Funk and rhythm-and-blues group formed during the late 1960s at the Tuskegee Institute in Georgia. Its core members included William King (b 30 Jan 1949; drums), Ronald LaPread (b 4 Sept 1950; bass guitar and trumpet), Thomas McClary (b 6 Oct 1950; guitar); Walter Orange (b 10 Dec 1947; vocals and drums), Lionel Richie (b 20 June 1949; saxophone and vocals), and Milan Williams (b 28 March 1949; keyboards). After signing with Motown Records, they released their first album, Machine Gun, in 1974. Their early output was dance oriented and featured Orange as lead singer. They achieved funk hits including “Machine Gun” (1974), “Slippery When Wet” (1975), and “Brick House” (1977). In contrast with these up-tempo singles, the group also released several ballads as singles featuring Richie as vocalist, notably “Easy” (1977), “Three Times a Lady” (...
American salsa band. It was co-founded by American percussionist Manny Oquendo (b 1931) in 1974. The nine-piece ensemble (later renamed Libre), featuring New York-based Latino musicians, preserved the traditional típico sound characterized by an expanded trombone line, trumpet, and bass, but emphasized Afro-Cuban percussion and rhythms. The name “Libre” alluded to the improvisational aspect that musical director Oquendo underscored, encouraging his musicians to “freely” develop their musical ideas and explore alternative influences such as American jazz, Afro-Cuban drumming, Puerto Rican plena, and other Afro-Caribbean rhythms. Although the band performed traditional mambo, rumba-guaguancó, and danzón, they predominantly cultivated the traditional New York conjunto format fundamental to the salsa scene. The band gained international recognition with their global hit “Little Sunflower” (1983).
The group’s recording practices earned them a reputation during the 1990s, chiefly due to their refusal to record tracks separately rather than as a live ensemble performance. As preservationists of the ...
Horace Clarence Boyer
(b Columbia, SC, 1918; d Philadelphia, PA, Sept 4, 1967). American gospel singer. She studied music at Temple University and subsequently became a school teacher. In 1938 she heard Willie Mae Ford Smith sing gospel music in Washington, DC, and decided to adopt the style. She began singing in towns in the Washington area, where she soon became known as the “Sweetheart of the Potomac,” a title that remained with her throughout her career. She began recording in the early 1950s and by 1953 was one of the major gospel stars, specializing in the “song and sermonette” (where the first half of the song is delivered as a sermon and the second half is sung). Her most popular recordings, all made during the 1950s, include “Amen,” “Evening Sun,” and “Stop Gambler.” She performed most often with the support of a male quartet, beginning a song softly and subtly, then building in volume and drama as the song progressed....
Girl group formed in Coney Island, New York, in 1954. Dorothy Jones, (Ethel) Darlene McCrea, and Jones’s cousin Beulah Robertson won third place in the Apollo Theater’s amateur contest. This led to their first single, “All Night Mambo/Don’t let go” (Lamp Records, 1954). The songwriter and manager Jesse Stone got them signed to Atlantic Records, where they recorded during the period 1955–6; their second single, “In Paradise/Passing Time” (1956) was written by Neil Sedaka. The Cookies also backed other artists on the Atlantic roster, with Margie Hendricks replacing Robertson in 1956. Two years later, McCrea and Hendricks accepted Ray Charles’ offer to be part of the Raelettes.
In 1960 Jones assembled another trio, with McCrea’s sister Earl-Jean and cousin Margaret Ross. They undertook studio work with Sedaka and subsequently with Carole King and Gerry Goffin. The Cookies scored their own hits with “Chains” (Dimension) and “Don’t say nothin’ bad (about my baby)” (Dimension). They continued backing other singers and recording demos for Goffin and King, and between ...
Bárbara Idalissee Abadía-Rexach
Puerto Rican orchestra founded in 1954 by the percussionist, bandleader, and composer Rafael Cortijo (b Santurce, PR, 11 Jan 1928; d San Juan, PR, 3 Oct 1982). Its plena-influenced, percussive style gained an audience in Puerto Rico through appearances on the television show “La taberna india” and performances throughout the island, and became popular all over Latin America. The orchestra, whose members were Afro-Puerto Ricans, disbanded in 1962. However, the group’s songs, particularly those recorded by Ismael Rivera, remain part of the Puerto Rican popular music repertoire. One of its most enduring hits is “El negro bembón,” written by Bobby Capó. After legal and financial problems, Cortijo formed another orchestra, El Bonche, with his adopted niece Fe Cortijo. He lived for a time in New York, but returned to Puerto Rico and recorded a comeback album with the support of Tite Curet Alonso. In 1974 El Combo was reunited to perform a concert in Puerto Rico....
Rita H. Mead
revised by Diane Pecknold
American organization founded in 1958 to promote country music as a genre. The CMA succeeded the Country Music Disc Jockeys’ Association, but unlike that organization, it was designed to represent all segments of the industry, with membership categories for publishers, artists, management, deejays, radio, records, trade publications, composers, and nonaffiliated professionals. These original eight categories have since grown to 17. The CMA’s initial goal was to increase radio and television airplay and advertising for country music, and it was greatly responsible for the commercial success of this kind of music in the 1960s and 1970s. Though briefly directed by former WSM executive Harry Stone, it was guided for the majority of its first three decades by Jo Walker-Meador, who served as executive director from 1962 to 1991. In addition to congressional lobbying and the dissemination of information relating to the industry, the CMA has sponsored or supported Country Music Month, a nationally recognized annual celebration in November promoting country music; the prestigious Country Music Association Awards (founded ...
Vocal quintet. It was formed in Brooklyn, New York, and was closely associated with the producer Phil Spector and the girl group phenomenon of the early 1960s. Lead vocals were generally shared between Barbara Alston (b Baltimore, MD, 1943) and Dolores “LaLa” Brooks (b Brooklyn, 1947), although their most successful hit featured the Los Angeles-based session singer Darlene Love (b Hawthorne, CA, 1941).
The group’s manager Benny Wells had them record demos in the hope of securing club work, and these caught the attention of Spector, who signed them to the label Philles. Their first hit was “There’s no other” (1961), followed by the social commentary of “Uptown” (1962, which reached number 13 on the Billboard chart), and the controversial “He hit me (and it felt like a kiss)” (1962), which was withdrawn from circulation.
By this time disagreement over material and arrangements had left the group at odds with Spector. He issued what became the group’s biggest hit without them singing a note: “He’s a rebel” was recorded in ...
Rubén A. Gaztambide-Fernández
Puerto Rican reggae music ensemble. It was founded in 1996 by a group of young musicians in San Juan. The group has gained international fame, touring regularly throughout the Americas and Europe. Its repertoire is characterized by the use of the Spanish language and an explicit thematic focus on politics, the environment, and Puerto Rican cultural life. Musically, Cultura Profética has been influenced by nueva canción, particularly the songs of Silvio Rodríguez and Roy Brown. Their first album, Canción de alerta (1998), was recorded at the legendary Tuff Gong studio in Jamaica, with Bob Marley’s former sound engineer, and it reflected the group’s strong debt to Marley’s reggae style. Later albums, like Ideas nuevas (1999) and Diario (2002), became more eclectic, exploring other Puerto Rican musics, such as plena, bomba, and seis, and expanding the band’s acoustic palette. The group has collaborated with a long list of local artists and has been praised for its involvement in contemporary cultural work. In the ...
American rap group. One of the first high-profile Latino rap acts, Los Angeles-based Cypress Hill was formed by B-Real (Louis Freese, b 1970), Sen Dog (Senen Reyes, b 1965), and DJ Muggs (Lawrence Muggerud, b 1968). The group’s unique sound is a result of B-Real’s nasal, percussive delivery and DJ Muggs’s slow, rolling beats. The group is known for their celebration of marijuana and advocacy for its legalization. Cypress Hill considerably broadened rap’s audience in the 1990s, thanks in part to their appearance on the Lollapalooza tour in 1995. They rap in both English and Spanish (“Spanglish”), and released a Spanish-language greatest hits album, Los Grandes Éxitos en Español in 1999.
In 1991, the group signed with Ruffhouse Records and released their eponymous debut album, which went platinum on the strength of the single “How I Could Just Kill a Man.” Black Sunday appeared in 1993 and featured “Insane in the Brain,” arguably their most popular single. Percussionist Eric Bobo, son of the famous late Latin jazz bandleader Willie Bobo, joined the group in ...
Record label. Active from 1967 to 1976, Dakar specialized in dance music and ballads performed by African American artists. Based in Chicago, Dakar was independently owned and operated by songwriter and producer Carl Davis, who was at the same time vice president of Brunswick Records, which recently had become independent. Between 1967 and 1970, while Brunswick was still part of Decca Records, Davis worked as a producer, and Dakar releases were distributed by Atlantic Records. In late 1971, Dakar became a subsidiary of Brunswick, which began to distribute Dakar’s recordings. The company is known for its releases of Chicago-based soul music. Balladeer Tyrone Davis, whose “Can I change my mind” rose to peak popularity in early 1969, was Dakar’s most notable artist; R&B artist Hamilton Bohannon was another mainstay for the label in the mid-1970s. Dakar and Brunswick were embroiled in a public payola trial in 1975 and 1976 that led to the company’s creative demise....
Rock group formed in 1991 by the songwriter Dave (David John) Matthews (b Johannesburg, South Africa, 9 Jan 1967; guitar and vocals) in Charlottesville, Virginia. Matthews recruited Carter Beauford (b Charlottesville, 2 Nov 1957; drums and vocals), LeRoi Moore (b Durham, NC, 7 Sept 1961; d Charlottesville, 19 Aug 2008; saxophones), Steffan Lessard (b Anaheim, CA, 4 June 1974; bass), and Boyd Tinsley (b Charlottesville, 16 May 1964; violin and vocals). Cutting across stylistic backgrounds, including jazz and rock, the musicians formed an unconventional rock ensemble that drew a loyal local fan base. Its alternative instrumentation, emphasized by the lack of electric guitar, made the group a surprising candidate for the large-scale commercial success that followed. The band has spent much time on tour, incorporating long improvisatory jams into their concerts, which have been more representative of their sound than their studio recordings. From their earliest days, they have allowed fans to record their live shows, helping foster their wide following. Their first major-label release, ...
Justin A. Williams
American rap group. Formed in 1987 in Long Island, New York, De La Soul rose to prominence in 1989 with their debut album 3 Feet High and Rising, which helped carve out an alternative niche in rap music. Part of the Native Tongues collective, along with other New York-based groups such as A Tribe Called Quest and the Jungle Brothers, De La Soul’s three members were Plug One (Kelvin “Posdnuos” Mercer; b 1969), Plug Two (David “Trugoy the Dove” Jolicoeur; b 1968), and Plug Three (Vincent “Maseo” Mason; b 1970).
The three members met at the predominantly middle-class Amityville High School in Long Island. Maseo then met Paul “Prince Paul” Houston, a slightly older DJ in Amityville who had helped found Stetsasonic; Houston produced De La Soul’s first three albums. The first, Three Feet High and Rising, marks an important turning point in hip hop. The group’s entire approach differed drastically from other rap styles of the time: the floral imagery and bright colors on the album’s cover and De La Soul’s self-proclaimed goal to promote a “D.A.I.S.Y. (Da Inner Sound, Y’all) Age” departed from the street conscious “reality rap” of contemporary groups such as N.W.A. The album sampled a wide variety of sounds, from French lessons to music by Steely Dan and Hall and Oates. Advancements in digital sampling technology, and the skill of producer Houston, allowed the group to create sonic collages similar in approach to those of the Bomb Squad’s productions. The album also included a number of humorous skits, rarely heard on previous rap albums....
Hardcore punk group. Formed in San Francisco in 1978, the group included Jello Biafra (Eric Reed Boucher; vocals), East Bay Ray (Raymond Pepperell; guitar), Klaus Flouride (Geoffrey Lyall; bass guitar), and Ted (Bruce Slesinger; drums). D.H. Peligro (Darren Henley) replaced Ted in 1981. The group disbanded in 1986 and reformed in 2001, with Brandon Cruz and then Jeff Penalty (Alulis) replacing Biafra, who left acrimoniously.
The lasting influence of the Dead Kennedys lies in their overtly political stance, which helped to steer punk rock away from themes of nihilism towards active subversion.
The band’s lyrics used biting social commentary and political satire combined with music that was distinct from contemporary hardcore bands in its harmonic complexity and later inclusion of synthesizers and horns. Occasionally the band parodied jazz, psychedelic rock, and country music to underscore political themes of elitism, escapism, and intolerance. Ray’s guitar style remained recognizable: its trebly tone and use of reverb and delay effects frequently echoed surf music more closely than most punk rock, albeit at a usually much faster tempo....
Matthew A. Donahue
Rap duo consisting of M-1 (Mutulu Olugabala) and stic.man (Clayton Gavin). Their lyrical messages hark back to the explicit political messages of such late 1960s spoken-word artists as the Last Poets, Gil Scott Heron, and the Watts Prophets, and to such rap artists as Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions.
M-1 and stic.man formed dead prez while attending Florida A&M University, after recognizing their shared affinity for politics and hip hop. After moving to New York, the group was discovered by Brand Nubian’s Lord Jamar, signed to a recording contract with Loud Records, and released Let’s Get Free (Loud and Columbia, 2000). Their recordings have received worldwide critical acclaim for their social commentary, and the group has been celebrated for prioritizing politics over commercial success. Although they have often targeted the mainstream rap music industry, notably their mixtape series, Turn off the Radio (Full Clip, 2002), this has not prevented them from collaborating with rap icons such as Big Pun, the Outlawz, and Chuck D. In addition, their songs have been featured in television, movies, and video games. The group is also known for their high-spirited live performances....
Record label. Death Row Records was formed in 1991 by former football star Marion “Suge” Knight and rapper/producer Dre (Andre Romelle Young) in Los Angeles, California. The label’s first release was Dr. Dre’s The Chronic in 1992, a groundbreaking album that paired explicit and often violent lyrics with commercial beats that were based on older soul, funk, and R&B songs. The musical style of The Chronic became known as “G-Funk” (Gangsta-funk), a style that dominated many of Death Row’s early albums as well as most West Coast gangsta rap throughout the 1990s.
Death Row achieved immense success within a few years, partly due to aggressive marketing to mainstream audiences, and partly due to a successful distribution deal with Interscope. Death Row Records became a target of the controversy within the gangsta rap industry due to the constant legal problems of Suge Knight and many of the artists signed to the label (for example Snoop Dogg, and later Tupac Shakur). As a consequence of public debates surrounding gangsta rap’s promotion of violence and drugs, Interscope’s parent company, Time-Warner, eventually dropped Interscope as a distributor in an effort to distance themselves from Death Row....
[Mighty Dells, the]
The group collectively grew up in Harvey, Illinois, and initially performed under the name the El-Rays. They recorded an unsuccessful single in 1954 for Chess Records before transferring to Vee-Jay the following year. Their first hit “Oh What A Night” (1956) came soon thereafter. It hit the top five of the R&B singles chart, sold over a million copies, and was awarded a gold record. Their commercial ascendance was interrupted when a member was severely injured in a car accident in 1958. The Dells re-formed in 1960 and initially served as backup singers to other stars including Dinah Washington, Ray Charles, and Barbara Lewis. They rejoined Chess Records in 1966 and a year later released the album There Is, the title track of which was a Top 20 pop hit. Successive achievements on the label include their first Top 10 Pop Hit, “Stay in My Corner” (1968...
Vocal quartet. It was formed around 1935 and continued into the 1970s, and was also called the Frederick Hall Quartet, then the Deep River Boys. It was created at Dillard University, New Orleans, by Frederick Hall who arranged spirituals and other African American folksongs for the tenors Elmaurice Miller and Traverse Crawford, the baritone Harry Lewis, and the bass Lee Gaines. The group toured Argentina and Chile in 1937 and made numerous radio broadcasts. After becoming a professional ensemble, it saw personnel changes, including the replacement of Hall by the pianist and director Rene De Knight. Appearances on “The Amos ’n Andy Show” for two years as well as tours of the United States and abroad made them famous. They also appeared in 15 movies including So’s your Uncle (1943) and Night Club Girl (1945). They performed in Sweden and London in 1949, moved to Europe in ...
[James Rae ]
(b Buffalo Valley, TN, Feb 28, 1911; d Nashville, TN, Aug 27, 1963). American country music agent, publisher, and Grand Ole Opry manager. One of the most influential and powerful figures in the country music business, Jim Denny followed the path of the classic American success story. He left his home in Buffalo Valley, Tennessee, at age 16 with purportedly no more than 40 cents in his pocket. He moved to Nashville and joined the mailroom staff at WSM radio (home of the Grand Ole Opry). He completed his college degree by mail and worked his way up the corporate ladder, becoming the manager of concessions at the Opry during World War II. In 1951 Denny was promoted to manager of the Opry, an appointment that granted him to programming privileges and thus put him in the position to make or break performers’ careers. Additionally, he headed the ...
Rock band. They are best known as one of rock’s most conceptual and innovative multimedia bands, a reputation they gained through their use of bizarre costumes and props, experimental music videos, and absurdist yet incisive social commentary. The group formed in Akron, Ohio, in the early 1970s, when its two main members, Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh, were both students in the Kent State University School of Art. They took the name Devo from the idea of de-evolution, a vague theory freely culled from such pop culture sources as comic books, science fiction cinema, and sensationalist anthropological literature, which asserted that the human race was devolving rather than evolving. Devo’s five members emphasized this de-evolution by appearing in matching utilitarian outfits and posing in stiff, robotic gestures that highlighted their dehumanized and alienated state. To this visual display they added an arsenal of alternately grotesque and disorienting masks, ranging from a hairy ape to an oversized infant head, all of which served to accent even further their view of society as a denaturalized and strangely surreal place. All of these elements appeared prominently in their music films, beginning with the dada-esque short ...
Hip-hop group. Primarily guided by the vision of Shock G (Gregory E. Jacobs), the group sampled extensively from the songs, style, and Afro-futurist ethos of George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic. Formed by Shock G, Kenny-K (Kenneth Waters), and Chopmaster J (Jimi Dright) in the late 1980s in Oakland, California, the group found underground success with their first single “Underwater Rimes” (TNT, 1987), which led to a record deal with Tommy Boy Records in 1989. Adding the Bay Area MC Money B (Ron Brooks) and the turntablist DJ Fuze (David Elliot) to the lineup, Digital Underground hit it big in 1990 with the song “The Humpty Dance” (Tommy Boy, 1989). Both this single and their debut album, Sex Packets (Tommy Boy, 1990), went on to be certified platinum by the Record Industries Association of America. With its distinctive drum loop, P-Funk samples, and lyrics that intermingled silliness and sex while exhorting listeners to dance, “The Humpty Dance” set the tone for Digital Underground’s subsequent musical output and exuberant stage shows. Although ...