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Jonas Westover

(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 ...

Article

William A. Everett and Lee Snook

[Mandel ]

(b Chicago, Nov 30, 1952). American actor and singer . He is the most versatile of performers, known for his work on Broadway, film and television. For Broadway he created the roles of Che Guevara in Lloyd Webber’s Evita (1979), George Seurat in Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George (1986), and Archibald Craven in Simon’s The Secret Garden (1991), all of which received critical praise. He won a Tony award for his performance in Evita. He has released a number of solo albums, including Mandy Patinkin (1989), Dress Casual (1990), Oscar and Steve (1995) and the entirely Yiddish Mamaloshen (1998). In addition to his singing activities, Patinkin has appeared in a number of dramatic roles on both film and television. Film credits include Ragtime (1981), Yentl (1983), The Princess Bride...

Article

Charles K. Wolfe

revised by Clay Motley

[Cannon, Sarah Ophelia; née Colley, Sarah Ophelia]

(b Centerville, TN, Oct 25, 1912; d Nashville, TN, March 4, 1996). American country music singer and comedienne. Raised in a wealthy family and educated at the private Ward-Belmont College in Nashville, she was one of the most successful vaudeville-styled country music humorists, performing her rural spinster character on radio, stage, and national television for more than 50 years. After joining the Wayne P. Sewall Production Company shortly after graduation, she worked in minstrel and musical shows in small southern towns, where in 1936 she met the prototype for the character that eventually became Minnie Pearl. She began to portray this character using rural anecdotes and jokes she had collected in her travels, adding to the act burlesque versions of country songs sung in a cracked, out-of-tune voice. By 1939 she was making appearances in the guise of Minnie Pearl, recounting family happenings at Grinder’s Switch, a fictional hamlet based on a settlement near Centerville, TN. In ...

Article

John Koegel

(b Hamburg, Jan 29, 1864; d New York, July 30, 1936). German composer, librettist, singer, actor and theatre manager, active in the United States. He began a career as a tenor with operetta companies in Germany and Austria. In 1890 Gustav Amberg brought him to New York to sing operetta roles, though he also sang in opera, most notably in the role of Turridu in Cavalleria rusticana (November 1891). In 1893 Philipp opened the Germania Theater (formerly Aberle’s Theatre), where he produced musical comedies modelled after Harrigan’s stage works, until 1902. He composed, wrote the librettos for, and appeared in such portrayals of German-American immigrant life on New York’s East Side as Der Corner Grocer aus der Avenue A (1893), Arme Maedchen (1893), Ein New Yorker Brauer (1894) and New York bei Nacht (1897). Ein New Yorker Brauer...

Article

William A. Everett and Lee Snook

[Powell, Richard Ewing ]

(b Mountain View, AR, Nov 14, 1904; d Los Angeles, Jan 2, 1963). American actor and singer . A popular singer and bandleader, he became known as the perennial boyish and energetic star of numerous backstage musical films for Warner Brothers during the 1930s. He made his film début playing a band-leading singer in Blessed Event (1932). He established himself playing the juvenile lead opposite dancer Ruby Keeler in a string of films which included 42nd Street, Footlight Parade and Gold Diggers of 1933 (all 1933). Other films included Dames (1934), Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935), Thanks a Million (1935), Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936), On the Avenue (1937), Varsity Show (1937), Hollywood Hotel (1938) and Star Spangled Rhythm (1942). He married fellow singing actor June Allyson in 1945. Powell later eschewed his clean-cut image and began to aspire to non-singing dramatic roles such as those he played in ...

Article

David Brackett

( b East Tupelo, MS, Jan 8, 1935; d Memphis, Aug 16, 1977). American rock and roll singer, guitarist and actor . As the most successful artist of the mid-1950s rock and roll explosion, Presley had a profound impact on popular music. His sense of style, musical and personal, was both the focal point of the media reaction to early rock and roll and the inspiration for many of the most important rock musicians to follow. The narrative of his meteoric rise and subsequent decline amidst mysterious and tawdry circumstances fuelled many myths both during his life and after his death at 42....

Article

William A. Everett and Lee Snook

[Meservey, Robert Preston ]

(b Newton Highlands, MA, June 8, 1918; d Montecito, CA, Mar 21, 1987). American actor and singer . He grew up in Los Angeles and was a trained instrumental musician before joining the Pasadena Community Players. He was discovered by a talent scout from Paramount Pictures and signed a contract with the studio, appearing in numerous minor roles. He eventually moved to New York and made his Broadway début succeeding José Ferrer as Oscar Jaffe in Twentieth Century (1950). In 1957 he created the character of Harold Hill in The Music Man, his most famous role, for which he won a Tony award and subsequently reprised in the 1962 film. Further Broadway roles included Michael in I Do! I Do! (1966), a two-person show which co-starred Mary Martin and for which Preston won his second Tony award, and Mack in Mack and Mabel (1974...

Article

Gayle Murchison

(b Bombay [Mumbai], India, c1947). Indian singer and actress. From an affluent family, Puthli attended college in Mumbai. After studying Indian classical music and dance and Western opera as a youth, she began singing jazz and pop with local bands at age 13 and made her first recording in 1968. She met author Ved Mehta, who wrote about her in Portrait of India (New York, 1970). She appeared in two films by Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, The Guru (1969) and Savages (1972). A dance scholarship from the Martha Graham Company brought her in that same year to New York, where Mehta introduced her to CBS executive John Hammond. In 1972 she recorded two critically acclaimed tracks for Ornette Coleman’s Science Fiction album. She recorded two pop and two disco albums of her own for CBS (1973–6) and a disco album for the TK label in ...

Article

William A. Everett and Lee Snook

(Emmett )

(b Santa Ana, CA, Jan 29, 1917; d Los Angeles, Feb 20, 2005). American actor and singer . His background and training in opera prepared him for his career in Broadway, having sung Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, and Escamillo in Carmen. He played Curly McLain in the national tour of Oklahoma!, which opened in Chicago in 1944, before being cast as the first Billy Bigelow in Carousel (1945), and hence the first singer to perform that show’s ‘Soliloquy’. Raitt also created the part of Sid Sorokin in The Pajama Game (1954) and reprised the role in the 1957 Warner Brothers film. Although he played many parts in numerous revivals, it is for the two Rodgers and Hammerstein characters of Curly McLain and Billy Bigelow, especially the latter, that he is remembered. He possessed a well-produced high baritone voice and was known and respected for his vocal endurance and consistency. He was able to avoid excessive operatic mannerisms, thus giving an authentic American sound to his stage personas, and establishing high standards for musical theatre baritones. The natural quality of his voice appealed to a broad spectrum of the American people. His daughter, Bonnie, is a successful country singer....

Article

Rich Kienzle

[Hubbard, Jerry Reed ]

(b Atlanta, GA, March 20, 1937; d Nashville, TN, Sept 1, 2008). American guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, and actor. He grew up in a family split by divorce and poverty. At age seven he gravitated to guitar and became enamored of the fingerstyle playing of Merle Travis and Chet Atkins. As a teenager, he played country music in the Atlanta area and took the professional name Jerry Reed after signing with Capitol Records in 1954. His records did not sell many copies, but Capitol rockabilly star Gene Vincent made Reed’s composition “Crazy Legs” a staple of his repertoire. In the early 1960s, though Reed’s recordings failed to sell, stars including Brenda Lee and Porter Wagoner began recording his songs. By then, he was a Nashville session guitarist. He developed a new and unorthodox approach to Travis-Atkins fingerstyle playing involving the use of the right-hand thumb and all four fingers. Chet Atkins began recording Reed instrumentals and later adapted aspects of Reed’s unique style to his own playing. In ...

Article

Robert B. Winans

[Rice, Thomas Dartmouth]

(b New York, May 20, 1808; d New York, Sept 19, 1860). American minstrel performer. He trained to be a woodcarver, and occasionally performed small parts at the Park Theatre in New York. He then became an itinerant player, and it was probably in Louisville in 1828 that he created his famous ‘Jim Crow’ act, the first solo act by a blackface performer (see illustration). His first performance as Jim Crow was an instant sensation, and Rice rose from obscurity to ever increasing success in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston, New York (in 1832) and even London (1836). Rice’s popularity was unprecedented, and Jim Crow was the first American song to become an international hit. The tune resembles Irish and English tunes, but the lyrics are purely American; many verses are crude attempts at satirical and topical humour. Jim Crow was the first example of what became a stock character in minstrelsy, that of the southern plantation field hand, who was not only naive and fun-loving, but also boastful, like the frontiersman or river boatman. Dance was an essential part of the act, and it has been claimed to be the first clear use of African American dance on the popular stage. Rice also added other blackface songs to his repertory, such as ...

Article

Douglas B. Green

[Woodward Maurice ]

(b Panola County, TX, Jan 12, 1905; d Nashville, TN, Jan 2, 1974). American cowboy singer and actor. Bright and musical, Ritter worked his way through the University of Texas while performing as a radio singer of cowboy songs in the 1920s. In Austin, he was mentored by folklorists J. Frank Dobie, Oscar J. Fox, and John Lomax, who fueled Ritter’s passion for traditional cowboy folk songs. While attending law school at the University of Texas, he ran off with a touring New York production. When that show closed, he remained in New York, where he quickly developed a fine career on Broadway, most notably in his role as Curly in Green Grow the Lilacs (1930–31). He also began recording as early as 1928, but had nothing released until the early 1930s. He became popular on radio as a singer and actor on several shows (where he acquired the nickname Tex), and as a co-host of the ...

Article

Hugh Canning

(b Geneva, Aug 2, 1942). Swiss actor and director . He studied at the University of Geneva and was trained as an actor with François Simon and as a director at the Berliner Ensemble, in East Berlin. He worked first as an actor and director at the Atelier de Genève, which he founded in 1963. From 1975 to 1981 he was director of the Théâtre de Carouge. Since 1981 he has been a freelance opera and theatre director. His first important production was The Turn of the Screw at Geneva (1981) and his productions since have included Death in Venice (Scottish Opera and Geneva, 1983), La traviata for Opera North (1985, Leeds), Der Ring des Nibelungen (1985–7, Seattle), Cardillac (1988, Berne), Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1989, Seattle) and Parsifal (1989, Berne). His work is notable for its narrative clarity and sober neo-classicism....

Article

Timothy D. Miller

[Kenneth] (Donald)

(b Houston, TX, Aug 21, 1938). American country and pop music singer, songwriter, actor, and entrepreneur. After beginning his career with the doo-wop group the Scholars, Rogers recorded as a solo artist and played jazz bass in the Bobby Doyle Trio. In 1966 he joined the New Christy Minstrels, but soon left to form the splinter group, the First Edition. Performing a mix of pop, country, and psychedelic rock, the First Edition had several hit songs, including “Ruby, don’t take your love to town” (Reprise, 1969), before disbanding in 1975. Rogers subsequently partnered with producer Larry Butler to record a string of pop-friendly country hits for United Artists, including “Lucille” (1977) and “Coward of the County” (1979). “The Gambler” (1978) became Rogers’s signature song, topping the charts and inspiring a series of television movies in which he played the lead. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Rogers recorded several duet albums with Dottie West and collaborated with singer-songwriter-producer Lionel Richie. In ...

Article

Douglas B. Green

[Sly, Leonard Franklin; Slye, Len]

(b Cincinnati, OH, Nov 5, 1911; d Apple Valley, CA, July 6, 1998). American singing cowboy, actor, and guitarist. Known as “the King of the Cowboys,” Sly grew up in a series of hardscrabble towns along the Ohio River until his family packed their belongings in an old Dodge sedan and headed for California in mid-1930. There, his strong rhythm guitar work, sweet voice, and outstanding yodeling ability quickly placed him in demand in the southern California music scene. He was the sparkplug in the formation of the Sons of the Pioneers, cajoling Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer to form what quickly became the top western singing group of their day. He also had ambitions beyond the group, auditioning for the spot as Universal’s new singing cowboy. He was passed over in favor of Bob Baker; Baker’s series fizzled, and Len Slye, adding an “e” to his name, was available when Republic needed a new singing cowboy to replace Gene Autry, who had walked out on strike. Len Slye quickly became Roy Rogers and was thrust headlong into a film written for Autry called ...

Article

John C. MacInnis

(b London, England, Dec 27, 1911; d Batemans Bay, Australia, Oct 18, 2006). American English singer, comedienne, and musical parodist. Trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London, she aspired to a career as an opera singer. She performed in several opera productions in the UK and sang for the BBC in the 1930s. Initial successes as a musical parodist began in 1940 after Russell moved to Toronto, Canada, with her mother and especially after her famous recital at Town Hall, New York, in 1951.

Through the 1950s Russell performed and recorded extensively. She appeared in opera productions (e.g. New York City Opera, Hansel and Gretel, 1953) and on Broadway (e.g. Anna Russell’s Little Show, 1955). She often styled herself as a mock-music appreciation teacher; for example, she instructed audiences on “How to Write your own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera,” comically explained the plots of famous works like Wagner’s ...

Article

RZA  

Jared Pauley

[Prince Rakeem; Diggs, Robert Fitzgerald]

(b Brooklyn, NY, June 5, 1969). American Hip-hop producer, rapper, and actor. Often cited as one of the most influential producers in hip hop, he was the chief architect behind the Wu-Tang Clan’s ascent to popularity in 1993. Early in his career he was known as Prince Rakeem and was signed to Tommy Boy Records. With production assistance from Easy Mo Bee, he released the album Ooh I love you Rakeem (1991, Tommy Boy). It flopped and was his only release with Tommy Boy. His production work on the Wu-Tang Clan’s debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993) was more successful and helped usher in a more grimy, hardcore sound to New York hip hop. The album was noted for its use of vintage kung fu movie and soul music samples, and the rappers’ collective chemistry catapulted them into the American mainstream. RZA handled the brunt of the music production on each of the Wu-Tang Clan member’s solo albums, including Method Man’s debut ...

Article

Craig Jennex

(b Thunder Bay, ON, Nov 28, 1949). Canadian pianist, composer, musical director, actor, producer, and bandleader. He has been musical director for David Letterman’s late-night shows since 1982. Prior to working with Letterman, Shaffer was a featured performer on “Saturday Night Live.” He has served as musical director and producer for the Blues Brothers and cowrote the 1980s dance hit “It’s raining men.” He has served as musical director for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony since its inception in ...

Article

Margaret Jackson

[Crooks, Lesane Parish; 2Pac; Makaveli]

(b New York, NY, June 16, 1971; d Las Vegas, NV, Sept 13, 1996). American rapper and actor. Tupac Shakur was one of the 20th century’s most famous, successful, and controversial hip-hop artists. While his husky voice, lyrical creativity, and charisma helped bring gangsta rap to the foreground of American commercial music, his successes were often overshadowed by his violent lifestyle and legal battles.

Son of Black Panther members Afeni Shakur and Billy Garland, Shakur showed early promise as a student at the Baltimore School of the Arts before moving with his family to Marin County, California. There he began his musical career with the Oakland-based rap group Digital Underground, first working as a roadie and dancer, then appearing as a rapper on This Is An E.P. Release (1990) and Sons Of The P (1991). His first solo album, 2pacalypse Now, was released in ...

Article

Richard Taruskin

[Loshivsky ]

(b 1849; d 1893). Russian amateur poet and actor . He was a close friend of Tchaikovsky. After trying strenuously to interest the composer in a grand-opera libretto he had concocted on a pseudo-biblical subject – Ephraim, after a scenario called Tsaritsa ponevole (‘Empress against her Will’) – Shilovsky won his meed of immortality by helping to adapt Pushkin’s Yevgeny Onegin (1877), among other things writing Triquet’s couplets for the first scene of Act 2 in Tchaikovsky’s opera. His younger brother Vladimir (1852–93), a gifted musical amateur, took lessons in composition from Tchaikovsky, who complimented his pupil by incorporating a brief orchestral piece by Shilovsky as the entr’acte to Act 2 of Oprichnik (1874).

N. Kashkin: Vospominaniya o P. I. Chaykovskom [Reminiscences of Tchaikovsky] (Moscow, 1896) P. Chaykovsky: Polnoye sobraniye sochineniy: literaturnïye proizvedeniya i perepiska [Complete Collection of Writings: Literary Works and Correspondence], 5 (Moscow, 1959)...