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Article

Michael Ethen

(Guy)

(b Kingston, ON, Nov 5, 1959). Canadian rock singer, songwriter, and guitarist, and photographer. The son of a diplomat, he spent his youth in England, Israel, Portugal, and Austria. After returning with his family to North America, he began performing and recording at the age of 15 with rock bands in British Columbia and Ontario. In 1978 he began what became a long and successful songwriting partnership with Jim Vallance, with whom he created most songs recorded under his name up to 1987, as well as songs recorded by Rod Stewart, Kiss, Bonnie Raitt, Neil Diamond, and the Canadian groups Prism, BTO, and Loverboy.

Adams’ albums characteristically alternate between down-tempo piano ballads and straight-ahead rock numbers. His third solo album, Cuts like a Knife (1983) launched him to the status of an international celebrity; its singles included the ballad “Straight from the Heart” and the anthem “Cuts like a Knife,” which both featured for weeks on magazine charts and music television. The next album, ...

Article

John Stanislawski

(b Springhill, LA, Jan 13, 1962). American country music singer. In line with country “hat acts” and neo-traditionalists such as Toby Keith and Tim McGraw, Trace Adkins has forged a working-class image and hard-driving sound by merging honky-tonk with Southern rock, gospel, and blues. His masculine bravado and allegiance to a blue-collar ethos has solidified his position as one of country’s top acts.

After time spent working on an oil rig, Adkins moved to Nashville in 1992 to pursue his musicalcareer. There he met producer Scott Hendricks, who signed him to Capitol Records. His 1996 debut album, Dreamin’ Out Loud, yielded the successful singles “Every Light in the House,” “I Left Something Turned on at Home,” and “(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing,” which became his first number-one country hit. Despite problems with alcoholism and a drunk-driving charge, his 2001 album Chrome reached the top five on Billboard’s Country Albums chart. In ...

Article

Abel Stewart

(María )

(b New York, NY, Dec 18, 1980). American singer. She is one of the most popular singers of her generation. Her father (originally from Ecuador), a sergeant in the US Army, and her American mother, a Spanish teacher, divorced when Aguilera was seven. As a child, Aguilera placed second on the television show Star Search, and performed on the Mickey Mouse Club along with Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears. In 1998, she launched her recording career with a track for Disney’s animated film Mulan. In 1998 she also signed with RCA, and her first album, Christina Aguilera (1999) reached number one on the Billboard 200. Her singles from that album, “Genie in a Bottle,” “What a Girl Wants,” and “Come on Over Baby” reached Number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Her first Spanish language album, Mi reflejo (2000), stood for 20 weeks at Number 1 on the Billboard Latin charts and earned her a Latin Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Album. In ...

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

(Irene)

(b Houston, TX, Nov 11, 1928). American jazz and blues singer. At the age of 12, she won a talent contest held at the El Dorado Ballroom in Houston by improvising new melodies to popular songs and in 1941 began performing with Russell Jacquet. In an attempt to remove Anderson from the nightclub scene and improve her academic standing, her family moved to Seattle in 1944. However, this was just as the jazz scene began to thrive there, and Anderson subsequently performed in bands under Bumps Blackwell, Ray Charles, Johnny Otis, and Lionel Hampton. She also recorded with Gigi Gryce (Nica’s Tempo, 1955, Savoy) and toured Scandinavia with Rolf Ericsen (1956). While in Sweden, she recorded her debut album Hot Cargo (1956, Met.). This album, coupled with performances championed by Ralph J. Gleason, made Anderson a sensation. However, a legal dispute with Mercury, which prevented her from recording for around five years, then derailed her career. Anderson’s popularity was revived by a celebrated performance at the Concord Jazz Festival in ...

Article

S. Timothy Maloney

(Albert)

(b Ottawa, ON, July 30, 1941). Canadian singer-songwriter, naturalized American. He was singing for amateur shows and local radio stations by the age of ten and formed the Bobby Soxers vocal trio while still in high school. At 15 he recorded one of his own songs in Hollywood and in 1957 signed a songwriting and recording contract with ABC-Paramount in New York. His first single, “Diana” (EMI Columbia, 1957), was a number one hit and became one of the best-selling records in pop music history. Other hits followed, including “You are my destiny” (ABC-Paramount, 1958), “Lonely Boy” (ABC-Paramount, 1959), and “Put your head on my shoulder” (EMI Columbia, 1959). He also has more than 400 songs to his credit, many of which have been covered by other artists, among them, Buddy Holly, Johnny Mathis, Patti Page, Elvis Presley, Sammy Davis Jr., Barbra Streisand, and Michael Bublé. “My Way” (Reprise, ...

Article

Frances R. Aparicio

[Muñiz, Marco Antonio]

(b New York City, Sept 16, 1968). American singer, songwriter, and actor of Puerto Rican ancestry. Named after the famous Mexican singer Marco Antonio Muñiz (b 1933), Marc Anthony has become one of the most famous and important Latino singer-songwriters in the United States. Because of the excellence of his voice and his commitment to his Latino and Caribbean roots, he has become the biggest selling salsa artist of all time, with over 10 million albums sold worldwide. After singing house and freestyle music in English in his early career, Marc Anthony revitalized salsa music with a series of early 1990s musical hits that paved the way for the 1999 Latin pop explosion. He has successfully crossed linguistic borders, singing both in English and Spanish within the same album and thus contesting the label of “crossover.” His stage performances and the hybrid musical arrangements that have cast traditional Puerto Rican songs like “Preciosa” and “Lamento borincano” as salsa songs embody his Nuyorican identity in the public space, thus exemplifying the transnational nature of salsa music. Some of his best-known songs in English include “I Need to Know” and “You Sang to Me.”...

Article

Antony  

Shana Goldin-Perschbacher

[Hegarty, Antony]

(b Chichester, England, 1971). American singer-songwriter and pianist. After the Hegarty family moved to San Jose, Ccalifornia, in 1981, Antony studied experimental theater at New York University, formed a performance collective with Johanna Constantine, and collaborated with filmmaker William Basinski (Life on Mars, 1997) and rock icon Lou Reed (The Raven, Sire, 2003; Animal Serenade, RCA, 2004). Antony has become the world’s most famous transgender musician. Male-bodied and feminine-identified, Antony retains his birth name and uses masculine pronouns professionally. His band, Antony and the Johnsons (formed in 1996), is named after the murdered African American transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson.

Antony’s vocal depth, resonance, and melismatic grace evoke African American musical traditions. His tremulous vibrato and seemingly self-imposed limitations (also evident in his amateurish piano playing) express the grave earthly burdens of his lyrics. His eclectic work has been influenced by the AIDS-ravaged New York art scene (Peter Hujar), British synth-pop (Marc Almond), soul (Nina Simone, Boy George), and experimental underground music (Diamanda Galás). His band includes vocals, piano, drums, guitar, bass, cello, violin, and horns, he regularly appears with an orchestra, and he released an album of live symphonic performances with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra featuring arrangements by Nico Muhly, Rob Moose, Maxim Moston, and himself (...

Article

Lori Burns and Jada Watson

[Richards, Jann (Arden Anne)]

(b Springbank, AB, March 27, 1962). Canadian singer-songwriter. Her songs are characterized by a lyrical emphasis on heartbreak and introspection, set to seamless pop and rock arrangements featuring smooth vocals and catchy rhythmic riffs. She began writing songs at the age of 13 and released her debut single “Never Love a Sailor” as Jann Richards in 1980. Arden busked and performed with rock bands in clubs and at festivals before signing with A&M Records and releasing her debut album Time for Mercy (A&M, 1993), which included the single “I would die for you.” The album garnered her a Juno Award for Best New Solo Artist in 1994 and she subsequently received two more, for Songwriter of the Year, in 1995 and 2002.

Arden’s success continued with Living under June (A&M, 1994), which featured three of her biggest singles “Insensitive,” “Could I be your Girl,” and “Good Mother.” Arden has continued to release studio albums as well as a greatest hits album (...

Article

Liz Thomson

(b 9 Dec, 1950, St Kitts, Leeward Islands). English singer-songwriter. One of five children, she spent the first few years of her life with her grandparents in the West Indies, following the rest of her family to Birmingham in 1958. An introverted youngster, she taught herself piano and guitar and as a teenager, inspired initially by Marianne Faithfull, she began writing and performing her own songs in clubs. While singing in the touring production of Hair, she met Pam Nestor with whom she recorded an album, Whatever's for Us (Cube, 1972). Produced by Gus Dudgeon, who had also worked with David Bowie and Elton John, it was a critical success but a commercial failure. Back to the Night (A&M, 1975) established Armatrading as a solo artist. However, she gained both critical and popular acceptance with her next album, Joan Armatrading (A&M, 1976), which included her best-known hit single ...

Article

Alexandra M. Apolloni

[Avallone, Francis Thomas]

(b Philadelphia, PA, Sept 8, 1940). American pop vocalist of Italian descent. His career spanned music, film, and television, helping to define the image of the post-war Teen idol. A virtuoso trumpeter, Avalon released instrumental singles early in his career and led a jazz group, Rocco and the Saints, based in Philadelphia. Chancellor Records signed Avalon as a vocalist, aiming to capitalize on his boyish looks. Avalon’s singles for Chancellor include “Venus,” which spent five weeks at number one on the Billboard charts in 1959, and its follow-up, “Why.” The smooth vocals and reverberant textures of these recordings defined Avalon’s sound. He was first and foremost a ballad singer, and his recordings positioned him as a tame alternative to rock and roll, while his charm and boy-next-door appeal propelled him to fame with middle-class teenage girls.

Avalon made frequent appearances on Dick Clark’s television show American Bandstand and his first film role was alongside Clark in ...

Article

Elijah Wald

[Ramón Covarrubias]

(b Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, Dec 8, 1945). Mexican accordionist, singer, and bandleader. Born in Monterrey and raised in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Ramón Ayala has been the foremost figure in norteño music along the Gulf Coast and Texas border region since the 1970s. He first became famous in the 1960s as the accordionist and coleader of Los Relámpagos del Norte, with the singer-songwriter Cornelio Reyna; then formed his own band, Los Bravos del Norte, in 1971. In Mexico, Ayala is regarded as part of a great generation of border bandleaders, along with Carlos y José and Los Cadetes de Linares. North of the border, though, he has far outstripped his peers, and only California’s Los Tigres del Norte rival his ongoing popularity. Unlike the Tigres, who have consistently pushed norteño in new directions, Ayala is a traditionalist, and his success is due as much to his image as a hard-working, old-fashioned bearer of the classic tradition as to his intricate accordion passages and his keen eye for good material, from gunfighter corridos to romantically mournful ...

Article

Jonas Westover

[Wright, Erica Abi ]

(b Dallas, TX, Feb 26, 1971). American singer, songwriter, and producer. She was singing for audiences by the age of four and cultivated her skills at the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. She briefly attended Grambling State University, but left to develop her music career and soon landed a contract with Universal Records. She became an immediate sensation; her first recording, Baduizm (Universal, 1997), reached number two on the Billboard charts, while its top single “On and On” received widespread attention and airplay. Her dark, breathy vocal style, reminiscent of jazz and soul singing, earned her two Grammy awards and four nominations. She went on to release a live album, Erykah Badu Live (Universal, 1997), and to work on a number of side projects with other artists, notably providing the hook for the Roots’ song “You got me.” After a brief respite she returned with ...

Article

Mark C. Samples

(Chandos)

(b Staten Island, NY, Jan 9, 1941). American folk singer, songwriter, and activist. She was born to a Mexican father and Scottish mother. A self-taught singer and guitarist she began performing informally for classmates as a way to make friends. She became enthralled with folk music as a high school student in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her polished soprano voice and deft finger-picking style gained her local attention, and a guest performance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1959 was her first major professional success. After a short time attending Boston University Baez left to pursue her music career, which proceeded rapidly. She released six successful albums with Vanguard Records in the first half of the 1960s and toured widely. Her repertoire in these years consisted principally of traditional songs, but subsequently included new folk songs written by such contemporaries as Phil Ochs (“There but for Fortune”) and Bob Dylan (“It ain’t me babe” and “Farewell, Angelina”). Dylan’s songs became a staple for Baez, and the two had a high-profile but short romance. Baez was a bona fide folk star and used her celebrity to advocate for civil rights and protest against the Vietnam War. She was married to the anti-war activist David Harris from ...

Article

Jonas Westover

(b Toledo, OH, Jan 26, 1958). American R&B singer and songwriter. After moving to Detroit and achieving some success with the group Chapter 8, she began her own career with the album The Songstress (1983). Although she only found moderate success at first, her second album, Rapture (1985–86), contained several hits that rocketed her to stardom on both the R&B and pop music charts, especially the song “Sweet Love,” which she co-wrote with Gary Bias and Louis Johnson. Baker remained a fixture on the charts throughout the 1980s and early 90s with such songs as “Giving you the Best that I Got” (from Giving you the Best that I Got, 1988), for which she is best known. By 2010 Baker had won eight Grammy awards and four of her albums had reached platinum status. Using her exceptional range and powerful voice, she has mixed soul, gospel, and R&B in an adult contemporary style, which some critics have called romantic soul. She has toured extensively, especially during the early 1990s and the mid-2000s. In ...

Article

Jonas Westover

(b Orange, TX, March 20, 1949). American blues singer and pianist. Ball began playing piano at age five, one in a long line of female pianists in her family. Her earliest influences were Tin Pan Alley songs, but as a young teenager she became interested in soul and blues music. Inspired by the music of Irma Thomas, Ball continued to play, attended Louisiana State University and performed with the blues/rock band, Gum. She decided to leave the area in 1970, but only made it as far as Austin, TX, where she put together a band named Freda and the Firedogs. Ball began songwriting in earnest around the same time, feeling a kindred spirit in the music of Professor Longhair. She was signed to Capitol Records in 1974, and launched her solo career with the album, Circuit Queen (1978). In the next two decades, she would release six records on Rounder Records while working on her personal sound, which has been described as a mix between “Texas stomp-rock” and “Louisiana swamp blues.” One of her most successful albums was ...

Article

Randolph Love

[Kendricks, John Henry]

(b Detroit, MI, Nov 18, 1927; d Los Angeles, CA, March 2, 2003). American rhythm and blues singer and songwriter. He began his career with the Detroit-based group, the Royals. His first success came with the song “Work with me, Annie” (Federal, 1954), which was a hit on the R&B chart. By 1958 the Royals had changed their name to Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, reflecting the influence and success of Ballard as its lead singer and songwriter. By 1961, when Ballard left the group to perform under his own name, he had 22 singles on the R&B charts with three different labels, Federal, Vee-Jay, and King. Before his retirement in the early 1970s, two more of his songs were listed on the R&B charts.

Undoubtedly his best and most successful song was “The Twist” which he wrote in 1958. Dick Clark, when asked what he considered the most significant song in rock-and-roll history, said, “That’s easy; it was ‘The Twist’,” explaining that the song represented “the first time that parents and their kids could freely admit they liked rock and roll.” Although Ballard claimed that he always believed the song would be a hit—“just for the lyric ‘the twist’,”—it was Chubby Checker’s version that achieved the most success, reaching the top of the charts in ...

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

John Stanislawski

(Robert Joseph)

(b Ironton, OH, April 7, 1935). American country music singer-songwriter. An eclectic artist known for his wit and storytelling abilities, he has blurred boundaries between country, pop, and folk, earning crossover success in each of these genres. In addition to his distinctive performing style, his associations and collaborations with and promotion of a diverse range of acclaimed songwriters have made him an icon of country music.

Raised on a farm in southern Ohio, Bare was performing with a local band in Springfield by his teenage years. After moving to Los Angeles in 1955, he signed with Capitol Records and later the small label Challenge. His first hit, “All American Boy” (Fraternity, 1958), was recorded under the name Bill Parsons who was credited as both the singer and writer. Although the song reached number two on the pop charts, Bare received neither credit nor royalties because of his previous contractual obligations....

Article

Roxanne R. Reed

[Delois Barrett and the Barrett Sisters]

Gospel trio. Its members were Delores [Delois] (soprano), Billie (alto), and Rhodessa (high soprano) Barrett. Hailing from the Southside of Chicago, they grew up with seven other siblings and were members of the Morning Star Baptist Church where they sang in a choir directed by their aunt. As the Barrett–Hudson Singers, Delores and Billie had performed in a group with a cousin, whom Rhodessa later replaced to form the Barrett Sisters. Delores, the eldest and the group’s leader, started singing at the age of six. Her professional career began in earnest after graduating from Englewood High School, when she became the first female to join the Roberta Martin Singers (1944; see martin, Roberta ). Billie and Rhodessa received some formal training, but it was through the Roberta Martin Singers that Delores learned technique and honed her individual style, along with the unique ensemble quality known as the Roberta Martin sound. Delores continued to sing with Martin from time to time, even as the Barrett Sisters took shape. Getting their start as an African American gospel trio, the Barrett Sisters first recorded with the label Savoy (...