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Mark Clague and John H. Zimmerman

flutist, composer, bandmaster, music educator, journalist, and hotelier, was born in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Danish West Indies (later U.S. Virgin Islands) and is remembered as the U.S. Navy's first African American bandmaster. Adams was the son of Jacob Henry Adams, a carpenter, and Petrina Evangeline Dinzey, a tailor; both his parents were members of the black artisan class centered around St. Thomas's port. This culture celebrated music and literature and instilled the young Adams with values of hard work and self-education. Although professional musicians were unknown in the Virgin Islands in his youth, Adams dreamt of a musical career inspired by his deeply held belief that music was not just entertainment, but vital to community health.

Adams attended elementary school and apprenticed as a carpenter and then a shoemaker choosing his trade based on the musical abilities of his master ...

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John Harris-Behling

disc jockey, impresario, and businessman, was born Arthur Bernard Leaner in Jackson, Mississippi. An ambitious young man, Benson sang with the family band, performed in black vaudeville, and produced shows at Jackson's black theater, the Alamo. He also attended Jackson Normal College. In the 1920s he moved to Chicago but returned to Jackson to weather the Great Depression. As the pains of the Depression eased, Benson moved back to Chicago, where he worked as a probation officer, a railroad cook, an interviewer for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and a preacher before making his name as one of Chicago's leading radio personalities. He lived in Chicago with his wife, Norma, and their daughters, Arleta and Bertina, until he retired in 1967.

Benson began his radio career as Reverend Arthur Leaner hosting a fifteen minute Sunday morning broadcast from his storefront church on Chicago s South Side When station ...

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Linda Spencer

educator and community activist, was born Uvelia Atkins in Middlesex County, Virginia. She attended public elementary schools in Middlesex County, and in 1940 she graduated from the Rappahannock Industrial Academy, a private high school in Essex County. Atkins graduated in 1945 from Virginia Union University, in Richmond, where she majored in English and was vice president of the YWCA, secretary of Kappa Gamma Chi, and a member of the NAACP. She married the Reverend Walter Duncan Bowen, a Presbyterian pastor, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1954. The couple did not have any children, and throughout their lives they worked with inner‐city young people. She received a master of social service degree from Bryn Mawr College in 1957.

From 1951 to 1965 Bowen worked in Philadelphia for the United Neighbors Association a multi program agency that provided services to city residents she was the association s first woman ...

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Linda M. Carter

singer, songwriter, producer, and arranger, was born John William Bristol in Morganton, North Carolina, the son of James and Mary Bristol. While in high school, Bristol was named to the All-State Football Team, and he formed a singing group known as the Jackets. After graduating from high school he enlisted in the United States Air Force and was stationed at Fort Custer, in Battle Creek, Michigan. Bristol and Robert “Jackey” Beavers formed part of the group the High Fives, though soon left to form the duo Johnny and Jackey. In 1959 Gwen Gordy and Billy Davis signed the two young men to their Anna Records label, and Johnny and Jackey recorded two 45s before Gordy and Harvey Fuqua established Tri-Phi Records in 1961 Johnny and Jackey recorded four 45s The duo s songs garnered a modicum of success in the Midwest but failed to ...

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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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Shennette Garrett-Scott

the first woman to lead an otherwise all-male orchestra, was the older sister of the well-known bandleader Cab Calloway. Born in Rochester, New York, Blanche and her three younger siblings moved to Baltimore when she was a teenager. She grew up in a comfortably middle-class family; her father, Cabell, was a lawyer and her mother, Martha Eulalia Reed, taught music. Calloway's father died in 1910, and her mother married insurance salesman John Nelson Fortune a few years later and had two more children.

Calloway s mother likely instilled a love of music in all of her children Calloway s brother Elmer also briefly pursued a musical career Martha made sure that young Calloway took piano and voice lessons as a child but Martha never imagined music as a career for a proper young woman She expected that her daughter would pursue a respectable career as a nurse ...

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Ulrich Adelt

rap artist and entrepreneur, was born in Miami Beach, Florida. His father, Stanley Campbell, who emigrated from Jamaica, was a janitor, and his mother, Yvonne Campbell, worked as a beautician. Campbell grew up in the impoverished Liberty City area of Miami and had to share a bedroom with his four brothers. Although his family was relatively stable and able to send his three older brothers to college, Campbell had to learn to survive in a dangerous environment. In a gang-related incident in Campbell's neighborhood, for instance, a fourteen-year-old male shot to death his best friend in 1986. Campbell developed his entrepreneurial skills early on by selling ice cream and lemonade from his mother's kitchen to children from the neighborhood. He went to predominantly white schools on football scholarships and started disc-jockeying for school dances.

Before Campbell became a member of the rap group 2 Live Crew in ...

Article

Hope W. Jackson

also known as Lorene Carter, Lorraine Carter, and Betty Bebop, jazz vocalist, arranger, composer, and musician. Betty Carter was born Lillie Mae Jones in Flint, Michigan, to James Jones II and Bertha Jones. Her father worked as a press operator for the Ford Motor Company, making the family middle class.

Carter s musical influences were varied She sang in her church s choir which her father led Her parents forbade listening to secular music and did not own a record player but Carter listened to her brother in law s jazz albums particularly those of Duke Ellington and to radio jazz programs She cut school to listen to bebop a type of jazz that uses fast tempos and improvisation on local jukeboxes at the time the 1940s bebop was the latest musical craze As a teenager Carter took piano lessons at the ...

Article

SaFiya D. Hoskins

singer, songwriter, and producer, was born Eugene Dixon in Chicago, Illinois. His father, Baron Dixon, was born in Arkansas. Dixon attended Englewood High School (later known as Englewood Technical Prep Academy) on Chicago's south side. Early on he was influenced by what he considered the cool and romantic singing style of (James) Pookie Hudson and the Spaniels. Patterning himself after Hudson, Dixon soon joined the ranks of youth performing doo-wop music on sidewalks and corners, forming his own group, the Gaytones. In 1957 Dixon was drafted into the United States Army and performed a tour of duty in Germany. Upon discharge from the military, in 1960, he returned to Chicago and resumed his singing career as a new member of the Dukays, a group that included singer Ben Broyles, Earl Edwards, Shirley Jones, and James Lowe.

Soon thereafter the Dukays were offered a contract to record ...

Article

Demetria Rougeaux Shabazz

Zydeco musician and quarter-horse trainer, was born into a farming community in Dog Hill near Lake Charles, Louisiana, one of seven children, to Marceline Pete and Arthur Chavis, tenant farmers and entrepreneurs who managed a few well-known local horse circuits, or unregulated “bush” horse races. As a young boy he was given the inexplicable nickname Boozoo, which would remain his moniker throughout the entirety of his life. The first instrument Chavis learned to play was the harmonica, but he mastered the button accordion by watching his father, uncles, and Henry Martin, all well-known local musicians in southwest Louisiana. Although his parents separated when he was three years old, he remained in contact with his father and frequently attended the local house dances in Rayne and Dog Hill, where both his father and his great uncle Sidney Babineaux frequently played. At the age of twenty-one he married Leona Predium ...

Article

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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Lolita K. Buckner Inniss

aviator, dancer, and musician, was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, the fifth of seven children to Sarah Ragsdale and a father surnamed Jones. Official records such as census records from 1930 and the Social Security Death Index list her birth year as 1906, but family records, photographs, and anecdotal evidence indicate her birth year as between 1900 and 1903. After she was widowed Marie's mother left Muskogee for Los Angeles, California, along with Marie and some of her siblings, where they settled in a vibrant, multiracial neighborhood in East Los Angeles. When Marie's mother married David Austin, a former guitarist for the singer Sissieretta Jones (Black Patti) in 1910, Marie took her stepfather's surname, Austin.

Coker attended and graduated from Central High School in Los Angeles and was the first in her immediate family to attain a high school diploma She was a precocious child particularly ...

Article

Vonzele David Reed

hip hop producer and businessman, was born Sean John Combs in Harlem in New York City to Melvin and Janice Combs. Combs's childhood years were spent in Harlem, where his father worked for the board of education and as a cab driver. His mother was a model. Eager to provide for his family, Melvin Combs succumbed to the lure of criminal activity, which ultimately led to his murder in 1973. In 1982 Janice moved her family to suburban Mount Vernon, New York, in an effort to escape the growing violence and unemployment in Harlem.

Following her husband s death Janice worked as a teacher s assistant bus driver and night attendant for children with cerebral palsy His mother s determination to provide for her family influenced Combs to work after school beginning at age twelve Too young to formally apply for his own paper route Combs convinced an ...

Article

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 ...

Article

pianist, singer, and composer, was born Charles Edward Davenport in Anniston, Alabama, one of eight children of Queen Victoria Jacobs, a church organist, and Clement Davenport, a minister. He showed an interest in music early in childhood, teaching himself organ and briefly taking piano lessons at age twelve. At his father's urging he attended Alabama Theological Seminary (1910–1911) to train as a minister, but was later expelled for playing a march in ragtime style at a social event. Moving to Birmingham, he worked as a pianist at various venues including a club on Eighteenth Street. He then toured widely in towns in Alabama and Georgia. In 1917 he was discovered by the pianist Bob Davies and was invited to join his touring company the Barkroot Carnival Working for the carnival gave Davenport a valuable range of musical and theatrical experience including solo singing and playing ...

Article

Dennis Gouws

sociologist, business manager of The Crisis, curator, and musician, was born Augustus Granville Dill in Portsmouth, Ohio, to John Jackson and Elizabeth Stratton Dill. Having finished his secondary schooling at the age of seventeen, Dill briefly taught in Portsmouth before attending Atlanta University, where he earned his BA in 1906. Dill's extracurricular interests included playing the piano for the university choir and serving on the debating team. He earned a second BA at Harvard University in 1908 and an MA from Atlanta University on his return to Atlanta in the same year. There he was mentored by W. E. B. Du Bois, whose post as associate professor of sociology Dill assumed when Du Bois left Atlanta in 1910.

In 1913 Du Bois persuaded Dill to move to New York and assume the responsibilities of business manager and editorial assistant of The Crisis ...

Article

Dr. Dre  

Hua Hsu

hip-hop artist, disc jockey, and record executive, was born André Romel Young in Los Angeles, California, the son of Verna Griffin and Theodore Young. Both of his parents were semi-professional musicians. They divorced shortly after André's birth; Griffin attended college and then worked for an aircraft company. She raised André and his younger brother, Tyree, in Compton, California; she would later marry Warren Griffin Jr. and they would have a son, Warren “Warren G” Griffin III. As a child Young acquired the nickname Dr. Dre because of his great admiration for the basketball player Julius “Dr. J” Erving. Dre demonstrated a fascination with music, a passion his mother encouraged by buying him equipment and designing costumes for his performances.

In his teens Dre developed a reputation as a skilled disc jockey quickly graduating from performing at neighborhood parties to Los Angeles area nightclubs ...

Article

Ted Olson

country musician, was born Frenchy Edwards near Seminole, Oklahoma, the fourth of seven children born to Bub Edwards, a farmer, and his wife Red, a music teacher.

Stoney Edwards was named Frenchy after a local bootlegger, and received his better-known nickname as an adult. His father was of African American and Irish descent and his mother of Native American heritage. His parents had abandoned their children by the time Edwards was a teenager, and so the future country singer was compelled to serve in the role of caretaker for his three younger siblings. He never attended school and did not learn to read or write.

Because of his mixed race background Edwards experienced frequent discrimination during his early years growing up in rural Depression era Oklahoma and found that playing country music offered one avenue to social acceptance His first exposure to the genre involved listening to his bootlegger ...

Article

Peter Fraser

Pioneering black businesswoman and one of the founders of the Notting Hill Carnival. Born Carmen Maingot in Port of Spain, Trinidad, she came to England in 1931 to attend the Royal Academy of Music, studying piano and violin. Among her friends in England were C. L. R. James and Eric Williams. She stayed in England, pursuing her musical career, until 1938, when she returned to Trinidad, playing the piano in public concerts, teaching music, and starting a hairdressing business. She returned to England in 1946, travelling with one of her pupils, Winifred Atwell.

She met and married the impresario Paul England but unlike Atwell decided not to continue her career in music Instead she continued hairdressing setting up a salon in a Forces club managed by her husband and beginning to produce hair products for her black customers an example imitated by Atwell in ...

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Rob Bowman

(b Detroit, Nov 28, 1929). American songwriter and founder of Motown Records. Born into a middle-class family, he initially wanted to be a boxer and later opened a record shop specializing in jazz. When both these career options failed, he began to write songs, quickly achieving success between 1957 and 1959 by co-writing such hits as Reete Petite, To be Loved and I'll be satisfied for Jackie Wilson, You've got what it takes for Marv Johnson and Money for Barrett Strong.

At Smokey Robinson's suggestion, Gordy ventured into the record business with Tamla Records in 1959. He began Motown in 1961, followed by Gordy in 1962, Soul and VIP in 1964 and several lesser labels over the ensuing ten years Collectively these labels are commonly referred to as Motown Gordy promoted the label as the Sound of Young America since from the ...