Tagged with "LOVE"
The Art of Soul, romance, and love - Maxwell
Category: The Art of Soul
Tags: art soul romance love maxwell r&b legend word life production new quality

Along with fellow founders D'Angelo and Erykah Badu, Maxwell was enormously important in defining and shaping the neo-soul movement that rose to prominence over the latter half of the '90s. Drawing his greatest inspiration from the concept of the R&B auteur (looking to artists like Prince, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, etc.), Maxwell recorded some of the most ambitious R&B of his time, becoming wildly popular and often earning critical raves in the process. What was more, his recurring theme of romantic monogamy set him apart from the vast majority of his bump'n'grind lover-man contemporaries.

Maxwell was born May 23, 1973, in Brooklyn, NY; he adopted his middle name as his stage moniker, keeping his real identity a closely guarded secret out of concern for his family's privacy. Born of Puerto Rican and black Caribbean stock, Maxwell suffered the loss of his father (in a plane crash) when he was just three years old. The experience made him a deeply religious child, and he first began singing in his Baptist church. Still, he didn't really get serious about music until age 17, when he began writing his own songs using a cheap Casio keyboard given to him by a friend. Initially influenced by early-'80s urban R&B, he progressed rapidly, and by 1991 he was performing on the New York club scene, despite ridicule from classmates who couldn't imagine the shy, awkward teenager doing anything of the sort. After making a name for himself, he signed a recording contract with Columbia in 1994.

Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite

Maxwell recorded his debut album Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite that year, working extensively with several collaborators: songwriter Leon Ware (who'd co-written much of the material on Marvin Gaye's I Want You album in 1976), guitarist Wah Wah Watson (who'd also worked with Gaye), and multi-instrumentalist Stuart Matthewman (a longtime cohort of Sade). Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite was a romantic concept album in the vein of Gaye's greatest '70s work, with a more modern flavor courtesy of Prince's influence; inspired by a brief but intense affair, the record's giddy celebration of committed monogamy could have come off as old-fashioned as its classic influences, given the marketplace dominance of hip-hop soul at the time. Partly for those fears, it wasn't released right away, although a series of shake-ups in Columbia's management played a bigger role in the delay. It wasn't until the spring of 1996 that Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite finally appeared. Sales were slow to take off at first, even though Maxwell scored some airplay with "...Til the Cops Come Knockin'." The gold-selling second single "Ascension (Never Wonder)" lit the fuse, however, and Urban Hang Suite went platinum before a year had passed, also earning a Grammy nomination.

MTV Unplugged

Now elevated to sex-symbol status, Maxwell capitalized on his breakthrough with the MTV Unplugged EP, taken from his live MTV performance. It attracted attention and acclaim outside the R&B community with the left-field cover choices "This Woman's Work" (by art rocker Kate Bush) and "Closer" (the Nine Inch Nails hit). Additionally, the Unplugged version of "Whenever, Wherever, Whatever" earned him another Grammy nomination (for Best Male Pop Vocal). Anticipation for his second full-length album was high, and when Embrya was released in 1998, it entered the charts at number three. Reviews were more mixed this time around, with some critics charging that Maxwell's ambition had crossed the line into indulgence; still, the record duplicated its predecessor's platinum sales. In 1999, Maxwell scored his biggest hit to date with the single "Fortunate," an R. Kelly composition he recorded for the soundtrack of the film Life; it was a mammoth success, ranking as the number one R&B hit of the year in Billboard magazine. Later that year, he also cut two songs for the soundtrack of The Best Man.

Now

In August 2001, Maxwell returned with his third full-length album, Now, which was touted as a return to the more straightforwardly romantic atmosphere of his debut. It entered the album charts at number one and quickly launched a hit single in "Lifetime." Maxwell didn't resurface until 2008, when he performed Al Green's "Simply Beautiful" as part of the 2008 BET Awards. A handful of intimate performances prefaced his fourth studio album, BLACKsummers'night (the first installment in a promised trilogy of albums), released in July 2009. "Pretty Wings," its lead single, was in the Top 20 of the R&B/Hip-Hop chart within three weeks of its May release.

Source: AllMusic

R&B and Soul Legend - Brian McKnight
Category: The Golden Era
Tags: rb soul hip hop urban love ballads word life production new qualtiy entertainment

One of the most consistent and versatile adult contemporary R&B artists, Brian McKnight placed seven albums across 15 years -- from the early '90s through the first decade of the 2000s -- within the Top Ten of Billboard's R&B albums chart. Whether he wrote and produced for himself or collaborated with the likes of Diddy, the Underdogs, and Tim & Bob, he enjoyed moderate commercial success without ever quite becoming a superstar. This, along with a down-to-earth personality and a catalog heavy on mellow material, may have helped McKnight for the sake of longevity; he made his first mark during the tail-end of the new jack swing era and, nearly 20 years later, shared chart space with singers half his age. He holds a Grammy record for 16 nominations without a win.

McKnight, a native of Buffalo, New York, grew up in a family where music came naturally. He was a member of the church choir along with his immediate family; his grandfather was the director. With a gospel upbringing, McKnight explored other genres of music. Still in his early teens, he exercised his writing ambitions by penning instrumentals (soft jazz, easy listening); he learned to play several instruments. He formed a band and began performing his originals at local venues. By the age of 18, McKnight had secured a publishing deal. His calling to the national scene manifested itself when his older brother Claude and the group he was a member of, Take 6, signed a recording contract with a major label.

After sending out numerous demos to various record companies, McKnight's tape drew the interest of Mercury Records president Ed Eckstine (son of Billy Eckstine). Eckstine was so impressed with McKnight's sound that the young artist was signed to a deal within two weeks. McKnight's first release on Mercury was 1992's "The Way Love Goes," peaking at number 11 after 19 weeks on the Billboard R&B chart. His two follow-up singles barely cracked the Billboard R&B Top 60, and included "Love Is," a duet with Vanessa Williams featured on Beverly Hills 90210. Ironically, that single peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100, introducing McKnight to a crossover audience. His self-titled album made a minor splash.

I Remember You

Though there was a fair amount of buzz around McKnight as a promising up-and-comer, nearly three years passed between his debut and his second album, I Remember You (1995). His first Top Ten R&B album, it contained a pair of Top 20 R&B singles: a cover of Van Morrison's "Crazy Love" and the relatively contemporary "On the Down Low." A very young Robin Thicke, whose admiration ran so deep that he was jokingly nicknamed "Brian McWhite" by friends, co-wrote one of the album's other songs. On Anytime (1997), McKnight shook up his sound by collaborating with Diddy and Trackmasters; the former produced "You Should Be Mine (Don't Waste Your Time)," which crossed into the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 and featured Mase. A Christmas album, Bethlehem, followed in 1998 -- the first of five albums he released on Motown. A year later, McKnight returned with Back at One; its title track reached the top of the Hot 100. Superhero, from 2001, kicked off with the surprisingly rock-ish title track and a list of featured guests -- Justin Timberlake, Nate Dogg, Nelly's St. Lunatics -- made it look like a rap mixtape. Released in 2003, U Turn was a fairly straightforward and ballad-filled affair.

Gemini

Some time playing basketball for the ABA's Ontario Warriors helped keep McKnight out of the musical picture for a couple years. Gemini (2005), his final set for Motown, was released in 2005 and contained some of his most overtly sexual songwriting. Ten, a Warner Bros. release, followed quickly the next year, sporting a handful of Tim & Bob collaborations among otherwise self-produced material. A second Christmas album, I'll Be Home for Christmas, was released in 2008. Evolution of a Man, for the most part a self-sufficient collection, was released in 2009 on E1 (aka Koch). This wasn't merely one of McKnight's most productive phases from a musical standpoint. He hosted a radio program on a Los Angeles radio station, performed on Broadway in Chicago, and competed on the second season of Celebrity Apprentice. The following decade, he released the split live/studio set Just Me (2011), as well as More Than Words (2013).

Source: AllMusic

Luther Vandross is one of the greatest legends of all time
Category: The Art of Soul
Tags: luther vandross sensational singing love ballards art soul word life production feature weekly blog

In the world of contemporary music, there are just a handful of superstars whose first name alone brings instant recognition. Check Aretha, Whitney, Mariah, Diana and Dionne. But when it comes to male vocalists, the list is far shorter. One name towers above the rest in any discussion of black male singers whose impact and influence has been unparalleled. Say the name ďLutherĒ and record buyers the world over respond immediately. The fact is, Luther Vandross was, and always will be, the pre-eminent black male vocalist of our time.

In the years since Lutherís passing, one constant has remained to define his life and musical success: the voice. Like any great singer of the past 100 years, Luther Vandross' voice and distinct singing style led to not only monumental success, but an instant recognition when you hear him singing--through your stereo, car radio, on TV or in a movie. Bing. Frank. Billie. Robeson. Aretha. Diana. Dionne. Whitney. Mariah. Michael. Marvin. Luther. It is rarified company, but indelibly classic and everlasting in the annals of American music and a club in which Luther Vandrossí membership is permanent.

Coupled with that voice was Lutherís unique ability to write and sing about love and the shared emotions we all feel in that search for and enjoyment of love. Love of family, friends, that special someone--all were themes Luther explored with his music regularly, reaching many. Through his songs, for the last two generations Luther Vandross became a staple in the most joyous moments of peopleís lives.

At the time of Luther's death in 2005 following complications from a stroke two years earlier, Luther had been in entertainment for 35 years. From his introduction to the world as a singer on the first season of PBS's Sesame Street in 1969 to winning four Grammy Awards in 2004, Luther was a permanent and dynamic force in popular music. He crossed boundaries, starting with his earliest success as a background vocalist and arranger for David Bowie, Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Donna Summer, Carly Simon, Judy Collins, J. Geils Band, Ben E. King, Ringo Starr and Chic. He produced records for Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick and Whitney Houston. He wrote one of the climactic musical numbers ("Everybody Rejoice") for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical and Academy Award-nominated film The Wiz. Lutherís reach is extensive enough that CBS Sports has used his rendition of ďOne Shining MomentĒ for their coverage of the NCAA Menís Basketball Tournament since 2003, and Luther performed the National Anthem at Super Bowl XXXI in January 1997 in New Orleans.

Luther was a regular musical performer on the television shows Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show (Johnny Carson and Jay Leno), Rosie OíDonnell, The Arsenio Hall Show, Solid Gold and Soul Train and was a common performer at Washington DC events in the 1990ís, including The Peopleís Inaugural Celebration, A Gala for the President at Fordís Theatre, Christmas In Washington and A Capitol Fourth.

Luther also appeared on Hollywood Squares and Family Feud, and tried his hand at acting on TVís In Living Color, 227, New York Undercover, Beverly Hills 90210 and Touched By An Angel and in the film The Meteor Man. Lutherís songs have appeared in a vast number of movies, and he contributed original songs for sixteen films, including Bustiní Loose, The Goonies, Ruthless People, Made In Heaven, House Party, Hero, Money Train and Dr. Dolittle 2.

For almost 25 years, from 1981 to 2005, Luther dominated the American R&B music charts like no other artist before or since. In that span Luther released eight #1 R&B albums, seven #1 R&B singles and another five Top 20 R&B singles. He achieved crossover status with eight Billboard Top 10 albums, including reaching #1 with 2003ís Dance With My Father; and another five Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 singles.

From 1981 to 1996, Luther Vandross released 11 consecutive platinum/double platinum albums on CBS/Sonyís Epic Records label; and at the time of his passing in 2005, 13 of Lutherís 14 studio albums had gone Platinum or multi-platinum.

Lutherís success was not confined to the United States, with record sales of over 40 million worldwide since 1981, including four Top 10 UK albums (one #1). In March 1989, Luther Vandross was the first male artist to sell out 10 consecutive live shows at Londonís Wembley Arena.

Overall, Luther received 31 Grammy Award nominations, winning eight times. Additionally, Luther won eight American Music Awards, including Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist seven times.

Throughout his distinguished career, Luther Vandross was active in charitable causes with the United Negro College Fund and the NY Chapter of the American Diabetes Association, in addition to performing at numerous charity concerts, most notably Michael Jacksonís Heal The World concerts in the 1990ís. Luther also contributed ďThe Christmas SongĒ to the A Very Special Christmas 2 record released in 1992 to benefit the Special Olympics.

Luther Vandross was a musical master whose style has influenced an entire generation of today's vocalists. His distinctive brand of satin smooth vocal magic moved international audiences and continues to touch people to this day.

Source: Official Website

In honor of those we've lost, let's celebrated the life of the awesome actress, "Shirley Hemphill" Tags: honor loved lost ones actress shirly hemphill word life production feature blog

Shirley Ann Hemphill (July 1, 1947 Ė December 10, 1999) was an American stand-up comedian and actress.

A native of Asheville, North Carolina, Hemphill moved to Los Angeles in the 1970s to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian. After working the Los Angeles comedy club circuit, her routine eventually attracted attention leading to her being cast in guest starring roles on television. In 1976, she landed the role of wisecracking waitress Shirley Wilson on the sitcom What's Happening!!. The series was a modest hit for ABC, but production and cast problems caused ABC to cancel the series in 1979. The following year, Hemphill was cast in her own sitcom, One in a Million. The series failed to attract an audience and was canceled in June 1980.

In 1985, Hemphill reprised the role as Shirley Wilson in the syndicated revival of What's Happening!! titled What's Happening Now!!. Like its predecessor, What's Happening Now!! aired for three seasons. After the show's cancellation, Hemphill returned to stand-up comedy and also made occasional appearances in films and television.

In December 1999, Hemphill died of renal failure at her West Covina, California home at the age of 52.

Hemphill was born in Asheville, North Carolina to Richard and Mozella Hemphill. She had a brother, William. Hemphill attended Hill Street School and Stephens-Lee High School, and later won an athletics scholarship to Morristown College where she majored in physical education. Hemphill returned to Asheville two years later where she got a job in a factory manufacturing nylons.

An aspiring stand-up comedian, Hemphill sent a cassette tape of one of her comedy routines to Flip Wilson. Wilson was impressed by her routine and in turn, sent her a cassette recorder and a dozen roses. Wilson also invited Hemphill to visit the set of The Flip Wilson Show. After the visit, Hemphill returned to her job in Asheville but decided to pursue a career in comedy instead. She quit her job and traveled to Los Angeles by bus. Hemphill got a job waitressing during the day and performed at The Comedy Store at night.

By 1976, Hemphill's stand-up routine started to get noticed and caught the attention of casting agent Joan Murray. Murray cast Hemphill in guest roles on Good Times which lead to another guest starring role on All's Fair. After seeing her performance on Good Times, Norman Lear offered Hemphill her own spin-off series but she turned it down. Instead, she auditioned and won the role of sarcastic waitress Shirley Wilson on the ABC sitcom What's Happening!!. Loosely based on Eric Monte's film Cooley High, the series follows the adventures of three teenaged boys: Raj (Ernest Thomas), Rerun (Fred Berry), and Dwayne (Haywood Nelson). Hemphill's character worked at Rob's Place, the restaurant the boys frequented. The series was a modest hit for ABC but was beset with behind the scene problems. In the series' second season, Fred Berry and Ernest Thomas staged a walkout over their dressing room conditions which they claimed were unsuitable. During the series' third season, Fred Berry demanded more money and reportedly convinced Ernest Thomas and Haywood Nelson to join him in a strike. Producers opted to cancel the series instead of increasing the actors' salaries.

Following the cancellation of What's Happening, Hemphill auditioned for the role of the cook on Archie Bunker's Place, but lost out to Anne Meara. The day after losing the role, Hemphill was offered the starring role in her own sitcom One in a Million. On the series, she portrayed Shirley Simmons, a taxi driver who inherited a huge corporation and fortune from one of her customers. The series debuted on ABC on January 8, 1980 but failed to attract a sufficient audience. ABC canceled the series in June 1980.

Afterward, Hemphill would spent most of the early '80s working in nightclubs around the country and doing the occasional guest appearance on TV shows, including The Love Boat and Trapper John, M.D.. In 1985, she was invited to co-star on the revival of What's Happening!! entitled What's Happening Now!!, which aired in syndication from 1985 to 1988. After What's Happening Now!! ended its three-year run, she again worked the nightclub scene and doing the occasional acting gig on a number of '90s comedy sitcoms, including Martin, and The Wayans Bros., among others. In 1994, she appeared in her first movie, CB4, starring Chris Rock. Two years later she co-starred in her second movie, Shoot the Moon, starring Whitney Anderson.

Throughout her career, Hemphill performed her stand-up routine on a number of popular TV shows including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, A&E's An Evening at the Improv, BET's Black Comedy Showcase and Black Comedy Tonight. She was also a regular at The Laugh Factory comedy club in Los Angeles. A year before her death, Hemphill appeared in an episode of The Jenny Jones Show in a What's Happening!! reunion show; actors Ernest Thomas and Haywood Nelson also appeared.

On December 10, 1999, Hemphill died of renal failure at her West Covina, California home. May her soul forever rest in peace!

Source: Wikipedia

In honor of those we've lost, let's celebrate the life of Ben Wilson Tags: honor lost loved ones ben wilson high school basketball legend word life production feature

At the start of the 1983-84 basketball season one thing was clear - Lowell Hamilton was not only Chicagoís top player but one of the nation's top 20 prospects in the 1985 recruiting class. But Ben Wilson would soon surpass Hamilton's glory by becoming Chicago's first to be named the nationís top recruit.

You can't really blame anyone for sleeping on Wilson. It was only two years prior when he played junior varsity as a freshman, and while he had a solid sophomore year his numbers were modest. Yet it was during this time that things began to take shape for the 6-8 small forward. He adjusted into his quickly growing body while retaining passing and ball handling ability from his days as a guard. Word soon got out about the budding talent and the crazed basketball city of Chicago quickly embraced its newfound native son.

Wilson did not disappoint as he led Simeon High to the state championship with a 30-1 record and success did not stop there. He was invited to attend the prestigious Nike All-American camp where his versatility and feel for the game led many recruiting observers and head coaches to label Wilson the top player in the nation.

Heading into his senior year Wilson was on top of the basketball world. Simeon was a lock to repeat as State champs with Wilson, which became even more assured when he convinced his childhood friend and future NBA player, Nick Anderson, to transfer from Prosser High School.

Illinois, DePaul, and Indiana waited with baited breath to hear if Wilson would select their program. At 17 years-old he was also a new father to a baby boy. His future seemed all but set - just a few years in college before cashing in on the NBA.

The Problem

It was a warm November day; the kind that reminds you of spring. Wilson was just a few days from playing the first game of his much anticipated senior year. He and his high school sweetheart, Jetun Rush, decided to take a walk a few blocks from Simeon's campus. No one would have guessed that the events to unfold on this beautiful day would result in Wilson's murder.

Billy Moore and Omar Dixon were freshmen at Calumet High School looking for someone to pick a fight with. On the streets many youth look for ways to build up their reputation - a means of solidifying their "credentials" to intimidate enemies or strengthen alliances. The pair deliberately took up the entire sidewalk as Wilson and his girlfriend approached. He walked between them and accidentally bumped one of the boys. Wilson immediately excused himself but his so-called act of disrespect angered the two youths. Moore brandished a .22 caliber gun and attempted to rob Wilson but, encouraged by Dixon, went on to shoot Wilson in the chest after he refused to hand over his money.

The thugs ran off leaving their victim slumped against a metal fence. Wilson was rushed to St. Bernard Hospital where it was determined that the small bullet did a huge amount of damage as it pierced his liver and aorta. The next day doctors advised Wilson's parents of his grave condition. He was removed from life support and passed away.

Conclusion

The explosion of publicity and public anger over the event made gang arrests more frequent. Billy Moore was sentenced to 40 years for the murder of Ben Wilson while his accomplice, Omar Dixon, was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

It was not only Wilson's athletic ability that caused him to be liked by his peers. Everyone enjoyed his humble and charismatic spark. His wake lasted 12 hours and was attended by more than 10,000 people.

Wilson left behind a legacy as his life became a symbol of hope among Chicago youth. After graduation his best friend, Nick Anderson, wore Wilson's number 25 at Illinois in his honor. Simeon head coach Bob Hambric decided to follow Andersonís lead and brought Wilson's number out of retirement with the opening the schoolís new gym named after its slain star. Since then only the programís top players have had the privilege of wearing the #25 jersey. This honor has been held by fellow draftees and Simeon alums Deon Thomas and Derrick Rose.

How good was Ben Wilson? Itís hard to project how far his talent would have taken him but former Chicago players and respected coaches from across the country spoke highly of the former prospect. The comparisons may be hard to grasp but have withstood the test of time. Wilson has been described as Magic Johnson with a jumpshot and Kevin Garnett with a better handle and perimeter game. In his 1985 recruiting class he was perceived to be better than Glen Rice, Danny Ferry, Sean Elliott, Pervis Ellison, Rod Strickland and Roy Marble - all who went on to have NBA careers.

The Draft Review honors Ben Wilson for his high school accomplishments and recognizes him as a 1989 Honorable Draftee.

Source: The Draft Review

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