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On February 10th, 1937, singer, pianist, songwriter, composer, arranger, producer, and Donny Hathaway collaborator-Roberta (Cleopatra) Flack (Rubina Flake) was born in Black Mountain, North Carolina. She got her start in the church, singing and playing piano as a child. She was influenced by Sam Cooke, and Mahalia Jackson, who she saw perform at the local churches in the Arlington, VA area she was raised in. Her skills on the piano grew at a rapid rate; and by the time she graduated high school, Howard University had offered her a music scholarship. She enrolled at Howard at the age of 15 (one of the youngest students ever).
Flack joined the Delta Sigma Theta (sorority), changed her major from piano to voice, became the assistant conductor for Howard’s choir, and taught music in Maryland. She started her professional career in The DC Area, where she was discovered by Les McCann in 1968. He got her a deal with his then label-Atlantic, and she released her debut LP First Take in 1969 (she recorded the entire album in 10 hours). Roberta began recording regularly with Donny Hathaway in 1972, whom she had met at Howard University. She won four Grammy Awards, released 15 LPs (1968-1997), and started The Roberta Flack School Of Music in The Bronx, New York. It’s a free school that teaches music to underprivileged kids. She’s 82 today.
On February 10th, 1975, we lost another influential musician at a typical Rock ‘n’ Roller’s death age-27 (Jimi, Janis, Jim Morrison, Kurt, Otis…). This particular artist was bassist for the Pre-Punk Rock band The Stooges-Dave Alexander (David Michael Alexander-l). Dave Alexander grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and dropped out of high school his senior year in 1965. He traveled to England with his friends Ron & Scott Asheton. They returned in 1967, met Iggy Pop-then started a band with Iggy as lead vocalist & Alexander as a pure beginning bassist. He was a fast learner, and helped arrange and compose a lot of the songs on their first two LPs before he passed.
Elektra signed them, and in 1969 they released their self-titled debut. Their sound was unique in that all of the songs were short, and played hard with minimal solos and instrumentation. They were solid songs, however. Music critics credit them for redefining the direction and sound of Rock ‘n’ Roll, which is ever evolving. In 1970, they released their second album-Fun. Again, Alexander's writing and arrangements were all over this LP. He also played some some tight bass lines. Listeners can hear his musical growth from the first album to the second. He got fired from the band in 1970 for being too drunk to play their gig. He was 27 years old when he passed away.
On February 10th, 2006, rapper, DJ, sampler/sequencer user, keyboardist, cellist, producer, MPC phenom, bassist, drummer, and founding member of Slum Village-J Dilla aka Jay Dee aka Dilla Dawg (James Dewitt Yancey) passed away in Los Angeles, California. TOV covered his birthday in the February 8th post. Please refer to it for more information. Picking up where we left off, Dilla had produced many tracks for acts during the early to mid 90s. He was a member of The Native Tongues production crew-The Ummah, which included Q-Tip & Ali Shaheed Muhammad. It was mostly Dilla on beat making, however, and he used this as a moniker for other remixes he did.
Dilla produced most of Common’s Like Water For Chocolate LP, De La Soul’s Stakes Is High album, and A Tribe Called Quest’s Jam EP. In 2000, Slum Village released their second LP-Fantastic Vol. 2 on GoodVibe Records. It was discovered in Japan first, where it was bootlegged by many and wound up in the states. Dilla’s career took off after this release; and he started getting calls from everyone for beats. He stayed true to the culture, and only did tracks for those that made substance-based music. He also co-founded The Soulquarians, with Erykah Badu, ?uestlove, James Poyser, Common, Bilal, D’Angelo, Raphael Saadiq, and Talib Kweli. Dilla was 32 when he died.
HONORABLE MENTION: On February 10th, 1905, jazz musician, bandleader, drummer, composer, arranger, and swing music innovator-Chick Webb aka 'The King Of Swing' (William Henry Webb) was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He had tuberculosis, which caused him to appear hunchbacked, and very short. He got started on the drums early, because his Dr. suggested he play them to help ‘loosen’ his bones.' He started playing professionally at 11, and was a Harlem bandleader by 17. He’s most noted for his ‘swing’ style, and ability to keep tempo-but improvise between measures and bar transitions. Ella Fitzgerald was his front person in later years. He was 34 years old when he died.
On February 10th, in 1993, Oprah was hosting a special edition of her show featuring an interview of Michael Jackson from his Neverland Valley Ranch. It was the first time Jackson had been interviewed on TV in 14 years. He felt the need to clear his name, professing his innocence after being accused yet again for child molestation. This was a common theme with Jackson, who for the most part, kept to himself and seemed to not ‘buy-into’ the status quo’s norms for how they thought Jackson should behave. Oprah, in true Oprah fashion, asked all the difficult questions she’s known for, leaving the public confused and torn…
On February 10th, 2017, Universal Records (SLAVE) decided they’d make Prince’s archives public. I’m pretty sure ‘The Artist’ turned over in his grave. The SLAVE he donned on his cheek during his bout with the rights to his masters from Warner Brothers probably grew back. Not only did they get the rights to release his archives, they also got the rights to 25 of the albums he made with The New Power Generation. Talk about pimping from beyond the grave…companies try to make it look like they’re helping the customer…that’s the hustle…they’re really helping them$elve$. Some stuff, is better left alone.
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