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Eric Bennett

The son of the first African American professor at Princeton University, Anthony Davis studied classical music as a child in New York and as an undergraduate at Yale University he played free-jazz with Anthony Braxton. After earning his B.A. at Yale in 1975, Davis moved to New York City, where he supported himself as a Jazz pianist. As Davis developed musically, his compositions deviated from traditional jazz. He often abandoned improvisation and drew elements from Western classical music and African and South Asian rhythms. His recordings from this period include Hidden Voices (1979) and Lady of the Mirrors (1981). In 1981 Davis formed an eight-piece ensemble, Episteme, whose repertoire included a combination of improvised and scored music, blurring the distinction between jazz and classical music.

In the 1980s Davis began focusing much of his work on historical subjects. Middle Passage (1984 ...

Article

Andrew Du Bois

Born James Todd Smith in Queens, New York, LL Cool J was raised in the Hollis neighborhood, an area that also produced the pioneering rappers who formed Run-DMC. He adopted the performing name LL Cool J—short for “Ladies Love Cool James”—and released Radio, his 1985 debut album, which sported such signature songs as “Rock the Bells” and “I Can't Live Without My Radio.” It sold more than one million copies. The kid in the sneakers, gold chains, and Kangol hat rapped over spare, programmed beats that were sometimes splashed with rock guitar. In an art form founded on cocky sparring, LL Cool J was the king of the boast. Fans admired him for his cherubic looks and smooth style as well as for his lyrical skills.

While Bigger and Deffer (1987 LL s second release contained one of the all time great battle raps I m ...

Article

Diane Epstein

Mavis Staples spoke affectionately about her dad, Roebuck “Pops” Staples, as her first and major source of inspiration. Roebuck Staples moved to Chicago from Mississippi in 1935 with his wife, Oceola, their daughter, Cleotha, and son, Pervis. Three more children were born in Chicago, including Mavis in 1940. Chicago became home base for the family. It was not just music that tied the family together but their strong religious beliefs and their commitment to the church.

Staples had two other strong influences in her life. The person who affected her in her formative years was another extraordinary gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson Staples loved to tell the story of how they met and became longtime personal and professional friends Roebuck Staples introduced his daughter to Jackson s singing by way of her radio performances Staples was only about eight but she knew when she listened that this was ...