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On January 16th, 1959, singer, songwriter, actress, and model-Sade Adu (Helen Folasade Adu) was born in Ibadan, Colony & Protectorate of Nigeria. Sade moved from Nigeria to Essex, England when she was five years old. During her teens she worked both as a fashion model, and fashion designer, which is where her original passions lie. Having joined a band called Pride in the early 1980s, her deep vocals and beauty caught the attention of a few execs. Thus, she formed her own band, naming it Sade. In 1983, they secured a deal with Epic Records and released their debut Diamond Life in 1984. It was received well by the public, and became the best-selling LP by a female vocalist ever (in the UK). A year later they released Promise, which went quadruple platinum in the US (platinum in the UK).
Sade won a Grammy for (Best New Artist) in 1986, and in 1988, they released Stronger Than Pride-followed by 1992’s Love Deluxe. Both albums did well in sales; but Sade took some time off to raise her baby. The band recorded as Sweetback during this time period, and worked with others in the industry with a sound similar to Sade’s. Seven years after 1992’s Love Deluxe LP, Sade returned to recording and released Lovers Rock in 2000. They won another Grammy for this LP (Best Pop Vocal), however, their sound wasn’t the jazzy laidback funk they’d been known for on prior LPs. Sade took another long break again, and returned 10 years later to release 2010's Soldier Of Love. She got another Grammy for Best R&B Group. Sade’s vocals are truly distinct & soulful. She’s 60 today.
On January 16th, 1965, singer, songwriter, actress and original member of En Vogue-Maxine Jones (r) was born in Paterson, New Jersey. Maxine got her start with En Vogue via an audition in Oakland, California in 1989. She was a contralto, having the deepest voice in the harmonies the group sang. They released their debut LP in 1990: Born to Sing (Atlantic Records). It has the seminal track-Hold On which was a number 1 single. Jones didn’t sing many lead parts on their first LP. However, in 1992, they released Funky Divas, which featured Jones singing lead on three charting singles: Free Your Mind, My Lovin’ (Never Gonna Get It), and Give it up-Turn it Loose. From 1992 to 1996, she toured with the group.
In 1997, they released their 3rd LP: EV3, and a quick follow-up with Masterpiece Theatre in 2000. Jones (above-l) had some family issues arise, and left the group in 2001 (Amanda Cole was her replacement). They released an album without her in 2002-The Gift of Christmas. She returned in 2004 for their 6th LP: Soul Flower. She stayed with the group until 2012, before leaving that same year due to negotiations going poorly. In 2013, she started her own version of En Vogue called En Vogue to the Max. Cindy Herron and Terry Ellis filed a lawsuit against he for using the name 'En Vogue'. She dropped it, her other members as well, and released a solo LP called To the Max with DJ King Assassin as producer in 2014. She also got her own radio show called Max Radio, and started acting in stage plays. Maxine is 56 today.
On January 16, in 1973, gospel innovator, singer, songwriter and member of the Ward Trio-Clara Mae Ward (inset-c) passed away in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was a member of the Consecrated Gospel Singers (the Ward Trio later), started by her mother in 1931. The members included: Clara Ward, her older sister Willarene (inset-2nd r) and her mother Gertrude (inset-r). Clara made her first solo recording in 1940 when she was 15. In 1943, they began touring the US, and continued throughout the 40s. In 1947, Willarene left the trio and was replaced by Henrietta Waddy. Shortly after they added Marion Williams who could sing on a wide range scale. In 1948, they started recording for Milltone Records and then Gotham. In 1950 ad 1952, they appeared at Carnegie Hall for the Negro Music Festival produced by Joe Bostic. Throughout the 50s, they toured and recorded. However, their performance venues in the 60s became much more secular.
They performed at the Village Vanguard in NYC, Las Vegas Casinos, On Ed Sullivan, and in nightclubs. This didn’t sit well with some of their followers. In 1963, Clara (above-c) sang in a play written by Langston Hughes-Tambourines to Glory. She became the first gospel singer to sing on Broadway. She also was the first gospel singer to sing with an orchestra containing 100 members or more. Ward started doing backup singing for secular acts with her sister Willarene in the 60s. She also recorded two LPs, one of which was a cover of pop tunes: The Heart-The Faith-The Soul of Clara Ward (Verve Records, 1966) and Soul & Inspiration (Capitol Records, 1969). She started doing more secular music in the late 60s, and recorded three more LPs from 1971 to 1972 before her death in 1973. The Hall of Fame singer was 48 when she passed.
On January 16th, in 1979, singer, dancer, actress and model-Aaliyah (Dana Haughton) was born in Brooklyn, NY. The meaning of her name was something she was very proud of and aspired to live up to. Its origin is Arabic & Hebrew. It essentially means-the best, most exalted one (female version of Ali in Arabic is Aliyah). She was raised in Detroit, Michigan by her stay at home mom (former singer)-and industrial worker father. She always sang around the house and got a role in her elementary school’s presentation of Annie. She got a spot on Star Search when she was 10 or 11. Aaliyah had some direct ties to the industry, as her uncle was married to Gladys Knight & an entertainment lawyer-Barry Hankerson. She often traveled with Gladys, allowing her to see the ins and outs of the music business.
When she was 11, Gladys let her start singing on with her for some of her sets. Her uncle Barry signed her to his record label-Blackground Records (distributed by Jive) in 1991 when she was 12. He introduced her to R. Kelly, who produced and wrote most of the songs on her 1994 debut: Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number. In her teens, she showcased her talents at her high school audition for the Detroit High School for the Fine & Performing Arts. She was admitted and maintained a 4.0 GPA. Her first LP went double platinum and had a couple gold singles (Back & Forth and At Your Best). She was a featured vocalist on other musicians’ tracks, and had a couple songs on soundtracks in 1995. In 1996, she signed to Atlantic, linked with the producer Timbaland and released One in a Million. She acted in a few movies during the late 90s, and then released her self-titled LP in 2001, before being killed in a plane crash on August 25th. She was 22 when she died.
On January 16th, in 1950, dancer, choreographer, singer, actress, television producer, film director and sister of Phylicia Rashad-Debbie Allen (Deborah Kaye Allen) was born in Houston, TX. Her mother was a writer and her father was a dentist. She got into dance at an early age and auditioned for the Houston Ballet School in 1962 (age 12). She was denied entry at first, even though she did well…her complexion was all wrong for ballet. However, she was admitted the following year after an instructor saw her perform in a show. She experienced, and I am quite sure continues to experience, systemic racism in regard to her involvement with ballet. When she was 16, she was denied entry into the North Carolina School of the Arts for not having the physique of a ballet dancer…this continued into her adulthood. She worked on Broadway as a dancer and actress during the mid and late 70s.
In 1980, she got a Tony Ward for her role as Anita in the West Side Story. She also played JJ’s drug addicted fiancé on Good Times (Diana). She got her film debut in Fame (1980) as instructor Lydia Grant. The TV series (1982-1987) opened with Allen saying: You've got big dreams? You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying ... in sweat. She was lead choreographer for Fame in both the film and the TV series. Speaking of TV series, Allen was the producer and director for the Cosby spin off-A Different World that depicted Denise Huxtable’s life at an HBCU. She brought attention to the HBCU circuit that saw a surge in applicants during the running of the show (1987-1992). She continues to write, choreograph, dance and direct. She’s 68 today.
HONORABLE MENTION: On January 16th, in 1980, singer, songwriter, producer, actor, arranger, composer, former Beatle and co-founder of Wings-Paul McCartney was in trouble with the law in Japan. His band Wings was set to perform in Tokyo and landed successfully at the airport. While going through customs, police found Paul was carrying a half pound of marijuana in his luggage. They arrested him and gave him 10 days in jail. As a result, they had to cancel their 11 date tour.
On January 16th, in 1991, The Rock ‘n’ roll Hall of fame was having its 6th annual induction ceremony. Artists that received entrance into the prestigious historical monument included: Wilson Pickett, Ike & Tina Turner, The Byrds & the Impressions. It was a small class, but the Impressions alone had two artists that were deserving of induction as solo musicians-Curtis Mayfield & Jerry Butler. They both went on to have successful solo careers, as well as produce other hit making acts.
On January 16th, in 2000, singer and former member of the Coasters-Will Jones (William J. ‘Dub’ Jones) passed away in Long Beach, California. Jones sang bass with the Coasters, getting inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame during its second annual induction ceremony (1987). He was also a member of the Crescendos, The Charades and the Cadets. He’s the guy with the deep voice on the classic early Rock ‘n’ Roll songs: Yakety Yak & Charlie Brown. He also sang backup for Richard Berry in the mid 50s. He was 71 years-old when he died.
On January 16th, in 2007, singer, songwriter and frontman for the doo wop group the Spaniels-James Pookie Hudson (Thornton James Hudson) passed away. He’s most noted for singing lead on their 1954 smash hit-Goodnite-Sweetheart-Goodnite. The song appeared on several commercials and in films (American Graffiti, Three Men & A Lady). They recorded for the Black owned label Vee Jay, which was the first large Black owned independent record company in the US (Swan Song predates it, but wasn’t as big nor did it remain independent). He was 72 when he passed away.
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