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On February 24th, in 1975, we lost a seminal leader that helped shape the Black Power movement, and represented an image of Black pride in urban communities across the U.S.-Elijah Muhammad. He was most known as being the leader of the Nation of Islam during its prominence from the late 50s to the mid 70s. He also was the primary mentor for-Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan and Muhammad Ali. Elijah was a former sharecropper that migrated north to the Detroit area in his teens. He married a woman named Clara, and shortly after they had 8 children: 6 boys and two girls. In the late 20s, the U.S. was in a crisis. It was post-WWI and the effects of the Great Depression were increasing at a high rate.
This was fertile ground for splinter movements from the status-quo that spoke about self-reliance, economic empowerment, nation building and self-pride. Black Nationalism was one of the results of the Great Depression, and Elijah started attending rallies and meetings during the late 20s. In the early 30s, he attended an event given by W. D. Farrad Muhammad. He taught Elijah the foundation, the lessons of the-Allah Temple of Islam. He joined and brought his family into the fold. Elijah’s younger brother became the leader of the self-defense troupe called the Fruit of Islam. Muhammad took over Temple Number 2 in Chicago, before W.D. Fard Muhammad turned leadership over to him. Elijah changed the organization’s name to the Nation of Islam. He was 77 when he died.
On February 24th, in 2004, one of the most important figures in Southern Funk and the Stax Records label-Estelle Axton, passed away in Memphis, Tennessee. Estelle started Stax with her brother Jim Stewart. Jim owned Satellite Records and asked Estelle to join as equal partners. She agreed and became co-owner of Satellite in 1959. When they discovered the a small Los Angeles Label was already using the name, they were forced to change it and made a merger of the first two letters of each of their last names (STewart & AXton = STAX). Estelle brought most of the Blues and Soul artists to the label.
She’s responsible for: Otis Redding, Rufus Thomas, Isaac Hayes and Booker T. & The M.G.’s, Mable John and Wendy Renee. She stayed with the label until 1970. In the early 70s, she started the Memphis Songwriters Association (1973). It served as an extension of the work she did at Stax. Essentially, cultivating the young talent in the area and giving them a place to hon their chops. She started Fretone Records in the mid 70s. The label’s biggest hit was Disco Duck (1976). The song was a far cry from the hey day funk and soul she was accustomed to pressing. She stayed involved with music throughout the 70s, before stepping away in the mid 80s. Estelle was 85 when she passed.
On February 25th, in 1974, songwriter, keyboardist, producer, DJ, saxophonist, composer, bassist, arranger, guitarist and one half of the Neptunes production crew-Chad (Edward) Hugo was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. Hugo was active in his high school band program and made tracks on the side with Pharrell Williams. They were apprentices to Teddy Riley during his popularity in the early and mid 90s. Hugo co-produced uncredited tracks with Teddy Riley for SWV and BLACKstreet. The Neptunes began producing tracks for others like N.O.R.E., Jay-Z, Kelis, The Clipse, Mystikal and many more.
They had a signature futuristic sound that was reminisecent of their local friend-Timbaland, but with an entirely distinct style of their own. Neither production camp sounded the same, but they had the same flavor. Hugo put out an LP with Pharrell called Clones in 2003. In 2011, he performed, produced and recorded with a DJ collective called Missile Command. He produced tracks for others, and got into the K-Pop movement. In 2018, Pharrell and Chad reunited to work with Justin Timberlake. One of the most slept on LPs that shows the crew’s production skills is Kelis’ first LP-Kaleidoscope (1999). He’s 45 today.
HONORABLE MENTION: On February 24th, in 1988, Bluesman, singer, pianist, songwriter, sideman, composer, bandleader and jump blues innovator-Memphis Slim (John Lee Chatman, Peter Chatman) passed away in Paris France. TOV covered the artist’s birthday on the September 3rd post. Please refer to it for more information. Slim penned the Blues Staple-Everyday I Have the Blues (1947) which was made famous by Joe Williams and Lou Rawls. He was the session musician and composer for artists on Bluebird Records during the mid to late 40s. He was 72 when he died.
On February 25th, in 1992, singer, guitarist, songwriter and co-founding member of Nirvana-Kurt Cobain, was marrying, singer, songwriter, guitarist and co-founding member of Hole-Courtney Love. They had a quaint ceremony in Waikiki, Hawaii that was conducted by a non-denominational female minister. Tabloids coined the event a” shotgun wedding’ as Courtney was expecting a child in the beginning of September. She continues to have a successful acting career, while Cobain’s musical legacy lives on.
On February 25th, in 2009, The United States Mint honored a seminal jazz icon-Duke Ellington. As the story goes, The mint released a new coin that had Ellington featured on it-The tails side of the 2009 Washington, D.C. quarter. It shows an image of Ellington to the right, holding a sheet of music, with a piano to the left with his name above the keys. I’m sure the pianist, bandleader, composer, arranger, producer, swing jazz innovator, DownBeat Hall of Fame musician, NEA Jazz Master and Harlem Renaissance mogul would’ve been pleased.
On February 25th, in 2010 singer, songwriter, producer, composer, arranger, guitarist, motorcyclist, basketball admirer, bassist, drummer, actor, filmmaker, pianist, writer and the Artist formerly known as-Prince managed to piss off the MCD promotions company that had promoted and sold tickets for a concert the Artist refused to play. They filed a $2.3 million dollar lawsuit against him. He’d pulled out of the show 10 days before it was scheduled to go down. All of this occurred in June of the previous year (2008). Prince’s defense was that the William Morris Agency had booked him for a show without his permission.
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