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On January 22nd, 1965, DJ, producer, actor and comedian-DJ Jazzy Jeff (Jeffrey Allen Townes) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Jeff first got into DJing at the age of 10 years old (around the time that Hip Hop Culture was starting to develop in Philadelphia). He’d go to the block parties and study the DJs, and started spinning when he was 12. He had gotten pretty good by the time he met The Fresh Prince at a Party and Jeff had his emcee there. He went up against Fresh Prince and lost. Jeff and Fresh Prince had a better chemistry, during the battle, than Jeff had with his own emcee. Fresh Prince liked how Jeff would scratch, or take the beat out to accentuate his punchlines without being told to do so. Jeff liked Fresh Prince’s sense of humor and rhyme style. Thus, they quickly became the group Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.
Keep in mind that Philadelphia had invented what the industry would later call Gangster Rap, when Philly native Schoolly D released his single PSK. Not to mention, Steady B and The Hilltop Hustler Crew were known for the late 80s style of rap (Run DMC, Dana Dane, Treacherous Three). Thus Jeff & Prince had to find their own lane, that wasn’t gangster or b-boy, but had a little of both with their own flavor thrown in. They settled on a pop type of comedy rap, and released their 1987 debut Rock The House with these types of songs. Their 1988 follow up He’s The DJ, I’m The Rapper showcased their style much more than the first album. Songs included: Parents Just Don’t Understand (for which they won a Grammy), A Nightmare On My Street, Charlie Mack, and Human Video Game. Jazzy Jeff went on to play Jazz on The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air, started his own academy, production company, and record label-and still tours the the world dee-jaying. He turns 54 years old today.
On January 22, 1924, pianist, composer, arranger, producer and trombonist-JJ Johnson (James Louis Johnson) was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. Johnson is another one of those musicians that you’ve heard his works, as a sideman, bandleader and composer, but most likely didn’t know who he was. He took classical piano when he was 9 and moved to trombone in his early teens (late 30s). He started playing professionally in the early 40s with Clarence Love & Snookum Russell. He was heavily influenced by Fats Navaro who inspired him to start playing with a Lester Young style, but on trombone (not sax). He played with Benny Carter, Count Basie and Illinois Jacquet in the mid to late 40s. In the 50s, he started touring and recording as a bandleader with Charlie Parker, Max Roach, Bud Powell and Sonny Stitt. He continued to work as a sideman with others as well:
Stanley Turrentine, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Elvin Jones, Jimmy McGriff, Lalo Schifrin, Sonny Rollins, Billie Holiday, The Adderley Brothers, Ron Carter and Donald Byrd. In the mid 50s through the 60s, he collaborated often with Kai Winding (trombonist). They were the co-bandleaders for the Jay & Kai Quintet. In the early 70s, Johnson started composing and scoring films. He scored Man & Boy with Quincy Jones & Bill Withers in 1971. He’s behind the music for Across 110th Street with Bobby Womack and Top of the Heap with Christopher St. John in 1972. In 1973, he scored Cleopatra Jones with Joe Simon and Millie Jackson. His last film score was for Willie Dynamite with Martha Reeves and the Sweet Things in 1974. Jazz historians credit Johnson with making the trombone a melodic be-bop fronting instrument like Charlie Parker did the saxophone. He was 77 when he died.
On January 22nd, in 1931, one of the greatest vocalist of all-time, gospel singer, songwriter, pianist, businessman, guitarist, activist, good friend of Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and the man coined the King of Soul-Sam Cooke (Samuel Cook) was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Cooke was the fifth child of 8 siblings born to Rev Charles & Annie Mae Cook. They moved to Chicago in the early 30s and started a gospel group with their children when Sam was 6-The Singing Children. In his teens, he became good friends with Jerry Butler and Lou Rawls who lived in the area. He also joined the gospel vocal group called the Highway QC’s which featured Johnny Taylor and Lou Rawls on vocals (late 40s). In 1950, he joined the Soul Stirrers and they released their first recording with Cooke as leader in 1951-Jesus Gave Me Water. He stayed with the Stirrers until the mid 50s, when he went solo and pursued a secular career. He changed the spelling of his last name from Cook to Cooke, adding an 'e' thus marking a change in his way of life, a new beginning of sorts.
His first single was a gospel conversion of Wonderful to Lovable on Specialty Records (like Ray Charles’ did with I Gotta Woman). He signed with Keen Records in 1957 and appeared on the Guy Mitchell TV Show (ABC). Cooke released several charting singles for Keen. One of his biggest hits on the imprint was-You Send Me. On his 25th birthday in 1960, he left Keen and signed to RCA. He started his own label in 1961, and this (in my opinion) coupled with his, independence, marketability, and Civil Rights/Black activism were all correlated to his death. It''s not a conspiracy as much as Scott La Rock, Biggie, Tupac, Jam Master Jay and Big L's murders are conspiracies. Since the Payola that the Jewish & Italian Mobs who ran the recording industry (still do) wouldn't be obtainable since they no longer owned his publishing and royalties, he had to be taken out so that they could generate money posthumously. He was 33 when he was murdered.
On January 22, in 2002, saxophonist, sideman, songwriter, arranger, producer and original member of the Funk Brothers-(Henry) Hank Cosby (2nd-r) passed away in Royal Oak, Michigan (suburb of Detroit). He started playing sax as a child and joined the US Army after high school to fight in the Korean War. He played in the Military Band while overseas, and when he returned to Detroit, he started performing at the jazz clubs in the area. Bandleader Joe Hunter asked Hank to join his outfit in the mid 50s. The Joe Hunter Band is the group that morphed into the Funk Brothers once they started working as the house band for Motown in 1959. While there, Hank started learning more about the music production process like: songwriting, arranging and composing. He tried his hand at all three with Stevie Wonder: Uptight, Fingertips, For Once in My Life, My Cherie Amour and I was Made to Love Her.
Hank and Smokey Robinson co-wrote Tears of a Clown, which became a hit in 1967. Not to mention he played the backing sax for: The Temptations, The Supremes, The Jackson 5, Edwin Starr, The Miracles, Valerie Simpson, The 4 Tops, Tammi Terrell, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Jimmy Ruffin, the Originals, Undisputed Truth, and the Marvelettes to name a few. In the early 70s, when Motown moved to L.A., Hank got a job producing for acts on Fantasy Records. He’s responsible for the Rance Allen Groups’ recordings on the imprint. They were a Stax Gospel outfit with a Funk foundation (appear in Wattstax-Lyin’ on the Truth). It’s unfortunate that the Funk Brothers didn’t move to LA with Motown in the early 70s. One the last LPs he played on before they left was Marvin Gaye’s seminal-What’s Going On (1971). All of those sax runs, fills and solos are Hank Cosby (inset & above-2nd r). He was 73 when he died.
On January 22nd, in 2017, drummer, sideman, bandleader and co-founding member of Can-German drummer (Hans) Jaki Liebezeit passed away in Dresden, Germany. He got his professional start with European Free Jazz trumpeter-Manfred Schoof. Jaki (below-2nd r) played drums for his quintet in the mid 60s. He got into the psychedelic counterculture that was brewing towards the late 60s and moved to Cologne. In 1968 he formed Inner Space-a Prog Rock psychedelic jazz band. In 1970, lead singer from the US-Malcolm Mooney joined the band and they renamed themselves-Can. One of the funkiest songs they made, which went on to become a classic Hip Hop breakbeat is-Vitamin C. However, don’t sleep on Oh-Yeah off their 1971 LP-Tago Mago. It's also a lesser known break classic.
Both songs have funky drum patterns that predate Hip Hop, with sparse vocals that mimic New Wave mixed with Punk at times. The melodies have an electronic but jazzy to them. Their overall sound was experimental and closely related to the music created by Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa & Mothers of Invention and Soft Machine. Most music critics credit Jaki for his ability to seem like a funky machine with perfect timing. He created a new style of drumming named after his playing style in Germany called-the Motorik Beat which refers to him playing like a motor (it was coined by German music critics). In the late 70s, he left Can and played drums for Michael Rother. In the '80s, he joined Phantomband, started Drums of Chaos and produced albums for others. He’s worked with Depeche Mode, Brian Eno and the Eurythmics. He was 78 when he died.
HONORABLE MENTION: On January 22nd, in 1994, singer actor and 70s icon-Telly Savalas passed away the day after his 70th birthday in Universal City, California. The NY native was most known for his 70s crime TV show-Kojak, he was the star-Lt, Theo Kojak (NYPD). His infamous line for commercials and appearances was: Who loves you baby? He always had a sucker in his mouth too. Salavas also sang and released an LP in the UK that had a number 1 hit in 1975-If. He acted in over 75 movies from 1961 to 1995, playing the villain in most of his films.
On January 22nd, in 1982, Bluesman, pianist, singer, songwriter, producer and composer-Tommy Tucker (Robert Higginbotham) passed away in Newark, New Jersey. The Ohio native secured a hit with Hi Heel Sneakers in 1964, but had been playing Blues, jump Blues and R&B way before ’64. Some artists that played on his records include Willie Dixon, Donny Hathaway and Louisiana Red. In the late 60s, he left music and became a pro-Black writer for the East Orange, New Jersey newspaper. He also worked in real estate. He was 48 when he died.
On January 22nd, in 1977, former Fleetwood Mac founding member, guitarist and songwriter-Peter (Allen) Green(baum-l) was officially committed to a mental institution following a shooting that occurred at his house. A delivery man was attempting to deliver a royalty check of $30K to Green who had renounced Rock ‘n’ Roll at the time. When the delivery guy wouldn’t stop approaching the house, Green started shooting at him. When asked why, he said he didn’t want the money. He returned to Rock ‘n’ Roll, releasing another LP 2 years later-In the Skies.
On January 22nd, in 1920, bass-baritone opera singer William Caesar Warfield was born in West Helena, Arkansas. He was raised in Rochester, NY and got his start singing in church. He continued to sing professionally as a lead, soloist and member of various choirs in churches and performance troupes. In 1950, he got invited to Australia to sing. He performed 35 concerts before returning to the states. Warfield found it hard to secure major roles in operas in the US due to racism. The European market cherished him more than his birth country. He was 82 when he died (Aug 26th, 2002).
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