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Nathaniel Friedman

soul and rhythm and blues singer and songwriter, was born Arthur Alexander Jr. in Florence, Alabama, to Arthur Alexander, a laborer and musician, and Fannie Scott Spencer. He was exposed to music at an early age by his mother and older sister, who sang in church, and by his father, who played weekend gigs as a bottleneck blues guitarist. After high school Alexander was working as a bellhop at the Sheffield Hotel when he met Tom Stafford, a white R&B enthusiast who introduced him to what would become the nucleus of the Muscle Shoals–area studio scene: Dan Penn, Rick Hall, Spooner Oldham, and Billy Sherrill. The men, all then working for Rick Hall's Fame Music Stafford, found Alexander's songwriting abilities every bit as intriguing as his singing, and soon made sure that Alexander became part of Fame's writing operation. In 1958Alexander and Henry Lee Bennett coauthored ...

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Nathaniel Friedman

soul singer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1940 (sometimes cited as 1936) to Vince and Josephine Burke. Vince, a Jamaican immigrant, worked as a chicken plucker in a kosher market, while Josephine was an ordained preacher. Burke followed in his mother's footsteps; by age seven he had begun delivering sermons at the church founded by his grandmother, Eleanora A. Moore, and soon became known as the “Wonder Boy Preacher.” At twelve Burke was delivering sermons on the radio and leading tent revivals in Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas.

In 1955 Burke proposed that his vocal group the Gospel Cavaliers enter a talent show at the local Liberty Baptist Church His bandmates had other plans however so Burke went as a solo act His performance so impressed the wife of a Philadelphia DJ that she helped Burke secure a recording contract with the New York label Apollo ...

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Mary Krane Derr

vocalist, pianist, songwriter, and music producer, was born Robert Howard Byrd in Toccoa, a small town in the Appalachian country of northeastern Georgia. He was raised there by his grandmother and his mother, Zarah Byrd. She took her children, including Bobby, to shape-note singing concerts. Once popular in Appalachia, shape-note, or sacred harp, is a style of musical notation designed to aid congregational singing. Zarah Byrd taught her children how to play the piano and steeped them in the African American gospel singing tradition at Mount Zion Baptist Church in the town's Whitman Avenue. Georgia Mae Williams, the pianist at Mount Zion and Bobby's second piano teacher, was another great contributor to his musical education.

From a young age Bobby Byrd excelled at voice and piano He also did well with sports and was active in school clubs He even became the only young ...

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Alisha R. Coleman

Aretha Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and grew up in Detroit, Michigan. Her father, Rev. Clarence LaVaugh Franklin, was a gospel singer. Aretha was raised by him and a household of housekeepers and family friends including Clara Ward, James Cleveland, and Mahalia Jackson. She began singing in her father's church choir at the age of twelve. She recorded her first album, Songs of Faith, when she was fourteen years old. At an early age she was labeled a “young genius” because of the strength and unique quality of her voice. In 1960, Franklin moved to New York City to pursue a career as a rhythm-and-blues singer. Although she refuses to discuss intimate details of her personal life, her music itself is autobiographical. Songs like “Respect”, “Think”, and “Try a Little Tenderness” reveal the pain and frustration she has experienced in her ...

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Robert W. Logan

Among the many great musicians who came to popular music directly from the African American church, Aretha Franklin is distinguished by the fiery intensity of gospel music that she brought with her. She took unadulterated, undiluted soul music further into the mainstream than anyone who came before her, becoming the best-selling black female pop singer in the late 1960s and early1970s. She has sung at the funerals of national leaders and at the inaugurations of presidents, and she has performed a Puccini aria on a half hour’s notice when Luciano Pavarotti was indisposed. Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul, and when she is inspired everything she touches turns to music.

Aretha Louise Franklin was born to the Reverend C. L. Franklin and Barbara (Siggers) Franklin, in Memphis, Tennessee Her father was a renowned Baptist preacher and singer known as the Man with the Million Dollar Voice and ...

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Marc Anthony Neal

singer and pianist, was born Aretha Louise Franklin in Memphis, Tennessee, the daughter of the Reverend C. L. Franklin, a prominent Baptist minister, and Barbara Siggers. Franklin was one of five children, including sisters Carolyn and Erma, brother Cecil, and half-brother Vaughn.

Franklin and her family settled in Detroit, Michigan, where her father, after a brief sojourn in Buffalo, New York, took over the New Bethel Baptist Church in 1948. Aretha Franklin was literally raised in the bosom of African American religious tradition and was thus the direct product of one of the most significant institutions in the African American community.As a youth Franklin was intimately exposed to the artistry of the major black gospel performers of the era, including Sam Cooke (then of the Soul Stirrers), Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland who at one time during Franklin s youth was the Minister of Music ...

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Eric Bennett

Aretha Louise Franklin grew from a young gospel singer into a successful and world-famous vocalist. Her many popular hits and gospel masterpieces have earned her the title Queen of Soul. As a daughter of the renowned Baptist preacher C. L. Franklin and his wife, well-known singer Barbara Siggers Franklin, Franklin was born into the world of Gospel Music. Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee and grew up in Detroit, Michgan, where her father drew a congregation of 4,500 people to his New Bethel Baptist Church. C. L. Franklin recognized his daughter's talent, and she was performing in New Bethel's choir by the age of eight. She sang solos at age twelve, and at fourteen she made her first recordings, including a version of Thomas A. Dorsey s gospel classic Precious Lord Take My Hand Franklin also began touring with her father singing wherever he served as ...

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Heather Marie Stur

singer and songwriter. Known as the Queen of Soul and Lady Soul, Aretha Louise Franklin has spent more than half a century recording music that spans genres including gospel, pop, soul, rhythm and blues, rock, jazz, and opera. She has won nineteen Grammy awards, including eleven for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. Franklin's songs “Respect” and “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” a duet with George Michael, reached number one on Billboard's Hot 100. Born in Memphis but raised in Detroit, Franklin cut her musical teeth singing in New Bethel Baptist Church, the church of her father, the Reverend C. L. Franklin. Franklin recorded her first album when she was fourteen years old.

When Franklin was a child, her father hosted a number of musicians and performers at the Franklin family home, and they influenced the young Franklin's musical evolution. Mahalia Jackson, Sam ...

Article

Born in Washington, D.C., Marvin Gaye began singing in church as a child. The son of a poor Pentecostal minister, he grew up listening to the music of American Blues singer Ray Charles, which became a major influence on Gaye's work. In 1958 Gaye joined an R&B vocal group called the Moonglows. Three years later, he signed a recording contract with Tamla, one of the Motown record companies, serving as a drummer for studio sessions and, later, as a singer. Influenced by American singers Frank Sinatra and Nat “King” Cole, Gaye had hoped to sing in the popular style known as crooning but after his first album—a series of jazz standards—received little attention, Motown had him record up-tempo Soul Music material. The result was a series of songs that became classics, beginning with “Stubborn Kind of Fellow” (1963 and culminating in I Heard It Through ...

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Thaddeus Russell

singer and songwriter, was born Marvin Pentz Gay Jr. in Washington, D.C., the son of Marvin Pentz Gay Sr., a Pentecostal minister, and Alberta (maiden name unknown), a domestic worker. The younger Marvin grew up in Washington, where he began his musical career by singing in the choir and playing organ at his father's church. At Cardozo High School in Washington, he played piano in a doo-wop group called the D.C. Tones. He left school after eleventh grade and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. After a year of openly rebelling against his commanding officers and feigning mental illness, he was discharged in 1957 for inability to serve.

Gaye (as he later came to spell his name) then returned to Washington and formed a doo-wop group called the Marquees. In 1957 they recorded a single Wyatt Earp and Hey Little School Girl produced by blues singer and ...

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William Carney

musician. Marvin Gaye was born Marvin Pentz Gaye Jr. in 1939 in Washington, D.C. His father, a postal worker, was also the preacher in a storefront Pentecostal church known locally for the quality of the music at its services and for its somewhat unusual beliefs (for example, prohibitions on dancing and a rigid observance of the Jewish high holy days). His father was a violent man and frequently beat Marvin, his brother, and two sisters for seemingly minor infractions. Dropping out of high school at age seventeen to escape an unhappy family situation, Marvin joined the U.S. Air Force. He served less than a year; after a discharge for problems with adjusting to military discipline, he joined the Marquees, a “doo-wop” vocal group, and later he became a member of the Moonglows, one of the most influential vocal quintets of the 1950s.

After the Moonglows disbanded Gaye and ...

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Sholomo B. Levy

singer, songwriter, and minister, was born Albert Leornes Greene in Dansby, Arkansas, the sixth of ten children of Robert Greene, a sharecropper, and Cora. During slavery the Greene ancestors were owned by the Benton family; after emancipation the Greene descendants continued to work the land of their former owners under an economic arrangement known as crop lien, which promised the workers a share of profits that rarely materialized. Shortly after Al's birth, his family moved into a two-bedroom shack in nearby Jacknash, Arkansas, with the hope that a new field would produce more profitable corn, cotton, and soybeans than their old farm. Jacknash had two churches: Taylor's Chapel, a fiery Pentecostal congregation, and the slightly more subdued Church of the Living God. Green's parents were very religious and attended both.

Music was the most constant influence during Green s formative years it was heard around the ...

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Al Greene was born into a large family of sharecroppers in Forrest City, Arkansas, and at age nine formed in a gospel quartet with three of his brothers, The Green Brothers. Green always enjoyed secular music, however, and when he turned sixteen, formed his first pop group in Michigan, where his family had moved. In 1967 he released “Back Up Train,” which became a minor hit.

Green's career gained momentum in 1969, when he met producer Willie Mitchell, who signed him to Hi Records in Memphis, Tennessee. Their partnership resulted in an innovative new Soul Music sound featuring spare instrumentation muted guitar simple horns and backbeats accompanied by Green s quiet but insistent vocals lyrically searching for the possibilities of love and often taking off into wild falsettos Though quieter than the so called Stax sound Green s music was complex and a popular and welcome ...

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Rob Bowman

musician, songwriter, producer, and actor, was born in Covington, Tennessee, to unknown parents. Before Hayes had turned two, his father had left the family home and his mother had passed away in a mental institution. Hayes was raised by his maternal grandparents, who sharecropped for a living until, at the age of seven, Hayes, his sister, and his grandparents moved to Memphis. Over the next several years, Hayes lived in a variety of places in North Memphis. Impoverished, at times the family had to split up, and at the worst point Hayes was sleeping in junk cars at a garage.Largely a self taught musician during and immediately following his school years Hayes apprenticed with a number of ensembles that variously worked the school amateur hour and nightclub circuit singing doo wop and gospel and playing blues and jazz saxophone and rhythm and blues piano Upon ...

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Jason Miller

musician, singer, and actor. Hayes was born in Covington, Tennessee, a tiny town in the westernmost part of the state, to Isaac Hayes and Eula Hayes, who were sharecroppers. Hayes's parents died when he was very young, and he and his sister Willette were raised by their mother's parents, Willie and Rushia Addie-Mae Wade. Hayes spent much of his early childhood in the cotton fields of Covington, and it was in Covington too that he made his musical debut, singing one Sunday at a church service. Two years later, when Hayes was seven, the family moved to Memphis in search of better jobs and higher wages.

Despite the family s optimism difficult times lay ahead Willie Wade took work in a factory but a few years later he fell ill and died Hayes was forced to take whatever odd jobs he could find to help ...

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Gayle Murchison

blues and soul singer, was born near Naples, Texas. He had three brothers and one sister, but nothing is known of his parents. His date of birth is often given as 1940 or 1941, as he sometimes stated those dates in interviews. He adopted “Z. Z.” while performing in the Dallas area because it sounded like the first two initials of B. B. King's name, a bluesman he admired and wanted to emulate early in his career. His repertoire and recordings include soul and R&B, but he was most successful as a blues artist.

Hill first sang publicly in the Gethsemane Baptist Church choir and later joined a gospel quintet called the Spiritual Five, a group that performed at local churches. He graduated from high school in 1953 and subsequently moved to Dallas to live with an uncle Continuing to sing in church Hill began sitting ...

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Charles L. Hughes

drummer, producer, and member of Booker T. and the MGs, was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Little is known of his mother, but his father Al Jackson Sr., led one of Memphis's most popular big bands, and it was with his father that Al Jr. first played professionally, beginning as a drummer at age ten. This apprenticeship proved fulfilling for the young musician: he got to play the jazz of his musical idols, and his tenure with his father won him gigs with the prominent dance groups led by Ben Branch and Willie Mitchell, respectively. These bands, which bridged the gap between postwar jazz and 1950s R&B, performed regularly in black clubs around the region, like the Flamingo Room and Plantation Inn. Aside from his steady gig, playing with the highly talented Mitchell soon brought Jackson into contact with Booker T. Jones a prodigious keyboardist ...

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Joe Street

songwriter and falsetto and tenor vocalist, was born Edward James Kendrick to Jonny and Lee Bell Kendrick in Union Springs, Alabama. Aged seven, Kendricks moved to Birmingham, and in 1955, with friends and singing partners Paul Williams (baritone) and Kell Osborne, formed a doo-wop group, the Cavaliers. In 1956, the group moved to Cleveland, Ohio. After moving to Detroit and changing their name to the Primes in 1957 or 1958, they lost Osborne but gained Otis Williams (baritone and tenor), Melvin Franklin (bass), and Elbridge Bryant. Through frequent performances at local dances and singing battles, the Primes soon developed a popular following on the Detroit circuit. A 1960 single, “Oh Mother, Oh Mine,” on the Motown affiliate Miracle, sank without a trace. Bryant departed soon after, to be replaced by David Ruffin tenor which also precipitated a name change with the Primes becoming ...

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Kate Tuttle

Known for his dynamic stage presence and hard-rocking hits such as “Mustang Sally,” “Land of 1,000 Dances,” and “In the Midnight Hour,” Wilson Pickett was one of the biggest Soul Music stars of the 1960s. Influenced by the Gospel Music he sang as a child, along with the Rhythm and Blues then in vogue, Pickett began singing with a band, the Falcons, in 1959. Pickett, who had moved to Detroit, Michigan, at the age of fifteen, also wrote some of their songs, one of which, “I Found a Love,” became a Top Ten hit in 1962.

In 1964 Atlantic Records signed Pickett, sending him to Memphis, Tennessee to record his first album. Working with Booker T. and the MG's—the house band from the Stax record label—Pickett produced some of his most popular songs during this era, which lasted until 1967 Pickett s screams growls and moans ...

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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 ...