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On December 12th, 1918, seminal vocalist, songwriter and-Joe Williams (Joseph Goreed) was born in Cordele, Georgia. He moved to Chicago with his mother and grandmother when he was three, and got his start singing for audiences when he was in The Jubilee Boys choir during his teens-a gospel outfit that sang in Chicago churches. He started singing professionally in the late 30s, touring with Lionel Hampton & Coleman Hawkins in the early 40s. He got his big break in the early 50s when Count Basie heard him singing with Red Saunders. Williams stayed with Basie from 1954 to 1961. His second year as lead vocalist-he recorded his standard-Ev'ryday I Have The Blues.
After he left Basie, he joined Junior Mance’s band in 1962, staying with him for a couple of years before pursuing solo gigs during the mid to late 60s. In the early 70s, he did some work with Cannonball Adderley and George Shearing. Williams had made a name for himself by this time, and started appearing on TV shows like: The Steve Allen Show & The Tonight Show. He has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (1983), has been nominated for eight Grammy's (winning one in 1985 for Best Jazz Vocalist), is a designated National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master (1993), and was inducted into The Jazz Hall of Fame in 1995. He passed away in 1999 when he was 80 years old.
On December 12th, 1940, singer, songwriter, producer, actress, cousin to Whitney Houston, Cissy Houston’s niece, and Psychic Friends Network spokesperson-(Marie) Dionne Warwick was born in East Orange, New Jersey. Dionne got her start singing gospel with her family-based gospel groups-The Drinkard Singers & Gospelaires. She then turned to secular music, doing backup for The Drifters as a pop vocalist. Around the early 60s, Burt Bacharach (composer/producer) had her signed to Scepter Records. She released the single that would put her on the map in 1962-Don’t Make Me Over. Dionne continued to make pop hits with Bacharach throughout the 60s.
She then moved to the Warner Brothers imprint in 1972 and released her most sought out LP by crate diggers, and probably her best work outside of the pop realm-Just Being Myself (1973) produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland. She stayed on Warner Brothers releasing Move Me No Mountain in 1975 (Chaka Khan would record this song later in the decade and make it a big hit). Dionne left Warner Brothers and moved to Arista Records in 1979. She stayed with the label throughout the 80s and 90s. She's worked with Isaac Hayes on the duet LP A Man And A Woman. She also worked with others in the industry like Patti LaBelle, Stevie Wonder, and June Pointer of The Pointer Sisters. TOV has covered Dionne previously. If you would like to know more about her career, use the search bar for additional information. She’s 78 today.
On December 12th, 1943, Jazz saxophonist, composer, arranger, producer, bandleader, TV Show theme-music scorer, and flautist-Grover Washington Jr. was born in Buffalo, New York (Rick James country). The son of a jazz record collector/saxophonist (his dad) and church choir member (his mother), Grover grew up in a musical household. He got his start in the 60s with a Midwestern based band called The Four Clefs. He left that group, and joined The Mark III Trio, before being drafted into the US Army. While stationed in NYC, he met jazz drummer Billy Cobham. The two became friends through their shared love for music. Cobham introduced Grover to a lot of the Jazz musicians in the area.
Grover got his big break when CTI label owner Creed Taylor was unable to secure Hank Crawford for a recording session. Grover sat in for Crawford, and Taylor liked his sound. He gave the artist a solo deal and Washington released his debut LP Inner City Blues in 1971. The LP did well and catapulted Washington into the mainstream Jazz world. He was unique in that he played soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone sax-plus the flute-doing covers of mostly vocal Soul & Pop tunes. His 70's era LPs, especially 1974’s Mister Magic secured Washington’s legacy and position in contemporary Jazz. He used a funk fusion sound with personnel like Bob James, Eric Gale, and other Kudu/CTI standouts that laid the foundation for sample-based tracks for Hip Hop producers. He also did The Cosby Show theme, and most of the transition music for the popular 80s-90s sitcoms from Cosby’s camp. He passed away in 1999 (56 years-old).
On December 12th, 1945, innovative Jazz drummer, fusion jazz standout, session musician, bandleader, composer, arranger, producer, and former member of The Miles Davis’ Quintet-Tony Williams (Anthony Tillmon Williams) was born in Chicago, Illinois. Williams got his start early on, learning drums from Jazz drummer Alan Dawson. By the time he was 13, he was performing professionally with Sam Rivers (sax) and by 16-Jackie McLean. When he was 17, Miles picked him up for his "Second Great Quintet," Herbie Hancock on piano, Wayne Shorter on sax, Ron Carter on bass and Miles on trumpet. The quintet, and Tony’s drumming, revolutionized the time signatures commonly associated with jazz polyrhythms.
Simply put, Tony would alternate between measures you commonly hear on popular songs (funk, soul, rock, pop, dance) to more complex rhythms associated with classical music, sometimes within the same song. Not many, if any were doing this at the time, and this helped form the Fusion Jazz sound which relies on backing beats described above. Hence why the intros and outros on Fusion Jazz songs are so funky and sample worthy, but soon after the song loses the funk craver’s interest (during the solos). This is a demonstration of the drumming set forth by Williams. He went on to record solo 4 LPs from 1964 to 1996, founded the Jazz trio Tony Williams Lifetime (Larry Young organist, John McLaughlin guitarist), worked with Public Image Ltd. & was inducted into The Jazz Hall of Fame (posthumously-1997). He was 51 when he passed (1997).
On December 12th, 1959, singer, percussionist, drummer, actress, songwriter, producer, guitarist, jazz musician, bandleader, TV show scorer, keyboardist, and bassist-Shelia E. (Shelia Cecelia Escovedo) was born in Oakland, California. People consider Shelia to have been ‘discovered’ by Prince. She was not. Shelia was putting in work way before she linked up with Prince. Her father is the famous Jazz percussionist Pete Escovedo. Her Godfather is Tito Puente, and her uncles Coke Escovedo (Santana), Javier Escovedo (The Zeros-Punk) and Mario Escovedo (The Dragons-Rock) all have strong ties to music. She made her first recording with jazz musician Alphonso Johnson (bass) in 1976 on his Yesterday’s Dream LP.
Shelia recorded two LPs with her dad: Solo Two (1977) and Happy Together (1978). She also was on George Duke’s Don’t Let Go LP (Dukey Stick-1978) and Master of the Game (1979). She has co-writing credits on the latter (Games). She recorded several LPs with Duke throughout the 70s and early 80s. In 1983 she became the percussionist for Marvin Gaye on his Midnight Love Tour. She first met Prince in 1978. They didn’t actually work together until 1984 (Purple Rain sessions) when she provided backing vocals on Erotic City and Let’s Go Crazy. She released her debut LP produced by Prince in 1984, The Glamorous Life. She released seven albums from 1984-2013, was a member of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band and continues to perform worldwide. She’s 61 today.
Honorable Mention: On December 12th, 1911, baseball catcher, legendary sports figure Babe Ruth’s nemesis, and the man infamously known as The Home Run King Of The Negro Baseball League, Josh Gibson (Joshua Gibson) was born in Buena Vista, Georgia. He started playing baseball in Pittsburgh when he was 16. He developed a buzz quickly from his hitting skills, and was picked up by The Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1928 (17). He went on to The Homestead Grays in 1930 and played for 2 other teams, periodically returning to The Crawfords and The Grays during his career (1930-1946). He was a 12-Time All-Star; and won two Negro League World Series Championships. No definitive stats exist on his Home Run count; but sports historians put it any where between 800-1000. He was 35 when he died.
On December 12th, in 1968, emcee, hype man and co-founding member of House Of Pain-Danny Boy (Daniel O’Connor) was born in Brooklyn, NYC, NY. He moved to Woodland Hills, California in his teens, and met Erik Schrody (Everlast) at William Howard Taft HS. Everlast asked him to join House Of Pain and Danny Boy agreed, becoming the Sen Dog/Flavor Flav for their crew. He acted as hype man and secondary emcee. After House Of Pain dissolved, Danny Boy went on to form the Hip Hop collective Xsupermodels and La Coka Nostra. He’s 50 today.
On December 12th, 2001, the man that founded the hippie counterculture band Love, vocalist, guitarist, songwriter, producer, and the first ‘Black’ hippy-Arthur Lee was released from prison. He served about six years of a 11-year bid. He was convicted for illegal possession of a firearm that he had shot in the air while having a dispute with his neighbor. I guess peace and love went out the window on that day. TOV has covered Lee before, use the search bar for more information on him.
On December 12th, 2007, we lost the man that penned one of the first Rock ‘n’ Roll songs Rocket 88 (1951), that helped put Tina Turner on the map, and that founded The Kings of Rhythm-Ike Turner (Izear Luster Turner Jr.). Turner was an awesome musician and figure in popular music. He could play guitar, piano, write, sing, and produce. Although he’s probably more known for the domestic abuse he’s inflicted on women in his life-most notably Tina; Ike won multiple awards, ranging from Grammy's to Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame honors (1962 to 2007). He passed away at his home in suburban San Diego. He was 76 years-old.
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!