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On December 29th, in 2008 we lost a prominent Jazz trumpeter, bandleader, composer, sideman, arranger, producer and Montgomery brothers collaborator-Freddie Hubbard (Frederick Dewayne Hubbard). The Indianapolis, Indiana native got his start playing trumpet and mellophone in high school for the Arsenal Technical High School Band (early 50s). Stan Kenton’s trumpeter-Larry Ridley encouraged Hubbard to continue to improve his skills so that he could have a professional career in music. Hubbard played with Wes & Monk Montgomery during his teen years and then moved to NYC in 1958. His reputation as a great brass multi-instrumentalist allowed him the opportunity to play with standouts in NYC like Eric Dolphy, Quincy Jones, Slide Hampton, J.J. Johnson and Sonny Rollins to name a few. In 1960, he made his recording debut with his release of Open Sesame on Blue Note Records. Personnel on this LP included: McCoy Tyner (piano), Tina Brooks (sax), Clifford Jarvis (drums) and Sam Jones (bass).
Towards the end of 1960 and going into 1961, Hubbard recorded with Ornette Coleman on his Free Jazz LP and John Coltrane on his Ole Coltrane album. He's also featured on Coltrane’s Impluse! debut-Africa/Brass (a Jazz classic). He continued to record as a bandleader and sideman throughout the 60s. The 70s, and Hubbard’s move to CTI Records, would prove to be his most reputable work. His first 4 LPs on the CTI imprint were sample thick, Fusion Jazz that remains relevant today: Red Clay, First Light, Straight Life and Sky Dive. Artists featured on these LPs include: Herbie Hancock, Eric Gale, George Benson, Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette. He joined Herbie Hancock’s V.S.O.P. band in the late 70s which included old members from Miles Davis’ second infamous quintet: Tony Williams (drums), Wayne Shorter (sax) and Ron Carter (bass). During the 80s, he toured more than he recorded, continuing to keep his presence felt in Jazz. The Hall of Fame and Grammy Award-winning trumpeter passed away in Sherman Oaks, California when he was 70 years-old (2008).
On December 29th, in 1973, Emcee, producer, songwriter, Southern Hip Hop innovator and original member of UGK-Pimp C (Chad Lamont Butler) was born in Port Arthur, Texas. Much controversy surrounds Pimp C’s music career and life in general. He got his start playing several instruments as a child and joined his church choir. His pops suggested that he create his own music, and Pimp C decided to start dabbling in the new genre of the time-Hip Hop (mid 80s). He and his childhood friend Bun B (Bernard Freeman) started collaborating together, and by 1987, they’d formed the Hip Hop duo group UGK AKA Underground Kingz. In the late 80s, They got signed to Big Tyme Records and released 2 EPs: The Southern Way & Banned (both 1992). They sold well in their area, which caught the attention of Jive Records, who signed the artists late in 1992. In November of that same year, they released their Jive Records full-length debut LP-Too Hard to Swallow (it was a Top 40 R&B release).
In 1994, their sophomore effort did even better than their first album: Super Tight. It became a Top 10 R&B and Top 100 Pop LP. Their 3rd release in 1996 was their most successful album to date: Ridin’ Dirty which went to #2 on the R&B chart and #15 on the Pop chart. They continued to tour off the success of the 2 EPs and 3 LPs during the late 90s. In 2000, they collaborated with Jay-Z on Big Pimpin’ & Three Six Mafia-Sippin’ on Some Syrup. These two songs brought the group more attention and they released a 4th LP in 2001-Dirty Money. However, Jive didn’t push the LP, and as a result it didn’t do well. A year later, in 2002, Pimp C was in jail serving an 8 year bid on a probation violation. He continued to release solo projects that he’d recorded before he went in, and a few more when he was released at the end of 2005. In 2007, he was found dead at the Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood, CA. He was in Cali to record with Too $hort. He overdosed on syrup (33 when he died).
On December 29th, in 1974, film director, producer, film, television and stage actor-Mekhi Phifer was born in Harlem, NYC, NY. Mekhi wasn’t a formally trained actor, nor did he have extreme aspirations to participate in the craft as a child. His road to the silver screen is much different than most. Spike Lee was having a casting call for the role of ‘Strike’ in Clockers (1995). Phifer answered the call and won the part. In my opinion, his under-developed acting skills in this film made him appear more realistic in the overall role. Strike was pretty much the focal point of the movie. The Return of the Crooklyn Dodger’s featuring Chubb Rock, O.C. and Jeru the Damaja remains a Hip Hop Golden Era Classic that goes hand-in-hand with the movie. Mekhi’s success from the film got him another role in the HBO film The Tuskegee Airmen (Lewis Johns). The roles kept coming after that.
He appeared in the comedy film High School High in 1996 (Griff). He met his future first wife on this set-Malinda Williams. In 1997, he played Lem in Soul Food; in 1998 he was Tyrell in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. He rounded out the 90s by marrying Malinda Williams, and playing Jefferson in a A Lesson Before Dying. He appeared in 15 films from 2000-2010, most notably Brian’s Song (2001) & Paid in Full (2002). In the latter, he plays famed Harlem drug lord Mitch (Rich Porter), and I feel he pulled it off very well. In this film, as opposed to Clockers & Strike, Mitch is a seasoned street vet that knows the in-and-outs of the drug world much more than the naïve Strike. Mekhi’s acting skills had to develop before he could play a role like this. He also worked on TV shows during the early 2000s-ER (Dr. Gregory Pratt, 2002-2008), and continues to appear in films. He’s 44 today.
On December 29th, in 1947, songwriter, producer and seminal Rock session drummer-Cozy Powell (Colin Trevor Powell) was born in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England. Powell was adopted at a young age and never met his birth parents. He played drums in his first band-The Corals when he was 12. They played at the local Youth Club and broke the world record for the longest stint of non-stop playing (was broken later). By the time he was 15 (early 60s), he’d worked out an impressive drum solo and took on the moniker Cozy, which was inspired by Cozy Cole (infamous Jazz drummer). In the mid 60s, he played with the Sorcerers, who became the Youngbloods. By the late 60s, he formed his own band called Big Bertha with former Sorcerer members-Dave & Denny Ball.
In 1970, he became the drummer for the Jeff Beck Group. Powell worked with a lot of people during the 70s: Hot Chocolate, Julie Felix, Donovan, Alan Merrill, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Rainbow and more. He also started his own band in 1974-Cozy Powell’s Hammer. He worked with AC/DC, Whitesnake and Brian May in the 80s and 90s. He’s featured on over 60 records and is said to have played on Stevie Wonder’s Superstition single (unconfirmed by Wonder). He died in a car crash in 1998. He was intoxicated at the time, didn’t have his seatbelt on and was talking on his cell phone. His blood alcohol content was way above the legal limit as well. He was 50 when he died.
On December 29th, in 2011, we lost a seminal Soul singer and songwriter-Bobby Purify (Robert Lee Dickey). Purify was one half of the dynamic Soul duo known as-James & Bobby Purify. They had a hit single in 1966-I’m Your Puppet which has been sampled by many from various genres. The two were cousins, James was 4 years older than Bobby. He got his start singing and playing guitar with the Dothan Sextet when he was in his teens. In 1965, Bobby & James started singing together professionally in local clubs around the panhandle area. A year later in 1966, they were signed to Bell Records by Don Schroeder. Their first single-I’m Your Puppet went gold. It was recorded at the infamous Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
They had a few hits during the late 60s, several charted, but none did as well as I’m Your Puppet. They toured and made TV appearances off the success of their releases. In 1971, Bobby retired from the group and returned to Tallahassee. It’s stated that he left the group because he was having some health issues. He remained in Tallahassee and became a City Maintenance Supervisor. He also joined the Bethlehem Male Singers-writing songs singing and playing guitar for the gospel group. He never completely left music, just the group. He passed away in Tallahassee, Florida when he was 72. James carried the name on with Ben Moore, the new Bobby Purify.
HONORABLE MENTION: On December 29th, in 1954, session drummer-John (Frederick) Robinson was born in Creston, Iowa. He’s one of those drummers that everyone’s heard, but seldom know. His resume includes: Off the Wall LP (Michael & Quincy), Chaka’s-Ain’t Nobody, Lionel’s-All Night Long, Pointer Sisters’-I’m So Excited and David Lee Roth’s-Just a Gigolo & California Girls. He’s on Quincy’s-Q’s Jook Joint & From Q with Love LPs, and his soundtrack resume is just as deep: The Bodyguard, Jerry Maguire, My Cousin Vinny and ER to name a few. He’s 64 today.
On December 29th, in 1955, drummer, songwriter, guitarist, composer, arranger, producer, pianist and vocalist-Neil Giraldo was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He got his professional start with Rick Derringer in 1978. A year later, he was with Pat Benatar. The two collaborated heavily on songs, and Giraldo did most of the arranging and composing surrounding the melodies and lines that Benatar would come up with. He produced her most known single-Love is Battlefield. In fact, he produced all but two of her LPs, and has appeared on every record she’s made. He’s 63 today.
On December 29th, in 1980, singer, songwriter, pianist, guitarist and one-time performer at Woodstock (1969)-Tim Hardin passed away from a heroine overdose. He’s responsible for penning the song: If I Were A Carpenter. It’s been covered by several artists from various genres: Johnny Cash & June Carter (Country), The Four Tops (Soul), Neil Young-Small Faces-Rod Stewart-Robert Plant-Bobby Darin-Leon Russell and Bob Seger (Rock). He’s considered more of a Folk musician than any other type of singer, but his songwriting topics are universal. He was 39 when he died.
On December 29th, in 1982 The Jamaican Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating their most known contemporary native-Bob Marley (Robert Nesta Marley). Officials wanted to honor the Reggae artist for being one of its speakers for the common people. It’s said that even after Bob gained a lot of wealth and material items, he continued to share with others and remain humble. He said his BMW stood for Bob Marley & the Wailers and he never locked the doors.
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!