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SaFiya D. Hoskins

music pioneer, musician, and singer, was born Charles L. Brown in Charlotte, North Carolina; his parents were migrant farmers about whom little information is available. In 1942Chuck moved with his parents to Fairmont Heights in Prince George's County, Maryland, a small suburban neighborhood just outside of Northeast Washington, D.C. As a boy Chuck worked odd jobs to assist his parents financially. He sold newspapers, cut logs, shined shoes, laid bricks, and could be heard singing “watermelon, watermelon” for the horse-drawn watermelon cart. Chuck's love for music began as a boy in North Carolina, replaying the piano and rhythms he heard in church of the bass drum, cymbals, and the snare over and again in his head. In Fairmont Heights at Mount Zion Holiness Church he played piano while his mother accompanied him on harmonica. Chuck studied piano with Sister Louise Murray who exposed him to ...

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David Brackett

(b Barnwell, SC, May 3, 1928; d Atlanta, Dec 25, 2006). American soul and funk singer, composer, arranger and bandleader. Born into extreme poverty in the rural South, he began his career as a professional musician in the early 1950s with the gospel-based group, the Flames. By 1956 the group had recorded the rhythm and blues hit Please, Please, Please (Federal, 1956 and changed their name to James Brown and the Famous Flames This early recording established what was to become a stylistic trademark insistent repetition of a single phrase in this case the song s title resulting in a kind of ecstatic trance This approach and Brown s characteristic raspy vocal timbre and impassioned melismas display his debt to the black American gospel tradition His stage shows dancing and inspired call and response interactions with the audience also convey the ...

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James Brown was born and raised in Augusta, Georgia, where he picked cotton, shined shoes, danced, and served time for armed robbery. For a while Brown boxed and even played professional baseball, until an injury made him turn to music. After dabbling in gospel, he changed the name of his singing group from the Swanees to the Famous Flames. The group's local popularity attracted the attention of Federal Records, which signed them to a contract in 1956. Their first record, “Please Please Please,” did well, and “Try Me” topped the Rhythm-and-Blues (R&B) charts in 1958.

As the group s fame spread beyond Georgia Brown s ambition grew He staged elaborate dances formed the James Brown Revue and created a carnival atmosphere at his live shows An emcee worked the crowd into a frenzy before the singer came onstage and Brown reportedly lost seven pounds each night through ...

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Rob Bowman

rhythm-and-blues singer, was born James Joe Brown Jr. in a country shack just outside Barnwell, South Carolina, to Joe Gardner and Susan Behlings. His father did various jobs, while nothing is known about his mother's occupation. Brown was raised in extreme poverty, and his parents separated when he was four; two years later he went to live with his great-aunt, Minnie Walker, in Augusta, Georgia.

Brown s father often sang blues songs in the evening and when Brown was four his father gave him a ten cent harmonica His earliest years were spent tap dancing in the street for spare change He claimed that his formidable sense of rhythm stemmed from such humble beginnings A self taught musician Brown began to play organ at the age of eight and later acquired a rudimentary knowledge of bass guitar saxophone and trumpet At eleven Brown won his first talent contest ...

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Monica Berger

singer, songwriter, and bandleader. Born in Barnwell, South Carolina, to Joe Brown (né Gardner), a turpentine worker, and Susan Behlings, James Brown experienced extreme poverty in early childhood. His mother left the family when Brown was four. When he was six, he was sent to Augusta, Georgia, to live with an aunt who ran a brothel. In addition to picking cotton and shining shoes, the young Brown earned money by tap-dancing for World War II troops and by singing in talent contests.

As a teenager Brown broke into a car to steal a coat and was sentenced to eight to sixteen years in prison. He served three years and was released in 1953. He then sang in a doo-wop and gospel ensemble headed by Bobby Byrd Brown soon emerged as the lead singer and the band the Fabulous Flames wowed audiences with their dancing ...

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Rob Bowman

(b Kannapolis, NC, July 22, 1941). American funk singer, songwriter and producer. He was leader of Funkadelic, Parliament and the P-Funk All-Stars. By the age of 11 his family had moved to Newark, New Jersey. When he was 14 he formed a doo wop group which he named the Parliaments after a popular American cigarette brand. The Parliaments recorded singles in the 1950s for the New York-based Hull and Flipp labels. During the 1960s they recorded in the vocal group mode of the Temptations: for Detroit's Golden World and Revilot labels. They had a hit in the summer of 1967, with (I Wanna) Testify (Revilot).

In 1969 Clinton lost the rights to the name ‘The Parliaments’ and consequently signed their backing instrumentalists to Westbound records, as Funkadelic. When he regained the rights in 1971 he signed the vocal group to Invictus records ...

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George Clinton was born in Kannapolis, North Carolina. He grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey, where he worked in a barbershop straightening hair and formed a musical group, the Parliaments. After moving to Detroit, Michigan, Clinton and the Parliaments had a minor hit, “(I Just Wanna) Testify,” in 1967.

Following a lawsuit over the band's name, Clinton formed not one but two new groups—the legendary Parliament and Funkadelic (known collectively as P-Funk)—with many overlapping players. Parliament was more commercial; Funkadelic was outlandish, with musicians wearing diapers, Clinton emerging from a coffin, and plenty of references to sex and drugs. The bands merged in the 1970s, and their concerts, featuring spectacles such as giant spaceships landing onstage, became a major attraction.

For all his eccentricity, Clinton was an influential spokesman for African Americans; his song “Chocolate City” (1975 expresses in terms both witty and poignant the ...

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Charles L. Hughes

singer, songwriter, producer, and leader of Parliament-Funkadelic, was born in Kannapolis, North Carolina, the eldest of Julia Keaton's nine children. His father's name is unknown, but Clinton had moved to Plainfield, New Jersey, by the time he was a teenager. While straightening hair at a local barbershop, Clinton began singing doo-wop in the back room with a group called the Parliaments. Formed in 1955, they modeled themselves after the hit makers Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, and they spent the next decade on the competitive R&B circuit. Although they recorded sparingly during this period, the group's repeated trips to Detroit helped Clinton establish himself as a producer and songwriter with the Motown Records subsidiary Jobete. In 1964 the Parliaments themselves signed with Motown, but it was for Revilot Records that the group scored an R&B hit in 1967 with the gospel-drenched “(I Wanna) Testify,” sung by Clinton.In the ...

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Larvester Gaither

musician widely known for his socially and politically conscious lyrics, antiwar activism, and promotion of yoga, was born in Oakland, California, to an interracial couple. His father, Tom Hopkins, was African American and his mother, Mary Rodrick, was of Irish, German, and French ancestry. Fearing a negative response from her family, Roderick gave up her son for adoption. After seven months in foster care, he was adopted by the Finnish American couple Charles Franti, a biostatistics professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, and his wife, Carol Wisti, a school teacher. The devoutly Lutheran couple raised Franti and his four siblings in Davis, California, a college town located seventy-five miles north of San Francisco.

At an early age Franti took an interest in literature and was exposed to the writings of Malcolm X, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Frederick Douglass , and Martin Luther King Jr. ...

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Charles L. Hughes

musician and member of the Isley Brothers, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, one of six brothers in a musical family: father Kelly sang professionally and mother Sallye was a church pianist. Both parents often accompanied four of their sons (Vernon, Rudolph, O'Kelly, and Ronald, then barely a teenager), as they formed a musical group in the early 1950s. Called the Isley Brothers, the group would lead Ronald and his siblings on an enormously successful, five-decade-long journey through African American music.

Initially, the Isley Brothers sang gospel, with Vernon Isley handling the duties of lead vocalist. In 1955 Vernon died in a bicycling accident, and Ronald—who possessed a bright, clear tenor—became the group's lead singer from that day forward. In 1957 the Isleys recorded a string of doo-wop singles, none of which achieved much success. Signed to RCA Records in 1960 they recorded Shout a ...

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Jason Philip Miller

singer and performer, was born James Ambrose Johnson Jr. in Buffalo, New York, the third of eight children born to James and Mabel Johnson. His youth was tumultuous, foreshadowing what would be a turbulent life and career. James's father was an autoworker, an abusive man who abandoned the family when James was eight years old. His mother had been a nightclub dancer who'd studied under Katherine Dunham, but soon she found herself running a numbers racket for the local organized crime syndicate. James was musically inclined (an uncle was a member of the Temptations), but he was also frequently in trouble with the law and began to use drugs. He attended local schools, including Buffalo's Bennett High, but dropped out and in 1963 enlisted in the Naval Reserve, apparently in a bid to avoid the draft.

Music became more and more his passion however one that soon ...

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Robert Mirandon

jazz pianist and composer, was born Don Gabriel Pullen in Roanoke, Virginia. His parents' names are unknown, but his father worked professionally as a singer, guitarist, and dancer. He attended public schools in Roanoke and as a youngster took up the piano. One likely guide in his studies was a cousin, Clyde “Fats” Wright, later cited by Pullen as a core influence. In addition to piano, Pullen became adept on the organ accompanying gospel singers at local church services. He soon was working with groups in-area nightclubs, mainly backing rhythm and blues vocalists.

While Pullen attended Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, he first became interested in jazz through listening to recordings of the pianist Art Tatum During that period dramatic changes were occurring in jazz the music moving well beyond the overriding bebop postbop and soul styles of the postwar years Pullen immersed himself ...

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Jack Simpson

pop musician, singer, and songwriter, was born Lionel Brockman Richie Jr. in Tuskegee, Alabama, to Alberta Riche (née Foster), a school teacher, and Lionel Brockman Richie, a career military officer. Richie's grandmother taught him piano at a young age. As a child, he also played the clarinet and he learned to play the saxophone as a teenager. He later recalled hearing a variety of music as a child: his grandmother played classical music, his parents enjoyed big-band, blues, and country music.

In 1965 Richie's father took a civilian job in Joliet, Illinois, and the family relocated. After attending high school in Joliet, Richie returned to Tuskegee to-attend college at the Tuskegee Institute. At Tuskegee, he helped form a student dance band, the Commodores. The original line-up included the guitarist Thomas McClary, the trumpeter William King, the keyboardist Milan Williams and Richie on saxophone ...

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David Brackett

(b Tuskegee, AL, June 20, 1949). American soul singer and songwriter. He achieved success as the lead singer of the funk sextet the Commodores before becoming the most popular African American balladeer of the late 1970s and 80s. While the Commodores had a few minor hits with songs in their heavy funk style (e.g. Slippery When Wet, 1975), the band's popularity soared with Richie's ballads, Easy (1977), Three Times a Lady (1978), Sail On and Still (both 1979). These fused aspects of country music instrumentation and melody with rhythm and blues phrasing and grooves. Richie's collaborations with Kenny Rogers (Lady, 1980) and Diana Ross (Endless Love, 1981) signalled the end of his association with the Commodores. His solo career continued with unabated success; the albums Lionel Richie (1982) and Can t ...

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Paul Devlin

pioneer of funk, was born Sylvester Stewart in Denton, Texas, to Alpha Stewart, a homemaker, and K. C. Stewart, a janitor. After moving from Texas to Vallejo, California, the Stewart children (Loretta, Sly, Freddie, and Rose; the youngest, Vaetta, had not yet been born) performed gospel music in the Church of God and Christ as the Stewart Four. The group released a single in 1952 called “On the Battlefield for My Lord”/“Walking in Jesus' Name.” Sly took up the guitar at age nine. He studied music theory at Vallejo Junior College and performed in groups such as the racially integrated doo-wop group the Viscaynes as well as Joey Piazza and the Continentals. He also recorded two singles with his brothers as the Stewart Brothers and some others under the name Danny Stewart. He first adopted his stage name Sly Stone ...

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Ulrich Adelt

singer, guitarist, and pianist, was born John Watson in Houston, Texas. His father taught him to play piano. At age eleven he inherited his first guitar from his grandfather, a preacher, who told him not to use it for playing blues. However, as Watson later admitted, that was the first thing he played. His early influences were T-Bone Walker and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. As a teenager he made a name for himself in the Houston blues scene, playing with blues guitarists Albert Collins and Johnny Copeland and winning talent contests hosted by singer Johnny Otis. Watson left for Los Angeles when he was fifteen years old.

In the 1950s Watson became one of the most exciting blues guitarists on the West Coast. He played piano and sang on the saxophonist Chuck Higgins's “Motorhead Baby” in 1952 and signed his first record contract as Young John ...