Archive for the ‘Songwriter / Composer’ Category
Beverley Knight MBE (born 22 March 1973) is a British soul and R&B singer, songwriter, and record producer who released her debut album in 1995. Heavily influenced by soul greats such as Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin, Knight has released six studio albums to date. Widely labelled as one of Britain’s greatest soul singers, Knight is best known for her hit singles “Greatest Day”, “Get Up!”, “Shoulda Woulda Coulda” and “Come As You Are”.
In 2006, Knight solidified her transmission into the mainstream by starring in BBC One music TV show, Just the Two of Us, a role she reprised in 2007. After releasing a platinum-selling compilation album in 2006, Knight went on to tour the UK with a reformed Take That. She has also hosted 4 series of the Radio 2 show Beverley’s Gospel Nights, which explores the origins and impact of gospel music. To date the show has run for four seasons and has featured interviews with stars such as Destiny’s Child and Shirley Caesar.
Knight is an ambassador for many charities such as Christian Aid and has travelled to areas affected by disease and poverty to help raise awareness. She is an active campaigner for anti-Aids organisations such as the Stop AIDS Campaign and The Terrence Higgins Trust and is also a vocal campaigner against homophobic lyrics in urban music. On Saturday 15 August 2009 she performed live at the 4th annual UK Black Pride event in Regents Park.
On Friday 4 December 2009, at the invitation of Sarah Brown, wife of Prime Minister, Knight performed 2 songs “Shoulda Woulda Coulda” and “Gold” to an invited audience at 10 Downing Street in support of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood Million Mums charity.
After more than a decade in the industry, Knight was made an MBE by Queen Elizabeth II in February 2007 in recognition of her charitable work and the contribution she has made to British music. In September 2005, Knight was made an honorary Doctor of Music from the University of Wolverhampton. After receiving a host of awards, including three MOBO Awards, Knight was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004 at the Urban Music Awards in London.
In 1997 Knight was voted number 58 in the 100 Great Black Britons poll.
 Biography 1973–1993: ChildhoodKnight attended Woodfield Infant and Junior Schools and Highfields School in Wolverhampton. Knight was born to Jamaican parents, and she grew up in a strict Pentecostal household where church attendance was commonplace. It is here where she began her singing career: “The first time I heard music would have been in church. My mum was often called upon: ‘Come on sister Dolores. Lead us in song!’ Singing was the most natural thing in the world. I thought, doesn’t everybody’s mum lead the congregation at church in song?” Knight continued singing in her local church throughout her childhood, and her musical education was continued at home where she was often exposed to gospel music. Due to her parents’ religious beliefs, secular music was largely frowned upon, but artists such as Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin played a big part in her childhood.
Knight began writing her own songs – with varying degrees of success – at the age of thirteen. It was not until she turned seventeen, though, that she began to take her craft seriously. Knight began performing the songs that she had written on stage in local clubs in her hometown. At the age of nineteen, she was heard singing at a local nightclub by a record company executive and was offered a recording contract. She was adamant that her education should come first and that she should have something to fall back on, and so went to Cheltenham & Gloucester College of Higher Education to study Religious Theology and Philosophy.
1994–2000: Early successIn late 1994, Knight signed a record deal with Dome Records, a small, independent label. Shortly after, she went in studio to write and record her debut album. The backbone of the project was produced by London production trio 2B3, with additional beats provided by Don E (Knight’s cousin), Ethnic Boyz and hip-hop act Blak Twang. Also Klarmann/Weber the German songwriter/producer team (Chaka Khan, Randy Crawford) contributed two songs. The result was the album The B-Funk – hailed as “the best British soul album ever” by critics when it was released in November 1995. Knight went on to win two Black Music Awards in 1996 (“Best R&B Artist” and “Best Producer” for 2B3) and was named Best R&B Act by Blues and Soul Magazine, beating a host of American stars. However, the commercial success of the album failed to match its critical success and the album peaked on the UK album chart at number one-hundred-and-forty-five. Several singles were released from the project, the biggest being “Flavour of the Old School”, which peaked at number thirty-three in March 1996 when it was re-released.
In February 1997, Knight left Dome Records after disagreements, and signed a new four-album deal with EMI-controlled Parlophone. After returning to the studio with 2B3 and Don E and teaming up with new producers Dodge and Carl McIntosh, Knight released her second album Prodigal Sista in August 1998. Peaking at number forty-two in Britain, the commercial success of the album proved to be much greater than her debut. The album went on to sell 150,000 copies in Britain and be certified Gold in 1999. It contained five top forty hits – the biggest of which were “Greatest Day”, peaking at number fourteen, and “Made It Back 99″ featuring US rap star Redman, which peaked at number nineteen.
The commercial success of Prodigal Sista marked a big step forward in Knight’s career and was reflected in the widespread critical acclaim of the project. Q Magazine called the album “a triumph not only of Knight’s musical vision but also of the strength in her character” while The Times remarked “Prodigal Sista is a joy to hear – her vocal and intricate self devised and performed harmonies can make you catch your breath in wonderment”. Labelled as one of the greatest British soul albums of all time, the album won three MOBO (Music Of Black Origin) Awards with “Made It Back” and “Greatest Day” winning Best R&B Act in 1998 and 1999 respectively, and Prodigal Sista winning the Best Album Award.
2001–2005: Mainstream breakthroughThroughout 2001 Knight returned to the recording studio to write and record her third studio album. She was accompanied by a different array of writers and producers handpicked largely by Kevin and Bev from Britain and the United States, which included James Poyser, Che Guevara, Derrick Joshua & Derrick Martin, D’Influence, Mike Spencer and Colin Emmanuael. The result was Who I Am, which was released in March 2002. It was preceded by two singles, “Get Up!” and “Shoulda Woulda Coulda” which was a first in that it introduced Knight to the world of Nashville and one of its most famous son’s Craig Wiseman a giant in the country music business. This partnership became Knight’s most successful single up to that point, peaking at number ten on the UK singles chart. The success of the singles, together with wide critical praise, propelled the album to number seven on the album chart making Who I Am her most commercially successful album to date. It was re-released with new versions of the singles “Gold” and “Shape Of You (Reshaped)” and has sold 215,000 copies in Britain, earning it a Gold sales certificate.
The critical response to Who I Am was largely positive, with The Guardian stating “every song bubbles with the kind of expensive, polished confidence that often eludes British contenders, and she sings with the poise of an artist at the height of her powers” whilst the BBC remarked “Who I Am marks a significant change in direction for this tenacious 28-year-old singer, signifying her own personal growth as a true artist and developing songwriter….on this her most personal work to date, she takes us on an intimate journey where she bares her soul with such raw honesty that you get the distinct impression a healing process is taking place”. Although the album failed to match the widespread and unanimous acclaim of Knight’s first two albums, it still earned her two BRIT Award nominations (“Best Female”, “Best Urban Act”) and the album was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2002.
After touring Britain in 2002, Knight set about creating her fourth album and entered the studio in the summer of 2003. Without the architect of her most successful song in her camp her new A&R team attempted to appeal to a larger mainstream audience, they enlisted the help of pop producers such as Guy Chambers and Peter-John Vettese as well as collaborating with R&B producers such as DJ Munro. The result was Affirmation, which was released on Parlophone in June 2004. The album entered the charts at number eleven and was preceded by the single “Come As You Are” – a rock/pop orientated song written with and produced by Chambers. The song marked a more mainstream pop sound that alienated Knight’s largely urban fan base and the song was not well received by urban radio stations. Nevertheless it became her biggest hit to date, peaking at number nine on the singles chart. The song was followed by two more singles, “Not Too Late for Love” and “Keep This Fire Burning”, which helped boost album sales and resulted in the album being awarded a Gold sales certificate in December 2004.
The themes running throughout the album, which were influenced by the events she had witnessed over the previous two years, marked a milestone in Knight’s career as a lyricist. The main essence of the project was centred on Knight’s relationship with Tyrone Jamison – a gay man whom she described as her “soul mate” and who died of an AIDS-related disease in 2003. Throughout the album, lyrics on tracks such as “Remember Me” (“One day we will be reunited, least I hope that is our destiny, so while you chill in the arms of angels, remember me, remember me”) and “No One Ever Loves In Vain” clearly point to her close relationship with Tyrone and rank as her most personal work to date.
Compared to the praise of her previous albums, the critical response to Affirmation was mixed. The mainstream press such as The Guardian praised her for branching out, whilst the black music press such as The Voice and Blues and Soul accused Knight of selling out and being manipulated away from urban music by her record label, a claim she flatly denies: “Everything I’ve done musically has been completely me. I write my own songs so I’m not just a vocalist who can easily be dictated to.”
2006–2008: Consolidating successIn February 2006 Knight consolidated her move into the mainstream audience by appearing on BBC1 music show, Just the Two of Us. The show, featuring celebrities who duet with established singers, ran for two weeks and proved to be a relative disappointment in terms of audience figures – averaging between fifteen and twenty-five percent audience shares. Nevertheless it provided a platform for Knight to reach out to a bigger audience and demonstrate her talent by performing a different array of songs than she would otherwise be known for. Reaching out to new audiences was also a driving force behind Knight’s decision to join Take That on their reunion arena tour. Take That – The Ultimate Tour 06, which ran from April to July 2006, sold 270,000 tickets in less than four hours on sale at the box office and featured Knight as a support act.
In March 2006 Knight released her fifth album, a compilation set featuring the majority of her top forty UK singles entitled Voice – The Best Of Beverley Knight. The album, which was certified Gold less than a month after its release, became her second highest charting of her career when it entered the UK albums chart at number ten and rose to number nine a month later. It was preceded by the single “Piece of My Heart” – a cover of the Erma Franklin classic made famous by Janis Joplin and entered the singles chart at number sixteen, spending eleven weeks inside the UK top 75 singles chart and becoming her longest-running chart single to date.
In October 2006, Knight recorded her fifth studio album, Music City Soul, in Nashville. Completed in less than five days, the album was released on 7 May 2007 and features collaborations with musicians such as Ronnie Wood and Scotty Moore. It spawned three singles, “No Man’s Land”, released on 16 April 2007, “After You”, released on 2 July 2007 and “The Queen of Starting Over”, released on 15 October 2007. This turned out to be her final album for Parlophone.
2009: Going independent and “100%”On 23 March 2009 Knight announced via her official web site that she had left Parlophone records after eleven years and would be releasing new material through her own label, Hurricane Records. Knight also announced that her sixth studio album would be released in summer 2009, having a more contemporary feel in comparison to previous retro soul album Music City Soul. New songwriters and producers associated with the project include Jam & Lewis, (whose previous credits include Janet Jackson, Usher and Mariah Carey) and The Rural along with previous collaborators Guy Chambers and DJ Munro.
On 31 March 2009 Knight confirmed that she would be releasing her sixth studio album in September through her own record label, Hurricane Records. In a video blog on her website she said that “for the past year, I’ve been writing for the record. I’ve been working with some new names and some old names for the album.” She also confirmed that she is expecting to go on tour in support of the album later this year.
The album is titled 100%. The first finished track revealed from the album was Knight’s collaboration with US producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, titled “Every Step”. The lead single from the album was “Beautiful Night”, co-written with Amanda Ghost and produced by The Rural. The album was released the same week on 7 September 2009 and entered the UK Albums Chart at number 17. The second single “In Your Shoes” premiered on BBC 1Xtra on 5 October. The radio remix features UK rapper Chipmunk.
In 2010, Knight made 6 guest appearances as a panellist on ITVs flagship show Loose Women.
2011: Seventh studio album “Soul UK”Knight announced in early 2011 that she would be releasing a new album in 2011. She then announced on Twitter and YouTube in March 2011 that the album would be a collection of British Soul covers, she also confirmed that the album would be released in Summer 2011.
In March Knight also announced (via her official mailing list) a one-off gig to be held at the Porchester Hall, London to record a live DVD which will be included in the album’s release. She also confirmed that the album would be released on 27 June (later changed to 4 July). Whilst performing the one-off gig at the Porchester Hall, Knight confirmed the album would be titled “Soul UK”. The first single to be released from the album will be “Mama Used to Say”, a hit single originally recorded by Junior Giscombe. The single will be released on 27 June. Other artists whose songs are covered on “Soul UK” include: Soul II Soul; Loose Ends; Omar;[disambiguation needed ] Jamiroquai; George Michael; Princess; Lewis Taylor; Heatwave; and Jaki Graham.
Creativity and influencesGrowing up in a Pentecostal environment of Jamaican descent, music – especially gospel music – became a staple part of Knight’s childhood. She entered the gospel choir of her local church at the age of just four years old and eventually became the musical director before she left in her late teens. Her musical education continued at home where her family would often sing together around the piano and listen to music from their favourite gospel and soul artists such as Sam Cooke. In 2005, Knight revisited her childhood when she hosted Beverley’s Gospel Nights, a BBC Radio 2 series exploring gospel music. Featuring interviews with artists such as Shirley Caesar, Percy Sledge and Destiny’s Child stars Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, the six-part series explored the roots of gospel music and the impact it had upon the black community. Such was the success of the show that a second six-part series was commissioned and began in March 2006 and featured new interviews with artists such as Candi Staton, David McAlmont and Marvin Winans. Knight’s interview technique and her ability to get her guests to open up and discuss issues in their personal lives such as domestic violence and depression received favourable reviews and led the Radio Times to comment “Knight’s passion for the music is obvious – but so is her warmth, which makes her a rarity among interviewers.”
The first artist to make an impact upon Knight was one of the true founders of contemporary gospel and soul music, Sam Cooke. Despite his untimely death in 1964, his music endured and became a staple part of Knight’s childhood:
“ My mother played Sam Cooke and he was the first voice I ever heard on record. His was the first voice that directly had a big impact on me, vocally. He still makes me cry. He’d take the very simple Bible stories that I grew up with and just make them into a two-and-a-half-minute song and yet with an intensity and a passion that the world had never heard before. He really was a major influence on my life. ”
Indeed the impact of Cooke can be seen throughout Knight’s career as she has often performed and recorded Cooke classics, the most notable of which is “A Change Is Gonna Come”. The track, which came to exemplify the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, has featured in many of Knight’s live performances (usually with the aid of the London Community Gospel Choir) and she even recorded a studio version with musician Jools Holland, which featured on his Small World, Big Band Volume 2 album.
In addition to Cooke, another major influence in Knight’s childhood was Aretha Franklin. Besides leading a tribute to Franklin at the BBC’s Music of the Millennium concert in 1999, Knight has recorded several of Franklin’s tracks, most notably “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” and “Think”, both of which were released as B-sides on Knight’s singles “Rewind (Find a Way)” and “Made It Back 99″ respectively. It was Franklin’s vocal delivery that has most had an impact upon Knight:
“ Aretha taught me my phrasing and the way I carry emotion. She makes me cry and then she brings me into the throes of musical ecstasy – with the same voice! I Never Loved A Man hurts, and the Amazing Grace album, which is the epitome of my childhood, will stay with me for ever.” ”
Knight has also recorded songs from of other artists such as Stevie Wonder (“Love’s in Need of Love Today”, which featured on the Warchild album Hope) and Curtis Mayfield (“Hard Times”, which appeared on Courtney Pine’s Back in the Day album). But this influence has also manifested itself on stage where Knight often incorporates songs by her heroines such as Nina Simone (“Feelin’ Good”), Chaka Khan (“I Feel For You” and “Sweet Thing”) and Billie Holliday (“God Bless the Child”) into her live performances.
In addition to the pioneering soul and gospel artists of the mid-twentieth century, modern artists such as Mary J. Blige and D’Angelo have also played a role in shaping Knight’s musical outlook. The most significant of her contemporary peers comes in the form of Prince, a man she describes as one of her heroes: “Prince goes back to me listening to preachers when I was a child, who tell a story to illustrate a point…the first song I heard by him was “Little Red Corvette”, when I was nine. Of course, I didn’t have a clue about what he was singing about; the sexuality is implicit and I love that.” The influence of Prince, whom Knight even mentions on her Prodigal Sista and Who I Am album sleeves, can be seen throughout her back catalogue with songs such as “Get Up!”, “Hurricane Jane” and “Supersonic” being compared to Prince due to their mix of funk and soul.
Throughout her childhood, Knight’s musical exposure developed as she got older. Gospel led to soul, which led to funk which led to R&B – but growing up in the Midlands meant that she was exposed to lots of other different influences too: “It wasn’t a case that there was a huge black community who all stuck together and only listened to reggae or R&B or strictly black music. I find that London is a bit more segregated. In Wolverhampton, black people weren’t so segregated and I think that had a massive impact on my musical influences.” This diversity is illustrated best by Knight’s fourth studio album, Affirmation. After working with Guy Chambers, the album had a more mainstream flavour compared to her previous albums and was led by the rock guitar driven single “Come As You Are”. Although the song became her highest charting single to date, Knight was largely criticised by urban radio and media for moving too far away from her urban sound. Nevertheless the song illustrated Knight’s determined effort not to become boxed in and “ghettoised”.
Achievements AccoladesIn 2006 it was announced that Knight was to be awarded an MBE in acknowledgement for her services to music and the work she does on behalf of several charities. She was presented with the accolade by Queen Elizabeth II at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in February 2007. After the ceremony Knight remarked that the recognition “reflects not only on my whole career but the work I do for charities which is immensely important to me. I do not do that to be awarded for it, I just do it because it’s in my heart, but to be recognised for it, hopefully will put the magnifying glass on to them as well”.
In September 2005 Knight was presented with an honorary degree from the University of Wolverhampton “in recognition of her outstanding contribution to music and the local community, and in recognition of her extensive charity work.” Upon being made a Doctor of Music, she stated she was proud to be black, female, and British, adding: “it is still all me, I have not forgotten my roots.”
On 7 January 2010 Knight won an edition of the BBC’s television quiz series Celebrity Mastermind, answering questions on ‘The Life and Times of Prince’. Knight’s chosen charity for the show was the Terrence Higgins Trust.
Usher Terry Raymond IV (born October 14, 1978), who performs under the mononym Usher, is an American singer, songwriter, dancer, and actor. Usher rose to fame in the late 1990s with the release of his second album My Way, which spawned his first Billboard Hot 100 number-one hit, “Nice & Slow“. The album has been certified 6-times platinum by the RIAA. His follow-up album, 8701, produced the Billboard Hot 100 number one hits “U Remind Me” and “U Got It Bad“. The album has been certified 4-times platinum by the RIAA.
Usher’s 2004 album Confessions sold over 10 million copies in the United States, and been certified diamond by the RIAA. Confessions has the highest first week sales for an R&B artist in history. It spawned four consecutive Billboard number-one hits—”Yeah!“, “Burn“, “Confessions Part II“, and “My Boo“. Usher’s 2008 album Here I Stand sold over 5 million copies worldwide, and its lead single “Love In This Club” peaked at number-one on the Billboard Hot 100.
On March 30, 2010, Usher released his sixth studio album Raymond v. Raymond, which became his third consecutive album to debut at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart. It has been certified platinum by the RIAA, and spawned another Billboard Hot 100 number-one hit “OMG“. The song became his ninth number one in the United States, making him the first 2010s artist to collect number one singles in three consecutive decades. He later released an extended play and deluxe edition of “Raymond v. Raymond”, entitled Versus, which debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 chart. Its lead single “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100.
The RIAA ranks Usher as one of the best-selling artists in American music history, having sold over 23 million copies in the United States alone. To date, he has sold over 65 million records worldwide, making him one of the Best selling music artists of all time. Usher, has won numerous awards including seven Grammy Awards. At the end of 2009, Usher was named the number one Hot 100 artist of the 2000s decade. Billboard named him the second most successful artist of the 2000s decade, with his 2004 album Confessions being ranked as the top solo album of the 2000s decade. Usher has attained nine Hot 100 number-one hits (all as a lead artist) and has attained seventeen Hot 100 top-ten hits.
Usher was born in Dallas, Texas, the son of Jonetta Patton (née O’Neal) and Usher Raymond III. Usher spent the majority of his young life in Chattanooga: his father left the family when Usher was a year old. Usher grew up with his mother, then-stepfather, and half-brother, James Lackey, born in 1984. Directed by his mother, Usher joined the local church youth choir in Chattanooga, when he was nine years old; there, his grandmother discovered his ability to sing, although it was not until Usher joined a singing group that she considered he could sing professionally. In the belief that a bigger city would provide greater opportunities for showcasing his talent, Usher’s family moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where there was a more conducive environment for beginning singers. While in Atlanta, Usher attended North Springs High School. Usher’s father died of a heart attack on January 21, 2008.
1987–96: Musical beginnings and Usher
At age 11, Usher joined an R&B local quintet called the NuBeginnings, which was organized by local music svengali, Darryl Wheeler. Usher recorded 10 songs with the group in 1991, and the ensuing album, Nubeginning Featuring Usher Raymond IV, was only made available regionally and by mail order. However, Patton took him out because, according to her, it was a “bad experience”. The album was re-released nationally in April 2002 by Hip-O Records.
At age 13, Usher competed on Star Search, where he was spotted by an A&R representative from LaFace Records, who arranged an audition for Usher with L.A. Reid, the co-founder of LaFace; Reid signed Usher to a contract with the record company. Usher’s mother left her job as a medical technician to manage his career, but later broke-up their relationship as manager-client in May 2007. Usher was introduced on “Call Me a Mack“, a song he recorded for the soundtrack album to the 1993 drama-romance film Poetic Justice.
On August 30, 1994, LaFace released Usher’s self-titled debut album. Sean “P Diddy” Combs produced several of the tracks and co-executive produced the album. Usher peaked at number twenty-five on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and was accompanied by three singles: “Can U Get Wit It“, “Think Of You“, and “The Many Ways“. The album has sold over 500,000 copies, to date.
After graduating from high school, Usher continued to develop his skills as a stage performer and laid the groundwork for his second album. He also appeared on their version of “Let’s Straighten It Out”, a 1995 duet with fellow Atlanta teen recording artist Monica; and on “Dreamin’”, from LaFace’s 1996 Olympic Games benefit album Rhythm of the Games. He was also featured on “I Swear I’m In Love” off the 1996 Kazaam soundtrack.
1997–2003: My Way and 8701
Usher developed a friendship with American record producer, Jermaine Dupri, with whom he co-wrote and produced several tracks for his second album, My Way, released on September 16, 1997. The album’s lead single, “You Make Me Wanna“, reached number one in the United Kingdom, becoming Usher’s first record to be top single; the record led to his popularity reaching in the country. It also became Usher’s first gold- and platinum-certified single in the United States. The album’s second single, “Nice & Slow“, peaked in January 1998 at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Usher his first US number-one single. Later in February of the same year, the single was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America; My Way has been certified six-time platinum in the United States.
“You Make Me Wanna” won the Best Male R&B/Soul Single at the 1999 Soul Train Music Awards. In the closing months of 1997, Usher embarked on a series of tour engagements including a spot on Puffy’s No Way Out tour, dates with Mary J. Blige, and the opening spot on Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope Tour. Usher’s first concert album, Live, was released in 1999, which featured appearances by Lil’ Kim, Jagged Edge, Trey Lorenz, Shanice, Twista and Manuel Seal; the album has been certified gold in the United States.
Usher made his acting debut on the UPN television series Moesha, which resulted in a recurring role on the series and subsequently his first film role in 1998′s The Faculty. Usher’s extracurricular activities outside of the recording industry gathered momentum over the following year as he was cast in the soap opera, The Bold and the Beautiful. He completed two more films, She’s All That, and his first starring role in Light It Up. He also appeared in the Disney TV movie “Geppetto”.
Usher’s third studio album, originally titled All About U, was slated to be released in early 2001. The first single, “Pop Ya Collar“, was released in late 2000 and became a number two hit in the UK but underperformed in the United States. The album was subsequently pushed back and retooled after select tracks were later leaked to the radio and Internet. After having revised and renamed to 8701, the album was released August 7, 2001 (8.7.01). The first two singles “U Remind Me” and “U Got It Bad” each topped the Billboard Hot 100 for four and six weeks, respectively. 8701 has been certified four-time platinum in the United States.
Usher appeared in the 2001 film Texas Rangers. In February 2002, Usher won a Grammy for ‘Best Male R&B Vocal Performance’ for “U Remind Me”. The next year, he won the same award for “U Don’t Have to Call”, making Usher the only artist aside from Luther Vandross and Stevie Wonder to win this award consecutively. In summer 2002, Usher contributed vocals to P. Diddy’s “I Need a Girl, Part I”. The year closed out with a trio of TV series appearances, all in November, on The Twilight Zone, 7th Heaven, Moesha, and American Dreams, the latter in which Usher portrayed Marvin Gaye.
2004–09: Confessions and Here I Stand
Usher’s fourth studio album, Confessions, was released on March 23, 2004—just as its first single, “Yeah!“, was in its sixth week at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and fifth week on top of the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Chart. The album’s nearly 1.1 million unit debut sales was the highest first-week numbers ever scanned by a male R&B artist and the seventh best of the Nielsen SoundScan history. To date, the album has accumulated sales of over 20 million copies worldwide, over 10 million of which were sold in the United States, earning the album a Diamond certification by the Recording Industry Association of America.
The album’s second and third singles, “Burn” and “Confessions Part II“, also topped the Billboard Hot 100, the former for eight weeks. Usher became the first artist to top the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay with four consecutive number-one singles, In September 2004, “My Boo”, a duet with American singer-songwriter Alicia Keys, also peaked at number one at the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the album’s fourth number-one single. In December, the album’s final single “Caught Up” peaked at number eight on the Hot 100.
Confessions earned Usher numerous awards, including four American Music Awards, two MTV Europe Music Awards, two MTV Video Music Awards, and three World Music Awards. At the 47th annual Grammy Awards ceremony in 2005, Usher won three awards, including: R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals for “My Boo”, which he shared with Keys; Rap/Sung Collaboration for “Yeah!”; and Contemporary R&B Album for Confessions. At the 2004 Billboard Music Awards, Usher was recognized Artist of the Year, in addition to receiving 10 other accolades.
In spring of 2005, Usher scored a number three Hot 100 hit as a featured vocalist on Lil’ Jon’s “Lovers & Friends“. In 2007, Usher also collaborated with R. Kelly on the track “Same Girl“, for Kelly’s album, Double Up. He was also featured in a remix version of Omarion‘s “Ice Box“. Usher also appeared on the track “Shake Down” on American singer-songwriter Mary J. Blige‘s 2007 album Growing Pains. In November 2005, Usher starred as a disc jockey named Darrell in the Lions Gate film, In the Mix. On August 22, 2006, Usher took over the role of Billy Flynn in the long-running Broadway musical Chicago.
Here I Stand was released on May 26 in the United Kingdom and May 27, 2008 in the United States. The album debuted at No.1 on the Billboard 200 Chart with first-week sales of over 433,000 copies. It has been certified platinum by the RIAA. To date Here I Stand has now sold over 1.5 million copies in the United States, been certified platinum by the RIAA, and has sold over 5 million copies worldwide. But from the success it was a bad commercial success and received positive reviews from most music critics. Who praised the maturity in the album’s lyrics. To promote Usher’s fifth studio album, the single “Love In This Club” was sent to radio in February 2008 and peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. It went on to spend three consecutive weeks at the top—becoming Usher’s eighth number-one single and the fastest-rising song of his career. It also reached No.1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The single was another huge international success for Usher. It reached No.1 on the New Zealand Singles Chart, No.3 on the Irish Singles Chart, No.3 on the Eurochart Hot 100, No.4 on the UK Singles Chart, No.5 on the Japan Hot 100, No.5 on the German Singles Chart, No.5 on the Belgian Singles Chart (Flanders), No.6 on the Canadian Hot 100, No.8 on the Swedish Singles Chart, No.8 on the Australian Singles Chart, No.9 on the French Singles Chart, No.9 on the Swiss Singles Chart, No.10 on the Norwegian Singles Chart, No.12 on the Austrian Singles Chart, No.13 on the Belgian Singles Chart (Wallonia), and No.18 on the Finnish Singles Chart. The follow-up single “Love in This Club, Part II“, which features American singer Beyoncé Knowles and rapper, Lil Wayne, peaked at No.18 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No.7 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Its third single “Moving Mountains” peaked at No.18 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and reached No.6 on the New Zealand Singles Chart. The albums fourth single Trading Places” peaked at No.4 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. In September 2008, Usher announced he would embark on the 15-date tour One Night Stand, in which the audience is only females. On January 18, 2009, Usher performed with Stevie Wonder and Shakira at the We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial. He also sang “Gone Too Soon” at the memorial of Michael Jackson on July 7, 2009.
2010–present: Raymond v. Raymond and Versus
Raymond v. Raymond, was released on March 26, 2010 in Germany, on March 30, 2010 in the US, and was released April 26, 2010 in the UK. The album was expected to follow in Usher’s Confessions album’s footsteps. Raymond v. Raymond was released only months after Usher’s divorce from Tameka Foster. “Papers” was released as the first single for the album in October 2009 on iTunes. It topped the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for two consecutive weeks, becoming his tenth number one single on that chart. It also peaked at number 31 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. The song itself appears to be loosely based on his failed relationship with his ex wife Tameka. Critics praised the song for its emotion. “Hey Daddy (Daddy’s Home)“, was released as the second single on December 8, 2009. The single peaked at number 24 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 2 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The song was released as the second international single in July 2010. “Lil Freak” was announced as the album’s official second single in the United States. Usher and Nicki Minaj shot the music video for the song on March 9, 2010 in Los Angeles with director TAJ. It reached number 8 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and number 40 on the Billboard Hot 100. It became Usher’s fourth Top 40 hit single from Raymond v. Raymond, when including the buzz single “Papers”.
“OMG“, which features will.i.am, is the third official US single and the first international single. The song received mixed reviews, complimenting the song’s dance and club vibe but criticizing the Auto-Tune effect. It reached number-one in Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. The song became his ninth number one in the United States, making him the first 2010s artist to collect number one singles in three consecutive decades, and only the fourth artist of all-time to achieve the feat. Usher also became the third artist to have at least one number one song from five consecutive studio albums. The song’s choreography and dance-heavy accompanying music video has been compared to that of “Yeah!“. *”There Goes My Baby” was released to airplay as the album’s fourth single in the United States on June 15, 2010. The song reached number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100, and number-one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, becoming Usher’s eleventh number-one hit on that chart. All of the albums singles received incredible air play. On April 7, 2010 Raymond v. Raymond debuted at number No.1 on the on the US Billboard 200 chart, becoming his third consecutive No.1 album and selling an impressive 329,107 copies in its first week of release, making him the first male artist since Eminem to have three consecutive albums debut at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. After one month of release the album was certified Gold by the RIAA. On June 17, 2010 the album was certified Platinum by the RIAA.
Raymond v. Raymond also dominated the International Charts. Debuting inside the top 10 in Canada, the United Kingdom, Holland, Australia, Germany, Spain, and Italy. Due to the huge international success of Ushers newest single “OMG” and the good first week sales for Raymond v. Raymond Usher is considered to have repaired his mainstream image and to have made a good comeback. The album reached number-two in Australia and the album has been certified gold by the Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA). The album debuted at number four in Canada and has been certified Gold by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA). Raymond v. Raymond debuted at number-two in the United Kingdom.
Usher announced on July 8, 2010, a follow-up extended play to his sixth studio album Raymond v. Raymond called Versus, and a deluxe edition of Raymond v. Raymond, both to be released on August 24, 2010. Usher described Versus as “the last chapter of Raymond v. Raymond“, and that it would explore the subjects of being newly single and a father. The album included 9 tracks, including 7 new tracks, Raymond v. Raymond single “There Goes My Baby“, and Justin Bieber single “Somebody to Love (Remix)“. The tracks would be included on a deluxe edition of Raymond v. Raymond. The album debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 chart and is preceded by the singles “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” featuring Pitbull, for mainstream audiences, and “Hot Tottie” featuring Jay-Z, for urban circuits.
The first single off the album, “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love“, was released to iTunes on July 13, 2010 and sent to radio on July 20, 2010. Due to strong digital sales the song debuted at number nineteen on the Billboard Hot 100. The song became the fourth highest debut on the Billboard Hot 100 of his career, behind 1997′s “Nice & Slow” at number nine, 1998′s “My Way” at eight, and 2010′s “OMG” at number fourteen. Since its release, it has gained international success, peaking in the top 5 in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. It reached the top 10 in Canada, and Europe. It reached number-nine on the Billboard Hot 100 in its third week of release, and became the first time Usher has had two top-ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100 at the same time since his album Confessions. It also became Ushers sixteenth Billboard Hot 100 top-ten hit of his career. The second single, Hot Tottie has reached number thirteen on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and number twenty-five on the Billboard Hot 100.
Usher appeared at the 2010 MTV VMAs on September 12, 2010. He then performed at the 2010 American Music Awards on November 21, 2010 and also won the awards for Male Soul/R&B artist and Favorite Soul/R&B album for his album, Raymond v. Raymond. According to Rap-Up.com, Usher has started working on his next studio album, and that he is again teaming up with long-time collaborator Rico Love. During an interview with stylelist, Usher explained that he is working on a new genre of music depicted as ‘revolutionary pop’, to which several different genres are combined to create a new sound, this new music is to be included on his upcoming album.
Usher also made a surprise appearance at Super Bowl XLV to sing his song, “OMG” with The Black Eyed Peas‘ musician will.i.am. He appeared on a rope from above, in a similar style to the Black Eyed Peas.
Aside from recording, Usher is involved in other businesses, including several restaurants. He has acted in feature films, debuting in 1998′s The Faculty. He was among the stars in Light It Up and In the Mix. Usher founded his record label US Records, a vanity label, in 2002. The label is a subsidiary of Clive Davis‘s J Records, which is distributed by Sony BMG. The first album released by US was the soundtrack to In the Mix in late 2005, which was used to introduce the label’s acts, such as rapper Rico Love, Canadian teen R&B artist Justin Bieber, R&B vocal group One Chance, and singer Rayan. Usher served as songwriter-producer in the project.
Usher is a part owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers professional basketball team. He is part of a group which bought the team with a reported total purchase price of $375 million. He became the third pop artist to own a large stake in an NBA team. The Raymond Braun Media Group, which Justin Bieber is signed up to, is a joint venture between Usher and Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun. Usher served as the contestant mentor for the Top 10 Week of Season 9 of the television show American Idol. He appeared on the ITV1 show Britain’s Got Talent on June 5, 2010.
On October 7, RCA Music Group announced it was disbanding Jive Records along with Arista Records and J Records. With the shutdown, Usher (and all other artists previously signed to these three labels) will release his future material on the RCA Records brand.
In 2001, Usher began dating former TLC member Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, who had a child with producer Dallas Austin. Their relationship lasted for two years: they broke up in December 2003, followed by a media frenzy surrounding the personal nature of Usher’s fourth album, Confessions. His fans inferred the reason he and Thomas split is due to infidelity on his part, giving allusions to the lyrics of the songs. In an interview on The Bert Show on the Atlanta radio channel Q100 in February 2004, Thomas claimed that Usher cheated on her: “Usher did the ultimate no-no to me….I will never be with him again, and that is that”. Usher defended: “…it just didn’t work out. But cheating is not what caused the relationship to collide and crash. That ain’t what broke it up”. Following their break-up, Usher briefly dated English supermodel Naomi Campbell in September 2004.
In January 2007, he proposed to his girlfriend Tameka Foster, a stylist. She has a son from when she was a teenager, as well as two sons with Atlanta clothier Ryan Glover. In February 2007, Usher announced their engagement. After the sudden cancellation of a planned July wedding due to medical concerns, the two were wed on August 3, 2007 in a private ceremony. Their son Usher Raymond V was born on November 26 of the same year. On December 10, 2008, Tameka gave birth to their second child, Naviyd Ely Raymond.
In February 2009, in São Paulo, Brazil, Tameka Foster suffered a cardiac arrest prior to having cosmetic surgery (reportedly liposuction) which was not performed. She was induced into a coma to aid her recovery and was transferred to a larger hospital. Usher canceled his performance at the Recording Academy and Clive Davis’s pre-Grammy Gala. Davis told party-goers the singer had to bow out due to a “serious injury in the family”. After a week of recovery, Tameka Raymond’s surgeon issued a statement saying that she “is doing very well”. In June 2009, Usher filed for divorce from Foster after claiming they lived separately for nearly a year.
Usher founded New Look, a non-profit charity organization which aims to “provide young people with a new look on life through education and real-world experience”. Its flagship project, camp New Look, ran from July 11 to July 23, 2005 in Clark Atlanta University. In 2006, the charity started an initiative called Our Block, for which it helped rebuild and revitalize city blocks in New Orleans. The project went on one street at a time, and the funding was helped through part of the proceeds of Usher’s team-up with Armani Exchange in creating “Love 4 Life” dog tags, which were made available at the company’s stores and Web site.
In 1999, Usher participated in “Challenge for the Children”, a benefit basketball game hosted by American boy band ‘N Sync. The event, which was held on the campus of Georgia State University, had raised an estimated $50,000 for several local charities. In 2005, Usher is one among the artists who signed on for a Hurricane Katrina relief concert. He has also performed a public service announcement to promote Do Something‘s campaign for civic engagement
The Jackson 5 (also spelled The Jackson Five, or The Jackson 5ive), later known as The Jacksons, (or simply Jackson) were an American popular music family group from Gary, Indiana. Founding group members Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael formed the group after performing in an early incarnation called The Jackson Brothers, which originally consisted of a trio of the three older brothers. Active from 1964 to 1990, the Jacksons played from a repertoire of R&B, soul, pop and later disco. During their six-and-a-half-year Motown tenure, The Jackson 5 were one of the biggest pop-music phenomena of the 1970s, and the band served as the launching pad for the solo careers of their lead singers Jermaine and Michael, the latter brother later transforming his early Motown solo fame into greater success as an adult artist.
The Jackson 5 were one of very few in recording history to have their first four major label singles (“I Want You Back“, “ABC“, “The Love You Save“, and “I’ll Be There“) reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Several later singles, among them “Mama’s Pearl“, “Never Can Say Goodbye” and “Dancing Machine“, were Top 5 pop hits and number-one hits on the R&B singles chart. Most of the early hits were written and produced by a specialized songwriting team known as “The Corporation“; later Jackson 5 hits were crafted chiefly by Hal Davis, while early Jacksons hits were compiled by the team of Gamble and Huff before The Jacksons began writing and producing themselves in the late 1970s.
Significantly, they were one of the first black teen idols to appeal equally to white audiences, thanks partially to the successful promotional relations skills of Motown Records CEO Berry Gordy. With their departure from Motown to CBS in 1976, The Jacksons were forced to change their name and Jermaine was replaced with younger brother Randy as Jermaine chose to stay at Motown. During these years, they continued to have a number of hits such as “Enjoy Yourself“, “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)“, “Show You the Way to Go“, and “Blame It on the Boogie“. After two years under the Philadelphia International Records label, they signed with Epic Records and asserted control of their songwriting, production, and image, and their success continued into the 1980s with hits such as “Can You Feel It“, “This Place Hotel“, “Lovely One“, and “State of Shock“. Their 1989 album 2300 Jackson Street was recorded without Michael and Marlon, although they did appear on the title track. The disappointing sales of the album led to the group being dropped by their record label at the end of the year. The group has never formally broken up, but has been dormant since then, although all six brothers performed together at two Michael Jackson tribute concerts in September 2001.
Born and raised in Gary, Indiana, the Jackson brothers were guided early in their careers by their father Joseph Jackson, a steel mill crane operator and former musician, and their mother Katherine Jackson, who watched over the boys during the early years. Tito recalled playing around with his father’s guitar while he was away working on Gary’s steel mills. One night, Joe discovered Tito had been playing his guitar after Tito broke a string. Initially upset with his sons playing behind his back, he saw their potential and in 1964, Jackie, Tito and Jermaine formed The Jackson Brothers, including hometown friends Reynaud Jones and Milford Hite on guitar and drums respectively. By the end of the following year, the group’s younger brothers Marlon and Michael joined the instrumental band playing tambourine and congas respectively.
Showing extraordinary talent at a very young age, young Michael began demonstrating his dance moves and singing ability at the age of five. Michael’s moving rendition of “Climb Every Mountain” sung at his kindergarten talent show earned him a place in his brothers group. Before his eighth birthday, Michael was allowed to perform his song-and-dance routine at a talent contest held at Jackie’s Roosevelt High School in Gary, helping his brothers win the competition. It was at that point that Tito’s junior high school orchestra teacher Shirley Cartman began mentoring the group. She suggested replacing Jones and Hite with talented musicians Johnny Jackson (no relation) on drums and Ronnie Rancifer on keyboards. Tito moved up to lead guitar while Jermaine played bass guitar after several years as a rhythm guitarist.
Evelyn Lahaie, a local talent agent, suggested to Joe to rename the group the Jackson 5 when they performed in her Tiny Tots Jamboree in Gary. After the contest win, the group began playing professional gigs in Indiana, Chicago and across the U.S. Many of these performances were in a string of black clubs and venues collectively known as the “chitlin’ circuit“. The group also found themselves performing at strip joints to earn money. Cartman got the Jackson 5 a record deal with Gordon Keith’s local Steeltown label, and the group began making their first recordings in October 1967. Their first single, “Big Boy“, was released in January 1968 and became a regional hit. This was followed by a second single, “We Don’t Have to Be Over 21 (To Fall in Love)”. A third, “Let Me Carry Your School Books”, features Michael Jackson’s singing with backing provided by The Ripples and Waves.
The Jackson 5 had a number of admirers in their early days, including Sam & Dave, who helped the group secure a spot in the famous Amateur Night competition at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. The group won the August 13, 1967, competition during the Amateur Night showdown at the Apollo, impressing Motown Records artist Gladys Knight. Knight recommended the group to Motown chief Berry Gordy, but Gordy, who already had teenager Stevie Wonder on his roster, was hesitant to take on another child act because of the child labor laws and other problems involved. The Jackson 5′s sound was influenced by many of the biggest stars of the 1960s, including the self-contained funk bands Sly & the Family Stone and The Isley Brothers, Motown group The Temptations, soul legend Marvin Gaye, rock ‘n’ roll kid group The Teenagers and soul shouters like Wilson Pickett, Jackie Wilson, Stevie Wonder, Joe Tex and James Brown. At the time of their early success, R&B stars, especially coming from Motown Records, were among the most popular musicians; Motown had launched the careers of dozens of the decade’s biggest stars, most notably The Supremes, The Miracles, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops and the Temptations.
By 1968, the Jackson 5 were a headlining act for the All Star Floor Show at Chicago’s The Guys’ and Gals’ Cocktail Lounge and Restaurant. From July 12–27, 1968, the Jackson 5 opened for Motown act Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers at Chicago’s Regal Theater. Like Gladys Knight before him, Bobby Taylor was also very impressed with the boys, and he decided to make the commitment to bring them to Detroit and Motown. Joseph and The Jackson 5 stayed on the floor of Bobby Taylor’s Detroit apartment the night of July 22, while Tayler and Motown executive Suzanne de Passe arranged for the Jackson 5 to audition for the label.
On July 23, the Jackson 5 had their Motown audition, for which they performed James Brown’s then current hit “I Got the Feelin’“. Berry Gordy was not in attendance, but the audition was videotaped and sent to him in Los Angeles. Gordy’s initial reluctance to sign the group disappeared when he finally saw the boys perform. Gordy decided to sign the Jackson 5 to Motown, and hosted a party at his Detroit mansion on November 25, 1968, to introduce them to the Motown staff and stars. Motown began negotiations to buy out the Jackson 5′s Steeltown contract, completing the deal in March 1969. By the summer, Bobby Taylor began producing the group’s first recordings at Motown’s Hitsville U.S.A. recording studio in Detroit. The early Taylor-produced Jackson 5 records were all covers of both contemporary hits and Motown-standards, including Sly & the Family Stone’s “Stand!” and their famous rendition of The Miracles‘ “Who’s Lovin’ You“, written by Smokey Robinson. Gordy moved the Jackson 5 and Joseph to California, and he and Suzanne de Passe began the process of grooming them as the label’s next big act, while the rest of the family remained in Gary. While looking for a house in California, Joseph, Jermaine, Tito, and Jackie lived with Berry Gordy, Marlon and Michael lived with Diana Ross in her California home.
Motown’s marketing team prepared press kits and other promotional material to begin The Jackson 5′s entrance into the mainstream music industry. Motown publicity significantly altered the group’s history, publicizing the ages of most of its band mates as younger than they were — Michael’s age changed from eleven to nine to make him appear cuter — and identifying unrelated band musicians Johnny Jackson and Ronnie Rancifer as cousins of the Jacksons. In a major marketing coup, Gordy and Motown decided to attach the group to an established star to increase public curiosity. Thus, it was decided that Motown star Diana Ross would “discover” the group as was explained in all early press kits. According to their official Motown biography, referenced in several early interviews and liner notes, Diana Ross (and, in some versions of the story, Berry Gordy alongside her) was introduced to the Jackson 5 by Gary, Indiana’s mayor, Richard G. Hatcher, at a benefit concert that the Jackson 5 were described as having played for the mayor in 1969. Impressed, Ross (and Gordy) had the act signed.
Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5
The Jackson 5 practiced and rehearsed continuously during the late summer and early fall of 1969. Diana Ross formally introduced The Jackson 5 to the public on August 11, 1969, at a Beverly Hills, California club called “The Daisy.” Towards the end of August, The Jackson 5 made their first television appearance, singing The Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing” at the Miss Black America Pageant in Madison Square Garden, New York City.
The Jackson 5′s first single, “I Want You Back“, was written and produced by four Motown songwriters and producers — Berry Gordy, Alphonzo Mizell, Deke Richards, and Freddie Perren — who were collectively billed as “The Corporation“. “I Want You Back” was released as a single for The Jackson 5, as Motown decided to officially bill the group, on October 7. The group performed “I Want You Back”, Sly & the Family Stone’s “Sing a Simple Song“, The Delfonics‘ “Can You Remember”, and James Brown‘s “There Was a Time” as part of their appearance on The Hollywood Palace as special guests of Diana Ross & the Supremes. “I Want You Back” was the only single from The Jackson 5′s first album, Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5, which was released in December 1969. The song reached number one in January, 1970. When it did, Michael became the first person born during the “Hot 100″ era, established by Billboard Magazine, to reach the number one position on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart.
Popularization and franchise expansion
Most of the early Jackson 5 singles were written and produced by The Corporation, who crafted for The Jackson 5 a sound that mixed the traditional “Motown Sound” with teenage-honed lyrics that they termed “bubblegum soul”. The Jackson 5 became an instant sensation, with “I Want You Back” and its 1970 followups “ABC“, “The Love You Save,” and “I’ll Be There” all going to number one on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Billboard Best Selling Soul Singles chart. “The Love You Save” charted atop the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks and “I’ll Be There” remained at the top position of the chart for four weeks, which is tied with “I Want You Back” for the most successful single for the band in the United States. The three singles were commercially successful internationally, mainly peaking within the top ten on music charts. Other early Top 5 hits included “Mama’s Pearl” and “Never Can Say Goodbye.” Now successful, Joseph was finally able to arrange to move Katherine and the rest of the family out to California in 1970. First moving into a two-story residence at 1616 Queens Road in Los Angeles, the Jackson family moved to a gated mansion they called “Hayvenhurst”, which was purchased by Joseph in March 1971.
“Jacksonmania” swept the nation, and within a year of their debut The Jackson 5 were among the biggest names in popular music. The group essentially replaced The Supremes as Motown’s main marketing focus, and, capitalizing upon the youth-oriented appeal of the Jackson brothers, Motown licensed dozens of Jackson 5-related juvenile products, including the now famous J5 Heart logo which appears on Johnny Jacksons drum kit and many of The Jackson 5′s album covers, stickers, sewable patches, posters, and coloring books. A new teen magazine aimed at African-American youth, Right On!, began publication in 1971, and focused heavily on The Jackson 5; at least one Jackson adorned the cover of every issue published between January 1972 and April 1974. Animation producers Rankin/Bass produced The Jackson 5ive, a Saturday morning cartoon that debuted on September 11, 1971 and ran for two seasons on ABC. The Jackson 5 starred in two of their own television specials, Goin’ Back to Indiana (aired September 16, 1971) and The Jackson 5 Show (aired November 5, 1972).
In 1971, Motown began a spin-off solo career for Michael, whose first single, “Got to Be There” became a Top 5 hit. Michael also sang the title track for the 1972 motion picture[disambiguation needed ] Ben. His other successful solo singles included “Rockin’ Robin” and “I Wanna Be Where You Are” (both 1972). Jermaine started a solo career of his own in 1972, and had a Top Ten hit with his Shep and the Limelites cover “Daddy’s Home“. Jackie also recorded a solo album in 1973, but his releases failed to chart. Despite fan rumors that all three Jacksons might leave the group as they released solo work, the solo careers of Michael, Jermaine, and Jackie co-existed alongside that of the group as a whole, allowing Motown to expand the success and sales of Jackson 5-related releases.
After 1972, The Jackson 5′s releases were not as successful, but they still did very well. Later top-20 hits, mostly written and produced by Hal Davis included “Lookin’ Through the Windows” (1972) and the disco-styled “Dancing Machine” (1974), which popularized the “Robot” dance routine. Jackson 5 albums declined somewhat in critical acclaim and financial success during the latter part of their Motown tenure, although LPs such as Lookin’ Through the Windows (1972) and G.I.T.: Get It Together (1973) frequently included successful album tracks, including their version of “Hum Along and Dance“, a popular number in their live act.
The Jackson 5 provided background vocals on Stevie Wonder’s “You Haven’t Done Nothing” from his 1974 album Fulfillingness’ First Finale.
Critics, The Jackson 5, and Joseph Jackson agreed[according to whom?]that the main reason for the group’s declining success was Motown’s refusal to update their image. Although they played their own instruments on stage and had begun writing and producing songs in their own home recording studio, The Jackson 5 later said that Motown wouldn’t allow them to record their own compositions or play instruments in their studio recordings. The group’s studio recordings were first handled by Motown’s famed in-house studio band The Funk Brothers during their brief recording tenure at Hitsville and later instrumentation was played by many of the members of The Wrecking Crew, which formed Motown’s Hitsville West studio band. Feeling that The Jackson 5 could be more of a success without Motown, which was by this time declining in success and popularity, Joseph began shopping for a new record deal for his sons.
The move to CBS Records
The cover to the 1978 album Destiny.
In 1975, Joseph negotiated a new recording contract with CBS Records, who offered a royalty rate of 20% per record, compared to Motown’s standard 2.8%; and would allow the Jackson brothers to write and produce their own records and play their own instruments. After unsuccessfully attempting to talk the group into staying on the label, Motown sued for breach of contract. Although Motown eventually let the group go, The Jackson 5 were forced to change their name to The Jacksons, because Motown retained the “Jackson 5″ trademark during the settlement of the lawsuit. The Jacksons also replaced Jermaine with their brother, 14-year-old Randy, since Jermaine chose to stay with Motown after he got married to Berry Gordy’s daughter, Hazel. Randy had been an unofficial member of The Jackson 5 since 1972, playing congas onstage as part of their live act.
After losing The Jacksons, Motown would not have another success of their caliber for the duration of Berry Gordy’s ownership of the label. Gordy often said of The Jackson 5 that they were, coming after the label’s most famous acts, “the last big stars to come rolling off the [Motown] assembly line.” In summer 1976, CBS television signed the Jackson family (including Michael, Marlon, Tito, Jackie, Randy, Rebbie, LaToya, and Janet) to appear in their own variety show, The Jacksons, to compete with ABC‘s Donny & Marie. The Jacksons debuted on June 16, 1976, and ran on CBS until its cancellation the following March 1977. The show was the first variety show hosted by an African American family.
First as part of CBS’s Philadelphia International Records division, and later moving over to Epic Records, The Jacksons continued releasing popular singles such as “Enjoy Yourself“, “Show You the Way to Go“, and “Goin’ Places“, produced by Philadelphia International’s Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff. After two LPs produced by Gamble and Huff, The Jacksons wanted artistic control, and produced their next LP, 1978′s Destiny, on their own. The album included The Jacksons’ biggest post-Motown single, “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)“, which charted at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 and at number three on the Billboard R&B Singles chart. “Shake Your Body”, written by Michael and Randy, sold over two million copies, attaining double-platinum status. Destiny also included “Blame It on the Boogie“, and “Things I Do For You“. Destiny also went platinum, and peaked at number 11 on the Billboard 200 album chart and number three on the R&B album charts. In 1979, The Jacksons received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1978, Michael starred alongside Diana Ross in the Motown/Universal Pictures motion picture The Wiz, an adaptation of the Broadway musical based upon L. Frank Baum‘s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Quincy Jones was the producer of the film’s songs, and he and Michael began work on Michael’s first Epic solo album, Off the Wall, the next year. Off the Wall, released in 1979, sold 20 million copies worldwide and featured four Top 10 hit singles and two number-one singles, causing some speculation about whether Michael would leave The Jacksons, though Michael told several reporters at the time that such speculation was unfounded.
Michael and Marlon’s departure and other work
In 1980 the group released the Triumph album, which featured the hits “Lovely One” “This Place Hotel” and “Can You Feel It“, as well as the dance club hit “Walk Right Now“. The following year’s The Jacksons Live! used recordings from the group’s Triumph Tour, which in 1988 was described by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the best 25 tours from 1967 to 1987. The group’s success was outperformed, however, by Michael’s 1982 LP Thriller. Thriller went on to become the most successful album ever in the United States, and to date stands as the world’s best-selling album of all time. The Motown 25 television special, broadcast on NBC on May 16, 1983, featured a reunion performance between Jermaine and the other brothers. Outside of one 1979 appearance on the TV show Midnight Special this was the original Jackson 5′s first performance in nearly seven years. The Motown 25 Jackson 5 reunion was overshadowed, however, by Michael’s performance of “Billie Jean” on the same program, which introduced his trademark black sequin jacket, single decorated glove and “moonwalk” dance.
In 1984, all six Jackson brothers reunited to make the album Victory. The album was only modestly successful. Three singles were released from the album; “State of Shock“, which features Mick Jagger, “Torture” and “Body“. “Torture” peaked at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #26 on the United Kingdom charts. However, the subsequent Victory Tour of North America in the summer and fall of 1984 proved to be one of the biggest concert tours of the 1980s. Aside from a few scattered TV and concert appearances in the 1970s, the Victory Tour period was the only time all six brothers performed together as full members of the band.
Michael left the band to continue his solo career after the tour, and after his album Thriller became the best selling album of all time winning eight Grammy Awards in 1984. Marlon left around the same time to pursue a business career outside music. The other brothers took on solo projects. Most of them would appear with Michael on the U.S.A. For Africa single “We Are the World” in 1985.
The last Jacksons album was 2300 Jackson Street in 1989. The first single from the project, “Nothin’ (That Compares 2 U)” reached #4 on the US Billboard R&B Singles chart. Every Jackson sibling except for LaToya appeared on the title track, a #9 R&B hit single. The rest of the album featured Jermaine, Jackie, Tito, and Randy only.
In 1992, a miniseries depicting the rise of the group titled The Jacksons: An American Dream, aired on ABC and was hugely successful.
In September 2001, The Jacksons reunited to perform at a concert special at Madison Square Garden to celebrate 30 years of Michael Jackson’s career as a solo artist. The concerts were filmed and the footage was shown in the special, 30th Anniversary celebration, which aired on CBS in November 2001 as a two-hour television special. The on-stage performance was for the first time since The Jacksons Victory Tour seventeen years prior. A CD compilation of hits from the CBS/Epic years, The Essential Jacksons, was released in 2004, as was a separate compilation assembled by Universal/Hip-O, The Jacksons Story.
The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty and reunion attempts
Beginning in early 2009, the four oldest brothers (Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon) filmed a reality television show, documenting their attempts to get the family band back together. In December 2009, the show debuted on the A&E Network under the title The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty. Michael Jackson’s attempted comeback and his sudden death happened in the middle of the project. Those events dominated the reality TV show, even though he was never seen on-camera (except in old music videos.)
A sample of Michael and The Jacksons’ “This Is It”. The song was the first song for The Jacksons to chart on the Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks since 1970. (The song was later recorded by Michael alone, and served as the title track for his post-humous concert film.)
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In June 2009, following the death of brother Michael, the surviving Jacksons recorded background vocals for a previously unreleased song, “This Is It” (the theme for the movie of the same name), which had originally been a demo. The radio-only single was released in October of that same year. The song did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100, but charted at number nineteen on Billboards Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks. “This Is It” returned The Jacksons to the chart for the first time since 1970, when, billed as the Jackson 5, the group marked its sole previous entry, “I’ll Be There”, which went on to peak on the chart at number twenty-four. The surviving members of the Jacksons were in talks of planning a reunion concert tour (which was to be served as a tribute to Michael) for 2010, and were in talks in working on their first new studio album in over 20 years. However, neither plan was put into action.
In September 2010, Jermaine Jackson held his own “tribute” concert to Michael in Las Vegas. While his brothers and sister Janet attended, none of them joined their brother onstage. As of August 2011, the future of the Jacksons remains uncertain as Jackie Jackson released a solo single to iTunes and both Jermaine and Tito Jackson were planning new solo studio albums, which as of yet haven’t been released. Marlon Jackson retired from the music business in 1989. Randy Jackson hasn’t been active in music since the disbanding of Randy & The Gypsys in 1991.
In August 2011, there appeared to be a discord between the brothers concerning a tribute concert dedicated to Michael. While Jackie, Tito and Marlon were present alongside mother Katherine and sister La Toya for a tribute concert that is currently in planning for Cardiff at the Millennium Stadium for a press conference concerning the tour, a couple days after the press conference, both Randy and Jermaine issued a statement denouncing the tribute tour as the date of it occurs around the same time of Conrad Murray’s manslaughter trial for killing Michael.
The singing efforts of Michael and his brothers led to the group’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999. Two of the band’s recordings (“ABC” and “I Want You Back”) are among The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll“, with the latter track also included in the Grammy Hall of Fame. On September 8, 2008, The Jacksons were honored as BMI Icons at the annual BMI Urban Awards.
In 1992, Suzanne de Passe and Jermaine Jackson worked with Motown to produce The Jacksons: An American Dream, a five-hour television miniseries broadcast based on the history of The Jackson family in a two-part special on American Broadcast Company. The script began with Katherine and Joseph Jackson’s first meeting in the mid-1940s and ended with the Victory Tour in 1984.
The Jackson 5 was influenced by the Temptations, Supremes, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Little Richard, Ray Charles, The Cadillacs, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, and Berry Gordy and the inspiration for several generations of boy bands, including New Edition, Menudo, New Kids on the Block, N*SYNC, the Jonas Brothers, Backstreet Boys and many more. The rise of the Jackson 5 in the 1960s and 1970s coincided with the rise of a very similar band of brothers, the Osmond Brothers. Some considered the Osmonds, who were white, an imitation of the Jacksons. However, the Osmonds actually started a few years before the Jacksons, and were considered an inspiration to them. Joseph Jackson was impressed by the Osmond Brothers’ early TV appearances and instructed his own sons to study them closely. Eventually, the members of the two families became friends. Jay Osmond recalled in a June 2009 blog posting that “Michael had a unique sense of humor about him, and told us he was so tired of watching The Osmonds on The Andy Williams Show. He explained this was something their father had them do, and Michael joked he became really tired of it!”
||1964 – 1990
||1964 – 1990
||1964 – 1975
1984 – 1990
secondary lead vocals
|Left in 1975, after marriage of Hazel Gordy
||1964 – 1984
||1964 – 1984
||Left in 1984, after his best selling album Thriller; became the King of Pop;
Died June 25, 2009
||1972,1975 – 1990
|Joined under the band name “The Jacksons” in 1975.
Made early guest appearance with his brothers on “Hellzapoppin’”
Scott Joplin (ca. 1867-1868? – April 1, 1917) was an American composer and pianist. Joplin achieved fame for his ragtime compositions, and was later dubbed “The King of Ragtime”. During his brief career, Joplin wrote 44 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas.
One of his first pieces, the Maple Leaf Rag, became ragtime’s first and most influential hit, and has been recognized as the archetypal rag.
Joplin was born into a musical African American family of laborers in Northeast Texas, and developed his musical knowledge with the help of local teachers. During the late 1880s he travelled around the American South as an itinerant musician, and went to Chicago for the World’s Fair of 1893 which played a major part in making ragtime a national craze by 1897.
Publication of his Maple Leaf Rag in 1899 brought him fame and had a profound influence on subsequent writers of ragtime. It also brought the composer a steady income for life. During his lifetime, Joplin did not reach this level of success again and frequently had financial problems, which contributed to the loss of his first opera, A Guest of Honor. He continued to write ragtime compositions, and moved to New York in 1907. He attempted to go beyond the limitations of the musical form which made him famous, without much monetary success. His second opera, Treemonisha, was not received well at its partially staged performance in 1915. He died from complications of tertiary syphilis in 1917.
Joplin’s music was rediscovered and returned to popularity in the early 1970s with the release of a million-selling album of Joplin’s rags recorded by Joshua Rifkin, followed by the Academy Award–winning movie The Sting which featured several of his compositions, such as “The Entertainer“. The opera Treemonisha was finally produced in full to wide acclaim in 1972. In 1976, Joplin was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize.
Joplin was born in Northeast Texas in 1867, just outside of Texarkana. Joplin was the second of six children born to Giles Joplin, an ex-slave from North Carolina, and Florence Givens, a freeborn African American woman from Kentucky. Although for many years his birth date was accepted as November 24, 1868, research has revealed that this is almost certainly inaccurate – the most likely approximate date being the second half of 1867. The Joplins subsequently moved to Texarkana where Giles worked as a laborer for the railroad while Florence was a cleaner. Joplin was given a rudimentary musical education by his family and from the age of seven he was allowed to play piano while his mother cleaned.
At some point in the early 1880s, Giles Joplin left the family for another woman, leaving Florence to provide for her children through domestic work. Biographer Susan Curtis speculated that his mother’s support of Joplin’s musical education was an important causal factor in this separation; his father argued that it took the boy away from practical employment which would have supplemented the family income.
According to a family friend, the young Joplin was serious and ambitious studying music and playing the piano after school. While a few local teachers aided him, he received most of his serious music education from Julius Weiss, a German-Jewish music professor who had immigrated to the United States from Germany. Weiss had studied music at a university in Germany and was listed in town records as a “Professor of music.” Impressed by Joplin’s talent, and realizing his family’s dire straits, Weiss taught him free of charge. He tutored the 11-year-old Joplin until he was 16, during which time he introduced him to folk and classical music, including opera. Weiss helped Joplin appreciate music as an “art as well as an entertainment” and helped his mother acquire a used piano. According to his wife Lottie, Joplin never forgot Weiss and in his later years, when he achieved fame as a composer, sent his former teacher “gifts of money when he was old and ill,” until Weiss died. At the age of 16 Joplin performed in a vocal quartet with three other boys in and around Texarkana, playing piano. In addition he taught guitar and mandolin. 
Life in the Southern states and Chicago
In the late 1880s, having performed at various local events as a teenager, Joplin chose to give up work as a laborer with the railroad and left Texarkana to become traveling musician. Little is known about his movements at this time, although he is recorded in Texarkana in July 1891 as a member of the “Texarkana Minstrels” in a performance that happened to be raising money for a monument to Jefferson Davis, President of the Southern Confederacy. He was soon to discover that there were few opportunities for black pianists, however; besides the church, brothels were one of the few options for obtaining steady work. Joplin played pre-ragtime ‘jig-piano’ in various red-light districts throughout the mid-South, and it has been claimed he was in Sedalia and St. Louis during this time.
In 1893 Joplin was in Chicago for the World’s Fair. While in Chicago, he formed his first band playing cornet and began arranging music for the group to perform. Although the World’s Fair minimised the involvement of African-Americans, black performers still came to the saloons, cafés and brothels that lined the fair. The exposition was attended by 27 million Americans and had a profound effect on many areas of American cultural life, including ragtime. Although specific information is sparse, numerous sources have credited the Chicago World Fair with spreading the popularity of ragtime. Joplin found that his music, as well as that of other black performers, was popular with visitors. By 1897 ragtime had become a national craze in American cities, and was described by the St. Louis Dispatch as “a veritable call of the wild, which mightily stirred the pulses of city bred people.”
Life in Missouri
In 1894 Joplin arrived in Sedalia, Missouri. At first, Joplin stayed with the family of Arthur Marshall, at the time a 13-year old boy but later one of Joplin’s students and a rag-time composer in his own right. There is no record of Joplin having a permanent residence in the town until 1904, as Joplin was making a living as a touring musician.
Front cover of the third edition of the “Maple Leaf Rag” sheet music
There is little precise evidence known about Joplin’s activities at this time, although he performed as a solo musician at dances and at the major black clubs in Sedalia, the “Black 400″ club and the “Maple Leaf Club”. He performed in the Queen City Cornet Band, and his own six-piece dance orchestra. A tour with his own singing group, the Texas Medley Quartet, gave him his first opportunity to publish his own compositions and it is known that he went to Syracuse, New York and Texas. Two businessmen from New York published Joplin’s first two works, the songs Please Say You Will, and A Picture of her Face in 1895. Joplin’s visit to Temple, Texas enabled him to have three pieces published there in 1896, including the Crush Collision March which commemorated a planned train crash on the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad on September 15 which he may have witnessed. The March was described by one of Joplin’s biographers as a “special… early essay in ragtime”. While in Sedalia he was teaching piano to students who included future ragtime composers Arthur Marshall, Brun Campbell, and Scott Hayden. In turn, Joplin enrolled at the George R. Smith College, where he apparently studied “advanced harmony and composition”. The College records were destroyed in a fire in 1925, and biographer Edward A. Berlin notes that it was unlikely that a small college for African-Americans would be able to provide such a course.
In 1899, Joplin married Belle, the sister-in-law of collaborator Scott Hayden. Although there were hundreds of rags in print by the time the Maple Leaf Rag was published, Joplin was not far behind. His first published rag, Original Rags, had been completed in 1897, the same year as the first ragtime work in print, the Mississippi Rag by William Krell. The Maple Leaf Rag was likely to have been known in Sedalia before its publication in 1899; Brun Campbell claimed to have seen the manuscript of the work in around 1898. The exact circumstances which led to the Maple Leaf Rag’s publication are unknown, and there are a number of different versions of the event which contradict each other. After several unsuccessful approaches to publishers, Joplin signed a contract on 10 August 1899 with John Stillwell Stark, a retailer of musical instruments who later became his most important publisher. The contract stipulated that Joplin would receive a 1% royalty on all sales of the rag, with a minimum sales price of 25 cents. It is possible that the rag was named after the Maple Leaf Club, although there is no direct evidence to prove the link, and there were many other possible sources for the name in and around Sedalia at the time.
There have been many claims about the sales of the Maple Leaf Rag, for example that Joplin was the first musician to sell 1 million copies of a piece of instrumental music. Joplin’s first biographer, Rudi Blesh wrote that during its first six months the piece sold 75,000 copies, and became “the first great instrumental sheet music hit in America”. However, research by Joplin’s later biographer Edward A. Berlin demonstrated that this was not the case; the initial print-run of 400 took one year to sell, and under the terms of Joplin’s contract with a 1% royalty would have given Joplin an income of $4 (or approximately $105 at current prices). Later sales were steady and would have given Joplin an income which would have covered his expenses; in 1909 estimated sales would have given him an income of $600 annually (approximately $14,618 in current prices).
The Maple Leaf Rag did serve as a model for the hundreds of rags to come from future composers, especially in the development of classic ragtime. After the publication of the Maple Leaf Rag, Joplin was soon being described as “King of rag time writers”, not least by himself on the covers of his own work, such as “The Easy Winners” and Elite Syncopations.
After the Joplins’ move to St. Louis in early 1900, they had a baby daughter who died only a few months after birth. Joplin’s relationship with his wife was difficult as she had no interest in music. They eventually separated and then divorced. About this time, Joplin collaborated with Scott Hayden in the composition of four rags. It was in St. Louis that Joplin produced some of his best-known works, including The Entertainer, March Majestic, and the short theatrical work The Ragtime Dance.
In June 1904, Joplin married Freddie Alexander of Little Rock, Arkansas, the young woman to whom he had dedicated The Chrysanthemum. She died on September 10, 1904 of complications resulting from a cold, ten weeks after their wedding. Joplin’s first work copyrighted after Freddie’s death, Bethena, was described by one biographer as “an enchantingly beautiful piece that is among the greatest of ragtime waltzes“.
During this time, Joplin created an opera company of 30 people and produced his first opera A Guest of Honor for a national tour. It is not certain how many productions were staged, or even if this was an all-black show or a racially mixed production. During the tour, either in Springfield, Illinois, or Pittsburg, Kansas, someone associated with the company stole the box office receipts. Joplin could not meet the company’s payroll or pay for its lodgings at a theatrical boarding house. It is believed that the score for A Guest of Honor was lost and perhaps destroyed because of non-payment of the company’s boarding house bill.
Front cover of the “Wall Street Rag” (1909) sheet music
In 1907, Joplin moved to New York City, which he believed was the best place to find a producer for a new opera. After his move to New York, Joplin met Lottie Stokes, whom he married in 1909. In 1911, unable to find a publisher, Joplin undertook the financial burden of publishing Treemonisha himself in piano-vocal format. In 1915, as a last-ditch effort to see it performed, he invited a small audience to hear it at a rehearsal hall in Harlem. Poorly staged and with only Joplin on piano accompaniment, it was “a miserable failure”, the public being not yet ready for “crude” black musical forms, so different from the style of European grand opera of that time. The audience, including potential backers, was indifferent and walked out. Scott writes that “after a disastrous single performance … Joplin suffered a breakdown. He was bankrupt, discouraged, and worn out.” He concludes that few American artists of his generation faced such obstacles: “Treemonisha went unnoticed and unreviewed, largely because Joplin had abandoned commercial music in favor of art music, a field closed to African Americans.” In fact, it was not until the 1970s that the opera received a full theatrical staging.
In 1914, Joplin and Lottie self-published his “Magnetic Rag” using the name the “Scott Joplin Music Company” which had been formed the previous December. Biographer Vera Brodsky Lawrence speculates that Joplin was aware of his advancing deterioration due to syphilis and was “consciously racing against time.” In her sleeve notes on the 1992 Deutsche Grammophon release of Treemonisha she notes that he “plunged feverishly into the task of orchestrating his opera, day and night, with his friend Sam Patterson standing by to copy out the parts, page by page, as each page of the full score was completed.”
By 1916, Joplin was suffering from tertiary syphilis and a resulting descent into madness. In January 1917, he was admitted to Manhattan State Hospital, a mental institution. He died there on April 1, 1917 of dementia. After Joplin’s death at the age of just 49, from advanced syphilis, he was buried in a pauper’s grave that remained unmarked for 57 years. His grave at Saint Michaels Cemetery in East Elmhurst was finally given a marker in 1974.
The combination of classical music, the musical atmosphere present around Texarkana (including work songs, gospel hymns, spirituals and dance music) and Joplin’s natural ability has been cited as contributing significantly to the invention of a new style which blended both African-American musical styles with European forms and melodies, and which first became celebrated in the 1890s: ragtime.
When Joplin was learning the piano, serious musical circles condemned ragtime because of its association with the vulgar and inane songs “cranked out by the tune-smiths of Tin Pan Alley.” As a composer Joplin refined ragtime, elevating it above the low and unrefined form played by the “wandering honky-tonk pianists… playing mere dance music” of popular imagination. This new art form, the classic rag, combined Afro-American folk music’s syncopation and nineteenth-century European romanticism, with its harmonic schemes and its march-like tempos. In the words of one critic, “ragtime was basically… an Afro-American version of the polka, or its analog, the Sousa-style march.” With this as a foundation, Joplin intended his compositions to be played exactly as he wrote them – without improvisation. Joplin wrote his rags as “classical” music in miniature form in order to raise ragtime above its “cheap bordello” origins and produced work which opera historian Elise Kirk described as “…more tuneful, contrapuntal, infectious, and harmonically colorful than any others of his era.”
It has been speculated that Joplin’s achievements were influenced by his classically trained German music teacher Julius Weiss, who may have brought a polka rhythmic sensibility from the old country to the 11-year old Joplin. As Curtis put it “The educated German could open up the door to a world of learning and music of which young Joplin was largely unaware.”
Joplin’s first, and most significant hit, the “Maple Leaf Rag”, was described as the “archetype” of the classic rag, influencing subsequent rag composers for at least 12 years after its initial publication thanks to its rhythmic patterns, melody lines, and harmony, although with the exception of Joseph Lamb they generally failed to enlarge upon it.
The opera’s setting is a former slave community in an isolated forest near Joplin’s childhood town Texarkana in September 1884. The plot centers on an 18 year old woman Treemonisha who is taught to read by a white woman, and then leads her community against the influence of conjurers who prey on ignorance and superstition. Treemonisha is abducted and is about to be thrown into a wasps’ nest when her friend Remus rescues her. The community realizes the value of education and the liability of their ignorance before choosing her as their teacher and leader.
Joplin wrote both the score and the libretto for the opera, which largely follows the form of European opera with many conventional arias, ensembles and choruses. In addition the themes of superstition and mysticism which are evident in Treemonisha are common in the operatic tradition, and certain aspects of the plot echo devices in the work of the German composer Richard Wagner (of which Joplin was aware); a sacred tree under which Treemonisha is found recalls the tree from which Siegmund takes his enchanted sword in Die Walküre, and the retelling of the heroine’s origins echos aspects of the opera Siegfried. In addition, African-American folk tales also influence the story, with the wasp nest incident being similar to the story of Br’er Rabbit and the briar patch.
Treemonisha is not a ragtime opera because Joplin employed the styles of ragtime and other black music sparingly, using them to convey “racial character”, and to celebrate the music of his childhood at the end of the 19th century. The opera has been seen as a valuable record of rural black music from 1870s–1890s re-created by a “skilled and sensitive participant”.
Berlin speculates about parallels between the plot and Joplin’s own life. He notes that Lottie Joplin (the composer’s third wife) saw a connection between the character Treemonisha’s wish to lead her people out of ignorance, and a similar desire in the composer. In addition, it has been speculated that Treemonisha represents Freddie, Joplin’s second wife, because the date of the opera’s setting was likely to have been the month of her birth.
At the time of the opera’s publication in 1911, the American Musician and Art Journal praised it as “an entirely new form of operatic art”. Later critics have also praised the opera as occupying a special place in American history, with its heroine “a startlingly early voice for modern civil rights causes, notably the importance of education and knowledge to African American advancement.” Curtis’s conclusion is similar: “In the end, Treemonisha offered a celebration of literacy, learning, hard work, and community solidarity as the best formula for advancing the race.” Berlin describes it as a “fine opera, certainly more interesting than most operas then being written in the United States”, but later states that Joplin’s own libretto showed the composer “was not a competent dramatist” with the book not up to the same quality as the music.
Joplin’s skills as a pianist were described in glowing terms by a Sedalia newspaper in 1898, and fellow ragtime composers Arthur Marshall and Joe Jordan both said that he played the instrument well. However, the son of publisher John Stark stated that Joplin was a rather mediocre pianist and that he composed on paper, rather than at the piano. Artie Matthews recalled the “delight” the St. Louis players took in outplaying Joplin.
While Joplin never made an audio recording, his playing is preserved on seven piano rolls for use in mechanical player pianos. All seven were made in 1916. Of these, the six released under the Connorized label show evidence of significant editing, probably by William Axtmann, the staff arranger at Connorized. Berlin theorizes that by the time Joplin reached St. Louis he may have been experiencing discoordination of the fingers, tremors and an inability to speak clearly, symptoms of syphilis, the disease that took his life in 1917. The second roll recording of “Maple Leaf Rag” on the UniRecord label from June 1916 was described by biographer Blesh as “… shocking… disorganized and completely distressing to hear.” While there is disagreement among piano-roll experts about the accuracy of the reproduction of a player’s performance, Berlin notes that the “Maple Leaf Rag” roll was “painfully bad” and likely to be the truest record of Joplin’s playing at the time. The roll, however, does not reflect his abilities earlier in life.
Joplin and his fellow ragtime composers rejuvenated American popular music, fostering an appreciation for African American music among European Americans by creating exhilarating and liberating dance tunes, changing American musical taste. “Its syncopation and rhythmic drive gave it a vitality and freshness attractive to young urban audiences indifferent to Victorian proprieties… Joplin’s ragtime expressed the intensity and energy of a modern urban America.”
Joshua Rifkin, a leading Joplin recording artist, wrote that “a pervasive sense of lyricism infuses his work, and even at his most high-spirited, he cannot repress a hint of melancholy or adversity… He had little in common with the fast and flashy school of ragtime that grew up after him.” Joplin historian Bill Ryerson adds that “In the hands of authentic practitioners like Joplin, ragtime was a disciplined form capable of astonishing variety and subtlety… Joplin did for the rag what Chopin did for the mazurka. His style ranged from tones of torment to stunning serenades that incorporated the bolero and the tango.” Biographer Susan Curtis wrote that Joplin’s music had helped to “revolutionise American music and culture” by removing Victorian restraint.
Composer and actor Max Morath found it striking that the vast majority of Joplin’s work did not enjoy the popularity of the Maple Leaf Rag, because while the compositions were “of increasing lyrical beauty and delicate syncopation” they remained “obscure” and “unheralded” during his lifetime. Joplin apparently realized that his music was ahead of its time: As music historian Ian Whitcomb mentions that Joplin “opined that Maple Leaf Rag would make him ‘King of Ragtime Composers’ but he also knew that he would not be a pop hero in his own lifetime. ‘When I’m dead twenty-five years, people are going to recognize me,’ he told a friend.” Just over thirty years later he was recognized, and later historian Rudi Blesh would write a large book about ragtime, which he dedicated to the memory of Joplin.
Although he was penniless and disappointed at the end of his life, Joplin set the standard for ragtime compositions and played a key role in the development of ragtime music. And as a pioneer composer and performer, he helped pave the way for young black artists to reach American audiences of both races. After his death, jazz historian Floyd Levin noted: “those few who realized his greatness bowed their heads in sorrow. This was the passing of the king of all ragtime writers, the man who gave America a genuine native music.”
After his death in 1917, Joplin’s music and ragtime in general waned in popularity as new forms of musical styles, such as jazz and novelty piano, emerged. Even so, jazz bands and recording artists such as Tommy Dorsey in 1936, Jelly Roll Morton in 1939 and J. Russell Robinson in 1947 released recordings of Joplin compositions. “Maple Leaf Rag” was the Joplin piece found most often on 78 rpm records.
In the 1960s, a small-scale reawakening of interest in classic ragtime was underway among some American music scholars such as Trebor Tichenor, William Bolcom, William Albright and Rudi Blesh. Audiophile Records released a two record set, The Complete Piano Works of Scott Joplin, The Greatest of Ragtime Composers, performed by Knocky Parker, in 1970.
In 1968, Bolcom and Albright interested Joshua Rifkin, a young musicologist, in the body of Joplin’s work. Together, they hosted an occasional ragtime-and-early-jazz evening on WBAI radio. In November 1970, Rifkin released a recording called Scott Joplin: Piano Rags on the classical label Nonesuch. It sold 100,000 copies in its first year and eventually became Nonesuch’s first million-selling record. The Billboard “Best-Selling Classical LPs” chart for September 28, 1974 has the record at number 5, with the follow-up “Volume 2″ at number 4, and a combined set of both volumes at number 3. Separately both volumes had been on the chart for 64 weeks. In the top 7 spots on that chart, 6 of the entries were recordings of Joplin’s work, three of which were Rifkin’s. Record stores found themselves for the first time putting ragtime in the classical music section. The album was nominated in 1971 for two Grammy Award categories: Best Album Notes and Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without orchestra). Rifkin was also under consideration for a third Grammy for a recording not related to Joplin, but at the ceremony on March 14, 1972, Rifkin did not win in any category. He did a tour in 1974, which included appearances on BBC Television and a sell-out concert at London’s Royal Festival Hall. In 1979 Alan Rich in the New York Magazine wrote that by giving artists like Rifkin the opportunity to put Joplin’s music on disk Nonesuch Records “created, almost alone, the Scott Joplin revival.”
In January 1971, Harold C. Schonberg, music critic at the New York Times, having just heard the Rifkin album, wrote a featured Sunday edition article entitled “Scholars, Get Busy on Scott Joplin!” Schonberg’s call to action has been described as the catalyst for classical music scholars, the sort of people Joplin had battled all his life, to conclude that Joplin was a genius. Vera Brodsky Lawrence of the New York Public Library published a two-volume set of Joplin works in June 1971, entitled The Collected Works of Scott Joplin, stimulating a wider interest in the performance of Joplin’s music that included a recording called Joplin: The Red Back Book by Gunther Schuller, a french horn player and music professor.
Marvin Hamlisch lightly adapted Joplin’s music for the 1973 film The Sting, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score and Adaptation on April 2, 1974. His version of “The Entertainer” reached number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the American Top 40 music chart on May 18, 1974, prompting The New York Times to write, “the whole nation has begun to take notice”. Thanks to the film and its score, Joplin’s work became appreciated in both the popular and classical music world, becoming (in the words of music magazine Record World), the “classical phenomenon of the decade”.
On October 22, 1971, excerpts from Treemonisha were presented in concert form at Lincoln Center with musical performances by Bolcom, Rifkin and Mary Lou Williams supporting a group of singers. Finally, on January 28, 1972, T.J. Anderson’s orchestration of Treemonisha was staged for two consecutive nights, sponsored by the Afro-American Music Workshop of Morehouse College in Atlanta, with singers accompanied by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Robert Shaw, and choreography by Katherine Dunham. Schonberg remarked in February 1972 that the “Scott Joplin Renaissance” was in full swing and still growing. In May 1975, Treemonisha was staged in a full opera production by the Houston Grand Opera. The company toured briefly, then settled into an eight-week run in New York on Broadway at the Palace Theater in October and November. This appearance was directed by Gunther Schuller, and soprano Carmen Balthrop alternated with Kathleen Battle as the title character. An “original Broadway cast” recording was produced. Because of the lack of national exposure given to the brief Morehouse College staging of the opera in 1972, many Joplin scholars wrote that the Houston Grand Opera’s 1975 show was the first full production.
1974 saw the Royal Ballet, under director Kenneth MacMillan, create Elite Syncopations a ballet based on tunes by Joplin and other composers of the era. That year also brought the premiere by the Los Angeles Ballet of Red Back Book, choreographed by John Clifford to Joplin rags from the collection of the same name, including both solo piano performances and arrangements for full orchestra.
Other awards and recognition
1970: Joplin was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame by the National Academy of Popular Music.
1976: Joplin was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for his special contribution to American music.
1977: Motown Productions produced Scott Joplin, a biographical film starring Billy Dee Williams as Joplin, released by Universal Pictures.
1983: the United States Postal Service issued a stamp of the composer as part of its Black Heritage commemorative series.
1989: Joplin received a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
2002: a collection of Joplin’s own performances recorded on piano rolls in the 1900s (decade)1900s was included by the National Recording Preservation Board in the Library of Congress National Recording Registry. The board annually selects songs that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie ( /ɡɨˈlɛspi/; October 21, 1917 – January 6, 1993) was an American jazz trumpet player, bandleader, composer and, occasionally, singer.
Allmusic‘s Scott Yanow wrote, “Dizzy Gillespie’s contributions to jazz were huge. One of the greatest jazz trumpeters of all time (some would say the best), Gillespie was such a complex player that his contemporaries ended up copying Miles Davis and Fats Navarro instead, and it was not until Jon Faddis’s emergence in the 1970s that Dizzy’s style was successfully recreated . . . Arguably Gillespie is remembered, by both critics and fans alike, as one of the greatest jazz trumpeters of all time.”
Gillespie was a trumpet virtuoso and improviser, building on the virtuoso style of Roy Eldridge but adding layers of harmonic complexity previously unknown in jazz. His beret and horn-rimmed spectacles, his scat singing, his bent horn, pouched cheeks and his light-hearted personality were essential in popularizing bebop.
In the 1940s Gillespie, together with Charlie Parker, became a major figure in the development of bebop and modern jazz. He taught and influenced many other musicians, including trumpeters Miles Davis, Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown, Arturo Sandoval, Lee Morgan, Jon Faddis and Chuck Mangione.
Early life and career
Gillespie was born in Cheraw, South Carolina, the youngest of nine children of James and Lottie Gillespie. James was a local bandleader, so instruments were made available to Dizzy. He started to play the piano at the age of four. Dizzy’s father died when the boy was only ten years old. Dizzy taught himself how to play the trombone as well as the trumpet by the age of twelve. From the night he heard his idol, Roy Eldridge, play on the radio, he dreamed of becoming a jazz musician. He received a music scholarship to the Laurinburg Institute in Laurinburg, North Carolina He attended for two years before accompanying his family when they moved to Philadelphia.
Dizzy’s first professional job was with the Frank Fairfax Orchestra in 1935, after which he joined the respective orchestras of Edgar Hayes and Teddy Hill, essentially replacing Roy Eldridge as first trumpet in 1937. Teddy Hill’s band was where Dizzy Gillespie made his first recording, King Porter Stomp. At this time, Dizzy met a young woman named Lorraine from the Apollo Theatre, whom he married in 1940. They remained married until his death in 1993. Dizzy stayed with Teddy Hill’s band for a year, then left and free-lanced with numerous other bands. In 1939, Dizzy joined Cab Calloway‘s orchestra, with which he recorded one of his earliest compositions, the instrumental Pickin’ the Cabbage, in 1940. (Originally released on Paradiddle, a 78rpm backed with a co-composition with Cozy Cole, Calloway’s drummer at the time, on the Vocalion label, #5467).
Tadd Dameron, Mary Lou Williams and Dizzy Gillespie in 1947
Dizzy was fired by Calloway in late 1941, after a notorious altercation between the two. The incident is recounted by Dizzy, along with fellow Calloway band members Milt Hinton and Jonah Jones, in Jean Bach’s 1997 film, The Spitball Story. Calloway did not approve of Dizzy’s mischievous humor, nor of his adventuresome approach to soloing; according to Jones, Calloway referred to it as “Chinese music.” During one performance, Calloway saw a spitball land on the stage, and accused Dizzy of having thrown it. Dizzy denied it, and the ensuing argument led to Calloway striking Dizzy, who then pulled out a switchblade knife and charged Calloway. The two were separated by other band members, during which scuffle Calloway was cut on the hand.
During his time in Calloway’s band, Dizzy Gillespie started writing big band music for bandleaders like Woody Herman and Jimmy Dorsey. He then freelanced with a few bands – most notably Ella Fitzgerald‘s orchestra, composed of members of the late Chick Webb‘s band, in 1942.
In 1943, Dizzy joined the Earl Hines band. Composer Gunther Schuller said:
… In 1943 I heard the great Earl Hines band which had Bird in it and all those other great musicians. They were playing all the flatted fifth chords and all the modern harmonies and substitutions and Dizzy Gillespie runs in the trumpet section work. Two years later I read that that was ‘bop’ and the beginning of modern jazz … but the band never made recordings.
Gillespie said of the Hines band, “People talk about the Hines band being ‘the incubator of bop’ and the leading exponents of that music ended up in the Hines band. But people also have the erroneous impression that the music was new. It was not. The music evolved from what went before. It was the same basic music. The difference was in how you got from here to here to here … naturally each age has got its own shit”.
Next, Gillespie joined Billy Eckstine‘s (Earl Hines‘ long-time collaborator) big band and it was as a member of Eckstine’s band that he was reunited with Charlie Parker, a fellow member of Hines’s band. In 1945, Dizzy left Eckstine’s band because he wanted to play with a small combo. A “small combo” typically comprised no more than five musicians, playing the trumpet, saxophone, piano, bass and drums.
The rise of bebop
Bebop was known as the first modern jazz style. However, it was unpopular in the beginning and was not viewed as positively as swing music was. Bebop was seen as an outgrowth of swing, not a revolution. Swing introduced a diversity of new musicians in the bebop era like Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke, Oscar Pettiford, and Gillespie. Through these musicians, a new vocabulary of musical phrases was created. With Charlie Parker, Gillespie jammed at famous jazz clubs like Minton’s Playhouse and Monroe’s Uptown House. Charlie Parker’s system also held methods of adding chords to existing chord progressions and implying additional chords within the improvised lines.
Gillespie compositions like “Groovin’ High“, “Woody n’ You” and “Salt Peanuts” sounded radically different, harmonically and rhythmically, from the swing music popular at the time. “A Night in Tunisia“, written in 1942, while Gillespie was playing with Earl Hines’ band, is noted for having a feature that is common in today’s music, a non-walking bass line. The song also displays Afro-Cuban rhythms. One of their first (and greatest) small-group performances together was only issued in 2005: a concert in New York’s Town Hall on June 22, 1945. Gillespie taught many of the young musicians on 52nd Street, including Miles Davis and Max Roach, about the new style of jazz. After a lengthy gig at Billy Berg’s club in Los Angeles, which left most of the audience ambivalent or hostile towards the new music, the band broke up. Unlike Parker, who was content to play in small groups and be an occasional featured soloist in big bands, Gillespie aimed to lead a big band himself; his first, unsuccessful, attempt to do this was in 1945.
Gillespie with John Lewis, Cecil Payne, Miles Davis, and Ray Brown, between 1946 and 1948
After his work with Parker, Gillespie led other small combos (including ones with Milt Jackson, John Coltrane, Lalo Schifrin, Ray Brown, Kenny Clarke, James Moody, J.J. Johnson, and Yusef Lateef) and finally put together his first successful big band. Dizzy Gillespie and his band tried to popularize bop and make Dizzy Gillespie a symbol of the new music. He also appeared frequently as a soloist with Norman Granz‘s Jazz at the Philharmonic. He also headlined the 1946 independently-produced musical revue film Jivin’ in Be-Bop.
In 1948 Dizzy was involved in a traffic accident when the bicycle he was riding was bumped by an automobile. He was slightly injured, and found that he could no longer hit the B-flat above high C. He won the case, but the jury awarded him only $1000, in view of his high earnings up to that point.
In 1956 he organized a band to go on a State Department tour of the Middle East which was extremely well received internationally and earned him the nickname “the Ambassador of Jazz”. During this time, he also continued to lead a big band that performed throughout the United States and featured musicians including Pee Wee Moore and others. This band recorded a live album at the 1957 Newport jazz festival that featured Mary Lou Williams as a guest artist on piano.
 Afro-Cuban music
Miriam Makeba and Dizzy Gillespie in concert, Deauville (Normandy, France), July 20, 1991.
In the late 1940s, Gillespie was also involved in the movement called Afro-Cuban music, bringing Afro-Latin American music and elements to greater prominence in jazz and even pop music, particularly salsa. Afro-Cuban jazz is based on traditional Afro-Cuban rhythms. Dizzy Gillespie was introduced to Chano Pozo in 1947 by Mario Bauza, a Latin jazz trumpet player. Chano Pozo became Gillespie’s conga drummer for his band. Dizzy Gilespie also worked with Mario Bauza in New York jazz clubs on 52nd Street and several famous dance clubs such as Palladium and the Apollo Theater in Harlem. They played together in the Chick Webb band and Cab Calloway’s band, where Gillespie and Bauza became life-long friends. Dizzy helped develop and mature the Afro-Cuban jazz style.
Afro-Cuban jazz was considered bebop-oriented, and some musicians classified it as a modern style. Afro-Cuban jazz was successful because it never decreased in popularity and it always attracted people to dance to its unique rhythms. Gillespie’s most famous contributions to Afro-Cuban music are the compositions “Manteca” and “Tin Tin Deo” (both co-written with Chano Pozo); he was responsible for commissioning George Russell’s “Cubano Be, Cubano Bop”, which featured the great but ill-fated Cuban conga player, Chano Pozo. In 1977, Gillespie discovered Arturo Sandoval while researching music during a tour of Cuba.
Gillespie performing in 1955
His biographer Alyn Shipton quotes Don Waterhouse approvingly that Dizzy in the fifties “had begun to mellow into an amalgam of his entire jazz experience to form the basis of new classicism”. Another opinion is that, unlike his contemporary Miles Davis, Gillespie essentially remained true to the bebop style for the rest of his career.
In 1960, he was inducted into the Down Beat magazine’s Jazz Hall of Fame.
During the 1964 United States presidential campaign the artist, with tongue in cheek, put himself forward as an independent write-in candidate. He promised that if he were elected, the White House would be renamed “The Blues House,” and a cabinet composed of Duke Ellington (Secretary of State), Miles Davis (Director of the CIA), Max Roach (Secretary of Defense), Charles Mingus (Secretary of Peace), Ray Charles (Librarian of Congress), Louis Armstrong (Secretary of Agriculture), Mary Lou Williams (Ambassador to the Vatican), Thelonious Monk (Travelling Ambassador) and Malcolm X (Attorney General). He said his running mate would be Phyllis Diller. Campaign buttons had been manufactured years ago by Gillespie’s booking agency “for publicity, as a gag”, but now proceeds from them went to benefit the Congress of Racial Equality, Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Martin Luther King, Jr.; in later years they became a collector’s item. In 1971 Gillespie announced he would run again but withdrew before the election for reasons connected to the Baha’i faith.
Gillespie published his autobiography, To Be or Not to Bop, in 1979.
Gillespie was a vocal fixture in many of John Hubley and Faith Hubley‘s animated films, such as The Hole, The Hat, and Voyage to Next.
In the 1980s, Dizzy Gillespie led the United Nation Orchestra. For three years Flora Purim toured with the Orchestra and she credits Gillespie with evolving her understanding of jazz after being in the field for over two decades. David Sánchez also toured with the group and was also greatly influenced by Gillespie. Both artists later were nominated for Grammy awards. Gillespie also had a guest appearance on The Cosby Show as well as Sesame Street and The Muppet Show.
In 1982, Dizzy Gillespie had a cameo appearance on Stevie Wonder‘s hit “Do I Do“. Gillespie’s tone gradually faded in the last years in life, and his performances often focused more on his proteges such as Arturo Sandoval and Jon Faddis; his good-humoured comedic routines became more and more a part of his live act.
In 1988, Gillespie had worked with Canadian flautist and saxophonist Moe Koffman on their prestigious album Oo Pop a Da. He did fast scat vocals on the title track and a couple of the other tracks were played only on trumpet.
In 1989 Gillespie gave 300 performances in 27 countries, appeared in 100 U.S. cities in 31 states and the District of Columbia, headlined three television specials, performed with two symphonies, and recorded four albums. He was also crowned a traditional chief in Nigeria, received the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres; France’s most prestigious cultural award. He was named Regent Professor by the University of California, and received his fourteenth honorary doctoral degree, this one from the Berklee College of Music. In addition, he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award the same year. The next year, at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts ceremonies celebrating the centennial of American jazz, Gillespie received the Kennedy Center Honors Award and the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers Duke Ellington Award for 50 years of achievement as a composer, performer, and bandleader. In 1993 he received the Polar Music Prize in Sweden.
November 26, 1992 at Carnegie Hall in New York, following the Second Bahá’í World Congress was Dizzy’s 75th birthday concert and his offering to the celebration of the centenary of the passing of Bahá’u'lláh. Gillespie was to appear at Carnegie Hall for the 33rd time. The line-up included: Jon Faddis, Marvin “Doc” Holladay, James Moody, Paquito D’Rivera, and the Mike Longo Trio with Ben Brown on bass and Mickey Roker on drums. But Gillespie didn’t make it because he was in bed suffering from cancer of the pancreas. “But the musicians played their real hearts out for him, no doubt suspecting that he would not play again. Each musician gave tribute to their friend, this great soul and innovator in the world of jazz.”
Gillespie also starred in a film called The Winter in Lisbon released in 2004. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7057 Hollywood Boulevard in the Hollywood section of the City of Los Angeles. He is honored by the December 31, 2006 – A Jazz New Year’s Eve: Freddy Cole & the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Death and legacy
Gillespie in concert at Colonial Tavern, Toronto, 1978
A longtime resident of Englewood, New Jersey, he died of pancreatic cancer January 6, 1993, aged 75, and was buried in the Flushing Cemetery, Queens, New York. Mike Longo delivered a eulogy at his funeral. He was also with Gillespie on the night he died, along with Jon Faddis and a select few others.
At the time of his death, Dizzy Gillespie was survived by his widow, Lorraine Willis Gillespie; a daughter, jazz singer Jeanie Bryson; and a grandson, Radji Birks Bryson-Barrett. Gillespie had two funerals. One was a Bahá’í funeral at his request, at which his closest friends and colleagues attended. The second was at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York open to the public.
Dizzy Gillespie, a Bahá’í since 1970, was one of the most famous adherents of the Bahá’í Faith which helped him make sense of his position in a succession of trumpeters as well as turning his life from knife-carrying roughneck to global citizen, and from alcohol to soul force, in the words of author Nat Hentoff, who knew Gillespie for forty years. He spoke about the Baha’i Faith frequently on his trips abroad. He is often called the Bahá’í Jazz Ambassador. He is honored with weekly jazz sessions at the New York Bahá’í Center in the memorial auditorium.
Statue of Dizzy Gillespie in his hometown Cheraw, South Carolina
Gillespie has been described as the “Sound of Surprise”. The Rough Guide to Jazz describes his musical style:
The whole essence of a Gillespie solo was cliff-hanging suspense: the phrases and the angle of the approach were perpetually varied, breakneck runs were followed by pauses, by huge interval leaps, by long, immensely high notes, by slurs and smears and bluesy phrases; he always took listeners by surprise, always shocking them with a new thought. His lightning reflexes and superb ear meant his instrumental execution matched his thoughts in its power and speed. And he was concerned at all times with swing — even taking the most daring liberties with pulse or beat, his phrases never failed to swing. Gillespies’s magnificent sense of time and emotional intensity of his playing came from childhood roots. His parents were Methodists, but as a boy he used to sneak off every Sunday to the uninhibited Sanctified Church. He said later, ‘The Sanctified Church had deep significance for me musically. I first learned the significance of rhythm there and all about how music can transport people spiritually.’”
In Dizzy’s obituary, Peter Watrous describes his performance style:
In the naturally effervescent Mr. Gillespie, opposites existed. His playing — and he performed constantly until nearly the end of his life — was meteoric, full of virtuosic invention and deadly serious. But with his endlessly funny asides, his huge variety of facial expressions and his natural comic gifts, he was as much a pure entertainer as an accomplished artist.”
Wynton Marsalis summed up Gillespie as a player and teacher:
His playing showcases the importance of intelligence. His rhythmic sophistication was unequaled. He was a master of harmony — and fascinated with studying it. He took in all the music of his youth — from Roy Eldridge
to Duke Ellington
— and developed a unique style built on complex rhythm and harmony balanced by wit. Dizzy was so quick-minded, he could create an endless flow of ideas at unusually fast tempo. Nobody had ever even considered playing a trumpet that way, let alone had actually tried. All the musicians respected him because, in addition to outplaying everyone, he knew so much and was so generous with that knowledge…”
Dizzy Gillespie with his bent trumpet, performing in 1988
Gillespie’s trademark trumpet featured a bell which bent upward at a 45-degree angle rather than pointing straight ahead as in the conventional design. According to Gillespie’s autobiography, this was originally the result of accidental damage caused by the dancers Stump and Stumpy falling onto it while it was on a trumpet stand on stage at Snookie’s in Manhattan on January 6, 1953, during a birthday party for Gillespie’s wife Lorraine. The constriction caused by the bending altered the tone of the instrument, and Gillespie liked the effect. He had the trumpet straightened out the next day, but he could not forget the tone. Gillespie sent a request to Martin Committee to make him a “bent” trumpet from a sketch produced by Lorraine, and from that time forward Gillespie played a trumpet with an upturned bell.
Gillespie’s biographer Alyn Shipton writes that Gillespie probably got the idea for a bent trumpet when he saw a similar instrument in 1937 in Manchester, England, while on tour with the Teddy Hill Orchestra. According to this account (from British journalist Pat Brand) Gillespie was able to try out the horn and the experience led him, much later, to commission a similar horn for himself.
Whatever the origins of Gillespie’s upswept trumpet, by June 1954, he was using a professionally manufactured horn of this design, and it was to become a visual trademark for him for the rest of his life. Such trumpets were made for him by Martin Committee (from 1954), King Musical Instruments (from 1972) and Renold Schilke (from 1982, a gift from Jon Faddis). Gillespie favored mouthpieces made by Al Cass. In December 1986 Gillespie gave the National Museum of American History his 1972 King “Silver Flair” trumpet with a Cass mouthpiece. In April 1995, Gillespie’s Martin trumpet was auctioned at Christie’s in New York City, along with instruments used by other famous musicians such as Coleman Hawkins, Jimi Hendrix and Elvis Presley. An image of Gillespie’s trumpet was selected for the cover of the auction program. The battered instrument sold to Manhattan builder Jeffery Brown for $63,000, the proceeds benefiting jazz musicians suffering from cancer.
James Joseph Brown (May 3, 1933 – December 25, 2006) was an American singer, songwriter, musician, and recording artist. He is the originator of funk music and is a major figure of 20th century popular music and dance. He has been referred to by himself and others as “The Godfather of Soul“, “Mr. Dynamite“, “Soul Brother Number One” and “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business“
James Brown was born in Barnwell, South Carolina on May 3, 1933 at 5:10pm to Susie Brown and Joseph (“Joe”) Gardner (who changed his surname to Brown after Mattie Brown who raised him). Although Brown was to be named after his father Joseph, his first and middle names were mistakenly reversed on his birth certificate. He therefore became James Joseph Brown, Jr. As a young child, Brown was called Junior. When he later lived with his aunt and cousin, he was called Little Junior since his cousin’s nickname was also Junior. He was of African American and Native American (Apache) descent through his father, and had Asian ancestry.
As a young child, Brown and his family lived in extreme poverty in nearby Elko, South Carolina, which at the time was an impoverished town in Barnwell County. When Brown was two years old, his parents separated after his mother left his father for another man. After his mother abandoned the family, Brown continued to live with his father and his father’s live-in girlfriends until he was six years old.
His father sent him to live with an aunt, who ran a house of prostitution. Even though Brown lived with relatives, he spent long stretches of time on his own, hanging out on the streets and hustling to get by. Brown managed to stay in school until he dropped out in the seventh grade.
During his childhood, Brown earned money shining shoes, sweeping out stores, selling and trading in old stamps, washing cars and dishes and singing in talent contests. Brown also performed buck dances for change to entertain troops from Camp Gordon at the start of World War II as their convoys traveled over a canal bridge near his aunt’s home. Between earning money from these adventures, Brown taught himself to play a harmonica given to him by his father. He learned to play some guitar from Tampa Red, in addition to learning to play piano and drums from others he met during this time. Brown was inspired to become an entertainer after watching Louis Jordan, a popular jazz and R&B performer during the 1940s, and Jordan’s Tympany Five performing “Caldonia” in a short film.
As an adult, Brown legally changed his name to remove the “Jr.” designation. In his spare time, Brown spent time practicing his various skills in Augusta-area stalls and committing petty crimes. At the age of sixteen, he was convicted of armed robbery and sent to a juvenile detention center upstate in Toccoa in 1949.
In 1952, while Brown was still in reform school, he met future R&B legend Bobby Byrd, who was there playing baseball against the reform school team. Byrd saw Brown perform there and admired his singing and performing talent. As a result of this friendship, Byrd’s family helped Brown secure an early release after serving three years of his sentence. The authorities agreed to release Brown on the condition that he would get a job and not return to Augusta or Richmond County. After stints as a boxer and baseball pitcher in semi-professional baseball (a career move ended by a leg injury), Brown turned his energy toward music.
Brown’s career spanned decades, and profoundly influenced the development of many different musical genres. Brown moves on a continuum of blues and gospel-based forms and styles to a profoundly Africanised approach to music making. Brown performed in concerts, first making his rounds across the “chitlin’ circuit“, and then across the country and later around the world, along with appearing in shows on television and in movies. Although he contributed much to the music world through his hitmaking, Brown holds the record as the artist who charted the most singles on the Billboard Hot 100 without ever hitting number one on that chart.
1955: The Famous Flames
In 1955, Brown and Bobby Byrd‘s sister Sarah performed in a group called “The Gospel Starlighters”. Eventually, Brown joined Bobby Byrd’s vocal group, the Avons, and Byrd turned the group’s sound towards secular rhythm and blues. After the group’s name was changed to The Flames, Brown and Byrd’s group toured the Southern “chitlin’ circuit“. The group eventually signed a deal with the Cincinnati, Ohio-based label Federal Records, a sister label of King Records. Brown’s early recordings were fairly straightforward gospel-inspired R&B compositions, heavily influenced by the work of contemporary musicians such as Ray Charles, Little Willie John, Clyde McPhatter and Little Richard.
Little Richard’s relations with Brown were particularly significant in Brown’s development as a musician and showman. Brown once called Richard his idol, and credited Richard’s saxophone-studded mid-1950s road band, The Upsetters, with being the first to put the funk in the rock and roll beat. Etta James recalled her first meeting with James Brown, in Macon, Georgia, where Brown had befriended Little Richard. She said Brown “used to carry around an old tattered napkin with him, because Little Richard had written the words, ‘please, please, please’ on it and James was determined to make a song out of it…”. The resulting track “Please, Please, Please” ended up becoming The Flames first R&B hit in 1956, selling over a million copies. However, nine subsequent singles released by The Flames failed to live up to the success of their debut, and the group was in danger of being dropped by Federal Records. When Little Richard left pop music in October 1957 to become a preacher, Brown filled out Little Richard’s remaining tour dates in his place. Further, several former members of Little Richard’s backup band joined Brown’s group after Richard’s exit from the pop music scene. Brown’s group returned to the charts, hitting #1 R&B in February 1959 with “Try Me“. This hit record was the best-selling R&B single of the year, becoming the first of 17 chart-topping R&B singles by Brown over the next two decades. By the time “Try Me” was released on record, the group’s billing was changed to James Brown and The Famous Flames. “The Famous Flames” was a vocal group, not a backing band.
In 1959, Brown and The Famous Flames moved from the Federal Records subsidiary to King Records, the parent label. Brown began to have recurring conflicts with King Records president Syd Nathan over repertoire and other matters. In one notable instance, Brown recorded the 1960 Top Ten R&B hit “(Do the) Mashed Potatoes” on Dade Records, owned by Henry Stone, under the pseudonym “Nat Kendrick & The Swans” because Nathan refused to allow him to record it for King.
Early and mid-1960s
In 1962, the singer Tammi Terrell came to the attention of James Brown and the seventeen-year-old found herself in Brown’s popular Revue becoming one of Brown’s first female headliners. In 1963, Terrell recorded for Brown’s Try Me Records, releasing the ballad, “I Cried”, which gave her some chart success. Terrell and Brown also had a personal relationship, which was hampered by Brown’s physical abuse towards her. After a horrific incident backstage after a show, Terrell asked singer Gene Chandler (the “Duke of Earl”), who witnessed the incident first hand) to take her to the bus station so she could go home. He later called her mother to come pick her up. This ended Terrell’s two-year relationship with Brown. Brown scored on the charts in the early 1960s with recordings such as his 1962 cover of “Night Train“. While Brown’s early singles were major hits across the southern United States and then regular R&B Top Ten hits, he and the Famous Flames were not successful nationally until his self-financed live show was captured on the 1963 LP Live at the Apollo. Brown financed the recording of the album himself, and it was released on King Records over the objections of label owner Syd Nathan, who saw no commercial potential in a live album containing no new songs. Defying Nathan’s expectations, the album stayed on the pop charts for fourteen months, peaking at #2. In addition, Brown recorded a hit version of the ballad “Prisoner of Love“, (his first Top 20 pop hit), in 1963 and founded (under King auspices) the fledgling Try Me Records, Brown’s first attempt at running a record label.
Brown followed the success of Live at the Apollo with a string of singles that, along with the work of Allen Toussaint in New Orleans, essentially defined the foundation of Funk music. Driven by the success of Live at the Apollo and the failure of King Records to expand record promotion beyond the “black” market, James Brown and fellow Famous Flame Bobby Byrd formed a production company, Fair Deal, to promote sales of Brown’s record releases to white audiences. In this arrangement, Smash Records, a subsidiary of Mercury Records, was used as a vehicle to distribute Brown’s music. Smash released his 1964 hit “Out of Sight“, which reached #24 on the pop charts and pointed the way to his later funk hits. Its release also triggered a legal battle between Smash and King that resulted in a one year ban on the release of Brown’s vocal recordings.
During the mid-1960s, two of Brown’s signature tunes “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag“ and “I Got You (I Feel Good)“, both from 1965, were his first Top 10 pop hits, as well as major #1 R&B hits, with each remaining the top-selling singles in black venues for over a month. In 1966, Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” won the Grammy for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording (an award last given in 1968). Brown’s national profile was boosted further that year by appearances in the movie Ski Party and the concert film The T.A.M.I. Show, in which he and The Famous Flames (Bobby Byrd, Bobby Bennett and “Baby Lloyd” Stallworth) upstaged The Rolling Stones. In his concert repertoire and on record, Brown mingled his innovative rhythmic essays with Broadway show tunes and ballads, such as his hit “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” (1966).
As the 1960s decade neared its end, Brown continued to refine the new funk idiom. Brown’s 1967 #1 R&B hit, “Cold Sweat“, sometimes cited as the first true funk song, was the first of his recordings to contain a drum break and the first that featured a harmony that was reduced to a single chord. The instrumental arrangements on tracks such as “Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose” and “Licking Stick-Licking Stick” (both recorded in 1968) and “Funky Drummer” (recorded in 1969) featured a more developed version of Brown’s mid-1960s style, with the horn section, guitars, bass and drums meshed together in intricate rhythmic patterns based on multiple interlocking riffs.
Changes in Brown’s style that started with “Cold Sweat” also established the musical foundation for Brown’s later hits, such as “I Got the Feelin’” (1968) and “Mother Popcorn” (1969). By this time Brown’s vocals frequently took the form of a kind of rhythmic declamation, not quite sung but not quite spoken, that only intermittently featured traces of pitch or melody. This would become a major influence on the techniques of rapping, which would come to maturity along with hip hop music in the coming decades.
In November 1967, James Brown purchased radio station WGYW in Knoxville, Tennessee for a reported $75,000, according to the January 20, 1968 Record World magazine. The call letters were changed to WJBE reflecting his initials. WJBE began on January 15, 1968 and broadcast a Rhythm & Blues format. The station slogan was “WJBE 1430 Raw Soul”. At the time it was mentioned “Brown has also branched out into real estate and music publishing in recent months”.
Brown’s recordings influenced musicians across the industry, most notably Sly and his Family Stone, Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, Booker T. & the M.G.’s and soul shouters like King Curtis, Edwin Starr, Temptations David Ruffin, and Dennis Edwards. A then-prepubescent Michael Jackson took Brown’s shouts and dancing into the pop mainstream as the lead singer of Motown‘s The Jackson 5. Those same tracks were later resurrected by countless hip-hop musicians from the 1970s onward. As a result, James Brown remains to this day the world’s most sampled recording artist, with “Funky Drummer” itself becoming the most sampled individual piece of music.
Brown’s band during this period employed musicians and arrangers who had come up through the jazz tradition. He was noted for his ability as a bandleader and songwriter to blend the simplicity and drive of R&B with the rhythmic complexity and precision of jazz. Trumpeter Lewis Hamlin and saxophonist/keyboardist Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis (the successor to previous bandleader Nat Jones) led the band. Guitarist Jimmy Nolen provided percussive, deceptively simple riffs for each song, and Maceo Parker‘s prominent saxophone solos provided a focal point for many performances. Other members of Brown’s band included stalwart singer and sideman Bobby Byrd, drummers John “Jabo” Starks, Clyde Stubblefield and Melvin Parker (Maceo’s brother), saxophonist St. Clair Pinckney, trombonist Fred Wesley, guitarist Alphonso “Country” Kellum and bassist Bernard Odum.
During this period, Brown’s music empire also expanded along with his influence on the music scene. As Brown’s music empire grew, his desire for financial and artistic independence grew as well. Brown bought radio stations during the late 1960s, including radio station WRDW in Augusta, Georgia where he shined shoes as a boy. Brown also branched out to make several recordings with musicians outside his own band. He recorded Gettin’ Down To It (1969) and Soul on Top (1970), two albums consisting mostly of romantic ballads and jazz standards, with the Dee Felice Trio and the Louie Bellson Orchestra respectively. He recorded a number of tracks with the Dapps, a white Cincinnati bar band, including the hit “I Can’t Stand Myself (When You Touch Me)”. He also released three albums of Christmas music with his own band.
1970s and the J.B.’s
Brown after a concert in Tampa on Jan. 29, 1972
By 1970, most members of James Brown’s classic 1960s band had quit his act for other opportunities, and The Famous Flames singing group had disbanded, with original member Bobby Byrd the only one remaining with Brown. Brown and Byrd employed a new band that included future funk greats, such as bassist Bootsy Collins, Collins’ guitarist brother Phelps “Catfish” Collins and trombonist and musical director Fred Wesley. This new backing band was dubbed “The J.B.’s“, and the band made its debut on Brown’s 1970 single “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine“. Although The J.B.’s went through several lineup changes, with the first change occurring in 1971, the band remained Brown’s most familiar backing band.
In 1971, Brown began recording for Polydor Records which also took over distribution of Brown’s King Records catalog. Many of his sidemen and supporting players, such as Fred Wesley & The J.B.’s, Bobby Byrd, Lyn Collins, Vicki Anderson and Hank Ballard, released records on the People label, an imprint founded by Brown that was purchased by Polydor as part of Brown’s new contract. The recordings on the People label, almost all of which were produced by Brown himself, exemplified his “house style”. Songs such as “I Know You Got Soul” by Bobby Byrd, “Think (About It)” by Lyn Collins and “Doing It to Death” by Fred Wesley & The J.B.’s are considered as much a part of Brown’s recorded legacy as the recordings released under his own name.
In 1972, James Brown, when asked, openly proclaimed his support of Richard Nixon against the Democrat, George McGovern, and a nationwide boycott called by Black Democratic leaders damaged his status as the most successful Black entrepreneur in the country. Still, his popularity buoyed up his financial fortunes after a brief downturn, and he went on with his career, undaunted.
In 1973, Brown provided the score for the blaxploitation film Black Caesar. In 1974, he toured Africa and performed in Zaire as part of the buildup to The Rumble in the Jungle fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Admirers of Brown’s music, including Miles Davis and other jazz musicians, began to cite Brown as a major influence on their own styles. However, Brown, like others who were influenced by his music, also “borrowed” from other musicians. His 1976 single “Hot (I Need To Be Loved, Loved, Loved, Loved)” (R&B #31) used the main riff from “Fame” by David Bowie, not the other way around as was often believed. The riff was provided to “Fame” co-writers John Lennon and Bowie by guitarist Carlos Alomar, who had briefly been a member of Brown’s band in the late 1960s.
Brown’s Polydor recordings during the 1970s exemplified his innovations from the previous 20 years. Compositions such as “The Payback” (1973), “Papa Don’t Take No Mess“, “Stoned to the Bone”, and “Funky President (People It’s Bad)” (1974), and “Get Up Offa That Thing” (1976) were among his most noted recordings during this time.
Late 1970s and 1980s
James Brown performing in 1973 in Hamburg
By the mid-1970s, Brown’s star-status was on the wane, and key musicians in his band such as Fred Wesley and Bootsy left to join Parliament-Funkadelic, the collective conducted by George Clinton. The onslaught of the slickly commercial style of disco caught Brown off guard, as it superseded his raw style of funk music on the dance floor. His 1976 albums Get Up Offa That Thing and Bodyheat were Brown’s first flirtations with disco rhythms and its slicker production techniques. While the albums Mutha’s Nature (1977) and Jam 1980s (1978) did not generate chart hits, Brown’s 1979 LP The Original Disco Man was a notable late addition to his oeuvre. This album featured the song “It’s Too Funky in Here”, which was his last top R&B hit of the decade. Like the rest of the songs on The Original Disco Man, “It’s Too Funky in Here” was not produced by Brown himself, but produced instead by Brad Shapiro.
Brown’s contract with Polydor expired in 1981, and his recording and touring schedule was somewhat reduced. Despite these events, Brown experienced something of a resurgence during the 1980s, effectively crossing over to a broader, more mainstream audience. He appeared in the feature films The Blues Brothers, Doctor Detroit and Rocky IV, as well as guest starring in the Miami Vice episode “Missing Hours” (1988). He also recorded Gravity, a modestly popular crossover album released on his new host label Scotti Bros., and the 1986 top 10 hit single “Living in America” (written by Dan Hartman), which was featured prominently in the Rocky IV film and soundtrack. Brown performed the song in the film at Apollo Creed’s final fight, shot in the Ziegfeld Room at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and was credited as “The Godfather of Soul.” In 1987, Brown won the Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for “Living in America.” Acknowledging his influence on modern hip-hop and R&B music, Brown collaborated with hip-hop artist Afrika Bambaataa on the single “Unity.”
In 1988, Brown worked with the production team Full Force on the hip-hop influenced album I’m Real, which spawned a #5 R&B hit single, “Static”. Meanwhile, the drum break from the second version of the original 1969 hit “Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose” (the recording included on the compilation album In the Jungle Groove) became so popular at hip hop dance parties (especially for breakdance) during the late 1970s and early 1980s that hip hop founding father Kurtis Blow called the song “the national anthem of hip hop”.
1990s to the 2000s
After a stint in prison during the late 1980s, Brown released the album Love Overdue, with the new single “Move On”. Brown also released the 1991 four-CD box set Star Time, which included music spanning his four-decade career at that time. Nearly all of his earlier LPs were re-released on CD, often with additional tracks and commentary by experts on Brown’s music. In 1991, Brown appeared in MC Hammer‘s video “Too Legit to Quit” (or “2 Legit 2 Quit”), someone Hammer idolized. In 1993, James Brown released the album Universal James, which spawned the singles “Can’t Get Any Harder”, “How Long” and “Georgia-Lina”. In 1995, the live album Live at the Apollo 1995 was released, featuring the new studio track “Respect Me”, which was released as a single that same year. Brown followed up this single with the megamix “Hooked on Brown” that was released as a single in 1996. Brown’s later LP releases during this time included the 1998 studio album I’m Back that featured the single “Funk on ah Roll”, and the 2002 album The Next Step that featured the single “Killing is Out, School is In“, both produced and co-written by Derrick Monk. Brown participated in the PBS American Masters television documentary James Brown: Soul Survivor, which was directed by Jeremy Marre.
Although Brown had various run-ins with the law, he continued to perform and record regularly, and he also made appearances in television shows and films, such as Blues Brothers 2000, and sporting events, such as his 2000 appearance at the World Championship Wrestling pay-per-view event SuperBrawl X. In Brown’s appearance at the SuperBrawl X event, he danced alongside wrestler Ernest “The Cat” Miller, whose character was based on Brown, during his in ring skit with The Maestro. Brown was featured in Tony Scott‘s 2001 short film, Beat the Devil, alongside Clive Owen, Gary Oldman, Danny Trejo and Marilyn Manson. Brown also made a cameo appearance in the 2002 Jackie Chan film The Tuxedo, in which Chan was required to finish Brown’s act after Brown was accidentally knocked out by Chan. In 2002, Brown appeared in Undercover Brother, playing the role as himself.
Brown appeared at Edinburgh 50,000 – The Final Push, the final Live 8 concert on July 6, 2005, where he performed a duet with British pop star Will Young on “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag”. He also performed a duet with another British pop star, Joss Stone, a week earlier on the United Kingdom chat show Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. Before his death, Brown was scheduled to perform a duet with singer Annie Lennox on the song “Vengeance” for her new album Venus, scheduled for release in early 2007. In 2006, Brown continued his “Seven Decades Of Funk World Tour”, his last concert tour where he performed all over the world. His final U.S. performance was in San Francisco on August 20, 2006, as headliner at the Festival of the Golden Gate (Foggfest) on the Great Meadow at Fort Mason. His last shows were greeted with positive reviews, and one of his final concert appearances at the Irish Oxegen festival in Punchestown in 2006 was performed for a record crowd of 80,000 people. Brown’s last televised appearance was at his induction into the UK Music Hall of Fame in November 2006, before his death the following month.
James Brown Revue
For many years, Brown’s touring show was one of the most extravagant productions in American popular music. At the time of Brown’s death, his band included three guitarists, two bass guitar players, two drummers, three horns and a percussionist. The bands that he maintained during the late 1960s and 1970s were of comparable size, and the bands also included a three-piece amplified string section that played during ballads. Brown employed between 40 and 50 people for the James Brown Revue, and members of the revue traveled with him in a bus to cities and towns all over the country, performing upwards of 330 shows a year with almost all of the shows as one-nighters.
Before James Brown appeared on stage, his personal MC gave him an elaborate introduction accompanied by drumrolls, as the MC worked in Brown’s various sobriquets along with the names of many of his hit songs. The introduction by Fats Gonder, captured on Brown’s 1962 album Live at the Apollo album, is a representative example:
|So now ladies and gentlemen it is star time, are you ready for star time? Thank you and thank you very kindly. It is indeed a great pleasure to present to you at this particular time, national and international[ly] known as the hardest working man in show business, the man that sings “I’ll Go Crazy” … “Try Me” … “You’ve Got the Power” … “Think” … “If You Want Me” … “I Don’t Mind” … “Bewildered” …the million dollar seller, “Lost Someone” … the very latest release, “Night Train” … let’s everybody “Shout and Shimmy” … Mr. Dynamite, the amazing Mr. Please Please himself, the star of the show, James Brown and The Famous Flames!!
Among the MCs who worked with Brown and his revue through the years, Brown’s most famous MC was Danny Ray, who appeared on stage with him for over 30 years.
Concert repertoire and format
Brown and MC Danny Ray during cape routine, BBC Electric Proms ’06 concert
James Brown’s performances were famous for their intensity and length. His own stated goal was to “give people more than what they came for — make them tired, ’cause that’s what they came for.’” Brown’s concert repertoire consisted mostly of his own hits and recent songs, with a few R&B covers mixed in. Brown danced vigorously as he sang, working popular dance steps such as the Mashed Potato into his routine along with dramatic leaps, splits and slides. In addition, his horn players and backup singers (The Famous Flames) typically performed choreographed dance routines, and later incarnations of the Revue included backup dancers. Male performers in the Revue were required to wear tuxedoes and cummerbunds long after more casual concert wear became the norm among the younger musical acts. Brown’s own extravagant outfits and his elaborate processed hairdo completed the visual impression.
A James Brown concert typically included a performance by a featured vocalist, such as Vicki Anderson or Marva Whitney, and an instrumental feature for the band, which sometimes served as the opening act for the show. Although Brown released many live albums, Say It Live & Loud: Live in Dallas 08.26.68, released by Polydor in 1998, was one of only a few audio recordings that captured a performance of the James Brown Revue from beginning to end.
A trademark feature of Brown’s stage shows, usually during the song “Please, Please, Please”, involved Brown dropping to his knees while clutching the microphone stand in his hands, prompting the show’s longtime MC, Danny Ray, to come out, drape a cape over Brown’s shoulders and escort him off the stage after he had worked himself to exhaustion during his performance. As Brown was escorted off the stage by the MC, Brown’s vocal group, The Famous Flames, continued singing the background vocals “Please, please don’t go-oh-oh”. Brown would then shake off the cape and stagger back to the microphone to perform an encore. Brown’s routine was inspired by a similar one used by the professional wrestler Gorgeous George.
Brown performs a version of the cape routine over the closing credits of the film Blues Brothers 2000.
As band leader
Brown demanded extreme discipline, perfection and precision from his musicians and dancers — right down to when performers in his Revue showed up for rehearsals all the way to whether members wore the right “uniform” or “costume” for concert performances. During an interview conducted by Terri Gross during the NPR segment “Fresh Air” with Maceo Parker, a former saxophonist in Brown’s band for most of the 1960s and part of the 1970s and 1980s, Parker offered his experience with the discipline that Brown demanded of the band:
You gotta be on time. You gotta have your uniform. Your stuff’s got to be intact. You gotta have the bow tie. You got to have it. You can’t come up without the bow tie. You cannot come up without a cummerbund … [The] patent leather shoes we were wearing at the time gotta be greased. You just gotta have this stuff. This is what [Brown expected] … [Brown] bought the costumes. He bought the shoes. And if for some reason [the band member decided] to leave the group, [Brown told the person to] please leave my uniforms ….
Brown also had a practice of directing, correcting and assessing fines on members of his band who broke his rules, such as wearing unshined shoes, dancing out of sync or showing up late on stage. During some of his concert performances, Brown danced in front of his band with his back to the audience as he slid across the floor, flashing hand signals and splaying his pulsating fingers to the beat of the music. Although audiences thought Brown’s dance routine was part of his act, this practice was actually his way of pointing to the offending member of his troupe who played or sang the wrong note or committed some other infraction. Brown used his splayed fingers and hand signals to alert the offending person of the fine that person must pay to him for breaking his rules.
Civil unrest and self-empowerment
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, James Brown was renowned for his social activism. In 1966, he released the single “Don’t Be a Drop-Out” as a lesson to young students who had thoughts of dropping out. He later made public speeches in front of dozens of children and advocated the importance of education in school. In 1967, he issued a patriotic single, “America is My Home”, which was a “rap” about how he felt people, particularly in the African-American community, were neglecting the country that he said “could give (them) opportunities” explaining how at one time he was shining shoes and the next, he was greeting the President of the United States as he did when President Lyndon B. Johnson thanked him for donating money to school drop-out prevention programs.
In 1968 after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Brown released “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud“ following pressure from fans to take a stance on the civil rights movement, an issue he had avoided up until this point. It became an anthem of the civil rights movement. Brown later said of it in his 1986 autobiography “The song is obsolete now… But it was necessary to teach pride then, and I think the song did a lot of good for a lot of people… People called “Black and Proud” militant and angry – maybe because of the line about dying on your feet instead of living on your knees. But really, if you listen to it, it sounds like a children’s song. That’s why I had children in it, so children who heard it could grow up feeling pride… The song cost me a lot of my crossover audience. The racial makeup at my concerts was mostly black after that. I don’t regret it, though, even if it was misunderstood.”
He performed in front of a televised audience in Boston the day after Dr. King’s death. Brown is often given credit for preventing rioting with the performance. Mayor Kevin White strongly restrained the Boston Police from cracking down on minor violence and protests after the assassination, and Boston religious and community leaders worked to keep tempers from flaring. Also, White arranged to have the Brown performance broadcast multiple times on Boston’s public television station, WGBH, thus keeping many potential rioters off the streets, watching the concert for free. Brown demanded $60,000 for “gate” fees (money he thought would be lost from ticket sales on account of the concert being broadcast for free), and then threatened to go public about the secret arrangement when the city balked at paying up after the concert, news of which would have been a political death-blow to White, and possibly sparked riots on its own. White successfully lobbied the behind-the-scenes power-brokering group known as “The Vault” to come up with money for Brown’s gate fee and other social programs; The Vault contributed $100,000 to such programs, and Brown received $15,000 from them via the city. White persuaded management at the Boston Garden to give up their share of receipts to make up the difference. The story is documented in the PBS film “The Night James Brown Saved Boston”.
Afterwards, President Johnson urged Brown to visit Washington, D.C. to greet inner-city residents there performing at a benefit concert there and expressed the notion that violence “wasn’t the way to go”. Many in the black community felt that Brown was speaking out to them more than some major leaders in the country, a sentiment that was strengthened with the release of his groundbreaking landmark single, “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud“.
Brown continued performing benefit concerts for various civil rights organizations including Jesse Jackson‘s PUSH and The Black Panther Party‘s Breakfast program throughout the early-1970s. Brown also continued to release socially conscious singles such as “I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door, I’ll Get It Myself)” (1969), “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved” (1971), “Talking Loud and Saying Nothing” (1972), “King Heroin” (1972), “Funky President (People It’s Bad)” (1974) and “Reality” (1975). The week before his death, Brown took time to give Christmas presents to an orphanage in Atlanta.
At the end of his life, James Brown lived in a riverfront home in Beech Island, South Carolina, directly across the Savannah River from Augusta, Georgia. James Brown was diagnosed with diabetes at a very early stage of his life. Brown was once diagnosed with prostate cancer, which was successfully treated with surgery. Regardless of his health, Brown maintained his reputation as the “hardest working man in show business” by keeping up with his grueling performance schedule. However, James Brown led as colorful a life on stage with his performances, as he had off stage with his troubles with the law and his last marriage in particular.
Marriages and children
Brown was married three times — Velma Warren (1953–1969, divorced), Deidre “Deedee” Jenkins (22 October 1970–10 January 1981, divorced) and Adrienne Lois Rodriguez (born 9 March 1950) (1984–1996, wife’s death). He also had a relationship with Tomi Rae Hynie (2001–2004). From these and other relationships, James Brown had five sons — Teddy Brown (1954–1973), Terry Brown, and Larry Brown, Daryl Brown (a member of Brown’s backing band) and James Joseph Brown II, in addition to four daughters — Lisa Brown, Dr. Yamma Noyola Brown Lumar, Deanna Brown Thomas and Venisha Brown. Brown also had eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Brown’s eldest son, Teddy, died in a car crash on 14 June 1973. According to a 22 August 2007 article published in the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, DNA tests indicate that Brown also fathered at least three illegitimate children. The only one of them who has been identified is LaRhonda Pettit (born 1962), a retired air stewardess and teacher who lives in Houston.
Brown-Hynie marriage controversy
Much controversy surrounds Tomi Rae Hynie’s marriage to James Brown on December 23, 2002, officiated by Rev. Larry Fryer. Brown’s longtime attorney, Albert “Buddy” Dallas, reported that the marriage between Brown and Hynie was not valid because Hynie was married at that time to Javed Ahmed, a Bangladeshi whom Hynie claimed married her for a Green Card in an immigration fraud. Although Hynie stated that her marriage to Javed Ahmed was later annulled, this annulment did not occur until April 2004. In an interview on CNN with Larry King, Hynie produced a 2001 marriage certificate as proof of her marriage to James Brown, but she did not provide King with court records pointing to an annulment of her marriage to him or to Ahmed.
According to Dallas, Brown was angry and hurt that Hynie concealed her prior marriage from him, and that Brown moved to file for annulment from Hynie. Dallas added that, although Hynie’s marriage to Javed Ahmed was annulled after she married James Brown, the Brown-Hynie marriage was not valid under South Carolina law because Brown and Hynie did not remarry after the annulment. In August 2003, Brown took out a full-page public notice in Variety Magazine featuring Hynie, James II and himself on vacation at Disney World to announce that he and Hynie were going their separate ways.
Paternity of James Brown II
In a separate CNN interview, Debra Opri, another Brown family attorney, revealed to Larry King that Brown wanted a DNA test performed after his death to confirm the paternity of James Brown II — not for Brown’s sake, but for the sake of the other family members. In April 2007, Hynie selected a guardian ad litem whom she wants appointed by the court to represent her son, James Brown II, in the paternity proceedings.
Brown’s personal life was marred by several brushes with the law:
At the age of 16, he was arrested for theft and served 3 years in prison.
In 1988, Brown was arrested following an alleged high-speed car chase on Interstate 20 along the Georgia-South Carolina state border. He was convicted of carrying an unlicensed pistol and assaulting a police officer, along with various drug-related and driving offenses. Although he was sentenced to six years in prison, he was eventually released in 1991 after serving only three years of his sentence. Brown’s FBI file, released to The Washington Post in 2007 under the Freedom of Information Act, related Brown’s claim that the high-speed chase did not occur as claimed by the police, and that local police shot at his car several times during an incident of police harassment and assaulted him after his arrest. Local authorities found no merit to Brown’s accusations.
In another incident, the police were summoned to Brown’s residence on July 3, 2000 after he was accused of charging an electric company repairman with a steak knife when the repairman visited Brown’s house to investigate a complaint about having no lights at the residence.
In 2003, Brown was pardoned by the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services for past crimes that he was convicted of committing in South Carolina.
During the 1990s and 2000s (decade), Brown was repeatedly arrested for domestic violence:
Adrienne Rodriguez, his third wife, had him arrested four times between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s on charges of assault.
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 US$1,087 bond as punishment.
In January 2005, a woman named Jacque Hollander filed a lawsuit against James Brown, which stemmed from an alleged 1988 forcible rape. When the case was initially heard before a judge in 2002, Hollander’s claims against Brown were dismissed by the court as the limitations period for filing the suit had expired. Hollander claimed that stress from the alleged assault later caused her to contract Graves’ Disease, a thyroid condition. Hollander claimed that the incident took place in South Carolina while she was employed by Brown as a publicist. Hollander alleged that, during her ride in a van with Brown, Brown pulled over to the side of the road and sexually assaulted her while he threatened her with a shotgun. In her case against Brown, Hollander entered as evidence a DNA sample and a polygraph result, but the evidence was not considered due to the limitations defense. Hollander later attempted to bring her case before the Supreme Court but nothing became of her complaint.
Death and aftermath
James Brown memorial in Augusta, Georgia
On December 23, 2006, James Brown, in ill health, showed up at his dentist’s office in Atlanta, Georgia several hours later than his appointment for dental implant work. During that visit, Brown’s dentist observed that Brown looked “very bad … weak and dazed.” Instead of performing the dental work, the dentist advised Brown to see a doctor right away about his medical condition.
Brown checked in at the Emory Crawford Long Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia on December 24, 2006 for a medical evaluation of his condition, and he was admitted to the hospital for observation and treatment. According to Charles Bobbit, Brown’s longtime personal manager and friend, Brown had been sick and suffering with a noisy cough since he returned from a November trip to Europe. Bobbit also added that it was characteristic of Brown to never tell or complain to anyone that he was sick, and that Brown frequently performed during illness. Although Brown had to cancel upcoming shows in Waterbury, Connecticut and Englewood, New Jersey, Brown was confident that the doctor would discharge him from the hospital in time to perform the New Year’s Eve shows.
For the New Year’s celebrations, Brown was scheduled to perform at the Count Basie Theatre in New Jersey and at the B. B. King Blues Club in New York, in addition to performing a song live on CNN for the Anderson Cooper New Year’s Eve special. However, Brown remained hospitalized, and his medical condition worsened throughout that day.
On December 25, 2006, Brown died at approximately 1:45 AM EST (06:45 UTC) from congestive heart failure resulting from complications of pneumonia, with his agent Frank Copsidas and his friend Paul Sargent at his bedside. According to Sargent, Brown stuttered “I’m going away tonight”, and then Brown took three long, quiet breaths and fell asleep before dying.
Public memorial for Brown at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, 2006
After Brown’s death on Christmas day, Brown’s relatives and friends, a host of 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 Michael Jackson, Jimmy Cliff, Joe Frazier, Buddy Guy, Ice Cube, Ludacris, Dr. Dre, Little Richard, Dick Gregory, MC Hammer, Prince, Jesse Jackson, Ice-T, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bootsy Collins, LL Cool J, Lil Wayne, Lenny Kravitz, 50 Cent, Stevie Wonder, and Don King, among others. All of the public and private memorial services were officiated by Rev. Al Sharpton.
Brown’s public and private memorial ceremonies were elaborate, complete with costume changes for Brown and videos featuring him in concert performances. Brown’s body, which was placed in a Promethean casket, which is bronze polished to a golden shine, was driven through the streets of New York to the Apollo Theater in a white, glass-encased horse-drawn carriage. In Augusta, Georgia, the procession for Brown’s public memorial visited Brown’s statue as the procession made its way to the James Brown Arena. During the public memorial at the James Brown Arena, nachos and pretzels were served to mourners, as a video showed Brown’s last performance in Augusta, Georgia and the Ray Charles version of “Georgia On My Mind” played soulfully in the background. Brown’s last backup band, The Soul Generals, also played the music of Brown’s hits during the memorial service at the James Brown Arena. The group was joined by Bootsy Collins on bass, with MC Hammer performing a dance in James Brown style. Former Temptations lead singer Ali-Ollie Woodson performed “Walk Around Heaven All Day” at the memorial services.
Last will and testament
James Brown signed his last will and testament on August 1, 2000, before Strom Thurmond, Jr., an attorney for Brown’s estate. The irrevocable trust, separate and apart from Brown’s will, was created on Brown’s behalf in 2000 by his attorney, Albert “Buddy” Dallas, who was named as one of three personal representatives of Brown’s estate. Brown’s will covered the disposition of his personal assets, such as clothing, cars and jewelry, while Brown’s irrevocable trust covered the disposition of music rights, business assets of James Brown Enterprises and Brown’s Beech Island estate in South Carolina.
During the reading of Brown’s will on January 11, 2007, Thurmond revealed that Brown’s six adult living children (Terry Brown, Larry Brown, Daryl Brown, Yamma Brown Lumar, Deanna Brown Thomas and Venisha Brown) were named in the will. Hynie and James II were not mentioned in the will as parties who could inherit Brown’s property. Brown’s will was signed ten months before James II was born and more than a year before Brown’s marriage to Tomi Rae Hynie. Like Brown’s will, his irrevocable trust also did not mention Hynie and James II as recipients of Brown’s property. The irrevocable trust was established before, and had not been amended since, the birth of James II.
On January 24, 2007, Brown’s children filed a lawsuit against the personal representatives of Brown’s estate. In their petition, Brown’s children asked the court to remove the personal representatives of Brown’s estate (including Brown’s attorney and estate’s trustee, Albert “Buddy” Dallas) and appoint a special administrator because of perceived impropriety and alleged mismanagement of Brown’s assets. To challenge the validity of the will and irrevocable trust, Hynie also filed a lawsuit against Brown’s estate on January 31, 2007. In her lawsuit against Brown’s estate, Hynie asked the court to recognize her as Brown’s widow, and she also asked the court to appoint a special administrator for the estate.
Burial at temporary site
After the public and private memorial services in late December 2006, James Brown’s body remained in his casket for a time in a temperature-controlled room at his estate. Brown’s casket was later moved to an undisclosed location, while his children and Tomi Rae Hynie became embroiled in disputes about Brown’s final resting place and matters related to probating his will. More than ten weeks after Brown’s death and the public and private memorial services, Brown’s children and Hynie decided on a temporary burial site for James Brown. Brown was buried on March 10, 2007 in a crypt at the home of Deanna Brown Thomas, one of Brown’s daughters who also held a private ceremony for the temporary burial. The private ceremony for the temporary burial, officiated by Al Sharpton, was attended by Brown’s family and a host of friends.
According to Brown’s family, Brown’s body will remain buried at the temporary site while a public mausoleum is built for him and a decision has been made for Brown’s final resting place. To turn Brown’s estate into a visitor attraction, Brown’s family plans to consult with the family of Elvis Presley for guidance about converting the estate into an attraction similar to Graceland.
Dallas, Brown’s long time attorney and one of the trustees for Brown’s estate, did not attend the private service for the temporary burial. He expressed his disapproval and disappointment with the temporary burial arrangement with the comment “Mr. Brown’s not deserving of anyone’s backyard.” According to Dallas, the trustees for Brown’s estate “had made arrangements for Brown to be laid to rest at no cost at a ‘very prominent memorial garden in Augusta.’”
Charles Edward Anderson “Chuck” Berry (born October 18, 1926) is an American guitarist, singer and songwriter, and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. With songs such as “Maybellene” (1955), “Roll Over Beethoven” (1956), “Rock and Roll Music” (1957) and “Johnny B. Goode” (1958), Chuck Berry refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive, with lyrics focusing on teen life and consumerism and utilizing guitar solos and showmanship that would be a major influence on subsequent rock music.
Born into a middle class family in St. Louis, Missouri, Berry had an interest in music from an early age and gave his first public performance at Sumner High School. While still a high school student he served a prison sentence for armed robbery between 1944 and 1947. On his release, Berry settled into married life and worked at an automobile assembly plant. By early 1953, influenced by the guitar riffs and showmanship techniques of blues player T-Bone Walker, he was performing in the evenings with the Johnnie Johnson Trio. His break came when he traveled to Chicago in May 1955, and met Muddy Waters, who suggested he contact Leonard Chess of Chess Records. With Chess he recorded “Maybellene”—Berry’s adaptation of the country song “Ida Red“—which sold over a million copies, reaching #1 on Billboard’s Rhythm and Blues chart. By the end of the 1950s, Berry was an established star with several hit records and film appearances to his name as well as a lucrative touring career. He had also established his own St. Louis-based nightclub, called Berry’s Club Bandstand. But in January 1962, Berry was sentenced to three years in prison for offenses under the Mann Act—he had transported a 14-year-old girl across state lines.
After his release in 1963, Berry had several more hits, including “No Particular Place To Go“, “You Never Can Tell“, and “Nadine”, but these did not achieve the same success, or lasting impact, of his 1950s songs, and by the 1970s he was more in demand as a nostalgic live performer, playing his past hits with local backup bands of variable quality. His insistence on being paid cash led to a jail sentence in 1979—four months and community service for tax evasion.
Berry was among the first musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on its opening in 1986, with the comment that he “laid the groundwork for not only a rock and roll sound but a rock and roll stance.” Berry is included in several Rolling Stone “Greatest of All Time” lists, including being ranked fifth on their 2004 list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll included three of Chuck Berry’s songs: “Johnny B. Goode“, “Maybellene“, and “Rock and Roll Music“. Today – at the age of 85 – Berry continues to play live.
Early life and apprenticeship with Johnnie Johnson (1926–54)
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Berry was the fourth child in a family of six. He grew up in the north St. Louis neighborhood known as “The Ville,” an area where many middle class St. Louis people lived at the time. His father, Henry, was a contractor and deacon of a nearby Baptist church, his mother Martha a certified public school principal. His middle class upbringing allowed him to pursue his interest in music from an early age and he gave his first public performance in 1941 while still at Sumner High School. Just three years later, in 1944, while still at Sumner High School, he was arrested and convicted of armed robbery after robbing three shops in Kansas City and then stealing a car at gunpoint with some friends. Berry’s own account in his autobiography is that his car broke down and he then flagged down a passing car and stole it at gunpoint with a non-functional pistol. Berry was sent to the Intermediate Reformatory for Young Men at Algoa, near Jefferson City, Missouri, where he formed a singing quartet and did some boxing.
After his release from prison on his 21st birthday in 1947, Berry married Themetta “Toddy” Suggs on 28 October 1948, who gave birth to Darlin Ingrid Berry on 3 October 1950. Berry supported his family doing a number of jobs in St. Louis: working briefly as a factory worker at two automobile assembly plants, as well as being janitor for the apartment building where he and his wife lived. Afterwards he trained as a beautician at the Poro College of Cosmetology, founded by Annie Turnbo Malone. He was doing well enough by 1950 to buy a “small three room brick cottage with a bath” in Whittier Street, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
By the early 1950s, Berry was working with local bands in the clubs of St. Louis as an extra source of income. He had been playing the blues since his teens, and he borrowed both guitar riffs and showmanship techniques from blues player T-Bone Walker, as well as taking guitar lessons from his friend Ira Harris that laid the foundation for his guitar style. By early 1953 Berry was performing with Johnnie Johnson‘s trio, starting a long-time collaboration with the pianist. Although the band played mostly blues and ballads, the most popular music among whites in the area was country. Berry wrote, “Curiosity provoked me to lay a lot of our country stuff on our predominantly black audience and some of our black audience began whispering ‘who is that black hillbilly at the Cosmo?’ After they laughed at me a few times they began requesting the hillbilly stuff and enjoyed dancing to it.”
Berry’s calculated showmanship, along with mixing country tunes with R&B tunes, and singing in the style of Nat “King” Cole to the music of Muddy Waters, brought in a wider audience, particularly affluent white people.
Signing with Chess: “Maybellene” to “Come On” (1955–62)
In May 1955, Berry traveled to Chicago where he met Waters, who suggested he contact Leonard Chess of Chess Records. Berry thought his blues material would be of most interest to Chess, but to his surprise it was an old country and western recording by Bob Wills, entitled “Ida Red” that got Chess’s attention. Chess had seen the rhythm and blues market shrink and was looking to move beyond it, and he thought Berry might be the artist for that purpose. So on May 21, 1955 Berry recorded an adaptation of “Ida Red”—”Maybellene“—which featured Johnnie Johnson on piano, Jerome Green (from Bo Diddley‘s band) on the maracas, Jasper Thomas on the drums and Willie Dixon on the bass. “Maybellene” sold over a million copies, reaching #1 on Billboard’s Rhythm and Blues chart and #5 on the 10 September 1955 Billboard Best Sellers in Stores chart.
At the end of June 1956, his song “Roll Over Beethoven” reached #29 on the Billboard Top 100 chart, and Berry toured as one of the “Top Acts of ’56″. He and Carl Perkins became friends. Perkins said that “I knew when I first heard Chuck that he’d been affected by country music. I respected his writing; his records were very, very great.” As they toured, Perkins discovered that Berry not only liked country music, but knew about as many songs as he did. Jimmie Rodgers was one of his favorites. “Chuck knew every Blue Yodel and most of Bill Monroe‘s songs as well,” Perkins remembered. “He told me about how he was raised very poor, very tough. He had a hard life. He was a good guy. I really liked him.”
Berry in The Casino Deauville, France, 13 July 1987
In late 1957, Berry took part in Alan Freed‘s “Biggest Show of Stars for 1957″ United States tour with the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, and others. He also guest starred on ABC‘s The Guy Mitchell Show, having sung his hit song “Rock ‘n’ Roll Music”. The hits continued from 1957 to 1959, with Berry scoring over a dozen chart singles during this period, including the top 10 US hits “School Days“, “Rock and Roll Music“, “Sweet Little Sixteen“, and “Johnny B. Goode“. He appeared in two early rock and roll movies. The first was Rock Rock Rock, released in 1956. He is shown singing “You Can’t Catch Me.” He had a speaking role as himself in the 1959 film Go, Johnny, Go! along with Alan Freed, and was also shown performing his songs “Johnny B. Goode,” “Memphis, Tennessee,” and “Little Queenie.” His performance of “Sweet Little Sixteen” at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958 is captured in the motion picture Jazz on a Summer’s Day.
By the end of the 1950s, Berry was an established star with several hit records and film appearances to his name, as well as a lucrative touring career. He had established a racially integrated St. Louis-based nightclub, called Berry’s Club Bandstand, and was investing in real estate. But in December 1959, Berry was arrested under the Mann Act after an allegation that he had sex with a 14-year-old Apache waitress whom he had transported over state lines to work as a hat check girl at his club. After an initial two-week trial in March 1960, Berry was convicted, fined $5,000, and sentenced to five years in prison. Berry’s appeal that the judge’s comments and attitude were racist and prejudiced the jury against him was upheld, and a second trial was heard in May and June 1961, which resulted in Berry being given a three-year prison sentence. After another appeal failed, Berry served one and one half years in prison from February 1962 to October 1963. Berry had continued recording and performing during the trials, though his output had slowed down as his popularity declined; his final single released before being imprisoned was “Come On“.
“Nadine” and move to Mercury (1963–69)
When Berry was released from prison in 1963, he was able to return to recording and performing due to the British invasion acts of the 1960s—most notably The Beatles and The Rolling Stones—having kept up an interest in his music by releasing cover versions of his songs; along with other bands reworking his songs, such as the Beach Boys basing their 1963 hit “Surfin’ USA” on Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen“. In 1964–65 Berry released eight singles, including three, “No Particular Place to Go” (a reworking of “School Day”), “You Never Can Tell“, and “Nadine,” which achieved commercial success, reaching the top 20 of the Billboard 100. Between 1966 and 1969 Berry released five albums on the Mercury label, including his first live album Live at Fillmore Auditorium in which he was backed by the Steve Miller Band.
While this was not a successful period for studio work, Berry was still a top concert draw. In May 1964, he did a successful tour of the UK, though when he returned in January 1965 his behavior was erratic and moody, and his touring style of using unrehearsed local backing bands and a strict non-negotiable contract was earning him a reputation as a difficult yet unexciting performer. He also played at large events in North America, such as the Schaefer Music Festival in New York City’s Central Park in July 1969, and the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival festival in October.
Back to Chess: “My Ding-a-Ling” to White House concert (1970–79)
Berry helped give life to a subculture… Even “My Ding-a-Ling”, a fourth-grade wee-wee joke that used to mortify true believers at college concerts, permitted a lot of twelve-year-olds new insight into the moribund concept of “dirty” when it hit the airwaves…
Berry returned to Chess from 1970 to 1973. There were no hit singles from the 1970 album Back Home, then in 1972 Chess released a live recording of “My Ding-a-Ling“, a novelty song which Berry had recorded in a different version on his 1968 LP From St. Louie to Frisco as “My Tambourine”. The track became Berry’s only No. 1 single. A live recording of “Reelin’ And Rockin’” was also issued as a follow-up single that same year and would prove to be Berry’s final top-40 hit in both the US and the UK. Both singles were featured on the part-live/part-studio album The London Chuck Berry Sessions which was one of a series of London Sessions albums which included other Chess mainstay artists Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. Berry’s second tenure with Chess ended with the 1975 album Chuck Berry, after which he did not make a studio record until 1979′s Rock It for Atco Records, his last studio album to date.
In the 1970s Berry toured on the basis of his earlier successes. He was on the road for many years, carrying only his Gibson guitar, confident that he could hire a band that already knew his music no matter where he went. Allmusic has said that in this period his “live performances became increasingly erratic, [...] working with terrible backup bands and turning in sloppy, out-of-tune performances” which “tarnished his reputation with younger fans and oldtimers” alike. Among the many bandleaders performing a backup role with Chuck Berry were Bruce Springsteen and Steve Miller when each was just starting his career. Springsteen related in the video Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll that Berry did not even give the band a set list and just expected the musicians to follow his lead after each guitar intro. Berry neither spoke to nor thanked the band after the show. Nevertheless, Springsteen backed Berry again when he appeared at the concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. At the request of Jimmy Carter, Chuck Berry performed at the White House on June 1, 1979.
Berry’s type of touring style, traveling the “oldies” circuit in the 1970s (where he was often paid in cash by local promoters) added ammunition to the Internal Revenue Service‘s accusations that Berry was a chronic income tax evader. Facing criminal sanction for the third time, Berry pleaded guilty to tax evasion and was sentenced to four months in prison and 1,000 hours of community service—doing benefit concerts—in 1979.
Still on the road (1980–present)
Berry performing live in 1997
Berry continued to play 70 to 100 one-nighters per year in the 1980s, still traveling solo and requiring a local band to back him at each stop. In 1986, Taylor Hackford made a documentary film, Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll, of a celebration concert for Berry’s sixtieth birthday, organised by Keith Richards, in which Berry reveals his bitterness at the fame and financial success that Richards achieved on the back of Berry’s songs. Eric Clapton, Etta James, Julian Lennon, Robert Cray and Linda Ronstadt, among others, appeared with Berry on stage and film. During the concert, Berry played a Gibson ES-355, the luxury version of the ES-335 that he favored on his 1970s tours. Richards played a black Fender Telecaster Custom, Cray a Fender Stratocaster and Clapton a Gibson ES 350T, the same guitar Berry used on his early recordings.
In the late 1980s, Berry bought a restaurant in Wentzville, Missouri, called The Southern Air, and in 1990 he was sued by several women who claimed that he had installed a video camera in the ladies’ bathroom. Berry claimed that he had the camera installed to catch red-handed a worker who was suspected of stealing from the restaurant. Though his guilt was never proven in court, Berry opted for a class action settlement with 59 women. Berry’s biographer, Bruce Pegg, estimated that it cost Berry over $1.2 million plus legal fees. It was during this time that he began using Wayne T. Schoeneberg as his legal counsel. Reportedly, a police raid on his house did find videotapes of women using the restroom, and one of the women was a minor. Also found in the raid were 62 grams of marijuana. Felony drug and child-abuse charges were filed. In order to avoid the child-abuse charges, Berry agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor possession of marijuana. He was given a six-month suspended jail sentence, two years’ unsupervised probation, and ordered to donate $5,000 to a local hospital.
In November 2000, Berry again faced legal charges when he was sued by his former pianist Johnnie Johnson, who claimed that he co-wrote over 50 songs, including “No Particular Place to Go”, “Sweet Little Sixteen” and “Roll Over Beethoven”, that credit Berry alone. The case was dismissed when the judge ruled that too much time had passed since the songs were written.
Currently, Berry usually performs one Wednesday each month at Blueberry Hill, a restaurant and bar located in the Delmar Loop neighborhood in St. Louis. In 2008, Berry toured Europe, with stops in Sweden, Norway, Finland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland, Poland, and Spain. In mid-2008, he played at Virgin Festival in Baltimore, MD. He presently lives in Ladue, Missouri, approximately 10 miles west of St. Louis. During a New Year’s Day 2011 concert in Chicago, Berry, suffering from exhaustion, passed out and had to be helped off stage.
While no individual can be said to have invented rock and roll, Chuck Berry comes the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together. It was his particular genius to graft country & western guitar licks onto a rhythm & blues chassis in his very first single, “Maybellene.”
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
A pioneer of rock music, Berry was a significant influence on the development of both the music and the attitude associated with the rock music lifestyle. With songs such as “Maybellene” (1955), “Roll Over Beethoven” (1956), “Rock and Roll Music” (1957) and “Johnny B. Goode” (1958), Chuck Berry refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive, with lyrics successfully aimed to appeal to the early teenage market by using graphic and humorous descriptions of teen dances, fast cars, high-school life, and consumer culture, and utilizing guitar solos and showmanship that would be a major influence on subsequent rock music. His records are a rich storehouse of the essential lyrical, showmanship and musical components of rock and roll; and, in addition to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, a large number of significant popular-music performers have recorded Berry’s songs. Though not technically accomplished, his guitar style is distinctive – he incorporated electronic effects to mimic the sound of bottleneck blues guitarists, and drew on the influence of guitar players such as Charlie Christian, and T-Bone Walker, to produce a clear and exciting sound that many later guitar musicians would acknowledge as a major influence in their own style. In the film Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll! Eric Clapton states ‘If you wanna play rock and roll – or any upbeat number – and you wanted to take a guitar ride you would end up playing like Chuck…because there is very little other choice. There’s not a lot of other ways to play rock and roll other than the way Chuck plays it; he’s really laid the law down…” In 1992 Keith Richards told Best of Guitar Player “Chuck was my man. He was the one who made me say ‘I want to play guitar, Jesus Christ!’…Suddenly I knew what I wanted to do.” Berry’s showmanship has been influential on other rock guitar players, particularly his one-legged hop routine, and the “duck walk”, which he first used as a child when he walked “stooping with full-bended knees, but with my back and head vertical” under a table to retrieve a ball and his family found it entertaining; he used it when “performing in New York for the first time and some journalist branded it the duck walk.”
The rock critic Robert Christgau considers him “the greatest of the rock and rollers,” while John Lennon said that “if you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’.” Ted Nugent said “If you don’t know every Chuck Berry lick, you can’t play rock guitar.” Among the honors he has received, have been the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984, the Kennedy Center Honors in 2000, and being named seventh on Time magazine’s 2009 list of the 10 best electric guitar players of all-time. On May 14, 2002, Chuck Berry was honored as one of the first BMI Icons at the 50th annual BMI Pop Awards. He was presented the award along with BMI affiliates Bo Diddley and Little Richard.
Berry is included in several Rolling Stone “Greatest of All Time” lists. In September 2003, the magazine named him number 6 in their list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. This was followed in November of the same year by his compilation album The Great Twenty-Eight being ranked 21st in the Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The following year, in March 2004, Berry was ranked fifth out of “The Immortals – The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time”. In December 2004, six of his songs were included in the “Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time“, namely “Johnny B. Goode” (# 7), “Maybellene” (# 18), “Roll Over Beethoven” (# 97), “Rock and Roll Music” (#128), “Sweet Little Sixteen” (# 272) and “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” (# 374). In June 2008, his song “Johnny B. Goode” ranked first place in the “100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time”.
A statue 8 feet (2.4 m) tall of Berry, funded by donations, has been erected along the St. Louis Walk of Fame. The dedication ceremony attended by Berry was held on July 29, 2011