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Jesse Jarnow

[Albert James; Moondog]

(b Windber, PA, Dec 15, 1921; d Palm Springs, CA, Jan 20, 1965). American radio personality and promoter. The man often credited with inventing the term “rock ‘n’ roll” was one of the most complex figures of the music’s early history. At the popular forefront of racial integration via pop music in the 1950s, Freed was later forced from the industry over what became known as Payola. Originally a classical and light pop disc jockey at a series of stations in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, Freed became a rhythm and blues enthusiast after the owner of a Cleveland record store offered to sponsor an R&B show. Freed dubbed himself “Moondog,” borrowed from the avant-garde street musician Louis Thomas Hardin. The Moondog Show, on Cleveland’s WJW, was an enormous success. Through the blind medium of radio, Freed mixed records by black and white performers, and many listeners assumed that Freed himself was African American. He continued the practice as he promoted Ohio-area concerts. On the air he created a wild persona, often openly drinking as he read sponsors’ messages. By ...

Article

Darlene Graves and Michael Graves

[William J. ]

(b Alexandria, IN, March 28, 1936). American gospel songwriter, performer, producer, and publisher. He grew up on a small farm in Indiana and graduated from Anderson College with a major in English and a minor in music. He went on to receive a master’s degree in guidance and counseling and met his future wife and song-producing partner, Gloria Sickal, while both were teaching high school. Gaither started singing gospel music as a child and in 1956 formed the Bill Gaither Trio with his brother Danny and his sister Mary Ann. He started his own publishing company in 1959. He continued to perform and compose while a teacher at Alexandria High School and in 1961 formed the Gaither Music Company to publish his works. After their marriage in 1962, Gaither and his wife wrote their first major song, “He touched me,” which was a significant hit by 1963. He re-formed the Bill Gaither Trio with Gloria and Danny, and in ...

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

Dan Blim

(b Littleton, CO, June 24, 1934). American Composer, pianist, arranger, and record producer. The son of classical musicians, he took up piano at an early age and later earned a degree in classical piano performance from the University of Colorado. But he became increasingly drawn toward jazz. After college he took a job as accompanist to Andy Williams, and later assumed the duties of arranging and directing for The Andy Williams Show. In the 1960s he recorded with several jazz groups, and worked as an arranger for such artists as Peggy Lee and Sergio Mendes. His performance in Quincy Jones’s score for The Slender Thread brought him to Hollywood, and introduced him to director Sydney Pollack, with whom he would collaborate on nine films. He began composing for television and in 1967 moved to film, contributing music for The Graduate and penning his first score for the film ...

Article

Jonas Westover

(b United States). American new Age pianist and producer. He played jazz trumpet and guitar during the 1960s in New York, and has credited John Coltrane as an early influence. He became interested in sonic healing and Eastern religions, both of which became fundamental to the transformation of his musical style. After undergoing a spiritual awakening in 1969 in the Santa Cruz mountains, Halpern developed what he called “anti-frantic alternative” music, releasing his first album, Spectrum Suite, in 1975. It became one of the foundational, and most influential, albums of New Age music. To create what was labeled music for “meditation and inner peace,” Halpern performed slowly unfolding, almost arrhythmic melodies on keyboards and synthesizers. Often using choral backdrops for his minimalist, meandering, and warm sonic environments, he weaves together spiritual growth and musical freedom with the goal of bringing self-actualization and wellness to the listener. He has released over 70 recordings featuring instrumental music as well as guided meditation. These include recordings targeted for specific purposes, such as ...

Article

Michael Fitzgerald

(b Prague, Czechoslovakia, April 17, 1948). American jazz keyboard player, composer, producer, drummer, and bandleader of Czech birth. His mother, Vlasta Pruchova, was a jazz singer in Prague and his father played bass and vibraphone. He attended the Academy of Musical Arts in Prague and formed the Junior Trio with the bass player Miroslav Vitous and the drummer Alan Vitous, which lasted from 1962 to 1966. After the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the USSR in 1968, he moved to the USA to accept a scholarship to study at the Berklee College of Music. However, he abandoned his studies after a year and a half to work with Sarah Vaughan.

As a member of John McLaughlin’s group the Mahavishnu Orchestra (1971–3), Hammer played electric and acoustic pianos and began using the Minimoog synthesizer (on the album Birds of Fire), quickly becoming a major influence on other keyboard players. Hammer is often cited as having developed a synthesizer style that mimics that of an electric guitar, but he instead credits the influence of Indian and Eastern European music. Several albums on which Hammer performed with Elvin Jones during the early 1970s helped to introduce the synthesizer to more mainstream jazz. ...

Article

Marisol Negrónh

[Kahn, Lawrence Ira ]

(b Brooklyn, NY, March 20, 1939). American salsa pianist, bandleader, and producer. He developed an interest in both jazz and Latin music as a teenager, while he attended the New York High School of Music and Art in Harlem. A multi-instrumentalist most widely recognized for his talent as a pianist, he has been known for combining traditional Cuban sounds with innovative arrangements. He debuted as bandleader in 1965 with Heavy Smoking, the second album released by the newly formed Fania Records. Affectionately nicknamed “El judío maravilloso” (the marvelous Jew) by fellow musicians, he became a member and producer of the original Fania All-Stars, an ensemble band that achieved international acclaim for its live concerts. In 1973 Harlow brought Latin music to Carnegie Hall with the opera Hommy (inspired by the Who’s rock opera Tommy), and in 1974 he released Salsa, considered one of his best recordings. In addition, ...

Article

Dave Laing

(b Pinner, June 30, 1939). English composer, bandleader and record producer. While writing arrangements for the band of the Coldstream Guards during his national service he composed the teenbeat ballad Look for a Star, recorded by Garry Mills in 1960. He became one of the busiest journeymen in British pop music during the 1960s showing a chameleon-like ability to adapt to the changing fashions. As recording manager for Pye Records throughout the decade, Hatch wrote and produced a beat group hit for The Searchers (Sugar and Spice), the dramatic ballad Joanna for Scott Walker, and a sequence of bright ballads for Petula Clark. Co-written with his wife, the singer Jackie Trent, these included Downtown, Don’t sleep in the subway and I know a place. Trent’s own recordings of Hatch-Trent songs included the more conventional ballad Where are you now (my love).

Hatch was also a highly successful composer of television theme tunes. He wrote the themes for the soap operas ...