in the late 1970s when she signed on with the Broadway cast of Sophisticated Ladies, a revue of Duke Ellington’s music. She sang in the show for three years and earned a Tony nomination for her performance in 1981. Her rendition of “In a Sentimental Mood” is on the original cast album. In 1986 Hyman moved to the Philadelphia International label and made some of her best recordings. Living All Alone was soon released and featured her signature lush, sad romantic ballads including a new song written by her friend, Linda Creed. Hyman herself began writing songs that reflected her life story, which is why her songs were so emotionally true and compelling. The 1991 Prime of My Life contained songs with such titles as “It’s Not About You (It’s About Me),” “It Takes Two,” and “Why Not Me?”
In 1988, she appeared in the Spike Lee film School Daze. She also toured the USA, Europe, and Japan in the late 1980s with a successful show that played the Harlem Apollo, Oakland’s Paramount, and the Fox Theatre in St. Louis. She was a stunning performer, tall and dressed in African clothing.
On talk shows though, Hyman was open about her lifelong search for love and admitted to being lonely. When her friend, Linda Creed, died in 1993, it was rumored that Hyman was struggling with alcohol and drugs. On June 30, 1995, before a performance at the Apollo, she died from an overdose of pills. Not forgotten though, her legend continues to grow as five albums have been released since her death including We Love You Phyllis: A Tribute to Phyllis Hyman (1998), featuring Norman Connors and Jean Carne.
ICE CUBE (1969– ) Rap Singer, Actor
Behind his oft-misogynistic and racist gangster image, rapper Ice Cube is a serious artist. Dedicated to black
pride, he is a staunch spokesperson for black nationalism. Ice Cube looks upon his music as a means of launching a “mental revolution” in order to awaken African American youth to the value of education and the creation of private African American economic enterprises.
Born Oshea Jackson, Ice Cube grew up in the west side of South Central Los Angeles. While in the ninth grade Jackson wrote his first rhyme in typing class. Prompted by his parents to pursue an education after high school, he attended a one-year drafting course at the Phoenix Institute in 1988. In the following year, Ice Cube achieved great commercial success as a member of N.W.A. (Niggaz With Attitude). One of the group’s founding members, along with Dr. Dre and Eazy E, Ice Cube wrote or co-wrote most of the material for N.W.A.’s first two albums. Boyz N the Hood was released in 1986. Ice Cube’s authoritative baritone won him a legion of fans for his N.W.A. rap anthem “Gangsta Gangsta.” He also scripted much of Eazy’s first solo work Eazy-Duz-It, followed by N.W.A.’s platinum Straight Outta Compton, which included the controversial single “F___ Tha Police.”
Though he still worked sporadically with Dr. Dre after leaving N.W.A., Ice Cube released his 1990 solo album AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, produced with Public Enemy’s Chuck D. and the Bomb Squadthe recording went gold within three months. He then formed Street Knowledge, a record production company, and produced female rapper Yo Yo’s Make Way for the Motherlode. During the same year, Ice Cube also made his acting debut in director John Singleton ’s film Boyz N the Hood. The rapper-actor went on to star in a number of films including Trespass (1992) with Ice-T; Higher Learning, Singleton’s vehicle of 1994; the 1995 comedy Friday, which he co-wrote and co-produced; Charles Burnett’s 1995 work The Glass Shield; Anaconda in 1997; and I Got the Hook Up in 1997. The late 90s saw Ice Cube in more serious roles in movies such as The Players Club, Three Kings, and Ghost of Mars. Ice Cube returned to comedy in 2000 with a sequel to his 1995 hit Friday entitled Next Friday and a third movie Friday After Next in 2002.
Having recorded his own Kill at Will and Death Certificate in 1991, Ice Cube remained active in Yo Yo’s career, serving as executive producer of her Black Pearl in 1992, and worked with other artists, directing videos including one for blues-rock artist Ian Moore in 1993. Ice Cube stayed on top of his own music game as well, releasing The Predator in 1992; the recording debuted at number one on two Billboard chartspop and rhythm and bluesat the same time, the first to do so since 1976 and Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life. In 1992, Ice Cube figured in the lineup of Lollapalooza II, an annual traveling rock festival. 1993’s Lethal Injection featured the smash single “It Was a Good Day.” Ice Cube also issued Bootlegs B-Sides, and, in 1995, he contributed to the Streetfighter motion picture soundtrack.
In 1998, Ice Cube released volume one of his hard hitting best-seller War and Peace. The album saw Ice Cube collaborating with artists such as a Mister Short Khop, Mack Ten, and Korn. The second volume of War and Peace hit music stands in 2000. That same year Ice Cube received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Source Hip-Hop Music Awards. In 2006, Ice Cube released his 8th solo album, Laugh Now, Cry Later, on his Da Lench Mob Records label. It has been certified Gold. The album featured production from Lil Jon and Scott Storch, who produced the lead single “Why We Thugs.” Ice Cube has also continued to work in film, video and TV and appeared in the movie Barbershop in 2002 and Barbershop 2: Back to Business in 2004. His 2006 album is entitled Laugh Now, Cry Later.
ICE T (1958– ) Rap Singer, Actor
With his image as a street-wise hustler, Ice-T became one of the West Coast’s first major rap artists, laying down a style that would later be adopted by “gangsta” rappers such as Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg. Ice-T, who became one of the first rappers to have warning labels placed on his albums, also set the tone for much of the controversy that would follow rap music during the 1990s and into the new millennium.
Born Tracey Morrow in Newark, New Jersey, on February 14, 1959, Ice -T moved to Los Angeles following the death of his parents. He attended Crenshaw High School, and took on the name Ice-T after reading the books of Iceberg Slim, a former pimp. Ice -T made several recordings and had minor roles in the films Breakin’ (1984), Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984), and Rappin’ (1985).
In 1987, Ice-T signed a major; label recording contract with Sire Records. He released Rhyme Pays the same year. Along with the title track to the movie Colors (1988), the album’s portrayal of ghetto life, violence, and criminal activity brought Ice -T national attention. He followed with Power (1988) and The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech.& Just Watch What You Say (1989). Ice-T’s 1991 release O.G. Orginal Gangster proved to be a seminal record in the history of “gangsta” rap. Included on the album was the track “New Jack Hustler,” title track of the film New Jack City (1991), in which Ice -Tstarred with Wesley Snipes.
O.G. Orginal Gangster also featured the debut of Ice-T’s rap/metal band Body Count, who released a full; length album the following year. Body Count (1992) contained the notorious song “Cop Killer.” The track sparked protest from policemen and politicians, and earned Ice-T a place on the FBI National Threat list. Finally, after threats of boycotts of stores selling the album, Sire pulled the record and reissued it without the controversial song. The controversy surrounding Ice-T gradually began to fade. He continued to record solo rap albums, including, Home Invasion (1993), The Last Temptation of Ice (1995), Cold as Ever (1996), VI: Return of the Real (1996), 7th Deadly Sin (1999) Gangsta Rap (2006); but also found success in acting.
Ice-T has made numerous television appearances. In addition to a starring role on the series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, he has also appeared as the host of Being Tough. Ice-T’s film credits include, Trespass (1992), Surviving the Game (1994), Johnny Mnemonic (1995), Rhyme and Reason (1997), Mean Guns (1997), Body Count (1997), Crazy Six (1998), Urban Menace (1999), The Wrecking Crew (1999), Leprechaun in the Hood (1999), Judgment Day (1999), Sonic Impact (2000), Ablaze (2000), Kept (2001), and Gangland (2001) and Ice-T’s Rap School (2006).
JANET JACKSON (1966– ) Singer, Actress
The youngest child of a family of talented children, Janet Jackson is a tremendously energetic performer, whose
singing and dance styles have reached immense popularity around the world. She is one of the most successful of a family of highly talented performers including her brother Michael, the so-called “King of Pop.” In the 1990s, she has fully emerged from his shadow and has become a full-fledged sex symbol and role model.
Born on May 16, 1966, in Gary, Indiana, Janet Jackson began performing with her brothers at age six, doing impressions of famous stars such as Mae West and Cher. She made her first professional singing debut at one of the Jackson Five’s shows in the Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. Before she was ten years old, Jackson was spotted by television producer Norman Lear, resulting in her appearances on such television shows as “Good Times,” “Different Strokes,” and “Fame.”
In 1982, Jackson’s debut album for the AM label, Janet, contained only a few minor hits. Teamed with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Jackson released her more commercially successful LP Dream Street. Her 1986 release Control scored six hit singles including “What Have You Done For Me Lately,” “Nasty,” “When I Think of You,” “Control,” “Let’s Wait Awhile,” and “Pleasure Principle.” Under the direction of Jam and Lewis, Jackson released the dance-oriented album Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 in 1989, which went quadruple platinum. Among the record’s numerous singles were “Miss You Much,” “Come Back To Me,” and “Black Cat.”
After an extensive world tour in 1990, Jackson left the AM label to sign a contract with Virgin Records in 1991. The four-album contract was worth an estimated $80 million with $50 million guaranteed up front. Two years later, she starred alongside Tupac Shakur in John Singleton’s Poetic Justice. Jackson played a soul-searching hairdresser prone to writing poetry; Maya Angelou, who was also featured in the film, provided the poems Jackson’s character read. In 1994, Jackson released janet. Critically acclaimed, the album did well commercially, too. The single “Any Time, Any Place” earned Jackson her 14th gold single, the most by any female solo artist other than Aretha Franklin. The following year, Jackson collaborated with her brother Michael on a track entitled “Scream.” The visually stunning video associated with the single was one of the most expensive ever made. Later in 1995, her Design of a Decade: 1986; 1996 made a splashy debut. She also contributed a song to the soundtrack for Ready to Wear. Her follow up album to janet, The Velvet Rope, debuted at the number one position in The Billboard 200 chart, a testament to her star power.
In 2000, Jackson’s “secret husband” of nine years, Rene Elizondo, made their marriage public by filing for divorce. By 2001, the divorce was final, but did nothing to slow down Jackson’s career. In April of 2001 Jackson’s seventh album All For You was released to critical success. The album won her an American Music Award in the “favorite pop/rock female artist” category as well as a Grammy for Best Dance Recording, for “All For You,” from the National Academy of Recording Arts Sciences.
Jackson has earned much recognition throughout her career. Between 1986 and 1992, she garnered four Billboard Awards; seven American Music Awards; two MTV Video Music Awards; one Grammy Award; three Soul Train Awards; a BMI Pop Award; and the 1992 Sammy Davis Jr. Award for entertainer of the year. In 1990, she acquired a star on Hollywood “Walk of Fame,” and, in 1992, the NAACP gave her its Chairman’s Award. Three years later, she received an Essence Award. Jackson is also the recipient of the Lena Horne Award for outstanding career achievements (1997). In 2001 Jackson received a special Award of Merit at the American Music Awards for her outstanding musical contribution. She also received a Billboard Artist Achievement Award that year for her continued perseverance in the music industry. Jackson released an album in 2004, Damita Joe, and one in 2006, 20 Y. O., and continues to perform live around the world as well as in TV, film and videos.
MICHAEL JACKSON (1958– ) Singer, Composer
From child singing star with the Jackson Five to his success as a solo performer in the 1980s, Michael Jackson has amassed the largest following of any African American singer in the history of popular music. Jackson has an audience that transcends the boundaries of nations and bridges the gaps brought about by generational differences. Despite some missteps in the early 1990s, the “King of Pop” reigns supreme.
The fifth of nine children, Michael Jackson was born on August 29, 1958, in Gary, Indiana. As a child, Michael, along with his brothers Tito, Jermaine, Jackie, and Marlon, comprised the Jackson Five. Under the tutelage of their father, Joe, the five boys learned to sing and dance. On weekends the family singing group traveled hundreds of miles to perform at amateur contests and benefit concerts.
After two years on the road, the group landed an audition with Motown records. Upon signing with the label in 1969, the Jackson Five hit the charts with the number one hit “I Want You Back,” a song arranged and produced by Berry Gordy Jr. On recordings and television shows, Michael’s wholesome image and lead vocal style attracted fans from every racial and age group. During the group’s six-year stay at Motown, the Jackson Five scored 13 consecutive Top 20 singles such as “ABC,” “The Love You Save,” and “I’ll Be There.”
While lead vocalist for the Jackson Five, Michael had signed a separate contract with Motown in 1971, formalizing a solo career that produced the hits “Got to Be There” in 1971, “Ben” in 1972, and “Just a Little Bit of You” in 1975. When cast in the role of the scarecrow in the 1975 Motown film The Wiz, Jackson met producer Quincy Jones who later collaborated with him to record the 1979 hit LP Off the Wall on the Epic label. Two years later, Jackson, guided by the production skills of Jones, recorded the biggest selling album of all time, Thriller. The seven hit singles included “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” “Wanna Be Startin’ Something,” and the title track, which featured a voice over by horror cult figure Vincent Price. The video for the song was almost a mini-movie, starring Jackson as a dancing werewolf run amok, with special effects that rivaled any full-length feature film.
In 1985, Jackson co-wrote the song “We Are the World” for the U.S.A. for Africa famine relief fund. After joining Jones to produce Bad in 1987, Jackson led the most commercially successful tour in history. Four years later, Jackson released Dangerous, which included the hit single “Black or White.”
In 1993, Jackson announced that the progressive lightening of his skin has been the result of a skin disorder known as vitiligo and not from intentional bleaching. The public declaration was one of many Jackson would find himself making about various topics in the ensuing years. Scandal-ridden, Jackson hit a backslide in his career following allegations of child molestation charges that were dropped and the coming to light of a pain medication addiction brought about by poor health.
Coming on the heels of such devastating disclosures, HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book I (1995) featured hits from the past as well as new works. Compared to his previous recordings, sales were disappointing and the recording was not considered a commercial success. Fan loyalty to the gifted musician, however, drove some of the new songs into chart contention including “The Earth Song,” the controversial “They Don’t Care About Us,” and the lilting ballad “You Are Not Alone.” The compilation also gave Jackson a chance to work with his sister Janet, when the two collaborated on the duet “Scream,” the first single to be released. The ensuing video for “Scream” cost $7 million, making it one of the most expensive and eyecatching videos ever produced. Jackson’s follow up album to HIStory, Blood on the Dance Floor was released in 1997, and is a partly new, partly remixed recording.
In 2001, Jackson gave his fans his first completely original album since 1992’s Dangerous entitled Invincible. 2001 also saw the televised reunion of the Jackson Five during a 30th anniversary tribute to Jackson. Also appearing to honor Jackson were music greats Ray Charles, guitarist Slash, and producer Quincy Jones.
Jackson had made headlines in 1994, when he announced his betrothal to Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of the late rock legend Elvis Presley. The marriage of Jackson and Presley was considered highly unusual, and many critics dismissed it as a publicity stunt. On June 14, 1995, Jackson and Presley were interviewed by Diane Sawyer on ABC’s Prime Time Live. During the interview, the two insisted they were deeply in love and planned to eventually have children. However, in January of 1996, Lisa Presley announced that she was divorcing Jackson. Jackson remarried later that year to long time friend Debbie Rowe. A son was born to them in early 1997, followed by a daughter in the spring of 1998.
Jackson’s business ventures have had more staying power. An astute business man, he entered into a $600 million joint publishing deal with Sony in 1995. The deal combined Sony’s music publishing division with Jackson’s ATV Music Catalog, which once owned the rights to the entire collection of The Beatles’ work.
More importantly, Jackson continues to garner acclaim, despite his setbacks. In 1993, he received three American Music Awards including the first-ever International Artist Award, and was recognized at the World Music Awards ceremony in Monte Carlo, Monaco. In addition, he received special Grammy honors that year. Two years later, he won three MTV Video Awards. In 2002, Jackson was honored with an Artist of the Century award at the American Music Awards. While many argue that his work has been uneven, his contribution to modern pop has been enormous. Indeed, Jackson redefined stardom for the video era. Popular culture will never be the same. In the fall of 2006, Raymone Bain, Jackson’s press agent, announced that Jackson has sold over 750 million albums and singles worldwide, making Jackson one of the best-selling music artists of all time. He continues to work occasionally in videos, TV, movies and busy compiling some retrospective albums.
ETTA JAMES (1938– ) Singer
Born Jamesetta Hawkins on January 25, 1938, Etta James was a child prodigy, singing gospel music on the radio in Los Angeles by the time she was five. As a teenager in 1950, she formed a singing group called The Creolettes with two friends. The trio was discovered by rhythm and blues star Johnny Otis in 1954. Otis changed the group’s name to The Peaches and took the girls on the road with him. The Peaches recorded their first song “Roll with Me, Henry” which topped the charts in 1955, along with “Good Rocking Daddy.” The success of that record led to a tour with rock and roll star Little Richard and studio backup vocal jobs with Marvin Gaye, Minnie Riperton, and Chuck Berry. James signed with Chess and cranked out ten chart-making hits between 1960 and 1963 including “At Last,” “Trust in Me,” and “Something’s Got a Hold on Me.” In 1967 she traveled to the famous Muscle Shoals, Alabama studio, where she recorded many of her biggest hits including “I’d Rather Go Blind” and “Tell Mama.”
Although successful on the rhythm and blues charts, James did not manage to catch on with wider audiences in the 1960s. With Chess through 1975, James continued to record with moderate success in the gray region between blues, soul, rhythm and blues, and rock. After a recording lapse lasting for much of the 1980s, she recorded the album The Seven Year Itch for Island Records in 1988. Despite her inability to establish herself as a mainstream superstar, James has been a major influence on many singers who did attain that status including Diana Ross and Janis Joplin.
In 1993, James was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1995, she co-authored her autobiography with David Ritz entitled Rage to Survive: The Etta James Story. She continued to put out albums throughout the 1990s such as Stickin’ to My Guns (1990); The Right Time (1992); Respect Yourself (1997); and The Heart of a Woman (1999). Blue Gardenia hit stores in 2001, More recent albums are Let‘s Roll, 2003, Blues to the Bone, 2004 and two in 2006, The Definitive Collection and All the Way.
JAY Z (1969– ) Rap, Hip Hop, Music Entrepreneur
Jay-Z was born Shawn Corey Carter on December 4, 1969, in Brooklyn, New York. He is a hip-hop recording artist and current president and CEO of Def Jam and Roc-A-Fella Records. In addition, he co-owns The 40/40 Club, and is a part owner of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets. He has proven to been one of the most savvy financial managers and entrepreneurs among the hip-hop artists. He retired in 2003 but returned late 2006 with the album Kingdom Come which sold 680,000 copies in its first week. Jay-Z was one of the founders of Roc-A-Fella Records, a hip-hop record label that also launched the careers of artists such as Beanie Sigel, Kanye West, Memphis Bleek, Young Gunz, Freeway, and Rihanna.
From the beginning of his commercial recording career, wen no major label gave him a record deal, Jay-Z created Roc-A-Fella Records as his own label. After making a deal with Priority to distribute his material, Jay-Z released his 1996 debut album Reasonable Doubt. In 1997 Def Jam released Jay-Z’s follow-up In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, with the aid of executive producer Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs. His 1998’s Vol. 2 . . . Hard Knock Life proved to be biggest hit of his career at the time. It was multiplatinum in the US and sold over 8 million worldwide. In 1999, Jay-Z released Vol. 3 . . . Life and Times of S. Carter. The album was successful and went and sold over 5.6 million records worldwide.
Jay-Z decided to begin developing other artists. Around 2000, he and Damon Dash signed various artists including Beanie Sigel and Freeway and began introducing them to the public. He next appeared on The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, which was intended as a compilation album to introduce these new artists, though the album had Jay-Z’s name on it to strengthen market recognition. The Blueprint, 2001, is considered to be one of hip hop’s classics. It was released on September 11, 2001, the album managed to debut at #1, selling more than 450,000 albums in its first week. The success of the album was overshadowed by the terrorist attacks that same day. Eminem was the only guest artist on the album, producing and rapping on the single “Renegade”. Four of the 13 tracks on the album were produced by Kanye West
Jay-Z’s next solo album was 2002’s 4-million (USA only) selling The Blueprint 2.1; the Gift and the Curse, a double-album. It was later reissued in a single-disc version, The Blueprint 2.1, in 2003 and included half of the tracks from the original. It went on to sell 800,000 more copies. Two hit singles emerged from the album, “Excuse Me Miss” and “Bonnie and Clyde” featuring Jay-Z’s
girlfriend of four years Beyoncé Knowles. In 2003 he released The Black Album, which was multiplatinum.
QUINCY JONES (1933– ) Trumpeter, Arranger, Producer
Winner of 20 Grammy Awards and the writer of more than 52 film scores, Quincy Jones is popular music’s quintessential musician/producer. Aside from performing trumpet with the likes of jazzmen Lionel Hampton and Dizzy Gillespie, Jones has produced for artists from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson.
Quincy Jones was born on March 14, 1933, in Chicago, Illinois. At age ten, Jones moved to Bremerton, Washington. As a member of Bump Blackwell’s Junior Orchestra, Jones performed at local Seattle social functions. In 1949, Jones played third trumpet in Lionel Hampton’s band in the local Seattle club scene. After befriending jazz bassist Oscar Pettiford, Jones established himself as an able musician and arranger.
From 1950 to 1953, Jones became a regular member of Hampton’s band, and, subsequently, toured the United States and Europe. During the mid-1950s, Jones began to record jazz records under his own name. In 1956, he toured the Middle East and South America with the U.S. State Department Band headed by Dizzy Gillespie.
In 1961, Jones was appointed musical director at Mercury Records. In search of new musical horizons, Jones began producing popular music including Leslie Gore’s 1963 hit “It’s My Party.” Jones’s growing prestige at Mercury led to his promotion to vice president of the company, marking the first time an African American had been placed in an executive position at a major label. During this time, Jones also began to write and record film scores. In 1967, he produced the music score for the movie In the Heat of the Night. He also produced the music score for Alex Haley’s television miniseries “Roots” and co-produced the film adaptation of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple with Steven Spielberg.
After his production of the 1978 Motown-backed film The Wiz, Jones went on to produce the film’s star, Michael Jackson, on such recordings as the 1979 release Off the Wall and the 1985 record-breaking hit Thriller. Jones’s 1989 release Back on the Block, a Grammy winner, was praised by critics and was no doubt a sign of Jones’s continuing role in the future development of African American popular music. Two years later, Jones sat down with his old buddy Miles Davis. The musical encounter was recorded and released in 1993 as Miles Quincy Live at Montreux, along with a video documentary of the same name. In 1995, Jones released his album Q’s Juke Joint, featuring updated versions of tunes popularized in post-slavery roadhouses.
Jones is also influential in the media industry. He is chairman of Quest Broadcasting; in 1994, the group partnered with Chicago’s Tribune Co. to buy television stations in Atlanta and New Orleans. His joint venture with Time WarnerVIBE magazine, which Jones founded-has been very successful. The publication covers urban music and culture and has a high readership among African Americans and Latinos. In the late 1990s, Jones turned to exploring the multimedia realm. He released a CD-ROM, Q’s Juke Joint, which, such as his album of the same name, is an examination of African American music.
In 1997, Jones received the WGCI-AM/FM Granville White Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in the music industry. In 1999, Jones was honored with the James D. Patterson award, which recognizes individuals who have helped to ensure the continued existence of historically Black colleges and universities and the education of Black students. Early in 2001, Jones sold Qwest Records to Warner Music and concentrated full time on his television/movie production company. He also published Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones in that year. In December of 2001, Quincy was awarded a Kennedy Center honor. His most recent honor came again from the National Academy of Recording Arts Sciences when he was awarded the Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album for Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones. His work is still popular as was demonstrated when rapper Ludacris sampled Jones’ Soul Bossa Nova for his 2005 single Number One Spot. Jones was featured in the video and he also performed a cameo in Austin Powers in Goldmember, which also featured Soul Bossa Nova on its soundtrack. Jones heads of his company Quincy Jones Entertainment which produced the television shows Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Jones is also the founder of Vibe Magazine and owner of the publication Spin.
LOUIS JORDAN (1908–1975) Singer, Alto Saxophonist, Bandleader
Louis Jordan led one of the most popular and influential bands of the 1940s. The shuffle boogie rhythm of his jump blues ensemble, the Tympany Five, had a profound impact on the emergence of rhythm and blues. As guitarist Chuck Berry admitted, “I identify myself with Louis Jordan more than any other artist.” For it was Jordan’s swinging rhythms, theatrical stage presence, and songs about everyday life that made him a favorite among musicians and listeners throughout the 1940s.
Born in Brinkley, Arkansas, July 8, 1908, Jordan was the son of a bandleader and music teacher. He received his music education in the Brinkley public schools and the Baptist College in Little Rock. Jordan’s early music career as a clarinetist included stints with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels and Ruby Williams’s orchestra. Soon after moving to Philadelphia in 1932, Jordan joined Charlie Gains’s group; sometime around 1936, he joined drummer Chick Webb’s band.
After Webb’s death in 1938, Jordan started his own group. Because Jordan performed for both white and black audiences, he, to use his own words, learned to “straddle the fence” by playing music ranging from blues to formal dance music. Signing with Decca records during the same year, Jordan began a recording career which, by the early 1940s, produced a string of million selling recordings such as “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t (My Baby),” “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie,” “Saturday Night Fish Fry,” and “Caledonia.” Aside from working with artists such as Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, and Ella Fitzgerald, Jordan appeared in several films such as the 1949 release Shout Sister Shout.
Although failing to achieve the success he experienced during the 1940s, Jordan fronted a big band in the early 1950s. During the 1960s and 1970s, he continued to tour the United States, Europe, and Asia. His career came to an end in 1975 when he suffered a fatal heart attack in Los Angeles. Jordan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He was further celebrated in 1990 in the hit stage production of Five Guys Named Moe.
EDDIE KENDRICKS (1939–1992) Singer
As a member of the Temptations in the 1960s, Eddie Kendricks’s articulate soulful falsetto provided Motown with a number of pop music classics. Kendricks’s gospel music background “enabled him to bring an unusual earnestness to the singing of love lyrics,” wrote music historian David Morse. “He can be compared only with Ray Charles in his ability to take the most threadbare ballad and turn it into a dramatic and completely convincing statement.”
Born on December 17, 1939, in Birmingham, Alabama, Kendricks grew up with close friend and Temptations’s member Paul Williams. In 1956 Kendricks and Williams quit school and traveled northward to become singing stars in the tradition of their idols Clyde McPhatter and Little Willie John. In Detroit, Kendricks and Williams formed the doo wop singing group the Primes which performed at talent contests and house parties. In 1961 the Primes recorded the songs “Mother of Mine” and the dance tune “Check Yourself” for Berry Gordy’s short-lived Miracle label.
Upon the suggestion of Berry Gordy, the Primes changed their name to the Temptations and after adding David Ruffin as lead vocalist, they set out to become one of the most successful groups on the Motown label. Throughout the decade, Kendricks sang lead on several songs including the classics “My Girl” in 1965, “Get Ready” in 1966, and “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” in 1972.
In June of 1971, Kendricks pursued a solo career and eventually recorded two disco-influenced hits “Keep on Truckin” in 1973 and “Boogie Down” in 1974. Kendricks’s career soon fell into decline. Unable to find material to suit his unique artistic sensibility, Kendricks switched record labels several times before reuniting with the Temptations in 1982. After the reunion, Kendricks performed with the Temptations on the Live Aid broadcast and on the album Live at the Apollo Theater with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks. In 1987 Ruffin and Kendricks signed a contract with RCA and recorded the aptly titled LP Ruffin and Kendricks. Stricken by lung cancer, Kendricks died in October 1992.
ALICIA KEYS (1980) Singer, Songwriter, Musician
Alicia Augello-Cook was born on January 25, 1980. Keys was born to an Irish-Italian mother, Terri Augello, and a Jamaican father, Craig Cook, in Harlem. In 1985, Keys and a group of other girls won the parts as Rudy Huxtable’s sleepover guests in an episode of The Cosby Show. She began playing piano when she was seven, learning classical music by composers such as Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin. She wrote her first song “Butterflyz” at the age of fourteen; the song was later recorded for her debut album. Keys graduated from the Professional Performing Arts School, a high school in Manhattan, at the age of sixteen. Although accepted to Columbia University, she decided instead to pursue her musical career. Keys signed a deal with Jermaine Dupri and his So So Def label, then distributed by Columbia Records. She wrote and recorded a song entitled Dah Dee Dah (Sexy Thing), which appeared on the soundtrack to the 1997 blockbuster, Men in Black. The song was Keys’ first professional recording; it was never released as a single and her record contract with Columbia Records was ended quickly. Keys later met Clive Davis, who signed her to Arista Records and, later, J Records label, she recorded the songs Rock wit U and Rear View Mirror, featured on the soundtracks to the films Shaft (2000) and Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001) espectively. Keys then released her debut album Songs in A Minor in 2001.
Keys performed Donny Hathaway’s Someday We’ll All Be Free at the America: A Tribute to Heroes televised benefit concert following the September 11, 2001 attacks. Another single from Songs in A Minor, A Woman’s Worth, made the top ten in the U.S. as well. Keys and the album won five Grammy Awards in 2002, including Best New Artist and Song of the Year for Fallin’. Later in 2002 Keys released Remixed & Unplugged in A Minor, a re-issue of Songs in A Minor, which includes eight remixes and versions of some of the songs off her debut album. Critical reviews of the album were mostly positive.
Keys followed up her debut with The Diary of Alicia Keys, 2003, which sold eight million copies worldwide. The singles You Don’t Know My Name and If I Ain’t Got You both reached the top five of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and another single, Diary, entered the top ten. If I Ain’t Got You became the first single by a female artist to remain on the sixty-three-year-old Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for more than one year, surpassing Mary J. Blige’s “Your Child” (forty-nine weeks). Keys went on to become the best-selling female R&B artist of 2004.
At the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards, Keys won Best R&B Video for If I Ain’t Got You. In the next year, 2005, she won Best R&B Video in her second year in a row for Karma. She won four Grammy Awards that year: Best R&B Album for The Diary of Alicia Keys, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for If I Ain’t Got You, Best R&B Song for You Don’t Know My Name, and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for My Boo with Usher. She was also nominated for Album of the Year for The Diary of Alicia Keys, Song of the Year for If I Ain’t Got You, Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for Diary (featuring Tony! Toni! Toné!), and Best R&B Song for My Boo.
Keys performed and taped her installment of the MTV Unplugged series on July 14, 2005 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. During this live session, Keys added brand-new arrangements to her original songs such as A Woman’s Worth and Heartburn, and performed a few choice covers. Part of Keys’ audience also included her guest performers; she collaborated with rappers Common and Mos Def on “Love It or Leave It Alone”, reggae artist Damian Marley on Welcome to Jamrock, and Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine on a cover of The Rolling Stones’ 1971 Wild Horses. In addition to a cover of Every Little Bit Hurts, previously performed by singers such as Aretha Franklin and Brenda Holloway, Keys also premiered two new original songs: Stolen Moments, which she co-wrote with producer Lamont Green, and Unbreakable Known simply as Unplugged, the album peaked at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. The debut of Keys’ Unplugged was the highest debut for an MTV Unplugged album since Nirvana’s 1994 MTV Unplugged in New York and the first Unplugged by a female artist to debut at number one. It was nominated for four Grammy Awards: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for Unbreakable, Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance for If I Was Your Woman, Best R&B Song for Unbreakable, and Best R&B Album. The album won three NAACP Image Awards: Outstanding Female Artist, Outstanding Song for Unbreakable, and Outstanding Music Video for Unbreakable.
Keys has already begun working on her third studio album, which is scheduled for release in the summer of 2007 She is also acting in film and TV.
CHAKA KHAN (1953– ) Singer
Born in Great Lakes Naval Training Station, Illinois, in 1953, Chaka Khan (nee Yvette Marie Stevens) changed her name after attending the Yoruba Tribe African Arts Center in Chicago, her hometown. She sang with a number of groups including Lyfe, Lock and Chains, Baby Huey and the Babysitters and Ask Rufus, which shortened its name to Rufus and signed to ABC in 1973. After a modest selling debut album, Rufus’s sophomore project featured Stevie Wonders’s composition “Tell Me Something Good” on the Rags to Rufus album (1974). Soon, Khan earned the billing “featuring Chaka Khan,” and the group produced a string of successful projects including Rufusized (1974), Rufus featuring Chaka Khan (1975), and Ask Rufus (1977).
Khan embarked on a solo career in 1978. During this time she collaborated with industry giants Quincy Jones (“Stuff Like That”) and Joni Mitchell (“Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter”). Her efforts as a solo artist featured collaborations with such luminaries as George Benson, The Average White Band, The Brecker Brothers, and Phil Upchurch. Throughout the 1980s, Khan expanded her reputation by recording in eclectic situations including jazz standards, rock, and hard hitting soul. She collaborated with a dizzying mix of musicians such as Prince, Freddie Hubbard, Chick Corea, and Grandmaster Melle Mel. In the 1990s, the music of her earlier career remained staples in the both the rhythm and blues and smooth jazz radio formats. Her 1998 release Come 2 My House is collaborative project with “the artist formerly known as Prince”
and features Khan’s signature vocal style: a wide range, intense musicality, clarion tone, and sensual feeling. That same year Chaka Khan received ASCAP’s first Rhythm & Soul Heritage Award. In 2000, Khan was honored with the Granville White Lifetime Achievement Award.
In October 2004, Khan released her cover album ClassiKhan by her own label Earth Song Records and Sanctuary Records. The album of her standards featured the London Symphony Orchestra and recorded primarily at Abbey Road Studios in London. In early 2006, she signed with Sony BMG’s new label Burgundy Records to release her studio cover album set I-Khan Divas in 2007. Also, Khan, who has recently embraced Christianity, participated in a live all-star gospel concert recording for artist Richard Smallwood’s new album Journey: Live In New York. Khan is featured on the song Holy Is Your Name. On February 11, 2007 Khan headlined and performed at the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences 2007 Grammy Award official post party held immediately after the event at the Los Angeles convention center.
GLADYS KNIGHT (1944– ) Singer
Born May 28, 1944, in Atlanta, Georgia, Gladys Knight was raised in a family which valued education and the sounds of gospel music. At age four, Knight began singing gospel music at the Mount Moriah Baptist Church. When she was eight, Knight won first prize on the television program “Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour” for a rendition of the song “Too Young.” Between the years 1950 and 1953, Knight toured with the Morris Brown Choir of Atlanta, Georgia. Around this same time, Knight joined her sister Brenda, brother Merald, and cousins William and Eleanor Guest to form a local church singing group. In 1957 the group took the name the Pips upon the suggestion of cousin and manager James “Pips” Woods.
Two years later Langston George and Edward Patten replaced Brenda Knight and Eleanor Guest. Though Gladys periodically left the group, she rejoined in 1964. After recording for several record labels, the Pips finally signed with Motown’s subsidiary, Soul. Despite the lack of commercial success, the group released a number of fine recordings under the supervision of Motown’s talented production staff including Norman Whitfield and Ashford and Simpson. In 1967 the group released the single “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” which reached number two on the Billboard charts. Following a long string of hits on Motown, the Pips signed with the Buddah label in 1973, releasing the album Imagination, which provided the group with two gold singles “Midnight Train to Georgia” and “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination.”
By the late 1970s the group, faced with legal battles and contract disputes, began to fall out of popular vogue. For three years the group was barred from recording or performing together. As a result of an out-of-court settlement in 1980, the Pips signed a new contract with CBS, where they remained until 1985. Joined by Dionne Warwick and Elton John, Knight recorded the Grammy Award-winning gold single “That’s What Friends Are For” in 1986. Released in 1988, the title cut of the Pip’s Love Overboard album became their biggest selling single in decades. That same year, Knight recorded the theme for the James Bond film License To Kill. Released on the MCA label, Knight’s 1991 album Good Women features guest stars Patti LaBelle and Dionne Warwick. Knight released another album Just For You in 1994. In 1995, Gladys Knight and the Pips were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In 1998, Knight put forth the album Many Different Roads, her first album to fully focus in on the spiritual side of music. In 2001, Knight returned to more contemporary music with her album At Last. She also married business consultant William McDowell that same year. It was her fourth marriage and his second. In 2002, Knight was back in the limelight as she won a Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Album, for At Last, from the National Academy of Recording Arts Sciences.
Knight continues to receive many awards and honors. In 2005, Knight received a Grammy for Best Gospel Performance for “Heaven Help Us All,” her duet with Ray Charles, a song from Charles’s album, Genius Loves Company. Oprah Winfrey honored Knight as one of 25 accomplished and influential African-American women a Legends Ball. Knight also was honored in 2005 with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the BET cable network. In 2006, Knight was honored with a Legendary Award by the Las Vegas Music Awards. Knight won her seventh Grammy award in 2007 in the category of Best Gospel Choir or Gospel Chorus for the “One Voice” CD with the Saints Unified Voices.
BEYONCÉ KNOWLES (1981– ) Singer, actress
Born in Houston, Texas, on September 4, 1981, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles started performing at age seven. From dance classes to singing in the church choir, Beyoncé excelled. With her cousin Kelly Rowland she met Latavia Roberson and the trio formed a group with Letoya Luckett. Mathew Knowles, Beyoncé’s father and Rowland’s legal guardian, became the girls’ manager. This led to one of the most popular female R&B groups of all time—Destiny’s Child, which debuted in 1990. By 2002 the group sold over 33 million albums earned many Grammys and other awards. “Jumpin’ Jumpin’,” “Bills, Bills, Bills,” “Say My Name,” and “Survivor” were top hits.
In 2001 the group tried solo careers. Beyoncé became the first African-American female artist and second woman ever to win the 2001 annual ASCAP Pop Songwriter of the Year Award. An appearance in the MTV drama Carmen: A Hip Hopera quickly followed, but it was her role as Foxxy Cleopatra in Austin Powers in Goldmember in 2002 that eventually moved Beyoncé from the stage to the screen.
Her first single, “Work It Out,” coincided with the release of the Mike Myers comedy and cemented her celebrity status. A guest spot on Jay-Z’s 03 “Bonnie & Clyde” was equally popular when it appeared in October. In 2003 she rejoined Jay-Z for her proper debut single, “Crazy in Love.” Beyoncé’s debut album, Dangerously in Love (2003), featured collaborations with Sean Paul, Missy Elliott, and OutKast’s Big Boi. Nearly two years after another Destiny’s Child album (Destiny Fulfilled), Beyoncé released her second album, B’day. At the 2004 Grammy Awards ceremony, Knowles won a record-tying five Grammy Awards for her solo effort, which included Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for “Dangerously in Love 2”, Best R&B Song for “Crazy in Love”, and Best Contemporary R&B Album. Three other female artists hold this record: Lauryn Hill (1999), Alicia Keys (2002), and Norah Jones (2003). She also won a Brit Award in 2004 for International Female Solo Artist in the United Kingdom.
In December 2005 Knowles released “Check on It,” featuring rappers Slim Thug and (on the official remix) Bun B. The song was from the Destiny’s Child’s greatest hits compilation, #1’s, and the soundtrack to the 2006 film The Pink Panther and it was Knowles’ sixth top five hit and third number one in the U.S.
At the 2006 Grammy Awards, Knowles won a Grammy in the category of Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for the song “So Amazing”, a duet with Stevie Wonder from the Luther Vandross tribute album So Amazing: An All-Star Tribute to Luther Vandross. Beyoncé received five Grammy nominations and won Best Contemporary R&B Album for B’Day in 2007.
KRS-ONE (1965?– ) Rap Singer
A self-described teacher whose Boogie Down Productions (BDP) was an important influence on hardcore rap, KRS-One survived street life, prison, homelessness, the murder of a close friend, and negative criticism to emerge as one of rap’s most powerful figures. Born Lawrence Parker circa 1965 in Brooklyn, New York, KRS-One (initially representative of “Kris, Number One,” later an acronym for “Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone”) also went by Krishna Parker or Kris Parker. Leaving home at 13, he lived on the streets, taking odd jobs when available and hanging out in public libraries. Self-educated, he served a short stint in jail for selling marijuana. Upon his release, the 19-year-old met Scott Sterling, a social worker and DJ who worked under the name Scott LaRock. Together the two formed BDP.
BDP recorded one album, Criminal Minded, before LaRock was killed while trying to break up a fight. Persevering, KRS-One kept their music alive, recording several critically acclaimed works with the various musicians who comprised the BDP crew. In 1990 he created H.E.A.L., or Human Education Against Lies, an afrocentric, pro-educational organization. KRS-One also founded Edutainer Records that year. In 1991 he recorded Live Hardcore Worldwide, one of the first live rap albums, and produced such artists as Queen Latifah and the Neville Brothers. His 1992 album Sex and Violence returned to the earlier hardcore sound of BDP, while his 1997 recording I Got Next produced raw funk on tracks such as “The MC.”
KRS-One took a four year sabbatical from the music industry, but returned strongly with his 2001 release The Sneak Attack. He then surprised many fans and critics with his 2002 album Spiritual Minded, a hardcore gospel record which preaches the ways of a religious lifestyle in rap format. He founded the Temple of Hiphop, and released a new album, Kristyles, in mid-2003, which was preceded by KRS-One: The Mixtape. In the summer of 2004 he released Keep Right and KRS-One’s latest album Life in 2006.
PATTI LABELLE (1944– ) Singer
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1944, Patti LaBelle (née Patricia Holt) has remained one of the most respected divas of the pop-soul tradition. Known for her dramatic vocalizations and stage presentations, LaBelle’s career has lasted several decades by keeping up with popular trends without sacrificing her signature vocal gymnastics.
While still a teenager, LaBelle formed the Bluebelles with Cindy Birdsong, Sarah Dash, and Nonah Henderson. They scored a hit in “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman” (1962) and “Down the Aisle” (1963) during the height of the girl group fad in popular music. Shortly thereafter, the group adopted the name Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles, which was ultimately shortened to LaBelle, and they turned to a harder rock style in the early 1970s. The group scored a million seller hit with the energetic “Lady Marmalade.” The group disbanded in 1976, and LaBelle embarked on a solo career.
In the mid-1980s, she recorded the hits “New Attitude” (1985) and “Oh People” (1986) and the Bayer Sayer-Burt Bacharach song “On My Own” (1986), which featured a duet with Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers. LaBelle is the recipient of eight Grammy Award nominations and three Emmy Award nominations. In 1992, she received a Grammy for best R&B vocal performance. She produced numerous albums throughout the 1990s including Burnin’ (1991); Gems (1994); and Flame (1997). While her entire body of recordings throughout the 1980s and 1990s were met with mixed commercial success, she has established herself as a sentimental favorite among pop-soul audiences. In 2000, LaBelle put out the studio album, When a Woman Loves. In 2001, she was awarded the Lena Horne Award for outstanding career achievement at the Soul Train’s Lady of Soul Awards. LaBelle still performs often and in 2006 released an album The Gospel According to Patti LaBelle.
LITTLE RICHARD (1932– ) Singer, Pianist
Flamboyantly dressed, with his hair piled high in a pompadour, Little Richard is a musical phenomenon, an entertainer hailed by pop superstar Paul McCartney as “one of the greatest kings of rock and roll.” Richard’s image, mannerisms, and musical talent set the trend for the emergence of modern popular music performers from Jimi Hendrix to Prince.
One of 12 children, Richard Wayne Penniman was born on December 5, 1932, in Macon, Georgia. As a child in Macon, Richard heard the sounds of gospel music groups, street musicians, and spiritual-based songs emanating from homes throughout his neighborhood. Nicknamed the “War Hawk” for his unrestrained hollers and shouts, Richard’s voice projected with such intensity that he was once asked to stop singing in church. Richard’s first song before an audience was with the Tiny Tots, a gospel group featuring his brothers Marquette and Walter. Later Richard sang with his family in a group called the Penniman Singers; they appeared at churches, camp meetings, and talent contests.
In high school, Richard played alto saxophone in the marching band. After school he took a part-time job at the Macon City Auditorium, where he watched the bands of Cab Calloway, Hot Lips Page, Lucky Millinder, and Sister Rosetta Thorpe. At age 14, Richard left home to become a performer in Doctor Hudson’s Medicine Show. While on the road, he joined B. Brown’s Orchestra as a ballad singer performing such compositions as “Good Night Irene” and “Mona Lisa.” Not long afterward, he became a member of the traveling minstrel show of Sugarfoot Sam from Alabama.
Richard’s first break came in 1951, when the RCA label recorded him live on the radio, producing the local hit “Every Hour.” Traveling to New Orleans with his band the Tempo Toppers, Richard’s group eventually played the Houston rhythm and blues scene, where he attracted the attention of Don Robey, president of Peacock Records. After cutting some sides for the Peacock label, Richard sent a demo tape to Art Rupe’s Los Angeles-based Specialty label. Under the direction of Specialty’s producer Bumps Blackwell, Richard recorded the 1956 hit “Tutti Frutti” at JM Studios in New Orleans. Richard’s subsequent sessions for Specialty yielded a long list of classic hits such as “Long Tall Sally,” “Lucille,” “Jenny, Jenny,” and “Keep a Knocking.” In 1957, Richard appeared in the films Don’t Knock Rock with Billy Haley and The Girl Can’t Help It starring Jane Mansfield.
In the following year, Richard quit his rock and roll career to enter the Oakland Theological College in Huntsville, Alabama. Between 1957 to 1959 Richard released several gospel recordings and toured with artists such as Mahalia Jackson. In 1962, Richard embarked on a tour of Europe with Sam Cooke. One year later Richard hired a then unknown guitarist, Jimi Hendrix, who went under the pseudonym of Maurice James. In Europe Richard played on the same bills as the Beatles and Rolling Stones.
By the 1970s, Richard pursued a career as a full-fledged evangelist and performer. In 1979, he set out on a nationwide evangelist tour. In the following decade, he appeared in the film Down and Out in Beverly Hills and recorded “Rock Island Line” on the tribute LP to Lead-belly and Woody Guthrie entitled Folkways: A Vision Shared.
Richard’s continuing activity in show business represents the inexhaustible energy of a singer who had a profound impact on the careers of artists such as Otis Redding, Eddie Cochran, Richie Valens, Paul McCartney, and Mitch Ryder. Having earned special Grammy honors in 1993, Richard was honored with a lifetime achievement award by the Rhythm Blues Foundation the following year. Later that year, he headlined the 1994 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and he is a charter member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. He was called upon by the House of Blues Foundation to assist in the organizations Blues School House program in 1995.
Richard continued to tour throughout the 1990s and has appeared in numerous television shows and movies, usually as himself. In 2000, NBC produced a television about his life titled “Little Richard” starring Robert Townsend. Also in 2000, Richard was named the goodwill ambassador to his hometown Macon, Georgia. Richard was among the 2002 inductees into the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Hall of Fame and the next year Little Richard was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2004 Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Little Richard as #8 on their list of the Greatest Artists of All Time.
LL COOL J (1968– ) Rap Musician, Actor
In the mid-1980s, LL Cool J became one of rap music’s first major stars. Along with a handful of other musicians, he played a major role in rap’s entry and acceptance into the mainstream of American pop music. Even with the enormous shifts and changes in the industry over the past two decades, LL Cool J has remained a successful rap musician. In addition to his long-lived prominence as a rapper, LL Cool J has also cultivated a successful television and film acting career.
Born James Todd Smith on January 14, 1968, LL Cool J (short for “Ladies Love Cool James”) grew up in Queens, New York. At the age of 16, he released “I Need A Beat,” the first record issued on Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin’s Def Jam label. The single proved to be very popular, and he released his debut album, Radio (1985), the following year. With the success of the album, LL Cool J was invited to perform a version of his single “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” in the film Krush Groove (1985). He also appeared as a rapper in the film Wildcats (1986).
His second album, Bigger and Deffer (1987) proved to be an even bigger hit than Radio. The album’s single “I Need Love” became the first rap song to top Billboard Magazine’s R&B chart, expanding the appeal of rap music to a broader audience. That year, “Going Back to Cali,” a single from the soundtrack for the film Less Than Zero, proved to be another major hit on the charts. LL Cool J followed with the albums Walking with a Panther (1989); Mama Said Knock You Out (1990); 14 Shots to the Dome (1993); Mr. Smith (1995); Phenomenon (1997); G.O.A.T. Featuring James T. Smith (2001); The DEFinition (2004), Todd Smith (2006) and expected in 2007, Exit 13.
The onset of the 1990s saw LL Cool J explore the media of film and television, both as a musician and an actor. He was the first rap artist to appear on MTV’s Unplugged in 1991, and turned in an impressive performance as an undercover policeman in the The Hard Way (1991). A year later, he appeared in the film Toys (1992). In 1995, LL Cool J was given his own television series, In the House. The sitcom, which premiered on NBC before moving to the UPN network, ran until 1999. LL Cool J’s acting credits include roles in the following films: Out-of-Sync (1995), B.A.P.S (1997), Caught Up (1998), Woo (1998), Halloween: H20 (1998), Deep Blue Sea (1999), In Too Deep (1999), Any Given Sunday (1999), Charlie’s Angels (2000), Kingdom Come (2001), and Rollerball (2002). By 2007 he was also marketing several lines of clothing and had authored or coauthored three books including an autobiography.
MASTER P (c.1970– ) Music and Film Company Executive, Rap Singer, Actor
Born Percy Miller, Master P grew up in a housing project in New Orleans’s Third Ward, an area with a reputation for a high crime rate and violence. His parents divorced when he was 11 years of age, and his mother moved to California. Though he traveled between New Orleans
and California, the teenaged Percy settled in the Crescent City, attended Booker T. Washington and Warren Eason high schools, and played basketball at both schools. After graduation, he reportedly earned a basketball scholarship to the University of Houston. However, he was sidelined by a leg injury and headed back home rather than sit out the season. After the death of his brother, Kevin, and with some junior college business courses to his credit, Master P moved to Richmond and opened a small record store, No Limits Records, financing the store with $10,000 that he received as part of a medical malpractice settlement related to the death of his grandfather.
Master P was soon able to turn his successful record store into a powerhouse producer of Southern-influenced gangsta rap albums. He self-produced his first album The Ghetto’s Tryin’ to Kill Me in 1994, selling 200,000 copies out of the trunk of his car. Master P then took the profits from this album and produced two collections of rap music: Down South Hustlers, Vol. 1 and West Coast Bad Boys, Vol. 1. By 1997, the four-year label had a cluster of artists who, while not household names, were well-known to rap fans.
Master P next targeted the film industry. In 1997, he produced, directed, and acted in a low-budget semi-autobiographical film titled I’m ’Bout It without any outside backing. The success of this direct-to-video film led to I Got the Hook Up the following year. This time there was no problem signing Dimension Records as a distributor for the film. A third film MP Da Last Don soon followed.
No Limit then made a major move to Baton Rouge. It also undertook a number of new enterprises. A sports management company, No Limit Sports Management, was started in 1997 and represents such professional players as Ron Mercer of the Boston Celtics and Derek Anderson of the Cleveland Cavaliers. By 1998, No Limits Records had incorporated 12 businesses in Baton Rouge including a complex called “The Ice Cream Shop,” which includes five recording studios, a dorm, a gym, a pool, an aquarium, a sun deck, a movie theater, a domed basketball court, and 15 Hummers for transportation. The Master P Foundation has also been a supporter of the Baton Rouge schools and community.
In 1998, Master P tried out for the Continental Basketball Association’s Fort Wayne Furies and was signed as a free agent in October. His performance with the Furies brought an invitation to try out with the National Basketball Association’s Charlotte Hornets. While Master P did not make the cut, he intends, as was the case with the other accomplishments in his life, to continue working until he succeeds.
His basketball career behind him, Master P continued to make music. In 1999 he came out with Only God Can Judge Me followed by Ghetto Postage in 2000, Game Face in 2002, Good side. Bad Side in 2004, ghetto Bill, 2005 and America’s Most Luved Bad Guy in 2006. Master P, a multimillionaire, has made a number of good investments and has continued to increase his net worth. He also manages the career of his son, rap star Lil’ Romeo. Romeo, born Percy Romeo Miller, Jr. in 1989, has performed on film and TV and has his own clothing line. Lil’ Romeo’s albums are Lil’ Romeo, 2001, Game Time, 2002, Young Bailers: The Hood been Good to Us, 2005, Lottery, 2006, God’s Gift 2006 and Gumbo Station, 2007.
CURTIS MAYFIELD (1942–1999) Singer, Songwriter, Music Producer
Born on June 3, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois, Curtis Mayfield learned to sing harmony as a member of the Northern Jubilee Singers and the Traveling Souls Spiritualist Church. In 1957, Mayfield joined the Roosters, a five-man doo wop singing group led by his close friend Jerry Butler. Renamed the Impressions, the group released the 1958 hit “Your Precious Love,” featuring Butler’s resonant baritone and Mayfield’s wispy tenor. But in the following year, Butler left the group to pursue a solo career. In search of material, Butler collaborated with Mayfield to write the hit songs “He Will Break Your Heart” and “I’m a-Telling You.”
In 1960, Mayfield recruited Fred Cash to take Butler’s place in the newly reformed Impressions. In the next year the Impressions hit the charts with the sensual soul tune “Gypsy Women.” In collaboration with Butler, Mayfield also established the Curtom Publishing Company. With the loss of original members Richard Brooks and Arthur Brooks, the three remaining members of the Impressions, Mayfield, Cash, and Sam Goodman continued to perform as a trio. Under the direction of jazz musician/arranger Johnny Pate, the Impressions recorded “Sad Sad Girl” and the rhythmic gospel-based song “It’s All Right,” released in 1963.
During this time, Mayfield also wrote a number of songs for his Chicago contemporaries including “Monkey Time” for Major Lance, “Just Be True” for Gene Chandler, and “It’s All Over Now” for Walter Jackson. Writing for the Impressions, however, Mayfield turned to more socially conscious themes reflecting the current of the civil rights era. Mayfield’s finest “sermon songs” were “People Get Ready” (1965), “We’re a Winner” (1968), and “Choice of Colors” (1969).
After leaving the Impressions in 1970, Mayfield released his debut album Curtis. On his 1971 LP Curtis Live!, Mayfield was accompanied by a tight four-piece backup group, which included guitar, bass, drums, and percussion. Mayfield composed the score for the 1972 hit film Superfly. The soundtrack became Mayfield’s biggest commercial success, providing him two hits with the junkie epitaph “Freddie’s Dead” and the wah-wah guitar funk classic “Superfly.” Despite his commercial success, Mayfield spent the remainder of the decade in collaboration with other artists, working on such projects as the soundtrack for the film Claudine, featuring Gladys Knight and the Pips, and the production of Aretha Franklin’s 1978 album Sparkle.
Throughout the next decade, Mayfield continued to record such albums as Love Is the Place in 1981, and Honesty in 1982. Joined by Jerry Butler and newcomers Nate Evans and Vandy Hampton, the Impressions reunited in 1983, for a 30-city anniversary tour. In 1983, Mayfield released the LP Come in Peace with a Message of Love. But in August 1990, while performing at an outdoor concert in Brooklyn, New York, Mayfield received an injury that left him paralyzed from the neck down. In the following year, Mayfield’s contributions to popular music were recognized when the Impressions were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1994, Mayfield was presented with the Grammy Legend Award. Earlier that year a number of his peers, including Aretha Franklin, got together to record All Men Are Brothers: A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield. Despite his injuries, Mayfield triumphed by producing the Grammy-nominated album New World Order in late 1996. Curtis Mayfield was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 5, 1999. Mayfield died December 26, 1999, in Roswell, Georgia, at the age of 57.
BOBBY MCFERRIN. SEECLASSICAL MUSIC CHAPTER.
OMARION (1984– ) Hip Hop, R& B singer
In 1998, Omarion became the leading man of the Hip Hop/R&B boy band, B2K. The band, including Omarion was made up of a total of four members, Jarell “J-Boog” Houston, DeMario “Raz-B” Thornton, and Dreux “Lil’ Fizz” Frederic. The band release their debut album entitled B2K in 2002. Their second album, released later in the same year, Pandemonium, was more successful, reaching the top ten on the Bill-board 200, giving them their first #1 with “Bump, Bump, Bump”. Following their third album, a soundtrack to the movie You Got Served in 2004, B2K announced they had broken up.
Almost a year after B2K’s split, Omarion released his debut album, O (2005). It debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, eventually going Platinum. The album led to the relatively successful song “O”. That same year, he was featured on Bow Wow’s hit song “Let Me Hold You”. The song reached #4 of the Billboard 100, becoming Omarion’s first top-ten single as a solo artist. In December of 2006, Omarion released his sophomore album, 21. “Entourage”, the first single, reached only #58 on the Hot 100. The second single, “Ice Box”, produced by Timbaland, gained gaining significant radio airplay and became his biggest single to date,
PRAS MICHEL. SEE THE FUGEES.
NOTORIOUS B.I.G. (1973–1997) Rap Singer
Notorious B.I.G., also known as Biggie Smalls and B.I.G., was born Christopher Wallace in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn in 1973. A self-described, former “100 percent hustler” and high school drop out, Notorious B.I.G. became within his short career one of most influential and respected talents in hip hop history.
Noted for his massive six-foot three-inch, 300-plus pound frame, a husky-voiced yet fluid, and rhythmically inventive delivery style and explicit lyrics, he began his career making amateur tapes for fun with the OGB (Old Gold Brothers), when his talents caught the attention of rapper Big Daddy Kane’s DJ. He was soon featured in the rap trade magazine The Source in its “Unsigned Hype” column, a showcase for new rappers. A record deal with Uptown Records followed shortly thereafter, and he created “Party and Bullshit” for the film Who’s the Man? After he signed with his business associate and friend Sean “Puffy” Combs’s Bad Boy label, Notorious B.I.G. recorded Ready to Die in 1994 and the project went platinum. He was named rap artist of year in 1995 at the Billboard Awards. Notorious B.I.G.’s star rose quickly within hip hop culture’s inner circle, and he
became a much sought after guest rapper on numerous recordings. His collaborations include Junior M.A.F.I.A., Mary J. Blige, Total, among others. In 1997 Notorious B.I.G. died a violent death after being shot in a Los Angeles parking lot. Another recording project, ironically titled Life After Death. . .’Til Death Do Us Part, was released posthumously.
TEDDY PENDERGRASS (1950– ) Singer
Born Theodore Pendergrass in 1950 in Philadelphia, the vocalist learned singing from his mother, who performed in nightclubs, and in his childhood apprenticeship in church. Although he became known as one of the most prominent soul balladeers of the late 1970s and 1980s, he began his professional career as a drummer for the group the Cadillacs.
In 1970 Pendergrass moved from his duties as drummer and began singing with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, a group that had started as a doo wop group in the 1950s and which signed with the producers Gamble and Huff’s label, Philadelphia International, in 1972. Pendergrass’s powerful and passionate baritone presentation ultimately earned him the lead spot in the Blue Notes, and for six years his vocals became the group’s signature sound. During this period the Blue Notes recorded such hits as “I Miss You” and “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” among others, establishing themselves as one the premiere soul groups of the decade.
In 1976, Pendergrass left the group to pursue a successful solo career, remaining with Gamble and Huff and producing a string of hits, such as “I Don’t Love You Anymore” (1976) and the number one rhythm and blues single “Close the Door” (1978). Pendergrass became a heartthrob among female fans, mounting successful tours with his Teddy Bear Orchestra and recording albums that were commercially profitable. His career path turned downward following a 1982 near-fatal car crash in Philadelphia that paralyzed him from the neck down. He has maintained a respectable recording career despite these challenges, releasing the album You and I in 1997, and some of his recordings over the last decade have done well on the charts. In 2002 he released From Teddy with Love. In 1999 Pendergrass published Truly Blessed his tell-all biography co-authored with Patricia Romanowski. Pendergrass continues to tour the country performing musically and speaking about the rights of the disabled. Pendergrass announced in 2006 that he had retired.
CHARLEY PRIDE (1939– ) Singer
The first African American superstar of country music, Charley Pride is a three-time Grammy Award winner whose supple baritone voice has won him international fame. He was the first African American to perform with the Grand Ole Opry in more than 50 years. A prolific artist, Pride has recorded more than 30 albums. His most recent are May 20, 2003 – Pride’s album, Comfort of Her Wings, 2003 and Pride & Joy: A Gospel Music Collection, 2006.
Born on March 18, 1938, in Slege, Mississippi, Charley Pride grew up listening to late night radio broadcasts of the Grand Ole Opry, country music’s most famous showcase. Although he taught himself guitar at age 14, Pride soon turned his attention to a professional baseball career. At age 16, he left the cotton fields of Slege for a stint in the Negro American baseball league. During his baseball career, Pride sang on public address systems and in taverns. In 1963, country singer Red Sovine heard Pride and arranged for him to attend an audition in Nashville one year later. This led to a recording contract with the RCA label and produced the 1964 hit “Snakes Crawl at Night.”
Throughout the 1960s, Pride toured incessantly, appearing at concert dates and state fairs, as well as on radio and television. In 1967, Pride debuted at the Grand Ole Opry and within the same year hit the charts with singles “Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?” and “I Know One.” With the release of The Sensational Charley Pride in 1969 and the subsequent year’s Just Plain Charley, Pride found himself entering the decade of his greatest recognition. By the time he received the Country Music Award for entertainer of the year in 1970, Pride had already achieved tremendous success as a major figure in the popular cultural scene of the United States. Other honors included Bill-board’s Trendsetter Award and the Music Operators of America’s Entertainer of the Year Award.
In the 1980s, Pride not only continued to find success as a music star, he became a successful entrepreneur. Making his home on a 240-acre estate in North Dallas, Texas, Pride emerged as a majority stockholder in the First Texas Bank and part owner of Cecca Productions. Pride made more history in 1993 when he became the first African American to join the cast of the Grand Ole Opry since DeFord Bailey’s presence nearly 52 years earlier. The following year, Pride published his autobiography entitled Pride: The Charley Pride Story. In 1999, Pride was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his career. A year later he was the first African American to ever be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
PRINCE (1958– ) Singer, Songwriter, Producer
The son of a jazz pianist, Prince Rogers Nelson was born on June 7, 1958, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. By age 14, Prince had taught himself to play piano, guitar, and drums. Drawn to many forms of rock and soul, Prince explained that he never grew up in one particular culture. “I’m not a punk, but I’m not a rhythm and blues artist either because I’m a middle class kid from Minnesota.”
It was his eclectic taste that led to Prince’s creation of the Minneapolis sound. After forming the band Grand Central in high school in 1973, Prince renamed the group Champagne and eventually recruited the talents of Morris Day. In 1978 Prince signed with Warner Brothers and recorded his debut album For You. His follow-up album Prince featured the hit “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” Rooted in the music of Sly and the Family Stone and Jimi Hendrix, Prince’s third LP Dirty Mind was released in 1980.
Two years later, Prince achieved superstardom with his album 1999, an effort which was followed by a spectacular tour comprised of Prince and the Revolution, the Time, and the bawdy girl trio Vanity 6. Prince’s 1984 film soundtrack Purple Rain, which received rave reviews for Prince’s portrayal of a struggling young musician, grossed $60 million at the box office in the first two months of its release. Near the end of 1985 Prince established his own record label Paisley Park, the warehouse/studio located in the wooded terrain of Chanhassen, Minnesota. That same year, Prince released the album Around the World in Day, featuring the hit singles “Raspberry Beret,” “Paisley Park,” and “Pop Life.”
Prince’s next film project Under the Cherry Moon, filmed in France, was completed under his direction. The soundtrack Parade Music From Under the Cherry Moon produced a number of hit singles including “Kiss” and “Mountains.” After reforming the Revolution, Prince released SPIN of the Times in 1987, which included a duet with Sheena Easton titled “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man.” Following the LP Love Sexy, Prince recorded several songs which appeared on the soundtrack for the film Batman. This was followed by another film soundtrack Graffiti Bridge in 1990.
In September 1992 Prince signed a six-album contract with Warner Brothers. Backed by his new first rate ensemble the New Power Generation, Prince embarked on a nationwide tour in April 1993 which proved the most impressive since his commercial breakthrough in the early 1980s. Prince has not only become an owner of his own nightclub, the Grand Slam, he has contributed a set of original music to the Joffery Ballet’s production of “Billboards” which opened in January of 1993 to rave reviews.
That year, the eccentric performer also changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol and announced the retirement of “Prince” from recording. In 1994, The Artist Formerly Known as Prince (TAFKAP) debuted interactive CD-ROM software and New Power Generation retail establishments. Two years later, the long-time bachelor married on Valentine’s Day and commissioned a symphony from his band to commemorate the occasion.
Recording under the title The Artist Formley Known as Prince, Prince produced the albums Gold Experience (1995); Chaos and Disorder (1996); the mammoth three disc Emancipation (1996); the multi-disc outtake album Crystal Ball (1998); New Power Soul (1998); Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999); and Rainbow Children (2001). Prince also received a great deal of radio and television airtime in the year before the millennium when his rock hit “1999” became the theme song for almost all New Year’s Eve celebrations. He released The Rainbow Children in 2001, One Nite Alone . . . Live! in 2002 and the all-instrumental N.E.W.S in 2003, received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album. Another album of jazz, Xpectation, was also released, via download to members of the NPGMusicClub, in 2003.
On February 8, 2004, Prince made an appearance at the Grammy Awards with Beyoncé Knowles. In a performance that opened the show, Prince and Beyoncé performed a medley of his classics: “Purple Rain,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Baby I’m a Star,” and Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love,” to rave reviews. The following month, Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The award was presented to him by Alicia Keys, along with Big Boi and André 3000 of OutKast.
In April 2004, Prince released Musicology through a one-album agreement with Columbia Records. That same year, Pollstar named Prince the top concert draw among musicians in America. Grossing an estimated $87.4 million, Prince’s Musicology Tour was the most profitable tour in the industry during 2004. The artist played 96 concerts. Musicology went on to receive two Grammy wins, for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for “Call My Name” and Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance for the title track. In 2004, RollingStone Magazine ranked Prince #28 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. In December 2004, Rolling Stone’s readers named him the best male performer and most welcome comeback. During that same month, Prince was named number five on the Top Pop Artists of the Past 25 Years chart. In late 2005 Prince struck a deal with Universal Records to release his next album, entitled 3121. Prince achieved his first career number-one debut on the Billboard 200 with 3121 on February 4, 2006. Ultimate is the title of Prince’s latest greatest hits compilation album released in 2006.
On June 12, 2006, Prince was honored with a Webby Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his “visionary” use of the Internet that included becoming the first major artist to release an entire album—1997’s Crystal Ball—exclusively on the Web. On June 27, 2006, Prince appeared at the BET awards. He was awarded Best Male R&B artist. On November 14, 2006, Prince was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame, appearing to collect his award but not performing. Also in November 2006 Prince opened a nightclub named 3121 in Las Vegas at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. He performs weekly on Friday and Saturday nights.
PUBLIC ENEMY Rap Group
As spokesmen of racial pride and proponents of militant public activism, Public Enemy, formed in 1982, have refined the political sound and the lyrical message of rap music. The formation of Public Enemy centered around Adelphi University in Long Island, New York, where the group’s founder, Carlton Riden-hour (a.k.a Chuck D.), a graphic design major, joined fellow students Hank Shocklee and Bill Stephney at radio station WBAU. First appearing on Stephney’s radio show, Ridenhour soon hosted his own three-hour program. Ridenhour’s powerful rap voice attracted a number of loyal followers. Riden-hour soon recruited the talents of William Drayton (a.k.a Flavor Flav), Norman Rodgers (a.k.a Terminator X), and Richard Griffin (a.k.a Professor Griff) to form Public Enemy. Shocklee and his production-oriented peers in the group came to be known as the Bomb Squad and their talents were often sought by other artists.
In 1987 Public Enemy released the debut album Yo! Bum Rush the Show, which sold more than 400,000 copies. Two years later Professor Griff, the group’s “minister of information,” was fired by Chuck D. for making anti-Semitic comments. Under the leadership of Chuck D. the group went on to record the song “Fight the Power” for director Spike Lee’s film Do The Right Thing. The group’s second album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, became a million seller.
Public Enemy’s 1990 release Fear of a Black Planet featured themes regarding a world struggle for the advancement of the black race. The controversial “911
Is a Joke” led to widespread discourse over the song’s allegations that emergency personnel respond slower, if at all, to calls originating from inner city or predominantly African American areas. The follow-up album Apocalypse ’91: The Enemy Strikes Black was a startling statement of social and racial consciousness and featured a collaboration with the heavy metal band Anthrax on “Bring the Noise,” a track that originally appeared on It Takes a Nation. Another single, “By the Time I Get to Arizona,” sparked another nationwide debate over the refusal of Arizona state officials to recognize Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a legal holiday.
Greatest Misses, a hits compilation released in 1992, seemed to signal the end of an era for the Public Enemy camp. In a departure from their earlier work, 1994’s Muse Sick n Hour Mess Age traded the sonic dissonances of the Bomb Squad for samples from classic soul recordings. Meanwhile, most of the members had established themselves as solo artists or developed other career directions in the early 1990s, but overall the group’s popularity seemed to wane as gangsta rap commandeered the airwaves. The group proved that they could incorporate the more modern sounds of hip-hop into their music with the critically innovative album He Got Game, the soundtrack for the Spike Lee movie of the same name. However, much like many of their later 1990s offerings, the rap buying audiences passed over this album. The group returned to their hardcore rap roots with their 1999 offering There’s a Poison Goin’ On. . ., but critics paid more attention to the album than fans did. Public Enemy continues to tour and released their eighth studio album, Revolverlution, in 2002. In 2005 they released New Whirl Order and in 2007 Rebirth of a Nation.
QUEEN LATIFAH (1970– ) Singer, Actress
Born Dana Owens, rap artist Queen Latifah grew up in East Orange, New Jersey, and began performing in high school as the human beat box for the rap group Ladies Fresh. In 1989, she launched her solo recording career with the album All Hail the Queen, an afrocentric, pro-woman work. Her other recordings include: Nature of a Sista’ (1991), featuring the single “Latifah Had It Up 2 Here”; Black Reign (1993), which led to the feminist anthem “U.N.I.T.Y.”; and 1998’s Order in the Court, which Entertainment Weekly called “fun and funky.
Latifa released She’s the Queen: A Collection of Hits in 2002 and the gold The Dana Owens Album in 2004.
Latifah managed the careers of other rap artists through her New Jersey-based Flavor Unit Records and Management Company, of which she is the CEO. In addition, she was a regular on the Fox network’s Living Single, along with co-stars Kim Fields, Erika Alexander, and Kim Coles. She has also made appearances on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and in such films as the Hudlin brothers’ House Party II, Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever, and Ernest Dickerson’s Juice. She had lead roles in Set It Off (1996) and in 1998, Latifah gave a perfomed as a jazz singer in the movie Living Out Loud. The following year, Latifah was named one of People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People, released an autobiography, Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman, and briefly hosted her own television talk show. Some of her other movie performances are Bringing Down the Houze (2003). Barbershop 2: Back in Business, 2004, Beauty Shop, 2005, Ice Age: The Meltdown, 2006, and Last Holiday, 2007.
OTIS REDDING (1941–1967) Singer, Songwriter
Born on September 9, 1941, in Dawson, Georgia, Otis Redding moved with his parents at age three to the Tindall Heights housing project in Macon. In grade school Redding played drums and sang in a church gospel group. A few years later he learned the vocals and piano style of his idol Little Richard. Quitting school in the tenth grade, Redding went on the road with Little Richard’s former band, the Upsetters. But Redding’s first professional break came when he joined Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers. Redding’s debut single was a Little Richard imitation tune “Shout Bamalama.” Accompanying Jenkins to a Stax studio session in Memphis, Redding was afforded some remaining recording time. Backed by Jenkins on guitar, Steve Cropper on piano, Lewis Steinburg on bass, and Al Jackson on drums, Redding cut “Hey Hey Baby” and the hit “These Arms of Mine.”
Signed to the Stax label, Redding released the 1963 album Pain in My Heart. Backed by members of Booker T. and the MGs, Redding’s follow-up LP Otis Blue (Otis Redding Sings Soul) featured the 1965 hit “Respect.” In the next year, Redding broke attendance records at shows in Harlem and Watts. After releasing a cover version of the Rolling Stones’s song “Satisfaction” in 1966, Redding embarked on a European tour which included his appearance on the British television show “Ready Steady Go!”
In August 1966, Redding established his own record company, Jotis, which was distributed through the Stax label. Following a few commercially unsuccessful ventures, Redding recorded singer Arthur Conley who provided the label with the million-selling single “Sweet Soul Music.” Redding’s recordings “Try a Little Tenderness” and the vocal duet “Tramp,” featuring Carla Thomas, hit the charts in 1967. On June 16, Redding, backed by the MGs, performed a stunning high-paced set at the Monterey Pop Festival. On December 10, Redding’s career came to an tragic end when the twin engine plane carrying him to a concert date in Wisconsin crashed in Lake Monona, just outside Madison. As if in tribute, Redding’s song “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” released a few weeks after his death, became his first gold record.
LIONEL RICHIE (1949– ) Singer, Songwriter, Pianist
Lionel Brockman Richie was born on June 20, 1949, on the campus of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Richie’s grandmother Adelaide Foster, a classical pianist, became his music instructor, introducing him to the works of Bach and Beethoven. While a freshman at the Tuskegee Institute, Richie formed the Mighty Mystics who, along with members of the Jays, became the Commodores. Combining gospel, classical, and country-western music, the Commodores emerged as a formidable live act throughout the 1960s and 1970s. After signing with the Motown label, the group landed its first hit in 1974 with the song “Machine Gun.” In 1981 Richie recorded the hit theme song for Franco Zefferelli’s film Endless Love.
A year later, Richie released his first solo album Lionel Richie, which featured the hits “Truly,” “You Are,” and “My Love.” His follow-up release Can’t Slow Down produced five more hits: “All Night Long (All Night),” “Running with the Night,” “Hello,” “Stuck on You,” and “Penny Lover.” In collaboration with Michael Jackson, Richie co-wrote “We Are the World” for USA for Africa, the famine relief project organized and produced by Quincy Jones. In 1985 Richie received an Oscar nomination for “Best Original Song” for his composition “Say You, Say Me.” A year later, Richie’s third album Dancing on the Ceiling provided him with the hits “Dancing on the Ceiling,” “Love Will Conquer All,” “Ballerina Girl,” and “Se La.”Richie was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994.After taking a hiatus from recording, Richie released Back to Front in 1992, which yielded the hit “Do It to Me.” This album was followed up by the recording Time in 1998 and Renaissance in 2001. Subsequent albums are Encore, 2002, Just for You 2004 and Coming Home in 2006.
TEDDY RILEY (1967– ) Producer, Songwriter, Musician
Born of October 8, 1967, Teddy Riley grew up in Harlem, New York. By age ten he could play guitar, bass, several horns, and keyboards. In his early twenties Riley merged aspects of hip hop, pop, and soul to create a new kind of music called “new jack swing.” In the mid-1980s Riley formed his first band, Wreckx-N-Effect, with brothers Markell and Brandon Mitchell, which produced the hit single “New Jack Swing” (1984).
In 1987 he formed Guy with Aaron Hall and Timmy Gatling. Their first effort on the Uptown/MCA label, Guy, (1988) topped Billboard’s rhythm and blues chart and sold over 2 million copies. The group toured, selling out many venues. With their second album 1990s The Future, Guy had more of a pop feel. The Future went platinum and received brilliant reviews.
Success was followed by difficult times. After his younger brother, Brandon Mitchell, was killed in gunfire, Riley decided to move to Virginia Beach. Then Riley and his longtime manager, Gene Griffen, split over a money dispute. Finally, Guy disbanded.
Next Riley formed Blackstreet with Chauncey “Black” Hannibal, Dave Hollister, and Levi Little. After the release of their first album, Hollister and Little left the group and were replaced by Eric Williams and Mark Middleton. They see themselves as role models and keep their music and image clean. The single “No Diggity” (1997) went platinum and topped the charts. Blackstreet won a Grammy Award for the best rhythm and blues performance in 1998. In 1999, Riley and Blackstreet put out their third album Finally which included the single “I Got What You On.” Riley released a solo album Black Rock in 2001 and one with Guy in 2003, Level II.
Throughout his career Riley has written and produced 10 platinum albums, 22 platinum singles, and 11 gold singles for a variety of artists including Michael Jackson, Keith Sweat, Wreckx-N-Effect, Bobby Brown, and Kool Moe Dee. In 1990 Riley founded Future Records Recording Studio, LOR Records Management, and Future Entertainment Group Ltd. in Virginia Beach. At the start of 2006, Riley started the New Jack Swing revival, with the New Jack Reunion Tour, featuring acts, in addition to BLACKstreet and Guy, After 7, SWV and Tony Toni Toné.
SMOKEY ROBINSON (1940– ) Singer, Songwriter, Producer
Proclaimed by Bob Dylan as one of America’s greatest poets, Smokey Robinson is a pop music legend. He has risen to fame as a brilliant songwriter, producer, and singer. His instantly recognizable falsetto voice continues to bring Robinson gold records and a legion of loyal fans.
William Robinson Jr. was born in Detroit, on February 19, 1940. After his mother died when he was ten years old, Robinson was raised by his sister. Nicknamed “Smokey” by his uncle, Robinson was a bright student who enjoyed reading books and poetry. A reluctant saxophone student, Robinson turned his creative energy to composing songs that he collected in a dime store writing tablet. While attending Detroit’s Northern High School in 1954, Robinson formed the vocal group the Matadors, which performed at battle-of-the-band contests and at recreation centers.
Robinson’s introduction to Berry Gordy in 1957 resulted in the Matadors’s first record contract with George Goldner’s End label. Upon joining the newly formed Motown label in 1960, the group changed their name, at Gordy’s suggestion, to the Miracles. Although the Miracles’s debut album failed to attract notice, they provided Motown with its first smash hit “Shop Around” in 1961, a song written and co-produced by Robinson.
In close collaboration with Gordy, Robinson spent the following decade as one of Motown’s most integral singers and producers. With the Miracles he recorded such hits as “You Really Got a Hold On Me” in 1963, “Tracks of My Tears” in 1965, “I Second That Emotion” in 1967, and “Tears of a Clown” in 1970. As a writer he provided the label with hits such as “My Guy” for Mary Wells, “I’ll Be Doggone” for Marvin Gaye, and “My Girl” for the Temptations.
In 1972, Robinson left the Miracles to launch a solo career. Despite the moderate success of his records during the disco craze of the 1970s, Robinson continued to perform and record. In 1979, Robinson experienced a comeback with the critically acclaimed hit “Cruisin.” Three years later, Robinson appeared on the NBC-TV special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. Between 1986 and 1991, Robinson released five more albums including Smoke Signals, One Heartbeat, and Love, Smokey. He was inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1986, and in 1987, he won a Grammy for his vocal performance on “Just to See Her.” Robinson continued to make music through the 1990s with such albums as Double Good Everything in 1991 and Intimate in 1999. In 1995, Robinson was signed by Music by Design, a U.K. company that solicits artists to create original music for television and radio commercials. Robinson continues to tour and play at events such as his current appearance at the Annual Race to Erase MS.
Smokey has continued to periodically perform and tour. In 2003, Robinson served as a guest judge for American Idol. He issued a gospel LP, Food for the Spirit in 2004 as a testimony to his Christian faith and a new album of pop standards, Timeless Love, was released in June 2006. In May 2006, at its 138th Commencement Convocation, Howard University conferred on Robinson an honorary degree, Doctor of Music, Robinson has appeared on a variety of TV shows. In December 2006 Robinson was one of five Kennedy Center honorees where his music was said to have created “the soundtrack for the lives of a generation of Americans.” On 11 February 2007 Robinson sang Tracks Of My Tears at the 49th annual Grammy Awards, as part of an R&B Trio that included Lionel Richie performing Hello and Chris Brown performing a Hip-Hop version of his single Run It.
DIANA ROSS (1944– ) Singer, Actress
One of six children, Diane Ross was born in Detroit, on March 26, 1944. An extremely active child, Ross swam, ran track, and sang in church. In 1959, she joined the Primettes, a group comprised of Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard, and Barbara Martin. After failing to attract the attention of the Lupine label, the group auditioned for Berry Gordy Jr. who signed them to Motown. Upon the suggestion of Berry, the group changed its name to the Supremes. Released in 1961, the group’s song “I Want a Guy,” featuring Ross on lead vocals, failed to chart. Not long afterward, following Martin’s departure, the trio continued to record with Ross on lead vocal.
The Supremes did not find commercial success on the Motown label until 1964, when they were placed under the guidance of the Holland-Dozier-Holland production team. In 1964, H-D-H turned out the Supreme’s first smash hit “Where Did Our Love Go?” followed by numerous hits such as “Baby Love” in 1964, “I Hear a Symphony” in 1965, “You Can’t Hurry Love” in 1966, and “Reflections” in 1967. With preferential treatment by Gordy, Ross became the dominant figure of the group. By the mid-1960s Ross’s emerging talent prompted Gordy to bill the group as Diana Ross and the Supremes.
In 1970, Ross left the Supremes to launch her solo career. Her debut album Diana Ross featured the writing and production talents of Ashford Simpson, an effort that included the hit “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).” One year later she made her film debut in the Motown-sponsored movie Lady Sings the Blues in which she won an Oscar nomination for her biographical portrayal of jazz singer Billie Holiday. Her role in the 1975 Motown-backed film Mahogany brought her not only an Oscar nomination, but the number one selling single “Do You Know Where You’re Going To.” In 1978, Ross starred in the film version of The Wiz, the last full-scale motion picture to be backed by Motown.
After leaving Motown in 1981, Ross signed a $20 million contract with the RCA label. Her debut album Why Do Fools Fall in Love? went platinum. This was followed by four more LP’s for RCA including Silk Electric in 1982, Swept Away in 1984, and Eaten Alive in 1985. Two years later, Ross left RCA to sign with the London-based EMI label, which produced the albums Red Hot Rhythm ’n Blues in 1987, Working Overtime in 1987, and Greatest Hits, Live in 1990. Meanwhile, Ross had returned to Motown Records as a recording artist and partial owner in 1989, one year after being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In the 1990s, the Grammy and Tony Award-winning Ross continued to enjoy popularity around the world; She achieved tremendous success as the owner of her own multimillion dollar corporation Diana Ross Enterprises. Her autobiography Secrets of a Sparrow: Memoirs was published in 1993, and a compilation called Diana Extended/The Remixes hit the stores in 1994. Ross continues to occasionally act, appearing as a schizophrenic in the television movie Out of the Darkness (1994) and alongside the young star Brandy in Double Platinum (1999). In 2000, VH1 honored Ross with their show “Divas 2000: A Tribute to Diana Ross.” The show included performances by Mariah Carey, Faith Hill, Donna Summer, RuPaul, Destiny’s Child, and Ross herself with the Supremes.
In 2005, Diana Ross returned to the charts with. “I Got a Crush on You” a duet recorded with Rod Stewart for his album The Great American Songbook, and recorded another duet, recorded with Westlife, was a remake of Ross’ 1991 number-two UK single, When You Tell Me You Love Me, which reached number-two in the UK just as the original had. In 2006, Motown released an archived Ross album titled Blue, which was a collection of jazz standards recorded after Ross filmed Lady Sings the Blues. Released in June to stellar reviews, Blue peaked at number-two on the jazz albums chart. The album, titled I Love You, was released on 2006 around the world and early 2007 in
North America. The new album gave Ross her first Top 40 album on that chart since Swept Away, over two decades earlier. In 2007 Ross appeared on a number of TV shows across the U.S. to promote her new album and will also be touring in the spring. She also appeared on American Idol as a mentor to the contestants.
SALT-N-PEPA Rap Group
Salt-N-Pepa includes Salt (Cheryl James), Pepa (Sandy Denton), Spinderella (Deidre “Dee Dee” Roper), and former Spinderella, Latoya Hanson, and was formed in 1985 in Queens, New York. They were the first female rap group to go platinum and are widely recognized as paving the way for the present generation of female rap stars. Originally named Super Nature, they changed their name to Salt-N-Pepa in 1987.
Salt-N-Pepa’s debut project, Hot Cool and Vicious, went platinum, setting the stage for a decade of mega hits for the group including “Push It” (1987); A Salt with a Deadly Pepa (1988), which was nominated for a Grammy; the single “Expressions” (1989); and Blacks’ Magic (1990). Their single “Let’s Talk About Sex” was used a public service video education the youth community about the dangers of AIDS. The 1993 project Very Necessary produced the hits “Whatta Man” and “Shoop.” The same year James and Denton appeared in the comedy film Who’s the Man?. They released their fifth album Brand New in 1997. Following the release of the album, James and Denton began to focus more on their acting careers. Salt-N-Pepa’s greatest-hits album, Salt-N-Pepa: The Best Of was release in 2000. The group officially disbanded in 2002 but has occasionally reunited to perform.
TUPAC SHAKUR (1971–1996) Rap Singer
Born Tupac Amaru Shakur in the Bronx in 1971, Shakur was a multitalented rap artist and actor who became a powerhouse in hip hop culture. He made his acting debut in an Apollo Theater production of A Raisin in the Sun in 1984 as a benefit for Jesse Jackson’s unsuccessful presidential campaign. After his family moved to Baltimore, Shakur attended the High School of the Performing Arts and wrote his first rap song following the violent death of a friend. He dropped out of high school, moved to California, and began circulating tapes of his music until he landed a job as a roadie with the group Digital Underground, eventually working his way to a guest spot as a rapper in their stage show.
In 1991 he signed with Interscope Records and released his debut project 2Pacalypse Now. A string of commercially successful and critically acclaimed projects followed, including Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. (1993), Me Against the World (1995), and All Eyez On Me (1996). Shakur’s rap style was celebrated for its versatile vocal inflection, rhythmically subtle delivery, and the range of lyrical topics, although the latter was also the source of much criticism because of its frequently explicit content. Shakur also received accolades for his acting in the films, among them, Juice (1992), Poetic Justice (1993), Above the Rim (1994), and Gang Related (1997). Shakur’s career was marred by controversies, which included intermittent trouble with the law for which he spent time incarcerated. Like his contemporary Notorious B.I.G., Shakur died in a Las Vegas drive-by shooting in 1996.
RUSSELL SIMMONS. SEEENTREPRENEURSHIP CHAPTER.
WILL SMITH (1968– ) Rap Artist, Actor
Born on September 25, 1998, in Wynnefield, Pennsylvania, Will Smith became a successful rap musician in the late 1980s, and had a hit television show during the early 1990s. By the turn of the century, he personified the media mega-star, racking up both multi-platinum selling albums and movie box-office hits.
At the age of 18, Smith and Jeff Townes formed the rap duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. They were successful on the local scene, and after landing a record deal with Jive Records, released Rock the House in 1987. Their second album, He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper, was released a year later. It became one of the biggest selling rap albums up to that point due mainly to the success of the single, “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” That year, the single also brought the duo a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince went on to release three more albums, And in This Corner . . . (1989), Homebase (1991), and Code Red (1993).
Smith’s popularity as a rap musician led to a starring role in the NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The show proved successful and ran from 1991-1996, earning Smith a Golden Globe nomination for best actor in a television program in 1992. Smith also began to appear in feature films, landing roles in Where the Day Takes You (1992), Six Degrees of Seperation (1993), Made in America (1993), and Bad Boys (1995).
The box-office success of Independence Day (1996) established Smith as a major film star capable of utilizing both action and comedy in a role. It was followed by Men In Black (1997), Enemy of the State (1998), and Wild Wild West (1999). His abilities as a dramatic actor were showcased in The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000) and Ali (2001). In addition to critical praise, Smith received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the former heavyweight champion. Smith followed the performance with Men In Black II (2002). He starred or appeared in a number of other films: Ali (2001), Men in Black II (2002), Girlfriend by B2K (2002) (music video), Bad Boys II (2003), the documenter A Closer Walk (2004), Jersey Girl (2004), American Chopper (2004), I, Robot (2004) Shark Tale (2004, voice) another documentary, There’s a God on the Mic (2005), as producer and star in Hitch (2005), and The Pursuit of Happyness (2006), as star and producer. His son appeared in the film with him.
In addition to his work as an actor, Smith continued to make well-received rap albums. He released Big Willie Style in 1997. The album contained the hit singles “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” “Miami,” and “Just the Two of Us.” Smith followed with two more solo albums, Willenium (1999) and Born to Reign (2002). Collaborative retrospective albums include Platinum & Gold Collection, 2003 and the Best of D. J. Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, 2006 and solo albums Born to Reign and Greatest Hits both in 3003 and Lost and Found in 2005.
DONNA SUMMER (1948– ) Singer
One of the biggest stars of the disco era, Donna Summer first gained notice with a pulsating Euro-hit, then moved on to mainstream popularity. She ruled the charts through the late 1970s, though the fading of disco left her with no choice but to streamline her style. Although her popularity declined in the ensuing years, she became one of the few stars of the era to transcend the kitsch that surrounded it.
Born Donna Gaines in Boston, the singer got her first break when she was cast in a traveling production of a rock musical. While in Germany she met Helmut Sommer, whom she married; she later made the acquaintance of Italian producer Giorgio Moroder, who produced her first hit, “Love to Love You Baby.” Summer’s moans and groans were her initial route to stardom. Through the late 1970s, however, she continually expanded her range. Her hits included a cover version of the pop standard “Macarthur Park,” as well as “On the Radio,” “Bad Girls,” “Hot Stuff,” and “Last Dance.”
Summer became a born-again Christian in the early 1980s, and gradually turned toward inspirational music. She earned Grammy Awards for best inspirational performance in 1984 and 1985, but she surfaced less and less frequently in the pop world. Summer continues to produce, and in recent years she has put out more albums, including a recording of her VH1 concert called VH1 Presents: Live More Encore! in 1999 and Greatest Hits 2001 in 2001. In 2003 Donna Summer released a greatest-hits compilation called The Journey, which rocketed into the UK Top 10 in the following year. On September 20, 2004, Summer was among the first artists to be inducted into the newly formed Dance Music Hall of Fame in New York City. She was inducted in two categories, Artist Inductees, along with fellow disco legends The Bee Gees and Barry White, and Record Inductees for her classic hit “I Feel Love.” In July 2006 Summer joined forces with Pure Tone Music, an A&R consulting and full service independent music company, located just outside of New York City
TINA TURNER (1939– ) Singer
With a music career spanning more than 30 years, Tina Turner has come to be known as the “hardest working woman in show business.” From soul music star to rock goddess, Turner’s vocal style and energetic stage act remain a show-stopping phenomenon.
Born Annie Mae Bullock on November 25, 1939, in Brownsville, Tennessee, Turner moved to Knoxville with her parents at age three. Turner first sang in church choirs and at local talent contests. After moving with her mother to St. Louis at age 16, Turner met pianist Ike Turner, leader of the R&B group the Kings of Rhythm. Hired by the band to sing at weekend engagements, Annie Bullock married Ike Turner in 1958 and took the stage name Tina Turner. When the band’s scheduled session singer failed to appear at a recording session in 1960, Tina stepped into record the R&B song “Fool in Love” which became a million seller.
With a major hit behind them, the Turners formed the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, complete with the Ikettes. Major international success came for the Turners in 1966 when producer Phil Spector combined his “wall of sound” approach with a R&B sound to record the hit “River Deep, Mountain High.” Subjected to years of physical abuse by her husband, Turner divorced Ike in 1976 and set out on a solo career. That same year she co-starred in The Who’s rock opera film Tommy as the Acid Queen.
In 1984 Turner’s career skyrocketed with the commercial success of the album Private Dancer, which featured the hit singles “What’s Love Got to Do With It” and “Better Be Good.” Turner’s sensuously vibrant image soon appeared on high budget videos, magazine covers, and in films such as the 1985 release Mad Max 3: Beyond the Thunderdome in which she played the tyrannical Aunty Entity. With the immense commercial success of her 1989 album Foreign Affair, Turner closed out the decade as one of the most popular singers on the international music scene.
In 1991, Tina and Ike Turner were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That same year, Turner released the album Simply The Best and, in 1993 a movie based on her life and starring Angela Bassett was released. In 1996, Turner returned to recording with Wildest Dreams. Due to the album’s popularity, Turner returned to touring in 1997. She continued to tour through 2001 and also found time to put out the album Twenty Four Seven. Turner announced in 2001 that when her most current world tour, started in 2000, was over, she would also be finished touring for good. She has not announced plans to retire permanently from music. In 2004 Turner released her latest greatest compilation album, All the Best, which made her highest Billboard 200 debut of her career, entering at number two. In 2005 she was a Kennedy Center honoree.
LUTHER VANDROSS (1951–2005) Singer, Composer, Producer
One of the premier pop artists of the 1980s, Luther Vandross was responsible for the emergence of a new school of modern soul singers. Born in New York City on April 20, 1951, Vandross was the son of a gospel singer and a big band vocalist. Vandross received his musical education by listening to recordings of Aretha Franklin and the Supremes. In high school Vandross formed numerous singing groups. Throughout the 1970s, he was great as a background singer, performing with such artists as David Bowie, Carly Simon, and Ringo Starr. He also sang advertising jingles such as ATT’s theme “Reach Out and Touch.”
Following the release of his first album Never Too Much in 1981, Vandross was called upon to sing duets with a number of pop artists including Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick. As a successful writer and producer, Vandross released five albums in the 1990s including the 1991 release Power of Love, which went multiplatinum, Never Let Me Go in 1993, Your Secret Love in 1996, and I Know in 1998. Vandross has continued to be prolific in recent years, touring and producing albums like Smooth Love in 2000 and the self-titled Luther Vandross in 2001. In 2001, Vandross won an American Music Award in the “favorite soul/rhythm blues male artist” category. He produced a series of albums before his death, Power of Love, 2001 and three in 2003 Dance with my Father, The Essential Luther Vandross and Live from Radio City Music Hall.
MARY WELLS (1943–1992) Singer
Born in 1943 and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Mary Wells started her music career as a featured soloist in her high school choir. At age 17 Wells signed a contract with Motown. With Smokey Robinson as her main producer and writer, Wells scored a number of hits such as “I Don’t Want to Take a Chance” in 1961, “You Beat Me to the Punch” in 1962, and “My Guy” in 1964. In the same year, she recorded the album Together with Marvin Gaye and toured England with The Beatles.
At the peak of her career, Wells left the Motown label to become an actress. After relocating in Los Angeles, she signed a contract with the Twentieth Century Fox records. Unfortunately, Wells could never find a producer who equaled Robinson’s ability to record her material. Her debut single in 1965 “Use Your Head” achieved only modest commercial success. In the 1970s Wells left music to raise her children. For a brief period she was married to Cecil Womack, brother of the rhythm and blues great Bobby Womack.
During the 1980s, Wells returned to music performing on the oldies circuit. In 1985 she appeared in “Motown’s 25th Anniversary” television special. Diagnosed as having cancer of the larynx in August 1990, Wells, without medical insurance to pay for treatment, lost her home. Not long afterward, the Rhythm and Blues Foundation raised over $50,000 for Wells’s hospital costs. Funds were also sent by artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, and Diana Ross. Despite chemotherapy treatments, Wells died on July 26, 1992 and was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles.
JACKIE WILSON (1934–1984) Singer
Between 1958 and 1963, Jackie Wilson reigned as one of the most popular rhythm and blues singers in the United States. Dressed in sharkskin suits and sporting a process hairstyle, Wilson exhibited a dynamic stage performance and a singing range which equaled his contemporaries James Brown and Sam Cooke.
Jack Leroy Wilson was born on June 9, 1934, in Detroit, Michigan. Wilson’s mother sang spirituals and gospel songs at Mother Bradley’s Church. As a youngster, he listened to the recordings of the Mills Brothers, Ink Spots, and Louis Jordan. In high school he became a boxer, and at age 16 he won the American Amateur Golden Gloves Welterweight title. But upon the insistence of his mother, Wilson quit boxing and pursued a career in music. While a teenager, Wilson sang with the Falcons in local clubs, and at talent contests held at the Paradise Theater. He also worked in a spiritual group with later members of Hank Ballard’s Midnighters.
In 1953 Wilson replaced Clyde McPhatter as lead singer of the Dominoes. Wilson’s only hit with the Dominoes was the reworking of the religious standard “St. Theresa of the Roses.” Upon the success of the recording, Wilson signed a contract as a solo artist with the Brunswick label. Wilson’s 1957 debut album Reet Petite featured the hit title track song which was written by songwriters Berry Gordy Jr. and Billy Taylor. The songwriting team of Gordy and Taylor also provided Wilson with the subsequent hits “To Be Loved” in 1957, “Lonely Teardrops” in 1958, and “That’s Why I Love You So” and “I’ll Be Satisfied” in 1959.
During the early 1960s, Wilson performed and recorded numerous adaptations of classical music compositions in a crooning ballad style. This material, however, failed to bring out the powerful talent of Wilson’s R&B vocal style. Although Wilson’s repertoire contained mostly supper club standards, he did manage to produce the powerful pop classics “Dogging Around” in 1960 and “Baby Workout” in 1963. Teamed with writer/producer Carl Davis, Wilson also recorded the hit “Whispers” and the rhythm and blues masterpiece “Higher and Higher” in 1967.
Following Wilson’s last major hit “I Get the Sweetest Feeling” in 1968, he performed on the oldies circuit and on Dick Clark’s “Good Of’ Rock ’n’ Roll Revue.” In 1975 Wilson suffered a serious heart attack on stage at the Latin Casino in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Forced into retirement, Wilson spent his last eight years in a nursing home until his death on January 21, 1984.
MARY WILSON (1944– ) Singer
As a member of the Motown supergroup the Supremes, Mary Wilson’s musical career represents an American success story. Born on March 6, 1944, in Greenville, Mississippi, Wilson moved to Detroit at age 11. Raised in the Brewster-Douglas housing project on the city’s east side, Wilson learned to sing by imitating the falsetto voice of Frank Lyman. Along with Barbara Martin and Betty Travis, Wilson formed the Primettes. Upon the departure of Travis, another neighborhood girl named Diana Ross joined the group. Appearing at talent shows and sock hops, the Primettes went on to win first prize at the 1960 Detroit/Windsor Freedom Festival talent contest. Although the Primettes cut two singles on the Lupine label featuring Wilson on lead vocal, they failed to achieve commercial success.
On January 15, 1961, the 16-year-old Wilson and fellow Primette members Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Barbara Martin signed with the Motown label as the Supremes. Wilson’s effort to win the lead vocal spot, however, soon gave way to the dominance of Diana Ross. Released in 1964, the group’s first gold single “Where Did Our Love Go?” made Wilson and the Supremes overnight celebrities. Between 1964 and 1968 Wilson sang background vocals on a number of hits including “Baby Love,” “You Can’t Hurry Love,” and “Reflections.” Before leaving the group in 1976, Wilson also sang such recordings as “Love Child,” “I’m Living in Shame,” and “Someday We’ll Be Together.”
In 1983 Wilson was briefly reunited with the Supremes on the “Motown’s 25th Anniversary” television special. In 1994, Wilson was thrust into the media spotlight when a car she was driving overturned and killed her son. The accident ended her long-standing feud with Diana Ross. In 2000, Wilson considered going on tour again with Ross and the Supremes, but negotiations did not work out. Instead, Wilson decided to go back to school, and in 2001 she earned an associates degree in arts from New York University. Making her home in Los Angeles, Wilson occasionally appears on the oldies circuit and at small Supremes revival shows. She also occasionally performs, records and makes television and film appearances.
NANCY WILSON (1937– ) Singer
Nancy Wilson was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1937. Her musical talents were first noticed when, as a child, she performed for her family at various gatherings. The performances continued as Wilson became a member of her church choir. Influence from artists such as Billy Eckstine and Nat “King” Cole helped Wilson determine that singing would be her career. As a teen, Wilson and her family moved to Columbus, Ohio. Wilson soon became the host of her own radio show, Skyline Melody, during which she performed phoned in requests.
In 1955, Wilson enrolled in classes at Ohio’s Central State College to pursue teaching credentials. Her stint in school was short lived, however, as Wilson dropped out to pursue her singing career. She spent the next three years touring the country as a member of Rusty Byrant’s Carolyn Club Band. The experience Wilson gained while touring gave her the courage to go solo. New York City became Wilson’s new home as her career skyrocketed.
Shortly after her arrival in the Big Apple, Wilson obtained permanent work at a local night club. Word of her masterful performances soon spread all over the city prompting a recording session with Capitol Records. 1960 marked the release of her debut album Like in Love and the recording of her first major hit entitled “Save Your Love for Me.” How Glad I Am won a Grammy in 1964, beginning a 30-year streak of acclaim.
Wilson’s blend of rhythm and blues, jazz, and pop styles captivated thousands of fans around the world. Television executives began to take advantage of Wilson’s talents, giving her a weekly variety show. The Emmy Award-winning The Nancy Wilson Show was merely the beginning of Wilson’s television appearances. Guest spots on the Tonight Show, Merv Griffin Show, and Today Show soon followed.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, technology began to influence the fashion in which studio recordings were made. Wilson continued to record and tour despite differences with various recording companies over issues
of sound. Nonetheless, she was named Global Entertainer of the Year in 1986 by the World Conference of Mayors and the NAACP bestowed upon her its Image Award that year as well.
Just as much heralded in the 1990s, Wilson’s 55th full-length recording was completed in 1997. In 2001, she released her first Christmas album, A Nancy Wilson Christmas. With a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an Essence Award, a Martin Luther King Center for Social Change Award, and a Trumpet Award to her name, Wilson’s bevy of honors is symbol of her timelessness and a testimony to the loyalty of her fans. Wilson released R.S.V.P. (Rare Songs, Very Personal) – which was released in 2004. It won a 2005 Grammy award for Best Jazz Vocal Album and the 2005 NAACP Image Award for Best Jazz Artist. Other honors Wilson has received include a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, streets and days dedicated in her name, honorary doctorate degrees, and in 2005, the UNCF Trumpet Award celebrating African-American achievement, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the NAACP in Chicago, and Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Award. Wilson retired from touring, but she still continues to perform select engagements and, to record. Nancy’s third album with MCG Jazz, Turned to Blue won another Grammy in 2006.
STEVIE WONDER (1950– ) Singer, Pianist, Composer
Popular music’s genius composer and singer Stevie Wonder has remained at the forefront of musical change. His colorful harmonic arrangements have drawn upon jazz, soul, pop, reggae, and rap-derived new jack rhythms. Wonder’s gift to pop music is his ability to create serious music dealing with social and political issues while at the same time revealing the soulful and deeply mysterious nature of the human experience.
Steveland Morris Judkins was born on May 13, 1950, in Saginaw, Michigan. Raised in Detroit, Wonder first sang in the church choir. He was most attracted to the sounds of Johnny Ace and B. B. King, which he heard on late night radio programs. By age eight Wonder learned to play piano, harmonica, and bongos. Through the connections of Miracles member Ronnie White, Wonder auditioned for Berry Gordy Jr. who, immediately signing the 13-year-old prodigy, gave him the stage name of Little Stevie Wonder. After releasing his first singles “Thank You (For Loving Me All the Way)” and “Contract of Love” in 1963, “Fingertips, Pt. 2” became the first live performance of a song to reach the top of the pop charts. That year Wonder also became the first recording artist to hold number one slots on the Billboard Hot 100, R&B Singles, and album charts, simultaneously. In the following year, Wonder hit the charts with “Hey Harmonica Man.”
With the success of his recording career, Wonder began touring more frequently. Motown assigned Wonder a tutor from the Michigan School for the Blind, allowing him to continue his education while on the road. In 1964, he performed in London with the Motown Revue, a package featuring Martha and the Vandellas, the Supremes, and the Temptations. Wonder’s subsequent recording of the punchy rhythm and blues single “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” became a smash hit in 1966. Wonder’s growing commercial success at Motown brought him greater artistic freedom in the studio. In collaboration with Clarence Paul, Wonder produced a long succession of hits including Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind” in 1966, “I Was Made to Love Her” in 1967, and “For Once in My Life” in 1968. In 1969, President Richard Nixon gave Wonder a Distinguished Service Award from the President’s Committee on Employment of Handicapped People. That year, My Cherie Amour generated a single of the same name.
After recording the 1970 album Signed, Sealed Delivered, featuring the title track, Wonder moved to New York City, where he founded Taurus Production Company and Black Bull Publishing Company, both of which were licensed under Motown. With complete control over his musical career, Wonder began to write lyrics addressing social and political issues. Through the technique of overdubbing, he played most of the instruments on his recordings including the guitar, bass, horns, percussion, and brilliant chromatic harmonica solos. Music From My Mind, Talking Book, and Inversions all feature Wonder’s distinctive synthesizer accompaniment.
Released in 1979, Wonder’s Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants was an exploratory musical soundtrack for a film documentary. In 1984, Wonder’s soundtrack for the film Woman in Red won him an Academy Award for best song with “I Just Called To Say I Love You.” One year later, Wonder participated in the recording of “We Are the World” for U.S.A for Africa, a famine relief project. He also teamed up with Paul McCartney for the hit single, “Ebony and Ivory.” Wonder’s 1985 album Square Circle produced the hit singles “Part Time Lover” and “Overjoyed” and won a Grammy. After the 15-time Grammy Award winner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, he composed material for the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s film Jungle Fever. Eight years in the making, 1995’s Conversation Piece hit fans the same year as did the double-live recording Natural Wonder. He also contributed to the tribute recording Inner City Blues: The Music of Marvin Gaye and to Quincy Jones’s Q’s Jook Joint. He won an Essence Award that year. Wonder has also founded the SAP/Stevie Wonder Vision Awards, which are given to research and products that enable visually-impaired people to enter the workforce. In 2000 President Bill Clinton paid tribute to Wonder at the Kennedy Center Honors program in Washington, D.C. In 2002, Wonder received a lifetime achievement award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York.
In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #15 on their list of the 100 Greatest Rock and Roll Artists of All Time. Wonder’s first new album in ten years, A Time to Love, was released in 2005 features Prince on guitar and background vocals from En Vogue. A second single, From the Bottom of My Heart is was a hit on adult-contemporary R&B radio. The album also features a duet with India Arie on the title track A Time to Love, Wonder has received 22 Grammy Awards including one in 2007 Grammy with Tony Bennett—Best Pop Collaboration with vocals for the song For Once in My Life. The 2007 American Idol program featured the finalists singing Stevie Wonder hits and a guest appearance by Wonder himself.
Record of the Year
1963: “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” Count Basie
1967: “Up, Up and Away,” 5th Dimension
1969: “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In,” 5th Dimension
1972: “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” Roberta Flack
1973: “Killing Me Softly with His Song,” Roberta Flack
1976: “This Masquerade,” George Benson
1983: “Beat It,” Michael Jackson
1984: “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” Tina Turner
1985: “We Are the World,” USA For Africa; produced by Quincy Jones
1988: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” Bobby McFerrin
1991: “Unforgettable,” Natalie Cole with Nat “King” Cole
1993: “I Will Always Love You,” Whitney Houston
2004: “Here We Go Again,” Ray charles and Norah Jones
Album of the Year
1973: Innervisions, Stevie Wonder; produced by Stevie Wonder
1974: Fulfillingness’ First Finale, Stevie Wonder; produced by Stevie Wonder
1976: Songs in the Key of Life, Stevie Wonder; produced by Stevie Wonder
1983: Thriller, Michael Jackson; produced by Quincy Jones
1984: Can’t Slow Down, Lionel Richie; produced by Lionel Richie and James Anthony Carmichael
1990: Back on the Block, Quincy Jones; produced by Quincy Jones
1991: Unforgettable, Natalie Cole; produced by David Foster, Andre Fischer, Tommy LiPuma
1999: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Lauryn Hill; produced by Lauryn Hill
2003: Speakerboxxx: The Love Below, Outkast, produced by Carl Mo
2004: Genius Loves Company, Ray Charles and various artists, produced by John Burk, Don Mizell, Phil Ramone and Herbert Waltl
Music: Special Awards and Citations
1976: Scott Joplin
1996: George Walker
1997: Wynton Marsalis
1999: Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (special award, given posthumously)
ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME
1986: Chuck Berry; James Brown; Ray Charles; Sam Cooke; Fats Domino; Little Richard; Robert Johnson; Jimmy Yancey
1987: The Coasters; Bo Diddley; Aretha Franklin; Marvin Gaye; Louis Jordan; B.B. ing; Clyde McPhalter; Smokey Robinson; Big Joe Turner; T-Bone Walker; Muddy Waters; Jackie Wilson
1988: The Drifters; Barry Gordy Jr.; The Supremes
1992: Bobby “Blue” Bland; Booker T. and the M.G.’s; Jimi Hendrix; Isley Brothers; Elmore James; Doc Pomus; Professor Longhair; Sam and Dave
1993: Ruth Brown; Etta James; Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers; Sly and the Family Stone; Dinah Washington
1995: Al Green; Martha and the Vandellas; The Orioles
1996: Little Willie John; Gladys Knight and the Pips; The Shirelles
1997: Mahalia Jackson; The Jackson Five; Parliament
1998: Jelly Roll Morton; Lloyd Price
1999: Charles Brown; Curtis Mayfield; The Staple Singers
2000: Nat “King” Cole; King Curtis; Earth, Wind Fire; Billie Holiday; James Jamerson; The Moonglows; Earl Palmer
2002: Isaac Hayes
2004: Prince; The Dells
2005: Percy Sledge; The O’Jays
2006: Miles Davis
A Question of Taste. The distinction between “popular” and “serious” music—a distinction that Americans take for granted today—originated in the late nineteenth century. While it is impossible to pinpoint an exact moment at which highbrow and lowbrow diverged, it is possible to examine the forces and personalities that drove the popular-music industry in its early years.
The Industry. Lyricists, composers, and publishers flocked to Manhattan during the 1880s and 1890s, but not until the early twentieth century did music makers consolidate around Twenty-eighth Street—prompting one critic to dub the thoroughfare “Tin Pan Alley,” after the tinny sound of music-room pianos. Decentralization characterized the music industry in the pre-Tin Pan Alley era. No self-respecting city of the 1880s lacked an “opera house” (or, by the 1890s, a “vaudeville theater”) for the staging of light musicals. While public performance marked one facet of popular music culture, private performance marked another. Friends and family might gather in the parlor or around the kitchen table, armed with sheet music and determined to re-create the melodies of the music hall.
The Songs. The subjects of popular songs ran the gamut from the romantic to the political to the mundane. “Good-By old Stamp, Good-by” (1883) celebrated the government’s decision to slash the cost of a first-class letter from three cents to two; “Gliding in the Rink” (1884) described the new fad of roller skating; “The Merry Singer” (1891) listed the merits of the Singer sewing machine; and “The Silver Knight of the West” (1896) celebrated the Populist idol and presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan. Many late-nineteenth-century “hits” relied for effect on emotional manipulation. In the words of Charles K. Harris (1865-1930), one of the most successful composers of the day,
sentiment plays a large part in our lives. The most hardened character or the most cynical individual will succumb to sentiment sometime or other. In all my ballads I have purposely injected goodly doses of sentiment, and invariably the whole country paused.
“After the Ball” (1892), a cautionary tale of love and jealousy, earned Harris more than $100,000 in royalties. “Break the News to Mother” (1897), another Harris tearjerker, enjoyed a tremendous vogue during the Spanish-American War.
The Composers. The men and women who crafted American hit songs were a motley bunch. Joseph P. Skelly (1850-1895), a plumber by trade and a drunk by habit, had a hit with “Why Did They Dig Mas Grave So Deep?” (1880)—which includes the lines “Lonely she sits by the old kitchen grate, / Sighing for mother, but now ‘tis too late.” Harris was completely self-taught; Kerry Mills (1869-1948)—who wrote “At a Georgia Camp meeting” (1897) and “Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis” (1904)—boasted a conservatory background. Edward B. Marks (1865-1945) and Joseph W. Stern (1870-1934), who teamed up to compose a plaintive ballad titled “The Little Lost Child” in 1894, worked as button salesmen on the side. Chauncey Olcott (1858-1932), author of “My Wild Irish Rose” (1899), got his show business start in the 1870s, singing and waiting tables at a bar operated by his mother. Paul Dresser (1857-1906), whose hits included “The Outcast Unknown” (1894), “Just Tell Them That You Saw Me” (1895), “On the Banks of the Wabash” (1897), and “My Gal Sal#x201D; (1905), grew up in poverty. The brother of novelist Theodore Dreiser, Dresser “trained” for his career as a composer by singing with minstrel companies, performing stand-up comedy, and acting in popular melodramas.
SONGS OF PROTEST
The American labor movement came of age in the late nineteenth century, expressing itself in song as well as deed. Labor ballads often addressed topical issues such as the Haymarket riot of 1886, the bloody Homestead steel strike of 1892, and the ongoing struggle for an eight-hour workday. Other labor songs were simple love ditties gussied up with a working-class twist. For example, “Factory Song, featuring the refrain “And somebody’s name is Fred,” charted the reveries of a loves-truck working girl. Working-class composers frequently set protest lyrics to popular melodies. Hence “Yankee Boodle,” a diatribe against President Grover Cleveland, was sung to the tune of “Yankee Doodle.”
Throughout the nineteenth century, factory hands and shop workers regularly toiled ten or more hours a day, six days a week, year in and year out. These conditions made the crusade for an eight-hour workday the centerpiece of the labor struggle and a popular subject for labor balladeers. T. C. Walsh of New York, a member of Local 96 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, was inspired by the AFL battle for shorter hours to write the lyrics for “The Eight-Hour Day” (1890), which begins:
A glorious dawn o’er the land is breaking,
And from the sleep of serfdom waking;
See the sons of toil arise.
Hearken to the song they’re singing,
Through the welkin gladly winging,
Joy unto the weary bringing,
On, still on, it flies.
“Let scabs and cowards Do what they may, Eight hours, eight hours, Shall be our day.”
“Let scabs and cowards
Do what they may,
Eight hours, eight hours,
Shall be our day.”
Aloft our banner courts the sky,
The glorious day of freedom’s nigh,
From toiling long and late;
“Eight hours” shall be our working day,
“Eight hours” to sleep fatigue away,
“Eight hours” to seek in wisdom’s ray,
Improvement of our state.
“Let scabs and cowards
Do what they may,
Eight hours, eight hours,
Shall be our day.”
Source: Philip S. Foner, American Labor Songs of the Nineteenth Century (Urbana, Chicago & London: University of Illinois Press, 1975).
Lester S. Levy, Grace Notes in American History (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1967);
Nicholas E. Tawa, The Way to Tin Pan Alley: American Popular Song, 1866-1910 (New York: Schirmer, 1990).
While music that “the people” listen to has always been present, popular music as it is known today is a recent phenomenon dating to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Several factors are responsible for bringing about the rise of popular music. One is technological: New technologies for the reproduction of music, such as the player piano and phonograph in the late nineteenth century and radio and sound film in the 1920s, greatly facilitated access to music, and helped prompt a proliferation of different musical styles. Another factor was the rise of consumer culture, as people increasingly came to understand themselves less through their occupations, as producers, and more through the ways that they spent their leisure time, as consumers. The growth of the modern advertising industry helped push this process along; manufacturers of player pianos and phonographs spent heavily promoting these technologies early in the twentieth century.
Yet another factor was the increased industrialization of the production of music. Modern management techniques derived from Frederick Taylor (1856–1915) and Henry Ford (1863–1947) found their way into the music business, which became increasingly rationalized, more like a business that manufactured everyday commodities.
At the same time that these developments were occurring, new musical styles were entering people’s consciousness. The craze for ragtime piano music in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries helped fuel player piano sales. Jazz, blues, and other African American musical styles helped the American recording industry market African American performers to a broader white audience under the rubric of race music.
Perhaps most significant, however, was the rise of radio. Radio in the moment of its popularization, the mid-1920s, boasted greater fidelity than phonograph records and did not have the three-minute time limitation of 78 rpm recordings. And early radio was live. Listeners around the country were in thrall to dance music, which was essentially highly arranged, sanitized jazz performed by white musicians such as Paul Whiteman (1890–1967). The sensitivity of electrical microphones for radio resulted in a new style of singing called crooning, in which performers sang in a much more intimate way than when they sang without amplification in auditoriums. This style produced the first mass-media popular music superstars in the United States, such as Rudy Vallée (1901–1986) and Bing Crosby (1903–1977), who helped define a mode of popular musical superstardom that paved the way for later figures such as Frank Sinatra (1915–1998) and Elvis Presley (1935–1977).
After World War II (1939–1945), the invention of magnetic tape made the production of recordings much less expensive, and many small record labels sprang up to capture the sounds of African Americans who had moved from the South seeking employment. Their urban blues gave rise to rock and roll, which found a consumer base in the newly developed marketing category of teenagers in the postwar era of intensified consumption practices. Rock and roll helped give some types of popular music, as well as musicians, greater influence and prestige than either had known before.
Today, popular music is a multinational, multibillion-dollar business dominated by American and European stars, as well as American, European, and Japanese record labels whose products are sold and traded digitally around the world. Hundreds of local styles globally are influenced by American and European sounds, some of which are picked up by labels with international connections and are marketed as world music.
Frith, Simon. 1992. The Industrialization of Popular Music. In Popular Music and Communication, ed. James Lull, 49–74.2nd ed. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Timothy D. Taylor