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On March 5th, in 1938, Blaxploitation film icon, college and professional football player, actor, writer, director, activist and producer-Fred Williamson (The Hammer, Black Caesar) was born in Gary, Indiana. ‘The Hammer’s' Football History: Fred started on Northwestern’s football team as an offensive player. He attended on a scholarship. In the late 50s, he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers. They switch him to defense, causing him to become somewhat disgruntled. As a result he started playing with much aggression, attempting to punish offensive players. Coaches in the league would ask him to-‘stop hammering’ their players. The name stuck. He played for 8 seasons (until 1967) with the Steelers, Raiders and Chiefs (lost to the Packers in Superbowl I with the Chiefs).
Acting History: after he retired from football in 1968 (he played 1 year in Canada 1967-1968), Williamson turned to acting following in the footsteps of Jim Brown (pro-athlete turned actor). He got his TV acting debut that same year in the series Ironside (played Det. Sgt. La Peer). He acted in several TV shows in the late 60s. His major film debut came in 1972-The Legend of Nigger Charley (Charley). He followed that up with Black Caesar in 1973. This film and Hell Up in Harlem (1973), are two of my favorite movies starring Williamson. The soundtracks are banging too! Other notables are Three the Hard Way (1974), Bucktown (1975) and Mean Johnny Barrows (1975). The Hammer has appeared in over 100 films and TV shows since 1968. He’s 81 today.
On March 5th, in 1956, seminal R&B icon, singer, guitarist, songwriter, percussionist, composer, mother, pianist, arranger, former Rick James protégé, producer and the first White artist signed to Motown-Teena Marie (Mary Christine Brockert) AKA the Ivory Queen of Soul AKA Lady Tee was born in Santa Monica, California. TOV covered the artist’s death on the December 26th post. Please refer to it for more information. Picking up where we left off in that post: Teena got signed by Motown in the late 70s. She was the only artist that Motown kept out her original group.
Rick James was on the label to produce for Diana Ross, in an attempt to resurrect or maintain her career, depending on how you feel about Diana’s music in the late 70s and early 80s. Rick heard some of Teena’s stuff and decided he wanted to work with her instead. He co-produced her solo debut-Wild and Peaceful (Motown, Gordy-1979). Their duet single-I’m a Sucker for Your Love became a top 10 R&B hit. This set her career in motion, and her and Rick made their Soul Train debut that same year. She was the first White female singer on the show. In 1980, she dropped a solid sophomore LP-Lady T. The standout cut being-Behind the Groove. Teena pretty much solidified her position in the game with both of these LPs. She was 54 when she passed (2010).
On March 5th, in 1982, we lost one of the funniest post-modern comedians to ever do it, singer, drummer, writer, actor, journalist and pop culture icon-John (Adam) Belushi. He grew up in the west suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. Originally, he wanted to be a drummer and singer. He formed a band in 1965-The Ravens. They released one single with Belushi on vocals and drums-Listen to Me Now b/w Jolly Green Giant. Belushi disbanded the group when he went to DuPage College. After college, he started an improv comedy troupe with Steve Beshekas and Tino Insana-The West Compass Trio. Belushi joined The Second City improv troupe in 1971, and then National Lampoon in 1972 (with Chevy Chase).
Interesting fact: SNL essentially is National Lampoon in the audio/visual format. As the magazine struggled to stay relevant with expanding technology, it went from print, to radio, to television, with NBC picking it up and making it a reoccurring show. Belushi, Chase and Dan Aykroyd are very instrumental in bringing the improv sketch comedy show to the public in 1975. One of the funniest people Belushi imitates, and actually sounds like, is Joe Cocker. He passed away at Chateau Marmont, Los Angeles, California when he was 33.
HONORABLE MENTION: On March 5th, in 1963, a strange and tragic event took place in Camden, TN. As the story goes, seminal Country singers-Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas, and Cline’s manager Randy Hughes had just left Kansas City following a benefit concert for the recently deceased DJ Cactus Jack Call. Call died in a car crash, and his widow was in need of loot. They were flying back to Nashville when then pilot Hughes hit some trees causing the plane to crash. All of them were killed. Two days later, country singer Jack Anglin died in a car crash on his way to Patsy’s funeral…
On March 5th, in 1983, Michael Jackson’s Thriller was all the rage. He had released 3 singles at the time, all of which went to #1 in the US. Today marks the first day of a seven-week long run at #1 for his 4th single-Billie Jean. It doesn’t stop there though…up to that point, Jackson’s Thriller was hovering the UK charts in the top 10. After Billie Jean hit #1, so did Jackson’s Thriller LP in the UK. He did a two-for-one. Years later, Thriller would sell of 65 million copies. Making it the biggest selling album of all-time.
On March 5th, in 2000, the Oakland representative, pop rap icon, dancer, choreographer, cartoon voice over actor, reality TV personality, commercial product endorser and record exec-MC Hammer became a minister for the Jubilee Christian Centre in San Jose, CA. Hammer had declared bankruptcy just 4 short years prior to his ‘spiritual awakening’. He spent over $50 million and then some…Hammer should have kept it like he started: a few back up dancers (Oaktown 3 5 7), DJ/producer and a hypeman. With over 50 people on stage in his hey days, it's no wonder he burned through is loot.
On March 5th, in 2006, one of the many songs from films that when I hear it, it always makes me smile and at least sing the chorus one time-It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp received an Oscar for Best Song in a Film. It was featured in the hip hop movie-Hustle & Flow starring Terrance Howard and Taraji P. Henson. It became the second rap song to receive an Oscar (Eminem-Lose Yourself, 8-Mile). The film tells the tale of a pimp and aspiring rapper that bodies the local phenom, taking his spot. Three 6 Mafia were the first rap act to perform at the Oscars...‘y’all “N’s” better start studying MATHEMATICS!’
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