This Month in R&B History
It’s fair to say that a lot of things changed in popular music because of The Beatles, and in April 1964, the group set an all-time record by becoming the first artists to hold the top five pop chart spots with five different singles in the same week. But while that was going on, Mary Wells was slowly but surely working her way across the nation with a song that would prove to have every bit the staying power as the compositions of the Fab Four.
“My Guy.” Is there anyone today, over 40 years later, who can’t finish the first line “Nothing you can say can tear me away…”? In April of that year, in a nation still recovering from the Kennedy Assassination, and energized by the words of Martin Luther King, Mary Wells had reached the top of the R&B charts, with her rendition of the Smokey Robinson composition. The pop charts were next, and “My Guy” broke into the top ten on April 25th, eventually spending two weeks at #1 later in May.
Mary Wells was no stranger to the airwaves, having already had hits with “Two Lovers”, “You Beat Me To The Punch” and “The One Who Really Loves You”. “My Guy” would become her signature song, but sadly, it would also be her last major success. Mary left Motown, soon after the success of “My Guy”, to sign with 20th Century Fox Records, but never again released a single to compare with her early recordings. She continued her performing career throughout the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.
In 1992 Mary Wells left us. Posthumously recognized by the Foundation in 1989 as one of the Pioneers of Rhythm and Blues, she’ll always be remembered for her early work as a leading lady from Hitsville, U.S.A. And in April 1964, though few remember, she took on John, Paul, George and Ringo. And won.
It was a good month in R&B History.
The Foundation supports "Why Music Matters"
The digital revolution in music is more than well underway, helping the world spread and share music as never before. NARM and the RIAA launched WhyMusicMatters.com as a new resource for fans about where and how to find authorized music online. The new site is one current initiative that moves us closer towards a goal we all share: encouraging fans to choose services that compensate our artists and shared music community.
Here's what our friends at NARM and the RIAA have to say about their new site:
"The RIAA and NARM, the music business association, recently debuted whymusicmatters.com, a one-stop educational resource for fans about the many authorized digital music services and online retailers in today's marketplace.
Whymusicmatters.com's main feature is a fan-friendly music finder “grid” for learning about the 50+ (and growing) service options available in the United States, with the ability to click through to the sites themselves for quick and easy access. The music finder includes services like mp3 download stores, audio and video streaming sites, mobile phone offerings, digital radio, retailers selling CDs and LPs online, and more.
Based on original work done by industry colleagues at the BPI in the United Kingdom, the U.S. website also includes videos about the value of music highlighting the work and lives of artists such as Robert Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Jay-Z, Janis Joplin, Kate Bush, Thin Lizzy, and others. Visit WhyMusicMatters.com today!"
The Foundation remembers Ruby Gamble
The Rhythm & Blues Foundation offers sincere condolences to Board Member Kenny Gamble on the loss of his beloved mother, Ruby Gamble. Ms. Gamble passed last week after a brief illness; she was 96.
Ruby Gamble, as many of you know, was the inspiration for the 1973 "Sound of Philadelphia" classic "I'll Always Love My Mama" by The Intruders. The song is a perennial favorite, and a tribute to mothers everywhere.
"Our mother was extremely special," Mr. Gamble laments, on behalf of the entire Gamble family. "She was the kindest person in our lives. More importantly, she was the inspiration for everything I have done in life, including creating the wonderful music that others have enjoyed around the world. We will truly miss her."
As our thoughts are with the Gamble family, we also remember the poetry in the lyrics of that now-classic song, as they bring special meaning at this time:
She's my favorite girl
I'll always love my Mama
She brought me in this world
A mother's love is so special
It's something that you can't describe
It's the kind of love that stays with you
Until the day you die
Whitney Houston 1963-2012
Consider this: It is very likely you will always remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news. That’s how important Whitney Houston was to the world of music and entertainment, and that’s how tragic her passing, at only 48.
Whitney Houston descended from music pioneers, learned from them, and transcended even their highest peaks. Using her gospel and R&B roots, Whitney added pop overtones and current trends to create performances and set standards that may never be equaled. We will all feel the loss deeply, and the Foundation joins family, friends, and millions of fans in mourning her.
Etta James 1938-2012
One of the seminal figures in American music, and an Inaugural Pioneer Award recipient is gone. Etta James has passed at 73, ending a career that spanned seven decades and gave us a range of hits from ballads to blues that continue to stand the test of time. We may never see a day in which "At Last" is not a popular standard, and we will always remember Etta's immense talent as an integral part of the bridge between R&B and Rock & Roll which allowed American Music to become the most powerful artistic force in the world during the 20th Century.
The Foundation, on January 26, issued this statement:
As legendary blues singer Etta James is laid to rest tomorrow in Los Angeles, the Rhythm & Blues Foundation wishes to express its sorrow at the loss of “our friend and Rhythm & Blues Pioneer” and its deep appreciation to her family, which is asking for all donations to be made out to the organization. All contributions in her memory go to the Doc Pomus Fund to help artists in need of financial or medical assistance.
A recipient of the R&B Foundation’s first Pioneer Awards ceremony in 1989, Etta James also served on the Board of Directors of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation during the formative years. A statement from Damon Williams, Chairman of the R&B Foundation reads:
“Etta’s lifelong contributions to Rhythm & Blues music have paved the way for generations of artists, and we are grateful to her family for furthering her impact by selecting our organization as the recipient of memorial contributions to help our mission to preserve and celebrate the music and its artists. Etta James was a one-of-a-kind artist with a one-of-a-kind voice; she was an absolute Rhythm & Blues Pioneer. Etta was part of the fabric and spirit in which the Rhythm & Blues Foundation was built on. Awarding Etta James the Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s Pioneer Award in 1989 was one of the finest moments in our mission to celebrate the legacy of Rhythm &Blues artists. Our hearts go out to Etta James’ family and her long time manager, Lupe De Leon.”
Clarence Clemons 1942-2011
The Foundation joins family, friends, and fans all over the world in mourning the passing of Clarence Clemons. His roots in soul brought an unmistakable signature to his rock saxophone, and helped propel Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to international prominence. His sound and his joyous presence will live on in our hearts forever.
The Foundation remembers Teena Marie
The Rhythm & Blues Foundation announced today that “we are saddened by loss of our friend and R&B Legend Teena Marie." A recipient of the R&B Foundation’s 2008 Pioneer Award, Teena considered the acknowledgment to be one of the greatest honors of her illustrious career. Upon accepting her award in 2008, a tearful Marie said, “Everything I ever asked God to give me, he gave me, and I have to give him the glory. I asked my heavenly father to take my poetry and let me set it to music, and he did”. Click here to view her moving speech from the ceremony.
A statement from Damon Williams Chairman of the R&B Foundation reads: “Teena was a true Pioneer of R&B music and a Musical Bridge Builder. She brought people from all walks of life together under the banner of soulful, heartfelt music”. Her amazing voice and classic songs like “Square Biz”, “Lover Girl”, and unforgettable duet “Fire and Desire” with Rick James will continue to be played and enjoyed by the world keeping her presence alive. We were delighted and honored to have her in our presence to accept her well deserved Pioneer Award in 2008; she will truly be missed by us all."
Former Vice President of Motown Records and R&B Foundation Executive Committee member Iris Gordy had this to say in statement: "Presenting the Rhythm & Blues Foundation's 2008 Pioneer Award to Teena Marie, was one of my proudest moments, not only because Teena was most deserving, but because she was like family and I knew how extremely moved she was to have been selected for that particular honor. Teena was a thoughtful, insightful and incredibly sensitive artist who approached life like a knowing soul who had truly "been here before”. Always a fearless songwriter and producer, Teena possessed a uniquely recognizable vocal style. Her artistic light will remain incredibly bright. She was much loved and will be missed beyond measure."
Gamble & Huff Honored in Philly!
PHILADELPHIA — Legendary producer-songwriting team and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees KENNETH GAMBLE and LEON HUFF will be honored by the City of Philadelphia with the renaming of the block of SouthBroad Street they made famous to people all over the world as Gamble & Huff Walk.
The world-renowned pioneering music icons, architects of "The Sound of Philadelphia" will be honored in ceremonies in front of the Philadelphia International Records building, where they created a massive catalogue of 3,000 songs together, including R&B #1 hits, pop #1 hits, 100 gold and platinum records, Grammy winners and BMI songwriters’ award nominees. The block of South Broad Street where the historic building resides is located along the Avenue of the Arts between Spruce and Pine streets, a strip that also includes the Kimmel Center, the University of the Arts and the recently launched TSOP Experience, a live performance venue and souvenir shop that celebrates the Gamble & Huff legacy by showcasing the music of Philadelphia’s rising and established stars.
"We are truly blessed that the City of Philadelphia, which has inspired so many of our message songs throughout the decades, and which we are proud to say has been our home for so many years, feels we are worthy of such an honor," says Gamble & Huff. "This is beyond our wildest dreams. It’s absolutely fantastic."
The Rhythm and Blues Foundation joins in congratulating Mr. Gamble and Mr. Huff on this well-deserved recognition.
TEDDY PENDERGRASS 1950-2010
The Rhythm & Blues Foundation shares the sadness of family, friends and fans in the passing of Teddy Pendergrass. The legendary artist and fellow Foundation Board Member died on January 13 at 59.
Teddy Pendergrass was a one of kind voice and a one of a kind person whose contributions and impact on R&B music cannot measured. His dynamic voice, impeccable style, and warm personality were truly a gift to the world. Teddy was a dear friend and colleague of the R&B Foundation having served diligently on our Board of Directors for several years.
We applaud and cheer Teddy for his life’s work. He was, as one of his many hit songs stated, a “Joy” - he will truly be missed.
Please click below to read more on the life of this talented artist and humanitarian.
Foundation Benefit in Philadelphia - October 28th at Club Adesso
It is fall, and winter is on the way, which means hard times for many. With that in mind, for its grand opening event, Club Adesso, 1519 Walnut Street is hosting a benefit for The Rhythm and Blues Foundation.
The event is to be held on Wednesday October 28, 2009 from 7-10 PM at Club Adessso, a new state-of-the-art dance club. The theme: a disco Halloween party. Billy Paul, famous for Me and Mrs. Jones and hundreds of other songs will appear and a DJ will spin records from (naturally) Gamble and Huff’s extensive 70’s repertoire. Prizes will be awarded for funkiest costume and wildest dancer. Patti Labelle’s autographed magenta stilettos will be auctioned along with other disco memorabilia.
Adesso, which means “now” in Italian, wants to help let the good times roll. At a cost of two million dollars, the five thousand square foot bi-level facility is beyond compare. Locating in a four story historic brownstone, the space is a dance lover’s paradise. It will showcase a hi-tech sound system and DJ booth. Floor to ceiling windows face center city’s most beautiful street and a special VIP section makes for a private yet beautiful setting. “We have been working on building the club for two years. Even though its rough expanding your business now, we have been on Walnut Street for over twenty-five years, and thought Philadelphians would love to see how we have changed and grown” explained Alberto Delbello, Il Portico and Club Adesso owner.
Everything is ultra modern from the two granite topped bars, comfortable leather couches, and recessed lighting to the high-end kitchen facilities on premises. The Club will be featuring special themed dinner and dancing nights, full meals provided by Il Portico, the restaurant downstairs. Il Portico has long been regarded as one of the best Jewish-Italian fine dining establishments in Philadelphia. In conjunction with the club opening, Il Portico will be unveiling a new menu. Valet parking is available.
Come check out Adesso, disco the night away and help those who have made the music that still makes us want to boogie! For further information or to RSVP call: 215 587-7000 or visit www.clubadesso.com.
Johnny Carter of The Dells passes at 75
On their Facebook page, The Dells announce:
"Johnnie Carter of The Dells (known as the world's greatest tenor) passed at 1:00 am. August 21, 2009, from lung cancer.
Johnnie was diagnosed with this dreadful disease, last August while The Dells were appearing in Las Vegas. The Dells refused to perform without Carter, and had been trying to nurse him back to health for one year. We will keep you informed, as to the funeral arrangements.
God decided that it was time for Johnnie to come home, he will be missed.
The Mighty Dells"
Johnny Carter, prior to joining the Dells, was a founding member of The Flamingos, joining them on their classic version of I Only Have Eyes For You. With The Dells, Johnny had the biggest hits of his career, on Oh What A Night and Stay In My Corner.
The Rhythm and Blues Foundation offers sincere sympathies to friends and fans of Johnny Carter.
MICHAEL JACKSON 1958-2009 The Rhythm & Blues Foundation joins the world in mourning.
The Rhythm & Blues Foundation joins the world in mourning the passing of Michael Jackson. His impact on the world of music is immeasurable and incomparable. From the launch of his career as a Motown dynamo, Jackson's vibrant voice and innovative moves thrilled fans the world over.
Although he became known as “The King of Pop,” Jackson’s roots were pure R&B. Iris Gordy, chair of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation's Grants Committee recalls, "From his first moments at Motown, we knew Michael was more than special. The fact that he possessed that profound singing and dancing ability at such a young age was truly amazing. Michael was an astonishing talent. My family and I feel an especially personal loss."
Singing with his brothers and later as a solo artist, Jackson reached unprecedented heights, transcending established concepts of race and musical genre.
"It has to be noted that with Billie Jean, Michael Jackson became the first artist to simultaneously top the R&B single, R&B album, pop album, and pop single charts," comments Foundation board member Kenny Gamble who produced The Jacksons, the group's first album after leaving Motown. “He took R&B into uncharted territory.”
The passing of Michael Jackson brings Black Music Month 2009 to a sad end.
"There will never be another Michael Jackson," said Rhythm & Blues Foundation chairman Kendall Minter. "As a singer, song writer, businessman and, most importantly, as a humanitarian, he left an indelible imprint on the world of entertainment."
The Rhythm & Blues Foundation shares the sadness of family, friends, and fans in the passing of Koko Taylor
R&B legend Koko Taylor left us this week, on Thursday, June 3, 2009, at age 80. Known the world over as the "Queen of the Blues", Ms. Taylor entertained all of us with the power and the passion of her wonderful voice during a magnificent career that spanned six decades. The recipient of multiple Grammy Award nominations, she was perhaps best known for her million-selling version of "Wang Dang Doodle" recorded on Chess Records in 1965. Ms. Taylor was also a R&B Foundation Pioneer Award recipient, honored in 2003.
The Foundation honors her memory, and mourns in her passing.
2008 Pioneer Award Highlights Video
The 2008 Pioneer Awards were, if we do say so ourselves, amazing. The talent, the music, and the history of great artists all came together in one magical evening in the City of Brotherly Love. We wish everyone could have been there. But if you weren't, or you'd like to relive a special night, have a look now at a clip that tells the story of that unforgettable show.
The Foundation shares the sadness of family, friends, and fans in the passing of David
1998 Pioneer Award winner David “Fathead” Newman has passed, too soon, at the age of 75. His contributions to music spanned over 50 years, starting most notably with his long stretch as saxophonist in the original Ray Charles band. His recording career began in 1959, and continued through his most recent release in 2007, “Life”, almost 40 albums in all. And, on works by Herbie Mann, Aretha Franklin, Hank Crawford, and Aaron Neville among many, many others, his signature sax could be heard.
The Rhythm and Blues Foundation honors his achievements and mourns his passing.
Motown Celebrates its 50th Anniversary!
If there was a precise moment that launched the phenomenon that was Motown Records, perhaps it was the day that founder Berry Gordy secured an $800 loan that financed initial business operations. That day, 50 years ago, was celebrated this January in Detroit, with “Motown Day” to honor the beginnings of “The Sound of Young America” and the label that launched the artists and songs that gave so much to the world. The list goes on and on – The Miracles, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Funk Brothers – one fears starting the roll call, lest someone’s favorites be left out!
The Rhythm and Blues Foundation congratulates Berry Gordy on this Anniversary, and all of the writers, musicians, producers, and performers who used their prodigious talents to create, truly, the soundtrack of our lives.
The Rhythm & Blues Foundation shares the sadness of family, friends, and fans in the passing of Levi Stubbs
Levi Stubbles (June 6, 1936 – October 17, 2008), best known by the stage name Levi Stubbs, was the lead vocalist of the legendary Motown R&B group The Four Tops.
Born in Detroit in 1936, Stubbs began his professional singing career with friends Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton, forming a singing group called The Four Aims in 1954. Two years later, after having signed with Chess Records, the group changed their name to the Four Tops - this was to avoid confusion with the then-popular Ames Brothers.
The group signed to Motown Records in 1963 and by the end of the decade, the Four Tops had over a dozen hits to their name. The most popular of the hits, all of which featured Stubbs on lead vocals, include "Baby I Need Your Loving", "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)", "It's the Same Old Song", "Reach Out I'll Be There", "Standing in the Shadows of Love", "Bernadette", "Still Water (Love)", and "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)".
The Four Tops were elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, and have sold over 50 million records worldwide (Information obtained from Wikipedia.com). The Foundation honors his memory, and mourns with you in his passing.
The Nation Buzzes About The R&B Foundation's 20th Anniversary Gala, THE 2008 PIONEER AWARDS
In case you missed it, click the links below for a taste of some recent media coverage on the Pioneer Awards Gala and 20th Anniversary of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation:
*Much more coverage available throughout the web - Just input "R&B Foundation Pioneer Awards" into your choice search engine (Yahoo, AOL, Google, etc.)
- Rolling Out Magazine (Photos) »
- Billboard Online »
- USA Today »
- Miami Herald »
- Philadelphia Daily News I »
- Philadelphia Daily News II »
- NPR Interview with Jerry Butler »
- Star Tribune »
- Boston Globe »
- BlackNews.com »
- Soul-Patrol »
- Marketwire »
- Philadelphia Inquirer I »
- Philadelphia Inquirer II »
Remembering Pervis Jackson, original member of The Spinners
The soundtrack to the 70’s would have been a little dimmer, a little quieter, and a lot less fun if not for The Spinners. The Foundation extends its deepest sympathy to the friends and family of Pervis Jackson, a member of the Spinners throughout the decades. One of the founding members of the group, he was the solid, soulful bass that provided a foundation for the early hits “I’ll Always Love You” and “It’s A Shame” while the group was part of the Motown family. In 1972, The Spinners moved to Atlantic Records, and released the album that made them international stars. “I’ll Be Around”, “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love” and "One of a Kind (Love Affair)” all were on their label debut, all held down by the smooth lines of Pervis Jackson. Later, on the hit single “Games People Play”, Pervis got his starring role with the simple lines “12:45” and “I took my time”, and they became his signature for years in live performances. Mr. Jackson is survived by his wife, Claudreen, four children, and eight grandchildren. But his music, and his memory, live on…
The Rhythm & Blues Foundation shares the sadness of family, friends, and fans in the passing of Jerry Wexler
Gerald "Jerry" Wexler (January 10, 1917 – August 15, 2008) was a music journalist turned music producer, and was regarded as one of the major record industry players behind music from the 1950s through the 1980s. He coined the term "rhythm and blues", and was integral in signing and/or producing many of the biggest acts of the last 50 years, including Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Led Zeppelin, Wilson Pickett, Dusty Springfield and Bob Dylan. Wexler was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. During his time as an editor, reporter, and writer for Billboard Magazine, Wexler coined the term "rhythm and blues." He became a partner in Atlantic Records in 1953. There followed classic recordings with Ray Charles, the Drifters and Ruth Brown. With Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegün, he built up Atlantic Records into a major force. In 1967 he was named Record Executive of the Year for turning Aretha Franklin's career around. He also cultivated a tight relationship with Stax Records, was an enormous proponent of the then-developing Muscle Shoals Sound and founded the fortunes of Muscle Shoals Sound Studios and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. His work in this decade put Atlantic at the forefront of soul music. (From Wikipedia.com) The Foundation honors his memory, and mourns with you in his passing.
The Rhythm & Blues Foundation shares the sadness of family, friends, and fans in the passing of Isaac Hayes
If you only knew Isaac Hayes as a radio personality, and the voice of “Chef” in “South Park”, you didn’t know half of the talent and history that was lost yesterday when he passed, too young, at the age of 65. A talented musician and composer, Isaac Hayes was an accomplished hitmaker even before he won multiple Grammies and an Oscar for his seminal soundtrack to “Shaft” in 1972. He had already teamed with co-writer David Porter to write songs that stand today among the greatest to come from the era, among them “Soul Man” and “Hold On, I’m Comin’”. And, as a solo artist, he had already become a major success with his LP, “Hot Buttered Soul”, which featured an 18-minute version of Jimmy Webb’s “By The Time I Get to Phoenix” that became known for Isaac’s extended “rap”. “Phoenix” became a late-night staple of the free-form FM radio that had become popular in the late 60’s, and this underground hit launched a solo career that would span 40 years. Truly a Pioneer, Isaac Hayes was honored as such by the Foundation in 1999. We, along with all of you, honor his memory and mourn his passing.
MEDIA ONLY: 2008 Pioneer Awards
The Rhythm & Blues Foundation shares the sadness of family, friends, and fans in the passing of Bo Diddley
R&B legend Bo Diddley left us yesterday, June 2, 2008 at the age of 79. A true innovator, he was the creator of a rhythm and a sound that inspired the development of generations of musicians. Honored by NARAS with a Lifetime Achievement Award, and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Bo Diddley was also a R&B Foundation Pioneer Award recipient, honored in 1996. His work inspired the entire spectrum of rhythm-based music, and his early fans included The Beatles and The Rolling Stones; his signature groove remained the backbeat of hundreds of hit recordings, used by artists ranging in styles and eras from Buddy Holly to George Michael. And none of us may live long enough to see his influence diminish, so strongly is his imprint woven into the fabric of the music. The Foundation honors his memory, and mourns in his passing.
In the beginning...
…there was The Groove. It came up from the earth, and from the heart, and in the souls and the voices and the rhythm and the blues. And it was good. And there was Ruth Brown, and there was Solomon Burke. And there was Jackie Wilson and there was Otis Redding and there was Laverne Baker and there was Ben E. King. And it was very good. And there was Aretha Franklin and there was James Brown and there was Little Richard. And it was BAD… in a good way. And the people danced and forgot their troubles, thanks to The Groove and the artists that brought it to life...
R&B Foundation newsletter
R&B Foundation receives generous donation from the Argus Fund!
Thanks to the efforts of Board Member Judy Tint, the R&B Foundation received a generous $100,000 donation from The Argus Fund! The funds will be used to support the foundation’s operations, replenish the Doc Pomus Fund and renew Performance Grant opportunities.