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Akwid  

Elijah Wald

Musical group formed in 2002 in Los Angeles. The most successful exponents of the Southern California style known as “banda rap” or “urban regional” music, Akwid is a duo of brothers Francisco and Sergio Gómez. Born in Michoacan and raised in Los Angeles, the Gomezes made their debut in the mid 1990s as English-language rappers Juvenile Style, then switched to Spanish and renamed themselves Akwid (a combination of their deejay pseudonyms, A.K. and Wikid) in 2000.

Their first album gained only lackluster sales, but after they signed with a subsidiary of Univision in 2003, their second, Proyecto Akwid, sold a third of a million CDs. Its sound mixed traditional Mexican music—especially the West Coast brass band style known as banda—with rhythms and studio techniques adapted from gangsta rap. Other groups were attempting similar fusions, but where most had to rely on outside producers, Akwid controlled their own sound and created a particularly organic musical combination, driven by the thump of tuba samples and clever use of familiar ...

Article

Alabama  

David B. Pruett

Country music group. Acknowledged by the Academy of Country Music (ACM) in 1989 as the Artist of the Decade for the 1980s, Alabama is arguably the most celebrated country music group in the history of the genre. Three of the band’s members—lead vocalist Randy Owen (b Fort Payne, AL, 13 Dec 1949), multi-instrumentalist Jeff Cook (b Fort Payne, AL, 27 Aug 1949), and bassist Teddy Gentry (b Fort Payne, AL, 22 Jan 1952)—had been performing their unique blend of southern rock and country pop together throughout the American South since 1969. Beginning in 1974, the group began playing regular shows in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where drummer Mark Herndon (b Springfield, MA, 11 May 1955) became the group’s fourth and final member in 1979, one year before Alabama signed with RCA. The group’s first major label release My Home’s in Alabama (RCA, ...

Article

Deena Weinstein

Both an American Detroit-based hard rock band and the adopted name of its singer and main creative force Vincent Damon Furnier (b Detroit, MI, 4 Feb 1946). Cooper was the son of a minister and the nephew of the storyteller Damon Runyon, after whom he was named. He moved to Arizona, where he attended high school and formed the Nazz. This band eventually took the name Alice Cooper and developed an over-the-top, theatrical shock-rock style that influenced a host of other rock performers.

With snide and clever lyrics, Alice Cooper’s style was mainly hard rock, but some tunes were psychedelic and others would be suitable in a Broadway musical. After moving to Michigan, the band scored numerous hits in the early 1970s. Many of the songs were rebellious youth-focused anthems, including “Eighteen” (Warner, 1971) and “School’s Out” (Warner, 1972). Others centered on ghoulish menace or mere gothic gruesomeness like “Dead Babies” (Warner, ...

Article

Terence J. O’Grady

revised by Bryan Proksch

(b Los Angeles, CA, March 31, 1935). American trumpeter, composer, bandleader, and record company executive. He studied trumpet as a child and left college to play in the army for a two-year period. After three years of producing records on his own, he launched A&M Records with Jerry Moss in 1962. A&M’s first issue was also Alpert’s first recording as a trumpeter and bandleader, The Lonely Bull (A&M, 1962). The title track included sounds from the bullring in Tijuana, Mexico, so Alpert dubbed his band the Tijuana Brass. His music exploited a distinctive combination of Mexican mariachi-style brass with jazz rhythms, which was dubbed Ameriachi. A string of hits including “Mexican Shuffle” (A&M, 1964) and “Tijuana Taxi” (A&M, 1965) followed. In 1966 Alpert had five recordings simultaneously listed on the Billboard Top 20. His cover of “This guy’s in love with you” reached no.1 in ...

Article

Elizabeth Aldrich

American television program. Bandstand premiered in Philadelphia in September 1952, hosted by Bob Horn. Dick Clark became host and producer in July 1956. The show achieved a nationwide audience when it was picked up by the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) and retitled American Bandstand in 1957. ABC moved it to Los Angeles in 1964 and carried the show until 1987. Syndicated broadcasts continued until September 1989.

American Bandstand, which featured teenagers dancing to the top rock and roll and rhythm and blues tunes of the day, brought popular music and dance into millions of households each weekday afternoon. In a popular feature called “Rate-a-Record,” Clark often asked the participants to evaluate the songs, giving rise to the phrase “I’ll give it a 95 because it has a great beat and it’s easy to dance to.” American Bandstand also included dance contests, and each program featured appearances by at least one popular musical act. The artists, who appeared, lip-synching to their latest hits, represented the most popular performers of the era. Although exclusively white in its early years, many of the artists popularized African American music and dance forms. For 37 years, teenagers watching the show absorbed a myriad of the latest dance crazes, including the twist, the locomotion, the stroll, the hustle, the mashed potato, the fish, the madison, disco, and the hand jive. Although virtually every urban area had an imitation show, including ...

Article

Lori Burns and Jada Watson

[Myra Ellen]

(b Newton, NC, Aug 22, 1963). American alternative-rock singer-songwriter, pianist, and record producer. She emerged in the early 1990s amid a resurgence of female singer-songwriters and has been one of the few well known alternative-rock artists to use the piano as her primary instrument. She attended the preparatory division of the prestigious Peabody Conservatory but left the school at the age of 11. She began to play her own music in nightclubs at 14, chaperoned by her father, who was a preacher. After Amos moved to Los Angeles in her late teens to pursue a recording career, her band Y Kant Tori Read released a self-titled album (Atl., 1987). Although this was unsuccessful, Atlantic Records retained her six-album contract.

Amos’s debut solo album, Little Earthquakes (Atl., 1992), earned her critical acclaim for her vocal expressivity, pianistic virtuosity, and fearless exploration of a wide range of personal themes, notably female sexuality, personal relationships, religion, sexual violence, and coming of age. The album ...

Article

Roxanne R. Reed

Gospel ensemble. The Angelic Gospel Singers, or the Angelics, were an African American female gospel quartet based in Philadelphia. Founder, lead singer, and pianist Margaret Allison (1921–2008) a native of McCormick, South Carolina, moved with her family to Philadelphia as a youth. Allison joined the Spiritual Echoes in 1942 and learned vocal arranging, composition, and accompanying techniques. Allison’s family was affiliated with the Pentecostal Church, but stylistically her gospel sound was closer to that of the southern Baptist church and gospel tradition. Allison left the Spiritual Echoes in 1944 to form the Angelics. Joining her were fellow former Spiritual Echoes members Lucille Shird and Ella Mae Norris. The third member was Allison’s sister Josephine MacDowell. The quartet’s sound mimicked that of popular male quartets such as the Fairfield Four and the Dixie Hummingbirds with controlled harmonies and simple accompaniment. The Angelic Gospel Singers commonly performed with the Hummingbirds. As a group, the Angelics performed primarily on the Pentecostal Church circuit. Their rendition of Lucie Campbell’s “Touch Me, Lord Jesus” (...

Article

Ryan R. McNutt

Canadian indie rock band. With captivating live performances and acclaimed recordings, the Montreal-based multi-instrumentalist group stood at the forefront of indie rock’s ascendency in the 2000s, growing from internet fanbase to festival-headlining slots over the decade. Often augmented by friends and touring members live, the core band consists of husband and wife Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, with Will Butler, Richard Reed Parry, Tim Kingsbury, Sarah Neufeld, and Jeremy Gara.

Formed in 2001 in Montreal, Québec—where the Texas-born Butler brothers attended school and met Chassagne, the daughter of Haitian immigrants—Arcade Fire quickly earned a local cult following that exploded upon the release of Funeral, its 2004 debut (Merge Records). An ecstatic review on the popular music website Pitchfork is often cited as the catalyst, though the band capitalized on that enthusiasm with its theatrical live show. Soaring melodies and anthemic, singalong hooks earned the album endorsements from David Bowie, David Byrne, and U2, all of whom have since performed with the band....

Article

Stephen Holden

Soul duo and songwriting and production team. Nickolas Ashford (b Fairfield, Hilton Head Island, SC, 4 May 1942; d New York, NY, 22 Aug 2011) and Valerie Simpson (b Bronx, NY, 26 Aug 1946) met in 1963; their first successful songwriting collaboration was “Let’s go get stoned” which, in a recording by Ray Charles (ABC, 1966), reached no.31 on the pop chart. They became staff writers and producers for Motown, where they worked with such performers as Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (“You’re all I need to get by,” Motown, 1968) and “Ain’t nothing like the real thing,” Motown, 1968) and Diana Ross (“Ain’t no mountain high enough, Motown, 1970). Ashford produced two albums that Simpson recorded under her own name (Exposed!, Motown, 1971, and Valerie Simpson, Motown, 1972). After leaving Motown, they released their first album together for Warner Bros., ...

Article

[AACM]

A nonprofit organization devoted to African American avant-garde music. It was founded in Chicago’s South Side on 8 May 1965 by members of Muhal Richard Abrams’ free-jazz ensemble the Experimental Band. As well as Abrams, who was its first president, the AACM’s original members were Fred Anderson, Roscoe Mitchell, Amina Claudine Myers, Malachi Favors, Thurman Barker, Joseph Jarman, and Maurice McIntyre. Its main objectives have been to organize concerts for the public and workshops for its members, and since the foundation of the AACM School of Music in 1969 to conduct free training programs for young musicians. In addition it has aimed “to set an example of high moral standards for musicians.” Its primary intention was to provide an alternative to the established art institutions in order to promote the music of young, independent, experimental African American musicians. With the postulate to move towards a multicultural and multi-ethnic outlook, each member created “original music”—notated, improvised, or both—by striving beyond the set boundaries of jazz to explore a stylistic hybridity. Its musicians broke new ground by making use of extended techniques, interactivity, experimental forms and notation, invented acoustic instruments, installations, and kinetic sculptures....