• 0 Vanessa Williams Hits the High Notes

    When Vanessa Williams pulls a rabbit out of her talented hat, the emerging bunny is no one trick pony. The former Miss America has topped the music charts, scored on Broadway, excelled in television, excited in movies, and mesmerized magnificently in music videos. Her official biography emphasizes what an important role music played in her early years... "Both her parents are music teachers who recognized her musical gifts early on and encouraged her to pursue her love of the arts. When she was young, she acted, danced, played piano and French horn in her high school orchestra, concert band and marching band, concert choir, and chorus." "Her early interest in performing led to a passion for musical theatre, which began in school and continued as she went on to star in numerous community theatre productions." "Vanessa won a Presidential Scholarship in Drama and chose to continue her education at Syracuse University, where she majored in musical theatre. While at college in 1983, Vanessa was sought after by local talent scouts who invited her to participate in the Miss Greater Syracuse Pageant." "Three months later, Vanessa won the 1983 Miss America title and a $30,000 scholarship that accompanied it. The controversy that followed only left Vanessa stronger and more empowered in her commitment to a career in the world of entertainment." Playboy and Penthouse magazines both published some unflattering pictures of Ms. Williams in 1984, (that were shot a few years earlier), featuring her and a female friend doing some really raunchy "girls gone wild" posing. She was stripped of her Miss America title when the photos were published. Four years after she won and lost her crown, Vanessa was signed to a recording contract, thanks to some efficient back-up-vocal work on a George Clinton track, "Do Fries Go with that Shake." In 1988, her first album, The Right Stuff was released. Here are some of Vanessa Williams? most memorable tracks: "Dreamin'" "Running Back to You" "The Right Stuff" "Save the Best for Last" "Love Is" (with Brian McKnight) "Save the Best For Last" was a #1 song in the USA, Australia, Holland and Canada, (and top five in England and Japan). In 1996, Vanessa recorded her first solo Christmas album - the critically acclaimed and Grammy-nominated "Star Bright." There's much more magic to come from Vanessa Williams. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Reflections of Lamont Dozier

    Lamont Dozier, the "D" in Holland - Dozier - Holland, wrote lots of memorable classics with his partners Brian and Eddie: "Stop! In the Name of Love" "Reach Out I'll Be There" "How Sweet It Is (to be Loved by You)" "Nowhere to Run" "This Old Heart of Mine" "You Can't Hurry Love" Before his success with the H-D-H writing team, Lamont sung with the Romeos and the Voicemasters, Detroit groups that would eventually spawn David Ruffin (of the Temptations) and several members of the Originals. Holland, Dozier, and Holland wrote some of the greatest Motown hits from 1962 - 1969. At the end of the 60's, H-D-H created Invictus, the label home of the Chairmen of the Board, Freda Payne, and the 8th Day. In 1973, Lamont would start a solo career as a singer, recording at least 8 albums, including Out Here on my Own, and Black Bach. He had some modest hits: "Don't' Leave Me," "Fish Ain't Bitin'," and his biggest, "Why Can't We Be Lovers." Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Brian McKnight Touches Ten with Time

    Brian McKnight has been making music since 1991. The first time he entered a recording studio, he says he was motivated "to pick-up where Marvin Gaye left off." That's an inspiring comment from a young man who wants to continue the elegant tradition of smooth classic soul. The Buffalo, New York native, born on June 5, 1969, is also aware of the changing nature of rhythm and blues today. He notes in his official biography that "the landscape of soul music has gotten younger." Despite this reality, Brian adds "I believe my material will appeal to everyone from teenagers to older folks." With this challenge in mind, comes Ten, a new release from Brian on Warner Brothers Records, his first for the label. "Used to Be My Girl" is getting a big push from the album. As the ladies can tell you, Brian McKnight has mastered the softer side of soul. Ten maintains his dominance within this genre. To learn more about Brian's secret formula for success, the official Brian McKnight biography (on his website) tells all. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Joyful Dreamgirl Jennifer Hudson wins Golden Globe

    Jennifer Hudson has grabbed the Golden Globe award for the best performance by an actress in a supporting role for Dreamgirls. Her biography says she sang for the very first time before a small church in her native Chicago, bringing the congregation to its feet with soul-stirring solo performances week after week. Jennifer landed her first professional role in a local production of Big River. In 2002, she was a featured vocalist on the Disney Wonder cruise ship. In 2004, she pumped up the volume during season three of Fox TV's American Idol. Soak in all of the official Jennifer Hudson biography at Jennifer Hudson online. Twenty-five years ago, Jennifer Holliday, the original Dreamgirl, created the breakout role of Effie White (for which Jennifer Hudson has won the Golden Globe). In a recent television interview with Deborah Norville of Inside Edition, Jennifer Holliday says she's very disappointed at her lack of involvement in the current film version of Dreamgirls. Holliday says she thinks it's ironic, that the performer who has the role of Effie in the film Dreamgirls, Jennifer Hudson, has the same first name and the same initials as Holliday. "I'm glad about YouTube showing my 1982 Tony Awards performance, (Holliday says), because that way the public can see that I did it first and that this is being copied." Stand by for more Dreamgirl cat fights as we close in on the 2007 Academy Awards. Yes, Jennifer Hudson is upstaging both Beyonce' and Jennifer Holliday. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 1 Ronettes Rock Hall of Fame

    Legendary New York City radio dee jay "Murray the K" called them his "dancing girls." And dance up a storm they did during their time in the spotlight. The Ronettes will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class of 2007 on March 12 in New York City. Estelle Bennett, Ronnie Spector, and Nedra Talley join... The Supremes (1988) Martha and the Vandellas (1995), and The Shirelles (1996) exclusively as the only "girl group" representatives in the Hall. Here are the hits of the Ronettes... "Be My Baby" (1963) "Baby, I Love You" (1964) "(The Best Part of) Breakin' Up" (1964) "Do I Love You? (1964) "Walking In The Rain" (1964) The ladies got together in 1958 as the Darling Sisters. While still in junior high school, they turned professional. Producer Phil Spector used them as backup singers as early as 1962. After their string of hits, the Ronettes were history by 1966. Veronica "Ronnie" Bennett was married to Phil Spector from 1968 - 1974. Ronnie continues to be active. She released Last of the Rock Stars in 2006, a 20 year follow-up to 1987's Unfinished Business. In many was, the induction of the Ronettes is a tribute to the dedication of Ronnie Spector to her life-long craft. The salutation also honors this great "girl group" as significant contributors to popular music during an era of industry transition in the early 1960's. Not many acts can get elected to the Hall with such a short list of recordings. Music insiders will tell you however that Ronnie Spector has one of the great pop music voices. I certainly agree. Here's the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Full Inductee List from A to Z. In 2007, the Ronettes join Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five, (first hip-hop group ever to be inducted), R.E.M., Patti Smith, and Van Halen in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 1 Hair Raising Melba Moore is still Here

    Melba Moore's memorable R&B and pop hits include "This Is It," "You Stepped Into My Life," "Falling," "I am His Lady," and the Grammy nominated "Lean On Me." Her 1990 recording of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" was instrumental in getting the song entered into the U-S Congressional Record as the official African American National Anthem. Melba Moore began her career in the ground breaking Broadway musical "Hair," where she originated the role of Dionne. During her 18 months in the show, she eventually replaced Dianne Keaton. Right after "Hair" came the role of Lutiebelle Gussiemae Jenkins in the long running musical, "Purlie," which won Melba the Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress in a musical. In 1996 Melba took over the role of "Fantine" in the Broadway musical "Les Miserables." She was in the 2003 movie, "The Fighting Temptations," along with Beyonce', and Cuba Gooding Jr. Melba, who's survived her share of pain, has come back from the depths of despair, and overcome the hard times. Recently, she's recorded some soul stirring gospel, including 2004's "Nobody but Jesus" album, and her latest, "I'm Still Here." You can pick up on more of the Melba Moore experience which is waiting for you right now. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Southern Soul Sweetheart Candi Staton

    Highlights from Candi Staton's official biography... There are southern soul voices and there are southern soul voices. Raw and ravaged, Candi Staton's is one of the signature sounds of the genre. It's a voice with a tear in it, the cry of a woman wounded by life, by men, by woes turned inward. Born Canzetta Maria Staton in Hanceville, Alabama, Candi was from a farming family. When they weren't harvesting crops or picking cotton, they were in church. As a child, Staton sang in the choir. "The crowds would get very emotional," she recalls. "At the time I didn't really know why they were crying so much...once I remember, the audience got so emotional, throwing their pocket books at my feet and so on, that I got really scared and ran off to my mother." Her brother dared her to sing on amateur night at the 27/28 Club in Birmingham, Alabama. She went up and sang "Do Right Woman" and won a booking to open for Clarence Carter, her future husband. He liked her and asked her to open for him on the road. After hooking up with Clarence, Candi enjoyed smash Top 10 classic soul R&B hits such as: I'd Rather Be An Old Man's Sweetheart (Than To Be A Young Man's Fool) Sweet Feeling Stand By Your Man He Called Me Baby Mr. & Mrs. Untrue Too Hurt To Cry In The Ghetto (which won a Grammy nomination) After 1976, Candi became a princess of disco with "Young Hearts Run Free," "Victim," "Nights On Broadway," and "When You Wake Up Tomorrow." Following producer Dave Crawford out to California, she made her third marriage - to Tyrone Davis' former promoter, and commenced a period of domestic misery and abuse (not her first). Crawford's song 'Young Hearts Run Free' was inspired by the painful stories that Candi told him. "We would sit down and I would tell him the horrors I was going through in the marriage I was trying to get out of," Staton remembers. "I would bring David incidents, and little did I know he was making mental notes and writing all that stuff down." A masterpiece of marital grief - "You count up the years/and they will be filled with tears" - 'Young Hearts' also placed Staton in the middle of the 1976 dance music revolution. In 1977, she recorded the Bee Gees 'Nights on Broadway.' By the early 80s Staton was in limbo, and drinking heavily. "I had such low self-esteem when I started in the entertainment world," she says. "I had no one in my family to show me any confidence. Alcohol enabled me to get out there in front of all those people and sing. I couldn't even think of going onstage without being at least a third drunk." She was also coming to terms with the patterns of abuse and subjugation in her life, tracing them back to the experience of growing up with an alcoholic father. "Your real role model is not an artist or an entertainer, it's your parents," she reflects. "And what you see them do, usually it comes down through the generations.? "I saw how my father would drink and abuse my mother and they would fight all the time. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew it wasn't right, but you pick those same kind of men." "I've married the same man over and over again. He just looked different and wore different clothes." In 1982 Staton saw the light, and knew she had to quit drinking. "I had allowed alcohol to take my life over," she says. "I was destroying everything in my body.? "One day I just went cold turkey and said, "I'm not gonna do this anymore'." Instead she returned to the church of her childhood, forsaking soul music for the gospel of her formative years. In time she established her own ministry and television show. How, one wonders, will the gospel faithful view her reconciliation with secular music on "His Hands." "There will be some religious folk that will come against me, and even maybe some DJs," Staton says. "They'll be disappointed maybe that I'm singing love songs. But I call them life songs. Just because you go to church you're not alienated from life." A third wind in Staton's secular career came in 1991 when club act The Source sampled a gospel track she had recorded for comedian Dick Gregory. 'You Got The Love' has twice been a UK hit for Staton, giving her a whole new profile. "When the song didn't happen in America, I thought, 'Oh well, another one bites the dust'," she admits. "And then I got a call from London saying the song was on the charts. The good thing was, they couldn't pay me so they gave me half the publishing!" "You Got The Love" was remixed and became a Top Ten British hit and sold two million copies. The song was reissued in both 1997 and 2006 and charted in the British Top Ten again each time. After witnessing so many divorces in the church, Staton decided to go into the studio and record a relationship music CD entitled "His Hands" (Astralwerks/Honest Jons) that was released in Spring 2006. "In the church we sometimes focus so much on the spiritual things that we neglect the natural things," Staton says. "That's not balance. While we're on earth, we have to take care of our spouses and our kids and be there for them. We can't be in worship all day or we won't be doing what God has called us to do, so that project talks about issues that everyone goes through - including Christians. The songs point to things that you should see as signs of a problem in your relationships. I know some in the church still won't understand it, but I have Biblical scriptures to back me up and if they want to argue with scriptures, that's their choice." ---------- The Candi Staton website has much more. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Roy Ayers Good Vibrations

    Roy Ayers puts on a killer live show. He's a unique musician who plays a unique instrument. I've partied to the "Roy Ayers Ubiquity" sound at an unusual show place: the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Ayers hasn't slowed down. Kevin Johnson tells us what R-A's been up to... "New Generation of Artists Drives Rebirth of Roy Ayers" written by Kevin C. Johnson - (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) ---------- "Jazz and R&B music lovers have been digging Roy Ayers' vibe - make that vibes - ever since he came into the music world in the '60s. Still, for some, it's like he's just getting started. The Los Angeles-bred artist, scheduled to perform as part of the 2006 Missouri Black Expo, is one of music's most popular, respected and sampled vibraphonist players - despite the surprising fact he's never won a Grammy or had a gold record. His '70s heyday included a fruitful period of collaboration with flautist Herbie Mann; fronting his own band, Ubiquity; and hits such as "Running Away," "Searching" and "You Send Me." There was also his seminal 1976 album, "Everybody Loves the Sunshine," featuring a memorably bright yellow cover. In a phone interview from London, Ayers said: "I think my greatest achievement was with that song." Ayers was also among the special breed of 1970s soul artists, including Curtis Mayfield and Isaac Hayes, who created classic soundtracks for popular "blaxploitation" flicks of that era. He was behind Pam Grier's "Coffy." "They called and asked me if I could do a soundtrack, and I'd never done one - though I said, 'Of course,' like I had done one, because I wanted to do one," he said. "When 'Jackie Brown' came out, Quentin Tarantino used some of my music from 'Coffy,' and I didn't know it. If they hadn't put my name on it at the end, I would have sued." Still, "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" and "Coffy" were three decades ago, several lifetimes in the music industry. Ayers has made much music since then, including his 2004 album "Mahogany Vibe." But his classic material is what's driving the career rebirth. A new generation of R&B performers and hip-hoppers, including Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, A Tribe Called Quest, Common and 2Pac, have discovered his music and made him an icon all over again. "They all find a degree of spirituality to my music, a spiritual essence, and it doesn't have to be about God. But it is about the things that God has produced, like the sunshine," Ayers said. Blige probably made the best use of Ayers' music when she liberally incorporated portions of "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" as the backdrop to her signature song and CD, "My Life." Blige also used Ayers' "Searching" in her song of the same name. "I was very thrilled about that," Ayers said. "She's a very talented artist." The renewed attention has led to him being conferred with titles such as "Godfather of Neo Soul" and "Godfather of Acid Jazz." And he said he's fine with that. "It doesn't matter," he said. "All of them are positive." Ayers' rebirth also is providing an outlet for music he recorded decades ago but never released. Labels have come to him with deals to distribute the music, and there's plenty to choose from; he has hundreds of unreleased recordings. "I was obsessed with recording. I recorded so much music on myself and on other artists it was amazing," Ayers said. "I had a contract with PolyGram and had to do two albums a year, so I did all those recordings and would pick out the best and they would use it. "I forgot about the rest. I never thought that music would see the light of day, or that I would ever do anything with it." Roy Ayers on... How the vibes hooked him: "I was always fascinated with the sound of that instrument, being from a family that loved Lionel Hampton... you could feel his rhythm and intensity and joy and happiness, and I still applaud his greatness. He's the main reason why I do this, as well as my mother, who inspired me all my life." Herbie Mann's influence: "He taught me how to be a leader. I didn't want to play in too many groups. It was always my objective to be a leader, not to put anybody down, but I had that installed in me." Vibe players today: "A lot of the young vibe players pattern themselves after Bobby Hutcherson. They sound like him, and I'm glad they sound good. But I want to hear the new vibe players get their own sounds." Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Keith Sweat makes it last Forever

    A friend has been recently raving about how great it was to experience a live Keith Sweat concert. Keith was born in New York City in 1961. He worked as a Wall Street brokerage assistant before settling into the soulful pulse of classic R&B music. Sweat, one of the first R&B "new jack swing" artists, hit the scene with his debut release in 1987, "Make it Last Forever." The album sold over 3 million copies, and featured 4 top ten R&B hits, including the #1 winner, "I Want Her." Keith says "fans come up to me every day and tell me how much 'Make It Last Forever' meant to them." "LSG," the 2003 collaboration CD with Gerald Levert and Johnny Gill, proved that Sweat has staying power. Keith's official biography emphasizes his dominance as an important music industry player in Atlanta, Georgia. He's constructed his own recording studio, discovered new talent, and has become a sought after mentor in the ATL. His philosophy says it all, "I look at the entire Atlanta music scene as an extension of New York now." "With technology the way it is, and the growth of Atlanta, it's really part of the mainstream now. You can make music anywhere you want, which is a great thing." Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Cheryl Lynn Star Love

    A burst of energy best describes the powerhouse punch of Cheryl Lynn's belting voice. I caught her hot show in Houston, Texas, when her hit "Shake it Up Tonight," produced and arranged by Ray Parker Jr., was moving up the charts. Cheryl was born in Los Angeles, California on March 11, 1957. Her official biography notes that she harmonized her way through tiny tots choir in church all the way to the adult chorus years later. She traveled the circuit with gospel great James Cleveland in those early years. When Cheryl was 21 years old, she appeared on Hollywood's "The Gong Show," (television's original American Idol), getting a perfect score singing Billy Preston's "You Are So Beautiful." She signed with Columbia Records, and collaborated with Toto's David Paich, who co-wrote, arranged, and produced her first big hit, "Got To Be Real." The two also teamed up for Toto's hit, "Georgy Porgy," featuring Cheryl as the female lead. Additional projects with Luther Vandross, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, produced the hits "If this World Were Mine," and "Encore." Notable Number One Cheryl Lynn R&B hits: Got to Be Real Encore A personal favorite of mine - seven minutes and 23 seconds of "Star Love," another song arranged and produced by David Paich. "Star Love" showcases the amazing vocal range and ability of Cheryl Lynn. Previous Post | Next Post

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