| || || |
| || || |
| || || |
On April 1st, 1984, we lost one of the best singers to ever grace the microphone-pop culture icon, seminal soul vocalist, pianist, songwriter, drummer, former Motown Powerhouse, and the man coined as The Prince Of Motown-Marvin Gaye (Marvin Pentz Gay Jr). He was murdered (shot), by his father Marvin Sr., the day before his 45th birthday. Marvin is known for his duets with Tammi Terrell, Mary Wells, and Diana Ross. He also had several hits as a solo artist. Songs like Ain’t That Peculiar, Sexual Healing, Trouble Man (an early prototype of rap), What’s Going On, You’re All I Need, Got To Give It Up, Let’s Get It On, It Takes Two, and Ain’t Mountain High Enough are just a few of the gems from his lengthy discography. Marvin grew up in Washington D.C., in a Pentecostal household. His father was a minister of The House Of God Church. Marvin Jr started singing when he was just four. His father played piano, and also taught him the basics when he was a child.
Marvin Sr. ruled with an ‘iron’fist’, and his parenting skills by today’s standards would be considered extremely abusive. Thus, their relationship was tumultuous from day one. Marvin Jr. developed his signing and piano skills during his elementary and middle school years. By the time he reached high school, he knew he wanted to be a singer. He started performing in the late 50s with the Marquees (headed by Reese Palmer) and the New Moonglows (headed by Harvey Fuqua). In 1961, he made his recording debut on Tamla Records-Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide. It didn’t sell well, resulting in Gaye becoming the session drummer for a lot of Motown’s early acts. In 1962, he released his first hit-Stubborn Kind of Fellow. He went on to have a huge influence on singers of all genres, as well as an extremely successful career in music. He was 44 when he passed.
On April 1st, in 1949, Pro-Black activist, singer, organist, writer, poet, hip hop innovator, and spoken word pioneer-Gil Scott-Heron was born in Chicago, Illinois. His mother was an opera singer and his father was a Jamaican soccer player. They split when Gil was very young, forcing him to live with his grandmother in Jackson, Tennessee. She raised him until he was 12. His mother moved from Chicago to the Bronx, so Gil left Tennessee and moved in with her. He was heavily influenced by writers from the Harlem Renaissance era, most notably,-Langston Hughes, which was the reasoning behind Gil’s attending Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania (Langston’s Alma Mater). Already a prolific writer and poet from a Black political standpoint, Gil saw The Last Poets perform at Lincoln in 1969. Immediately after the show he approached them about starting a band like their's.
He teamed up with Brian Jackson (pianist, flautist), and they formed the band-Black & Blues. He got heavily into the Blacks Arts Movement (‘the aesthetic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept) and left Lincoln right before his junior year to write his first novel-The Vulture and the Nigger Factory (1970). He performed at poetry cafes and rallies in NYC with Brian Jackson and assorted percussionists. Flying Dutchman signed him, and he released his first recording-Small Talk at 125th and Lenox (1970). The mostly spoken word LP did well. His follow up-Pieces of a Man, took a more musical approach, with Scott singing and the band led by Brian Jackson playing more melodic funk and jazz based rhythms behind his lyrics. He was 62 when he passed (2011).
On April 1st, in 1972, two of Hollywood’s most unsung directors, filmmakers, producers and writers were born-The Hughes Brothers (Allen & Albert Hughes-Detroit, Michigan). I remember seeing their debut film with my brother and a couple friends in 1993 (when it came out). Kaydee (Caine) played by Tyrin Turner was supposed to be the star…but in actuality, O-Dog played by Larenz Tate was the best actor in the movie. He, along with Samuel L. Jackson (Caine’s dad), Charles S. Dutton (Caine’s teacher Mr, Butler and Sharif’s father) and A-Wax, played by MC Eiht made the movie an urban classic. It was very cliché in that the hero gets shot in the end like Ricky on Boyz in the Hood. However, it also depicted the situation Blacks faced in subsidized housing post L.A. Riots and Rodney King.
Interesting fact: Tupac was originally supposed to be cast as O-Dog, but he got into an ‘altercation’ with the Hughes. Menace to Society put the young directors on the Hollywood ‘map’. They followed up with another hit film that told the story of an inner-city Vietnam veteran, the psychological affects of the war and the choices he’s coerced to make after he returns to the states-Dead Presidents (1995). It casts Larenz Tate in the lead role, Chris Tucker, Bookem Woodbine, N’Bushe Wright, Keith David, Freddy Rodriguez and Rose Jackson. They rounded out the 90s with the seminal documentary that brought us: Rose Budd, with two D’s for a double dose of this pimping-American Pimp (1999). They directed the horror film-From Hell in 2001 and The Book of Eli in 2011. Both brothers have also created solo work as directors, producers and writers. They’re 47 today.
HONORABLE MENTION: On April 1st, in 1895, jazz vocalist, songwriter and singer-Alberta Hunter was born in Memphis, TN. She’s unique in that she had a successful career twice. She started singing in nightclubs and brothels in the Chicago area during her early teens. She became a prolific improviser (early prototype ‘freestyle’ vocalist) that could make up lyrics on the fly. Her reputation exploded, and by 1917 she was touring Europe. From the 20s to the late 50s, she toured Europe and the states. She also recorded heavily. She left music in 1960 and became a nurse. In 1978, feeling she had to sing again, she returned to the studio and the stage, releasing 5 LPs from 1978 to 1983. She was 89 when she passed.
On April 1st, in 1939, singer, songwriter and co-founding member of the Isley Brothers-Rudolph Isely was born in Cincinnati, OH. He joined the group in the early 50s with his brothers O’Kelly, Ron and Vernon. His brother Vernon passed in 1957, and Rudolph, Ron and O’Kelly moved to NYC seeking a record deal. They landed one with RCA in 1959 and released their seminal hit-Shout. They released a few more hits on various labels after this (Twist & Shout, This Old Heart of Mine). In the late 60s, they started their own label: T-Neck. You can hear Rudolph on songs like: Fight the Power, You Still Feel the Need, Livin’ the Life and It’s a Disco Night. He left music to preach in 1989. He’s 80 today.
On April 1st, in 1948, reggae singer, guitarist, songwriter, pianist, actor, conga player and the Star of the cult film The Harder They Come-Jimmy Cliff (James Chambers) was born in Saint James, Jamaica. Cliff is one of the best singer/songwriters to come from Jamaica, or any place for that matter. He’s recorded for several labels and is a Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame musician (inducted 2010). Some of his more popular recordings are: The Harder They Come, You Can Get it if You Really Want, Johnny Nash’s-I Can See Clearly Now and his seminal ballad-Many Rivers to Cross. He’s the man credited with convincing seminal reggae producer-Leslie Kong to go into the recording business. He’s 71 today.
On April 1st, in 1999, we lost a Rock ‘n’ Roll pioneer, songwriter, pianist, producer, composer, singer, arranger and multi-genre musician-Jesse (Albert) Stone. He is the man that penned the hit song-Shake Rattle & Roll. Stone’s recording debut came in 1926 with his then band-The Blue Serenaders. His roots were in jazz-the popular music genre at the time. In the 30s, Duke Ellington got his band gigs at the Cotton Club. This led to Stone becoming the bandleader at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. In the mid 40s, he started working as a producer, A&R and writer with Atlantic Rercords (also based in NYC) under the alias of Charles E. Calhoun. He wrote the majority of his hits wit the imprint. He was 97 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