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Article

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

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 ...

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 ...

Article

Jared Pauley

(Mauldin)

(b Asheville, NC, Sept 23, 1972). American rapper, producer, and record label executive. He is best known as the founder of Atlanta-based So So Def Recordings. Dupri got his start in the early 1980s as a dancer for artists such as the rap group Whodini and singer Diana Ross. In 1991, he met teenagers Chris Smith and Chris Kelly, who later became the group Kris Kross. In 1992, the duo released their debut album Totally Krossed Out, which sold over four million copies and spawned the number-one hit single “Jump.” Dupri parlayed this success into work with other artists, including Babyface and Boyz II Men. His label released Atlanta-based rapper Da Brat’s debut album Funkdafied in 1994, making her the first female rapper to achieve platinum-level sales. He continued to work with a multitude of artists during the late 1990s and early 2000s including Destiny’s Child, TLC, Usher, Jagged Edge, and Lil Bow Bow. More recently, Dupri has worked as a producer for artists such as Monica, rapper Fabolous, and his one-time girlfriend, vocalist/actress Janet Jackson. As one of the most successful music executives of the past 20 years, he has amassed dozens of gold and platinum records. He has also recorded his own music, releasing in ...

Article

Miles White

[Kenneth Brian ]

(b Indianapolis, IN, April 10, 1958). American Songwriter, singer, performer, producer, and record label owner. He helped reshape the sound of contemporary African American popular music from the 1980s to the end of the 20th century. He began his musical career as a guitarist and toured with the funk bassist Bootsy Collins, who gave him the moniker “Babyface.” He also worked with the group Midnight Star, which released his ballad “Slow Jam,” a mainstay of late night Quiet Storm programming on black radio stations. After Edmonds had worked with L.A. Reid inthe R&B group the Deele, the pair began a new andextremely influential collaboration as songwriter-producers, working first with the Solar artists Shalamar, Pebbles, and the Whispers, and later with Bobby Brown, Sheena Easton, and Paula Abdul. In 1989, with the help of Clive Davis, the two formed the Atlanta-based label LaFace, where they turned out recordings for TLC, Toni Braxton, Outcast, Usher, Ciara, and Pink, among others. They were also key players in producing the New Jack Swing sound of the 1980s and early 1990s. In addition Edmonds established a successful solo career singing lushly produced and unabashedly sentimental love ballads aching with longing and loss, hitting the charts with popular albums such as ...

Article

Ian Whitcomb

(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” (...

Article

Alyssa Woods

[Melissa Arnette]

(b Portsmouth, VA, July 1, 1971). American rapper, singer, songwriter, producer, and music executive. Missy Elliott emerged in the 1990s as a performer, songwriter, and producer, and has gradually become a dominant force in the music industry, a rare feat for a female rapper. After graduating from high school, Elliott formed the girl group Sista, which was discovered by Donald DeGrate, a singer-songwriter and producer who ran the New York-based Swing Mod label. Within days, DeGrate arranged a distribution deal with Elektra Records, but due to business complications, Sista’s debut album was never released. Despite this setback, Elliott gained industry experience, writing and producing for other artists during this time. She and her long-time colleague, Timbaland Timbaland (Timothy Mosley), became known for their song-writing and production talent, rising to prominence with their work on Aaliyah’s hit album, One in a Million (1996).

Elliott’s first solo album, ...

Article

Eminem  

Joseph R. Matson

[Mathers, Marshall Bruce III; Slim Shady]

(b St. Joseph, MO, Oct 17, 1972).

American rapper, record producer, and actor. As a youth, Eminem moved between multiple residences in and around Kansas City and Detroit; he has remained based in the Detroit area since the late 1980s. He was raised by his mother, Debbie (Deborah) Mathers; Ronnie (Ronald) Dean Polkinghorn, an uncle who was only a few months older than Eminem, first introduced him to hip-hop music. Eminem and Kim (Kimberly; Kimberley) Anne Scott, whom he later married and divorced twice, have one daughter, Hailie Jade Scott. During his third attempt to complete the ninth grade, Eminem dropped out of high school permanently to focus on his career as a rapper.

Proof [DeShaun] Holton (1972–2006), Eminem’s closest friend in high school, effectively functioned as his teacher, manager, and back-up band at various times in his early career. Together with four other Detroit rappers, they formed a collective unit called D12. In ...

Article

David Buckley

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 VCS 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 ...

Article

Maya Gibson

(b Fort Worth, TX, Jan 26, 1970). American gospel music singer, producer, and songwriter. Franklin showed prodigious talent early, learning to play the piano at age four. At age 11 he became leader of the Mount Rose Baptist Church choir in his hometown of Fort Worth and also began to write and record his compositions. As a teenager Franklin attended a performing arts high school on the Texas Wesleyan University campus while also heading the music programs at a number of Fort Worth churches. His breakthrough in the gospel scene came when gospel music executive Milton Biggham heard a tape of Franklin’s songs and invited him to perform the song “Everyday with Jesus” with the Dallas/Fort Worth Mass Choir. That performance led to further opportunities, and eventually Franklin recorded the piece with the Georgia Mass Choir, which was included on the soundtrack for the 1996 movie The Preacher’s Wife...

Article

Rob Bowman

(b Washington, DC, April 2, 1939; d Los Angeles, April 1, 1984). American soul singer, drummer, songwriter and producer. He started singing professionally as a member of the Rainbows, a Washington-based doo-wop group. He subsequently joined the Marquees, who signed a recording contract with Chess Records and through which Gaye met the producer and vocalist Harvey Fuqua, joining his doo-wop group, the Moonglows. In 1960 Fuqua and Gaye moved to Detroit and were both signed to Motown Records. Gaye adopted the new spelling of his surname at this point and made solo recordings for the Motown subsidiary Tamla Records in the mould of a jazz-pop ballad singer. When these proved commercially unsuccessful, he recorded more youth-oriented rhythm and blues, first entering the charts with Stubborn Kind of Fellow in 1962. Most of his hits from this time were gospel-influenced dance tunes written by Gaye and Mickey Stevenson or one of a variety of other Motown songwriters. Beginning with ...

Article

Nicholas Tochka

(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 (...

Article

(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 ...

Article

Rob Bowman

(b Covington, TN, Aug 20, 1942; d Memphis, Aug 10, 2008). American soul singer, keyboard player, songwriter and producer. He first recorded for the Memphis-based Youngstown label in 1962. In the first half of the 1960s Hayes also wrote songs and played sessions for the Goldwax and Phillips labels in Memphis, backing singers such as Jeb Stuart, Dorothy Williams and Spencer Wiggins. As a member of the saxophonist Floyd Newman's band, he eventually found his way into Stax where he co-wrote one side and played on both sides of Newman's solitary single in 1963. Hayes was then hired for a variety of Stax sessions to replace the keyboard player Booker T. Jones while Jones was at college. Soon thereafter Hayes began helping with arrangements and by 1965 had formed a songwriting partnership with lyricist David Porter. Hayes and Porter became the foremost writing and production team at Stax, creating seminal chart hits for artists such as Sam and Dave, the Charmells, Ruby Johnson, Mable John, Carla Thomas, the Soul Children and the Emotions. Their material leaned heavily on gospel roots, some songs, such as Sam and Dave's ...

Article

Yoko Suzuki

[Barbara Ann]

(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: ...

Article

David Brackett

(Joseph)

(b Gary, IN, Aug 29, 1958; d Los Angeles, June 25, 2009). American pop singer, songwriter and producer. He first achieved fame, aged 11, as the lead singer of the Jackson Five. Michael was the focal point of the group, with a vocal style and dance moves heavily indebted to James Brown. His precocious mastery of soul singing is fully evident on the group's first Motown release, I want you back (1969), in which he displays an infectious sense of uptempo timing and an impressive range of vocal resources, effectively showcased on a finely crafted tune. In 1971 Jackson released his first records as a solo artist, revealing a predilection towards ballads. Like those of the Jackson Five, his early solo recordings were remarkably successful.

However, Jackson's solo career did not progress until the late 1970s. In 1978, while working on the film of the musical ...

Article

Lukas Pearse

[Johnson, James Ambrose ]

(b Buffalo, NY, Feb 1, 1948; d Burbank, CA, Aug 6, 2004). American Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer. After growing up singing on street corners in Buffalo, New York, he fled to Toronto, Canada, to avoid the draft in 1964. Using the pseudonym Big Jimmie, he formed the group the Sailorboys with future members of Steppenwolf. The band changed its name to the Mynah Birds and released “Mynah Bird Hop/Mynah Bird Song” for Columbia Records Canada. After auditioning unsuccessfully in 1966 for Motown Records, the band re-formed, including Neil Young, and recorded an album. However, its release was canceled following disputes with their manager, who reported James absent without leave and he was briefly imprisoned.

James returned to Detroit, where he was hired by Motown Records as a songwriter and producer; he worked with Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Spinners, and Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers, before leaving in ...

Article

Lisa L. Rhodes

(Marie )

(b Wynnewood, PA, Sept 22, 1958). American Rock singer, songwriter, producer, and guitarist. She spent several years in Rockville, Maryland, after which her family relocated to West Covina, California, when she was in her early teens. As an habitué of Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco, she was exposed to glam rock music and musicians, notably Suzi Quatro, an early and profound influence. It was here, in 1975, that she met the producer Kim Fowley, as well as Sandy West and Cherie Currie, both of whom subsequently worked with Jett as members of the all-girl glam rock band Thomas Salway. The band’s other original members were Lita Ford and Jackie Fox. The group was signed to Mercury Records in 1976, and their first album, The Runaways, was released soon thereafter. They released three more albums, including Queens of Noise (1977), on that label. The group severed ties with Fowley in ...

Article

Lil Jon  

Patricia Moss

[Smith, Jonathan Mortimer ]

(b Atlanta, GA, Jan 27, 1971). American rapper, music producer, and DJ. As a prominent figure in popularizing the Atlanta based Dirty South movement, Lil Jon began making a name for himself as a producer with a talent for club remixes in the mid-1990s. In 1997, he formed his own group, Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz, which included fellow rappers Big Sam and Lil Bo. Their first album Get Crunk, Who U Wit: Da Album, released in 1997, featured the sounds of the developing crunk genre, a style of music that originated in the mid- to late-1990s with the Memphis-based group Three 6 Mafia. General characteristics of crunk music include heavy basslines, shouting vocals often utilizing call and response, and drum machine rhythms. Unlike most hip hop, the focal point of crunk is the music and the beat rather than the lyrics. Crunk is more often associated with party music than with personal or socio-political concerns. Though Lil John did not invent crunk, he added much to it, including roaring synthesizer lines. Lil Jon’s ...