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Article

Badu, Erykah  

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

Bartholomew, Dave  

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 ...

Article

Beck  

Rob Jovanovic

[Campbell, Bek David; Hansen, Beck]

(b Los Angeles, CA, July 8, 1970). American rock singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer. He has recorded and performed songs in a wide range of genres including folk, country, bluegrass, grunge, indie, metal, rock, lounge, Latino, and noise. An obvious contributing factor to his eclectic tastes is his artistic and performer-laden family. His father David Campbell is a string player and arranger who has worked on string parts for some of his son’s more recent albums. His mother Bibbe Hansen worked with Andy Warhol at the artist’s studio the Factory in New York at an early age and was involved in the west coast punk scene during the 1980s. His grandfather Al Hansen was an artist and performer involved in the Fluxus movement. Beck grew up around rockers and in various ethnic neighborhoods which all contributed to his music education. After spending time at the end of the 1980s involved with New York’s anti-folk scene he returned west and began performing as often and wherever he could. These gigs involved him using a leaf-blower on stage, telling stories, setting fire to his acoustic guitar, and rocking out with a boom-box backing tape. His breakthrough came in ...

Article

Bee, Tom  

J. Bryan Burton

(b Gallup, NM, Nov 8, 1947). Native American (Dakota) producer, vocalist, songwriter, and record label owner. During the 1970s and 80s he was founder, manager, and featured artist with Xit , the first commercially successful Native American rock band. Although his albums and performances were highly successful in Europe and among young Native Americans, the political nature of Bee’s lyrics prevented the group from achieving star status among mainstream audiences in the United States. Songs from albums such as Plight of the Redman (1972) and Silent Warrior (1973) presented the Native viewpoint about social and political issues using a combination of traditional chant and languages and Western rock. This early work led to an artist, writer, and producer contract with Motown Record’s Rare Earth label for Bee, where he wrote for artists including the Jackson Five, Michael Jackson, and Smokey Robinson as well as XIT. In ...

Article

Bowie [Jones], David  

David Buckley

(Robert)

(b Brixton, London, 8 Jan 1947; d New York, 10 Jan 2016). English rock singer, songwriter, and producer. His career witnessed a large number of musical changes. His influence on a succession of styles and their attendant subcultures – glam and punk in the 1970s, new romanticism in the 1980s, and Britpop in the 1990s – made him arguably the most important British recording artist since the Beatles.

He began recording in the mid-1960s as Davy [Davie] Jones, heading a succession of short-lived rhythm and blues and mod groups. In 1966 he changed his name to Bowie in order to avoid confusion with Davy Jones of the Monkees. His early work, influenced by Anthony Newley, had little in common with the dominant rock styles of the day and was largely overlooked. In 1969, in the guise of a hippy singer-songwriter, he achieved his first hit with the single Space Oddity...

Article

Burnett, T-Bone  

Olivia Carter Mather

[Joseph Henry]

(b St. Louis, MO, Jan 14, 1948). American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer. Best known for his work as a record producer in the 1990s and 2000s, he began his career as a rock musician, hired by Bob Dylan in 1975 for his Rolling Thunder Revue tour. In the late 1970s Burnett formed the Alpha Band and recorded three albums before launching his solo career. Burnett’s solo material was critically acclaimed—he was named Songwriter of the Year by Rolling Stone in 1983—but commercially unsuccessful. He has continued to record solo albums intermittently into the 2000s, but his main work since the mid-1980s has been production.

Burnett’s credits span a wide range of genres with an emphasis on singer-songwriters and Americana; he has recorded Elvis Costello, John Mellencamp, Gillian Welch, B.B. King, the Counting Crows, Los Lobos, Roy Orbison, Bruce Cockburn, Willie Nelson, Robert Randolph, and Sam(uel Cornelius) Phillips...

Article

Butler, Jerry  

Steve Otfinoski

(b Sunflower, MS, Dec 8, 1939). American rhythm-and-blues singer, songwriter, and producer. He began singing professionally in Chicago in the North Jubilee Gospel Singers, where he met Curtis Mayfield. The two joined Sam Gooden and brothers Arthur and Richard Brooks to form the Roosters in 1957. The group later changed its name to Impressions, the and signed with Vee-Jay Records. “For your Precious Love,” with Butler on lead, became a major hit in 1958, and some music historians consider it to be the first soul record. Butler left the Impressions to pursue a solo career, and Mayfield, a gifted songwriter, wrote several of Butler’s subsequent releases, including “He will break your heart” (VJ, 1960). Dubbed the “Iceman” for his cool but passionate baritone, Butler enjoyed great success in the early sixties with such hits as “Moon River” (VJ, 1961), the title song from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s...

Article

Carey, Mariah  

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

Chapman, Steven Curtis  

Shawn Young

(b Paducah, KY, Nov 21, 1962). American singer-songwriter, record producer, and social activist. His father was a guitar teacher, and Steven played and sang at an early age. A respected figure in contemporary Christian music (CCM), Chapman is known for his unique mixture of country music, bluegrass, and pop-rock. The recipient of multiple Grammy Awards and Dove Awards, Chapman (along with Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith) set the standard for the burgeoning Nashville-based CCM music scene. His eclectic approach is, in part, a result of multiple collaborations throughout his career. Before becoming a CCM icon, Chapman penned songs for the Imperials, Sandi Patty, Charlie Daniels, and Glen Campbell.

Chapman’s country roots never dulled his ability to effectively emulate chart-topping artists of the mainstream. Influenced by Kenny Loggins and Huey Lewis, his first albums offered CCM fans the pop sensibilities of Top-40 music of the 1980s and 90s. A reflection on tragedy and commitment, “I Will Be Here” (Sparrow, ...

Article

Chilton, (William) Alex(ander)  

Olivia Carter Mather

(b Memphis, TN, Dec 28, 1950; d New Orleans, LA, March 17, 2010). American rock singer and producer. Best known as a founder of the power-pop band Big Star, he began his career while a teenager singing lead for the Memphis-based group the Box Tops. The band had several blue-eyed soul hits, notably “The Letter” (Mala, 1967), which reached number one. With Big Star, Chilton recorded three albums at Ardent Studios in the early 1970s. His songwriting and singing style during this period moved toward a melodic pop sound influenced by the British Invasion.

In 1975 he recorded his first solo EP, Singer not the Song (Ork, 1977), in Memphis, which was later released as Bach’s Bottom (Line, 1981). He moved to New York in 1977 where he recorded his influential single “Bangkok” (Fun, 1978) and played at CBGB & OMFUG; that year he took the psychobilly band the Cramps to Memphis to produce their first EP. In ...

Article

Chuck D  

Margaret Jackson

[Ridenhour, Carlton Douglas]

(b Roosevelt, Long Island, NY, Aug 1, 1960). American rapper, author, and producer. While studying graphic design at Adelphi University on Long Island, he began rapping at the college radio station WBAU. In the 1980s he played a key role in two of rap music’s seminal groups, the influential production team the Bomb Squad, the and the rap group Public Enemy. As the main rapper for Public Enemy, Chuck D achieved worldwide fame. His deep, resonant voice has been credited with lending the group’s songs both power and dramatic energy on key albums such as Yo! Bum Rush the Show (1987), It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back (1988), Fear of a Black Planet (1990), and Apocalypse 91 … The Enemy Strikes Black (1991). Public Enemy gained notoriety for their overtly political, militant lyrics and for their dense, often chaotic musical tracks, most of which were produced by the Bomb Squad. Chuck D’s success led to collaborations with such prominent musical artists as Janet Jackson, Kool Moe Dee, Run-D.M.C., Ice Cube, Rage Against the Machine, and Anthrax....

Article

Clement, Cowboy Jack  

Roben Jones

[John Henderson ]

(b Whitehaven, TN, April 8, 1931). American singer-songwriter, producer, publisher, and entrepreneur. He began playing bluegrass while in the military and after his discharge in 1952, played at radio stations in Wheeling, West Virginia, and Boston. While enrolled in Memphis State University (from 1954), he worked nights and weekends at the Eagle’s Nest club. After working briefly for Fernwood Records, he was hired by Sun Records, where he recorded Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash, among others. He wrote hits for several of Sun’s artists, including Johnny Cash’s singles “Ballad of a Teenage Queen” and “Guess things happen that way” (both Sun, 1958).

Clement left Sun in 1960 to became a staff producer for RCA in Nashville. In 1963 he moved to Texas, started a publishing company, and produced Dickey Lee’s hit “Patches” (Smash, 1963). After returning to Nashville in 1965, he discovered and produced Charlie Pride and wrote songs for a variety of country artists, including Pride (“Just between you and me,” RCA Victor, ...

Article

Clinton, George  

Rob Bowman

(b Kannapolis, NC, July 22, 1941). American funk singer, songwriter and producer. He was leader of Funkadelic, Parliament and the P-Funk All-Stars. By the age of 11 his family had moved to Newark, New Jersey. When he was 14 he formed a doo wop group which he named the Parliaments after a popular American cigarette brand. The Parliaments recorded singles in the 1950s for the New York-based Hull and Flipp labels. During the 1960s they recorded in the vocal group mode of the Temptations: for Detroit's Golden World and Revilot labels. They had a hit in the summer of 1967, with (I Wanna) Testify (Revilot).

In 1969 Clinton lost the rights to the name ‘The Parliaments’ and consequently signed their backing instrumentalists to Westbound records, as Funkadelic. When he regained the rights in 1971 he signed the vocal group to Invictus records under the name Parliament. However, in reality the same musicians appeared on recordings made by both groups. Clinton continued this arrangement and signed a number of associated groups to a variety of labels. He wrote and produced for Bootsy's Rubber Band, Fred Wesley and the Horny Horns, the Brides of Funkenstein and Parlet among many others. In essence the Funk Mob, as the ever-growing retinue of musicians was informally known, performed on all the records by these groups. Among its members were Eddie Hazel (guitar) and Bernie Worrell (keyboards) and former JBs Bootsy Collins (bass guitar), Maceo Parker (alto saxophone) and Fred Wesley (trombone)....

Article

Colón, Willie  

Lise Waxer

[Colón Román jr, William Anthony; ‘El malo’]

(b South Bronx, New York, April 28, 1950). American bandleader, composer, arranger, trombonist, popular singer, producer and actor. Dubbed ‘El malo’ (the ‘bad boy’) of salsa, he began playing the trumpet in 1963 with the teenage band the Dandees. Switching to trombone, he made his professional début at 17 with the album El malo (Fania, 1967). Both as a bandleader and a member of the Fania All-Stars, he quickly moved to the fore of the burgeoning New York salsa scene, cementing the raw, trombone-heavy ‘New York sound’ inspired by earlier artists such as Eddie Palmieri and Mon Rivera. Between 1967 and 1973 he made a series of important recordings with vocalist Hector Lavoe, which included the albums Asalto Navideño I and II (Fania, 1972 and 1973) with cuatro virtuoso Yomo Toro, where traditional Puerto Rican Christmas aguinaldos were fused with salsa. During his second period (...

Article

Combs, Sean  

Athena Elafros

(John) [Diddy; P. Diddy; Puff Daddy; Puffy; Sean John]

(b New York, NY, Nov 4, 1969). American record producer, rapper, record executive, artist manager, and actor. His sample-heavy approach to production and R&B-infused sound contributed to the mainstreaming and resurgence of East Coast hip hop in the mid-1990s. As an entrepreneur and business executive, Combs parlayed his career in music into the multi-million dollar Bad Boy Entertainment empire, consisting of Bad Boy Records, the clothing lines Sean Jean and Sean by Sean Combs, a movie production company, and several restaurants. Often criticized for commercializing and watering down hip hop, Combs’s career, and the controversy surrounding it, exemplify fundamental tensions related to hip hop’s massive cultural influence and complicated relationship to global capitalism. Significantly, his wholesale recycling of popular hooks such as the Police’s “Every Breath You Take,“ Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out” and David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” to name only a few, have resulted in his music being heavily criticized (and heavily sold) both within and outside of hip hop circles....

Article

Crowell, Rodney  

Thomas Goldsmith

(b Houston, TX, Aug 7, 1950). American singer-songwriter and producer. Cut from nearly the same cloth as his friends and Lone Star songwriting heroes Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt, he achieved stardom by writing straight-talking country hits touched by his pop sensibility. He also showed broad-ranging abilities as a performer, arranger, and producer. During a period of genuine major-label country stardom, he set a record by producing, singing, and writing five consecutive number-one country singles beginning in 1988.

After spending his teens playing with the Houston-based rock band the Arbitrators, Crowell arrived in the freewheeling Nashville songwriting scene in 1972, and within a few years found success as a songwriter and gained attention as a member of Emmylou Harris’s Hot Band. Following Harris’s recording of Crowell’s “Til I can gain control again” and “Bluebird Wine” (both Rep., 1975), there have been several hundred recordings of his songs made by various artists including Waylon Jennings, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Crystal Gayle, Andy Williams, and the Grateful Dead. Perhaps his most fertile period and highest public profile came during his romantic and musical partnership with Rosanne Cash. Married from ...

Article

Dean, Jimmy  

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

DiFranco, Ani  

Lori Burns and Jada Watson

[Angela Maria ]

(b Buffalo, NY, Sept 23, 1970). American folk singer-songwriter, guitarist, label owner, and political activist. She began performing music at local bars and busking at age nine. A fiercely independent spirit, she left home at 15 and lived with friends while she wrote and performed her music in the Buffalo area. By 19 she had written more than 100 songs and begun to build a devout grassroots following. In 1989 she founded Righteous Records (renamed Righteous Babe Records in 1994), an independent record label for which she has composed, performed, recorded, and produced all of her material. Since the late 1990s the label has released albums for other non-mainstream artists. DiFranco has also published two volumes of poetry: Self Evident: poesie e disegni (Rome, 2004) and Verses (New York, 2007).

DiFranco is a prolific lyricist whose songs communicate strong messages about gender, identity, social institutions, and politics, and address social issues including racism, homophobia, poverty, war, and reproductive rights. Much of her lyrical material is autobiographical and tackles topics including religion, relationships, motherhood, and sexuality. Her music is classified variously as folk rock, alternative rock, punk folk, and singer-songwriter folk. DiFranco has emerged as an icon of feminism and independent music making, and her career has featured solo albums, many compilations and collaborations, live albums, official bootleg releases, and an unrelenting concert calendar....

Article

MF Doom  

Mike Levine

[Dumile, Daniel ]

(b London, England, Jan 9, 1971). American Rapper and producer of alternative hip hop. Born in London, he grew up in Long Beach, New York. MF Doom (MF stands for Metal Face or Metal Fingers) models himself after the Marvel Comics super-villain Doctor Doom and has been known to wear a metal mask on stage and in daily life.

He began his career as Zev Love X in the rap group KMD, which also included his younger brother DJ Subroc. KMD’s recording debut was an appearance on 3rd Bass’s hit song “The Gas Face” from The Cactus Album (1989). The group followed with their own album Mr. Hood (1991), which was mostly overlooked. KMD disbanded after Subroc was killed in a car accident before the release of their second album, Black Bastards. Following his brother’s death, Dumile went on hiatus for several years, disappearing completely from the rap scene....

Article

Dr. Dre  

Justin A. Williams

[Young, Andre Romelle]

(b Los Angeles, CA, Feb 18, 1965). American rapper and producer. Dr. Dre played a key role in bringing West Coast “gangsta rap” to national and international prominence. His beat making styles have been hugely influential, most notably the “G-Funk” sound, which he featured from 1992 through 1996. Dre’s work with NWA from 1986 until his break with the group in 1991, and his later work with protégés Snoop Doggy Dogg, Eminem, 50 Cent, and The Game, also comprise important moments in hip-hop and popular music historiography.

He began his music career as a club DJ, producer, and rapper with groups The World Class Wreckin Cru (signed with Epic/Sony) and N.W.A The sound of the Wreckin Cru was heavily influenced by electro hip-hop sounds, drum machines, and synthesizers found in Afrika Baambaataa’s “Planet Rock” (1982). Recording under Eazy-E’s newly founded Ruthless Records where Dre was the house producer, N.W.A. gained national prominence with their debut album ...