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On February 16th, 1958, actor, rapper, record label executive, author, producer, founder of the Heavy Metal band Body Count, and the hip hop collective Rhyme Syndicate-Ice T (Tracy Lauren Morrow) was born in Newark, New Jersey. By the time he was 12, both of his parents had passed away; so he moved to Los Angeles during his 8th grade year and attended the Crenshaw District-Palms Jr. High School). While at Crenshaw High, Ice became ‘affiliated’ with a Crip set. He also got into reading Iceberg Slim novels, and would recite different rhymes Slim penned in his books. This led to the ‘homies’ asking Ice T: Yo, kick some more of that Ice, T…The name stuck.
He also got into reciting his own rhymes, and called them Crip rhymes. After high school, Ice-T enlisted in the Army. When he heard The Sugarhill Gang's Rapper's Delight, he chose rap. He became an assistant pimp for a Hawaiian pimp named Mac. Mac got him a set of tables, and Ice T returned to LA in 1979. By the early 1980s Ice was heavily involved in crime; and in 1982, he was involved in a life changing accident that took him off the streets. He won a rap contest that was judged by Kurtis Blow, two weeks after his was released from the hospital. Ice innovated two huge west coast native styles-Electro Rap and Gangsta Rap. Once he signed to Saturn Records in 1983, his career took off. His first appearance in a movie was in 1984’s Breakin’. Ice turns 61 today.
On February 16th, 1956, singer, pianist, songwriter, and long-time Quincy Jones collaborator-James (Edward) Ingram was born in Akron, Ohio. Ingram got into music when he was a kid. He and his younger brother Phillip, of the DeBarge Family-based late 70s early 80s outift Switch, would sing in church and at school. He stayed in the Akron area as a session keyboardist and touring musician. He attended the University Of Akron before moving to Los Angeles and joining the band Revelation Funk. They appeared in a live music scene in the Blaxploitation film Dolemite, starring Rudy Ray Moore (1975). And during the mid to late 1970s, he played as Ray Charles’ backing keyboardist.
In 1980 he got a request from Quincy Jones to sing on his The Dude album. Ingram made an indelible mark on songs like: Just Once, One Hundred Ways, and the title cut-The Dude (a duet with Michael Jackson). His fame took off from there, earning him opportunities to work with Anita Baker, Nancy Wilson, Donna Summer, Kenny Rogers, Natalie Cole, and Kim Carnes. He also co-wrote with Quincy Jones, the smash hit P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing), off Michael Jackson’s 1984 Thriller LP. One of his best duet songs, and he has many, is Baby Come To Me with Patti Austin (1983). James Ingram was 66 when he passed away.
On February 16th, in 1931, the musician that truly defines the term 'The Man Behind The Music,' Rock ‘n’ Roll innovator, singer, pianist, songwriter, and Hall Of Fame artist Otis Blackwell aka John Davenport was born in Brooklyn, NY. If you were born after 1950, you’ve heard at least one of Blackwell’s songs. He wrote Great Balls Of Fire, Fever, Daddy’s Rolling Stone, Don’t Be Cruel, All Shook Up, and Return To Sender. Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Willie John, The Who, and Elvis all made these songs hit singles. Blackwell preferred to write, rather than sing and perform. He started on piano when he was a kid, and loved to listen to R&B and Country-two genres he later merged in making Rock ‘n’ Roll.
He played for bands around the Harlem area during his teens, and when he was 21, he won Amateur Night at The Apollo in 1952. Execs from RCA records were in the audience, and signed him to a deal. His first release was an original song that The Who made a staple-Daddy’s Rolling Stone. The song also became a hit in Jamaica, and was covered by many vocalists on the island. Following the single’s release, Otis began to write songs, more than he recorded them. He gave Little Willie John one of his works in 1956-Fever. It quickly shot up the chart, and was a prototype of the Rock ‘n’ Roll sound. Elvis came calling, and Don’t Be Cruel was released that same year. Blackwell’s career as a songwriter took off in the late 1950s. He was 71 years old when he died.
On February 16th, 1916, pianist, seminal blues & R&B organist, composer, arranger, and producer-Bill Doggett (William Ballard Doggett) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Doggett learned the piano from his mother, who was a church organist. She started teaching him the ropes when he was nine, and Doggett proved to be a quick learner-playing around town with other bands while he was in high school. He started playing for Lucky Millinder in the 1930s, and Frank Fairfax in the 1940s. In 1942 he served as pianist/organist for The Ink Spots. In the late 1940s he met Louis Jordan, and replaced his then organist-Wild Bill Davis. Doggett stayed with Jordan until 1951, when he started his own trio and signed to King Records.
His biggest hit for the imprint came about in 1956. Honky Tonk was co-written with Billy Butler, and sold over four million copies. Doggett also started doing arrangements for Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald. He continued to record and do session work for other musicians on the label throughout the 1950s. His sound is a mix between hard bop, swing, soul, and jazz. It’s more of a Gene Ammons or Clifford Scott sound (a one-time member of Doggett’s band). He kept the swing style alive after its popularity faltered. Doggett incorporated soul, and elements of funk into his music in the 60s and 70s. He was 80 when he died in 1996.
HONORABLE MENTION: On February 16th, 2017, The King Of Pop-Michael Jackson received a posthumous certification from the RIAA (Recording Industry Association Of America). They’re responsible for certifying songs and albums as Gold, Platinum, or Diamond. A few weeks prior, they added individual tracks and web streams to their list of considerations when determining an album’s popularity. After this move, they certified Michael Jackson’s 1983 Thriller LP as 33-Times Platinum. The RIAA was coerced to change due to the change in the listening process and purchasing of music.
On February 16th, 2005, two events transpired for two totally different musicians that, ironically enough, pertain to the law. First, rapper, producer, actor, and TV personality-Kid Rock was in Nashville, TN at a local strip club. He allegedly punched the DJ and left. When the first officer pulled him over, he asked for Rock’s autograph and let him go, even though he smelled alcohol in the car. Rock was detained by another group of officers a few hours later. The officer that stopped him for the autograph was fired, and Rock was released-pending a court hearing on $3,000 bond.
The other incident happened to Yusuf Islam, or as many know him, Cat Stevens. Stevens is a singer, songwriter, and stringed multi-instrumentalist (mandolin, guitar, and bass). He also plays piano and mellotron. He converted to Islam in 1978, and changed his name from Cat Stevens to Yusuf Islam. Yusuf was paid a large settlement by both The Sun and The Sunday Times. They both depicted Stevens as guess what?! A terrorist. They paid his legal fees and apologized publicly. He gave all the money to Tsunami Relief efforts.
On February 16th, in 1996, we lost Piedmont Bluesman, singer, kazoo, ukulele, and banjo player, songwriter, guitarist, pianist, and polio survivor-Brownie McGhee (Walter Brown McGhee). TOV covered the artist’s birthday in the November 30th post. Please refer to it for more information. McGhee was mentored on guitar by Blind Boy Fuller. He worked with The Rabbit Foot Minstrels, Recorded for Okeh Records, collaborated with Sonny Terry, sang Folk Music to all-white audiences in the 1930s Great Depression Era, helped resurrect The Blues Revival Movement in the 1960s, and acted in movies in the 1970s and 1980s. McGhee passed away in Oakland, CA at the age of 80.
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