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On April 9th, in 1898, pioneering social activist, Harlem Renaissance performer, lawyer, former NFL football player, singer, songwriter, stage and film actor-Paul (Leroy) Robeson was born in Princeton, New Jersey. Robeson’s legacy runs very deep in American and international pop culture. He, along with Eartha Kitt, and to a lesser extent-Harry Belafonte became a victim of McCarthyism during the WWII era. He’s a Rutgers College (1915-1919, also voted valedictorian) and Columbia Law School (1919-1923) graduate. To go back further, he was co-minister at his father’s church when he was in his early teens-St. Thomas A.M.E. Zion. In high school, he acted, sang in the chorus and lettered in 4 sports: basketball, track, baseball and football. When WWI jumped off, Robeson noticed that Black soldiers in America were fighting for other people’s freedom while being unable to enjoy their own at home.
This poignant observation jump started his social activism. He moved to Harlem in the early 20s, and enrolled in Columbia Law School, started performing in plays, singing and playing football for the Akron Pros and Milwaukee Badgers. The Harlem Renaissance and Black nationalism championed by Marcus Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association were rapidly growing. He was surrounded by like-minded individuals that wanted to create honest cultural representations of the Black Experience in America. This verified his disdain for Jim Crow racist policies that were condoned and practiced regularly. He began to speak out about it in his art (song, acting) and publicly during interviews and impromptu conversations. However, there was consequence for his actions. By the end of the 20s, he was no longer in America. Robeson was 77 when he passed
On April 9th, in 1979, 80s pop culture figure, actress and the girl known as Rudy Huxtable on the Cosby Show-Kesha Knight-Pulliam was born in Newark, New Jersey. She was a child star-ranked #19 out of the VH1 list of-the 100 Greatest Kid Stars. She continues to act and make appearances as an adult. However, her role of Rudy Huxtable is what most people associate her with. She is the true definition of a ‘child star’ being that she got her start when she was 9 months old in a baby ad (Johnson & Johnson). She made her TV commercial debut when she was 2 and her TV show debut (Sesame Street) when she was 3 (Keshia). She auditioned for the Cosby Show in 1983, securing the role for their 1984 debut.
She acted in 177 episodes of the show from 1984 to 1992. She made her film debut in The Last Dragon in 1985. In 1986, she became the youngest person to be nominated for an Emmy Award (Outstanding supporting actress-Rudy). Nearly 20 years passed before she appeared in another movie-Motives (Video only, 2004). A lot of people saw her in the major urban film: Beauty Shop (Darnelle, 2005). Her ‘extended’ break from television is much shorter. She didn’t appear in any shows from 1993-1997. The popularity of ‘reality’ TV shows in the 2000s provided Pulliam with several opportunities. She appeared on Fear Factor in 2002, Celebrity Mole-Yucatan in 2004, had a reoccurring role on Tyler Perry’s House of Payne from 2007-2012 and was The Celebrity Apprentice-Season 7. She’s 40 today.
…’Neon signs a flashin’, taxi cabs and buses passin’ through the night. The distant moaning of a train, seems to play a sad refrain to the night’ (A Rainy Night in Georgia)…On April 9th, in 1988, we lost a seminal soul singer, actor, songwriter, and lead singer of the Sandmen-Brook Benton (Benjamin Franklin Peay). He’s most known for the song-A Rainy Night in Georgia, but he also produced several hits for others. The Lugoff, SC native started singing in church, before migrating to NYC. While there (early teens), he joined gospel groups like the Golden Gate Quartet and the Jerusalem Stars. During the late 40s, he moved back to SC, joined the Sandmen and started recording for Okeh Records (1948). He quickly was coerced to go solo and started songwriting and co-producing for others like Roy Hamilton, Nat King Cole and Clyde McPhatter.
Known for his jump blues, swing and soul style-Benton’s songs acted as a precursor to rock ‘n’ roll during the late 40s and early 50s. His music earned him a spot in the film featuring Alan Freed-Mr Rock and Roll (1957). At the end of the 50s, he released a couple solo hits-Endlessly and It’s Just a Matter of Time. In the early 60s, he had two major duet hits with Dinah Washington and expanded on his solo success as well. The mid 60s, weren’t as nice to Benton as the prior years were. The political and social American climate had changed and people wanted more substance based lyrics that spoke about current events and past failures. His style was more ‘feel good’ and romance based, so many young ans turned to other musicians. 1969 was the last time he had a major hit-A Rainy Night in Georgia (Cotillion Records). He was 56 when he passed.
HONORABLE MENTION: On April 9th, in 1932, influential country musician, rockabilly pioneer, singer, guitarist, rock 'n' roll innovator and songwriter-Carl Perkins was born in Tiptonville, TN. Perkins greatly influenced the sound of rock ‘n’ roll. He’s one of few musicians that played a faster style of country that was guitar, drum and bass driven, making it more danceable. His style was named-rockabilly, which in a way, morphed into rock 'n' roll. Rock bands would rename this band setup-guitar, bass, drums: the Power Trio. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Band of Gypsys and Cream are examples of this setup. He was 65 when he passed (1998).
On April 9th, in 1988, we lost a pioneering soul musician, rock ‘n’ roll innovator, singer, dancer, songwriter and co-founding member of the soul vocal outift-Sam & Dave AKA Double Dynamite-David Prater Jr. He’s known for the 1967 soul hit-Soul Man. He got his start singing gospel with his older brother in the Sensational Hummingbirds. He met Sam Moore in Miami (early 60s). They had a unique funky sound that came from their recordings at Stax studios in Memphis, TN. From the mid 60s to the early 70s they released several hits that inspired rock and soul musicians like: Michael Jackson, Stevie Winwood and Bruce Springsteen. He was 50 when he passed.
On April 9th, in 1997, we lost a seminal grunge rock band that wouldn’t unite again for 13 years-Soundgarden. They formally announced that they’d no longer be performing as group or otherwise. Then lead guitarist Kim Thayll stated that it was pretty obvious everyone was ready to call it quits. Drummer-Matt Cameron felt that the band had been 'eaten up by the industry'. Internal conflict and frustration with long tours had taken its toll on the members. The love for music and creating it can be easily lost when it’s something you 'have to do' based on a piece of paper you’ve signed. Fortunately, they reformed in 2010.
On April 9th, in 2009 we lost a significant soul vocalist, songwriter, singer, co-founding member of the Delfonics and Blue Magic-Randy Cain (Herbert Randall Cain III). Cain started singing in the Philly doo wop scene in his teens. He formed the Delfonics and performed with them as lead on a lot of their songs from the 60s and early 70s: Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time (1970) and Ready or Not-Here I Come (Can’t Hide From Love, 1969). He left the Delfonics in 1972 and helped start Blue Magic-another Philly based vocal outfit. They had a string of hits in the 70s like: Sideshow, Welcome to the Club, Three Ring Circus and Spell. He was 63 when he passed.
For more information on any musician or event reviewed in posts, or for additional information on The Wandering Eyes Blog overall, use the search bar and search the artist or event using keywords. It’s like a Google search for the site. A myriad of information, covering several topics exists on this site going back to 2013 when it was created. PEACE