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On December 22nd, 2012, lead singer, backing vocalist, Soul Sister #1, solo FEMALE FUNK artist, and part-time songwriting collaborator with James Brown-Marva Whitney (Marva Ann Manning) passed away in Kansas City, Kansas. She was 68 years-old. Whitney’s Gospel, Soul, & Funk history goes deep. She started singing very young, at the age of three, with her family’s gospel group-The Manning Gospel Singers. She joined The Alma Whitney Singers when she was 16 (1960). The group contained her future husband, and father of her child, Harry Olander Whitney. She married him two years later, and had a daughter named Sherrie in 1962. She gigged and performed at local showcases post-marriage. In the mid 1960s, she joined the R&B band Tommy & The Derbys-featuring Tommy Gadson and Whitney on lead vocals.
She divorced her husband in 1965, and quit Tommy’s band in 1967. Later that year she got offers to tour with Little Richard & Bobby Blue Bland; but refused and settled on James Brown’s revue as a featured act. 1967 proved to be the seminal year for Whitney. Not only was she touring with James Brown, she would also record her first single on King Records: Your Love Was Too Good To Me. Whitney & James struck up a romantic relationship while they were touring in Africa, Asia, and Europe. He produced her breakbeat classic in 1968-Unwind Yourself. Her follow up single in 1969, It’s My Thing, was an answer to The Isley Brothers’ song It’s Your Thing, which was also sampled heavily. She left James’ camp in the early 70s; but continued to record and perform.
On December 22nd, 1939, singer, songwriter, business woman, The Mother Of The Blues, producer, and founder of The Black Bottom touring troupe-Ma Rainey (Gertrude Malissa Nix Pridgett) passed away in Rome, Georgia. The Alabama native got her professional start in her early teens with traveling minstrel shows. She was exposed to The Blues in the early 1900s, and co-founded her own minstrel troupe with her husband Will Rainey-The Alabama Fun Makers Company (she was 20 by the census standards-but 16 by her own). They both joined The Rabbit’s Foot Minstrels in 1906, with Rainey being billed as Mrs. Gertrude: Our Coon Shouter…By 1914, Rainey and her husband called themselves Rainey & Rainey: The Blues Assassinators.
Around the same time, they were working with a young Louis Armstrong, the seasoned Sidney Bechet, King Oliver, and Pops Foster in The NOLA area. Rainey met Bessie Smith, a prolific female Blues vocalist; and convinced her to join their troupe. Rainey headlined, and Smith was a featured act. Eventually Smith upstaged Rainey, and the two parted ways with both continuing on to have successful careers during the pre-Great Depression era. Smith hit harder times during the economic crisis, in comparison to Rainey, who was able to save some money and tour sporadically. Between 1923 to 1928 she released nearly 100 sides, bringing the Blueswoman to the forefront of the Blues movement. She’s a pioneer for the genre.
On December 22, 1960, painter, graffiti artist, writer, and street artist: Jean-Michel Basquiat was born in NYC, NY. One of the many talented artists that have died, at the age of 27, under questionable circumstances (Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Robert Johnson, Amy Winehouse, and more), Basquiat used his art as a voice of the struggles people faced in regards to political, ethnic, and economic inequalities. He was a fan of BeBop-mainly Charlie Parker as he was turned on to the genre by Fab 5 Freddy. He also created the innovative writer’s name SAMO with Wildstyle star, graffiti artist, and Harry Chaflant collaborator-Lee Quinones. They came up with SAMO from the saying: what’s up? Same old, same old.
Eventually Basquiat took over the name as his fame grew, and forbid Lee from using it anymore. Basquiat was a student of philosophy and poets-believing that the ‘real’ artistically inclined bohemians in NYC were the ones that lived the struggle. He’d write short statements that made you think like "For Those Of Us Who Merely Tolerate Civilization, It’s Not Who You Are That Holds You Back. It’s Who You Think You’re Not; For The So-Called Avant Garde, & As A Conglomerate Of Dormant Genius." His street art, paintings and graffiti played a major role in the Hip Hop, Punk Rock and New Wave cultures of the late 70s, and early 80s (he dated Madonna, worked closely with Andy Warhol, and collaborated with Fab 5 & Lee). Some of his art and memorabilia has sold for over $100 million at auctions. His artistic presence and words are greatly missed.
On December 22nd, in 1960 Emcee, DJ, censorship tester, Free-Speech pusher, founder of The 2 Live Crew, and actor-Luke Skywalker AKA Uncle Luke AKA Luther Roderick Campbell was born in Miami, Florida. He got his start dee jaying at the park and local clubs in the Liberty City area (late 70s early 80s). He built a name for himself throughout the early 80s; and met some Westcoast emcees (Fresh Kid Ice, Amazing Vee & Brother Marquis) that he’d convince to let him join the Hip Hop collective 2 Live Crew. Much like N.W.A., they rocked local venues and made a name for themselves doing raunchy covers of popular Hip Hop cuts-and original music with the Miami Bass sound mixed in. By the late 80s, and at the height of Miami Hurricane Football, Luke had become a nationwide household name.
He created his own label (Luke Records), and was one of the first independent Hip Hop imprints to get a major distribution deal-via Atlantic Records. He’s an innovator of the sex-tinged rap genre, that speaks heavily about sexual acts and sexuality throughout the LP. Most rappers at the time Luke came out had references or a few songs about their sexual endeavors; but The 2 Live Crew had whole albums that spoke about the subject matter-all to the back drop of Luke's Miami Bass beats, and plenty of call and response chants (Blowfly splinter). Luke helped invent the Miami Bass sound, which would influence House, EDM and Reggaeton (Luke is of Jamaican & Bahamian descendant). His court case tested the rules of Free Speech, and preserved it for future artists. Luther Campbell turns 57 today.
On December 22nd, 2014, singer, songwriter, harmonica player, and pianist-Joe Cocker (John Robert Cocker) passed away in Crawford, Colorado. He was a unique, and soulful vocalist, that could take any tune and make it his own. Cocker’s voice is very recognizable; and his body movements while singing showcase how deeply he feels the the music he’s relaying. The British born singer got his start when he was in his early teens, forming the vocal trio-The Cavaliers. The band didn’t last long; but by the early 1960s, he’d taken on a new stage name and started a new band: Vance Arnold & The Avengers. His major influences were Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Lightin’ Hopkins, and Muddy Waters.
Cocker kept shopping around for a deal, and secured one in 1964 with Decca Records-releasing his first single I’ll Cry Instead (Beatles cover). It featured a pre-Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page on guitar. Cocker’s contract with Decca was over as soon as it started; and by the mid to late 60s he was a member of The Grease Band-who's name is derived from Jazz organist Jimmy Smith saying that artists with skill are said to "have a lot of grease." In 1969, he performed at Woodstock. He had a few hits here and there; and even more when he hooked up with Leon Russell. Cocker never ‘blew-up;’ but he did manage to take The Beatles' song-With A Little Help From My Friends, and make it his own. Dr. Dre later took his Woman To Woman, and made it his own (California Love feat Roger & Tupac). He was 70 when he passed away.
HONORABLE MENTION: On December 22nd, in 1967, one of the best concerts of the year, and for that matter of all time, was going down in London, England. Rockers Soft Machine, Pink Floyd, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Keith West & Tomorrow, Eric Burdon & The Animals, and The Who all performed at The Olympia for an all night event called Christmas On Earth Continued. The venue was off the rip! It had a movie theater, featured a light show, had manual arcade games (air hockey, paddling pool, ping pong, etc), and BBC DJ John Peel (who broke most of the good music in the UK) providing the soundscape. Tickets were 1 pound or about $1.33.
On December 22nd, 1980, a record containing nothing but 40 minutes of pure unadulterated silence-sold over 30,000 copies. The UK-Based Stiff Records decided to cut a record called The Wit And Wisdom Of Ronald Reagan. They obviously were feeling like most people during The Reagan Era-that Ronald had no wit and wisdom; therefore, the silence was fitting. He has not sat well with me since he was the governor of California, and The Black Panthers stormed the capitol while he was speaking outside. It’s not what happens to us, it’s how we react to it that counts…
On December 22nd, 2005, singer, actress, child-star, model, dancer, choreographer, and little sister of Michael Jackson-Janet Jackson had the most searched name on Google for the year following her performance at the 2004 Superbowl with Justin Timberlake. For those that aren’t familiar, I’ll just say that she gave the audience more than they expected. I ain’t mad at Janet for it though, Justin should’ve stood up for her when questioned, but this is show biz…emphasis on show, pun intended (‘wardrobe malfunction’?!).
On December 22nd, in 2008, a rare Beatles related gem was sold at an auction for about $30K. John Lennon had recorded himself on a cassette tape doing an ‘alternate’ version of Lloyd Price’s song Just Because. He was singing it while drunk and kidding around. Some of his lyrics include lines like "I wanna take all them new singers, Carol and the other one with nipples, I wanna take ‘em and hold ‘em tight…just a little cocaine will set me right…" He made the tape in 1973. Definitely a collector’s item.
or 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!