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On April 7th, in 1915, iconic jazz vocalist, pop culture mogul, singer, songwriter, multi-label recording artist and my personal third favorite female singer of all-time:-Billie Holiday (Eleanora Fagan) AKA Lady Day was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She's responsible for shaping the phrasing and vernacular of singers in multiple genres. She was one of the first mainstream vocalists to incorporate social problems into her songs like-Strange Fruit which tells the story of Blacks being lynched in the Jim Crow south during the development of post-Civil War America…’Southern trees, bear a strange fruit…blood on the leaves, blood on the roots…Black bodies swinging, in the southern breeze…strange fruit hanging, from the poplar tree…’ That’s just the first few lines of her song, it gets deeper as it goes on.
She set a tone, literally and figuratively, for artists like Nina Simone-who also tackled controversial social issues through her music. Billie was influenced by Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey from the pre and post-Great Depression era. This is one of the many factors that makes her overall sound blues based. Growing up in rough situation also hardended her style. She was a highly transient child that worked in a brothel during her early teens. She was constantly challenged based on ethics, gender and ethnicity. All of these factors and more created the seminal singer’s voice. She definitely wasn’t a ‘push-over’. In the Ken Burns PBS documentary Jazz-friends recall a time when some sailors put their cigarette out on Billie’s fur coat. She not only confronted them, she also beat them both up. Lady Day was 44 when she passed (1959).
On April 7th, in 1938, fusion jazz innovator, hard bop figurehead, trumpeter, sideman, cornetist, composer, French horn player, arranger, mellophonist, bandleader, flugelhornist and one of the most sampled jazz trumpeters-Freddie (Dewayne) Hubbard was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. Freddie is well-known in the rare groove, acid jazz and hip hop community for crafting fusion and hard bop jazz that influenced the creation of all three of the aforementioned genres. He also played with several notable jazz musicians on some groundbreaking recordings like: John Coltrane-Ole (1961) and Ornette Coleman-Free Jazz (1960). He honed his craft with one of the staple hard bop educators and performers-Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers. In fact, Hubbard replaced another favorite trumpeter of mine-Lee Morgan when he joined the Jazz Messengers in 1961.
His CTI recordings are some of the best examples of fusion jazz that was created during the 70s. LPs like Red Clay, First Light, Sky Dive, Keep Your Soul Together, and Polar A/C all have been sampled heavily by hip hop artists like Souls of Mischief, Gangstarr and A Tribe Called Quest. He also released several hard bop albums that were legendary in their own right like: Black Angel, Hub-Tones, Breaking Point! and Backlash. Hubbard got his start playing mellophone in the high school band. He studied music after that at the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music. He got his professional start with Wes and Monk Montgomery, both of whom were big names in Indianapolis. He migrated to the then jazz capitol of the world-New York City. While there, he played with several musicians: Eric Dolphy, Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, Philly Joe Jones and Tina Brooks. His recording debut as a bandleader came in 1960-Open Sesame (Blue Note). He was 70 when he passed (2007).
On April 7th, in 1949, 80s rock innovator, singer, guitarist, producer, songwriter and co-founding member of Hall & Oates-John William Oates was born in New York City, New York. Oates is the less noticeable half of the seminal 80s rock band Hall & Oates. He helped pen classic hits like: I Can’t Go for That, Sara Smiles and Everytime You Go Away. Oates also sang lead or co-lead on songs like: She’s Gone, Africa, Time Won’t Pass Me By and Serious Music. Interesting fact: John’s mother is an Italian immigrant from Salerno and his paternal grandmother was a Moor. His family moved to Philly when he was young. By the time he was in middle school, he was singing and playing guitar. Oates was heavily influenced by the Philadelphia soul scene that hosted tight doo wop acts. They could be heard from performance halls to corner stores. This helped shape his sound and songwriting.
He made his recording debut when he was 17 (1966)-I Need Your Love (Crimson Records). After he left high school ,he enrolled at Temple University. This is where he met his musical partner-Daryl Hall. They both performed in several bands during college. In the late 60s, they formed the duo-Hall & Oates. Their reputation grew fast and by 1972 they’d signed to Atlantic Records and released their debut LP-Whole Oates. They recorded 3 more albums on Atlantic before signing with RCA in 1975. They released their 4th LP later that same year-Daryl Hall & John Oates. This is one of their best LPs during the 70s that capitalizes on the popularity of Glam Rock-made infamous by the Godfather of Glam-David Bowie AKA Ziggy Stardust. It features their all-time best ballad-Sara Smiles. Their careers took off in the late 70s and early 80s. Oates is 71 today.
HONORABLE MENTION: On April 7th, in 1938, psychedelic rock innovator, drummer, percussionist and former member of Jefferson Airplane-Spencer Dryden was born in NYC, NY. Dryden was influenced by jazz drummers from the New Orleans area. He replaced Jefferson Airplane’s original drummer-Skip Spence in 1966. The band still was working out their sound and stage show when he joined. Dryden helped inspire Slick’s songwriting, and acted as a mentor, bringing a jazz tone to the band through. He left the group in 1970, and passed in 2005 (age 66).
On April 7th, in 1958, a film starring an all-star cast-St. Louis Blues debuted in American theaters. The cast included Mahalia Jackson, Cab Calloway, Eartha Kitt, a then 10-year-old Billy Preston, Barney Bigard, Ruby Dee, Pearl Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald and starring-Nat King Cole as the Father of Jazz-Mr. W.C. Handy. The film is a loose biography of W.C. Handy’s life as a jazz musician and composer. Cole plays the role rather well, along with his supporting cast. It’s in the dramatic musical format. Inspired by his role of W.C. Handy, Nat composed an album called-St. Louis Blues the year the film was released (1958).
On April 7th, in 1981, the certified ‘Super Freak’-Rick James released his 5th LP-Street Songs. It peaked at #1 on the US R&B chart, #3 on the pop chart and went platinum. Surprisingly, it didn’t chart at all in the UK. It’s one of Rick’s best albums. It has several hits like the Teena Marie duet ballad-Fire & Desire, Give it to Me Baby, Ghetto Life, Super Freak and Below the Funk (Pass the J). The success of this LP made Rick a national sensation. He became the first Black man in America to be nominated at the 1982 Grammys for the Best Male Rock Vocal. category (Super Freak). Rick invented a sub-genre of funk fused with rock called-punk funk. He showcases it very well on this LP. Stevie Wonder has a cameo on the song Mr. Policeman.
On April 7th, in 2013, we lost a seminal songwriter, producer and sound engineer that worked during the height of blues based rock ‘n’ roll era (late 60s)-Andy Johns (Jeremy Andrew Johns). He innovated panning and effects in sound recording and engineering. He worked with bands like Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones Eric Clapton and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. He also produced other artists like Free, Jack Bruce, Humble Pie, Van Halen, L.A. Guns, Bobby Whitlock and Gary Wright. His style of mixing influenced has been very influential across genres. He made the mixing board an instrument, producing and engineering over 100 albums from 1969 to 2012. He was 62 when he passed.
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