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On April 2nd, 1939, soul singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer, session musician, and the man they called 'The Prince Of Motown’ Marvin Gaye (Marvin Pentz Gay Jr.) was born in Washington D.C. TOV covered the artist’s death in the April 1st post, and reviews the early part of Marvin’s career (thru 1962). Marvin sang with Harvey Fuqua’s New Moonglows on Harvey’s imprint (Tri Phi Records). When the label was bought out by Berry Gordy for Tamla Records, aka Motown, Harvey agreed to relinquish a portion of Marvin’s contract. Fuqua went on to produce The New Birth, The Nite-Liters, and others. Marvin used the momentum from his 1962 hits-Stubborn Kind Of Fellow, Hitch Hike, and Pride & Joy to jump start his solo career. In October of 1962 he released his second LP, That Stubborn Kind Of Fellow, which featured those songs-and brought the national spotlight. One year later, the single Can I Get A Witness catapulted Marvin to international fame.
During the mid 1960's, Marvin appeared on TV shows, helped write and produced songs for The Supremes, and had a few hit duets with Tammi Terrell. The early 1970's, and Motown’s move to L.A. in 1972, sparked a creative change in the imprint's artists. They now demanded writing and production freedom from Gordy’s song making factory. Marvin was the first to ‘defect’ from the label’s policies. Much to Gordy's disapproval, Marvin wrote, composed, and produced his breakthrough LP What’s Going On in 1971. Music formatting (all one song, with no pauses), lyrical content coming from a mainstream label, and self-production were introduced to the industry with this album. This pioneering singer was just 44 when he passed away.
On April 2nd, 1942, one of the best, but relatively unknown modern songwriters-pianist, producer, guitarist, singer, composer, arranger, session musician, and one of the innovators of The Tulsa Sound-Leon Russell (Claude Russell Bridges) aka Hank Wilson was born in Lawton, Oklahoma. TOV covered the artist’s death in the November 13th post. Please refer to it for more information. Russell is the man that wrote the ballad-A Song For You-which was made popular by several artists-most notably Donny Hathaway. He also wrote songs for artists like Joe Cocker, Mary McCreary, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, J.J. Cale, Elton John, George Harrison, Willie Nelson, and Rita Coolidge.
Leon started playing piano when he was just four, and started playing in nightclubs around the Tulsa Area-with a fake ID-when he was 14. This is where the name ‘Leon’ came from (his fake ID). He recorded and performed with David Gates and Anita Bryant under the name The Fencemen; and in the late 1950's, he moved to Los Angeles and started learning guitar from James Burton. In the early 1960's he did session work, production, and arrangement for pop, gospel, blues, funk, soul and country acts. His reputation as a session musician and arranger grew, which put him on ‘first call’ status with most record executives. He played with The Wrecking Crew in the mid 60's, co-wrote a few pop hits, and made TV appearances. He also founded Shelter Records, in 1969, with Denny Cordell. In the early 1970's he recorded as a solo artist, and with Joe Cocker. He was 74 when he passed away.
On April 2nd, 1928, film scorer, innovative composer, pianist, writer, singer, poet, filmmaker, producer, actor, and avant-garde musician-Serge Gainsbourg (Lucien Ginsburg) was born in Paris, France. TOV covered the artist’s death on the March 2nd post. Please refer to it for more information. To briefly recap, that post discussed Serge’s life from birth, up to WWII Nazi occupied France, and his jazz influence in the late 50s. He incorporated several genres into his unique compositions-funk, soul, rock, electronica, reggae and pop. In the early 60s, he released a few sides that did moderately well. In the mid 60s, he released his seminal LP that showcases various African rhythms-Gainsbourg Percussions. He also penned and produced a few hits for pop artists like France Gail and Twinkle. He penned Gail’s controversial-Lollipops single that she thought meant the girl liked lollipops. It was actually about oral sex.
His sound by this time was heavily influenced by the psychedelic counterculture. In the late 60s and early 70s, he began getting into filmmaking, screenwriting and acting. He also released the famed-Je t’aime…moi non plus (1969) which features Jane Birken making sexual sounds. His concept LP called-Histoire de Melody Nelson came out in 1970, and continues to influence artists today. He recorded a rock themed LP in 1976, two reggae themed albums (1979 & 1981) and two electro-funk LPs in 1984 and 1987. He’s recorded over 500 songs during his career. He’s also has more than 1000 song cover credits. His film work, soundtrack scores, writings and graphic art show the versatility Gainsbourg possesses. He was 62 when he passed.
HONORABLE MENTION: On April 2nd, in 1943, jazz musician, fusion jazz innovator, guitarist, sideman, pianist, composer, bandleader, producer, arranger and the man coined: ‘The Godfather of Fusion’-Larry Coryell was born in Galveston, TX. Larry started playing piano when he was 4 and moved to guitar in his teens. He was heavily influenced by Kenny Burrell, Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian, Red Norvo, Les Paul, Tal Farlow, Barney Kessel and Johnny Smith. He played with various bands during his teens, before moving to NYC in 1965. In 1967, he joined Chico Hamilton’s quintet, replacing Gabor Szabo. He released his first LP on Vanguard Records in 1969-Lady Coryell. Hew was 73 when he passed.
On April 1st, in 1987, we lost an important jazz musician, seminal drummer, bandleader, singer, composer, arranger, tap dancer, producer, sideman and early toddler performer-Buddy Rich (Bernard Rich). Buddy got his start on drums before he turned two. His parents used to have him accompany them on stage for their vaudeville act. By the time he was 4, he was performing on Broadway as: ‘Baby Traps the Drum Wonder’. By the time he was 15, he was the second highest paid child performer (to Jackie Coogan). He joined Joe Marisala’s band in 1937 and started recording as a bandleader in 1953. he helped shape the sound of swing jazz and hard bop, providing the backing beat for it. His career spanned over 6 decades. He was 69 when he passed.
On April 2nd, in 1995, we lost a seminal jazz musician, saxophonist, composer, clarinetist, sideman, flautist, arranger, bandleader, producer and free jazz innovator-Julius (Arthur) Hemphill. He started off on clarinet at the famed I.M. Terrell High School in Fort Worth, TX. Other artists like Ornette Coleman and John Carter have come out of the school. He switched to Saxophone in his late teens and enlisted in the US Army in 1964. He joined Ike Turner’s band in the late 60s and co-founded the Black Arts Group (BAG) in 1968 (St. Louis, Missouri). He moved to NYC in the mid 70s and started playing free jazz. He also started his own band, became a teacher for upcoming saxophonists like David Sanborn and participated in several saxophone only ensembles. He was 57 when he passed.
On April 2nd, in 2003, we lost a pioneering psychedelic soul singer, songwriter and one of Norman Whitfield’s best vocalist-Edwin Starr (Charles Edwin Hatcher). TOV covered the artist’s birthday on the January 21st post. Please refer to it for more information. Edwin’s strongest work came from his collaborations with Whitfiled while both were working at Motown. Their late 60s and early 70s collaborations laid the foundation for what would become the psychedelic soul sound (Funkadelic, War and the Bar-Kays are also influential in this subgenre). Songs like There You Go, Love is My Destination and of course War (what is it good for?), represent the psychedelic soul sound extremely well. He was 61 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