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On January 6th, 1993 we lost a seminal Jazz pioneer, trumpeter, pianist, sideman, composer, Be-Bop innovator, Afro-Cuban Jazz musician, arranger, and sometimes vocalist, Dizzy Gillespie (John Birks Gillespie) passed away in Englewood, New Jersey. TOV covered his birth in the October 21st post. Refer to it for additional information on Dizzy. TOV discussed his life up to 1945, when he left Eckstine’s big band for a smaller band. Dizzy jammed with fellow Be-Boppers: Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Kenny Clarke, Bud Powell, and Oscar Pettiford. The sub-genre was an extension of Swing Jazz. Be-Bop became the first modern type of Jazz post-WWII. He played it in places like Minton’s Playhouse and Monroe’s Uptown, with his Rebop Six (featuring Charlie Parker-1945).
In 1946 Dizzy signed with Bluebird Records, and his big band got a cameo performance appearance in the film Jivin’ In Be-Bop. Some notable people in his smaller bands during the late 1940s include: Yusef Lateef, John Coltrane, Ray Brown, Milt Jackson, Kenny Clarke, Lalo Schifrin, and J.J. Johnson. In the early 1950s, he founded his own record label-Dee Gee Records (active from 1951-1953). In 1953, he was having a party, and his trumpet bell somehow got bent in the upward position. He liked the altered sound it made, and had his trumpets custom made with a 45 degree angle on the bell. This was his signature instrument. In the late 50s, he was coined "The Ambassador Of Jazz" after touring The US and recording the 1957 Live LP at the Newport Jazz Festival. It brought Dizzy even more fame and notoriety. He became more political and spiritual in the 1960s, and his music reflected it. He was 75 when he passed away.
On January 6th, 1937, backup vocalist, songwriter, and gospel, soul and rock singer-Doris Troy (Doris Elaine Higginsen) was born in The Bronx, NY. Troy is most known for her work as a backup vocalist with James Brown, Dionne Warwick, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Solomon Burke. However, she also recorded a few LPs as a solo artist, having her debut in 1963 on Atlantic. She grew up in a strict household, being that her father was a Pentecostal minister from Barbados. Troy had a love for secular music as a child, but was forbidden to sing it. As a result, she began singing in her church choir. In her teen years (mid 1950s), she started working as an usher at The Apollo Theater in Harlem & James Brown took notice of her.
At the time she was going by Doris Payne; but to keep her spiritual and secular worlds of music separate, she changed her stage name to Doris Troy (after Helen Of Troy). During the late 50s and early 60s, she did session and performance vocals for Solomon Burke, Cissy Houston, The Drifters, and others. She also showcased her songwriting skills in 1963, co-penning the Top 10 Hit Just One Look. Bernard Perdie is the featured drummer on the track. Several artists have covered the song over the years; and the success of this tune brought her to the attention of the rock artists coming out in the late 1960s. She recorded four LPs during her short, but influential music career (1962-1974). She turns 68 years old today.
On January 6th, 1944, pianist, singer, songwriter, composer, arranger, producer, record executive, Disco innovator, and A&R-Van (Allen Clinton) McCoy was born in Englewood, New Jersey. He grew up playing piano and singing in the church, and started penning original songs at the age of 12 (early 1950s). He and his older brother Norman formed a Doo Wop group called The Starlighters shortly after, and started singing in local talent shows. They recorded their first single in 1956-The Birdland. The single did well enough for them to produce three more singles for End Records in 1959. After this, they split due to family obligations and the influx of Rock ‘n’ Roll (Doo Wop was fading in popularity).
He started his own label-Rockin’ Records in the late 1950s; and in the early 1960s, McCoy started dating Sandi Sheldon. The two were songwriting and singing partners, and were also were engaged. McCoy delayed the wedding, after he signed to Columbia however; so Sheldon broke off the engagement. He started writing songs for others like Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Shirelles, The Ad Libs, and other early 60s soul outfits. From the late 60s and going into the early 70s, McCoy started producing for The Choice Four, Faith Hope & Charity, The Presidents, The Stylistics, and David Ruffin. He also released some solo LPs on the Buddha imprint. This is where McCoy found his signature Disco sound of string arrangements-with funky basslines and pop tinged lyrics. He was 38 year old when he died on July 6th, 1979.
On January 6th, 1946, singer, guitarist, songwriter, poet, producer, composer, pianist, and co-founding member of Pink Floyd-Syd Barrett (Roger Keith Barrett) was born in Cambridge, England. He mostly wrote and drew as a child, but also played piano. From the time he was 10, until he was 14, he played ukulele, acoustic guitar and banjo. When he got his first electric guitar, he built an amp. The origin of the name Syd comes from him being prolific on the guitar like the local Jazz double bassist Sid ‘The Beat’ Barrett. He changed the spelling to Syd. In the early 60s, he started playing with bassist Roger Waters and guitarist David Gilmour, which would eventually become Pink Floyd. They made their debut recording in 1965, which was released as an LP in 1967-The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
This was the age and height of psychedelic drug use, and Barrett used LSD heavily. So much so that he developed schizophrenic tendencies, had intense mood swings, random hallucinations and appeared to be catatonic at times. Friends and family said that he had trouble remembering where he was or recognizing friends. Sometimes he’d play one chord for an entire concert, detune his guitar or not play anything at all. Audiences took this as some type of cool musical antic, but Barrett was having trouble keeping it together. Around the early part of 1968, he left Pink Floyd. He got his stuff together and made a comeback as a solo artist in 1969. He continued to record, perform and write up to his death in 2006 (60 years old).
On January 6th, in 1968, screenwriter, film director and movie producer-John (Daniel) Singleton, was born in Los Angeles, California. He notes Steven Spielberg and Star Wars as his major inspirations for film making, although none of his films belong to the sci-fi genre. He grew up in LA and attended Blair High School. He originally wanted to be a computer tech, but decided to direct and write films when an opportunity he couldn’t turn down arose. Singleton enrolled at USC and joined the School of Cinematic Arts. They had a Film Writing program ran by Margaret Mehring that assured students would be placed directly in Hollywood’s film writer and director field. Singleton graduated from USC in 1990 and made his film debut a year later: Boyz n the Hood. The success of this film led to his follow up in 1993: Poetic Justice-starring Regina King, Tupac Shakur, Janet Jackson and Joe Torry.
Both of these films depict the Black experience for urban youths in Southern California, but also universally throughout America. In 1995, he released Higher Learning, which re-casts Ice Cube, Laurence Fishburne and Morris Chestnut; and added Omar Epps, then girlfriend Tyra Banks, and Busta Rhymes. In 1997, he went historical and produced Rosewood which depicted some of the American terrorism Blacks experienced in the South post-Civil War. All of these were box office hits. In 2000, he cast Samuel Jackson in the remake of Shaft. It did well in the box office, but wasn't as good as the original. However, in 2001, he put out a great film-Baby Boy which was the story of Ricky’s son from Boyz n the Hood. He released 3 more films from 2003-2011, before getting into writing and directing for television (Empire, American Crime Story & Rebel). S.O. to Singleton for telling the stories of 70s and 80s babies from the Hip Hop era in a real way. He’s 51 today.
HONORABLE MENTION: On January 6th, in 1959, singer and member of Sister Sledge-Kathy Sledge (l, Kim-c, Joni-r) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Kathy is the youngest of her four sisters, acting as the lead singer for Sister Sledge. Her vocals are extremely soulful and original. No one sounds like Kathy…she released 8 LPs with her sisters from 1975 to 1985. She also appeared in several films and television shows from 1975-2008. She continues to record, perform and act. She’s 60 today.
On January 6th, in 1960, singer, guitarist, songwriter, bassist and original co-founding member of the Hard Rock band Living Colour-Muzz Skillings was born in Queens, NY. He was co-writer, backup singer, and bassist for the band from 1988-1992. They released 3 LPs during this time. He was replaced with Doug Wimbush when he left in 1992 (on good terms). He started the band Medicine Stick, wrote the songs, sang lead and played guitar. He continues to play with Living Colour at times. He’s 59 today.
On January 6th, in 1980, singer, dancer and original member of The Marvelettes-Georgeanna Tillman passed away in Inkster, Michigan. She joined the Casinyets in 1961 when she was 17. They went on to become the Marvelettes and signed to Motown. Georgia Dobbins penned them a pop hit with Mr Postman which was an upbeat remake of a Blues number that Dobbins heard. Tillman sang harmony and backup. She eventually was removed from the group in 1965, but stayed on as a administrative assistant at Motown. She was 35 when she died.
On January 6th, in 2006, we lost an important figure in music and education-Lou Rawls (Louis Allen Rawls). He sang gospel, pop, soul, and jazz, recorded over 40 LPs, and sold over 40 million albums. He also started the United Negro College Fund and the Lou Rawls Parade of Stars Telethon which acted to infuse more revenue into the UNCF. The Fund was set up to provide scholarships and financial assistance to people of color for college. It also encourages education. The Grammy award winner was 72 when he passed.
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