• 0 Nile Rodgers Chic Le Freak

    Nile Rodgers, the surviving founder of Chic, chronicles the rise of his group in "Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny." Co-founder Bernard Edwards died in Tokyo, Japan in 1996. The distinctive production style of Rodgers was responsible for hits by Diana Ross, David Bowie, Sister Sledge, Duran Duran, Grace Jones and many more. Rodgers, a composer, arranger, guitarist and producer describes his humble beginnings in New York City before the dawn of Chic. Readers of this autobiography will enjoy the special Nile anecdotes from various studio sessions. Chic was a dynamic force, driven by the unique style of Rodgers and Edwards (on bass). They don't receive enough credit for their innovation. Chic is often stereotyped in perception by attributing the blandness of the disco era to the group. Many negate Chic's best work by lumping it in with the mediocre robotic melodies of disco's heyday. For the whole story, check out "Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny." Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Donna Summer Remembered

    LaDonna Adrian Gaines was born on New Year's Eve, December 31, 1948. She grew up in Boston with her parents and two sisters. By the time she was 12, she was singing Diana Ross and Dionne Warwick songs. On her approach to singing as an adult, Donna says in her autobiography "to this day I will approach a song as an actress approaches a script. I do not sing; I act. When I sing, I sing with the voice of the character in the song." With this in mind, one can be somewhat forgiving when reflecting on "Love To Love You Baby," Donna's over the top exercise in heavy breathing that was a big 1975 disco smash. Donna Summer passed away on May 17, 2012. Read our review of her autobiography "Donna Summer: Ordinary Girl" Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Dionne Warwick Opens Her Soul in My Life as I See It

    Dionne Warwick says in her new autobiography, My Life As I See It, released in November, 2010, that a typo misprint on her first single "Don't Make Me Over" changed her surname from Warrick to Warwick. When her astrologer created a numerological chart in the 1970's, the astrologer suggested adding an "e" to Warwick to create "stronger vibrations." As Dionne says, "that meant every contract, advertisement, and record cover had to reflect the change." She explains that record sales dipped, so "I went about getting it taken off all contracts, marquees, and future album covers." My Life As I See It is a very enjoyable read, as Dionne covers every aspect of her life. Her grandfather was a minister. She reflects on how people describe her vocal style as "classical or pop, but gospel has been and always will be first and foremost in my world of music." Dionne Warwick finally released her first gospel album in 2008, Why We Sing. She credits gospel with making her a better pop singer. Here is an artist who spans the decades from the early 1960's to now. She began as a demo track and background singer in New York City, commuting from her home state of New Jersey. When her solo career took off (propelled by songs created by the Hal David - Burt Bacharach writing team), she hit the road to tour. Dionne's stories about experiencing 1963 "Jim Crow" racism travelling through the South echo what my other artists in the early 1960's endured. Apart from her own talent, Ms. Warwick has glorious singing family connections, including her late sister Dee Dee, aunt Cissy Houston, Cousin Whitney Houston, and cousin Leontyne Price. Excellence takes hard work, and Dionne was no slouch. She took piano lessons every week from age six until her early twenties. When those singers she respected played within a 100 miles radius of one of her performances, she would go to their shows (Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll, Sammy Davis Jr.), etc., with a legal pad, ask to be seated in the rear of the room with a direct line of sight to the stage, and take notes about every relevant detail of the performance. She has real bachelor and master's degrees in music. Dionne speaks frankly about whether her style is black enough. She says receiving the Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 2003 was satisfying "to be honored by a sector of the industry that never thought of me as an R&B singer." "My crossover appeal was one of the factors in my success. My music was played on African American stations as well as white radio stations." "Ironically, my crossover success in pop prompted something that came as a big surprise: the decline of airplay for my records on African American radio." When the top New York City R&B station WWRL held off adding "Alfie" to their playlist, Warwick recalls that when the song reached number one (and was finally added by the station), she telephoned into dj Rocky G. while he was playing the song and asked "Why are you playing that white girl's record?" G. answered, "That is no white girl, and who is this?" Dionne's reply: "This is the one you told was too white to play on your show, This is Dionne." The two laughed about that incident for many years to come. This anecdote reveals the professional aggressiveness that pushes Dionne Warwick forward through a ground breaking career of many firsts. 1968 - First African American since Ella Fitzgerald to win Best Contemporary Pop Vocal Grammy. 1979 - First female solo artist to win Grammy awards in pop & R&B in the same year. In the 1980's she was one of the first artists to develop a fragrance, "Dionne." 1980 - 1988. She is one of the first African American females to host a music variety television program (season one and season five) of Solid Gold. Say a Little Prayer, her first children's book, was published in 2008. You get the sense that Dionne Warwick has clear values with focus, a factor that has contributed to her success. She talks about embracing collaborations with Barry Manilow leading to the massive hits "Deja Vu" and "I'll Never Love This Way Again," but being highly fearful about the "Heartbreaker" song project with the Bee Gees. Dionne explains about several Bee Gees member Barry Gibb songs presented to her: "one I thought was just not me was "Heartbreaker." "I did not like it." Finally giving in to producer Gibb, Ms. Warwick adds "needless to say, I was wrong, and he was right. "Heartbreaker became one of my biggest international hits to date." I'll close with this Warwick - Mary J. Blige encounter, which gives you further incite into 'the soul of Dionne.' In the 1990's, Warwick participated in organizing talent for a show Celebrate the Soul of American Music. This program gave her the opportunity "to meet Mary J. Blige. "She was "rough" around the edges at the beginning of her career. But she was an important part of the new sounds that were defining rap and hip-hop." "Why she had been asked to do this show, I don't know, because the Stellar Awards honors the gospel community. But there she was, showing up to rehearse in her fatigues and combat boots." "When the dress rehearsal for cameras was about to begin, most artists brought out what they would be wearing to show the colors. Ms. Blige was still in fatigues and combat boots." "I asked if she would bring out what she intended to wear on the show. In not such a ladylike way, she let me know that she had on what she was going to wear." "I had to say that what she had on was not appropriate for the show." "I told her I could send one of the stylists out to get her something. But, without missing a beat, she again let me know in no uncertain terms that she was wearing what she had on." "I then said she would have to wear that somewhere else, because she was no longer on the show." "I ran into her again a few years later at the inaugural ground-breaking ceremony of the Magic Johnson Theatres in Harlem and I almost didn't recognize her." "She was beautifully dressed to the nines." "She approached me and asked if I remembered her, and I said I did. She thanked me for opening her eyes to the reality of who she should be and now was." "Watching her become someone to respect within her community of young entertainers has been great." "She is now the epitome of positive imagery and high self-esteem." "She has fought the battle with negativity and won the war. Thank you, Mary J. Blige, for being." And thank you Dionne Warwick, for an eye-opening book, an amazing career, and your trailblazing pioneer efforts since the early 1960's. Watch and listen to Dionne Warwick's live performance of "Alfie," from 1993 in Brazil. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Roberta Flack Keeps Her Song Soft and Mellow

    Always the master of timeless R&B, Roberta Flack continues to serenade audiences with her elegant mixture of toned down pop, soul, and jazz. Roberta's official biography tells the story... "Classically trained on the piano from an early age, Ms. Flack received a music scholarship at age 15 to attend Howard University." "She was "discovered while singing at the Washington, DC nightclub Mr. Henry's by musician Les McCann, and promptly signed to Atlantic Records resulting in the release of a string of big Roberta Flack hits." An interpretive album of Beatles' classics is occupying lots of Roberta's time, even as she sings to audiences during her 2010 tour. Her Roberta Flack School of Music at the Hyde Leadership Charter School in the Bronx, New York, provides inspiring music education to underprivileged students free of charge. That's Roberta giving back to the community. Roberta Flack live features the following dates: Saturday, June 12, 2010, DC Jazz Festival, Washington, DC Saturday, June 19, McDonald's Gospelfest, Prudential Center Arena, Newark, NJ Friday, July 9, Vancouver Island Music Fest, British Columbia, Canada Saturday, July 17, BFLO Jazz Festival, Delaware Park, Buffalo, NY Sunday, July 25, Calgary Folk Music Festival, Calgary, Canada Saturday, September 4, Tokyo Jazz Festival, Tokyo, Japan Saturday, September 18, Mayo Civic Center Theater, Rochester, MN Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Jackie Wilson the Legend

    The man known as "Mr. Excitement" began and ended his career as a member of a group. He sang with the Dominoes in 1951. In 1975, Jackie Wilson, the singer and the showman, performed the lead vocal for the Chi-Lites on "Don't Burn No Bridges." In the period between these 2 groups, the explosive solo career path of Jackie Wilson paved the way for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. As a 16 year old amateur Golden Gloves welterweight boxing champion in 1950, Sonny Wilson pretended to be 18 to qualify for the sport. Luckily for the music world, Sonny Wilson would abandon boxing to thankfully morph into Jackie Wilson and launch his singing career just one year later. By 1960, vocal sensation Jackie would break the one week attendance record at the Apollo Theater in New York City. He lived with a bullet in his stomach that could not be removed, the result of a 1961 encounter with a Juanita Jones, a female fan, who shot him in his New York City apartment. There would be more tragedy for Jackie, as he suffered a 1975 heart attack on stage in the Philadelphia area while singing his classic "Lonely Teardrops" at the Latin Casino dinner theater in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. With 47 songs on the R&B charts, and at least 54 in the top 100 pop singles chart, Jackie Wilson's 17-year-plus solo career is the stuff of legends. His voice sends chills up and down your spine. Just listen to "Baby Workout" if you have any doubts. Jackie Wilson died on January 21, 1984. His music lives on for new generations to enjoy. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 The Gap Band Keep the Party Train on Track

    The legendary Gap Band of brothers honed the art of funk to a science with a truly unique approach to their groove grinding R&B. These photos are from Gap Band VI. Let's reveal much more about this trio who hail from the USA heartland by spotlighting some highlights from The Gap Band's official biography... "One of the most influential groups in the history of classic soul, Charlie and his brothers, Ronnie and Robert Wilson, made themselves famous with their non-stop humorous funk grooves. The sons of a Pentecostal minister, the Wilson brothers started performing in 1967 when they formed a group along with Tuck Andress of Tuck and Patti Fame. The GAP Band, named after the black business hub of their native Tulsa, Oklahoma (Greenwood, Archer, Pine Streets), became the band of choice for visiting musicians. "We used to be called the Greenwood Archer Pine Street Band," Charlie explains, "but that was a bit too much to put on posters, so we abbreviated it to G.A.P. Band. Then once, through a typographical error, the periods disappeared and out popped the GAP Band." During the band's early career they opened for major hit bands like The Rolling Stones, and supported J.J. Cale, Willie Nelson, D.J. Rogers, and Leon Russell. In the 80's, Charlie toured with Annie Lennox and the Eurythmics. The GAP Band has always been a touring powerhouse, known for their high energy, groove thumpin, party-like set. Throughout their career they have performed with an eclectic set of artists including Frankie Beverly and Maze, The Isley Brothers, R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige, L.L. Cool J, Destiny's Child, Ashanti, Ja Rule, and Dru Hill. From the late 70's to early 80's the band dominated the R&B charts with their hard driving funk grooves. Four of the band's nine albums went platinum..." The Gap Band II The Gap Band III The Gap Band IV Gap Band V - Jammin) Gap Band hits include: "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" "Party Train" "Burn Rubber" "Outstanding" "Oops Upside Your Head" "Early in the Morning" "Yearning for Your Love" Charlie Wilson continues to support his own solo career, and will be performing on the following dates: Friday, June 19, 2009, Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN Saturday, June 20, City Stages Music Festival, Birmingham, AL Friday, June 26, Grant Park - Taste of Chicago, Chicago, IL Saturday, June 27, Chene Park, Detroit, MI Sunday, June 28, Nokia Theater, Dallas, TX Saturday, July 4, Essence Music Festival Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, LA Friday, July 24, Kanawha Plaza, Richmond, VA Friday, July 31, Macy's Music Festival ? Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH Friday, August 14, Steve Harvey Hoodie Awards, Las Vegas, NV Friday, September 4, Palace Theater, Cleveland, OH Sunday, September 6, Fort Hood Stadium, Killeen, TX Friday, October 2, LA County Fair, Los Angeles, CA Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 A Look Back at Koko Taylor

    I was lucky enough to work at an R&B radio station in the 1970's that allowed us (the dj's) to play Koko Taylor right along side of the Temptations and Aretha Franklin. The somewhat eclectic mix helped me to develop a reverence and appreciation for the blues masters, who by the mid 1960's had long since slipped off of the popular music charts. NPR Music on their All Songs Considered blog has a Look Back at blues legend Koko Taylor, including videos and bio. She passed away on June 3, 2009, at the age of 80. In the Blues Brothers 2000 movie, Koko Taylor performs in the grand finale as one of The Louisiana Gator Boys. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 New Birth Classic Soul Buzz

    Hit covers of "Dream Merchant," "I Can Understand It," and "Wildflower" made them household names. Find the excellent blow-by-blow story of the dynamic journey forged by classic soul ensemble New Birth, compiled by 2 original members, Melvin and Leslie Wilson, at their official website. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 2 Trammps Triumphant with Disco Soul

    Their official biography reveals that the Trammps began in Philadelphia in 1972 featuring vocalist, Jimmy Ellis, Harold Doc Wade, Stanley Wade, and Earl Young. The Trammps have traveled with as many as 11 members, musicians who've also played for both Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff's Philadelphia International Records, and later for Vince Montana's Salsoul Orchestra. "Zing Went the Strings Of My Heart," a remake of a 1943 Judy Garland classic, was the Trammps first hit in 1972 reaching #17 R&B, and #64 pop. Buddah Records recorded several Trammps hits, including "Hold Back The Night" which peaked at #10 R&B, and #40 pop, and "Where Do We Go From Here," a #44 R&B chart hit in 1974. By mid 1975, the Trammps became one of Atlantic Records hottest dance music acts. Their first album with Atlantic produced "Hooked for Life," and "Where the Happy People Go." (their biggest pop hit). For 1977's "Disco Inferno" anthem, the Trammps were recognized as the best performing group by one of New York's most popular clubs, 2001 Space Odyssey, the location for the movie, Saturday Night Fever. The soundtrack from the movie included "Disco Inferno," for which the Trammps won a Grammy Award in 1979. Original members, Jimmy Ellis, Harold Doc Wade, Stanley Wade and Dave Dixon continue as the core of the Trammps. They tour nationally and internationally with musicians from the original touring group. Catch The Trammps, Friday, August 1, 2008, 7:30 pm at the Bank of America Pavilion, Boston, Massachusetts, for the Solid Gold Dance Party. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Bo Diddley Remembered

    Bo Diddley, along with Little Richard and Chuck Berry, created the core of what we now call rock and that has since splintered into scores of different sub genres. Diddley passed away of heart failure on Monday, June 2, 2008. Recently, his health was failing, as he had suffered a heart attack, and a stroke, this past year. Why is Bo Diddley important? His songs have been covered and recorded by artists such as the Rolling Stones, the Animals, Manfred Mann, the Kinks, the Yardbirds, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Doors, Tom Rush, and Bob Seger, (among others). He is a pop music icon of enormous influence. Diddley's custom-made rectangular guitar, and his playing style, complete with distorted amplification, became a trademark by the mid 1950's. He was born in McComb, Mississippi, in 1928. Ellas McDaniel, also known as Bo, received his nickname from his early years as a boxer. Diddley played the blues clubs of Chicago, Illinois, in the 1940?s and 1950?s. His early legendary recordings were made for the Chess label. Diddley hits include "Who Do You Love," "Hey! Bo Diddley," "Pretty Thing," and "Hush Your Mouth." Bo played on several Chuck Berry classics including "Memphis, Tennessee," and "Sweet Little Rock N' Roller." Diddley's 1959 "Say Man" was a rap styled dialogue 20 years ahead of its time. In 1962, he performed for President John F. Kennedy at a private set at the White House. He toured Great Britain in the 1960?s and 1970's, performing on shows with the Everly Brothers, the Rolling Stones, and the Clash. Diddley continued his presence through the 1980's, with a film appearance in Eddie Murphy's Trading Places (1983). Bo's music was featured in films including La Bamba (1987), and Dirty Dancing, (1987). Diddley was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He performed for President George Bush at the Inaugural Gala in 1989. Diddley rocked at 1992's Democratic National Convention celebration for Bill Clinton. In February of 1996, Bo Diddley received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, an acknowledgment, for among other accomplishments, pioneering the famous "Bo Diddley beat." biography elements courtesy of Empower Encyclopedia Previous Post | Next Post

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