Category: Music

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Profile: Howlin’ Wolf: A Blues Giant

With gruff raspy vocals, Howlin’ Wolf embodied the Blues genre putting his trademark growl onto America’s soundtrack. Howlin’ Wolf was born as Chester Arthur Burnett in June 1910 in West Point, Mississippi. He picked up the moniker Howlin’ Wolf as a child. He was exposed to the blues from an early age from studying blues legend Charley Patton.

Wolf developed his trademark sound, the howl, from the “blue yodel” of country singer Jimmie Rodgers. He was a one man show with his guitar and harmonica, but in 1948 he moved to Memphis, Tennessee and formed the band, the House Rockers. He promoted his appearances with a radio spot, and was scouted by Ike Turner, who was an A&R person for RPM Records and would play in Wolf’s band.

Producer Sam Phillips recorded Howlin’ Wolf at what would later become Sun Records after hearing him perform. Some of the material was leased to Chess Records and in the early 1950s, Howlin’ Wolf signed with the label and moved to Chicago.

Standing over 6 feet tall and about 300 pounds, with his commanding stage presence and textured vocals, Wolf fought his way to the top of the cutthroat Chicago blues scene during the 1950s alongside his rival, Muddy Waters. According to NPR, Mark Hoffman, co-author of Moanin’ at Midnight: The Life and Times of Howlin’ Wolf, described his animated stage performance. “Wolf would crawl around on his hands and knees, and he’d howl like a wolf. He’d pound on the stage. And people would watch him; they couldn’t take their eyes off him.”

Some of his hits include “How Many More Years,” “Smokestack Lightnin’,” “Moanin’ at Midnight,” and “Sitting on Top of the World,” “Spoonful,” “Little Red Rooster,” and “I Ain’t Superstitious.”

Wolf’s work was covered by multiple popular British and U.S. rock acts including the Doors, and the Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones had a big hit with their remake of “Red Rooster,” and appeared with Wolf on the television show Shindig.

Howlin’ Wolf gave his last performance in Chicago in November 1975 with fellow blues legend B.B. King.

After suffering from heart issues and kidney disease, Wolf died on January 10, 1976 in Illinois at the age of 65. Howlin’ Wolf was posthumously inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. On September 17, 1994, the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp depicting Howlin’ Wolf.

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: 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.

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.

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.

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

Remembering Prince: Some of the Best Prince Cover Songs

You can’t mention contributions to America’s soundtrack or Black Music Month without mentioning the one that lauded the Minneapolis sound complete with a keyboard mixture of rock, pop, funk, and soul, laced with sexual lyrics. The music of Prince impacted much of the 80s dance and pop music. With a range that consisted of singing, dancing, songwriting, composing, producing, and playing multiple instruments, the talents of Prince was and still is unmatched. He died on April 21, 2016 at 57 years old.

Aside from his stellar and often provocative performances, Prince had established himself as a collaborator. Several of his songs were remade by other artists.

As we remember Prince, we’re taking a look at how some of the artists in the industry have paid homage to Prince over the years with covers of some of his music.

In the early ‘80s, R&B singer Stephanie Mills took on the hit “How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore.”

Alicia Keys later remade the song basing her cover version on Stephanie Mills’ version.

 

The Pointer Sisters recorded their version of the 1979 song “I Feel for You.”

Chaka Khan put her vocals to her version of “I Feel for You” making it an instant classic in 1984 with some Minneapolis funk sprinkled throughout the single.

Rebbie Jackson put her version of the song on the Centipede album.

Meli’sa Morgan’s rendition of “Do Me Baby” became an instant classic.

 

Tom Jones took the song “Kiss” and made it his own by turning it into an electro-funky jam.

 

George Clinton covered “Erotic City” for the PCU movie soundtrack.

TLC covered the single “If I Was Your Girlfriend” on their CrazySexyCool album.

Jazz great Herbie Hancock reworked the Prince single “Thieves in the Temple” by turning it into a jazzy instrumental.

With a Timbaland beat behind him, and dove sounds weaved in an out of the song, Ginuwine covered “When Doves Cry” in 1996.

Mariah Carey featuring Dru Hill covered  Prince’s “Beautiful Ones” in 1997.

D’Angelo put his soulful funky stamp on the song “She’s Always in My Hair” in 1997.

In 2000, Tina Turner covered a techno-rock version of the song “Baby I’m a Star” as part of an advertising campaign for Target. The song was also released on the album All That Glitters.

KeKe Wyatt covered the classic “Diamonds & Pearls” by Prince and The New Power Generation.

 

While the list of artists covering Prince’s music is a lengthy one, it just shows the impact that his music had on the industry and America’s 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

A Celebration of Legends Tribute Playlist

Celebrating the artists that have contributed to America’s soundtrack is all part of the National Museum of African American Music’s annual Celebration of Legends event. This year’s honorees Charlie Wilson, Nile Rodgers, Yolanda Adams, Mona Scott–Young and Keb’ Mo’ were presented with the Rhapsody & Rhythm Award.

“Charlie Wilson, Nile Rodgers, Yolanda Adams, Mona Scott–Young and Keb’ Mo’ represent the talented, accomplished and decorated musical pioneers that the National Museum of African American Music seeks to elevate,” said NMAAM President and CEO H. Beecher Hicks III. “Their storied careers have a prominent place in history, and we’re proud to honor them with this award.”

To honor the legends, artists such as Anthony Hamilton, BeBe Winans, Avery Sunshine, Tamia, Tweet, Lil Mo, Stokley Williams, Johnny Gill, and Kathy Sledge gathered in Nashville to pay tribute to the artists that influenced them in their own careers. We created a playlist of the amazing performances!

A Celebration of Legends

The National Museum of African American Music kicked off Black Music Month by celebrating legendary musicians and industry giants during the fifth annual Celebration of Legends Gala at War Memorial Auditorium. “A legend is someone who has had an impact for many years, someone who inspires us, someone who has been active in their community and made a difference in the world even beyond their music and that’s how we define it,” explained NMAAM President/CEO Henry Beecher Hicks III.

The annual event celebrates African American music and the trailblazers that have made an impact and helped to craft America’s soundtrack.

This year’s honorees of the “Rhapsody & Rhythm” awards included “Uncle” Charlie Wilson, CHIC founder, producer, guitarist Nile Rodgers, Blues star and NMAAM National Chair Keb’ Mo, gospel great Yolanda Adams, and music manager, producer Mona Scott-Young.

To tribute these amazing artists, the lineup included Anthony Hamilton, who put his soulful stamp on Keb’ Mo’s “Am I Wrong.” “Keb’ Mo’ is an incredible man, an incredible father, and a great Blues guy, and I can’t wait to do this for him,” Hamilton said before his performance.

Anthony Hamilton (photo courtesy of Autumn Skye Productions)
Keb’ Mo’
(photo courtesy of Autumn Skye Productions)

BeBe Winans, Tamia, and Avery Sunshine took the audience to church with their tribute to Yolanda Adams. “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.

Avery Sunshine (photo courtesy of Autumn Skye Productions)
Tamia and Yolanda Adams (photo courtesy of Autumn Skye Productions)

Mint Condition front man, Stokley Williams was a part of the Charlie Wilson tribute and got the crowd moving with his rendition of the Gap Band’s “Yearning for Your Love.”

Stokley Williams (photo courtesy of Autumn Skye Productions)

Stokley said Wilson’s career has impacted him in becoming part of the soundtrack to his life.   “Charlie Wilson for me is so many things because his group, his voice was so distinctive in my upbringing, from junior high to roller skating days, it just set the tone. Music is one of those things that set the tone, it’s like your soundtrack. Musically he set the world on fire, he’s just amazing. There’s no one like him,” said Stokley. “His voice has always touched me in a way. He’s giving the younger generation a lot of information so that we can just continue that legacy.”

Johnny Gill lit the stage on fire with his rendition of “Outstanding,” and got the audience involved during his tribute to Charlie Wilson, from handing the mic to Yolanda Adams to get the crowd hype with singing to coaxing the legend to take the lead on his own song.

Johnny Gill (photo courtesy of Autumn Skye Productions)
Charlie Wilson (photo courtesy of Autumn Skye Productions)

NMAAM National Chair India Arie presented Charlie Wilson with his award. Charlie Wilson is so humble he couldn’t believe what all the fuss was about.  “I’m just having fun. I was just a young boy and it grows to this.” Wilson kept the fun going by breaking into his song “I’m Blessed” during his acceptance speech.

India Arie and Charlie Wilson (photo courtesy of Autumn Skye Productions)

The tribute for Mona Scott-Young included a video message from Missy Elliott, a performance from Tweet, and a moving speech from Lil Mo.

Lil Mo (photo courtesy of Autumn Skye Productions)

During her speech, Scott-Young was appreciative of the recognition of her role as a long-time music manager. “They say that it’s a thankless job, but tonight I have to disagree.”

Mona Scott-Young (photo courtesy of Autumn Skye Productions)

The DJ played hit after hit that Nile Rodgers contributed to America’s soundtrack followed by Kathy Sledge performing her tribute to the legend.

Kathy Sledge and Nile Rodgers (photo courtesy of Autumn Skye Productions)

The plot twist of the night was Rodgers’ collaborator country star Keith Urban made a surprise appearance. He delivered a moving speech about his friend. During his speech, Rodgers shared the good news that he is cancer free!

I caught up with some of the honorees, performers, and NMAAM leadership on the red carpet!

 Why it’s important to celebrate legends:

“Anyone that does something impactful in any profession, it’s important to let them know that their work is important. It keeps them going, keeps them inspired, and lets them know that we appreciate it and it has impacted our lives. That’s the reason why we do any of the work that we do, we want to make an impact and make the world a better place. Sometimes, even the artists that get the acclaim day in and day out, it’s nice to let them know that their work actually does matter, that their music matters,” explained Henry Beecher Hicks III.

NMAAM President/CEO H. Beecher Hicks III and NMAAM Director of Development LoLita Toney (photo courtesy of Autumn Skye Productions)

“Well who else is going to celebrate us if we don’t? That’s the most important thing that we celebrate ourselves because we’ve got a lot of contributions to the world,” said Dr. Bobby Jones.

Dr. Bobby Jones (photo courtesy of Autumn Skye Productions)

“They gave us music that we can set our lives to, like our weddings, kids are born to it, they make things better. So why not let them know that we appreciate it while they are still here. Everybody wants to give you your roses while you are in your box, but I want to smell mine,” said Anthony Hamilton.

On being honored:

Yolanda Adams expressed her gratitude for being recognized. “I’m excited to be here because I’m being honored, so that’s number one. As for myself and all of the honorees tonight, we are all so thankful that we are being recognized by the museum,” said Adams.

Mona Scott-Young said it’s inspiring to be honored.  “A lot of times we realize after the fact what people’s contributions are. There is something uplifting about people recognizing the work that you’ve done while you are still here.  I think it’s important, it’s encouraging, and it sends a message to the people coming behind that there is an opportunity to do those things. So, recognizing those things while we are still here, I am grateful that I’m here to enjoy this moment.

On the importance of the National Museum of African American Music:

Nile Rodgers explained why it’s important to have a place to learn the history of African American music. “I have traveled all over the world, and every musicologist worth their weight in anything have all said to me that what we call pop music is all a derivative from African American R&B, Soul, Funk, Jazz, or whatever you want to call it, that’s where it comes from. There’s no theoretical, rhythmic, or groove basis for what we call pop music or Rock & Roll later on, it just didn’t exist until we did what we did,” said Rodgers.

Charlie Wilson weighed in saying it’s important for people to know the history of music. “When you’re gone, and the young ones are coming up, I just think they need to know who was before them and how important it was to hold on to what you got, and to be able to tell somebody about that, God’s been good to somebody! Amen!”

Yolanda Adams agreed. “I think the museum is definitely needed to see how huge the role we played in the world. Music changes the world.”

“We’re an incredible people, we’ve done some incredible things and had some challenges, but we still remain resilient, we are awesome. So, we should have a place where people can go and see the legacy, the people, and the history,” said Hamilton.

NMAAM Director of Development LoLita Toney says the museum gives the opportunity to tell the history of America’s soundtrack. “If you don’t tell your truth, then people will tell it for you. If people don’t know the facts, then they will make it up. So, let’s tell the story and let’s give credit where credit is due. African Americans are American culture so let’s tell that story,” said Toney.

NMAAM President/CEO Hicks summed it up, “this museum and this music is about celebration, it’s about preservation; it’s about education, so we just want the world to know how important this music is to our country and to our culture.”

This is an event you don’t want to miss next year!

The gala is a major fundraiser for the museum that benefits our educational and community programs.

Profile: Keb’ Mo’


National Museum of African American Music National Chair Keb’ Mo’ is a musical force to be reckoned with that has contributed to various genres of America’s soundtrack.

With 14 albums, 4 GRAMMY Awards, 11 GRAMMY Nominations, multiple Blues Foundation Awards, and BMI Awards, it’s only fitting that Keb’ Mo’ is one of the National Museum of African American Music’s Rhapsody & Rhythm Award honorees at this year’s Celebration of Legends Gala on May 31.

Keb’ Mo’s career took off in 1994 with his self-titled album released under his moniker.

Ever since then, Keb’ has cultivated a reputation as a modern master of American roots music which is displayed in his live and studio performances. He has influenced several generations of artists, including those that came before him. Artists like B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Solomon Burke, and Robert Palmer have covered his songs. His list of collaborations with artists like fellow NMAAM National Chair India Arie, Taj Mahal, Natalie Cole, Vince Gill, and Amy Grant prove that his music transcends genres from R&B to country.

His skills on the guitar have afforded him invitations to Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival and inspired Gibson Brands to issue Keb’ Mo’ signature model guitars.

Keb’ Mo’ has also ventured into the television and film arena. He played Robert Johnson in the 1998 documentary Can’t You Hear the Wind Howl? He also appeared in the film Honeydripper and on the television series “Touched by an Angel.”

Keb Mo’s claim to television fame is creating “I See Love,” which is the theme song for the television hit show “Mike & Molly.”

He also created “Martha’s Theme” for the television show “Martha Stewart Living.” Keb’ Mo’ was the music composer for the show “Memphis Beat” and in 2017, nine songs from Keb’s discography were featured in the film, Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Higher Ground. He also had his first lead acting role in the same film. He went on to appear on the CMT series “Sun Records” as blues great Howlin’ Wolf.

Keb’s version of America the Beautiful can be heard on the series finale of the show “West Wing” and he played it during the In Performance at the White House event for President Barack Obama.

In 2017, Keb’ Mo’ released TajMo, a collaborative album with the legendary Taj Mahal.

The multi-generational duo earned a GRAMMY Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album earlier this year.

Keb’Mo’s ability to take listeners on a journey with his guitar along with his storytelling with his witty lyrics, and raspy bluesy-soulful vocals continues to make him one of the most decorated living blues artists.

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