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Todd Decker

[Gumm, Frances Ethel]

(b Grand Rapids, MN, 10 June 1922; d London, England, 22 June 1969) Singer and actress, mother of Liza Minnelli

She began her career at age three in a family vaudeville act. As a child, she was billed as “the little girl with the great big voice.” The musical short Every Sunday initiated Garland’s long-term connection with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer when she was 13. After taking a featured role as Sophie Tucker’s daughter in Broadway Melody of 1938, Garland became a major musical film star following the release of The Wizard of Oz (1939) and a series of teen-oriented musicals with Mickey Rooney. Her first adult role, in For me and my Gal (1942), introduced Gene Kelly to Hollywood. Under the direction of Vincente Minnelli, who became her second husband, Garland made a final appearance as a teenager in Meet me in St. Louis (1944...

Article

Karel Steinmetz and Geoffrey Chew

(b Plzeň [Pilsen], July 14, 1939; d Prague, Oct 1, 2019). Czech pop singer, actor, and painter. The best-known and most successful Czech pop singer of the 20th and 21st centuries. In his youth Gott aspired to become a painter, and after completing his schooling in Plzeň, he applied to study art in Prague. After failing to be admitted, he trained as an electrician, and during his training devoted himself also to singing. He began by studying as an opera singer (lyric tenor) with Konstantin Karenin, a pupil of Chaliapin, at first at the Prague Conservatoire and later privately. In 1962 he was engaged at the Semafor Theatre in Prague of Jiří Suchý and Jiří Šlitr, where he achieved great success singing the songs of Suchy and Slitr; in 1963 he won the Zlatý slavík (‘Golden Nightingale’) poll for the first time, with the hit Oči má sněhem zaváté...

Article

Elizabeth Craft

(b New York, Jan 16, 1980). American composer, lyricist, playwright, performer, and producer. Miranda was raised in northern Manhattan and attended the Hunter College public selective-admission elementary and high schools. His parents are from Puerto Rico; growing up, he spent time there each summer.

Miranda studied theatre at Wesleyan College (BA 2002), where he wrote an early version of his first hit musical In the Heights. After graduating, he teamed up with director Thomas Kail, a fellow Wesleyan alumnus, and the show received several readings and an off-Broadway production before its première on Broadway in 2008. Miranda wrote the music and lyrics, working with bookwriter Quiara Alegría Hudes, and he starred in the original cast. Running for over 1000 performances and garnering awards including four Tonys, notably for Best Musical and Best Original Score, the show established Miranda as a major presence on Broadway. Many of the show’s creative team and cast members became his regular collaborators....

Article

Croatia  

Stanislav Tuksar, Hana Breko Kustura, Ennio Stipčević, Grozdana Marošević, Davor Hrvoj, and Catherine Baker

Country in south-east Europe. Once the ancient Roman province of Illyricum, it was settled at the beginning of the 7th century by Slavs, who were converted to Western Christianity by the end of the 8th century. Medieval principalities were quickly formed, and a kingdom of Croatia existed from 925 (the dynasty of Trpimirović) to the end of the 11th century. In 1102 Croatia entered into a personal royal union with Hungary, with dynasties of Árpád, Anjou, and those of the Holy Roman Empire, Bohemia, and Poland on its throne during the 14th and 15th centuries; in 1527 it became part of the Habsburg Empire by electing Ferdinand King of Croatia. This political, cultural, and social union with Hungary and Austria lasted until 1918. Between 1409 and 1797, however, the Croatian maritime provinces of Istria and Dalmatia were under Venetian control, and from 1526 to 1699 other parts (e.g. the continental province of Slavonia) were conquered by the Ottoman Empire. The region comprising the Republic of Dubrovnik claimed autonomy from ...

Article

David Brackett

[Penniman, Richard Wayne]

(b Macon, GA, 5 Dec 1932). Rhythm and blues singer, songwriter, and pianist. His early influences were gospel music, Louis Jordan, and other jump blues and urban blues artists of the late 1940s. After making several unsuccessful recordings in the early 1950s, he recorded “Tutti Frutti” in September 1955, which was a success on both the rhythm and blues and the pop charts. Although part of the first wave of rock and roll hits, it was far more aggressive and retained more aspects of African American vernacular music-making than other early recordings in this style.

“Tutti Frutti” set the tone for the Little Richard's hits that followed between 1956 and 1958—including “Long Tall Sally,” “Rip it up,” “Lucille,” “Keep a knockin’” and “Good Golly, Miss Molly”—over a fast boogie-shuffle rhythm with many stop-time breaks, he sings playful double-entendres near the top of his range in a searing timbre interspersed with trademark falsetto whoops. His piano playing derives from the boogie-woogie style, emphasizes the upbeat, and features a great many glissandos. In performance Little Richard would frequently leave the piano to dance exuberantly, occasionally on top of the instrument itself. In addition to his manic presence as singer, pianist, and dancer, his visual appearance added to the sense of his outrageousness: with his large pompadour, liberal use of makeup, and gaudy clothing, he raised the specter of cross-dressing and ambiguous sexuality at a time when such issues were strictly taboo. However, it is possible that he was accepted by the white public at the time because his performance style was perceived as an updated form of minstrelsy....

Article

Jazz  

Mark Tucker and Travis A. Jackson

The term conveys different although related meanings: 1) a musical tradition rooted in performing conventions that were introduced and developed early in the 20th century by African Americans; 2) a set of attitudes and assumptions brought to music-making, chief among them the notion of performance as a fluid creative process involving (group) improvisation; and 3) a style characterized by melodic, harmonic, and timbral practices derived from the blues and African American religious musics, cyclical formal structures, and a supple approach to rhythm and phrasing known as swing.

Historians and critics using studies of concert music and literature as models have often portrayed the development of jazz as a narrative of progress. Their accounts suggest that jazz started as unsophisticated dance music but grew into increasingly complex forms, gradually gaining prestige and becoming recognized around the world as an art. Over that same period, the attitudes of cultural and institutional gatekeepers toward the music changed dramatically. In ...

Article

Micaela L. Bottari

(b Kansas City, KS, Dec 1, 1985). Singer, songwriter, rapper, actress, and producer. Monáe was born and raised in Kansas City to a working family who, in her words, ‘make nothing into something’. As a child she composed her own musicals inspired by albums like Stevie Wonder’s Journey through the Secret Life of Plants, and after high school left Kansas for New York City to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) on scholarship. Feeling creatively stifled however, she soon dropped out and moved to Atlanta, Georgia, in 2003, where she performed at local colleges and self-produced a demo, Janelle Monáe: the Audition. Once in the Atlanta circuit she met Big Boi of OutKast – featuring on the hip-hop duo’s album Idlewild in 2006 – and Sean Combs. She also met Chuck Lightning and Nate Wonder, two artists who would go on to be co-founders of her label and vision, Wondaland Arts Society....

Article

(b New York, NY, 12 June 1928). Popular songwriter. He is known for his collaborations with his brother Robert B. Sherman (b New York, NY, 19 Dec 1925; d London, 5 March 2012). Their father was the songwriter Al Sherman. In the 1950s they wrote the hit song “You’re sixteen” for Johnny Burnette and songs for Annette Funicello, which gained them the attention of Walt Disney, for whom they subsequently wrote the songs for the film The Parent Trap (1961). From the early 1960s, as staff writers for Disney, they contributed songs to films including The Sword in the Stone (1963), which began a long-term association with the feature-length animated film. In the same year they wrote “It's a small world” for the 1964 World's Fair, a song which has subsequently become identified worldwide with Disneyland. They went on to contribute the now classic score to ...

Article

Tony Bacon and Arian Sheets

revised by Brian F. Wright

[bass guitar]

An electric guitar, usually with four heavy strings tuned E′–A′–DG. Early forms of the electric bass were brought to market by Vivi-Tone of Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1934, the Electro String Instrument Corporation (later renamed Rickenbacker) of Los Angeles and Audiovox of Seattle in 1936, and Vega of Boston and Regal of Chicago in 1939. Gibson likewise made several electric basses prior to World War II, but did not release them commercially. These basses employed a variety of string types and pickups, but most had longer scales and were fretless, designed to be played in a manner similar to conventional acoustic upright basses. The Audiovox #736 Electric Bass Fiddle, a fretted short-scale solid-body electric bass guitar, was a notable exception.

The modern electric bass guitar was invented by Leo Fender and was first marketed as the Fender Precision Bass in October 1951. Based on his already-successful Broadcaster (later renamed Telecaster) electric guitar, the Precision Bass was intended originally for electric guitarists performing in small dance bands in the United States. With its four strings tuned to the same notes as the double bass (an octave below the bottom four of the six-string electric guitar), a single pickup that fed controls for volume and tone, and a fretted fingerboard, the instrument was designed so that guitarists could easily double on bass. Its portability and increased volume, provided via amplification, would also make it attractive to upright bassists....

Article

Claire Levy

(b Sofia, 8 Dec 1934; d Sofia, 12 July 2008). Bulgarian conductor, composer, pianist, and arranger, of Armenian origins, remembered for his prominent role as a musician and public figure in the development of popular music in Bulgaria. He graduated from the Technical University in Sofia (1957) and studied in the Faculty of Theory at the Bulgarian State Conservatory. In 1953 he joined the band Jazz of the Young. By the end of the 1950s he played the piano also at the Satiric Theatre Orchestra and founded Studio 5, a band famous for its supportive role in promoting young singers. Following a similar purpose, later on he initiated Trombata na Vili (‘The Horn of Vili’), a radio contest for discovering new talented pop singers. Since 1960 Kazassian’s music activities have been closely associated with the newly created Big Band of the Bulgarian National Radio where he took successively the positions of pianist (...