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On March 15th, 1943, groundbreaking funk, rock, and psychedelic soul musician, singer, drummer, songwriter, bassist, composer, percussionist, arranger, guitarist, producer pianist, organist, harmonica player, and founding member of Sly & The Family Stone-Sly Stewart (Sylvester Stewart) was born in Denton, Texas. Sly's family was very involved in The Church Of God In Christ, and moved to Vallejo, California when he was very young. He formed a vocal group called the The Stewart Four, with his siblings Rose, Vaetta, and Freddie. Loretta was his older sister, and the only one that didn’t pursue a musical career.
Around the time he was seven (1950), Sly was identified as a musical prodigy; and two years later, he and his siblings made their recording debut on the gospel single On The Battlefield b/w Walking In Jesus’ Name. By 1954 (at just the age of 11) Sly had already mastered the piano, guitar, bass, and drums. He served as a backing vocalist and guitarist for various bands during high school, one of which was a doo-wop group called The Viscaynes. It was a multi-ethnic group, which was a rare thing during the late 1950s. Liberalism was on the rise, and audiences viewed them as ‘hip’ for being diverse. In his early 20s he started Dee Jaying at KSOL, in San Francisco, and formed The Family Stone around that same time. This Hall Of Fame, and Grammy Award winning artist is 76 today.
On March 15th, in 1975, b-boy, rapper, guitarist, actor, political activist, bassist, singer, philanthropist, producer, keyboardist and co-founding member of the Black Eyed Peas-Will.I.Am. (William James Adams Jr.) was born in Los Angeles, California. He was raised in the predominantly Hispanic Estrada Courts projects on the east side of L.A. He grew up b-boying and rhyming. By high school he was involved in a rap group called Atban Klann. At the same time, Will.I.Am got into the California rave subculture, which influenced him to embrace an electro sound that he incorporated into his hip hop music. Eazy-E signed them to Ruthless Records in 1992. Their song for Eazy’s EP-Merry Muthafuckin’ Xmas, was shelved when Eazy passed (1995).
After this, they changed their name to Grass Roots and later Black Eyed Peas (1997). They released their debut LP in 1998-Behind the Front (Interscope Records). It featured vocalist Kim Hill, who sang on many of the songs on the LP. It brings light to the fact that Black Eyed Peas always had a 'vocalist' element to their music from the beginning. It’s really no different than sampling a hook, they just had the singers perform them live. The success of their debut led to the release of later LPs dating from 2000 to 2018. Will.I.Am also produced for others, released solo projects, won 7 Grammys, campaigned for Obama and helped those in need. He’s 44 today.
On March 15th, in 2011, G-Funk innovator, vocalist, Hook singer, co-founding member of the Dogg Pound & 213-Nate Dogg (Nathaniel Dwayne Hale) passed away in Long Beach, California. Nate is most known for the hooks he sings on other artists’ records, which tend to bring it that ‘official’ stamp when hearing it. I dig Nate’s style because he doesn’t sound like anyone else. Not to mention, he’s open-minded from a musical standpoint. He can sing a hook for a commercial artist like Fabulous, and kill it…or sing one for some Hip Hop Emcees like Mos Def & Pharaoh Monch, and the results are the same, he kills it. Another reason I like him is that he keeps it simple but catchy…You can hear Nate’s choruses, maybe twice, three times max, and know them, even sing along with them. And they’re dope!
That being said, he got his start in Clarksdale, Mississippi. His family moved to Long Beach when he was 14 (1983). He had several cousins in the are: Snoop, Butch Cassdiy and Lil ½ Dead. They introduced him to Warren G, Daz and RBX. They created secular music together at the same time Nate was singing in the New Hope Baptist Church choir. After high school, he went to the Marines (Okinawa, Japan). He returned the states in 1989, and immediately got back into music. Nate, Snoop & Warren G formed 213 in 1991. They recorded their demo at the V.I.P. record store, which got to Dr. Dre and the rest, as they say, is history. He was 41 when he passed.
HONORABLE MENTION: On March 15, 1912 one of the original American Bluesman, singer, songwriter, guitarist, and folk legend-Sam John Hopkins aka Lightnin’ Hopkins was born in Centerville, Texas. He was attracted to the Blues when he was eight or so. He started imitating what he’d heard, and creating songs of his own. It took him 34 years before he made his recording debut in 1946. He took over the Blues and Folk movement from the 1950s to the 1960s, making him a household name among lovers of the genre. He shared a similar status to that of Leadbelly & Robert Johnson. He was 69 when he passed away in January of 1982.
On March 15th, 1929, jazz musician, sideman, poet, composer, free jazz innovator, pianist, bandleader, arranger, and producer-Cecil (Percival) Taylor was born in Corona Queens, NY. He’s a rare jazz musician in that his compositions are closer to fast paced classical music than jazz. He was one of the first composers to try the art of improvising the melody while the soloist was improvising. To the untrained ear, it may sound like random noise, but to those true to the art of free jazz, it shows the infancy of the style that would shape the genre. He started playing at age six, and was recording by the time he was 24. He was 89 years old when he passed away in 2018.
On March 15th, 1959, jazz musician, sideman, saxophonist, composer, clarinetist, bandleader, arranger, and close friend of Lady Day (Billie Holiday)-Lester (Willis) Young aka The Pres passed away in NYC, NY. He was one of the most influential saxophonist for BeBop, Soul, Jazz, and Hard Bop musicians that would come after him. He played with Bird and Billie Holiday, who gave him his nickname due to how great of a man he was and his rich tone-it was presidential. He also led a trio, played in Vaudeville shows, toured with Count Basie, fought in WWII, appeared on CBS TV, and renounced the Jim Crow south. He was 49 when he passed away.
March 15th was the date of The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremonies of 1999, 2004, and 2010. The Class Of 1999 (14th Annual Ceremony) included soul and funk innovator Curtis Mayfield, Beatles' songwriter & guitarist Paul McCartney, rock and roll icon Bruce Springsteen, the influential gospel band The Staple Singers, and 80s rock ‘n’ roll stars: Billy Joel, Dusty Springfield, & Del Shannon. The 19th Annual Ceremony, in 2004, included: 80s pop culture icon Prince, Beatles’ guitarist & songwriter George Harrison, 70s rock star Bob Seger, 60s/70s soul vocal group The Dells, blues/rock artist Jackson Browne, bearded guitarists ZZ Top, and the 70s/80s rock band Traffic. The 25th Annual Ceremony, in 2010, included: two of my favorite rock bands-The Stooges & Genesis, reggae superstar Jimmy Cliff, the 60s pop group The Hollies, and ABBA.
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