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On March 29th, 1918, seminal jazz singer, actress, and songwriter Pearl Bailey was born in Southhampton County, Virginia. Pearl started singing as a child, and often accompanied her tap-dancing older brother Bill Bailey. When she was 15, she entered a talent contest at the Pearl Theatre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Not only did she win the $35 first prize, she also earned a two-week gig as the opening act. After this she traveled to Harlem, New York; and won amateur night at The Apollo Theater. Winning these two contests convinced Bailey that she had the talent necessary to pursue music full-time. She sang in clubs along the east coast during the late 1930's, before joining The United Service Organization, Inc. (USO) to tour with and entertain American troops during WWII.
In the mid 1940's, she returned to the states, and settled in NYC. She often sang in nightclubs that hosted acts like Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington. In 1946, she made her Broadway debut in the play-St. Louis Woman. In 1947, she made her acting debut in the film-Variety Girl; and in 1950, she made her recording debut with Pearl Bailey Entertains. Bailey recorded 13 LPs during the 1950's (two each in 1952, 1953, 1956-and three in 1959). In 1960 she made her television debut on The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom. Pearl Bailey was truly a renaissance woman-who influenced many in theater, film & music. She was 72 when she passed away in 1990.
On March 29th, 1940, P-Funk family member, singer, songwriter, original bass vocalist of Zapp, and co-founder of the George Clinton doo wop group The Parliaments-Ray Davis (Raymond Davis) was born in Sumter, South Carolina. Davis started singing at the neighborhood barbershop in Plainfield, NJ, with George Clinton, Fuzzy Haskins, Calvin Simon, and Grady Thomas (The Parliaments) in 1955. The band was a originally a doo wop group, that covered popular songs and sang some of their own. But by the early 1960's, they’d made a local name for themselves and secured a deal with Revilot Records.
The group went on to have an extremely successful career from the late 60's thru the late 70's. Money problems, drug use/abuse, and creative conflicts caused a lot of the original members of The Parliaments to leave by 1977. Davis was one of the few that stayed post-’77; and in the 80's, he started working closely with Bootsy Collins-who was working with Zapp featuring Roger Troutman. Bootsy was their producer-and you can hear Davis’ infamous bass vocals on Doo Wa Ditty and I Can Make You Dance. He sings the chorus on the latter. Davis joined The Temptations, in the 90's, following the death of Melvin Franklin. He’s featured on their For Lovers Only LP. He was 75 years old when he died.
On March 29th, 1999, we lost an extremely important figure in contemporary music-songwriter, jazz, swing, pop, and blues vocalist-Joe Williams (Joesph Goreed). Joe Williams sings one of the most infamous break beats ever made-Get Out My Life Woman. He also has the jazz vocal standards-Everyday I Have The Blues and Going To Chicago. The Cordele, Georgia native moved to Chicago, Illinois, with his grandmother when he was still a child. He grew up on the South Side, and sang in The Jubilee Boys gospel group during his teens.
During his early 20's he sang in nightclubs around the city, and doubled as a bouncer. In the late 1930's he started singing with big bands as the front man, and also sang as a soloist. In 1937 he joined Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club Orchestra and Les Hite’s big band. In the 1940's, he started performing with Coleman Hawkins and Lionel Hampton’s Orchestra. In the mid 1940's, Williams joined Red Saunders and feared breakthrough success had eluded him. He became ill in the later in the decade, and was unable to perform. By the early 1950's, his health had improved, and he was back in the nightclub scene. He was discovered by Count Basie, who put him on his breakthrough single Everyday I Have The Blues. His career took off after this, and he toured up to his death. The award-winning vocalist was 80 when he passed away.
HONORABLE MENTION: The Billboard Magazine R&B Chart featured some notable #1 songs, on March 29th, of both 1969 and 1975. In 1969, The Temptations hit #1 song with their Norman Whitefield-produced Runaway Child, Running Wild. The Temps started working with Psychedelic Soul innovator-Norman Whitfield-in the late 1960's. In 1975, LaBelle held the #1 slot with their funky classic Lady Marmalade. They were working heavily with Allen Toussaint, and the funk musicians, coming out of New Orleans and Philadelphia. They helped infuse an outer space aesthetic to their music, with outlandish costumes to boot.
On March 29th, of both 1985 and 1987, films by 80's musicians were in the public’s eye. Madonna made her film debut in 1985's Desperately Seeking Susan, co-starring with Rosanna Arquette. The films was ok, and did moderately well in the box-office. Prince had set the trend for movies by musicians, based on the success of Purple Rain in 1984 (one year prior). Speaking of which, film critics raked Prince’s Under The Cherry Moon film across the coals. Some rated it the worst picture of 1987 (tied with Howard The Duck). Jerome Benton was also mentioned as a horrible supporting actor…I think the film is dope! I don’t know what movie they watched…
On March 29th, 2001, we lost jazz musician, pianist, bandleader, composer, arranger, producer, educator, and founding member of The Modern Jazz Quartet-John Aaron Lewis. Lewis was a classically trained pianist (since childhood), that dabbled in jazz when his grandmother wanted to dance. He moved to NYC in the early 1940's, and played with Kenny Clark while attending The Manhattan School Of Music. Clarke introduced him to Dizzy Gillespie in the late 40's-and he toured, composed, and recorded with him until 1948. He’s played with Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, and Ella Fitzgerald. He was 80 years old, at the time of his death.
On March 29th, 2005, legendary attorney, and 90's pop culture icon-Johnnie Cochran passed away in Los Feliz, Los Angeles, CA. Although Cochran wasn’t a musician, his defense of O.J. Simpson shaped the lyrical content of many rappers, R&B singers, poets, comedians, and urban musicians. His infamous rhyme "If it doesn’t fit-you must acquit" sums up his presence in the courtroom quite well. References of his ability to get people off for heinous crimes were dropped in many songs, poems, comedy skits, etc-and continue to be used. He was the lawyer of choice for any Black or Brown person that had a strong case against them; and before that was the defender of several Black Revolutionaries against government conspiracies. Johnnie Cochran was 67 when he passed away.
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