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Charles L. Hughes

singer, songwriter, and politician, was one of four children born to J. T. and Alveria Butler, in Sunflower, Mississippi. The Butlers, a Mississippi sharecropping family, moved to Chicago in 1942, where they lived in the Cabrini-Green Housing Projects. J. T. Butler worked a variety of jobs to support his family until his death in 1953, and, following his passing, relatives and friends moved in to help the family make ends meet. Jerry, active in the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), soon became known around his community for his musical ability and rich baritone voice, and he quickly began performing as a gospel artist with friends and fellow COGIC members. One of Jerry's friends, a prodigious musician and songwriter named Curtis Mayfield would soon join Butler in a singing group called the Roosters The group subsequently changed its name to the Impressions Signing to Vee Jay Records ...


Christopher Ian Foster

gospel and pop musician, pioneer black record-company owner, and civil rights activist. Samuel Cook [sic] was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, to the Reverend Charley Cook and Annie Mae Cook. The musical aspects of his father's preaching deeply influenced Cooke's formative years. According to Mahalia Jackson, a popular gospel singer, the church had a special rhythm retained “from slavery days” (Wolff, p. 21). Clarksdale also was home to Delta blues artists such as Robert Johnson and Skip James. The milieu in which Cooke grew up was musically oriented and deeply religious.

At the age of sixteen Cooke joined the fledgling gospel quartet the Highway QCs, which catalyzed his later initiation into the more widely recognized group the Soul Stirrers. In 1951, with Cooke singing lead, the Soul Stirrers recorded the hit single “Jesus Gave Me Water.” Between 1951 and 1957 the year Cooke ...


Cristobal Diaz-Ayala

Pablo Milanés was born in Bayamo, a historically important town in the eastern part of Cuba, to a poor mulatto family. When he was only five years old his mother took him to amateur contests on radio programs, where he sang boleros (a Cuban genre of romantic ballads) and rancheras (a style of Mexican song). His family moved to Havana in 1949, where he began to play the guitar, taking lessons sporadically at the Havana Municipal Conservatory. Working in menial jobs and studying at night, he began playing in 1959 in the Del Rey Quartet, which specialized in American hymns of African American influence. He wrote his first songs in 1963. In 1964 he switched to the Los Bucaneros Quartet which had a broader repertoire He also sang as a soloist collaborating with composers of the feeling movement romantic ballads of the 1950s and 1960s or ...


attorney, was born in Navasota, Texas, the daughter of Frank and Sarah E. Reinhardt Durden. Her birth year is chronicled in some sources as 1880 and in others as 1883 (and erroneously listed as 1909 in yet others). She completed high school in Parsons, Kansas, and received a degree from Quincy (Illinois) Business College (reportedly in 1906, although Who's Who in Colored America listed 1919 as her graduating year). She moved to Des Moines, Iowa, in 1907, where she married James B. Rush on 23 December of that year. She subsequently obtained a BA at Des Moines College in 1914 and prepared for the Iowa bar exam by reading law with her husband, a successful criminal trial attorney; she also took some courses at Drake University Law School in Des Moines. Her husband passed away prior to the completion of her studies.

When she was admitted ...


Kate Tuttle

Known as the songbird of Mali, Oumou Sangaré uses a mix of traditional and modern instruments, along with her powerful voice, to update Mali’s renowned Wassoulou sound. Based on music made by hunters, these old songs asked for protection and good fortune in the densely forested Wassoulou region. Sangaré, who says she sings “for the women,” retains much of the original sound—using guitar, kamelen ngoni (a small, harplike stringed instrument), and a variety of percussion instruments. To these she adds lyrics dealing with the status of women in a changing Africa.

“In Africa it’s still men who make all the decisions,” Sangaré says. “It’s time for women to be heard.” Accordingly, one song on her third album, Worotan (1997 describes the outcast status of childless women while others deal with domestic abuse and polygamy She feels very strongly about freedom of choice in marriage as her father ...


Norman Weinstein

Born Peter McIntosh, Tosh's entrance into music began during his teenage years in the Trenchtown ghetto of Kingston, where he and his friends Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer imitated the vocal harmonies of Curtis Mayfield. Tosh's early recordings as part of a Ska/Reggae trio with Marley and Wailer (who became known as “The Wailers”) made clear that his singing and songwriting talents were strongly flavored by rage against hypocritical individuals and institutions. Songs like “400 Years” and “Downpressor” are prime examples of his mastery of political protest songwriting. His first recordings as a solo artist in the early 1960s include a wry commentary on sexual mores (“Shame and Scandal”) and a boastful declaration of Rastafarian identity (“Rasta Shook Them Up”).

After quitting The Wailers in 1972 Tosh pursued a performing and recording career as a solo artist marked by the cultivation of a persona ...


Timothy J. O'Brien

musician. The musical prodigy who became known as Stevie Wonder was born Steveland Hardaway Judkins in Saginaw, Michigan. He went blind shortly after his birth, and he was raised by his mother, Lula Hardaway, along with his five siblings after her husband Calvin Judkins left them. The family moved to Detroit in 1954, where they struggled to survive. He attended public schools in the east side ghetto, sang in his church's choir, and learned to play piano, harmonica, and drums by age ten.

Berry Gordy, the owner of Motown records, signed him when he was only ten after he was discovered by Ronnie White of the Miracles. Gordy renamed him “Little Stevie Wonder” and released his first two albums in 1962, neither of which sold well. His third album, a live release titled Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius yielded a hit single ...