Tag: Musicians

Remembering Bobby Womack (1944-2014)

Bobby Womack, the legendary soul singer whose career spanned seven decades, died Friday at age 70. A representative for Womack’s label XL Recordings confirmed the singer’s death to Rolling Stone, but said the cause of death was currently unknown.

Bobby Womack

Look Back at Bobby Womack’s Incredible Career in Photos

The son of two musicians, Womack began his career as a member of Curtis Womack and the Womack Brothers with his siblings Curtis, Harry, Cecil and Friendly Jr. After Sam Cooke signed the group to his SAR Records in 1960, they released a handful of gospel singles before changing their name to the Valentinos and earning success with a more secular, soul- and pop-influenced sound. In 1964, one month after the Valentinos released their hit “It’s All Over Now,” the Rolling Stones put out their version, which went to Number One on the U.K. singles charts.

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Three months after the death of Cooke in 1964, Womack married Cooke’s widow, Barbara Campbell, and the Valentinos disbanded after the collapse of SAR Records. After leaving the group, Womack became a session musician, playing guitar on several albums, including Aretha Franklin’s landmark Lady Soul, before releasing his debut album, Fly Me to the Moon, in 1968. A string of successful R&B albums would follow, including Understanding and Across 110th Street, both released in 1972, 1973’s Facts of Life and 1974’s Lookin for a Love Again.

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Bobby Womack (1944-2014): Read Our Full Obituary

After the death of his brother, Harry, in 1974, Womack’s career stalled, but was revived in 1981 with the R&B hit “If You Think You’re Lonely Now.” Throughout most of the Eighties, the singer struggled with drug addiction, eventually checking himself into a rehabilitation center for treatment. A series of health problems would follow, including diabetes, pneumonia, colon cancer and the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease, though it was unclear if any of these ailments contributed to his death. Womack was declared cancer-free in 2012.

In 2012, Womack began a career renaissance with the release of The Bravest Man in the Universe, his first album in more than 10 years. Produced by Damon Albarn and XL’s Richard Russell, the album made Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of 2012 alongside numerous other critical accolades. “You know more at 65 than you did at 25. I understand the songs much better now,” Womack told Rolling Stone at the time. “It’s not about 14 Rolls Royces and two Bentleys. Even if this album never sells a nickel, I know I put my best foot forward.” Upon his death, Womack was in the process of recording his next album for XL, tentatively titled The Best Is Yet to Come and reportedly featuring contributions by Stevie Wonder, Rod Stewart and Snoop Dogg.

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Hear Bobby Womack’s 10 Essential Tracks

Womack was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. “My very first thought was — I wish I could call Sam Cooke and share this moment with him,” Womack said. “This is just about as exciting to me as being able to see Barack Obama become the first black President of the United States of America! It proves that, if you’re blessed to be able to wait on what’s important to you, a lot of things will change in life.”

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*Article originally published on Rolling Stone.

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African American Celebrities We Lost In 2013

I couldn’t let Black History month close without paying homage to some notable African Americans that we lost in 2013:

Albert Murray
As an essayist and cultural theorist, Murray didn’t see America as simply black and white. He believed that the black experience was critical to America culture, especially as expressed through jazz music. Jazz was “the embodiment of the American experience, the American spirit, the American ideal,” Murray is quoted as saying in Jazz: A History of America’s Music, the companion book to Ken Burns’ documentary series on PBS.

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Bill Lynch
Lynch was the political strategist who helped make David Dinkins New York City’s first black mayor in 1989. In 1992 he helped bring the Democratic National Convention to New York and also ran Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in the state that year.

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Bob Teague
In 1963 Teague became one of the nation’s first black television journalists when he joined WNBC-TV in New York. He also aired his own weekly show, Sunday Afternoon Report, two years after he was hired.

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Bobby “Blue” Bland
The legendary blues balladeer’s soulful style influenced everyone from R&B singer Otis Redding to rockers the Allman Brothers. The hip-hop generation became familiar with the singer after Jay Z sampled Bland’s “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City” on his 2001 album, The Blueprint.

Bobby Rogers
Rogers was one of the five original voices of the Miracles and in recent years had been key to keeping the Motown group’s legacy alive by trademarking the name and touring the globe. He was also a songwriter, co-writing with Miracles mate Smokey Robinson, the Temptations’ first hit, “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” in 1964.

Bobby Smith
Smith was the lead singer of R&B icons the Spinners, who initially were signed to Motown but really made their mark when they signed with Atlantic Records in 1971 at the suggestion of Aretha Franklin. Smith can he heard on a string of hits, including “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love,” “Then Came You” and “Games People Play.”

Cardiss Collins
Collins was the first African-American woman to represent Illinois in Congress. She won a special election after her husband, U.S. Rep. George Collins, died in a plane crash in 1972. She retired in 1997. She was also the second female to head the Congressional Black Caucus, from 1979 to 1981.

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Chico Hamilton
The jazz drummer pioneered the “cool jazz” sound of California in the 1950s. He played with the Count Basie Orchestra and toured with jazz great Lena Horne, and he would continue to tour and also move into teaching in the 1990s. He was also the brother of the late Bernie Hamilton, who was best known for his role as Captain Dobey in the ’70s cop drama Starsky & Hutch.

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Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly
The ferocious and outspoken defensive end not only excelled at crushing quarterbacks behind the line of scrimmage, he coined the term to describe it—“sack.” Jones, who was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1980, was a member of the Los Angeles Rams’ Fearsome Foursome. His signature move, the head slap, was so dangerous it would eventually be banned by the league.

Cleotha Staples
The first daughter of Staples Singers patriarch Roebuck “Pops” Staples, Cleotha Staples’ distinctive voice formed the backbone of the group’s sound. Along with Pops and her siblings, Pervis, Yvonne and Mavis, she performed uplifting, gospel-infused R&B songs such as “Respect Yourself,” “I Take You There” and “Let’s Do It Again.”

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Deacon Jones
The ferocious and outspoken defensive end not only excelled at crushing quarterbacks behind the line of scrimmage, he coined the term to describe it—“sack.” Jones, who was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1980, was a member of the Los Angeles Rams’ Fearsome Foursome. His signature move, the head slap, was so dangerous it would eventually be banned by the league.

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Demetrius Newton
A civil rights attorney who represented icons like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. before becoming the first black person to serve as speaker pro tem of the Alabama House. Southern Christian Leadership Conference president emeritus and CEO Charles Steele said Newton played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement.

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Don Mitchell
The actor was best known for his role as Mark Sanger, the ex-con-turned-assistant and driver for a wheelchair-bound detective played by Raymond Burr in the 1970s police drama Ironside.

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Donald Byrd
Byrd, a pioneering jazz trumpeter who recorded with such legendary artists as John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Thelonious Monk in the 1950s, eagerly stretched across musical boundaries, branching into R&B, funk, soul and even rap, with some of his music finding its way into songs by Public Enemy, Nas and Erykah Badu.

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Edward “Butch” Warren
The jazz musician was the house bass player for Blue Note Records in New York City, where he played for renowned artists Dexter Gordon, Herbie Hancock and Donald Byrd. He also toured with Thelonious Monk in the early ’60s

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George Duke
The versatile keyboardist-producer worked with a wide range of artists, from the king of pop, Michael Jackson, to avant-garde rocker Frank Zappa to jazz legends Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins. The Grammy Award-winning keyboardist put out more than 40 albums and collaborated with artists such as Frank Zappa, Miles Davis, Jill Scott and Michael Jackson. His music was also sampled by Kanye West, Daft Punk and Common. Duke’s career spanned five decades and he always straddled the line between disparate genres, collaborating with artists such as Miles Davis, Barry Manilow, Frank Zappa, George Clinton and some of Brazil’s top musicians. “He was also a very successful record producer who worked with folks like Gladys Knight, The Pointer Sisters, Anita Baker, Rachelle Ferrell.

George Scott
The eight-time Gold Glove first baseman, who spent his pivotal years with the Boston Red Sox in the 1960s and ’70s, was nicknamed “Boomer” for the long homeruns he launched over ballpark walls.

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Jim Kelly
The martial artist was best known for his role in the Bruce Lee film Enter the Dragon in 1973. Kelly was a naturally gifted athlete who excelled at football, baseball and track. In 1971 he won four martial art championships in a row, which put him on the radar of the producer for Enter the Dragon. Kelly would also star in the martial arts flick Black Belt Jones and the blaxploitation film Three the Hard Way.

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Julius Chambers
The North Carolina civil rights attorney survived multiple fire bombings while winning key civil rights cases before the Supreme Court, including 1971’s Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, a decision that approved forced busing, which brought an end to government-sanctioned segregation in Southern schools. In 1984 he became president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

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Ken Norton
The former heavyweight champion is best remembered for the trilogy of fights with Muhammad Ali—including the March 1973 bout in which Norton broke Ali’s jaw and handed “The Greatest” his second defeat—as well as his epic losing battle with Larry Holmes in 1979, which is often cited as one of the greatest fights in boxing history.

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L.C. Greenwood
Greenwood was a defensive end who played alongside “Mean Joe” Greene, Dwight White and Ernie Holmes as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ famous “Steel Curtain,” who helped lead the team to four Super Bowl wins in the ‘70s.

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Lee Thornton
Thornton was the first black woman to cover the White House for CBS News in 1977 and the first black co-host of NPR’s daily news show, All Things Considered, in 1982

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Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner
The Ohio Players had seven Top 40 hits in the 1970s, including “Love Rollercoaster,” “Fire” and “Skin Tight,” and helped define a movement that included Parliament Funkadelic and Kool & the Gang. The band’s success stemmed partly from Bonner’s playfully commanding lead vocals and gusto.

Lou Myers
Best known for his role as the cranky restaurant owner Mr. Gaines on A Different World, Myers had a long list of TV and film credentials, including NYPD Blue, Touched by an Angel and How Stella Got Her Groove Back. He also appeared on Broadway in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Color Purple.

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Maxine Powell
Powell was an etiquette expert and charm-school coach who taught Motown’s legendary stable of artists—from the Supremes to the Temptations—how to exhibit poise and grace on and off the stage.

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Mulgrew Miller
Jazz pianist Miller was a respected bandleader and widely sought-after sideman, who played on hundreds of albums throughout the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s and 2000s.

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Nelson Mandela
When Mandela, who was imprisoned for attempting to overthrow South Africa’s apartheid regime, was released after 27 years, he could have emerged bitter and hardened by his imprisonment on Robben Island. Instead, through incredible grace, humility and a determination to see his country free, Mandela would become the South Africa’s first black president and an inspiration for millions around the world.

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Otis “Damon” Harris
Harris joined the legendary Motown group the Temptations at age 21, more than a decade younger than any of the other members. He had to go by the name “Damon” because he shared a first name with founding member Otis Williams. Harris would earn three Grammys with the group before leaving in 1975.

Paul Blair
Blair is an eight-time Gold Glove center fielder who helped the Baltimore Orioles win a pair of World Series. A member of the Orioles Hall of Fame, the popular Paul Blair patrolled the outfield from 1964 to 1976, playing key parts when Baltimore won its first two World Series crowns in 1966 and 1970. He won two more titles with the New York Yankees in 1977 and 1978, and also played for Cincinnati.

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Ray Williams
Williams, whose playground style made him a dazzling NBA player but also turnover-prone, spent his 10 seasons playing first with the New York Knicks, then with the New Jersey Nets (as with the Knicks, he would return for a short second stint), the Kansas City Kings, the Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks. His post-NBA life included bankruptcy and homelessness before he returned to his hometown of Mount Vernon, N.Y., where he worked with youths at a recreational center.

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Ricky “Lord Infamous” Dunigan
Dunigan, who died of a heart attack, was a founding member of the rap group Three 6 Mafia. The group won an Oscar for best original song, “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” featured in the 2005 film Hustle & Flow. It was the second hip-hop song to win an Oscar after Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” won in 2002.

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Ross “Satchel” Davis
Ross was a pitcher who played from 1940 to 1947 for the Baltimore Elite Giants, New York Black Yankees, Cleveland Buckeyes and Boston Blues. He also was selected to play for Jackie Robinson’s All Stars. He is a member of the St. Louis Sports Hall Of Fame.

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T.J. Jemison
Rev. T.J. Jemison, a father of the civil rights movement, passed away on Nov. 15 in Baton Rouge, La., at the age of 95. A founding member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference along with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, and the Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, Jemison was known as the architect of the 1953 Baton Rouge bus boycott, which foreshadowed the one led by Rosa Parks.

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Thomas Howard
Former NFL linebacker, Howard, was killed in a high-speed traffic collision near his home in Northern California. Howard, 30, who was drafted out of Texas-El Paso by the Oakland Raiders in 2006, played five years for the Raiders.

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Walt Bellamy
The NBA Hall of Fame center would probably be more of a household name if not for the fact that he played in the shadow of legends Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. Bellamy, who may be best remembered for being traded from the New York Knicks before they went on their championship run in the 1970s, was among the league’s leading scorers and rebounders.

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William H. Gray III
The Philadelphia Baptist minister-turned-congressman served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1979 to 1991. At one point he was the highest ranking black lawmaker in the country, when he was chosen as majority whip in 1989, the third-ranking House leadership position. While in Congress, he advocated for education and the poor. He left Congress to become president and chief executive of the United Negro College Fund, where he led a record-breaking fundraising effort.

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Yusef Lateef
Dr. Lateef was a Five College Professor of Music and Music Education from 1987 to 2002 and was well known for his support and mentorship of up and coming artists. Dr. Lateef was a 2010 recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Award. This Grammy Award-winning composer and musician’s career began in the 1940’s and has continued with touring and performing worldwide until the summer of 2013.

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