(b Anguilla, MS, March 21, 1919; d Hazel Crest, IL, 15 June, 1995). American gospel director, singer, composer, and publisher. Anderson established a career forming and training gospel groups in Chicago. His formative years were spent as one of the original Roberta Martin Singers, one of the premiere gospel groups of the 1930s and 1940s. He left briefly, between 1939 and 1941, to form the first of his many ensembles, the Knowles and Anderson Singers with R.L. Knowles. He rejoined Martin, but ultimately resigned because of the travel demands. In 1947 he formed Robert Anderson and his Gospel Caravan, but after several members left in 1952, he formed a new set of singers that recorded and performed under the name the Robert Anderson Singers through the mid-1950s. Throughout his career, Anderson recorded on a multitude of labels including Miracle and United with Robert Anderson and the Caravans; and later with the Robert Anderson Singers, on Apollo. Anderson wrote, and often sang lead on, many of the songs his groups performed, including “Why Should I Worry” (...
Roxanne R. Reed
(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 ...
(b Detroit, MI, Feb 16, 1935; d South Lake Tahoe, CA, Jan 5, 1998). American singer, composer, producer, actor, and politician. Bono began his career as a composer; one of his first songs, “Things You Do To Me,” was recorded by Sam Cooke in 1957–8. He eventually made contact with Phil Spector, with whom he worked closely for several years. One of his first successes came in 1963, when his song “Needles and Pins” (co-written with Jack Nitzsche) was recorded by Jackie DeShannon and reached number one on the charts in Canada. The height of his musical career came in the 1960s and 1970s as part of the duo Sonny and Cher. He wrote, produced, and performed on many of their hits, including “I Got You Babe” and “The Beat Goes On.” Success with Cher, to whom he was married from 1964 to 1975, led to many appearances on television, including ...
(b Honolulu, HI, Nov 9, 1909; d Honolulu, HI, April 27, 1992). Hawaiian singer, musician, bandleader, composer, and impresario. Sol Bright was a master entertainer of the old school: an energetic showman, accomplished musician, comic hula dancer, composer, raconteur, and entertainment director during Hawaiian music’s era of greatest international appeal, the 1920s through the 1960s.
His professional experience began as a teenager playing drums with his sister Hannah’s dance band. In 1928 an offer to play rhythm guitar and sing with Sol Ho`opi`i took him to Kaleponi (California), where a large community of Hawaiian musicians had formed. He started his own group, The Hollywood Hawaiians, in 1932. Playing steel guitar and singing, he recorded prolifically for major labels. He also appeared on radio and in four films: South Sea Rose,Charlie Chan’s Greatest Case,Flirtation Walk, and White Woman. Bright composed a number of songs that have become standards, including the jazzy English language “Sophisticated Hula” and “Hawaiian Cowboy,” a show-stopping novelty song in Hawaiian. With rapid-fire verses, reflective of fast ...
(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. ...
(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” (...
Dina M. Bennett
(b Vicksburg, MS, July 1, 1915; d Burbank, CA, Jan 29, 1992). American blues double-bassist, vocalist, songwriter, arranger, and record producer. He learned to sing harmony and write poems which he turned into songs as a teenager. In 1951, he joined the staff of Chess Records and became the label’s primary blues songwriter and producer. Many of his songs contained motifs most commonly associated with African American life in the South such as magic, voodoo, and country folkways, and were recorded by blues artists Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Koko Taylor, and many others. Among his most famous songs are “Back Door Man,” “Little Red Rooster,” “Spoonful,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” “Mellow Down Easy,” and “My Babe.” With more than 500 compositions to his credit, Dixon was influential in creating the sound of “Chicago blues,” a post World War II blues style that replaced the basic guitar/harmonica duo of Delta blues with electrically amplified versions of the guitar, bass guitar, and harmonica with the addition of drums, piano, and sometimes the saxophone. In ...
(b Hohensalza [now Inowrocław, Poland], Aug 18, 1879; d Los Angeles, CA, Nov 7, 1945). American singer, songwriter, and impresario. His family immigrated to the United States in the 1880s. By the age of 14 Edwards was working as a singer in Tony Pastor’s Music Hall in New York, and he subsequently appeared as a vaudeville performer with four other boys in an act called the Newsboy Quintet. In 1899 he began to write songs with the lyricist Will D. Cobb, beginning a partnership that lasted for several years. Their first hit was “I can’t tell why I love you, but I do” (1900), and they went on to establish their reputation with such songs as “Goodbye little girl, goodbye” (1904) and “School Days” (1907), a melodious waltz ballad with lyrics yearning for the simple days of small-town rural America. This last-named song was written for a revue in which Edwards appeared with a number of young actors; its success was such that he continued to present his “kiddie discovery shows” with new performers and material for the next 20 years. Among the juvenile actors he promoted were Eddie Cantor, George Jessel, Walter Winchell, and Ray Bolger. Many of Edwards’s best songs, including “Sunbonnet Sue” (...
revised by Cecilia Sun
(Peter George St John Le Baptiste de la Salle )
(b Woodbridge, UK, May 15, 1948). English composer, singer, keyboard player, sound artist, and producer. He attended art school in Ipswich and Winchester, during which time he was inspired by John Cage’s Silence to develop an interest in experimental music. He later joined the Scratch Orchestra and the Portsmouth Sinfonia. He first worked professionally from 1970 to 1973 with the seminal art-rock band Roxy Music, playing keyboard on their first two albums Roxy Music (Island, 1972) and For your Pleasure (Island, 1973). By treating the group’s live sound electronically with a tape recorder and VC5 3 synthesizer, he defined a role for himself as an “aural collagist.” After leaving Roxy Music, Eno developed this interest in the timbral quality of music further with the albums No Pussy Footing (Island, 1973; with Robert Fripp) and Another Green World (Island, 1975), the latter a brilliant combination of quirky songs and pastoral instrumentals. In ...
(b Shkodra, Albania, June 7, 1963). Albanian popular music singer, composer, and showman. A multifaceted musician and entrepreneur, he is among the most influential members of Albania’s new post-socialist class of entertainers. He was a child singer in the northern Albanian city of Shkodra during the late 1970s before relocating to Tirana for further musical training. As a composition student in the late 1980s, he became one of the first musicians to receive permission to study abroad, in Italy, after Albania’s diplomatic break with the Soviet Union in 1961. As a singer-songwriter (kantautor) in the early 1990s, he composed a number of popular compositions about Albania’s transition from socialism, including ‘Jon’ (The Ionian Sea, 1991). Deemed foreign and politically suspect under socialism, the singer-songwriter served an important political function during Albania’s transition. For many listeners, Gjebrea expressed important truths about democracy and the country’s future. As a radio and television host, Gjebrea subsequently helped to modernize each format in the late 1990s and 2000s. His annual song competition, Magic Song (...
(b Los Herreras, Nuevo León, México Dec 16, 1921; d Monterrey, Nuevo León, México, Sept 1, 2003). Mexican actor, singer, songwriter, and film director. Eulalio “Piporro” González Ramírez is best known for developing an idiosyncratic style of parodying Northern Mexican, or norteño, identity, lifestyle, and language through music and comedic acting for radio, stage, and film. His career spanned 60 years. He began as a newspaper reporter and radio personality in Monterrey and in US-Mexico border towns when he landed a role on the radio comedy, Ahí viene Martín Corona (Here Comes Martín Corona) produced in México City and starring the popular singer and actor Pedro Infante. At age 28, he played Infante’s elderly sidekick in 19th-century northern México where his bumbling character, “Piporro,” helped solve conflicts and dustups in local ranch life. The show’s success led to the 1951 film of the same name starring González and Infante. González enjoyed countless roles as “Piporro” in classic ...
(b Marlin, TX, April 25, 1950). American jazz and rhythm-and-blues flutist, singer, bandleader, composer, and producer. She started to play flute in the Lincoln High School band in Dallas. Studying both classical and jazz flute, she continued her musical training at Texas Southern University and Southern Methodist University. In 1971 she moved to New York, where a relative, Eddie Preston, played trumpet with Duke Ellington. Because of this connection, she had the opportunity to play with Ellington’s band. She also competed in the Apollo Theater’s amateur night, winning first place for seven consecutive weeks. Blue Note Records signed Humphrey in 1971 and had recorded six of her albums by 1976, including Blacks and Blues (1973, BN). She performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1973 and 1977. She also appeared on “Another Star” from Stevie Wonder’s album Songs in the Key of Life (1975–1976, Tamia). After switching to Epic she recorded three more albums for that label: ...
Mark Anthony Neal
(b Chicago, IL, Jan 8, 1967). American R&B singer, writer, producer, and arranger. Kelly was born on the South side of Chicago. Raised, with his three siblings, by a single mother, he was encouraged to pursue a musical career by his high school music teacher and mentor, Lena McLin, who was the chair of the music department at the Kenwood Academy and the niece of the legendary gospel music composer Thomas Dorsey. In high school Kelly formed the group MGM (Musically Gifted Men), which won a $100,000 grand prize on the television talent show Big Break, hosted by Natalie Cole. The group eventually signed with Jive Records, though after creative and financial tensions, three of the members were replaced and the group renamed R. Kelly and Public Announcement. After a moderately successful debut that produced the hit singles “She’s Got That Vibe” and “Honey Love,” Kelly left the group in early ...
[Shimura, Tsutomu; (“Tom”)]
Rapper, producer, and songwriter. Shimura was born in Tokyo, Japan to Japanese and Jewish Italian American parents. His delivery is noted for incorporating multiple syllables and an extensive vocabulary. Growing up in Berkeley, California, he was a co-founder of the independent label Quannum Projects, which has released albums by Blackalicious, DJ Shadow, Pigeon John, and others, including his own projects.
Early in his career, Shimura went by the name Asia Born but later changed it to Lyrics Born. His first single, “Send Them,” was released in 1993. The song was produced by DJ Shadow, and it featured the B-Side single “Entropy.” He later formed a group with Lateef the Truthspeaker called Latryx, and they released Latryx (The Album) in 1997.
Lyrics Born’s greatest commercial success as a solo artist occurred in 2003 with the release of his album Later That Day. The album featured the song “Callin’ Out,” which ended up being a surprise hit. The song was licensed by Electronic Arts for use in video games and by the Coca-Cola Company. In addition to his work as a solo artist, Shimura is also active as a voice-over actor, lending his voice to several shows and cartoon programs on Cartoon Network’s ...
[Pincus, Barry Alan ]
(b Brooklyn, NY, June 17, 1943). American Singer, composer, pianist, and producer. Manilow’s professional career began while he was a student at the Juilliard School. His first major assignment came in 1964, when he composed the score to a musical adaptation of The Drunkard. He was also a successful composer of advertising jingles, winning two Clio awards in 1976. By the late 1960s Manilow became the music director and conductor for numerous television programs while simultaneously performing a nightclub act in New York. Finding success as a performer and songwriter, he collaborated at this time with Bette Midler and also produced her first two albums. In the early 1970s Manilow started his own record company, Bell Records, which released his first album, Barry Manilow (Bell, 1973). His first successful single, “Mandy,” from Barry Manilow II (Bell, 1974) was followed by “I Write the Songs” (1975...
(b Urtijëi, Italy, April 26, 1940). Italian producer, singer, and composer. He began his career in Germany in the mid-1960s as a singer. Early in the 1970s he began to experiment with synthesizers and eventually forged a distinctive sound that became a sensation in the next two decades. From the mid-1970s he produced records by the singer donna Summer , notably the notoriously steamy, synth-driven 17-minute “Love to Love You Baby” (1975), which became an international hit and helped to propel the disco craze. The pair subsequently collaborated on Summer’s “I feel love” and “Bad Girls” and later won a Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording. Moroder also became known for scoring films, including Midnight Express (1978) for which he won an Academy Award. His songs for Flashdance (1983) and Top Gun (1986, “Take my Breath Away”) also won Academy Awards, and his work on ...
[Melvin James ]
(b Battle Creek, MI, Dec 17, 1910; d New York, NY, May 28, 1988). American arranger, composer, producer, bandleader, trumpeter, and singer. Growing up as an African American musician in Zanesville, Ohio, Oliver was self taught as a trumpeter and arranger. After playing in territory bands in and around Zanesville and Columbus, he became a member of Jimmie Lunceford’s orchestra in 1933. His charts for the Lunceford band were distinguished by contrasts, crescendos, and unexpected melodic variations, thereby setting new standards in big band swing and close-harmony singing. His use of two-beat rhythms also set his arrangements apart.
In 1939 Oliver was hired by the trombonist Tommy Dorsey and turned his band into one of the hardest swinging and most sophisticated ensembles of the early 1940s. In 1946 he started his own big band. During the late 1940s and 1950s he mainly did studio work, as a music director for the labels Decca, Bethlehem, and Jubilee. He continued to lead big bands and smaller ensembles, recycling his old Lunceford and Dorsey successes and performing new arrangements. Along with Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson, Oliver must be rated one of the top arrangers of the swing era and infused almost every chart with vigor and surprise....
Olivia Carter Mather
[Alvis Edgar ]
(b Sherman, TX, Aug 12, 1929; d Bakersfield, CA, March 25, 2006). American country musician and businessman. He is widely considered the central figure of the Bakersfield sound, and his dominance of the country charts in the 1960s challenged Nashville’s hegemony and bolstered the West Coast country scene in Bakersfield and Los Angeles. During the 1950s he worked as a guitarist and session player for several Bakersfield artists before signing with Capitol Records in 1957. In 1963 he began a streak of 14 consecutive number-one country hits with “Act Naturally,” which was later covered by the Beatles. Other hits included “Together Again” (1964), “I’ve got a tiger by the tail” (1965), and a cover of “Johnny B. Goode” (1969).
Owens’s songs eschewed themes of hard living and rambling for a portrayal of the male subject as a lonely victim of romance. With his backing band, the Buckaroos, he developed a bright, driving sound which he described as a freight train feel: heavy bass and drums accompanying two Fender Telecaster electric guitars played by Owens and the guitarist Don Rich. The twangy Telecaster sound and high, close harmony of Owens and Rich characterized many of his recordings. The Buckaroos both toured and recorded with Owens, a contrast to country norms. Owens thus established an alternative to the popular “countrypolitan” sound produced in Nashville (he also never joined the “Grand Ole Opry”); in doing so he inspired such country-rock musicians as Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers. He also marketed himself as a hard-country artist free of pop influence; in ...
(b Hattiesburg, MS, Jan 3, 1943). American Composer, lyricist, producer, arranger, actor, and singer. He is best known for collaborating with other artists and for writing the lyrics to the Beach Boys’ album Smile with Brian Wilson. Although he began his career as a child actor throughout the 1950s, he turned to music in his teens, learning guitar and performing with his brother, Carson. He landed a record contract in 1964 with MGM, then moved to Warner Bros. two years later, mostly working as an arranger and a session musician. In 1966 he recorded on the Byrds album Fifth Dimension (Columbia) and began his work on Smile. His songs such as “Surf’s Up” and “Wind Chimes” impressed Wilson, who championed Parks’s work. However, due to strife within the band—caused partly by objections to such songs as “Cabinessence”—Smile went unreleased at the time. Parks went on to work on solo projects, and in ...
David B. Pruett
[Ritchie, Robert James ]
(b Romeo, MI, Jan 17, 1971). American popular musician. Raised in Romeo, Michigan, he relocated to New York City in 1990, where he released his debut album, Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast (Jive Records), which failed to garner wide praise. Through the mid-1990s, Kid Rock struggled to market his stylistic combination of blues, southern rock, heavy metal, and rap, and sales of his next three albums—The Polyfuze Method (Continuum, 1993), Fire It Up (Continuum, 1993), and Early Mornin’ Stoned Pimp (Top Dog, 1996)—were poor. However, amid the growing popularity of rap-metal and nu-metal acts in the 1990s, Kid Rock attracted the attention of Atlantic Records, which, in 1998, signed him to a recording contract and released Devil Without a Cause, a nationwide hit that reached number three on Billboard ’s catalog album chart and sold over 11 million copies by 2003. Kid Rock released five albums in the first decade of the new millennium, three of which—...