Category: Artist Information

Profile: Godmother of Soul Patti LaBelle

You can’t mention R&B music without mentioning the likes of living legend Patti LaBelle. Hailed as the ‘Godmother of Soul,’ the 74-year-old continues gracing stages and giving 100% for 90 minutes singing to her full potential in heels while interacting with adoring fans. She has spent more than 50 years in the game recording R&B songs that have laid down the soundtrack to many of our lives.

Early Career

She began her career as part of the Ordettes in 1959, who became The Bluebelles in 1961. The BlueBelles earned national fame at The Apollo Theater in Harlem. Thy remade songs such as “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

 

 

Their ballad, “Down the Aisle (The Wedding Song)” became a top 40 hit.  In the early 70s the group revamped their image and changed their name to the edgy LaBelle and pushed fashion limits with thick soled shoes and glam rock inspired outfits. In 1974, they released the album Nightbirds and the first single off the album “Lady Marmalade” became the group’s first number one hit in over a decade.

LaBelle not only contributed to America’s soundtrack, the group broke barriers by becoming the first group to play at the Metropolitan Opera House, and becoming the first black vocal group to land the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. However, despite the increasing amount of success, tensions in the group led to a split in 1977.

Patti LaBelle Goes Solo

Later that year, Patti LaBelle released her solo debut album Patti LaBelle, followed by Tasty in 1978, and Released in 1980. LaBelle recorded the ballad “The Best is Yet to Come” in 1982 with Grover Washington which reached number 14 on the R&B chart and garnered her first solo GRAMMY Award nomination.

In 1983, LaBelle released her breakthrough album, I’m in Love Again, which included her first top ten R&B singles, “Love, Need and Want You,” and “If Only You Knew.”

She racked up some hit duets with Bobby Womack on the song “Love Has Finally Come at Last,” and a number one hit with “On My Own,” with Michael MacDonald.

Through the 80s, LaBelle would continue churning out hits including, “New Attitude,” “Stir it Up,” and “If You Asked Me To.”

In 1991, LaBelle received her first GRAMMY Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for the album Burnin. The album had three Billboard top 5 R&B hits including “Feels Like Another One,” “Somebody Loves You Baby (You Know Who It Is)” and “When You’ve Been Blessed (Feels Like Heaven).”

In 1993, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The singer also continued releasing popular albums throughout the 90s, including Gems (1994), Flame (1997), and Live! One Night Only (1998)—which won LaBelle her a second Grammy.

Back to the Foundation

In 2008, LaBelle reunited with her former LaBelle members Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash to release the album Back to Now, their first as a group in over 30 years.

For her 19th solo album, the songstress opted to try a different genre, jazz. In 2017, she released Bel Hommage. The thirteen-track album pays tribute to some of the legends of Jazz. “It’s a beautiful tribute to artists like Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, Shirley Horn and many others. I’m paying homage to them,” LaBelle revealed in an interview with Essence.

Continued Success

The musical icon was honored by the National Museum of African American Music during its fourth annual My Music Matters: A Celebration of Legends Luncheon in Nashville, Tennessee in 2017. She was honored alongside Kirk Franklin, Teddy Riley, and David Porter for their contributions to the music industry.

In addition to her more than 50-year successful career as a singer, LaBelle has written several books and starred in numerous stage and screen productions.

In 2019, LaBelle is still a commanding stage presence as her voice soars and she takes audiences through her vast discography during her shows. Seeing her on stage at the Blumenthal Performing Arts in Charlotte, North Carolina, proves that Ms. LaBelle still has it as she belts out the same songs she’s been doing for years, yet somehow, they sound even better as time goes on. “My voice is stronger now than when I was 30,” Labelle told the Fort Meyers News Press.  She added, “I don’t smoke. I don’t drink crazy, I don’t do drugs. I’m pretty boring, really to be honest. I’m not going to mess up my instrument, you know, by doing anything cuckoo.” It’s evident as the entire theater gives the Godmother of Soul a standing ovation after she belts out every single song.

She has sold more than 50 million records over the span of her career and Labelle shows no signs of slowing down as she continues contributing to America’s soundtrack and inspiring singers from every generation.

About the Author

Shameika Rhymes
Shameika Rhymes

Shameika Rhymes is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and has written for outlets like ET Online, ESSENCE, EBONY Magazine, JETMag.com, Shondaland.com, SoulTrain.com, WEtv.com and her own website, www.themofochronicles.com. Follow her on Twitter @Mofochronicles @WriterShameika

Jazz Pioneer Buddy Bolden’s Story Heads to the Big Screen

Jazz music is another layer of the foundation of America’s soundtrack. Charles “Buddy” Bolden is said to be the first musician to ever play jazz music, but whether he is or not, it’s clear that his contributions to the genre helped form the jazz movement. Many jazz musicians, including Jelly Roll Morton and the trumpeter Louis Armstrong, proclaimed him to be one of the most powerful musicians ever to play jazz. The birth of jazz begat the birth of American popular culture from Armstrong to Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Fugees, and Dr. Dre. Bolden is credited as the one that laid down that foundation.

Bolden’s Impact on Jazz

Bolden was born September 6, 1877 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Bolden began playing the coronet, which is an instrument similar to the trumpet, when he was a teenager. He joined a small New Orleans band where he honed his musician skills. He later went on to create his own band, that is considered to be the first group to play what would later be called jazz music. The group played a variety of genres including, blues, waltzes, ragtime, and other popular songs of the time period.  Bolden cemented his reputation in the industry by using the power of his horn to put listeners into a trance or get them to dance into a frenzy. He made the songs his own by playing blues songs at medium tempos, sprinkled with racy lyrics. He took the blues and mixed it with gospel inflections for a more rhythmic feel, and the result was a new sound that spread throughout New Orleans.

The Buddy Bolden Band, 1905.

The Buddy Bolden Band consisted of cornet, guitar, trombone, bass, two clarinets, and drums. From 1900 to 1906, the Buddy Bolden Band had top billing in New Orleans. Bolden became known as the moniker “King” Bolden.  According to NewOrleans.com, songs first associated with his band include “Careless Love,” “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It,” “Get Out of Here and Go Home,” and “Funk Butt.”

Bolden’s Decline

Things started to spiral out of control for Bolden in 1906. He suffered from depression and his alcohol usage brought on bouts of paranoia, including a fear of his own coronet, and severe headaches. His last public appearance was in 1907 with the Eagle Band at the New Orleans Labor Day Parade. During the parade he began screaming and suffered what seemingly looked like a nervous breakdown. NewOrleans.com says he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and admitted to the Louisiana State Insane Asylum at the age of 30. He remained there until his death nearly 25 years later on November 4, 1931.

Bolden’s Legacy

Actor Reno Wilson portraying Louis Armstrong in the film BOLDEN.

On May 3, 2019, the first ever film inspired by the jazz legend, BOLDEN, will be released in theaters nationwide. The film stars Gary Carr, Yaya DaCosta, Reno Wilson, Erik LaRay Harvey, and Ian McShane with music written, arranged, and performed by acclaimed jazz musician Wynton Marsalis and directed by Dan Pritzker.

The film’s stars recreated the only photo left of Buddy Bolden and his band.

While his musical life was cut short, and there’s not much left of his actual recordings today, Bolden was and still is lauded as a musical genius of his time that inspired the likes of jazz artists that followed in his footsteps.

About the Author

Shameika Rhymes
Shameika Rhymes

Shameika Rhymes is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and has written for outlets like ET Online, ESSENCE, EBONY Magazine, JETMag.com, Shondaland.com, SoulTrain.com, WEtv.com and her own website, www.themofochronicles.com. Follow her on Twitter @Mofochronicles @WriterShameika

T.I. Gets Personal on His Tenth Studio Album

Trap music is another layer that makes America’s soundtrack. It’s referred to as a brand of southern street hustler rap, featuring synthesizer sounds, booming bass and 808 drums. The sub-genre focuses on lyrics about selling drugs, street violence, and the police.

One of the innovators of the sub-genre trap music, is rapper T.I. Earlier this year, Tip Harris staked his claim as the inventor of the popular sound. He claimed the music started with his 2003 album Trap Muzik. Trap music is described as a lifestyle and the term “trap” is short for “trap house,” which is where drug dealers operate out of.

With his 10th and most recent studio album, Dime Trap, T.I. goes deeper into the halls of trap music, the philosophy, and the future of it.

On “The Weekend,” he describes the album as a “Ted Talk for hustlers,” saying it shouldn’t be limited to lyrics about cooking in the trap house or dealing with the police, but instead anything from a hustler’s life, from falling in love, to having a child, can be rapped about. He closes the track out by stating that trap music doesn’t have to be one-dimensional.

Tip’s new music takes on that philosophy by diving into his personal life as a married man with a rocky relationship, six kids, and handling it in the public eye. On the album, T.I. berates himself for his failures as a husband and being a bad example to his kids. He taps into his vulnerable side with a realization that he had someone there by his side the entire time. In an interview with Apple Beats Music, the rapper revealed his reasoning for discussing his personal issues. “I’ve always kind of shied away from even speaking on those types of topics in my music,” T.I. added. “I felt like this is a time where the music is dope. I just felt that I had to lay it out, I had to put my cards face up on the table.”

The rest of the album touches on themes of positive vibes with T.I. reflecting on the joy in his life, and his evolution of trap music takes him down the sentimental road while he maintains his hard edge as the “King of the South.” He has some collaborations on the album including the song “Jefe” with Meek Mill that features a Latin feel. He also has songs featuring Yo Gotti, Anderson .Paak, Young Thug, Jeezy, YFN Lucci, and Teyana Taylor to name a few.

The album boasts a variety of lyrical content that pushes the limits of trap music and showcases Tip’s ability to infuse his maturity and vulnerability into an album that is a worthy contribution to America’s hip hop soundtrack.

About the Author

Shameika Rhymes
Shameika Rhymes

Shameika Rhymes is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and has written for outlets like ET Online, ESSENCE, EBONY Magazine, JETMag.com, Shondaland.com, SoulTrain.com, WEtv.com and her own website, www.themofochronicles.com. Follow her on Twitter @Mofochronicles @WriterShameika

Profile: Tamia

In 1998, songbird Tamia took the music industry by storm with her angelic voice that can tackle anything from R&B, neo-soul, gospel, jazz, and hip hop. America’s soundtrack wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Tamia’s contributions. This year, Tamia is celebrating some career milestones including her 20th anniversary in the industry, her hit single “So Into You” turned 20 years old, and she released her 7th album, Passion Like Fire. On her website, the singer talks about how her musical anniversary is still inspiring her. “After 20 years I continue to be inspired by the places I visit and the people I meet, which allows me to include a piece of my experiences in the art I create.”

Tamia Rising Star

Tamia’s first big break came when she collaborated with the legendary Quincy Jones on the Q’s Jook Joint album in 1998 with the hit single, “You Put a Move on My Heart.”

Following the success of that album, she released her self-titled debut album, which earned her two GRAMMY nominations, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for “You’ve Put A Move On My Heart;” Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group with Vocal for “Slow Jams” featuring Babyface, and Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for her work with Brandy, Gladys Knight and Chaka Khan on the single “Missing You” from the Set It Off movie soundtrack.

In an interview with the L.A. Times, Tamia noted that she loves seeing just how timeless the song “So Into You” is 20 years later with newer artists performing covers.

“I’ve loved seeing other artists perform it over the years. Childish Gambino did a cover. I just saw Kehlani perform it and she’s only 23. It’s like the people playing my stuff back when “You Put a Move on My Heart” came out and the first album, now their kids are listening to it too. I’m not that old myself, so it’s a pretty amazing feeling to know that you have a song that has stood the test of time,” she told the L.A. Times.

Hitting Her Stride and Influencing Music Culture

In early 2000, Tamia kept hitting her stride by winning an NAACP Image Award for her classic hit “Spend My Life with You” with R&B singer Eric Benet. The song was also nominated for a GRAMMY.

Tamia’s fifth studio album Beautiful Surprise garnered two more GRAMMY nominations in 2013. On the album the singer explored a multitude of genres showcasing her artist creativity. Her 2015 album Love Life is her highest charting album to date, reaching the top of the Billboard R&B chart.

Tamia is also the founder of her own label, Plus 1 Music Group and has released her albums Between Friends, Greatest Hits, Beautiful Surprise, and her newest album, Passion Like Fire. After 20 years in the business, Tamia attributes her longevity and success to a key element; songwriting. “It started with getting involved in the writing process. I have to be out here selling this music, it has to come from me. I have to be able to connect with it, and it starts with being a part of the writing process,” she told the L.A. Times. The current single “Leave it Smokin’” is a sultry smooth single that has been climbing the Billboard charts.

NMAAM Celebrations of Legends Gala

Earlier this year, Tamia was one of the featured tribute artists for the fifth annual Celebration of Legends Gala at War Memorial Auditorium. She paid tribute to gospel singer Yolanda Adams, and told NMAAM on the red carpet that Yolanda was one of her influences.

“I am a part of the Yolanda Adams tribute and she has inspired me so much over the years. Music is such an amazing thing, it touches the soul, it speaks heart to heart, and it’s very important to just give them their roses,” said Tamia.

Here’s to hoping the six time GRAMMY nominee will continue making music for 20 more years and contributing to America’s soundtrack, and inspiring artists of the present and future.

You can learn more about NMAAM events by visiting our website.

About the Author

Shameika Rhymes
Shameika Rhymes

Shameika Rhymes is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and has written for outlets like ET Online, ESSENCE, EBONY Magazine, JETMag.com, Shondaland.com, SoulTrain.com, WEtv.com and her own website, www.themofochronicles.com. Follow her on Twitter @Mofochronicles @WriterShameika

Profile: Leon Bridges

America’s soundtrack isn’t complete without mentioning newer acts that are putting their stamp on the R&B/Soul genre. Leon Bridges looks and sounds like a throwback to the 60s era with his permed wavy hair, and a voice that has prompted comparisons to legends like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. The Texas native told GQ in an interview earlier this year that he doesn’t want to be compared to Cooke because his style is different. “”I wanna shine,” he told GQ. “Of course, the inspiration’s there, but you know, my music, my writing is nothing like Sam Cooke.” His first album, Coming Home in 2015, had a 60s musical vibe to it, but Bridges told GQ the structures and compositions weren’t something you would have heard in that decade.

The Making of an R&B Star

 The R&B star, born as Todd Michael Bridges, honed his musical talent performing in and around his native Fort Worth, Texas. He gained industry interest with his SoundCloud uploads of multiple recordings. He eventually signed to Columbia Records, where he released his debut album. Coming Home debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 and was nominated for a GRAMMY for Best R&B Album.

The video for one of the album’s singles “River” was also nominated.

 “Better Man” was also featured in the 2018 film Pacific Rim Uprising.

Influencing the Next Generation of Musicians

In 2016, Bridges took on a role as a collaborator by co-writing and being featured on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Kevin,” and Kacey Musgraves’, “Present Without a Bow.” He also recorded “On My Own” with Lecrae for Birth of a Nation: The Inspired by Album and recorded twice with Gary Clark Jr., on a collaborative cover of Neil Young’s “Ohio.”

 In 2018, Bridges released “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand,” “Bad Bad News,” and then “Beyond” as the first singles off his second album, Good Thing which hit the Top Ten.

Impact on America’s Soundtrack

His new album Good Thing is a newer more contemporary sound that remixes Bridges soulful signature with the R&B of today. In an interview with NPR, Bridges assures his fans that he hasn’t departed from his sound, “I came into the whole music industry with this retro sound. That’s still a part of me,” Bridges says. “But that doesn’t totally define who I am as an artist.”

Whatever direction Bridges goes in from here, he’s still weaving his soulful contribution into America’s soundtrack. You can learn more about Leon Bridges and others African Americans who are influencing the music industry by visiting the NMAAM website.

About the Author

Shameika Rhymes
Shameika Rhymes

Shameika Rhymes is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and has written for outlets like ET Online, ESSENCE, EBONY Magazine, JETMag.com, Shondaland.com, SoulTrain.com, WEtv.com and her own website, www.themofochronicles.com. Follow her on Twitter @Mofochronicles @WriterShameika

Remembering Aaliyah

This week marks the untimely death of Aaliyah. America’s soundtrack wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the late rising star’s musical impact on R&B. Aaliyah Haughton was born on January 16, 1979 in Brooklyn, New York, but was raised in Detroit, Michigan. At the age of 11, the young singer competed on the television show Star Search, but didn’t walk away with a win.

However, later that year, she performed with the legendary Gladys Knight who was the former wife of her uncle and manager, Barry Hankerson, at a stint in Las Vegas.

Becoming a Musical Legend

At 15 years old, Aaliyah took the industry by storm with her 1994 debut album Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number, produced by R. Kelly.

The album sold over a million copies and earned platinum status based on the success of two hit singles form the record, “Back and Forth,” and her rendition of the Isley Brothers’ hit, “At Your Best (You Are Love).”

While still in high school, Aaliyah released her sophomore album, One in a Million in 1996, produced by dynamic duo Timbaland and Missy Elliott. The album showcased her maturity along with a seductive edge with laid back hip hop beats.

The album sold two million copies.  The first single, “If Your Girl Only Knew,” went double platinum and contains Timbaland’s signature syncopated beats and Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott’s lyrics. “4 Page Letter” and “Hot Like Fire” were also hits.

 

 

Landing in the Musical Spotlight

Aaliyah landed in the spotlight in 1997 when she recorded “Journey to the Past,” the Academy Award nominated theme song for the film Anastasia. She performed the song during the 1998 Oscars.

On her next soundtrack effort, “Are You That Somebody?” for the 1998 film Dr. Dolittle, starring Eddie Murphy, went to number one on the R&B charts and earned Aaliyah her first GRAMMY nomination.

In 2000, the singer made her acting debut in the film Romeo Must Die, opposite martial arts star Jet Li in a Romeo and Juliet inspired story. She was the executive producer of the movie’s soundtrack and performed the hit, “Try Again,” which landed her another GRAMMY nomination as well as two MTV Music Awards for Best Female Video and Best Video from a Film.

In July 2001, her third album Aaliyah was released and reached number 2 on the Billboard album chart.  It sold 2.4 million copies worldwide. Aaliyah featured the smash singles “We Need a Resolution,” “More Than A Woman,” and “Rock the Boat”. The same year, she was working on the film Queen of the Damned, and signed on to appear in two upcoming sequels of the blockbuster thriller, The Matrix.

 

The Death of an R&B Star

Then tragedy struck. August 25, 2001, 22-year-old Aaliyah was killed when a small Cessna passenger plane carrying the star and her video crew crashed and burst into flames shortly after takeoff in the Bahamas. They had just finished working on her video “Rock the Boat.” Aaliyah and seven others, including the pilot are believed to have died instantly, and a ninth passenger passed away later at a hospital.

At the end of 2002, the posthumous album, I Care 4 U, hit the charts at number three; it mixed some of the singer’s biggest hits with a selection of unreleased material. The title track was a Top 20 pop hit, and “Miss You” topped the R&B charts early the next year.

Aaliyah’s Contemporaries

Even 17 years later, Aaliyah’s musical impact is still being felt from her cutting-edge style to being ahead of her contemporaries by not being afraid of taking chances on a new sound. Her music has been sampled by Drake, Jennifer Lopez, Kendrick Lamar, Jay Z,  The Weeknd and many more over the years.  While it’s impossible to know whether the nicknamed, “Baby Girl” would have ended up following the trends that surfaced in the industry after her death, but one thing is for certain, her music is timeless and still lives on.

Nashville Music Museum

For more information on African American musicians, producers, and industry leaders, visit NMAAM.

About the Author

Shameika Rhymes
Shameika Rhymes

Shameika Rhymes is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and has written for outlets like ET Online, ESSENCE, EBONY Magazine, JETMag.com, Shondaland.com, SoulTrain.com, WEtv.com and her own website, www.themofochronicles.com. Follow her on Twitter @Mofochronicles @WriterShameika

Remembering the Queen of Soul: Aretha Franklin

The world has lost an icon that shaped the genre known as soul. Aretha Franklin passed away August 16 at the age of 76. America’s soundtrack wouldn’t be complete without the soulful vocal stylings of Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Soul broke barriers and paved the way for those following in her footsteps. Her voice was the epitome of gospel, soul, and the blues all rolled into one making her one of the greatest singers of all time.

Aretha Franklin was born on March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee and grew up in Detroit to Baptist preacher, Reverend Clarence LaVaughn “C.L.” Franklin and gospel singer Barbara Siggers Franklin. By the time she was 10, her mother passed away and the family relocated to Detroit, Michigan where C.L. began preaching at New Bethel Baptist Church where he gained national recognition.  His services were broadcast locally and in other urban markets around the country, and 60 of his sermons, including the legendary “The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest,” were released in album form. Aretha got the best musical education with some of the greatest vocalists of the gospel genre that were frequent guests at the Franklin household. Aretha and her siblings great up listening to Clara Ward, Mahalia Jackson, and James Cleveland.

Making African American Musical History

Starting at an early age, Aretha began singing at her father’s church and by the age of 14, her first recordings turned up on an album called SpiritualsSpirituals was released locally on the J.V.B. label in 1956 and re-released on the Battle label in 1962. Aretha’s five tracks formed the basis of the 1964 album Songs of Faith: The Gospel Sound of Aretha Franklin, issued on Checker Records, with additional material recorded by Franklin at services in other locations. She performed with C.L’s traveling revival show and became friends with Sam Cooke. Although gospel music was her foundation, Franklin also drew her musical prowess from blues and jazz legends such as Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, and Sarah Vaughn to help develop her own vocal stylings. She was also inspired by Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, and Nat King Cole, Lavern Baker, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. With a diverse range of influences, Franklin was able to fuse them all together to speak to the world in her own voice that defined soul music. Before she signed with Atlantic, she spent six years at Columbia Records. She was signed to the label in 1960 by John Hammond, the label’s legendary producer and talent scout, who’d heard a demo she cut in New York.

Inspiring a New Wave of Artists

In an interview with SoulTracks, Sam Cooke’s younger brother L.C. Cooke talked about writing Aretha Franklin’s song “Once in a While (Please Answer Me).  “I was on my way to record in Atlanta, Georgia. So, I had just gotten out the shower, and had a towel wrapped around me. Aretha Franklin had stopped by, so I came out singing that song, she asked me what it was and I told her it was something I wrote. Aretha sat on my bed and cried until I gave her that song. That girl sat there and literally cried until I said I’ll let you record it. She said, “you can write another song, I just love that song.  So, I said okay, you can have it,” said L.C.

Meanwhile Franklin’s tenure at Columbia yielded nine R&B hits  including “Today I Sing the Blues” and “Runnin’ Out of Fools.” She also scored some pop crossover hits including “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody” and “Won’t Be Long.”  The songs were were far removed from the fiery, gospel-tinged soul for which she would become known.

Jerry Wexler signed Franklin when her contract with Columbia expired. With her switch to Atlantic in 1966, Aretha proceeded to revolutionize soul music with some of the genre’s greatest recordings. Her reign began with her first Atlantic single, “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Loved You),” a performance that unleashed the full force of Franklin’s mezzo-soprano.

Offering call-and-response background vocals on this and other tracks were Aretha’s sisters, Carolyn and Erma. The Sweet Inspirations, a Memphis-based vocal quartet that included Cissy Houston, also contributed background vocals to Franklin’s work in the studio and onstage.

Aretha Franklin and America’s Soundtrack

Franklin’s most significant contribution to America’s soundtrack landed in the form of “Respect,” which was her soulful take on the Otis Redding penned song.

The song reached number one on both the R&B and Pop charts, earning Franklin her first two GRAMMYS. It was the opening song on 1967’s I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You. Other songs from the album included “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” “Dr. Feelgood” and her cover of “A Change Is Gonna Come,” Sam Cooke’s civil rights-era anthem.

Her next three albums; Aretha Arrives (1967), Lady Soul (1968) and Aretha Now (1968)—included “Chain of Fools,” “Think,” “Baby, I Love You,” “Since You’ve Been Gone (Sweet Sweet Baby)” and a soulful rendering of Carole King’s “A Natural Woman (You Make Me Feel Like).”

Her fifth Atlantic album, Aretha in Paris (1968) was recorded live in Europe. In 1968, she was hailed the Queen of Soul when legendary deejay Pervis Spann, the Blues Man, placed a crown on her head during a performance in Chicago. In 1968, Franklin performed at the funeral of her father’s friend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., where she paid tribute to him with a stirring rendition of “Precious Lord.”

In the 1970s, Franklin saw even more success as she released albums Spirit in the Dark (1970), Aretha Live at Fillmore West (1971), Young, Gifted and Black (1972) and Amazing Grace (1972). Spirit in the Dark featured five songs written by Franklin, which was more than on any album she released. Her 14th album You was released in 1975 and her tenure with Atlantic Records came to an end in 1979 after 19 albums. Franklin won eight consecutive GRAMMY Awards for Best R&B Female Vocal Performance, the last one for her 1974 single, “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing.”

That same year her father was shot during a home robbery and went into a coma and never recovered. Aretha’s next home was Arista Records. In 1982, she released Jump to It, produced by Luther Vandross, earning another GRAMMY nomination.

In 1985 Franklin returned to the top of the charts with another hit album: the pop record Who’s Zoomin’ Who? Featuring the single “Freeway of Love,” as well as a collaboration with the band The Eurythmics, making that record one of Aretha’s biggest-selling albums. In 1987, Franklin became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

That same year, she released the album One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, which won the GRAMMY for Best Soul Gospel Performance. Franklin scored the second number one pop hit of her career, “I Knew You Were Waiting (for Me),” a duet with George Michael.

Continuing Her Reign as a Musical Influence

In 1993, she was invited to sing at former President Bill Clinton’s inauguration and the following year she received both a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award and Kennedy Center Honors. She also later stood in for Luciano Pavarotti, who was too ill to accept his Lifetime Achievement Award, with her rendition of “Nessun Dorma.”

In 1998, Franklin was back on the charts with A Rose Is Still a Rose which was written and produced by Lauryn Hill.

In 2003, Franklin released her final studio album on Arista, So Damn Happy, and left the label to found Aretha Records. Two years later, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and became the second woman ever to be inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame. In 2008 she received her 18th GRAMMY Award for “Never Gonna Break My Faith,” a collaboration with Mary J. Blige.

She was also invited to sing at the 2009 inauguration of former President Barack Obama.

In 2011 Franklin released her first album on her own label, A Woman Falling Out of Love. In 2014, Franklin released Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics which reached number three on the R&B charts.

Celebrating Her Achievements for African Americans in Music History

Franklin was able to stay relevant and have hits over the course of her six-decade career crafting a sound and foundation that music in the future will follow forever. Over the course of her career, she earned 44 GRAMMY nominations, 18 GRAMMY Awards, and many more accolades. While her music lives on, the spirit and soul of Aretha Franklin will continue to be celebrated for years to come. Rest in peace Queen of Soul. We thank you for the soulful music, Aretha Franklin!

About the Author

Shameika Rhymes
Shameika Rhymes

Shameika Rhymes is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and has written for outlets like ET Online, ESSENCE, EBONY Magazine, JETMag.com, Shondaland.com, SoulTrain.com, WEtv.com and her own website, www.themofochronicles.com. Follow her on Twitter @Mofochronicles @WriterShameika

Profile: Faith Evans

Multi-platinum GRAMMY Award winning R&B singer Faith Evans has contributed to America’s soundtrack for over two decades. With eight studio albums, over 18 million albums sold, and over 30 singles released, it’s evident why Faith Evans is being honored at this year’s Black Music Honors with the Urban Music Icon Award.

Soulful African American Music Vocals

With her powerful soulful vocals and talent for songwriting and record production, Faith is known as the ‘First Lady of Bad Boy’ after Sean “Puffy” Combs signed her to his influential Bad Boy Records label in 1994. That same year, she married Christopher Wallace, the Notorious B.I.G.

Faith was three years old when she first sang in public, she belted out “Let the Sunshine In” from the musical “Hair” to her church congregation. When she was 14, she sang in a touring gospel group, The Spiritual Uplifters, that performed in New York, Philadelphia, and Connecticut. After graduating from high school in the early 90s, Faith found regular session work, singing background vocals on demo tapes for artists like Al B. Sure! And Christopher Williams, which eventually caught the eye of Sean Combs. That led her to co-write lyrics for Mary J. Blige, and songs for Usher’s self-titled debut album in 1994.

Faith Evans Generating Musical Hits

Evans released her debut album Faith in 1995. It was an album she had written or co-written on almost every song yielding four singles including “You Used to Love Me” and “Soon as I Get Home.”

Her second album, Keep the Faith was released in 1998 and garnered two Top 10 hits “Love Like This” and “All Night Long.”

 

Her third album Faithfully was released in 2001, her last for Bad Boy, and she collaborated with the Neptunes, Mario Winans, Havoc, and Battlecat.

After parting ways with Bad Boy, she signed with Capitol Records to release her fourth album, The First Lady in 2005. Faith has three Platinum certified albums including FaithKeep the Faith, and Faithfully.

She also released her holiday album, A Faithful Christmas. In 2008, Faith added New York Times Best Selling author to her resume with her book Keep the Faith: A Memoir with Aliya King.

Evans took a hiatus before returning to the industry in 2010 with her own music label, Prolific Music Group. She released her fifth album Something About Faith that same year.

In 2012, Faith co-created, executive produced, and starred in TV One’s reality show, “R&B Divas.”  In 2014, Faith released her another studio album Incomparable on her label.

In 2016, Faith hit the road with the acclaimed “Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour” playing to thousands of fans across the country. In 2017, Faith released a duets album with the Notorious B.I.G. called The King & I.

NMAAM Nashville

Faith Evans continues to make an impact on the music industry both with her singing and songwriting inspiring and paving the way for artists to follow in her footsteps. The National Museum of African American Music is a captivating experience celebrating inspirational names like Evans.

You can learn more about our exhibitions and artifacts by visiting our website.

About the Author

Shameika Rhymes
Shameika Rhymes

Shameika Rhymes is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and has written for outlets like ET Online, ESSENCE, EBONY Magazine, JETMag.com, Shondaland.com, SoulTrain.com, WEtv.com and her own website, www.themofochronicles.com. Follow her on Twitter @Mofochronicles @WriterShameika

Profile: Bobby Brown

When you think of R&B group New Edition and New Jack Swing, the name Bobby Brown is synonymous with both. With a receipt of hits, and a career that paved the way for many artists and entertainers today, it’s evident why the singer/songwriter dubbed the “King of R&B” will be honored at this year’s Black Music Honors as the R&B Soul Music Icon Award recipient.

Brown got his start singing in the church choir, and at the age of 12, he formed a group with his friends Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Ralph Tresvant, and Ronnie DeVoe. Under the name New Edition, they won several talent shows and was eventually discovered by talent scout Maurice Starr who landed them a recording contract. In 1983, the group released their debut album, Candy Girl, which was a collection of songs that made the boy group the next coming of the Jackson 5.

The group went on to release hits like “Candy Girl,” “Mr. Telephone Man,” and “Cool it Now.”

Brown left the group in 1986 to pursue what would become an iconic solo career. In December 1986, Brown released his first solo album, King of Stage, with the ballad, “Girlfriend,” but it failed to push him into the spotlight he craved.

Reinventing the R&B Singer

With a reinvention as an adult artist, and he turned to acclaimed songwriters/producers Teddy Riley, L.A. Reid, and Babyface to help craft his new sound. The result was a project that shed his “bubblegum” image. It was released in 1988, a new R&B album called Don’t Be Cruel, that sold over eight million copies and had five top charted songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles including the single, “My Prerogative.”

The bestselling album made Brown a leader of the new jack swing genre.  Brown also won his first GRAMMY in 1990 for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for “Every Little Step.” His energetic high-powered performances became part of his signature.

Don’t Be Cruel also garnered Brown two American Music Awards, a Soul Train Music Award, and a People’s Choice Award.

The album’s success landed him two spots on the Ghostbusters II soundtrack, including the hit “On Our Own,” and a cameo in the 1989 film.

Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston

In 1992, the proclaimed ‘bad boy’ married Pop princess Whitney Houston, and together they had a daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown. His album Bobby was released in 1992, selling more than three million copies, spawning several hits including “Humpin’ Around,” “Get Away,” and “Good Enough.”

He won his second GRAMMY for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for “Humpin’ Around.” He and Whitney recorded a song “Something in Common” that was released as a single from the Bobby album. Brown released his fourth solo album Forever in 1997.

In 1996, Brown rejoined the group New Edition for their reunion album, Home Again.

In 2012, Brown released his fifth album The Masterpiece and married his manager Alicia Etheredge-Brown and together they formed their production company Brown Ribbon Entertainment. The couple is currently working with BET and Jesse Collins Entertainment for his self-titled mini-series, “The Bobby Brown Story” to be released in September.

African Americans and America’s Musical Culture

Brown’s musical impact on the stage with his intense choreography, energetic moves, and the art of music seduction can be seen in many of the artists that followed in his footsteps.

You can learn more about the influence Brown and others have made by visiting NMAAM in Nashville.

Profile: Linda Martell

African Americans have contributed to many facets of America’s soundtrack. One area that isn’t discussed as much is the contributions to the country genre. It’s a widely known fact that country legend Charley Pride came on the scene in 1966 and became the first black country artist to experience country music success. Pride was the first black country singer to perform on the Grand Ole Opry. What seems to have gotten lost in the history books is who the first Black woman was to perform on the show. Linda Martell, was the first black woman to appear on the Grand Ole Opry in 1969.

America’s First Black Country Artist

Martell was born in South Carolina in 1941 where she developed an appreciation for country, blues, jazz, and R&B music. At the age of 5 she began singing in the church choir and performing R&B songs with a small group around Columbia, South Carolina that included shows at the Charleston Air Force Base.

Martell’s first recorded work was with R&B group Linda Martell & the Anglos with a single in 1962. The group recorded another single in 1964.

During one of her performances at the Air Force Base, Martell was harassed by officers who insisted she sing a country song. She finally gave in to their requests, blowing them away, changing the course of her career. Martell caught her big break in 1969 after that performance landed her a trip to Nashville, Tennessee for a demo recording session. The tape landed in the hands of producer Shelby Singleton who signed Martell to his Plantation Records label.

The summer of 1969 was a busy one for Martell. Her song “Color Him Father” from her debut album, Color Me Country made the Top 25 on the Billboard Hot Country Charts.

Bringing African American Influence to the Grand Ole Opry

Linda Martell made history as the first African American woman to appear on the Grand Ole Opry sharing the stage with musician Roy Acuff for her debut performance. She would go to make almost a dozen more appearances on the legendary show.

Her debut and only album was released by Plantation Records in 1970. She released two more singles “Before the Next Teardrop Falls,” and “Bad Case of the Blues” which both landed on the Top 60 charts.

She appeared on shows like Country Carnival, 16th Avenue South, Midwestern Hayride, the Bill Anderson Show, and Hee Haw.

Linda Martell retired in 1974 to care for her children.

Country Music Success

In 2014, she appeared on the Swedish television show Jill’s Veranda where she sang along with the host of the show and explained why she left the music business behind. The show also revealed she became an educator, but the video proves her voice has just gotten better with age like a fine wine.

About the Author

Shameika Rhymes
Shameika Rhymes

Shameika Rhymes is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and has written for outlets like ET Online, ESSENCE, EBONY Magazine, JETMag.com, Shondaland.com, SoulTrain.com, WEtv.com and her own website, www.themofochronicles.com. Follow her on Twitter @Mofochronicles @WriterShameika