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Mike Alleyne

(b New York, NY, Sept 19, 1952). American producer, composer, and guitarist. At the helm of the band Chic , Rodgers and his bass-playing production partner Bernard Edwards (1952–96) epitomized the very best of the disco era while transcending the genre with one of popular music’s most dynamic and cohesive rhythm sections. Individually with highly distinctive guitar licks, Rodgers also successfully transitioned into the 1980s, producing platinum pop records for David Bowie, Madonna, Duran Duran, and many other major acts. This effectively made him one of that decade’s most highly regarded and commercially bankable industry figures.

Rodgers and Edwards met in 1970, becoming members of the Big Apple Band that backed R&B vocal group New York City in 1973, and eventually formed Chic in 1977, releasing an eponymous debut album that year on Atlantic Records that included the Top Ten hit and gold record “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah).” The follow-up album ...

Article

Jonas Westover

(Harry )

(b Upper Darby, PA, June 22, 1948). American singer-songwriter, composer, and producer. He began his career as a teenager singing with the bands Woody’s Truck Stop and the more successful rock quartet Nazz. As a member of the latter group, he wrote two of their hit songs, “Hello, it’s me” and “Open your Eyes” (both 1968). After releasing three albums with Nazz, Rundgren left the group and worked as a solo artist, recording most of the vocal and instrumental parts himself. He cited the songwriter Laura Nyro as a significant influence. During the early 1970s Rundgren worked with a trio, Runt, recording two albums, the second entitled Runt: the Ballad of Todd Rundgren (1971), and his own two-record set, Something/Anything? (1972). The latter album brought him unprecedented fame through the singles “I Saw the Light” and a new version of “Hello, it’s me.” The recordings ...

Article

Jonas Westover

[Bridges, Claude Russell]

(b Lawton, OK, April 2, 1942; d Nashville, Nov 10, 2016). American singer, songwriter, keyboard player, and producer. He is well respected for his solo work—a mix of rock, folk, and country music—but his work as a session musician also brought significant recognition. He began playing piano at the age of four and was playing in clubs in Tulsa as a high school student. His band, the Starlighters, managed to score a spot as the opening act for Jerry Lee Lewis in 1959. Russell moved to Los Angeles the same year and quickly established himself as a session musician, notably with the Wrecking Crew the group of musicians Phil Spector used to accompany his artists. With the Wrecking Crew, the accompanied artists such as the Byrds, Herb Alpert, and Gary Lewis and the Playboys. The keyboard player on hundreds of recordings, he opened his own recording studio in ...

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

Charles Fox

revised by Digby Fairweather

[Schatt, Ronald]

(b London, Jan 28, 1927; d London, Dec 23, 1996). English jazz night-club owner, tenor saxophonist and bandleader. He first played the soprano saxophone and took up the tenor instrument at the age of 15. After touring with the trumpeter Johnny Claes (1944–5), Ted Heath (1946) and others, he was one of a number of British players who worked on transatlantic liners (1946–8) solely to travel to the USA to hear the music played by such musicians as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Bud Powell. From 1948 he played in a number of bands including the Club Eleven, the Jazz Couriers (which he co-led with Tubby Hayes) and the Clarke-Boland Big Band, as well as leading his own quartets and quintets.

In 1959, he established Ronnie Scott’s night club in Gerard Street in Soho. It became the most important venue for jazz performance in the UK, especially after it moved to Frith Street in ...

Article

J. Bryan Burton

(b Cook, MN, 1957). American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer. Secola is a member of the Anishinabe Nation of northern Minnesota and southern Ontario, Canada. Growing up near the Bois Fort Reservation, Secola was actively involved in music, forming groups with other family members, and playing trombone in the local high school marching band before focusing on guitar playing and songwriting. Secola attended Mesabi Community College, the University of Colorado, and the University of Minnesota earning degrees in public service and American Indian Studies. Following graduation from the University of Minnesota, Secola worked at the Indian Education in Tempe, Arizona, from 1984 to 1993. After releasing his debut CD, Circle, in 1992, Secola and The Wild Band of Indians toured Europe and the United States for much of the following decade, earning a large following for his innovative combination of western and Native American genres, a style he labeled “alter-native.” Secola achieved cult status among young Native Americans with his composition “NDN Kars” (...

Article

Mike Levine

[Davis, Joshua Paul]

(b San Jose, CA, June 29, 1972).

American musician, producer, DJ, and entrepreneur. He figures prominently in the development of alternative and instrumental hip-hop music. His album Endtroducing (1996), which has been described as the first completely sample-based album, was assembled from thousands of short musical segments using an AKAI MPC60 sampler. In 1998, he produced songs for Psyence Fiction, the influential debut album by the DJ duo, Unkle, which features guests such as Thom Yorke (Radiohead), Mike D (Beastie Boys), and Jason Newstead (Metallica). He released his second full-length album, The Private Press, in June 2002. That same year, the movie Scratch (2001, directed by Doug Pray), which features many appearances by DJ Shadow, was released to DVD. DJ Shadow has also collaborated with DJ Cut Chemist in creating the popular and influential mixtapes Brainfreeze (1999), Product Placement (2001), The Hard Sell...

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

Jonas Westover

[Westover, Charles Weedon ]

(b Grand Rapids, MI, Dec 30, 1934; d Santa Clarita, CA, Feb 8, 1990). American singer, songwriter, and producer. Growing up, he learned to play ukulele and guitar while immersing himself in country-and-western music. Throughout the second half of the 1950s, he played in a variety of bands while in the military and also in Michigan. He used several different names during his time as a performer, but finally settled on “Del Shannon” in 1960. In the same year Shannon and his fellow musician, Max Crook, were signed to Bigtop Records in New York. The two wrote and recorded the rock and roll hit “Runaway” in 1961, with the single reaching number one on the Billboard chart. In the following two years Shannon wrote and performed several other successful singles, including “So long, baby,” “Hats off to Larry,” and “Little Town Flirt.” His 1963 cover of “From Me to You” was one of the first American covers of a Beatles song. After moving to Amy Records in ...

Article

Stephanie Conn

[Issa ]

(b Toronto, ON, Oct 12, 1955). Canadian singer, songwriter, composer, and producer. Growing up in Toronto, Siberry took piano and French horn lessons, and taught herself guitar. While studying microbiology at the University of Guelph, Ontario (BSc 1980), she began to waitress and perform at local cafes. In 1981, Siberry released her self-titled debut album; this was followed by No Borders Here (1984), distributed in the United States by A&M. Siberry is respected as a gifted singer and songwriter. She has cited Van Morrison and Miles Davis as influences, but also draws on gospel, new-wave, and classical styles. Her third album, The Speckless Sky (1985) reached gold-record status in Canada and confirmed her reputation as a major recording artist. Warner records released her fourth album, The Walking (1987), which earned critical if not popular success with its longer, more complex compositions. Siberry launched her own record label, Sheeba, in ...