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On November 8th, in 1947, singer, songwriter, psychedelic soul mogul and mother-Minnie (Julia) Riperton was born in Chicago, Illinois. She was the youngest child of 8 siblings. Her mother and father saw she could sing early on and sent her to the Lincoln Center in Chicago to get opera training from Marion Jeffery. Marion made sure that Minnie pursued her opera training further at the Junior Lyric Opera. She graduated from Hyde Park High and went to Loop College. However, she dropped out to do music full-time shortly after she became a member of Zeta Phi Beta.
She got her professional start with The Gems when she was 15. It was an all-female vocal trio that would later become the Studio Three, an infamous session singing crew that sang back up for such artists as Fontella Bass (Rescue Me, mid-60s). The Gems released a couple of singles under a few names during the mid to late 60s: The Girls Three (I Want You-1967) & The Starlets (My Baby’s Real-1968). In 1967, she met Leonard Chess’ (owner of Chess Records) son Marshall who was putting together a Psychedelic Rock-Soul-Blues based band called Rotary Connection.
Members included: Chess, Riperton, Charles Stepney, Judy Hauff and Sidney Barnes. They released their self-titled debut LP the same year, and a follow up in 1968-Aladdin. The collective released 4 more LPs, ending with Hey Love in 1971 (other notable LP-Songs 1969). In the early 70s, Minnie went solo and put out her Charles Stepney produced Come Into My Garden LP (1970), which didn’t make much noise when it came out, but now is a collector’s item and revered as a extraordinary piece of work. She had two kids following this LP, and leading up to 1973’s Perfect Angel on Epic Records.
This LP had 4 singles, Loving You being the last one that would make this her most sold LP (went gold by 1975). Stevie Wonder wrote the song Take a Little Trip, and would have her sing backup on his Fulfillingness’ First Finale & Songs in the Key of Life LPs. Quincy Jones also had her sing on his Body Heat & Mellow Madness LPs. Terry Callier had her featured on his Fire & Ice LP, and Tenna Marie, David T. Walker, Leon Ware and Lalo Schifrin also used her distinct vocals on some of their songs. She went on to record 4 more LPs that were heavily sampled by Hip Hop producers. She passed away from cancer in 1979. She was 31 years-old.
On November 8th, in 1949, guitarist, producer, singer and songwriter-Bonnie Lynn Raitt was born in Burbank, California. I will admit that I expected her to be from the south as her vocals are very reminiscent of Country and Blues roots, which are the genres she commonly drew inspiration from. Born into a musical family, her mother was a pianist (Majorie Haydock) and her father was a Broadway musical regular (John Raitt). Her parents encouraged her to play guitar, and she developed a bottleneck style of playing (commonly used in the blues-a percussive modification of slide guitar). Raitt attended Radcliffe College in upstate New York where she majored in African Studies and Social Relations (late 60s, it was prime time for this type of thinking).
She met the infamous Blues Promoter Dick Waterman in the late 60s and dropped out school to pursue music full-time. She started ‘sitting-in’, gigging and jamming with Blues notables like John Hammond and Mississippi Fred McDowell in the early 70s. Word spread fast about her singing and playing skills. Waner Brothers came calling, singed her and she released her debut self-titled LP in 1971. She released several LPs on the imprint, with great reviews, even made the cover of Rolling Stones Magazine in 1975, but the world wasn’t ready for a female guitarist of her her caliber during the 70s or the 80s. She wouldn’t get the sales she deserved until 1990 when she won 4 Grammys, one with John Lee Hooker. She’s 69 today.
Emcees come and go: On November 8th, in 1978, the controversial former Bad Boy emcee-Shyne (Jamal Michael Barrow) AKA Moses Michael Levi Barrow was born in Belize City, Belize. His mother moved to Brooklyn and his father stayed in Belize. Shyne would live in both places as a child (summer’s in Belize-rest of the year in Brooklyn with his mother). Interesting fact: Shyne’s father-Dean Barrow became the Prime Minister of Belize in 2008. He got interested heavily in Hip Hop around the late 80s. However, he didn't get discovered until a decade later (1998) when Dee Jay Clark Kent heard him freestyle at a barbershop in NYC. Kent took Shyne to Bad Boy and Puff signed him.
Shyne got a few million, some cars and two cribs with his 5 album contract. Puff was so desperate to find that next big thing after Big’s death, Craig Mack’s neglect & demise, that he had to give Shyne more than the average act on his label. A Year later, Shyne, J-Lo and Puff would all get arrested. Shyne got time for attempted murder due to an altercation at a Manhattan club that escalated too far. Puff dropped Shyne quick, J-Lo dropped Puff quick, and Shyne did his time. Shyne’s self-titled debut LP dropped while he was out on bail (2000). A lot of his sales were from the criminal mystique and not the mic skills…just saying. He’s 39 today.
On November 8th, in 2011 we lost a pioneering Emcee-Heavy D (Dwight Arrington Myers) passed away in Los Angeles, California due to complications with his heart. Heavy D did it all...and then some. He was a prolific emcee, producer, record executive, actor, dancer, comedian, songwriter and the cousin of Pete Rock. The Jamaican native and his crew (Heavy D & the Boyz-dancers G Wiz & T-Roy, Dee Jay Eddie F) were the first act signed to Uptown Records, releasing their debut in 1987 (Living Large). One of his most slept on LPs that showcase his lyrical skills is Blue Funk (1992). Heavy worked with Janet Jackson on her Alright single, and the King of Pop-Michael Jackson on Jam.
He dropped 8 to 16 bars on a lot of people’s songs from the late 80s to the late 90s. He also made frequent appearances onTV-Sitcoms like The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Living Single, In Living Color and MADtv. Heavy’s Nuttin but Love LP from 1994 gave his group international fame. The video for the title single features several budding supermodels that at the time, were not as famous as they are now, further proving how far ahead of the times Heavy was. He was always positive too...even when he was reprimanding you lyrically, it wasn’t on any Rah Rah stuff. I respect that, he stayed true to his style and lane the whole time. He was 44 years-old when he passed.
Jazz listeners mourn: On November 8th, in 1999, we lost a seminal Jazz trumpeter, flugelhorn player, arranger, percussionist, bandleader, composer, member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, co-founder of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and founder of Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy (all brass nonet)-Lester Bowie. The Maryland native and St Louis raised Bowie started playing trumpet at age 5. By the mid 60s, he had played with Rufus Thomas, Solomon Burke, Little Milton, Joe Tex, Albert King, and married Fontella Bass becoming her musical director. He moved to Chicago in 1966 and co-founded the Art Ensemble of Chicago.
The Art Ensemble’s live shows were unique in that the artists wore lab coats, as if they were concocting musical compounds, combining elements of sound to make songs. He remained with the group until his passing. He moved to Jamaica and Africa for a stint where he recorded with the infamous Fela Kuti. A lot of critics regard his music as avant-garde or tinged with elements of Free-Jazz. However, Bowie embraced all genres of music in his creations. He worked with David Bowie on his Black Tie White Noise LP. David even has a song named after Lester on the LP called Looking for Lester. He passed away from liver cancer in Brooklyn, New York. He was 58 years-old.
Honorable Mention: On November 8th, in 1898, an act of domestic terrorism occurred in Wilmington, North Carolina.-The Wilmington Massacre AKA The Wilmington Race Riot AKA the Wilmington Insurrection. It was two days of mob violence by the upstanding White citizens of the city that decided to destroy the state’s sole daily Black newspaper-The Daily Record (something about publications-see 11-07-18 TOV post: Honorable Mention Elijah P. Lovejoy). It was a post Civil War reaction to the freedom Blacks had been allotted in the South. Mississippi had disobeyed the Union by drawing up their own state constitution that systemically limited the rights of Blacks by implementing laws that were against Federal regulations (budding Jim Crow). The riot is deemed as the only coup d’etat in the US.
On November 8th, in 1944, saxophonist, bandleader, composer, songwriter and groundbreaking musician-Rodney Slater was born in Crowland, Lincolnshire. He was a founding member of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band that were the precursor to Prog Rock in the late 60s. He played a lot of woodwind instruments and penned most of the music. He’d leave the band in the early 70s, but continued to play with them. He also formed a splinter group called Three Bonzos and a Piano. He’s 74 today.
On November 8th, in 1974, we lost a Jazz, Blues, Country and Rock ‘n’ Roll icon, the Happiest Man Alive-Ivory Joe Hunter. Ivory was coined the Baron of the Boogie. His Boogie Woogie piano playing, and compositions were first recorded when he was 13. He also had strong vocals and songwriting skills. He made music that laid the foundation for contemporary Blues, Country, Soul, Rock ‘n’ Roll. Interesting fact: he’s the uncle of Tower of Power’s first lead singer-Rick Stevens. Hunter passed in Memphis at age 60 (lung cancer).
On November 8th, in 1999, we lost the woman that is partially responsible for making sure Berry Gordy had the money he needed to create Motown-Gwen (Gwendolyn) Gordy Fuqua. She was the wife of the infamous producer responsible for the New Birth, Nite-Liters and Sylvester-Harvey Fuqua. She was Berry Gordy’s sister as well. She encouraged her parents to loan Gordy $800 he needed to get the Motown label started. Thank you Mrs. Fuqua! She passed away in San Diego at age 71.
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