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On March 26th, 1944, singer, songwriter, 60's soul pioneer, actress, pianist, composer, arranger, model, and record producer-Diana Ross (Diane Ross) was born in Detroit, Michigan. Diana's musical journey began, in the late 1950's, when Florence Ballard’s friend-Mary Wilson-asked her to join their group called The Primettes. Betty McGlown was also added to the group; but Betty’s parents didn’t allow her to sing secular music, so she had to quit. Betty was replaced by Janie Bradford, who named them The Supremes. Barbara Martin replaced her, but left also. The Primettes were an off-shoot of their male counterparts-The Primes (containing soon to be Temptations member Paul Williams).
All three of these ladies lived in The Brewster Douglass Housing Projects. Florence was the lead singer and Mary & Diana sang backup. Diana brought her passions for cosmetology and fashion to the group, and enhanced their overall image. She wanted to be a fashion designer at first, but pursued music instead. In 1960 the group came under the management of Milton Jenkins, who took them across The Ambassador Bridge to Windsor, Canada, for a talent showcase. This is where they got their opportunity to audition for Motown. Berry Gordy told them they were too young at first, but signed them a year later in 1961. Diana became the lead singer in 1963, went solo, and introduced the world to The Jackson 5 in 1970. Movies, production work, and solo projects came in the 70's & 80's. Diana Ross is 75 today.
On March 26th, 1917, Funk pioneer, radio DJ, singer, songwriter, producer, comedian, TV personality, father of famed vocalist Carla Thomas, and one of the funkiest men to walk the planet-Rufus C. Thomas Jr. was born in Cayce, Mississippi. Rufus’ single The Breakdown Parts 1 & 2 contain a drum break that’s been sampled by everyone from The RZA to Dr. Dre. Hip Hop producers also commonly use Do The Funky Chicken, Push And Pull, Itch And Scratch, and Do The Funky Penguin. Rufus started off as tap dancer on Beale Street, and those skills were the foundation for dances like The Funky Penguin & The Funky Chicken.
During high school, he hosted talent contests at The Palace Theater. After high school he joined The Rabbit Foot Minstrels troupe, before getting married in 1940. The service was conducted by Reverend C. L. Franklin. He recorded his first single, I’ll Be A Good Boy b/w I’m So Worried, in 1950 on Star Records. While DJing at WDIA, Sun Records owner-Sam Phillips owner of Sun Records-asked Thomas to record Bear Cat (1953), as a response to Big Mama Thorton's Hound Dog. A few years later in 1960, he went to Stax Records and recorded Cause I Love You with his daughter Carla. The song became a local hit, and he continued to record throughout the 1960's. The backing bands, for his music on Stax, were The Bar-Kays and Booker T. & The M.G.s. This is what made it so funky. He was 84 when he passed away in 2001.
On March 26th, 1995, hip hop lost gangsta rap pioneer, businessman, record producer, rapper, record executive, talent scout, and co-founding member of N.W.A.-with Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, and MC Ren-Eazy E (Eric Lynn Wright). TOV covered the artist’s birthday in the September 7th post. Please refer to it for more information. As the story goes, Eazy started off as a drug dealer, that amassed enough money to start Ruthless Records in 1986. He teamed up with Jerry Heller, who was already established in the industry.
At first Eazy was supposed to be the ‘money guy,' entirely behind the scenes-Cube would write the raps, and Dr. Dre would make the beats. They recruited some other rappers to lay the song Boyz-N-The-Hood. When they faltered, Dre and Cube asked Eazy to lay the rhymes. He did it, line by line as a punch in, and the finished track became an instant classic! Since Eazy was the first person that people saw and heard out of the crew, they associated him as being the face or leader of the group. It becomes a slippery slope when the fact that he cut the checks is taken into account. Like other groups that blew up in the late 80's, and broke up in the 90's (The Native Tongues, The Juice Crew, Ultramagnetic MCs, EPMD, etc.), money issues permanently fractured N.W.A. I wonder what the music would’ve sounded like had they all stayed together…Eazy recorded solo LPs, and produced others up to his death. He was 30 when he passed away.
HONORABLE MENTION: On March 26th, 1948, seminal rock icon, singer, drummer, songwriter, guitarist and co-founding member of Aerosmith-Steven Tyler (Steven Victor Tallarico) AKA the Demon of Screamin’ was born in Manhattan, NYC, NY. He’s most known for the 70s rock music he created with Aerosmith (1970-1978). This laid the blueprint for his comeback in 1986 when RUN DMC at Rick Rubin’s suggestion, covered their classic break-Walk This Way. The band got introduced to an entirely new, and younger audience.
On March 26th, in 1950, Sound of Philadelphia soul innovator, near fatal car wreck survivor, drummer, songwriter, pianist, composer, singer, arranger, producer and former member of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes-Teddy Pendergrass (Theodore DeReese Pendergrass) was born in Kingstree, SC. Teddy played drums for the Cadillacs-a vocal group out of Philly (1970). Harold Melvin heard him and hired him as his drummer. During a recording/rehearsal session, Teddy started singing along to the track. Harold heard his vocals and made him the lead singer. Their first major hit was I Miss You in 1972. He was 59 when he died (2010).
On March 26th, in 1990, the hip hp collective group that introduced the world the Tupac Shakur-Digital Underground released their seminal full-length debut LP-Sex Packets. This album dropped about a year after De La Soul dropped 3 Feet High & Rising. Both groups were very similar in that both LPs were extremely different from the hip hop norm (at the time). I believe Digital Underground was one of the first, if not the first group to sample Prince. They also sampled a lot of P-Funk related artists too. Songs like Doowutchyalike, Sex Packets, The Way We Swing (Jimi Hendrix sample), Freaks of the Industry and A Tribute to the Early Days all made this concept LP a sure hit with hip hop heads. It centered around Sex Packets which were like the drug ecstasy before ecstasy came out…another case of science fiction becoming science fact…
On March 26th, in 1992, the world’s youngest World Heavyweight Champion was waiting to hear his sentence. Mike Tyson was found guilty of raping Desiree Washington on Feb 10th, about 6 weeks prior. His sentence was handed down today. He received six years in the Indiana Youth Center. He also got 4 years probation. He served nearly 3 years and got out in March of 1995. Tyson’s legacy was forever tarnished by this incarceration, which isn’t comparable to Muhammad Ali’s in principle, only that both were locked up during their prime…However, the irony is thick…and Tyson converted to Islam while he was 'inside'.
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