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Article

Mark Tucker

[Stephen Valentine Patrick William]

(b New York, NY, Dec 16, 1921; d Encino, CA, Oct 30, 2000). American composer, radio and television personality, pianist, singer, and comedian. The son of Belle Montrose and Billy Allen, both of whom worked in vaudeville, he moved from place to place as a child, attending many schools for short periods of time. He played piano from an early age, although his musical training was mainly informal. He began a professional career in Los Angeles as a disc jockey on radio during the 1940s, then turned to television in the 1950s; he established himself as a comedian, and often played the piano during his shows, improvising jazz and singing his own songs. Among the musicians who appeared with him regularly was the vibraphonist Terry Gibbs. Allen’s most popular television program was “The Tonight Show,” which he began broadcasting locally in New York in 1953, subsequently leading it to nationwide success the following year. Allen performed the title role in the film ...

Article

Chadwick Jenkins

(b Lisle, IL, Nov 8, 1955). American singer, pianist, composer, and bandleader. Her father played with the Glenn Miller band and her mother was a professional blues singer. After studying psychology and classical piano at the University of Iowa, Barber returned to Chicago and began playing five nights a week at the Gold Star Sardine Bar, where she attracted varying critical attention for her husky voice and the inclusion of pop songs, including “Black Magic Woman” and “A Taste of Honey,” in her repertoire. She recorded her first album, Split (Floyd), in 1989 and her second album, A Distortion of Love (Antilles) in 1991. She subsequently moved to the independent label Premonition, which was bought by Blue Note in 1998. In 2003 Barber became the first songwriter to be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Under its aegis she composed a song cycle based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses. She is the subject of a documentary, ...

Article

Randolph Love

(b Edgard, LA, Dec 24, 1920; d New Orleans, June 23, 2019). American trumpeter, arranger, producer, songwriter, bandleader, and singer. He started his career as a trumpeter playing with established bands led by, among others, Papa Celestin, Joe Robichaux, and Claiborne Williams before joining Fats Pichon’s ensemble, considered one of the top groups in New Orleans, in 1939. During World War II he played in the 196th AGF (Army Ground Forces) Band, where he met Abraham Malone, who taught him how to write and arrange. After the war, he formed his own band in New Orleans, which made its début at the Dew Drop Inn and later performed at Sam Simoneaux’s club Graystone where many of the city’s top instrumental players, including the drummer Earl Palmer and the saxophonists Lee Allen and Red Tyler, were showcased.

Bartholomew is best known for his talents as an arranger and songwriter. In the 1950s and 60s he worked with many of the biggest stars of the day, including Smiley Lewis, Lloyd Price, Shirley and Lee, and Joe Turner. By the 1970s he had associations with some of rock and roll’s most established talents, including Paul McCartney, Elton John, and the Rolling Stones. His most productive association was with Fats Domino, whom he met through Lew Chudd, the owner of Imperial Records, where he worked as a house arranger, an A&R man, and an in-house bandleader. From ...

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Leonidas Economou

(b Athens, Greece, Dec 11, 1922; d Athens, April 7, 2005). Greek singer and composer. He began his career as a laïko composer and bouzouki soloist and sang only occasionally. He made his first great hit as a singer in 1956, with a song by Manos Hadjidakis, but he became widely known in the early 1960s when Mikis Theodorakis chose him as the main interpreter of some of his most important works. His career peaked between 1960 and 1974. He became the most important male voice of the entechno laïko song, performing a great number of songs of all the composers of this genre. He also recorded new influential versions of classic rebetika and many laïko and elafrolaïko hits (often his own compositions). His timid acceptance of the Junta regime blemished his image and, due also to the deterioration of his voice, his career declined and he made only a few recordings after ...

Article

David Font-Navarrete

(b Gaston, NC, Aug 28, 1936; d Baltimore, May 16, 2012). American bandleader, singer, guitarist, and composer. He was a musical icon of the Washington, DC metropolitan area. He was widely known as “The Godfather of Go-go” and renowned for his live performances, which emphasized continuous, percussion-driven grooves and audience participation, all staples of the Go-go genre he developed in the 1970s. Brown’s early years were marked by poverty and crime, and he first developed his guitar playing while incarcerated at the Lorton Penitentiary. With his band the Soul Searchers, Brown developed a distinctive sound that is grounded in funk and soul, but also heavily influenced by jazz and Latin genres. His hit songs include “Bustin’ Loose,” “We Need Some Money,” and “Go-Go Swing.” In 1992, Brown recorded The Other Side with vocalist Eva Cassidy, a critically-acclaimed album of jazz and blues material. He received a NARAS Governors Award and an NEA Lifetime Heritage Fellowship Award, and continued to record and perform regularly until his death in ...

Article

Sumanth Gopinath

(b Philadelphia, PA, March 2, 1943). American political activist and singer/songwriter. Despite severe poverty, Brown studied piano at an early age and began writing songs at 16. After a semester at Temple University, she left for Los Angeles, hoping to become a professional songwriter. She had an affair with a married white novelist, screenwriter, and songwriter, Jay Richard Kennedy, who encouraged her to embrace leftist politics and her black identity. She began performing with the support of Stanley Crouch, Horace Tapscott, and the Underground Musicians Association (UGMA), shortly before becoming closely involved with the Black Panther Party (BPP). Under Tapscott’s musical direction Brown recorded Seize the Time (1969, Vault Records), an extraordinary album that provided the name for Bobby Seale’s famous memoir of the BPP’s early years and became an underground classic. Its songs include musical manifestos, portraits of individuals she had known through her political activities, and a memorial for murdered BPP members Bunchy Carter and John Huggins (“Assassination”). Brown’s declamatory, theatrical singing style is highlighted in “The End of Silence,” which featured poignantly in William Klein’s film ...

Article

David Brackett

(b Barnwell, SC, May 3, 1928; d Atlanta, Dec 25, 2006). American soul and funk singer, composer, arranger and bandleader. Born into extreme poverty in the rural South, he began his career as a professional musician in the early 1950s with the gospel-based group, the Flames. By 1956 the group had recorded the rhythm and blues hit Please, Please, Please (Federal, 1956) and changed their name to James Brown and the Famous Flames. This early recording established what was to become a stylistic trademark: insistent repetition of a single phrase (in this case, the song's title) resulting in a kind of ecstatic trance. This approach and Brown's characteristic raspy vocal timbre and impassioned melismas display his debt to the black American gospel tradition. His stage shows, dancing and inspired call-and-response interactions with the audience also convey the fervour of a sanctified preacher.

The first decade of Brown's recording career saw him alternating energetic dance numbers such as ...

Article

Jonas Westover

(Angela)

(b Huntington, NY, March 27, 1970). American singer, composer, producer, and actress. She is one of the top-selling artists of all time, a star in R&B and pop who sold, according to some estimates, more than 200 million albums during the 1990s and 2000s. She learned to sing as a child from her mother, an opera singer and vocal coach. While in high school she sang backing vocals for other artists and developed her own compositional style. She moved to New York in the mid-1980s and became a backing singer for Brenda K. Starr. The record company executive Tommy Mottola sought out Carey after hearing her voice on a demo tape. He immediately offered her a recording contract, resulting in her first album, Mariah Carey (1990); the two eventually married. Carey wrote or co-wrote a significant portion of the music on her first album and insisted on maintaining a degree of control over its production. Both of these elements have become her standard practice, and she is one of the few major pop artists to compose much of her own material. ...

Article

Mark Samples

(Norman)

(b Montreal, QC, Sept 21, 1934; d Los Angeles, Nov 10, 2016). Canadian songwriter, singer, poet, and novelist. He was born into an upper-middle class, observant Jewish family. His first career was as a poet, for which he studied at McGill and Columbia universities. He published several novels and collections of poetry in the 1950s and 60s, working in London, on the Greek island of Hydra, and in Montreal. While in New York he was exposed to the Beat poets’ practice of reading poetry accompanied by a jazz performance, which he brought with him when he returned to Montreal. Although Cohen gained critical acclaim as a poet, he found it difficult to support himself. He turned to music more seriously in 1966, seeking to reach a broader audience and a new source of income. His first musical ally was Judy Collins, who recorded several of his songs, beginning with “Suzanne.” In ...

Article

Dave Laing

(b Los Angeles, March 15, 1947). American guitarist, singer and composer. He began playing the guitar at the age of three. He formed the Rising Sons with the blues revivalist Taj Mahal (1965–6) and for a short time joined Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band (1967). He also worked as a session musician with such groups as the Rolling Stones (Let it Bleed, 1969) and Little Feat (Little Feat, 1971). His first albums as a leader, Ry Cooder (1970) and Into the Purple Valley (1971) showed him to be a keen student of several American traditional music forms including blues and early country music. His attempt to redraw the map of American music continued in recordings with the gospel and falsetto singers Bobby King and Terry Evans which appeared on Bop till You Drop (1979...

Article

J. Ryan Bodiford

(b New York, NY, July 30, 1971). American singer, composer, actor, and activist of Puerto Rican descent. Known to his fans as the King of Merengue, he has achieved international recognition for his self-styled brand of urban merengue fusion, which incorporates influences from Latin American genres like samba, salsa, and bomba, while also employing slick pop production techniques and hip-hop aesthetics. Romantic lyrical sentiments and attention to fashion further characterize his professional approach.

Crespo was raised primarily in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. His career began when he was 17 when he joined the Willie Berríos Orchestra in San Juan; however, his major breakthrough came in 1995 when he joined the established Puerto Rican merengue group, Manía. Helping to infuse Manía’s sound with more of a hip-hop edge, Crespo wrote two of the group’s biggest hits, “Linda eh” and “Ojitos bellos.” After three years gaining recognition with the group, he went solo in ...

Article

Thomas Goldsmith

(b Cullman, AL, Feb 16, 1961). American bluegrass singer, songwriter, and mandolinist. His uncle Cleo Davis was a founder member of Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys. While enjoying and playing the Southern rock sounds of his teen years, he fell under the spell of acoustic music when listening to his father, Ledell, and other family members picking and singing. He began playing guitar and around the age of 20 moved to mandolin. He survived and prevailed after being soundly criticized for his playing at a Nashville session by Monroe, who took Davis’s mandolin to show him how it should be done. After joining Garry Thurmond and the Warrior River Boys in 1983, he took over leadership of the group in the mid-1980s after Thurmond left for health reasons. In subsequent years the group has built a steady touring and festival circuit and recorded albums for the labels Rounder and Rebel, moving toward more contemporary songs and styles from ...

Article

Rich Kienzle

(Ray )

(b Plainview, TX, Aug 10, 1928; d Varina, VA, June 13, 2010). American singer, songwriter, and entrepreneur. Despite achieving only a few hits, he played a pivotal role in advancing the prominence of country music on network television. Born into poverty in rural Texas, he learned piano with his mother. During postwar service in the US Air Force, he was stationed near Washington, DC. Following his discharge in 1948, he began performing in the region playing accordion with his band the Texas Wildcats. His first hit was “Bummin’ Around” (1952, Mer.). In 1955 he began hosting a local morning TV show, Town and Country Time. For a time Roy Clark was the Wildcats’ guitarist and banjoist with an unknown Patsy Cline a frequent guest. After joining CBS he hosted the morning show “Country Style” (1957) from Washington and the daytime program “The Jimmy Dean Show” (...

Article

Stephen Holden

revised by Gillian Turnbull

(b Brooklyn, NY, Jan 24, 1941). American Pop singer, songwriter, and composer. In the mid-1960s Diamond worked as a songwriter for various New York music publishers and in 1966 his composition “I’m a Believer” became a number one hit for the Monkees. The producers Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich subsequently helped Diamond to gain a contract with Bang Records as a singer, and several of his songs recorded with them, which had a strong country inflection, reached the Top 20. He moved to California in 1966 and signed with Uni Records; on this label he achieved his first number one hit as a performer, “Cracklin’ Rosie” (1970). In 1972 he became the first pop-rock musician to present a concert production on Broadway. After he moved to Columbia Records in 1973, Diamond aspired to more ambitious projects, such as the soundtrack for the film Jonathan Livingston Seagull...

Article

Barry Jean Ancelet

(b Lafayette, LA, Feb 14, 1951). American fiddler, guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter. Doucet has become arguably the most widely recognized Cajun musician ever. His formative influences within Cajun and Creole music include acknowledged masters such as Dewey Balfa, Canray Fontenot, and especially Dennis McGee, as well as lesser-known but no less important masters such as Varise Conner, Lionel Leleux, and Hector Duhon. Other influences include the folk rock, country, and swamp pop influences of his youth. Doucet first approached Cajun music in the 1970s in a group called Bayou des Mystères. He then founded a rock-country-Cajun fusion band called Coteau, the first such band to attract the attention of the younger university crowds. After Coteau dissolved, Doucet turned to his long-running band Beausoleil, which was informed by an eclectic collection of influences that reflect the complex history of Cajun music, including traditional, classical, rock, and jazz elements. Beausoleil has played all over the world and recorded more than 30 albums for many labels, including Swallow, Arhoolie, Rounder, Rhino, and Alligator. These albums have garnered 11 Grammy nominations and two wins. Doucet has also recorded albums with other musicians, including Marc and Ann Savoy, Ed Poullard, and his brother David Doucet. He has performed with symphony orchestras and with the Fiddlers Four. Along the way, he has made ingenious use of old material, for example, turning unaccompanied ballads that John and Alan Lomax collected in Louisiana in ...

Article

Brenda M. Romero

(b Tlaxiaco, Mexico, Sept 9, 1967). Mexican singer, composer, and anthropologist. She was already well known in Mexico when she emerged in the US mainstream with her performance in the film Frida (2002). Her father was Scottish American and her mother is Mixtec from Oaxaca, thus Downs grew up traveling back and forth between the United States and Mexico and between cultures. She began singing at the age of five and began formal classical voice studies at 14 at Bellas Artes in Oaxaca. She subsequently studied in Los Angeles and at the University of Minnesota, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, focusing on Oaxacan highland textiles. In addition to crediting African American music in general, and female singers and the music of jazz in particular, for showing her the many ways in which the voice can be used as an instrument to articulate a wide palette of expressiveness, she credits a range of musical influences, including the Grateful Dead, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Meredith Monk (especially her extended vocal techniques), Thelonious Monk, and John Coltrane. She has conducted most of her work in collaboration with her husband ...

Article

David B. Pruett

[Stephen] (Fain)

(b Hampton, VA, January 17, 1955). American country and rock recording artist and songwriter. Steve Earle’s hard-lived childhood—growing up in Shertz, Texas, he dropped out of school after eighth grade—contributed much to the depth and quality of his songwriting performing. Inspired by singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt, whom he had met while living in Houston, Earle moved in 1975 to Nashville, where he became a professional songwriter, penning hits for such artists as Carl Perkins (“Mustang Wine,” 1976), Johnny Lee (“When You Fall in Love,” 1981), Waylon Jennings (“Devil’s Right Hand,” 1986), and Patty Loveless (“A Little Bit in Love,” 1988). Earle emerged in the mid-1980s as a recording artist with equal grounding in country and rock music, earning wide critical and popular acclaim. The title track of his gold-certified album Guitar Town (MCA, 1986) reached number seven on Billboard’s country singles chart, a feat that was followed by the top-ten single “Goodbye’s All We’ve Got Left.” In ...

Article

Holly George-Warren

[Smith, Lucille Wood; Smith (Fox), Frances Octavia]

(b Uvalde, TX, Oct 31, 1912; d Apple Valley, CA, Feb 7, 2001). American Western-music and popular singer-songwriter and actor. As Frances Fox, the name used in her first marriage, she began singing jazz, blues, and pop tunes on radio stations in Memphis in 1929. In May 1935 she took the stage name Dale Evans as staff vocalist at WHAS in Louisville, Kentucky. She moved to WFFA in Dallas, and by 1940 she was singing with the Anson Weeks Orchestra in Chicago, where she joined the CBS affiliate station WBBM. In 1941 Evans signed with 20th-Century Fox, playing bit parts in Hollywood musicals. She became a vocalist on several national radio shows, including “The Chase and Sanborn Hour” (1941), “The Jack Carson Show” (1944), and “The Camel Caravan” (1945). In 1943 she signed with Republic and, the following year, co-starred with roy Rogers, whom she married in ...

Article

Edgardo Díaz Díaz

[José Luis ]

(b Ponce, PR, July 3, 1935). Puerto Rican singer and composer. At 17, after studying at the Escuela Libre de Música in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Feliciano moved with his family to New York, later becoming a band member with the Tito Rodríguez Orchestra. In 1957 he joined Joe Cuba’s Sextet as the ensemble pioneered the sounds of Latin soul and Latin boogaloo. From 1967 to 1969 he played with Eddie Palmieri’s orchestra. In 1971 he sang with the Fania All-Stars. Feliciano was perceived by salsa followers as the youngest and most promising bridge between salsa and the older style of mambo. Given his versatile and skillful performances as a sonero and bolerista, his talents have often been compared with singers Benny Moré and Tito Rodríguez. His compositions include “El Pito” (a precursor of the boogaloo years) and “El Ratón,” the first international hit of the salsa boom. His first solo album ...

Article

Daniel Party

[Luna, Adán; Valadez, Alberto Aguilera]

(b Michoacán, Mexico, Jan 7, 1950; d Santa Monica, CA, Aug 28, 2016). Mexican singer and songwriter. One of the most popular Mexican singers of the last quarter of the 20th century, he belongs, with José José, to the first generation of Mexican pop singers to start a career performing balada instead of bolero. He started his career singing under the pseudonym Adán Luna in Ciudad Juárez nightclubs as a teenager. After signing with RCA he recorded his first hit song, “No tengo dinero,” in 1971. In 1974 he released his first ranchera album accompanied by Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán; it includes one of his signature songs, “Se me olvidó otra vez.” By the mid-1980s he had appeared in several films and had sold an estimated 20 million albums.

Gabriel was known as a highly versatile singer, equally comfortable and commercially successful with ranchera, balada, cumbia, pop-rock, and political songs. His compelling showmanship was most fully expressed in his tour-de-force recitals, in which he displayed a virtuosic control of his voice, improvising long-held notes and dramatic silences. In concert he favored a flamboyant and camp style, full of theatricality and excess, switching effortlessly from seductive crooner to over-the-top comedian to full-voiced ...