June is Black Music Month and to celebrate, WDAS is bringing back The Roots of R&B! Four 2 hour specials celebrating the history, essence and legacy of R&B! Tune in every Sunday from 5-7pm all month long.
About Patti Labelle
Patti Labelle was born Patricia Louise Holte on May 24, 1944 in Philadelphia. Originally a singer in the 60s soul group The Bluebelles, she enjoyed some moderate success without ever really hitting the big time until the 70s.
In the next decade The Bluebelles rechristened themselves Labelle with Patti as lead singer, and ditched their Atlantic-soul sound for more glam and attitude. In 1975 Labelle signed with Epic Records and released Nightbirds, including the massive single "Lady Marmalade". Famous for the line "voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?" (which means "do you want to sleep with me (tonight)?" in French), the single packed dancefloors and was an international chart-topper, leading to great success for the album also. "Lady Marmalade" has retained its popularity and been covered by a host of other musicians, most notably by Christina Aguilera, Mya, Lil Kim, Pink and Missy Elliott for the 2001 Moulin Rouge soundtrack.
Labelle's success declined after this, but Patti LaBelle went on to a very successful solo career. She became famous for her wild live performances and her powerful voice. She has enjoyed several R&B as well Top 40 chart hits, including "Music Is My Way Of Life", "If Only You Knew", "New Attitude", and "Love, Need and Want You". A duet with Michael McDonald in 1986 yielded another Pop No.1 in "On My Own".
More Patti Facts:
- Patti received a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1993, and in 1996 received an honorary doctorate from Berklee School of Music.
- She has five children; two of whom are adopted. Two are the orphaned children of one of her sisters and one biological son.
- Patti is known to give her devoted fans one of her fake eyelashes when performing in concert.
- Patti Labelle is ranked #41 on VH1's Greatest Women of Rock N Roll.
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About Toni Braxton
One of the most popular and commercially successful female R&B singers of the '90s, Toni Braxton was born October 7, 1968, in Severn, Maryland the daughter of an Apostolic minister and a vocalist. Toni, her four sisters and her brother were forced to live under the strict rules of their family's faith. Due to her family strict policies she had to sneak to hear secular music. Toni's fondest memories are of "sneaking to watch Soul Train whenever my parents weren't around."
When the family converted religions, Toni was permitted to join a school choir - a move that changed her life. She also formed a group act with her sisters Traci, Trina, Tamar and Towanda, in 1989 - The Braxtons. The Braxtons released a single in 1990 called "The Good Life," and, while it wasn't a hit, it caught the attention of L.A. Reid and Babyface, the red hot songwriting/production team. Toni signed a solo deal with LaFace records in 1991.
More Toni Facts:
- The single "Un-Break My Heart" spent 11 weeks at the top of the pop charts.
- Braxton filed for bankruptcy in 1998.
- In 1998, she became the first black actress to play the lead role of Belle in the Broadway production of "Beauty and the Beast".
- She is a spokeswoman for Autism Speaks and the American Heart Association.
- Braxton has won six Grammy Awards, seven American Music Awards, and five Billboard Music Awards and has sold over 40 million records worldwide.
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About Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder was born Stevland Hardaway Morris on May 13, 1950 in Saginaw, Michigan. He is a singer, songwriter, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist. Wonder has been blind for his entire life, but a child prodigy, he was signed to Motown at eleven-years-old.. Today he continues to record and perform for the same label. He has had a total of over thirty U.S. top ten hits as well as winning twenty-two Grammy Awards in his lifetime, which is the most that has ever been won by a male solo musical artist. He was named a UN Messenger of Peace in December of 2009.
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His Royal Badness
A brilliant musician, charismatic performer, and bizarre personality, Prince has, remarkably, transfixed the pop-music world for over 20 years. Not since the Beatles has an artist's music so gracefully crossed the boundaries of nearly every popular musical genre, earning the universal admiration of musicians, the critical establishment, and the record-buying public.
Prince Rogers Nelson was born June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Prince was born to be a musician - the son of a pianist father and jazz singer mother. Prince wrote his first tune, "Funk Machine", on his father's piano when he was seven. As a teenager, he ran away from home, moved in with a friend, formed a band. He taught himself how to play bass, guitar and drums. By the age of 18, he had recorded several demos, and by 19, he had struck an amazing deal with Warner Records, one unheard of by an unknown; the artist, dubbed a prodigy, was not only given a six-figure, several-album contract, but also an inordinate amount of freedom – as a songwriter, musician and producer. In 1977, Prince became the youngest producer in Warner history. Not too surprising, Prince's debut, For You, in 1978, was over budget and over-ambitious.
A virtual one-man band, Prince sculpted and created the Minneapolis Sound through his keyboards, screeching, almost pleading, vocals, erotic live shows, and explicit sexual lyrics. According to the For You album notes, Prince produced, arranged, composed and played all 27 instruments on the recording.
Despite 33 nominations, Prince has only won seven Grammys - not too shabby. He also has had two albums - 1999 and Purple Rain - awarded the Grammy Hall of Fame Award. Prince has sold about 100 million records worldwide in his career.
KOOL & THE GANG
About Kool & The Gang
Kool & The Gang originated in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1964. They went through several musical phases during the course of their recording career, starting out with a purist jazz sound, and then becoming practitioners of R&B and funk, progressing to a smooth pop-funk ensemble, and in the post-millennium creating music with a modern, electro-pop sound.
The group's main members over the years included brothers Robert Bell (known as "Kool") on bass and Ronald Bell on tenor saxophone; lead vocalist James "J.T." Taylor George Brown on drums; Robert Mickens on trumpet; Dennis Thomas on alto saxophone; Claydes Charles Smith on guitar, and Rick Westfield on keyboards.
Where Are They Today?
Of Kool & The Gang's original members, the Bell brothers, Brown and Thomas are still with the group. Ricky Westfield, the group's original keyboardist, left in 1976 to form his own band, and died in 1985. Guitarist Claydes Smith passed away after a long illness on June 20, 2006 at age 57. Original trumpet player Robert "Spike" Mickens, who had retired in 1986 due to poor health, died at age 59 on November, 2 2010 at a nursing home in Far Rockaway, New York. Longtime members who continue to perform and record with the group include Clifford Adams (trombone), Curtis Williams (keyboards) and trumpeters Larry Gittens and Michael Ray.
Spirit of the Boogie
Take My Heart (You Can Have It If You Want It)
Get Down on It
Robert "Kool" Bell
Ronald Bell (Khalis Bayyan)
Sonnie "Skip" Martin
Curtis "Fitz" Williams
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Cameo is a heavily-sampled Funk band that originally resembled Funkadelic with hard funk and humorous lyrics. A large ensemble, they were not afraid to use horns and other catchy instruments that perfectly suited 70s music.
Cameo was initially the "New York City Players", a 13-member group which was later changed to Cameo to avoid a legal dispute with the Ohio Players. In 1974, Cameo started out with 23 members created by Juilliard graduate and New York-area clubgoer Larry Blackmon. Their first albums Cardiac Arrest, Ugly Ego, We All Know Who We Are, and Secret Omen contained dancefloor packers such as "Rigor Mortis", "I Just Want To Be" and "Find My Way," the latter which was a major disco smash and was included on the soundtrack to Thank God It's Friday.
By 1980, Cameo had gained considerable momentum through singles such as "Shake Your Pants". Albums such as 1981's Knights of the Sound Table and 1982's Alligator Woman saw the band playing up their eclectic style. Their biggest chart-topper "Word Up" hit in 1986.
Thomas "T.C." Campbell
Michael "Calamari" Burnett
Willie "Chill Factor" Morris
Jeff "Major Bass" Nelson
An All-American Rock and Roll / Rhythm and Blues Singer and Songwriter
About Frankie Lymon
Franklin Joseph Lymon was born on September 30, 1942 in Harlem, New York. Coming from an average household, Lymon built an empire within his short 25 years of life.
He was the lead singer in the successful teenage group The Teenagers. The Teenagers were founded at Edward W. Stitt Junior High School in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" was The Teenagers' first and biggest hit.
Lymon went solo in 1957. His highest charting solo hit was a cover of Thurston Harris' "Little Bitty Pretty One". Lymon's slowly declining sales fell sharply after his voice changed and he lost his signature soprano voice.
Tragically, Lymon overdosed on heroin on February 27, 1968 at the young age of 25 at his mother's home.
Although his period of success was brief, Frankie Lymon's hits were highly influential on the rock and R&B performers who followed him, such as Ronnie Spector, The Chantels, Diana Ross, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Len Barry, and The Beach Boys. Frankie Lymon inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers Singles
- 1956-01: [Gee 1002] "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" / "Please Be Mine"
(#1 on the R&B charts for 5 weeks)
- 1956-04: [Gee 1012] "I Want You to Be My Girl" / "I'm Not a Know-It-All"
(#3 on R&B charts)
Frankie Lymon Singles
- 1957: [Roulette 4026] "My Girl" / "So Goes My Love"
- 1957: [Roulette 4035] "Little Girl" / "It's Christmas Once Again"
- 1958: [Roulette 4044] "Thumb Thumb" / "Footsteps"
- 1958: [Roulette 4068] "Portable on My Shoulder" / "Mama Don't Allow It"
- 1958: [Roulette 4093] "Only Way to Love" / "Melinda"
- 1959: [Roulette 4128] "Up Jumped a Rabbit" / "No Matter What You've Done"
- 1959: [Roulette 4150] "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" / "Before I Fall Asleep
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The King of Soul
About Sam Cooke
Smooth soul crooner Sam Cooke was born on January 22, 1931 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. During his formative years as a minister's son, Sam, together with his brothers Charles Jr., L.C. and Sisters Mary and Hattie, performed as a gospel group "The Singing Children". At the age of 15, Sam became lead singer of the famous "teenage" gospel group the "Highway QC's".
At 19 he was hand picked by Roy (S.R.) Crain, manager of the "Soul Stirrers", to replace the legendary R.H. Harris as lead singer. In 1951, with the "Soul Stirrers", he began his writing and recording career on Specialty Records with such gospel classics as "Nearer To Thee", "Touch The Hem Of His Garment" and "Be With Me Jesus". For six electrifying years he established a new standard for gospel expression.
"It isn't what you sing that is so important", said Sam's father, "but rather the fact that God gave you a good voice to use. He must want you to make people happy by singing, so go ahead and do so." With these words of encouragement he decided to move forward with his music.
In June of 1957 he left Specialty Records, and embarked on a secular career. Cooke had 29 Top 40 hits in the U.S. between 1957 and 1964 including classics such as "You Send Me", "A Change Is Gonna Come", "Chain Gang", "Wonderful World", and "Bring It on Home to Me".
With the loss of his son, his marriage deteriorated, and Cooke subsequently died under mysterious circumstances at the age of thirty-three on December 11, 1964, at the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles, California.
But his legacy still lives on. The song "A Change Is Gonna Come" was played at the funeral of Malcolm X, and was featured in Spike Lee's biopic about the Civil Rights leader. His contribution in pioneering Soul music led to the rise of Aretha Franklin, Bobby Womack, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and popularizing the likes of Otis Redding and James Brown. In 1986, Cooke was inducted as a charter member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1999, Cooke was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Rolling Stone ranked him #16 on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time" and fourth in their "Greatest Singer of All Time" rankings.
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THE FOUR TOPS
At Motown's Core
About The Four Tops
Like most early Motown acts, they were formed in Hitsville USA, Detroit, Michigan. The Four Tops achieved #1 pop hits with "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" and "Reach Out (I'll Be There)", "Baby I Need Your Loving", "Standing In The Shadows Of Love", and "If I Were A Carpenter". With these songs they helped to define what is commonly known now as "The Motown Sound".
- After 44 years with the band, Roquel Payton died in 1999. His replacement, Temptations singer Theo Peoples, was the first new member in the group's long history.
- Levi Stubbs left in 2000 due to failing health, and Obie Benson died in 2005.
- The Four Tops continue to tour today, though Duke Fakir is the only original member who remains.
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The Queen of Soul
About Aretha Franklin
"There are singers," said Ray Charles, "then there is Aretha. She towers above the rest. Others are good, but Aretha is great. She's my only sure-enough sister."
Aretha Franklin was born on March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee and developed a voice that defined the sixties. At the funeral for Dr. Martin Luther King, it was Aretha who led the nation in musical mourning. Her cultural iconography was permanently established, the recognition of her genius an established fact. To date, she has won no less than 18 Grammys. She is the gold standard by which all singers - gospel, soul and beyond - are compared.
In 1987 Aretha became the very first woman to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Seven years later, she became the youngest artist to receive the Kennedy Centers Honor. What followed was a series of brilliant albums and singles - even late in her illustrious career. Aretha teamed with star talents Luther Vandross (on "Jump to It") and Narada Michael Walden (for "Freeway of Love" and "Who's Zooming Who"). She sang hit duets with George Michael ("I Knew You Were Waiting [For Me])" and Elton John ("Through the Storm"). In 1987, she self-produced her second landmark gospel record, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. In the nineties Aretha's "Rose Is Still A Rose," penned and produced by Lauryn Hill, was named "soul hit of the decade" by the L.A. Times.