The mission of The Department of Afro-American Research Arts and Culture to identify the global significance of the creative contributions pioneered by an international diaspora of Blackness
The Department of Afro American Research, Arts, and Culture's Archive is a subdivision of DAARAC that digitally preserves Afro American films. On this website, you may browse our archive that consists of film posters, screenshots, and movie synopsis. All information provided here is for research and reference purposes. We do not host full-length films on this website.

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Showing posts with label Artist Bio. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Artist Bio. Show all posts

Monday, January 18, 2010

Blaxploitationpride Exclusive! Benny Carter - Theme From Buck and The Preacher OST 45 (1972)
In 1999, Benny Carter celebrated his 92nd birthday. In a musical career unmatched in longevity, diversity, and excellence, Carter occupies a unique place in American music. As Duke Ellington once wrote: "The problem of expressing the contributions that Benny Carter has made to popular music is so tremendous it completely fazes me, so extraordinary a musician is he." His accomplishments span eight decades as a professional musician-from the 1920s to the 1990s.

As a soloist, Carter, along with Johnny Hodges, was the model for swing era alto saxophonists. He is nearly unique in his ability to double on trumpet, which he plays in an equally distinctive style. In addition, he is an accomplished clarinetist, and has recorded proficiently on piano and trombone. As an arranger, he helped chart the course of big band jazz, and his compositions, such as "When Lights Are Low" and "Blues In My Heart," have become jazz standards. Carter has also made major musical contributions to the world of film and television. His musicianship and personality have won him the respect of fellow artists and audiences on every continent.

Born in New York in 1907, Carter received his first music lessons on piano from his mother. Largely self-taught, by age fifteen, Carter was already sitting in at Harlem night spots. From 1924 to 1928, Carter gained valuable professional experience as a sideman in some of New York's top bands. He eventually joined Fletcher Henderson's seminal orchestra, and in 1931 he became musical director of another important musical organization: the Detroit-based McKinney's Cotton Pickers.

In 1942, he brought a reorganized big band to California, where he has lived ever since. In the mid-1940s, the band included important modernists, such as Miles Davis, J.J. Johnson, Max Roach, and Art Pepper, all of whom have acknowledged their debt to Carter as a teacher. As Miles Davis once said: "Everyone should listen to Benny Carter. He's a whole musical education."
Opening at Billy Berg's Swing Club in Los Angeles in November 1942. Within months, he was asked to work on his first Hollywood film, Stormy Weather, for which he arranged and played. His work, particularly his string writing, so impressed musical director Alfred Newman that soon Carter's talents were tapped for many other productions at 20th Century Fox and other major studios. Eventually, he was in such demand in the studios that he decided to give up leading his big band in 1946. Over the next two decades, he worked on (and occasionally appeared in) such major films as An American in Paris, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Sun Also Rises, The Guns of Navarone, Flower Drum Song, and many others. He eventually got the opportunity to serve as musical director for several productions including A Man Called Adam (1965) and Buck and the Preacher (1972).

In the late 1950s, Carter began to compose and arrange for television, contribution to such programs as M-Squad, Bob Hope's Chrysler Theater, Alfred Hitchcock, Ironside, and The Name of the Game. He also has written scores for several award-winning animated films by John and Faith Hubley. In 1993, Carter recorded a solo saxophone soundtrack for the Canadian television documentary: The Future of Aging.

Carter helped many other talented African-American composers to break the color barrier in the Hollywood studios. As Quincy Jones notes: "Benny opened the eyes of a lot of producers and studios, so that they could understand that you could go to blacks for other things outside of blues and barbecue." Carter also played a leading role in integrating the Los Angeles musicians' union in the 1950s.

Buck and The Preacher Score
Original Music by
Benny Carter
Don Brooks
Brownie McGhee
Sonny Terry

As far as we were aware nothing was ever released from this. DJ Teddy Rosso from Norway has now corrected the situation by providing an ultra rare double "a" side promo single with the Theme instrumental. Enjoy!

As an added bonus I couldn't resist posting the Vocal track Theme from Buck and The Preacher by New Birth from their LP Birth Day and interestingly the same band called themselves Nite-Liters and released an LP Different Strokes w. an instumental, so I just thought I'd post it too for good measure. Enjoy the Funk!

Link to movie review
Sidney Poitier - Buck and The Preacher (1972)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Legend: Serge Gainsbourg

Not a blaxploitation artist but indeed a legend. Now myself is not too familiar with Gainsbourge work and I do not speak French at all, but his music sounds so great. Plus when I was doing my research on him I saw several pictures of him with either a cigarette or a beautiful woman. Thats cool!

Gainsbourg was born at the Hoôtel Dieu hospital in Paris, along with his twin sister Liliane, on April 2, 1928. His birth name was Lucien Ginsburg. His parents, Joseph and Olia Ginsburg, were Jewish immigrants who had fled the Ukraine around the time of the Russian Revolution. Joseph was a talented pianist in theaters and clubs in Paris, well-versed in both classical music such as Chopin and American pop composers such as Cole Porter and George Gershwin. He taught his son and daughter piano, beginning when they were four years old. Lucien became interested in painting, so his parents sent him to art school in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris.

World War II began when Gainsbourg was 11 years old, and he spent his early teens in Paris during the German occupation. A 1942 law required Jews to wear yellow stars with the word "Jew" written on them, an experience that hurt and scarred him. "It was like you were a bull, branded with a red-hot iron," he said in an interview quoted in Sylvie Simmons's biography, Serge Gainsbourg: A Fistful of Gitanes. The racist shaming magnified his feelings of adolescent alienation. "Even at 13, 14 years old, I had already become an outsider, because the tough guy thing wasn't me." He took refuge in reading books and smoking cheap cigarettes. Soon, an 8 p.m. curfew for Jews made it impossible for Joseph Ginsburg to work in nightclubs, so he sneaked away illegally to Limoges in southern France, where he found work with an orchestra and quietly sent money home. A year and a half later the rest of the family, using false identification, traveled to Limoges to join him. Limoges was in southern France, which was not directly occupied by Germany but controlled by the French government based in Vichy, so it was slightly less dangerous for Jews, though not safe. One day the headmaster of Gainsbourg's school had the young man hide in nearby woods for a night to avoid a military documents check. When Paris was liberated in 1944, the family returned home.

In 1945 Gainsbourg enrolled in the prestigious art school École Supérieure Des Beaux Arts, to pursue painting. Two years later he also enrolled in a music school while continuing his art studies. He started dating Elisabeth Levitsky, secretary to poet Georges Hugnet and a part-time model, and she began supporting him financially. His father, wanting him to provide for himself, paid for him to take lessons from a gypsy guitar player so he could make money performing. While Gainsbourg spent a year in the military (as required of all French men), he developed a drinking habit that stuck with him the rest of his life. In 1951 he and Levitsky married.
The Astonishing Gainsbourg

Joseph Ginsburg began passing some of his piano playing gigs on to his son. As the young Gainsbourg got more work in nightclubs, he gave up painting, frustrated that he
was not a genius at it, as he explained decades later. He joined France's songwriters' society in 1954 and registered his first six songs. For his new career, he renamed himself. He had never liked his first name. "He thought it was a loser's name," his longtime girlfriend Jane Birkin said in Simmons's book. "He said it reminded him of hairdressers—they were always called Lucien. Serge, he thought, sounded more Russian. And he chose Gainsbourg because he loved the English painter Gainsborough." Performing in nightclubs, Gainsbourg attracted a lot of female attention, and his womanizing caused Elizabeth to divorce him in 1957.

Gainsbourg began performing at the Milord L'Arsouille nightclub on Paris's Left Bank, he where he gained two important supporters: popular singer Michèle Arnaud, who worked two of Gainsbourg's songs into her act, and Boris Vian, a novelist and composer of songs full of biting humor. Word spread about Gainsbourg's talent. He was signed to the Philips record label and recorded the 1958 album "Du Chant à la une!" (Songs on Page One). A mix of jazz and ballads in the French chanson style, the album was filled with lyrics that were cynical and bitter, especially toward women. It did not sell well, but Boris Vian wrote an article praising it, and it won the grand prize of L'Académie Charles Cros, a songwriting award. One song from the album, "Le Poinçonneur des Lilas" (The Ticket-Puncher), about a lonely subway ticket-taker who becomes suicidal, eventually became a classic of French songwriting. The next year, the acclaimed French singer Juliette Gréco released a four-song album of his songs, including one of his first compositions, "Les Amours Perdues" (The Lost Loves). His 1961 album, "L'Étonnant Serge Gainsbourg" (The Astonishing Serge Gainsbourg), made his literary influences clear; one song, "La Chanson De Prévert," paid tribute to French poet Jacques Prévert.

For a few years, it seemed that Gainsbourg would never attract more than a cult following of jazz intellectuals and bohemians. Several French singers recorded his songs, but French chanson fell out of vogue starting around 1962, as French youth embraced American and British rock 'n' roll and French imitations known as yé-yé. Gainsbourg recorded a few songs mocking yé-yé fans and defied the trends by recording the experimental Gainsbourg Percussions, influenced by African and Caribbean percussion styles. Later, determined to write a hit song, he began writing material for 16-year-old yé-yé star France Gall, including the hit "Les Sucettes" (Lollipops) and "Poupée de cire, poupée de son" (Wax Doll, Singing Doll), which won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1965. Soon, Gainsbourg's songs were more popular than ever among female French singers, and he spent the next two years focusing on his songwriting.

Gainsbourg married his second wife, Béatrice, whose given name was Françoise-Antoinette Pancrazzi, in early 1964. They soon had a daughter, Natacha. The marriage was doomed from the start, since she was extremely possessive, jealous of his singer friends and his fans. They divorced two years later, reuniting temporarily in 1967 and conceiving another child, Paul, born in 1968. But by then Gainsbourg had left Beatrice permanently. He had fallen in love with one of France's most beautiful and most famous actresses, Brigitte Bardot.
Bardot and Birkin

Gainsbourg was not a conventionally attractive man. In fact, he was often described as ugly; one French fanzine said he resembled a drowsy turtle. Yet one famous sex symbol after another became either his friend or his lover. "He attributed his appeal to women to a charmed sense of vulnerability, as well as his baggy eyes, three-day stubble and perpetual halo of smoke from five daily packs of Gitanes," William Drozdiak wrote in the Washington Post. Accordng to Drozdiak, Gainsbourg often said that "ugliness is superior to beauty because it lasts longer."

Bardot, a singer as well as an actress, had already recorded a few of Gainsbourg's songs before they appeared together on a prime time TV show together in late 1967. Bardot's second marriage was in trouble, and she and Gainsbourg discovered a mutual attraction. She invited him to appear on her own TV show, and he began writing new songs for her. Soon they became lovers, meeting discreetly at first, then going out to trendy nightclubs. They sang Gainsbourg's new songs, playful and full of abandon, on her show amid sets wild with pop psychedelia. "Comic Strip" was pop art as song, with Gainsbourg singing lead and Bardot intoning cartoon sound effects: "Shebam! Pow! Blop! Wizz!" To perform "Bonnie and Clyde," they styled themselves as flashy crooks. Next, they recorded "Je T'Aime … Moi Non Plus" (I Love You … Me Neither), a clever duet punctuated by erotic groans and sighs. According to Simmons's biography, rumor spread that Gainsbourg and Bardot had been engaged in "heavy petting" while recording it. Enraged, Bardot's husband demanded that the record company cancel the single. Worried he would hurt Bardot's image, Gainsbourg complied, and the Bardot recording was not released until 1986.

Bardot returned to her husband, and Gainsbourg found a new lover, Jane Birkin, a beautiful 22-year-old British actress whose looks evoked the Swinging London fashion scene of the time. They met while acting in the film Slogan, and Gainsbourg swept her off her feet with a passionate, all-night trip through the nightclubs of Paris. Gainsbourg rerecorded "Je T'Aime … Moi Non Plus" with Birkin and released the new recording as a single. The lyrics were a clever interplay of cynicism and sentiment, but the suggestive vocal effects caught more listeners' attention. The Vatican called the song obscene and the BBC banned it, but it hit the top of the British singles charts anyway, Gainsbourg's only hit outside France. It sold 6 million copies worldwide.

Gainsbourg and Birkin quickly became one of the most famous celebrity couples in Europe. According to some accounts, they secretly married sometime in the 1970s, but other accounts say they never did. Either way, they stayed together for more than a decade. In 1971 Birkin gave birth to their daughter, Charlotte. The same year, Gainsbourg and Birkin released their next musical collaboration, Histoire de Melody Nelson (Story of Melody Nelson), a concept album about a middle-aged man in a forbidden romance with a 15-year-old girl. The music included an orchestra and a choir. Some critics considered the 1971 album to be Gainsbourg's masterpiece. "The story is silly," wrote New York Times critic Jody Rosen, but "it has real-life emotional resonance and actually holds together like a literary work: Gainsbourg's lyrics are filled with wonderful details and moments of genuine pathos."

Throughout the 1970s Gainsbourg continued writing songs, though a heart attack in 1973 slowed him down for a while. Birkin convinced him to adopt a more casual style, including an unshaven, stubbly look that became his visual trademark. Gainsbourg had enjoyed the scandal around "Je T'Aime … Moi Non Plus," and his 1970s output and public appearances seemed increasingly calculated to shock. For instance, his 1975 album Rock Around the Bunker was a caustically funny song series about Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany set to 1950s-style American rock. One song was named after the yellow star the Nazis had forced him to wear as a boy.

Again seeking to innovate and surprise, Gainsbourg traveled to Jamaica and recorded a reggae album in 1978, at a time when reggae was just becoming popular in Western Europe. He booked a session in a Kingston recording studio with accomplished reggae musicians Sly and Robbie. Their meeting was awkward—the musicians were in no mood to record French music—until Sly declared that the only French song he knew was "Je T'Aime … Moi Non Plus." Once Gainsbourg told them it was his song, they got along well. Their 1979 album Aux Armes et cetera (To Arms, Etc.) included the title track, Gainsbourg's reggae version of the French national anthem, "La Marseillaise." Instead of singing some of the bloodiest lines of the anthem, Gainsbourg sang, "Aux armes, et cetera," and let the lyrics trail off. The radical transformation of the anthem "was, for the French, the equivalent of the Sex Pistols' 'God Save the Queen' and Jimi Hendrix's 'Star-Spangled Banner' rolled into one," Simmons wrote in her biography. The conservative national newspaper Le Figaro called it an outrage and declared that Gainsbourg's French citizenship should be revoked. Gainsbourg embarked on a tour of France with the reggae musicians, and the shows sold out, but they were plagued by bomb threats from the extreme right. Before Gainsbourg's show in Strasbourg, a band of paratroopers warned the city's mayor that they would stop the show by force if necessary. Gainsbourg took the stage alone, though several of the paratroopers were in the audience, and sang the national anthem solo, then directed a disrespectful hand gesture at the paratroopers. His defiance made him a hero to much of the younger generation in France.

In the 1980s Gainsbourg's life began to turn tragic. Birkin left him in 1980, upset that he had begun drinking more heavily and acting outrageously. They remained friends, however, and Gainsbourg continued to write songs for her albums. A year later, Gainsbourg began a new relationship with the young singer Caroline Von Paulus, better known by her stage name, Bambou. They had a son, Lucien, in 1986.

In his own songs, Gainsbourg began to include references to an alter ego, "Gainsbarre," a character hobbled by alcohol and depression. "His excessive indulgence in booze, tobacco and women seemed to nurture his commercial success, as the French public became more fascinated by him with every outrageous piece of music or behavior," wrote Drozdiak. Once he burned a 500-franc note on live TV to protest high taxes. In 1986, also on live TV, he vulgarly propositioned the American singer Whitney Houston. He did, however, find one taboo the French did not want broken. In 1984 he recorded the song "Lemon Incest" as a duet with his daughter Charlotte, then 13. The video showed them lying near each other on a bed, and the lyrics "come close to extolling carnal relations," as Drozdiak put it. Three years later Gainsbourg directed an entire film, Charlotte Forever, as an homage to her. He also continued recording, experimenting with funk and hip-hop, and writing songs for others, including Bambou, Birkin, and the young French singer Vanessa Paradis, mostly known in the United States for later marrying American actor Johnny Depp.

Publicly indulging in too much alcohol and too many cigarettes, Gainsbourg spent 10 years committing suicide, as one friend of his put it. He endured heart problems and a liver operation before dying on March 2, 1991, of a heart attack at his apartment in Paris. Much of France mourned. French President François Mitterand declared that Gainsbourg, "through his love for the language and his musical genius, lifted the song to the level of an art" (as quoted in the Chicago Tribune). He was buried in Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris, the final resting place of many of France's greatest writers and artists. Since his death, Gainsbourg's legend has grown. Many young French, American and British singers acknowledge his influence, and fans still leave huge collections of art and gifts, including packs of Gitanes, outside his old apartment.

  • 1958 - Du chant à la une
  • 1959 - Disque N°2
  • 1961 - L'Étonnant Serge Gainsbourg
  • 1962 - Disque N°4
  • 1963 - Gainsbourg Confidentiel
  • 1963 - Theatre Des Capucines
  • 1964 - Gainsbourg Percussions
  • 1967 - Anna OST
  • 1967 - Comic Strip
  • 1967 - Gainsbourg & Brigitte Bardot: Bonnie & Clyde
  • 1968 - Gainsbourg & Brigitte Bardot: Initials B.B.
  • 1968 - Ce Sacré Grand-Père OST
  • 1969 - Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg
  • 1970 - Cannabis OST
  • 1971 - Histoire de Melody Nelson
  • 1973 - Vu de l'extérieur
  • 1975 - Rock Around the Bunker
  • 1976 - L'Homme à tête de chou
  • 1977 - Madame Claude OST
  • 1979 - Aux armes et cætera
  • 1980 - Enregistrement public au Théâtre Le Palace
  • 1981 - Mauvaises nouvelles des étoiles
  • 1984 - Love On The Beat
  • 1986 - Serge Gainsbourg live (Casino de Paris)
  • 1986 - Tenue de soirée
  • 1987 - You're Under Arrest
  • 1989 - Le Zénith de Gainsbourg
  • 1989 - De Gainsbourg à Gainsbarre (Box Set)
  • 1996 - Couleur Café
  • 1998 - En concert au théâtre Le Palace 80
  • 2001 - Le Cinema De Serge Gainsbourg
  • 2003 - Théâtre des Capucines 1963
  • 2006 - Et Caetera : Au Theatre le Palace 1979 live

Resources & Selected Biographies
Gainsbourge discography at Rateyourmusic
Gainsbourge at Notable Biographies
Gainsbourge biography at Wikipedia
Gainsbourge biography at France Vision
Gainsbourge at WFMU

Monday, April 27, 2009

Legend: Dennis Coffey

Dennis started his playing career by completing his first record date at the age of 15. While still in his early twenties, he had a choice to make that would impact his musical journey. He was offered a job to tour with jazz legend organist Groove Holmes and offered a job to play with the famous Funk Brothers as a studio musician at Motown. Dennis had a family to support so he made the decision to work at Motown.

He has worked with Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, The Temptations, Gladys Knight, and The Four Tops in Detroit and LA. He has also worked with Quincy Jones, Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin, Tom Jones, Wilson Pickett, George Clinton, Earl Klugh and Jazz Crusaders - Joe Sample, Wayne Henderson and Wilton Felder.

His career encompasses eleven solo albums and CD’s and movie theme songs for Black Belt Jones from Warner Bothers. He has had three international top ten hits himself with “Scorpio”, “Taurus”, and “Wings of Fire” and has two gold singles and one gold album. His CD, “Under the Moonlight,” was number four in the country on the New Adult Contemporary Chart in Radio and Records. He has won numerous awards from Billboard Magazine and BMI and has played on over 100 million selling recordings.

Dennis has performed in the UK supporting his book that reached number four in London, England called, “Guitars, Bars and Motown Superstars”. His book is also available in the US and Canada from The University of Michigan Press. He is also in the documentary, “Standing in the Shadows of Motown”, the PBS Special “Rhythm, Love, and Soul”, and the TV Special, “The Four Tops 50th Anniversary Show”.

Dennis has appeared at the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin and the House of Blues in New Orleans with Buckwheat Zydeco on B3 organ and Lil’ Buck Senegal’s band. Dennis recently has performed at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum with guitarists Larry Carlton and John Pizzarelli. He also received a Pioneer Award as a Motown Funk Brother from the R&B Foundation in Philadelphia. Dennis has presented at the Red Bull Music Academy in Barcelona, Spain and will be appearing again at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum with guitar legend Les Paul and others in November.


  • 1970 - Hair and Thangs
  • 1971 - Evolution
  • 1972 - Goin' For Myself
  • 1973 - Electric Coffey
  • 1974 - Black Belt Jones Soundtrack
  • 1974 - Dance Party
  • 1974 - Instant Coffey
  • 1975 - Finger Lickin' Good
  • 1977 - Back Home
  • 1978 - A Sweet Taste of Sin
  • 1989 - Under The Moonlight
  • 1990 - Motor City Magic
  • 2006 - Rise of the Phoenix


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Legendary Group: Diana Ross and the Supremes

The Supremes comprised of:

* Diana Ross (b. 26th March 1944, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.)
* Florence Ballard (b. 30th June 1943, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A., d. 22 February 1976)
* Mary Wilson (b. 6th March 1944, Greenville, Mississippi, U.S.A.)
* Betty McGlown (b. 1943, Detroit Michigan, U.S.A.)

other members at various times included:

* Barbara Martin (between the years 1960 - 1962)
* Cindy Birdsong (between the years 1967 – 1972 and 1973 – 1976)
* Jean Terrell (between the years 1970 – 1973)
* Lynda Laurence (between the years 1972 – 1973)
* Scherrie Payne (b 14th November 1944, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.)
* Susaye Greene (between the years 1976 – 1977)

The Supremes were, probably, the first Black female group to take the art of merging popular music and fashion to another level, whilst still retaining their own R & B heritage without any artistical surrender. Their first incarnation emerged under the group name of Primettes. Betty McGlown was dating Paul Williams of The Primes at the time, and was the first Primette. Florence Ballard met Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams of the Primes, the mangager of the male group, Milton Jenkins, created the Primettes. The Primes were later to become The Temptations. The founding members of the Primettes were Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, (the then) Diane Ross and Betty McGlown, whom all lived at the Brewster-Douglass public housing project in Detroit. Florence Ballard had recruited Mary Wilson, who in turn recruited Diana Ross.

The Primettes issued a single on a small local label, for Lupine Records (a label created just for them) entitled 'Tears of Sorrow' b/w 'Pretty Baby'. Barbara Martin was to replace Betty McGlown in 1960. In 1960, Diana Ross asked an old neighbour, the Miracles lead singer Smokey Robinson, to help the group land an audition for Motown executive Berry Gordy. Smokey organised the audition, however, he was keen to recruit to his own groups ranks, the Primette's guitarist, Marv Tarplin. After concerns regarding the Primette's ages, the group signed with Motown the following year as The Supremes. Barbara Martin then left the group in early 1962, and Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson became the Supreme line-up familiar to many. The Supreme's name was only decided upon following the suggestions of 'The Darleens', 'The Sweet Ps', 'The Melodees', 'The Royaltones' and 'The Jewelettes'. Diana Ross was aginst the name 'the Supremes', initially, as she felt the name had a male influence.

The Supremes early releases saw only minor success, leaving the group with a regular reputation for missing out on chart success. Diana Ross then took the place of Florence Ballard as the group's regular lead vocalist, at Berry Gordy's suggestion, which did bring chart success at last. 'When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes', was the group's first hit in December 1963 (the song made number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100).

In the spring of 1964, The Supremes recorded the single 'Where Did Our Love Go?', (a song originally destined for The Marvelettes, who turned it down). 'Where Did Our Love Go' went on to reach number one on the U.S. pop charts,and was the first song to appear on the U.K. pop charts, where it reached number three. The follow-up releases, 'Baby Love' (which was was nominated for the 1965 Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording), 'Come See About Me', 'Stop! In The Name Of Love' and 'Back In My Arms Again', all topped the U.S. singles charts, whilst 'Baby Love' became the only record by an American group to reach number 1 in Britain in 1964.

In 1966, 'You Keep Me Hangin' On" was awarded the 1966 Grammy for Best Pop single. Unlike many of her R & B contemporaries, Diana Ross sang the songs, note for note, with little elaboration, allowing her fragile delivery to carry the song into a radio friendly environment. Along with the Motown hit machine behind the group, the women had also become fashion role models for many young Black Americans. Much of this was accomplished under the instruction of Motown chief Berry Gordy and Maxine Powell, who ran Motown's in-house finishing school and Artist Development department. The Supremes had, by now become household names, as well as international stars. By the end of 1966, the group had scored further success on the national charts with the singles, 'I Hear a Symphony', 'You Can't Hurry Love' and 'You Keep Me Hangin' On'.

An album entitled 'The Supremes A' Go-Go', became the first album by an all-female group to reach number one on the U.S. Billboard 200. The Supremes recorded albums of Broadway standards, played residencies at expensive nightclubs, and were groomed by Motown staff as all-round entertainers. A 1967 single, 'The Happening', saw the group attempt to become part of the psychedelic movement. All was not well within the group, as Florence Ballard had grown increasingly unhappy in the supporting role into which Berry Gordy had repositioned her into. Floence began to drink heavily, she put on weight, and at times could no longer comfortably wear many of her stage outfits. Resentful of the attention given to Diana Ross, Florence Ballard relied heavily upon the advice of fellow Supreme Mary Wilson, imparting her belief that Diana and Berry Gordy were intent upon her dismissal from the group. That belief saw fruition in 1967, with Florence becoming replaced by Cindy Birdsong (a former member of the Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles group) Florence Ballard was, eventually, removed in February 1968, when she received a one off payment of $139,804.94 in royalties and earnings.

Florence pursued a short lived solo career with ABC Records. She eventually sank into poverty and died abruptly on 22nd of February 1976 from coronary thrombosis at the age of 32. The Supremes name became changed to Diana Ross and the Supremes, seemingly validating Ballard's concerns. Several other Motown acts followed suit regarding the name changes, with The Vandella's becoming Martha Reeves and the Vandella's being one example. 'Reflections' was released, moving the Supremes into a new musical area, incorporating social commentary.

Examples of this manifested themselves in the songs 'Love Child' and 'I'm Livin' In Shame' (the first of which was another U.S. number 1). The Supremes also formed a successful resurrected partnership / recording partnership with the Temptations, highlighted by the hit single 'I'm Gonna Make You Love Me'. During 1969, there were persistent rumours that Berry Gordy was about to launch Diana Ross on a solo career (the pair were rumoured at the time to have become an item). These fears were confirmed at the end of the year, when the Supremes staged a farewell performance. Diana Ross said her goodbyes to the Supremes with the song 'Someday We'll Be Together', a U.S. chart hit on which, ironically, she was the only member of the Supremes to appear. Diana Ross & The Supremes gave their final performance on the 14th of January 1970 at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas.

This trio recorded the self titled 'Mary, Scherrie and Susaye' in 1976, also releasing 'Hi Energy' the same year, before disbanding the following year. The Supremes then released 'I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do the Walking', their final Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and their third number-one single on the disco singles chart. On the 12th of June 1977, The Supremes performed their farewell concert at the Drury Lane Theatre in London. Mary Wilson attempted to assemble a new set of Supremes for recording purposes, and toured Britain in 1978 with Karen Rowland and Karen Jackson in the line-up. This did not come to fruition as the name 'the Supremes' had become the legal ownership of Motown Records. Jean Terrell, Scherrie Payne and Lynda Laurence won the rights, however, to use the Supremes' name in the UK. Scherrie began recording disco material with producer Ian Levine in 1989, for the Nightmare and Motor City labels. Levine also signed Laurence, Wilson and ex Supreme Susaye Greene to solo contracts and recorded Terrell, Lawrence and Greene for a remake of 'Stoned Love'. In 1988 the Supremes were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

The career of Mary Wilson has also continued with a starring role in the Toronto, Canada production of the stage musical 'The Beehive' in 1989 and the publication of the second volume of her autobiography in 1990. In 2006, the Dreamworks movie vehicle 'Dreamgirls', saw Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson taking on the female lead parts in a movie, allegedly (and loosely), based upon the Supremes recorcding career.

The Supremes
  • (1963) Meet the Supremes
  • The Supremes Sing Ballads & Blues (cancelled, 1963)
  • (1964) Where Did Our Love Go
  • (1964) A Bit of Liverpool
  • (1965) The Supremes Sing Country Western & Pop
  • Live, Live, Live (cancelled, 1965)
  • (1965) We Remember Sam Cooke
  • (1965) More Hits by the Supremes
  • There's a Place for Us (cancelled, 1965)
  • (1965) At the Copa
  • Tribute to the Girls (cancelled, 1965)
  • (1965) Merry Christmas
  • (1965) With Love
  • (1966) I Hear a Symphony
  • Pure Gold (cancelled, 1966)
  • (1966) The Supremes A' Go-Go
  • (1967) The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland
  • The Supremes and the Motown Sound (cancelled, 1967)
  • (1967) The Supremes Sing Rodgers & Hart
  • (1967) Greatest Hits, Vols. 1 and 2

Diana Ross & The Supremes
  • (1968) Reflections
  • (1968) Diana Ross and the Supremes Sing and Perform Funny Girl [all Merrill/Styne]
  • (1968) Live at London's Talk of the Town
  • (1968) Love Child
  • (1968) Diana Ross and the Supremes Join the Temptations
  • (1968) T.C.B. - Takin' Care of Business (Diana Ross and the Supremes and the Temptations)
  • (1968) Sing Motown
  • (1969) Let the Sunshine In
  • (1969) Together (Diana Ross and the Supremes and the Temptations)
  • (1969) Cream of the Crop
  • (1969) On Broadway (Diana Ross and the Supremes and the Temptations)
  • (1969) Greatest Hits, Vol. 3
  • (1970) Captured Live on Stage! (originally released as Farewell, Diana Ross's last Supremes concert)

The '70s Supremes (With Jean Terrell)
  • (1970) Right On
  • (1970) The Magnificent 7 (The Supremes and the Four Tops)
  • (1970) New Ways but Love Stays
  • (1971) The Return of the Magnificent Seven (The Supremes and the Four Tops)
  • (1971) Touch
  • (1971) Dynamite (The Supremes and the Four Tops)
  • Promises Kept (cancelled, 1972)
  • (1972) Floy Joy
  • (1972) The Supremes Arranged and Produced by Jimmy Webb
  • (1974) Anthology

The '70s Supremes (With Scherrie Payne)
  • (1975) The Supremes
  • (1976) High Energy
  • (1976) Mary, Scherrie and Susaye

Diana Ross

As a solo artist, Diana Ross is one of the most successful female singers of the rock era. If you factor in her work as the lead singer of the Supremes in the 1960s, she may be the most successful. With her friends Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard, and Barbara Martin, Ross formed the Primettes vocal quartet in 1959. In 1960, they were signed to local Motown Records, changing their name to the Supremes in 1961. Martin then left, and the group continued as a trio. Over the next eight years, the Supremes (renamed "Diana Ross and the Supremes" in 1967, when Cindy Birdsong replaced Ballard) scored 12 number one pop hits. After the last one, "Someday We'll Be Together" (October 1969), Ross launched a solo career.

Motown initially paired her with writer/producers Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, who gave her four Top 40 pop hits, including the number one "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (July 1970). Ross branched out into acting, starring in a film biography of Billie Holiday, Lady Sings the Blues (November 1972). The soundtrack went to number one, and Ross was nominated for an Academy Award.

She returned to record-making with the Top Ten album Touch Me in the Morning (June 1973) and its chart-topping title song. This was followed by a duet album with Marvin Gaye, Diana & Marvin (October 1973), that produced three chart hits. Ross acted in her second movie, Mahogany (October 1975), and it brought her another chart-topping single in the theme song, "Do You Know Where You're Going To." That and her next number one, the disco-oriented "Love Hangover" (March 1976), were featured on her second album to be titled simply Diana Ross (February 1976), which rose into the Top Ten.

Ross' third film role came in The Wiz (October 1978). The Boss (May 1979) was a gold-selling album, followed by the platinum-selling Diana (May 1980) (the second of her solo albums with that name, though the other, a 1971 TV soundtrack, had an exclamation mark). It featured the number one single "Upside Down" and the Top Ten hit "I'm Coming Out."

Ross scored a third Top Ten hit in 1980 singing the title theme from the movie It's My Turn. She then scored the biggest hit of her career with another movie theme, duetting with Lionel Richie on "Endless Love" (June 1981). It was her last big hit on Motown; after more than 20 years, she decamped for RCA. She was rewarded immediately with a million-selling album, titled after her remake of the old Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers hit, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," which became her next Top Ten hit. The album also included the Top Ten hit "Mirror, Mirror."

Silk Electric (October 1982) was a gold-seller, featuring the Top Ten hit "Muscles," written and produced by Michael Jackson, and Swept Away (September 1984) was another successful album, containing the hit "Missing You," but Ross had trouble selling records in the second half of the 1980s. By 1989, she had returned to Motown, and by 1993 was turning more to pop standards, notably on the concert album Diana Ross Live: The Lady Sings...Jazz & Blues, Stolen Moments (April 1993).

Motown released a four-CD/cassette box set retrospective, Forever Diana, in October 1993, and the singer published her autobiography in 1994. Take Me Higher followed a year later, and in 1999 she returned with Every Day Is a New Day. 2000's Gift of Love was promoted by a concert tour featuring the Supremes, although neither Mary Wilson nor Cindy Birdsong appeared -- their roles were instead assumed by singers Lynda Laurence and Scherrie Payne, neither of whom had ever performed with Ross during the group's glory days. In 2006 Motown finally released Ross' lost album Blue, a collection of standards originally intended as the follow-up to Lady Sings the Blues. The album I Love You from 2007 featured new interpretations of familiar love songs. That same year the cable television network BET honored Ross with their Lifetime Achievement Award.

  • (1970) Diana Ross
  • (1970) Everything Is Everything
  • (1971) Diana!
  • (1971) Surrender
  • (1972) Lady Sings The Blues
  • (1973) Touch Me In The Morning
  • (1973) with Marvin Gaye: Diana And Marvin
  • (1973) Last Time I Saw Him
  • (1974) Diana Ross Live At Caesar's Palace
  • (1975) Mahogany
  • (1976) Diana Ross
  • (1977) An Evening With Diana Ross
  • (1977) Baby It's Me
  • (1978) Ross
  • (1979) The Boss
  • (1980) Diana
  • (1981) To Love Again
  • (1981) Why Do Fools Fall In Love
  • (1982) Silk Electric
  • (1983) Ross
  • (1984) Swept Away
  • (1985) Eaten Alive
  • (1987) Red Hot Rhythm N' Blues
  • (1989) Working Overtime
  • (1989) Greatest Hits Live
  • (1991) Force Behind The Power
  • (1993) Stolen Moments - The Lady Sings... Jazz & Blues
  • (1993) with Placido Domingo, José Carreras: Christmas In Vienna
  • (1995) Take Me Higher
  • (1998) Very Special Christmas
  • (1999) Every Day Is a New Day
  • (2006) Blue
  • (2006) I Love You

Discography at Soully Oldies
The Supremes at Wikipedia
The Supremes at Soulwalking

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Legend: Sun Ra

This post is definitely going to be one of my favorite post I have done on BP. Sun Ra is simply genius. His life is beyond music and deeper than what you may hear. I'm proud to make this post and I hope everyone take advantages of the selected biographies I will have listed. I am only going to post a summary of Sun Ra, but its much deeper than what I am posting.


Sun Ra (May 22, 1914 to May 30, 1993) was an innovative and individual jazz composer, bandleader and piano and synthesizer player, who came to be known as much for preaching his bizarre cosmic philosophy as for his phenomenal musical compositions and performances.


Born Herman "Sonny" Blount in Birmingham, Alabama, he abandoned his birth name and took on the name of Sun Ra (Ra being the name of the ancient Egyptian god of the Sun) and headed a band with an ever-changing ensemble known as the "Arkestra" (or sometimes "Solar Arkestra").

The musical development of Sun Ra can be (loosely) categorized into three periods:

The first period of the 1950s was when his music evolved from big-band Swing into the outer space-themed "cosmic jazz" he was best known for. Early inhis career, Ra worked as an arranger for Fletcher Henderson. Music critics and jazz historians say some of his best work was recorded during this period. Notable Sun Ra albums from the 1950s include Sun Ra Visits Planet Earth, Interstellar Low Ways, Angels And Demons At Play, We Travel The Spaceways, and Jazz In Silhouette (among many others).
It was during the 1950s that Sun Ra began wearing the outlandish, Egyptian-styled costumes and headdresses he would be known for. Claiming that he was not from the Planet Earth but rather from Saturn, Ra developed a complicated persona of "cosmic" philosophies and lyrical poetry that preached "awareness" and peace above all. He eschewed racism (having been a victim of it many times, in regards to the touring and booking schedule of the Arkestra), though he rarely came out and directly spoke about any controversial subjects. He preferred to make music, which he did, as the cast of musicians touring and working with him changed on an almost daily basis.
(The most notable graduate of the Sun Ra Arkestra was John Gilmore, a saxophonist whose work influenced that of John Coltrane).
During the 1960s, his music underwent a chaotic, free jazz experimental period. It was during this period that his popularity reached its peak, as the "beat generation" and the psychedelic era embraced him. In this era, Ra was among the first of any musicians to make extensive use of synthesizers and other various electronic instruments. Newcomers to Ra's music may have difficulty with his albums of this era. Notable titles from this period include The Magic City, When Sun Comes Out, The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Volume One and Other Planes Of There.
During their third period, beginning in the 1970s and onward, Sun Ra and the Arkestra settled down into a more conventional method (though still highly eclectic and energetic), and Ra took a liking to the films of Walt Disney. He incorporated smatterings of Disney's musical numbers into many of his performances from then on; and in the late 1980s the Arkestra even performed a concert at Walt Disney World. The Arkestra's version of "Pink Elephants on Parade" is available on Stay Awake, a compilation of Disney tunes by many artists.
A number of Sun Ra's 1970s concerts are available on CD, but none have received a wide release in comparison to his earlier music. The album Atlantis can be considered the landmark that led into his 1970s era.

During his career Sun Ra recorded over one hundred albums, but many of them were printed on microlabels, and his music was largely unknown outside of the live jazz touring circuit. In the 1990s, after he had left this plane of existence, many of his recordings were released on compact disc for the first time under the Ihnfinity Music label.

The Arkestra continues to tour and perform as of November 2003, now led by alto saxophonist Marshall Allen.

Sun Ra and his Arkestra were the subject of a documentary film made in 1972 and a feature film entitled Space Is The Place in 1974. The soundtrack, also by Sun Ra, is available on CD.

Some recommended albums (by no means all-inclusive): Atlantis, Supersonic Jazz, Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy, We Travel the Spaceways, Singles, Languidity, The Magic City.

Brother From Another Planet [Documentary On Sun Ra]

  • 1957 - Jazz by Sun Ra, Vol. 1 (a.k.a Sun Song)
  • 1957 - Super-Sonic Jazz (a.k.a. Super Sonic Sounds)
  • 1958/59 - Jazz in Silhouette
  • 1961 - The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra (a.k.a. We Are In the Future)
  • 1963 - When Sun Comes Out
  • 1964 - Gods on Safari
  • 1963-67 - Angels and Demons at Play
  • 1965 - Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow
  • 1965 - Fate in a Pleasant Mood
  • 1965 - Rocket Number Nine Take off for the Planet Venus (a.k.a. Interstellar Low Ways)
  • 1965 - Secrets of the Sun
  • 1965 - The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Volume I (a.k.a Cosmic Equation; Other Worlds)
  • 1966 - The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Volume II (a.k.a. The Sun Myth)
  • 1966 - Other Planes of There
  • 1966 - The Lady With the Golden Stockings (a.k.a. The Nubians of Plutonia)
  • 1966 - The Magic City
  • 1966 - Visits Planet Earth
  • 1966 - When Angels Speak of Love
  • 1967 - Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy
  • 1967 - Strange Strings
  • 1967 - We Travel the Spaceways
  • 1968 - Monorails and Satellites, Volume I
  • 1968 - Sound of Joy
  • 1969 - Atlantis
  • 1969/70 - Continuation
  • 1969 - Monorails and Satellites, Volume II
  • 1970 - Holiday for Soul Dance
  • 1970 - My Brother the Wind
  • 1970 - Night of the Purple Moon
  • 1970 - Nothing Is (a.k.a. Heliocentric Worlds Volume 3; Dancing Shadows)
  • 1970 - Sound Sun Pleasure!!
  • 1971 - It's After the End of the World: Live at the Donaueschingen and Berlin Festivals
  • 1971 - My Brother the Wind Vol.2 (a.k.a. Otherness)
  • 1971 - Nidhamu
  • 1971 - Nuits de la Fondation Maeght, Volume I
  • 1971 - Nuits de la Fondation Maeght, Volume II
  • 1971 - Pictures of Infinity (a.k.a. Outer Spaceways, Incorporated)
  • 1971 - The Solar-Myth Approach, Volume I
  • 1971 - The Solar-Myth Approach, Volume II
  • 1972 - Bad and Beautiful
  • 1972 - It Is Forbidden (at the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival in Exile)
  • 1972 - Universe in Blue
  • 1973 - Astro Black
  • 1973 - Deep Purple (a.k.a. Dreams Come True)
  • 1973 - Discipline 27-II
  • 1973 - Space Is the Place
  • 1974 - Horizon (a.k.a. Starsnatchers)
  • 1974 - Outer Spaceways Incorporated (a.k.a. A Tonal View of Times Tomorrow, volume 3)
  • 1974 - Space Probe
  • 1974 - Sub Underground (a.k.a. Temple U; Cosmo-Earth Fantasy)
  • 1974 - The Invisible Shield (a.k.a. Janus; A Tonal View of Times Tomorrow, vol. 2; Satellites Are Outerspace....)
  • 1975 - Pathways to Unknown Worlds
  • 1975 - What's New?
  • 1976 - Cosmos
  • 1976 - Featuring Pharoah Sanders and Black Harold
  • 1976 - Live at Montreux
  • 1977 - Solo Piano, Volume I
  • 1977 - Somewhere Over the Rainbow (a.k.a. We Live To Be)
  • 1977 - Taking a Chance on Chances
  • 1977 - The Soul Vibrations of Man
  • 1978 - Lanquidity
  • 1978 - Media Dreams (a.k.a. Saturn Research)
  • 1978 - New Steps
  • 1978 - Other Voices, Other Blues
  • 1978 - Some Blues But Not the Kind Thats Blue (a.k.a. Nature Boy; My Favorite Things)
  • 1978 - St. Louis Blues (a.k.a. Solo Piano, Volume II)
  • 1978 - The Antique Blacks
  • 1978 - The Sound Mirror: Live in Philadelphia '78
  • 1978 - Unity
  • 1979 - Disco 3000
  • 1979 - God Is More Than Love Can Ever Be (a.k.a. Blithe Spirit Dance; Days of Happiness; Trio)
  • 1979 - I, Pharaoh
  • 1979 - Omniverse
  • 1979 - Sleeping Beauty (a.k.a. Door of the Cosmos)
  • 1979 - The Other Side of the Sun
  • 1980 - On Jupiter (a.k.a. Seductive Fantasy)
  • 1980 - Sunrise in Different Dimensions
  • 1980 - Voice of the Eternal Tomorrow (a.k.a.The Rose Hue Mansions of the Sun)
  • 1981 - Aurora Borealis (a.k.a. Ra Rachmaninov)
  • 1981 - Beyond The Purple Star Zone (a.k.a. Immortal Being)
  • 1981 - Dance of Innocent Passion
  • 1981 - Of Mythic Worlds
  • 1982 - Oblique Parallax (a.k.a. Journey Stars Beyond)
  • 1982 - Strange Celestial Road
  • 1983 - Just Friends
  • 1983 - Ra to the Rescue
  • 1983 - The Sun Ra Arkestra Meets Salah Ragab in Egypt
  • 1984 - A Fireside Chat With Lucifer
  • 1984 - Celestial Love
  • 1984 - Live at Praxis '84, Volume I
  • 1984 - Nuclear War
  • 1985 - Cosmo Sun Connection
  • 1985 - Hiroshima (a.k.a. Stars that Shine Darkly, Volume I)
  • 1985 - Live at Praxis '84, Volume II
  • 1985 - Outer Reach Intensity-Energy (a.k.a. Stars that Shine Darkly, Volume II)
  • 1985 - When Spaceships Appear (a.k.a. Cosmo-Party Blues; Children of the Sun)
  • 1986 - Live at Praxis '84, Volume III
  • 1987 - A Night in East Berlin
  • 1987 - Reflections in Blue
  • 1988 - Cosmo Omnibus Imagiable Illusion: Live at Pit-Inn
  • 1988 - Hidden Fire I
  • 1988 - Hidden Fire II
  • 1988 - Love in Outer Space: Live in Utrecht
  • 1989 - Blue Delight
  • 1990 - Live in London 1990
  • 1990 - Purple Night
  • 1992 - Mayan Temples
  • 1992 - Destination Unknown
  • 1993 - At the Village Vanguard
  • 1993 - Concert for the Comet Kohoutek
  • 1993 - Friendly Galaxy
  • 1993 - Pleiades
  • 1993 - A Tribute To Stuff Smith
  • 1993 - Soundtrack to the Film Space Is the Place
  • 1993 - Somewhere Else

After Death Releases

  • 1994 - A Quiet Place in the Universe
  • 1994 - Live at the Hackney Empire
  • 1994 - Live From Soundscape NYC
  • 1995 - Second Star to the Right (Salute to Walt Disney)
  • 1996 - Stardust From Tomorrow
  • 1999 - Life Is Splendid
  • 1999 - Outer Space Employment Agency
  • 2000 - God's Private Eye
  • 2000 - Standards
  • 2002 - Music From Tomorrow's World
  • 2003 - Live in Paris at the Gibus
  • 2003 - Piano Recital: Teatro La Fenice, Venezia
  • 2005 - The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Vol. 3 - The Lost Tapes
  • 2006 - What Planet Is This?
  • 2006 - Live at Club Lingerie
  • 2006 - Live at Myron's Ballroom
  • 2007 - Creator of the Universe - The Lost Reel Collection, Volume One
  • 2007 - Complete Detroit Jazz Center Residency
  • 2007 - Dance of the Living Image
  • 2007 - Intergalactic Research
  • 2007 - The Shadows Took Shape

Resources & Selected Biographies

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Legends: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles

Smokey Robinson (b. William Robinson, 19th February 1940, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.)

Emerson Rogers (Emerson Rogers left, and was replaced by his sister Claudette, who married Smokey Robinson in 1959.)

Bobby Rogers (b. 19th February 1940, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.)

Ronnie White (b. 5th April 1939, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A., d. 26th August 1995)

and Warren 'Pete' Moore (b. 19th November 1939, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.).


In mid-1950s Detroit, there lived Five little Chimes--well, maybe not so little since they were then high schoolers. Their names were James Grice, Donald Wicker, Clarence Dawson, Warren Moore, and William Robinson.

The winds of change blew away the first three youths. Ronnie White and cousins Emerson ("Sonny") and Bobby Rogers swept in to replace them. At this point, the group became the Matadors--sturdier-sounding in name if not music. When another draft (the war kind) removed Sonny from the group, his sister Claudette stepped in.

In 1957, they tried out before the manager of red-hot Jackie Wilson. No dice. Luckily, witness Berry Gordy trailed after the dejected rejectees and asked to hear more, specifically from "Smokey." The singers soon slipped under Gordy's wing and a new name: the Miracles.

Their first single, a 1958 answer record to a Silhouettes song, had an apt title: "Got a Job." That's what Primettes guitarist Marv Tarplin snagged with the group, too, after the future Supremes informally auditioned before Smokey.

Although the Miracles bumbled through their first live performance, the shy, eager teens entered the fast track when Gordy established the Tamla and Motown labels. "Shop Around" rocketed to the top of the R&B and pop charts and the Miracles began their ascent.

At Motown, the singers learned to juggle sparkling ballads like "You've Really Got a Hold on Me," "Ooo Baby Baby," and "The Tracks of My Tears" with sportier tunes like "Mickey's Monkey" and "Going to a Go-Go." With their juicy harmonies, newfound athleticism, and Smokey Robinson's lofty tenor, they proved their worth on the world stage.

Changes had kept brewing, however. A year after marrying Smokey, Claudette withdrew from touring, but still pitched in vocally on records. In 1965, the group became Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, cementing the lead's individual stardom.

Hits like "I Second That Emotion" and "The Tears of a Clown" followed. But it was only a matter of time before the group's biggest adjustment.

In 1972, Billy Griffin filled in for Smokey Robinson. With the 20-year-old falsetto, the Miracles stayed productive, sending "Do It Baby" and "Don't Cha Love It" up the charts. They got huge numbers with "Love Machine" in 1976.

That decade, with City of Angels's "Ain't Nobody Straight in L.A." and Love Crazy's FBI-denounced "Spy for Brotherhood," Miracles songs courted controversy as well as ladies. Not so naïve anymore, huh?

By then (1977), these Motown singers had become Columbia artists. Soon after, Griffin and Moore split for solo singing and producing, respectively. New Miracles arose in the late 1980s with Bobby Rogers.

Sadly, classic Miracles baritone Ronnie White died of leukemia in 1995. But you can still find the group performing in some form. Billy Griffin (or Smokey Robinson) and the Miracles CDs help recapture the glory days, as well.

Despite their awkward beginnings, the real "miracles" were not the singers' successes, which they deserved. Their lovingly performed Motown oldies showed that popular music, so fraught with frivolity, could also be pure magic.


  • Hi, We're The Miracles (Tamla 1961)
  • Cookin' With The Miracles (Tamla 1962)
  • I'll Try Something New (Tamla 1962)
  • The Fabulous Miracles (Tamla 1963)
  • Recorded Live: On Stage (Tamla 1963)
  • Christmas With The Miracles (Tamla 1963)
  • The Miracles Doin-Mickey's Monkey'(Tamla 1963)
  • Going To A Go-Go (Tamla 1965)
  • I Like It Like That (Tamla 1965)
  • Away We A Go-Go (Tamla 1966)
  • Make It Happen (Tamla 1967)
  • Special Occasion (Tamla 1968)
  • Live! (Tamla 1969)
  • Time Out For Smokey Robinson And The Miracles (Tamla 1969)
  • Four In Blue (Tamla 1969)
  • What Love Has Joined Together (Tamla 1970)
  • A Pocket Full Of Miracles (Tamla 1970)
  • The Season For Miracles (Tamla 1970)
  • One Dozen Roses (Tamla 1971)
  • Flying High Together (Tamla 1972)
  • Renaissance (Tamla 1973)
  • Do It Baby (Tamla 1974)
  • Don't Cha Love It (Tamla 1975)
  • City Of Angels (Tamla 1975)
  • The Power Of Music (Tamla 1976)
  • Love Crazy (Columbia 1977)
  • The Miracles (Columbia 1978)


Smokey Robinson

b. Williarm Robinson, 19th February 1940, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.


Smokey Robinson was the founding member of the Miracles at Northern High School, Detroit. In 1955, Robinson became one of the major figures in the local music scene by the end of the Fifties. That year he met Berry Gordy, who was writing songs for R & B star Jackie Wilson, and looking for local acts to produce. Berry Gordy took the teenager under his wing. He produced a series of Miracles singles in 1958 and 1959, all of which featured Robinson as composer and lead singer, and leased them to prominent R & B labels.

In 1960, he signed the Miracles to his Motown Records stable, and began to promote Robinson as a substantial colleague. In Motown's early days, Smokey was involved in every part of the company's operations, writing, producing and making his own records, helping in the business of promotion and auditioning many of the young hopefuls who were attracted by Berry Gordy's growing reputation as an businessman.

Smokey had begun his career as a producer by overseeing the recording of the Miracles' 'Way Over There', and soon afterwards he was involved with developing the talents of Mary Wells and The Supremes. Mary Wells soon became Robinson's most successful protogee. Smokey wrote and produced a series of hit singles for her between 1962 and 1964.

These records, such as 'You Beat Me To The Punch', 'Two Lovers' and 'My Guy', demonstrated his growing confidence as a songwriter. Although Smokey was unable to turn the Supremes into a hit-making act, he experienced no such failure in his relationship with Motown's leading male group of the mid-60's, The Temptations.

Between 1964 and 1965, Smokey was responsible for the records that established their reputation. 'The Way You Do The Things You Do' set the hit sequence in motion, followed by the ballad 'My Girl' (later equally popular in the hands of Otis Redding), the dance number 'Get Ready', 'Since I Lost My Baby' and 'It's Growing'.

During the same period, Robinson helped to create two of Marvin Gaye's most memorable early hits, Ain't That Peculiar' and 'I'll Be Doggone'. Throughout the 60's, Smokey combined this production and A & R work with his own career as leader of The Miracles.

He married fellow group member Claudette Rogers in 1959, and she provided the inspiration for Miracles hits such as 'You've Really Got A Hold On Me' and 'Ooh Baby Baby'. During the mid-60's, Robinson worked with fellow Miracle Ronnie White, and Motown guitarist Marv Tarplin.

As the decade progressed, Bob Dylan referred to Robinson apparently without irony, as 'America's greatest living poet'. Smokey's lyric-writing scaled new heights on ballads such as 'The Love I Saw In You Was Just A Mirage' and 'I Second That Emotion'. From 1967 onwards, Robinson was given individual credit on the Miracles' releases.

For the next two years, their commercial fortunes went into a slide, which was corrected when their 1965 recording of 'The Tracks Of My Tears' became a major hit in Britain in 1969, and the four-year old 'The Tears Of A Clown' achieved similar success on both sides of the Atlantic in 1970.

At the end of the decade, Smokey resumed his career as a producer and writer for other acts, collaborating with The Marvelettes on 'The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game', and The Four Tops on 'Still Water'. Business concerns were occupying an increasing proportion of his time, however, and in 1971 he announced that he would be leaving the Miracles the following year, to concentrate on his role as Vice-President of the Motown corporation.

A year after the split, Smokey launched his solo career, enjoying a hit single with 'Sweet Harmony', an affectionate tribute to his former group, and issuing the excellent 'Smokey'. The album included the song 'Just My Soul Responding', a piece of social comment about the USA's treatment of blacks and American Indians.

Smokey maintained a regular release schedule through the mid-70's, with one new album arriving every year. He continued to break new songwriting ground and describing a new genre to a new style of soft soul on 1975's 'A Quiet Storm'. Singles such as 'Baby That's Backatcha' and 'The Agony And The Ecstasy' sold well on the black market. His first film soundtrack project, 'Big Time', in 1977, was played extensively on the U.K., Soul Shows.

Smokey returned in 1979 with 'Cruisin', his biggest chart success since 'The Tears Of A Clown' nine years earlier. Two years later, he gained his first UK number 1 with 'Being With You', a love song that came close to equalling that achievement in the U.S.A.

'Tell Me Tomorrow' enjoyed more Stateside success in 1982, and Robinson settled into another relaxed release schedule that saw him through the 80's on a series of regular small hits and consistent album sales.

Smokey was contributing significantly less new material, however, and his 1988 autobiography, 'Smokey', revealed that he had been battling against cocaine addiction for much of the decade. Although his marriage to Claudette failed, he returned to full health and creativity, and enjoyed two big hits in 1987, 'Just To See Her' and 'One Heartbeat'.

He returned to recording in 1999 releasing 'Intimacy'.

This album contains, probably, one of his finest moments with 'Easy To Love'.

Voted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1988, Smokey Robinson is now one of the senior figures in popular music, a writer and producer still best remembered for his outstanding work in the 60's, but who has seldom betrayed the responsibility of that legacy since then.


  • Smokey (Tamla 1973)
  • Pure Smokey (Tamla 1974)
  • A Quiet Storm (Tamla 1975)
  • Smokey's Family Robinson (Tamla 1976)
  • Deep In My Soul (Tamla 1977)
  • Big Time (Tamla 1977)
  • Love Breeze (Tamla 1978)
  • Smokin' (Tamla 1978)
  • Where There's Smoke (Tamla 1979)
  • Warm Thoughts (Tamla 1980)
  • Being With You (Tamla 1981)
  • Yes It's You Lady (Tamla 1982)
  • Touch The Sky (Tamla 1983)
  • Blame It On Love (Tamla 1983)
  • Essar (Tamla 1984)
  • Smoke Signals (Tamla 1985)
  • One Heartbeat (Motown 1987)
  • Love, Smokey (Motown 1990)
  • Double Good Everything (SBK 1991)
  • Intimate (Motown 1999)
  • Food for the Spirit (CNR Records 2004)
  • Timeless Love (New Doors 2006)

References & Biographies


Monday, February 2, 2009

Legend: Grant Green

Born June 6, 1936, in St. Louis, MO; died of a heart attack, January 31, 1979, in New York, NY. Education: Studied guitar with St. Louis musician Forrest Alcorn.


Upon winning the new star category in Down Beat's critics' poll in 1962, jazz guitarist Grant Green attracted national attention as a major new force in the New York jazz scene. Green's guitar style-- rooted in the swing approach of Charlie Christian, the blues, and African American religious music--is renowned for its warm, inviting tone and flowing single-note lines.

Critically acclaimed for his work with small combos and organ trios, Green recorded with the finest musicians on the famous Blue Note label in sessions that often paired him with saxophonists Hank Mobley and Ike Quebec as well as organists Jack McDuff and Larry Young. Though his name has fallen into obscurity in recent years, Green is no stranger to die-hard jazz fans and musicians who regard him as one of the premier guitar talents of the 1960s.

Grant Green was born on June 6, 1931, in St. Louis, Missouri. Green's father, a guitarist versed in Muddy Waters-style blues, bought him an inexpensive Harmony guitar and amplifier at an early age. After performing in a St. Louis gospel group, Green landed his first job with an accordion player, Joe Murphy, whose repertoire included gospel, boogie woogie, and rock and roll tunes. Drawn to the sounds of bebop modernism, he began to study the music of alto saxophonist Charlie Parker. Green recalled in Guitar Payer that "listening to Charlie [Parker] was like listening to a different man every night." After only one year of formal study, with St. Louis musician Forrest Alcorn, Green began playing with the St. Louis bands of organist Sam Lazar and tenor saxophonist Jimmy "Night Train" Forrest, with whom Green made his recording debut on the Delmark label.

After hearing Green play in a local nightclub, jazz saxophonist and singer Lou Donaldson contacted Francis Wolff of Blue Note Records. Upon the invitation of Donaldson, Green moved to New York in 1960, and within a few months signed a contract with Blue Note. After recording an unissued date with Miles Davis's quintet in 1961, he recorded his first album as a leader, Grant's First Stand. The LP includes Grant's composition "Miss Anne's Tempo," a driving blues that has emerged as a guitar/organ trio classic.

Following the release of the albums Green Street and Grantstand in 1961, Green recorded Born to Be Blue in 1962. His 1963 release Idle Moments, featuring tenor-saxophonist Joe Henderson and vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, has been considered by many critics as one of the finest jazz guitar records of the 1960s. Throughout the decade Green became a regular session man at Blue Note, recording on such dates as trumpeter Lee Morgan's LP Search for the New Land.

Grant's recordings and live performances soon made him a formidable talent on the New York music scene. While working at a club on 142nd Street, Green participated in "The Battle of the Guitars"--an impromptu jam session that often included guitarists Wes Montgomery and Detroit veteran Kenny Burrell, whom Green considered one of his favorite guitarists.

Though his career became overshadowed by the popularity of Wes Montgomery, Green remained a unique talent who, along with Montgomery and Burrell, formed the great triumvirate of postwar jazz guitar--a style exhibiting a strong swing/blues feel and advanced harmonic ideas. Green's early recordings with organist Jack McDuff, trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison, and Donaldson were followed, in 1964, by several sessions featuring members of John Coltrane's legendary quartet, drummer Elvin Jones and pianist McCoy Tyner. Along with Jones and Tyner, Green recorded the outstanding albums Solid in 1964 and Matador in 1965.

In the years 1964 to 1965 and 1969 to 1972, Green recorded more than 30 sessions as a leader for the Blue Note label. His work as a sideman included dates with trumpeter Lee Morgan, pianist Herbie Hancock, saxophonists Stanley Turrentine, Ike Quebec, and Hank Mobley, and most of the label's organists. In 1966 Green periodically left Blue Note to record on several labels, including Muse, Verve, and Cobblestone. Due to personal problems and the effects of drug addiction, Green became intermittently inactive from 1967 to 1969.

In an effort to find new artistic avenues outside New York, Green moved to Detroit in 1970, where he lived for over five years. Although he returned to the studio a number of times during the decade, his commercially oriented recordings failed to live up to the quality of his earlier work. While in New York to play an engagement at George Benson's Breezin' Lounge, he collapsed in his car of a heart attack and died on January 31, 1979. Survived by six children, Green was buried in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.

Indebted to the horn-like phrasing of his early mentor Charlie Christian, Green's guitar style is reliant on single-note phrases, rather than the chordal inflections and octave figures of his contemporaries Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell. As music producer/writer Bob Porter stated, as quoted in the liner notes of Born to Be Blue, Green had the ability to "take any good melody and make it sing." It is this inherent skill that prompted Green to record both blues-inspired originals as well as ballads written by composers from Duke Ellington to Rogers and Hammerstein.

Like so many jazzmen, Green, after a brief, meteoric career, passed from life at an early age, leaving behind a musical legacy that became overshadowed by popular music trends and rock guitar heroes. In a review of one of Green's performances nine months before the guitarist's death, Gene Gray wrote in Down Beat, "Green, for those who may be unaware, does things on guitar better than anyone." To fans and serious students of jazz guitar, Green stands as an integral figure among the blues-based modernists of the postwar era. More than ten years after his passing, Green's guitar work remains a testament to genius--a music filled with soulful inspiration and broad artistic vision, which over time will no doubt earn its proper place in the history of modern American music.


As Lead
  • 1961 - First Session
  • 1961 - Grant's First Stand
  • 1961 - Grantstand
  • 1961 - Green Street
  • 1961 - Reaching Out
  • 1961 - Standards
  • 1961 - Sunday Mornin'
  • 1962 - Remembering
  • 1962 - Goin' West
  • 1962 - The Complete Quartets with Sonny Clark
  • 1962 - The Latin Bit
  • 1962 - Born to Be Blue
  • 1962 - Feelin' the Spirit
  • 1963 - Am I Blue
  • 1963 - Blues for Lou
  • 1963 - Idle Moments
  • 1964 - Matador
  • 1964 - Solid
  • 1964 - Talkin' About!
  • 1964 - Street of Dreams
  • 1965 - His Majesty King Funk
  • 1965 - I Want to Hold Your Hand
  • 1967 - Ion City!
  • 1969 - arryin' On
  • 1970 - Green Is Beautiful
  • 1970 - Alive!
  • 1971 - Live at Club Mozambique
  • 1971 - Visions
  • 1971 - Shades of Green
  • 1971 - The Final Comedown
  • 1972 - Live at the Lighthouse
  • 1976 - The Main Attraction
  • 1978 - Easy
  • 1979 - Oleo
  • 1980 - Gooden's Corner
  • 1980 - Nigeria
  • 1987 - The Last Session
  • 2001 - First Session

As Sideman
  • 1959 - Jimmy Forrest - All the Gin is Gone
  • 1959 - Jimmy Forrest - Black Forrest
  • 1960 - Sam Lazar - Space Flight
  • 1961 - Lou Donaldson - Here 'Tis
  • 1961 - Baby Face Willette - Face to Face
  • 1961 - Jack McDuff - The Honeydripper
  • 1961 - Stanley Turrentine / Up at Minton's Vol.1 & Vol. 2
  • 1961 - Hank Mobley - Workout
  • 1961 - Baby Face Willette - Stop and Listen
  • 1961 - Horace Parlan - Up and Down
  • 1961 - Jack McDuff - Legends of Acid Jazz : Brother Jack
  • 1961 - Stanley Turrentine - Z.T.'s Blues
  • 1961 - Lou Donaldson - a Man with a Horn
  • 1961 - Sonny Red - Red, Blue & Green
  • 1961 - Ike Quebec - Blue and Sentimental
  • 1962 - Joe Carroll - Man with a Happy Sound
  • 1962 - Dodo Greene - My Hour of Need
  • 1962 - Don Wilkerson - The Complete Blue Note Sessions
  • 1962 - Lou Donaldson - The Natural Soul
  • 1962 - Various Artist - The Lost Sessions
  • 1963 - Lou Donaldson - Good Gracious!
  • 1963 - Jimmy Smith - I'm Movin' On
  • 1963 - Horace Parlan - Happy Frame of Mind
  • 1963 - Herbie Hancock - My Point of View
  • 1963 - Big John Patton - Along Came John
  • 1963 - Gloria Coleman - Soul Sisters
  • 1963 - Harold Vick - Steppin' Out
  • 1963 - Big John Patton - Blue John
  • 1963 - Geroge Braith - The Complete Blue Note Sessions
  • 1963 - Mary Lou Williams - Black Christ of the Andes
  • 1963 - Bobby Hutcherson - The Kicker
  • 1964 - Lee Morgan - Search for the New Land
  • 1964 - Big John Patton - The Way I Feel
  • 1964 - Larry Young - Into Somethin'
  • 1964 - Donald Byrd - I'm Tryin' to Get Home
  • 1965 - Johnny Hodges - Wild Bill Davis / Joe's Blues
  • 1965 - Johnny Hodges - Wild Bill Davis / Wings and Things
  • 1965 - Big John Patton - Oh Baby!
  • 1965 - Lou Donaldson - Musty Rusty
  • 1965 - Big John Patton - Let 'Em Roll
  • 1966 - George Braith - Laughing Soul
  • 1966 - Grassella Oliphant - The Grass is Greener
  • 1966 - Big John Patton - Got a Good Thing Goin'
  • 1966 - Art Blakey - Hold on, I'm Coming
  • 1966 - Stanley Turrentine - Rough 'N Tumble
  • 1969 - Rusty Bryant - Returns
  • 1969 - Charles Kynard - The Soul Brotherhood
  • 1969 - Barney Kessel - Live in Los Angels at P.J.'s Club
  • 1969 - Reuben Wilson - Love Bug
  • 1969 - Sonny Stitt-Don Patterson - Brothers-4
  • 1970 - Houston Person - Legends of Acid Jazz
  • 1970 - Charles Kynard - Legends of Acid Jazz
  • 1970 - Arthur 'Fats' Theus - Black Out
  • 1970 - Houston Person - Legends of Acid Jazz
  • 1973 - Houston Person - The Real Thing


Selected Biographies