Tagged with "soul"
In memory of Tina Marie
Category: The Art of Soul
Tags: tina marie art soul word life production new quality entertainment

“Music is meant to inspire/To elevate and to take you higher” “Luv Letter”

Before her untimely death at the age of 54 on the day after Christmas 2010, Teena Marie, known as “Lady Tee,” the Ivory Queen of Soul, wrote, produced, arranged and sang on 13 albums that have sold 2.5 million copies in the soundscan era. Starting with her 1979, Rick James-produced debut, Wild and Peaceful, Teena Marie’s many soul and R&B hits include “Square Biz,” “Behind the Groove,” “I Need Your Lovin’,” “Fire and Desire,” “Lovergirl” and “Ooo La La La,” a song famously sampled by the Fugees.

Teena Marie was working on her 14th and latest album for Universal Music Enterprises, Beautiful, at the time of her passing, the follow-up to 2009’s Congo Square, which peaked at #4 on the R&B chart and went to #20 on the album chart, producing the Top 12 Urban AC hit, “Can’t Last A Day.” Recorded at her Pasadena home studio and finished except for final mixes, Beautiful was seen through to its conclusion by Teena’s 20-year-old daughter Alia Rose, who sings with her Mom on two tracks, a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Give Me Your Love” and “Rare Breed,” which she co-wrote (Alia co-wrote two more songs on the album, “Sweet Tooth” and the title song). The first single, “Luv Letter,” which has just gone to radio, is just that, an homage to Tee’s Motown roots, with nods to Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours,” and a dedication to Alia’s father, who just happened to be a postman, like in the Marvelettes’ song of the same name.

The project, with its intimations of death, was a difficult one for Alia, with her mom seemingly prescient about her destiny on songs like “Rare Breed,” where she sings, “I could say I have the world here in my hands and I believe/The angels slept beside me to protect my very dreams.” She even plays a radio DJ “broadcasting to you from a heavenly station” in “The Long Play.”

“It was a very dark and emotional time for me,” explains Alia, who has just opened a Hollywood recording facility, Chateau Marie, as a memoriam, with partner, Odd Future’s “Syd tha Kyd” Bennett, using much of the equipment from her mom’s home studio. “The project was a bittersweet thing. I knew that only I could get it done, but I almost didn’t want to finish because I knew it would be the last time I’d get to work on it.”

The album was co-produced by Teena’s longtime musical director, bassist/composer Doug Grigsby, whose credits include Michael Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Mariah Carey, Stephanie Mills, Teddy Pendergrass, Rick James and Luther Vandross, among others. It was recorded and mixed by Erik Zobler, whose studio credits include Jackson’s Off the Wall as well as recording projects with Miles Davis, Natalie Cole, Whitney Houston, Anita Baker and Gladys Knight, among many others. But the real impetus came from Teena’s only daughter, who made sure this final product would do justice to her mom’s legacy.

“If you listen to the lyrics, it’s almost as if she was making that transition to the spiritual world as the record was being made, which is incredible,” says Alia. “It’s like we’re going on this journey with her.”

Songs like “Rare Breed,” which also features the late Rick James’ daughter Ty lending vocal support, “The Long Play” and the closing, Middle-Eastern flavored “The Perfect Feeling,” a track which was originally slated to go on Tee’s 2004 comeback album, La Dona, lend to the eerie sensation that the late performer is speaking to us from the other side, almost as if she knew her time was up.

“That made the album very hard for me to listen to,” agrees Alia, who acknowledges her mom dedicated the record, as well as its title song, to her. “I’ve been on a journey myself. And when we began mixing it, my life and perception of things started to change. Hearing the complete work, it’s an amazing, incredible piece. I honestly don’t know how it got done. She just left it there for me to do.”

Indeed, Beautiful‘s title track is a lush ballad composed by Teena Marie when she was vacationing on the Turks and Caicos Islands with Alia, who recalls is gestation, “just walking on the beach, having fun in the sand… thinking about how much of herself was in me.”

The sexy, sassy “Sweet Tooth,” which Alia co-wrote and sings on, was a tribute to “old-school West Coast hip-hop…She was thinking of Snoop when she did that.” “Love Starved,” “Definition of Down,” “The Long Play” (featuring Tee’s longtime back-up singer De De O’Neal) and “Cart Blanc” (co-written with close friend Daphne Wayne) are love songs dedicated to finding a true romance and then sticking with them through thick and thin.

“I think my mom had many experiences in romance,” says Alia. “She was a bit of a hopeless romantic, so much so that I don’t think she was ever completely satisfied. I think that’s why she wrote such amazing love songs. That was her expertise.”

The finale, “The Perfect Feeling,” about the commingling of two souls in eternity, is rooted in the Beatles’ trip to India and George Harrison’s sitar-flavored songs like “Within You, Without You” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

“My mother was a Beatles fanatic,” says Alia. “She was crazy about them. That’s why I love the song. It has that vibe. I jut listen to it and cry. It’s that beautiful.”

Now that Beautiful is about to be released, Alia is looking forward to thinking about her own future in music with her new recording studio.

“I get to help other people, and if something comes along for me, of course, I will take that opportunity,” she says. “My mom always intended for her studio to be used by my friends, and now that’s going to be what happens.”

At the end of the day, though, Alia Rose is a young woman that lost her mother, who just happened to be a “rock star,” as she describes her, at a too-young age.

“My mom and I were very close,” she says. “We talked. I’m very much like my mother. She was not just my mom, she was my best friend and my sister. We fought like sisters, too. I know what real love is from my mom.”

As for preserving her mom’s legacy on Beautiful, Alia says, “I want people to view it as the beautiful piece of art is it. I want the fans to enjoy it because my mother loved her fans more than anything. I’m going to let them decipher what it’s all about, because it’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s pretty amazing. It actually does sound like a final project.”

Beautiful is a mother’s gift to her daughter, who returns the gesture the only way she knows how, by completing it. The end result is a true labor of love.

Source: Official Website

It's Jazz, Soul, Rhythm & Blues by Solex Tags: jazz soul rhythm blues solex word life production new quality entertainment

A native of Bridgeport, Connecticut, Solomon grew up as a PK (Preacher’s Kid) and was exposed to the ministry of music early in his childhood. He is the oldest of three siblings and began playing the bass guitar at age 15 with his family’s gospel quartet, The Edmond Family. Solomon’s passion for playing the keyboard ultimately lead him to a career as a minister of ­music for over 25 years. He has since began focusing on the creation and production of the music that has always been a part of his being yet was forbidden to be expressed...Love Songs and Life Music!

In 1977, he moved to Atlanta, Georgia to attend the Atlanta College of Arts and pursue a degree in graphic design. He was very excited about a promising future as a design artist and dreamed of one day owning his own graphic design company. But little did he know, there would be a divine interruption of his plans – one that almost took his life. While attending college, Solomon became deathly ill and had to drop out of school. He moved back home with his parents in South Georgia and was convalescent for several ­years. He was finally diagnosed with Sarcoidosis of the lungs.

Solomon made his debut in the “Life Music” category with his release of Together Again in 2007, a soulful compilation of jazz, rooted in gospel with a mild mix of Latin and R&B beats. The CD is a tribute to his first cousin, Jonathan Dubose. Solomon has since released CD’s entitled “Love Language”, “The B-Side”,  “Smooth Soul” and “LIV.” His latest release is entitled “Your Face.”

D'Angelo on the Art of Soul
Category: The Art of Soul
Tags: art soul d'angelo word life production new quality entertainment

Michael Eugene Archer (born February 11, 1974), better known by his stage name D'Angelo (pronounced dee-Angelo), is an American R&B and Neo soul singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer. Born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of a Pentecostal minister, he began teaching himself piano as a very young child, and at age 18 he won the amateur talent competition at Harlem's Apollo Theater three weeks in a row. After briefly being a member of a hip-hop group called I.D.U., his first major success came in 1994 as the co-writer and co-producer of "U Will Know".

His debut solo album, Brown Sugar, released in July 1995, received rave reviews and sold over two million copies. Along with artists like Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Maxwell, and collaborator Angie Stone, D'Angelo became part of the Neo soul movement. Following this D'Angelo went on a hiatus before releasing Voodoo in January 2000, which debuted at number one. Its lead single "Untitled (How Does It Feel)," was a smash on the R&B charts and won a Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal; likewise, Voodoo won for Best R&B Album.

Following the release of "Untitled (How Does It Feel)," D'Angelo became more uncomfortable with his growing status as a sex symbol. This was followed by numerous personal struggles including alcoholism, and a fourteen-year musical hiatus. D'Angelo released his third studio album, Black Messiah, in December 2014, although it was originally set for release in 2015; the album was met with critical acclaim and fared well on music charts, peaking at number five on the US Billboard 200.

D'Angelo was born Michael Eugene Archer, in Richmond, Virginia on February 11, 1974, to a Pentecostal preacher father. He was raised in an entirely Pentecostal family. Archer's musical talents were discovered very early on. At 3, he was spotted by his 10-year-old brother Luther, playing the house piano. Following the formation of his native-Richmond, Virginia musical group, Michael Archer and Precise, and its success on the Amateur Night competition at Harlem, New York's Apollo Theater in 1991, the 18-year-old singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist dropped out of school and moved to New York City, as an attempt to develop his music career. The group previously enjoyed some notice in Richmond, evenly dividing their repertoire between soul covers and originals, while D'Angelo accumulated compositions of his own and developed his songwriting skills. The group's turnout on Amateur Night resulted in three consecutive wins and cash prize, after which, upon returning home to Richmond, D'Angelo was inspired to produce an album and began composing material, after a brief tenure as a member of the hip hop group I.D.U. (Intelligent, Deadly but Unique).

D'Angelo signed a publishing deal with EMI Music in 1991 after catching the attention of record executives through a demo tape, which was originally by the group. After an impressive audition for EMI execs, a three-hour impromptu piano recital, D'Angelo was signed to a recording contract in 1993. A&R-man Gary Harris was primarily responsible for his signing, while manager Kedar Massenburg helped negotiate the contract as well. Massenburg became D'Angelo's manager after hearing of him through "the buzz on the streets". He had previously managed hip hop group Stetsasonic and formed the artist management-firm Kedar Entertainment in 1991, which he diversified into production, music publishing and publicity.

In 1994, his first significant success came in the form of the hit single "U Will Know". D'Angelo co-wrote and co-produced the song for the all-male R&B supergroup Black Men United, which featured R&B singers such as Brian McKnight, Usher, R. Kelly, Boyz II Men, Raphael Saadiq and Gerald Levert. D'Angelo composed the music for "U Will Know", while his brother, Luther Archer, wrote the lyrics. Originally featured on the soundtrack to the film Jason's Lyric (1994), the single peaked at number 5 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks and at number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100. The music video for "U Will Know" featured D'Angelo as the group's choir director; he reprised the role for the live performance of the song at the Soul Train Music Awards. That same year, he wrote and produced the song "Overjoyed" for the Boys Choir of Harlem, which appeared on their studio album The Sound of Hope (1994). The success of "U Will Know" helped build the buzz surrounding D'Angelo, which was followed by a number of highly promoted showcases, and added to the buzz among music industry insiders.

Brown Sugar was released in June 1995. Although sales were sluggish at first, the album was eventually a hit. The album debuted at number six on the US Billboard Top R&B Albums chart in the week of July 22, 1995. It ultimately peaked at number four in the week of February 24, 1996, and spent a total of 54 weeks on the chart. Brown Sugar also spent 65 weeks on the Billboard 200 and peaked at number 22 on the chart. It sold 300,000 copies within its two months of release. The album had been selling 35,000 to 40,000 copies a week through to November 1995, and by January 1996, it had sold 400,000 copies. With the help of its four singles, including the gold-selling Billboard Hot 100 hit "Lady" and R&B top-ten singles "Brown Sugar" and "Cruisin", the album reached sales of 500,000 copies in the United States by October 1995. On February 7, 1996, it was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, following shipments in excess of one million copies in the U.S. The album was certified gold in Canada on May 9; 2000.Its total sales have been estimated within the range of 1.5 million to over two million copies.

Following the success of his debut album Brown Sugar (1995), D'Angelo went into a four and a half year absence from the music scene and releasing solo work. After spending two years on tour promoting Brown Sugar, D'Angelo found himself stuck with writer's block. On the setback, D'Angelo later stated "The thing about writer's block is that you want to write so fucking bad, [but] the songs don't come out that way. They come from life. So you've got to live to write." During his sabbatical period, he generally released cover versions and remakes, including a cover-collaboration with Erykah Badu of the Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell duet song "Your Precious Love" for the soundtrack to High School High (1996). D'Angelo also covered Prince's "She's Always in My Hair" for the Scream 2 soundtrack (1997), as well as the Ohio Players' "Heaven Must Be Like This" for the Down in the Delta soundtrack (1998). He also appeared on a duet, "Nothing Even Matters", with Lauryn Hill for her debut solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998). He also spent the time lifting weights, smoking weed, and making music.

The much-delayed follow-up to Brown Sugar, Voodoo, was finally released in 2000 on Virgin Records after the EMI Records Group was absorbed by the former label. Voodoo received rave reviews from contemporary music critics.[36] who dubbed it a "masterpiece" and D'Angelo's greatest work. The album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 320,000 copies in its first week. It entered the Billboard 200 on February 12, 2000 and remained on the chart for 33 consecutive weeks. As of 2005, the album has sold over 1.7 million copies in the US, according to Nielsen SoundScan.[44] In 2001, Voodoo won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Album at the 43rd Grammy Awards, which was awarded to D'Angelo and recording engineer Russell Elevado.

Its first two singles, "Devil's Pie" and "Left & Right", peaked at number 69 and number 70 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The latter was commercially aimed at R&B and hip hop-oriented radio stations due to the prominence of rappers Redman and Method Man on the track. According Rich Ford, Jr., producer of the "Left & Right" music video, both the single and the video went commercially unnoticed due to MTV's refusal to place the song's video in rotation, serving as punishment for missing the deadline for its initial premiere. The fifth single "Feel Like Makin' Love" was less successful, reaching number 109 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks. "Send It On", the album's fourth single, achieved moderate chart success, peaking at number 33 on Billboard's Pop Singles chart. The album's third single, "Untitled (How Does It Feel)", became its greatest chart success, peaking at number 25 on the Hot 100 Singles and at number two on the R&B Singles chart. Its infamous music video helped in boosting the song's appeal, as well as D'Angelo's. Billboard wrote of the video, "It's pure sexuality. D'Angelo, muscularly cut and glistening, is shot from the hips up, naked; with just enough shown to prompt a slow burning desire in most any woman who sees it. The video alone could make the song one of the biggest of the coming year". It earned three nominations for the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, including Video of the Year, Best R&B Video, and Best Male Video.

Towards the end of his worldwide tour in support of the album that same year, D'Angelo's personal issues had worsened, affecting performances. He became more conscious of and uncomfortable with his status as a sex symbol, and after the tour D'Angelo returned to his home in Richmond, Virginia, disappearing from the public eye. Several of D'Angelo's peers and affiliates have noted the commercial impact of the "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" music video and The Voodoo Tour as contributing factors to D'Angelo's period of absence from the music scene. His former music manager, Dominique Trenier, explained his disappointment in the music video's impact in a 2008 interview for Spin magazine. Trenier was quoted as saying that "to this day, in the general populace's memory, he's the naked dude".

According to tour manager Alan Leeds, the experience "took away his confidence, because he's not convinced why any given fan is supporting him." Following the suicide of his close friend, MTV-affiliate Fred Jordan, in April 2001, he started to develop a drinking problem. As his alcoholism escalated, plans for a live album and a Soultronics studio effort, both originally set for after the tour, were scrapped, and impatient Virgin executives cut off funding for the expected 2004 solo album.

By 2005, D'Angelo's girlfriend had left him, his attorney had become displeased with him, and most of his family was not in touch with him. He also parted ways with manager Dominique Trenier and tour manager Alan Leeds. After a car accident and an arrest on DUI and marijuana possession charges, D'Angelo left Virgin Records in 2005 and checked into the Crossroads Centre rehabilitation clinic in Antigua. In 2005, his recording contract was acquired by J Records, following rumors of D'Angelo signing to Bad Boy Records. Despite no solo output, D'Angelo collaborated with some R&B and hip hop artists during this period between albums, appearing on albums such as J Dilla's The Shining (2006), Snoop Dogg's Tha Blue Carpet Treatment (2006), Common's Finding Forever (2007), and Q-Tip's The Renaissance (2008).

D'Angelo's subsequent solo work was extensively delayed. Production for a full-length follow-up to Voodoo was stagnant, as he was working on and off mostly by himself during 2002. D'Angelo attempted to play every instrument for the project, striving for complete creative control similar to that of Prince. Russell Elevado described the resulting material as "Parliament/Funkadelic meets the Beatles meets Prince, and the whole time there's this Jimi Hendrix energy". However, those who previewed its songs found it to be unfinished. In the years that followed, D'Angelo's personal problems worsened, descending to drug and alcohol addiction. In January 2005 he was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and cocaine. Various mugshots began circulating around the time, showing the singer looking overweight and unhealthy, in stark contrast to the muscular D'Angelo seen in promotion for Voodoo. In September 2005, a week after being sentenced on the drug charges, he was involved in a car accident, and was rumoured to be critically injured. However, a week after the crash a statement was issued by D'Angelo's attorney stating that he was fine continuing to say "He is anxious to finish the recording of his soul masterpiece that the world has patiently awaited.

D'Angelo performing at Brixton Academy in London, 2012.

No more was revealed on the new album until 2007, when Questlove leaked an unfinished track on Triple J Radio in Australia. Entitled "Really Love", the track was an acoustic flavored jam with a laid back swing feel. The leak apparently soured relations between the two. D'Angelo released a CD/DVD compilation album entitled The Best So Far…, first released on June 24, 2008 on Virgin Records. The compilation features songs from his two previous studio albums, Brown Sugar and Voodoo, as well as rarities and a second disc, a DVD of previously unreleased videos. Around the same time, the compilation was released digitally without the Erykah Badu and Raphael Saddiq featured songs, under the title Ultimate D'Angelo.

In late November 2011, D'Angelo announced a series of 2012 European tour dates. The tour kicked off January 26 in Stockholm, Sweden with its final show on February 10. The tour featured a selection of hits from his two previous albums and songs from his upcoming album, which was close to completion. He premièred 4 new songs: "Sugah Daddy", "Ain't That Easy", "Another Life" and "The Charade" which were well received. On September 1, 2012, D'Angelo performed at Jay-Z's Made In America festival where he again performed the new songs, "The Charade" and "Sugah Daddy". On October 7, RCA Music Group announced that it was disbanding J Records, Arista Records, and Jive Records. With the shutdown, D'Angelo (and all other artists previously signed to those labels) would release his future material on RCA Records.

D'Angelo released his third studio album, Black Messiah in December 2014, D'Angelo originally wanted to release Black Messiah in 2015, but the controversial decisions in the Ferguson and Eric Garner cases inspired him to release it earlier. On December 12, 2014, Kevin Liles, D'Angelo's manager, shared a 15-second teaser of the album on YouTube. Two days later, the track "Sugah Daddy", which had been part of D'Angelo's set list since 2012, premiered at 3am EST and 1,000 downloads were available on Red Bull's 20 Before 15 website. After an exclusive listening party in New York, Black Messiah was released digitally on December 15 through iTunes, Google Play Music, and Spotify. The album's unexpected release was compared to Beyoncé's self-titled release in 2013. On January 13, 2015, "Really Love" was released to urban adult contemporary radio in the US.

The album was met with universal acclaim from critics and it currently has a 95/100 mean score on review aggregator Metacritic. In its first week of release, Black Messiah debuted at number five on the Billboard 200 and sold 117,000 copies in the United States. In its second week, the album dropped to number twenty five on the chart and sold another 40,254 copies. In the United Kingdom, it debuted at number 47 on the UK Albums Chart with first-week sales of 7,423 copies. D'Angelo is supporting Black Messiah with a tour called The Second Coming. His band, The Vanguard, includes drummer Chris Dave, bassist Pino Palladino, guitarists Jesse Johnson and Isaiah Sharkey, vocalists Kendra Foster, Jermaine Holmes, and Charles "Redd" Middleton, and keyboardist Cleo "Pookie" Sample. The European leg commenced in Zurich on February 11, 2015, and concluded in Brussels on March 7.

In June 2015, D'Angelo confirmed to Rolling Stone that he was working on more material for a new album, calling it "a companion piece" to Black Messiah. In 2016 Black Messiah won Best R&B Album at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards as well as Best R&B Song for "Really Love" which also was nominated for Record of the Year. Black Messiah, Beyoncé's self-titled (2013), and Kendrick Lamar's, To Pimp a Butterfly (2015), were noted as laying the groundwork down for the political charged releases that happened in 2016, which included Anti, by Rihanna, Kanye West's The Life of Pablo, and Beyonce's "Formation.

In a 1995 interview, he discussed the influence that musician Prince had on his approach to recording his debut album, stating "I was one of those guys who read the album credits and I realized that Prince was a true artist. He wrote, produced, and performed, and that's the way I wanted to do it." According to D'Angelo, the hip hop influence present on the album "came from the Native Tongues movement - Tribe Called Quest, Gangstarr and Main Source." In a February 1999 interview with music journalist Touré, D'Angelo discussed his original inspirations to produce music, stating "The sound and feel of my music are going to be affected by what motivates me to do it". On his visit to South Carolina, D'Angelo stated that he "went through this runnel, through gospel, blues, and a lot of old soul, old James Brown, early, early Sly and the Family Stone, and a lot of Jimi Hendrix", and "I learned a lot about music, myself, and where I want to go musically". In the same interview, he cited the deaths of rappers Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. as having a great effect on him during the period. During the production of his second studio album D'Angelo recorded numerous hours of unreleased, original material, as well as covers of his influencers' material. Collectively referred to by D'Angelo as "yoda", these influencers included soul artist Al Green, funk artist George Clinton, and Afrobeat artist Fela Kuti.

In the 1990s, he dated soul singer Angie Stone and helped produce her debut album Black Diamond in 1999. They have a son, also named Michael, born in 1998. Following the suicide of his close friend, MTV-affiliate Fred Jordan, in April 2001, he started to develop a drinking problem. By 2005, D'Angelo's girlfriend had left him, his attorney had become displeased with him, and most of his family was not in touch with him. He also parted ways with manager Dominique Trenier and tour manager Alan Leeds. After a car accident and an arrest on DUI and marijuana possession charges, D'Angelo left Virgin Records in 2005 and checked into the Crossroads Centre rehabilitation clinic in Antigua.

In the years that followed, D'Angelo's personal problems worsened, descending to drug and alcohol addiction. In January 2005 he was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and cocaine. Various mugshots began circulating around the time, showing the singer looking overweight and unhealthy, in stark contrast to the muscular D'Angelo seen in promotion for Voodoo. In September 2005, a week after being sentenced on the drug charges, he was involved in a car accident, and was rumoured to be critically injured. However, a week after the crash a statement was issued by D'Angelo's attorney stating that he was fine.

Source: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D'Angelo

John Legend on the Art of Soul
Category: The Art of Soul
Tags: john legend art soul word life production new quality entertainment featured blog

Singer-songwriter John Legend won his first Grammy Award with 2004's Get Lifted. The album went platinum, thanks in part to the hit single "Ordinary People."

 “I come from a city where 40 percent to 50 percent of our kids drop out of high school. I did well in high school and then went to an Ivy League school, but I was the exception. We need to do more to make sure every kid has a quality education.”

—John Legend

John Legend was born on December 28, 1978, in Springfield, Ohio. He became an in-demand session musician and songwriter, working with such artists as Alicia Keys, Twista and Janet Jackson. He was soon introduced to up-and-coming hip-hop artist Kanye West, and the two musicians collaborated on one another's demos. Legend's debut album, 2004's Get Lifted, won three Grammy Awards. He released his collaboration with the Roots, Wake Up!, in 2010. Legend also appeared on the TV competition Duets as a coach in 2012.

Long before earning a famous reputation as a multiple Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, John Legend was born John Roger Stephens on December 28, 1978, in Springfield, Ohio. A child prodigy, Legend's grandmother taught him how to play the piano, and he grew up singing in the church choir. He went on to attend the University of Pennsylvania, where he directed a coed a cappella group. After graduation, he switched gears and worked for Boston Consulting Group but continued to perform in nightclubs in New York City.

Legend became an in-demand session musician and songwriter, working with such artists as Alicia Keys, Twista and Janet Jackson. He was soon introduced to up-and-coming hip-hop artist Kanye West, and the two musicians collaborated on one another's demos.

Legend's debut album, 2004's Get Lifted, went platinum thanks in part to the hit single "Ordinary People," a song that he originally penned for the Black Eyed Peas. He went home with three Grammy Awards for Get Lifted: for best R&B album, best R&B male vocal performance and best new artist. Legend's sophomore effort, Once Again, was released in 2006.

Legend's musical talent has made him a mainstream star. In 2006, he performed at Super Bowl XL in Detroit, the NBA All-Star Game, and the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Pittsburgh. He soon released several new albums, including Evolver (2008). Evolver featured "Green Light," a collaboration with André 3000. This song proved to be a modest hit, and the album itself reached the top of the R&B/hip-hop charts. That same year, Legend stepped in front of the cameras. He had a supporting role in the 2008 comedy Soul Men, starring Bernie Mac and Samuel L. Jackson.

In 2010, Legend released Wake Up!, which he recorded with the Roots. The album received raves from music critics and tackled tunes made famous by the likes of Marvin Gaye and Nina Simone. The Curtis Mayfield-penned "Hard Times" was one of the record's main singles; another hit, "Shine," Legend's own composition, earned him a Grammy Award. He and the Roots also won a Grammy for best R&B album in 2011.

Legend tried his hand at reality television with the singing competition Duets during the summer of 2012. He worked alongside Kelly Clarkson, Robin Thicke and Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland. The musical stars coached and performed with the contestants on the show. Later that year, Legend contributed a new track to Quentin Tarantino's 2012 film Django Unchained.

Outside of music, Legend is involved in numerous social and charitable causes. He is a supporter of the Harlem Village Academies, a New York City organization that runs several charter schools. Legend serves as a vice chairman on the HVA board. He explained to Black Enterprise magazine why education is such an important issue to him. "I come from a city where 40 percent to 50 percent of our kids drop out of high school. I did well in high school and then went to an Ivy League school, but I was the exception. We need to do more to make sure every kid has a quality education."

Source: Biography.com http://www.biography.com/people/john-legend-201302#recent-projects

Marvin Gaye Mastered the Art of Soul
Category: The Art of Soul
Tags: marvin gaye art soul word life production new quality entertainment featured blog

Marvin Gaye made a huge contribution to soul music in general and the Motown sound in particular. As one of Motown’s renaissance men, Gaye could do it all. He wrote, produced and played a variety of instruments. Most of all, Gaye possessed a classic R&B voice that was edged with grit yet tempered with sweetness. A musical visionary, he conceived of albums as something more than individual songs, whether it be his early collections of show tunes and standards or later thematic masterworks about the state of the world (What’s Going On?), sexual politics (Let’s Get It On) and marriage (Here, My Dear).

In the early days of Motown, Gaye played drums and piano on tour and in the studio for the likes of the Miracles and the Marvelettes. He wrote or co-wrote songs for himself and others, including “Dancing in the Street,” a Sixties soul classic made famous by Martha and Vandellas. Gaye recorded in a variety of styles, from adult ballads to gritty uptempo soul to topical concept albums. At every stage in his career, Gaye projected an air soulful authority driven by fervid conviction and heartbroken vulnerability. He was a long-suffering soul who sought relief in music. As biographer David Ritz noted, “His music was cathartic. His songs were prayers, meditations, strategies for survival.”

He was born Marvin Pentz Gay (he would later add the “e” to his surname) on April 2, 1939, in Washington D.C. His father, Rev. Marvin Gay Sr., led a small, charismatic sect that combined elements of Orthodox Judaism and fundamentalist Christianity. His mother worked as a domestic and raised Marvin and his four siblings. Gaye sought to escape from his father’s stern hand and the harsh realities of ghetto life through music. His musical tastes were shaped by such R&B artists as Rudy West (of the Five Keys), Clyde McPhatter (of the Drifters), Ray Charles and Little Willie John. He cited “God Only Knows,” by the Capris, as critical to his musical awakening.

In 1958 Gaye’s first vocal group, the Marquees, were tapped by Harvey Fuqua to replace the departed members of his own, the Moonglows. Through Fuqua’s acquaintance with Berry Gordy, Gaye wound up at Motown. Both Gaye and Fuqua married sisters of Gordy’s (Anna and Gwen, respectively). For Gaye, life at Motown became a family affair in every way, and his affiliation with the label would last for two decades.

Although he initially envisioned himself a supper-club singer and dreamed of becoming “the black Frank Sinatra,” Gaye succeeded at Motown as a soul man who aimed his talent at a younger audience. Gaye’s first success under his name came in 1962 with “Stubborn Kind of Fellow.”

From that point on, Gaye placed 56 records on the pop singles charts, both as a solo act and with female duettists, including Wells, Kim Weston, Tammi Terrell and Diana Ross. He connected with uptempo dance tunes ("Hitch Hike,” “Can I Get a Witness,” “I’ll Be Doggone") and more romantic fare that spotlighted his midrange tenor ("How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You,” "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby"). Gaye scored his greatest triumph with an edgy, sinuous version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” produced and co-written by Motown staffer Norman Whitfield. Gaye’s version shot topped the charts for seven weeks, sold four million copies and became Motown’s biggest-selling single of the Sixties. For all this, Gaye earned the nickname “the Prince of Motown.”

From 1967 to 1969, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell reigned as R&B’s hottest duo, cutting hits with the songwriting and production team of Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson. Their streak included “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “If I Could Build My Whole World Around You.” Tragically, Terrell collapsed in Gaye’s arms during a 1967 performance in Virginia. Three years and eight operations later, she died of a brain tumor, and Gaye remarked, “I felt that I had somehow died with her.” Gaye, who considered himself more of a recording than a performing artist in any case, didn’t take to the stage again for five years after her death.

Subsequently, he reinvented and asserted himself to the point where he and Stevie Wonder became Motown’s first truly autonomous artists. Gaye’s artistry reached its peak with 1971’s What’s Going On, an ambitious, nearly operatic concept album that mused deeply on such issues as Vietnam, drugs, inequality, the economy and the environment over a free-flowing musical backdrop that drew on jazz, pop and classical forms. Gaye referred to the album as a “gift from God,” and the album’s spiritual dimension found overt expression in his liner notes: “We’ve got to find the Lord. Allow him to influence us. I mean, what other weapons have we to fight the forces of hatred and evil?”

In 1994, Britain’s Q magazine noted that What’s Going On “did for soul what Blonde on Blonde and Sgt. Pepper had done for rock.” In 2000, fellow Motown icon Smokey Robinson commented, “What’s Going On is my favorite album of all time. More than that, it is the greatest album of all time.” Besides establishing a new credibility for Motown in a more album-oriented age, What’s Going On yielded three influential and politically potent hit singles: “Inner City Blues,” “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” and the title track. After this groundbreaking work, Gaye produced other masterpieces, including the unabashedly erotic Let’s Get It On and an idiosyncratic deconstruction of his failed marriage to Anna Gordy, Here, My Dear.

After 20 years at Motown, Gaye left the label for Columbia, where he staged a major comeback with Midnight Love (1982) and “Sexual Healing” (Number One R&B, Number Three pop). Like much of Gaye’s later work, it sought to unify the sensual and spiritual. Despite his rekindled popularity, both on the charts and as a live performer, Gaye remained troubled by drug problems and suicidal bouts of depression. He moved into his parents' home, where he frequently quarreled with his father, much as he had throughout his troubled teenage years.

On April 1, 1984 – a Sunday morning, and the day before his 45th birthday – Marvin Gaye was shot to death at point-blank range by his father after a violent argument. Following a star-studded funeral, his ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.

Source: Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame

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