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On February 7th, in 1974, producer, DJ, sampler/sequencer user, rapper, keyboardist, cellist, bassist, older brother of Illa J, co-founding member of Slum Village and Soulquarians-J Dilla AKA Jay Dee AKA Dilla Dawg (James Dewitt Yancey) was born in Detroit, Michigan. Dilla has 2 younger brothers, one of which is Illa J (John), and a younger sister-Martha. Music is in his DNA, being that his father was a jazz bassist and his mother a singer. He started playing and buying records at an early age. He also played cello. In middle school, he started getting into hip hop, making pause tape instrumentals and writing rhymes. This served as the foundation for his beat making. He stayed in his basement and dissected his record collection using a tape deck for extended periods of time.
He met T3 & Baatin in high school, they collaborated on music loosely, but were not a formal group (late 80s). In 1992, Dilla started perfecting his beat making craft when former P-Funk musician-Amp Fiddler let him use his MPC. Three years later, he signed to Payday Records with MC Phat Kat, forming the hip hop duo-1st Down. They were the first Detroit hip hop group to sign to a major label (that folded shortly after). He linked up with Proof, Mudd & Thyme to form 5 Elementz. They released an EP-Yester Years. In 1996, T3, Baatin and formed Slum Village. They recorded Fantastic Vol. 1 in 1997. He went on to make beats for: The Pharcyde, A Tribe Called Quest, Erykah Badu, Common, Busta Rhymes, MadLib, Fank ‘n’ Dank, Janet Jackson, De La Soul, Bilal and Dwele. He was 32 when he died.
On February 7th, in 1959, we lost a seminal New Orleans Blues innovator, showman, singer, guitarist, songwriter, producer and Rock ‘n’ Roll forefather-Guitar Slim AKA Pearl King (Earl Silas Johnson IV). TOV covered the artist’s birthday on the December 10th post. Please refer to it for more information. Slim had a unique stage show that inspired the stage antics commonly associated with Rock ‘n’ Roll. He would have his assistant put him on his shoulders, walking around with him while he played his guitar and sang. He sometimes came from the crowd with his guitar to start the show. He used a 350-foot cord, and would play while he walked around (his assistant kept it from tangling). It’s been reported that he walked outside of the a venue and into the street, stopping traffic while he played.
Slim also helped innovate the Rock ‘n’ Roll sound of the 60s. He often played a distorted style that would be made popular during the psychedelic rock era. His stage show and playing style predate and define Rock 'n' Roll. He was born in Greenwood, MS and started singing and dancing in jukejoints as a child. He started recording in the early 50s with minor success. In 1954, he recorded his biggest hit-The Things That I Used to Do (produced by Ray Charles, Specialty Records). It went gold and became a blues staple, covered by Jimi Hendrix & Stevie Ray Vaughn. Other artists Slim influenced heavily include: Buddy Guy, Frank Zappa, Guitar Slim Jr and Albert Collins. Slim’s influences were T. Bone Walker and Clarence Gatemouth Brown. He struggled with alcohol abuse and died from pneumonia when he was 32.
On February 7th, in 2000, rapper, actor and member of Terror Squad & Cuban Link-Big Punisher (Christopher Lee Carlos Rio) passed away in White Plains, New York. Pun is most known for his lyrical content and rapid delivery, a style that’s similar to Big L and Raekwon. He was born and raised in the South Bronx. When he was 5, he broke his leg playing in a NYC park and received a settlement. However, he could not access the money until he was 18. As a child, he got into hip hop early. He lived in the South Bronx, which served as the epicenter of the budding culture. He also got into boxing and basketball, becoming a local notable at both. He left home when he was 15 and was homeless for a brief period. When he got his settlement money at age 18, he got married and bought a house.
From 18-21, he ate food as a coping mechanism for the things he saw on the streets when he was homeless. Pun’s weight went from 180 to 300 pounds. He got so big that he was unable to tie his own shoes. In the mid 80s, he started rapping and took on the emcee name Big Moon Dawg. He joined a group called Full-A-Clips with Joker Jamz, Lyrical Assassin and Toom. In the early 90s, he changed his name to Big Piunisher and met Fat Joe who put him on his debut LP-Jealous One’s Envy (1995). He also linked with the Beatnuts, and was featued on-Off the Books. His single, I’m Not a Player was a hit, as well as the remix featuring Joe-Still Not a Player that was on his solo debut LP-Capital Punishment (1997). The members from Full-A-Clips got introduced to Fat Joe via Big Pun. They morphed into the Terror Squad in 1999. Pun was 28 when he passed.
On February 7th, in 2009, we lost a music treasure that was one of the last living cabaret & supper club singers-Blossom Dearie. She was a pianist, songwriter and swing, cool and pop jazz vocalist. She got her start in the NYC jazz scene during the mid to late 40s. She played piano and sang with The Woody Herman Orchestra (the Blue Flames) and the Blue Rey’s (Alvin Reno’s group). She moved to Paris in 1952 and started her own vocal group-The Blue Stars (w/Bob Dorough & Christiane Legrand). They sang their songs in French, and had a hit in 1954 with their cover single-Lullaby of Birdland. The Blue Stars changed their name to the Swingle Sisters years later (1962). In 1956, she signed to Verve and released her self-titled debut in 1957. However, she doesn’t sing on this recording. Her sophomore release in 1958-Give Him the Ooh-La-La does feature her on vocals and piano. Blossom recorded 4 more LPs for Verve from 1958 to 1961.
She did session work with other musicians during this time as well: Miles Davis, Duncan Lamont & Dave Frishberg. She recorded LPs for 3 different labels from 1963 to 1967-Hires Root Beer/DIW, Capitol/EMI & Fontana Records. She took a brief break in the late 60s, before returning to record in 1970-That’s Just the Way I Want to Be (Fontana). She recorded 7 LPs during the 70s, and helped keep the cabaret style in the public’s realm. She also was the voice over vocalist for the School House Rock series. She continued to release albums throughout the 80s and 90s. In 1983, she won the first ever Mabel Mercer Foundation Award-an honor given to purveyors of the cabaret style. Her songs have also been featured on movie soundtracks and in television shows, being a guest on The Tonight Show, The Merv Griffin Show and The Danny Kaye Show to mane a few. Her live performances and in intimate settings are what she’s most noted for, which she continued to do up to her death (84).
HONORABLE MENTION: On February 7th, in 2005, the popular major UK network-Channel 4, polled their viewers to ascertain the top 10 videos of all-time. The King of Pop-Michael Jackson did better than everyone, being that he had the top spot for Thriller and 7th place for Billie Jean. Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer won 2nd, 3rd place went to A-Ha for Take on Me, 4th place was Queen with Bohemian Rhapsody, 5th: Madonna Like a Prayer, 6th: Robbie Williams-Rock DJ, 8th: The Verve-Bittersweet Symphony, 9th: Madonna-Vogue and 10th: Nirvana-Smells like Teen Spirit.
On February 7th, in 1966, the first magazines that focused on all things Rock ‘n’ Roll exclusively was published in New York City by Paul Williams-Crawdaddy! The first edition hit the shelves today. It was geared towards a growing youth culture, and was a first in that regard as most publications were for adults. It’s named after the famed venue in London, England-The Crawdaddy Club. The magazine set the stage for Creem and Rolling Stones, who later became its biggest rivals. It also provided a blueprint on how to take a serious approach to rock journalism. It ended in 1979.
On February 7th, in 1965, actor, director, TV producer, stand-up comedian, former SNL member, writer and TV host-Chris Rock (Christopher Julius Rock III) was born in Andrews, SC. He was raised in Brooklyn, NYC, NY and got into comedy as a kid, cracking jokes and signifying with neighborhood friends. He took the craft serious in his teens, and started doing stand-up professionally when he was 20. He’s played hilarious roles in movies like I’m Gonna Get You Suckah, New Jack City, Boomerang and Dogma. He also has directed and produced films, released several comedy specials, and hosted an HBO show with Grandmaster Flash on the decks. He's 54 today.
On February 7th, in 1934, seminal saxophonist, Rock ‘n’ Roll innovator, composer, sideman, and bandleader-King Curtis (Curtis Montgomery, Curtis Ousley) was born in Fort Worth, Texas. He started playing sax when he was 12 and became good enough to win college scholarships (I.M. Terrell HS student-Ornette Coleman was a classmate). He joined Lionel Hampton’s band instead, thus starting his professional music career. He released several LPs as a solo artist and did session work with many: Bernard Perdie, Cornell Dupree, John Lennon, The Coasters (Yakety Yak) Aretha Franklin, The Shirelles and Buddy Holly. He was 37 when he was murdered (stabbed) at his NYC home.
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