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On January 25th, 1957 singer, songwriter, voice over actor (for Marlon Jackson on The Jackson 5 cartoon series), former significant other of Freda Payne, and lead singer of The Sylvers ,Edmund Sylvers (r) was born in Memphis, TN. Edmund (below-2nd l) was the fifth born of 10 siblings. He started signing with his brothers and sisters in 1972 when he was 15. Before he joined the family group, they were called The Little Angels. The second eldest sibling Leon wrote, composed, and arranged the majority of their music. In 1972, they released their debut self-titled LP on MGM (Pride) Records. It was produced by Jerry Butler-and with songs like Fool’s Paradise, Only One Can Win, and I Know Myself-tends to be considered one of their best LPs. Each of which were written by Leon. They followed this LP with up with The Sylvers II in 1973-which is credited as being produced by Jerry Peters & Keg Johnson, but was mostly produced by Leon Sylvers.
Notable tracks off this LP include: I’ll Never Let You Go, Stay Away From Me, and I Remember. Their third LP, The Sylvers III, was released in 1974. This album showcases Sharon Sylvers stepping out in the songwriting direction with I Aim To Please. Shirley and James also try their hand at songwriting. James has a two-step laid back number called Could Be You, while Shirley has a mid-tempo track with Don’t Give Up The Good Life. All three of these first LPs are very good. In 1975 they signed to Capitol and released Showcase. Pressure from the bigger record label, to make them more like The Osmonds & Jackson 5, led to a change in their sound. Capitol had their own writers and producers; and didn’t allow Leon and his siblings to write as much of the music. Edmund continued to sing as a solo artist, and with his siblings on into the 1980s. He was 47 when he passed away.
On January 25th, 1976, singer, songwriter, and R&B/Rock innovator-Chris Kenner (Christophe Kenner) was born in Kenner, Louisiana. He got his start singing gospel in the church choir. In his teens (mid 1940s) he moved to New Orleans, and started singing secular music in local clubs. He wrote a lot of songs, and would try them out on various crowds. He made a name for himself during the late 1940s to the early 1950s; and in 1955, he released his first single on Baton Records. In 1957 he signed to Imperial Records, and released Sick & Tired. Fats Domino covered the song in 1958, and made it a hit. In the early 1960s, Kenner moved to Instant Records-with New Orleans producer legend Allen Toussaint, and the future members of The Meters as labelmates.
Kenner released the hit I Like It Like That in 1961, which rose to #2 on The R&B Chart and was covered by The Dave Clark Five in 1965. That same year he released another hit with Something You Got. It’s been covered by Jimi Hendrix, Ramsey Lewis, Maxine Brown, Bobby Womack, American Breed, Wilson Pickett, Chuck Jackson, The Moody Blues, Earl Grant, and Bruce Springsteen. In 1963, he penned his classic-Land Of 1,000 Dances. Wilson Pickett made this song a hit, as did Patti Smith. He continued to perform and record for smaller imprints throughout the 1960s; but in 1968, he got into some legal trouble and did a three-year bid in Angola Prison. He got out in the early 70s, but people’s musical preferences had changed, and Keener turned to drinking. He was 46 at the time of his death.
On January 25th, in 1981, singer, TV personality, songwriter, producer, actress, composer, arranger, and classically trained pianist-Alicia Keys (Alicia Augello Cook) was born in NYC, NY. She grew up in Hell’s Kitchen, and was raised by her mother. She started singing as a toddler, and performed in her preschool’s musical Cats. She started learning classical piano when she was seven years old, practiced for several hours a day, and was composing her own songs by age 12. She formed an all-female trio when she was 13, and got her first big break following a performance. The next year she began studying jazz piano & composition; and at 15, was signed to Columbia Records-writing and composing songs for others.
Columbia wasn’t a good creative fit for Keys however, as they were quite sexist/racist, and wanted to restrict her movements too much. When she was 17, she left and signed with Arista. Keys favored Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, and the blues-inspired somber or melancholy types of classical pieces. This preference can be heard clearly in her music. She continued to compose, sing, and take classical piano until she was 18. In 2000 her debut LP was set to be released, but Clive Davis was ousted from Arista. They shelved Keys LP, as well as, the other artists Clive had brought to the label. Davis started J Records in 2000, signed Keys, and released her LP-Songs In A Minor in 2001. The album blew up, as did her 2003 sophomore effort-The Diary Of Alicia Keys. She also acts-getting her start in 1985 on The Cosby Show, as Rudy’s friend Maria. She’s won nine Grammys, released six LPs, and appeared in over 50 films & TV shows. Alicia turns 38 today.
On January 25th, 1929, composer, producer, sideman, saxophonist, arranger, and bandleader-Benny Golson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He started playing sax at a young age, and was raised in the company of a lot of budding musicians. When he was in high school, he jammed regularly with classmates John Coltrane, Jimmy Heath, Red Rodney, and Philly Joe Jones. Upon graduating from Howard University in the early 1950s, he continued to play & joined Bull Moose Jackson’s R&B Band fresh out of college. In 1953 he moved to NYC and started playing with Tadd Dameron, who influenced his composing style throughout his career. In the mid 50s, he started composing songs. He also played with Lionel Hampton, Johnny Hodges, Earl Bostic, and Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers. In 1957 he made his debut recording as bandleader, on the Contemporary Records release-Benny Golson’s New York Scene.
Golson recorded eight LPs between 1957 and 1959. He penned some jazz standards during that time as well-most notably Killer Joe, Are You Real, Stablemates, and Whisper Not. Following the release of his 1959 LP, he joined with trumpeter Art Farmer to start The Jazztet-a jazz sextet. They remained together from 1959 to 1962; at which time Golson started doing classical composing and productions. He returned to Jazz in the mid 1970s, at the height of the Fusion & Free Jazz Movements. He remained a hard bop artist however, and also composed several themes for TV shows like M.A.S.H., Ironside, and more. In the early 80s he reassembled The Jazztet, and they worked together throughout the rest of the decade. In 1995, The National Endowment For The Arts honored him with a well deserved NEA Jazz Master Award. Benny Golson turns 90 today.
On January 25th, 1925, groundbreaking pianist, composer, arranger, and singer-Barbara Carroll (Barbara Carole Coppersmith) was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. She started off as a classical pianist at the age of eight; but after hearing jazz in high school, she decided to play it instead. During that time, Jazz was viewed with disdain similar to how Rock ‘n’ Roll was in the late 1950s. Females were few and far between, when it came to composing and singing jazz. Most of the female artists of her time were vocalists exclusively; and those that composed weren't really allowed on stage. After high school, she attended The New England Conservatory Of Music-but dropped out to play and tour with jazz bands. She took a liking to the budding Be-Bop sound, and earned the respect of British Jazz pianist Leonard Feather-who took note that she was the first female musician he’d ever heard play Be Bop piano.
She formed a trio (with Clyde Lombardi on bass, Chuck Wayne on guitar, and her as bandleader); and often accompanied Benny Goodman’s orchestra. Carroll replaced Wayne with seminal jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd and bassist Joe Shulman (whom she later married). The Barbara Carroll Trio continued to perform and act as sidemen for other bands. They disbanded in the 50s, largely due to changes in listeners' musical preferences. She came back to music in the early 70s, with her skills intact. In 1975, she was asked by Rita Coolidge to do some session work for her at A&M Records. And in the late 70s she toured with Rita and Kris Kristofferson, before becoming a cabaret singer/performer during the 80s and 90s. Carroll paved the way for female musicians yet to come. She was 92 when she died in 2017.
HONORABLE MENTION: On January 25th, 1938, singer, songwriter, producer, and Grammy award winning musician-Etta James (Jamesetta Hawkins) was born in Los Angeles, California. TOV covered the artist’s death day in January 20th post. Please refer to it for more information. She is a Soul & Rock legend, that released a number of hits over the years and a prominent figure in music from the 1950s to the 1970s. Her career saw a decline in the 80s, but made a strong comeback in the 90s. The Blues/Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame singer was 73 when she passed away in 2012.
On January 25th, 1971, Jefferson Airplane members-Grace Slick & Paul Kantner had a baby. Much controversy surrounded the naming of their first daughter. The hippie counterculture was fading out, as well as their liberal views. Grace wanted to name her daughter God, and had announced that publicly prior to her birth. There were a lot of people upset about this choice; and made their feelings known. As a result, the couple decided to name the child China.
On January 25th, 1980 Black Entertainment Television (BET) premiered. They originally aired for 2 hour blocks on the soon-to-be USA Network/Madison Square Garden Sports Network. The programming was mostly news and DC events. It took three years for BET to create their own channel (1983). In 1988, they lauched their first news program hosted by Ed Gordon. The channel used to have educational, historical, cultural, and music related programming-and was not yet a 24 hour broadcast. S.O. to BET for Rap City & Video Soul, during the 80s and 90s (Donnie Simpson, The Mayor, Prince DeJour & Big Lez too)!
On this date...Three decades of R&B...Three prominent R&B vocalists and multi-instrumentalists released some dope music in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. First, in 1985, Prince released his fifth, and final single off the Purple Rain LP-Take Me With You. It had a pop rock feel to it, but was dope with Wendy & Lisa sharing lead on vocals. In 1994, R. Kelly released his now infamous hit single-Bump ‘n’ Grind. It sold well, and was then considered a bedroom staple (I wouldn't recommend going there now though). Finally, in 2000, VA Native and Soulaquarian-D’Angelo released his sophomore LP-Voodoo. It's a bonafide classic!
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