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On February 27th, 1971, singer, model, dancer, TV personality, songwriter, and co-founding member of the all female trio TLC-Chilli (Rozonda Ocielian Thomas) was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Chilli is noted as the co-lead vocalist with T-Boz, though several music critics claim she’s the only one that can actually sing in the group. Others say she was the best dancer, and the best-looking member in the group. However, these are all opinions. One thing that rings true is that she did her thing on every TLC LP, from their 1992 debut thru 2002’s Lisa Left-Eye Lopez’ posthumous release of 3D. She also sang some choice lyrics on their 2017 self-titled album. Many know the story of group from the VH1 film CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, but few know the details of her journey to stardom before TLC.
Chilli was raised by her mother, and didn’t meet her father until she was 25 (1996). She was a talented young lady that sang and danced in local showcases-mostly as a Hip Hop & R&B backup dancer for other acts. Simply put, she didn’t necessarily feel that she was a leading act. In the late 80s, she starting dancing for R&B singer Damian Dame. Her moves caught the attention of Pebbles, who needed a replacement for the recently kicked out TLC member Crystal Jones. Chilli auditioned and got the spot. Left Eye gave her the name Chilli, because she was so chill, and so that the group could retain the TLC name (T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chilli). They released their debut album in 1992, and two more before Lisa passed away in April of 2002. They are the best-selling female American group of all time. Chilli also ventured into acting and the reality TV craze in the mid 90s/early 2000s. She’s 48 years old today.
On February 27th, 1923 jazz musician, bandleader, saxophonist, composer, arranger, sideman, actor, hard bop innovator, and clarinet player-Dexter (Keith) Gordon was born in Los Angeles, California. This 6' 6" musician is a DownBeat Hall Of Fame saxophonist, and NEA Jazz Master. Dexter started playing clarinet when he was 13. Two years later, he started playing the sax. Word got out about his skills, and by the time he was 17 (1940), he was playing with Lionel Hampton’s Big Band. He stayed with Lionel for 3 years, honing his chops and finding his own voice on the sax (1940-1943). It was during this time that Gordon began to make his style of inserting common musical quotes into his solos, and playing, a trademark of his overall style.
A lot of jazz musicians would play verses from popular themes during their playing like happy birthday, music themes from TV and radio show ads, programs and the like-but Gordon made this part of his style. People began to expect him to do this, and listened closely to see which song he’d insert into his own. He influenced John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Eric Dolphy, who all became huge stars on the sax. He’d been recording since the mid 1940s, but the 1960s produced some of his best work (Blue Note Records). He’s worked with everyone from Philly Joe Jones to Freddie Hubbard. Gordon also starred in, and even received a Best Actor In A Leading Role nomination for his performance in the 1986 film Round Midnight. Dexter Gordon traveled the world playing jazz, acting, and participating directly with his audience. He was 67 when he died in 1990.
On February 27th, 1968, singer, songwriter, and doo wop icon Frankie Lymon (Franklin Joseph Lymon) passed away in Harlem, New York. Lymon was born and raised in Harlem. His parents were members of a gospel group called The Harlemaires. Frankie sang in The Harlemaire Juniors group as a kid. His parents needed help with their income, so Frankie started working at a local grocery store when he was 10 (1952). Two years later, he heard The Coupe De Villes singing in a local talent show and befriended their leader Herman Santiago. Around 1955, when Lymon was 13, he joined Santiago’s group who called themselves The Premiers (and later The Ermines). They changed the group's name to The Teenagers, and adapted a song from a female fan that had written them-Why Do Fools Fall In Love (written mostly by Lymon).
The Teenagers sang the song for Richard Barrett of The Valentines, who connected the group with George Goldner. Goldner had them audition, but Santiago the lead signer was sick. Frankie knew the parts and sang in place of Santiago. Being that Santiago had formed the group, and was the leader, it created some strife-mostly rooted in jealousy and betrayal. Lymon became the new face and leader of The Teenagers. Goldner even had them change the name to Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers. Much like James Brown And The Famous Flames, Diana Ross & The Supremes, and Michael Jackson & The Jackson 5, Lymon took over leadership responsibilities that he didn’t necessarily want. He got into drugs to deal with the loss of friends, and the rigors of the road. He overdosed on heroine in 1968 when he was 25.
HONORABLE MENTION: On February 27th, 1993, singer, songwriter, and former member of the vocal quintet Audrey & The Tennettes-Marlena Davis passed away. She was a founding member of The Orlons aka Audrey & The Teenettes. The original lineup included Roseeta Hightower (lead), Marlena Davis, Stephen Caldwell, and Shirley Brickley. The Orlons had three gold hits: South Street, The Wah-Watusi, & Don’t Hang Up. They also sang back up for Dee Dee Sharp on Mashed Potato Time, and Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes).
On February 27th, 2011, we lost an original Bluesman, guitarist, songwriter, harmonica player, singer, and Jamaican-born recording artist Eddie Kirkland aka Eddie Kirk. Kirk was raised in Kingston, Jamaica; which makes him unique in that most of the artists from the island perform Reggae or have done pop and soul not Blues. Kirk moved to Alabama at the age of 11 years old. He hitched a ride on The Sugar Girls Medicine Show truck. Bluesman Arthur 'Blind' Blake was one of his major influences. He also performed with 'Diamond Tooth' Mary McLean. Eddie was 87 years old when he passed away.
On February 27th, 2013, we lost an important musical figure, dancer, vocalist and former member of The Temptations-Richard (Allen) Street (2nd standing). Street passed away in Las Vegas, Nevada. Street is the only member of The Temptations born in Detroit. The rest of the members were from other regions. He’s also first cousins with Melvin Franklin, and acted as lead singer for Otis Williams’ pre-Temps group Otis Williams & The Distants. He also recorded Say You, and Greetings (This Is Uncle Sam) with The Monitors in the mid 1960s. He was the man that covered for Paul Williams at shows, when he was too drunk to perform. Richard Street was 70 at the time of his death.
On February 27th, 2015, singer, songwriter, dancer, and original member of Brownstone-Charmayne Maxena Maxwell (Maxee) died. Her death was a freak accident. She tripped and fell on a broken wine glass that slit her throat. Brownstone was signed to Michael Jackson’s MJJ Music label in 1994. They released their debut in 1995, and reached The Top 40 on the American R&B and Pop Charts. They also did well in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and The Netherlands. She was 46 when she died.
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