Music Hall of Fame
Bill Withers is an artist to be remembered Tags: bill withers music hall fame word life production new quality entertainment

Bill Withers was simply not born to play the record industry game. His oft-repeated descriptor for A&R men is “antagonistic and redundant.” Not surprisingly, most A&R men at Columbia Records, the label he recorded for beginning in 1975, considered him “difficult.” Yet when given the freedom to follow his muse, Withers wrote, sang and in many cases produced some of our most enduring classics, including “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Lean on Me,” “Use Me,” “Lovely Day,” “Grandma’s Hands” and “Who Is He (and What Is He to You).”

“Not a lot of people got me,” Withers recently mused. “Here I was, this black guy playing an acoustic guitar, and I wasn’t playing the gut-bucket blues. People had a certain slot that they expected you to fit in to.”

Withers’ story is about as improbable as it could get. His first hit, “Ain’t No Sunshine,” recorded in 1971 when he was 33, broke nearly every pop music rule. Instead of writing words for a bridge, Withers audaciously repeated “I know” 26 times in a row. Moreover, the two-minute song had no introduction and was released as a throwaway B-side. Produced by Stax alumni Booker T. Jones for Sussex Records, the single’s structure, sound, and sentiment were completely unprecedented and possessed a melody and lyric that tapped into the zeitgeist of the era. Like much of Withers’ work, it would ultimately prove to be timeless. Reaching Number Three pop and Number Six R&B, “Ain’t No Sunshine” would go on to win the Grammy for Best R&B Song of the year. The song has since been covered more than 250 times, sampled by a bevy of rappers, and is routinely featured in movies and TV shows.

Born in 1938 in Slab Fork, West Virginia, one of 13 children (only six survived past infancy), Withers spent much of his childhood shuttling between his mother’s home in nearby Beckley and his father’s home in Slab Fork. For African-American males growing up in that part of West Virginia, working in the coal mines was about the only option available. In fact, Withers was the first male in his family not to work in the mines, opting instead to join the navy at the age of 17. Slowly learning to overcome a debilitating stammer under the employ of Uncle Sam, Withers elected to stay in the navy for nine years.

While serving overseas, Withers arranged for his mother to move from West Virginia to San Jose, California, where he joined her upon being decommissioned in 1965. For the next two years, Withers worked a variety of jobs, while cruising the local music clubs most evenings. Whenever the opportunity presented itself, he would sit in, singing blues standards with such West Coast stalwarts as Clifford Coulter and Johnny Heartsman.

His then-girlfriend bought him a plane ticket to New York, where he stayed with his sister, whose landlord happened to be Clarence “C. B.” Bullard, Atlantic A&R man and manager of Harlem’s legendary Record Shack. Bullard arranged for Withers to record a single for a short-lived West Coast label owned by Hy and Sam Weiss and Mort Garson.

Chasing the dream, in 1967, Withers moved to Los Angeles to work with Garson, who produced and arranged Withers’ first single, “Three Nights and a Morning,” the only release on the obscure Lotus Records. When “Three Nights and a Morning” sank without a trace, Garson introduced Withers to jazz pianist Mike Melvoin, who then recommended him to Charles Wright (“Express Yourself”); Wright, in turn, connected Withers with keyboardist Ray Jackson, then a member of Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. Withers was working for McDonnell Douglas, and then Weber Aircraft, assembling washrooms and air stairs; he used his earnings to record demos with Jackson of “Justified” (later recorded by Esther Phillips), “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh” (subsequently cut by Diana Ross), and a couple of other songs.

After being rejected by several labels and industry moguls, the tape eventually landed in the hands of Clarence Avant, founder of Sussex Records. Liking what he heard, Avant wanted Bones Howe, who’d just produced several Fifth Dimension hits, to produce Withers’ first record. Avant’s friend, Stax VP Al Bell, had a stroke of genius and suggested that Booker T. Jones produce the record. Jones opted for a stripped-down ensemble, employing Booker T. & the MG’s bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn and drummer Al Jackson, with Jones himself handling keyboards and guitar. Stephen Stills sat in on piano on a couple of tracks, including “Grandma’s Hands.”

During a third session, held six months later, Chris Ethridge and Jim Keltner replaced Dunn and Jackson. Jones crafted the ethereal string arrangement for “Ain’t No Sunshine” and suggested that Withers bring his carpet-covered drafting board to the studio – it was the same board Withers used at home to stomp out the beat while playing acoustic guitar. It was also Jones who convinced Withers that repeating “I know” over and over again would increase the tension in the song exponentially.

In 1972, by the time Withers was ready to record his second album, Still Bill, Jones had relocated to Northern California. Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band had recently split up, and Ray Jackson, drummer James Gadson, guitarist Benorce Blackmon, and bass player Melvin Dunlap had joined forces with Withers, creating one of the greatest unsung ensembles in R&B history. Rehearsing the new material in Gadson’s garage, Withers – with the help of Al Bell – persuaded Avant to let him produce himself.

“Al Bell is my guardian angel,” asserts Withers. “Clarence is a business guy. Al Bell is a music guy who did business. Al Bell got me!”

The result was an extraordinary sophomore effort that includes both “Use Me” (Number Two pop and R&B) and “Lean on Me” (Number One pop and R&B). Heavily in demand, Withers then wrote songs for both José Feliciano and Gladys Knight, while turning down opportunities to write soundtracks for what he considered to be degrading blaxploitation flicks. Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall and +’Justments followed, the latter producing three R&B hits, before Sussex Records went bankrupt in 1975. Columbia bought the company’s tapes at auction and, in a separate deal, signed Withers to a long-term contract.

Four albums, Making Music, Naked and Warm, Menagerie and ’Bout Love appeared on Columbia in 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1979, each album getting further and further away from the funky, sparse sound that had originally made Withers such a success. When Withers blanched at a Columbia A&R man’s suggestion that he record a cover of “In the Ghetto,” his career was placed on hold.

“I couldn’t get into the studio from 1979 to 1985,” he says.

Unable to record for his own label, Withers cut “Soul Shadows” with the Crusaders in 1980 and then the Top Five hit “Just the Two of Us” with Grover Washington Jr. in 1981. The latter appeared on Washington’s label, Elektra, and won Withers his second Grammy for Best R&B Song. Staying on the jazz-pop tip that had worked so well with the Crusaders and Grover Washington Jr., Withers recorded a Number 13 R&B hit with Ralph MacDonald, “In the Name of Love,” released on Polydor in 1984, and in 1985 recorded – under his own name – a final album for Columbia, Watching You, Watching Me.

“I didn’t navigate that corporate thing well,” explains Withers. “They would have some A&R guy that had nothing to do [with me] culturally, didn’t understand at all where I was from, or what I was doing or why. . . . That’s when it ended for me.”

Since 1985, withers has spent his time raising a family, living off his considerable songwriting royalties, and enjoying life out of the spotlight. On occasion, he will write a song at the request of a friend, contributing two such compositions to Jimmy Buffett’s 2004 album License to Chill, one to George Benson’s 2009 CD Songs and Stories, and most recently, in 2013, penning “I Am My Father’s Son” for the unveiling of a statue of basketball great and Withers’ friend Bill Russell.

Withers’ gifts are many and varied. His ability to address fundamental aspects of the human condition not commonly considered in popular music, such as friendship (“Lean on Me”), the importance of one’s grandparents (“Grandma’s Hands”), and male vulnerability (“Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Let Me in Your Life,” “I Hope She’ll Be Happier” and “Better Off Dead”) sets him squarely apart from most rock and R&B artists. His knack for simple, memorable, yet poignant turns-of-phrase is equally remarkable, and his melodic gifts are extraordinary.

Alongside Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway and Gil Scott-Heron, Withers was the leading figure in the nascent black singer-songwriter movement of the early 1970s. In addition to his quintessential ballads, he also crafted funky groove-based songs such as “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?,” “Use Me” and “Railroad Man,” situating himself squarely within current and past African-American traditions. He penned a number of songs addressing social issues specific to black culture, history, and living conditions, including “Harlem,” “Cold Baloney” and “I Can’t Write Left Handed,” all featured on the superb 1973 set, Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall. The latter track may be his finest moment on record, with Withers masterfully articulating the incredibly moving lyric with a variety of blues and gospel vocal devices.

Withers’ songs have proved to have a life of their own. In 1987, Club Nouveau cut a dance version of “Lean on Me” that topped the pop charts, settled at Number Two R&B, and garnered Withers his third Grammy for Best R&B Song. Originally a Number Six R&B hit for Withers in 1977, a 1988 remix of “Lovely Day” by Dutch DJ Ben Liebrand reached the UK Top 10. Eight years later, Meshell Ndegeocello had a Number One dance hit with a cover of “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?” That same year, Blackstreet, featuring Dr. Dre, hit the top of the charts with “No Diggity,” featuring a prominent sample from “Grandma’s Hands.”

Other artists who have sampled Withers’ recordings include DMX, Jay Z, Akon, Kanye West, Tupac Shakur, Fatboy Slim, and R. Kelly. In addition, Withers’ songs have been covered by a staggeringly diverse array of artists, ranging from Michael Jackson, The Temptations, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Isaac Hayes, Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott, and Gil Scott-Heron to Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Maroon 5, Brian Eno, Michael Stipe, Alt-j and the cast of Glee.

In 2005, Withers was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Two years later, “Lean on Me” was enshrined in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Source: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame  

- See more at: https://rockhall.com/inductees/bill-withers/bio/#sthash.RkukWftA.dpuf

 

2016 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductee - Deep Purple Tags: deep purple rock roll hall fame word life production new quality entertainment

They created a riff everyone knows, a concert format no one had previously presented, and a sound to which countless bands owe a great debt. That gives Deep Purple at least three claims on history. The chugging chord progression of “Smoke on the Water” became so deeply embedded in the culture, it now has the resonance of a Biblical quote. The 1969 Concerto for Group and Orchestra was the first live release ever to pair a rock band with a full symphony, while Deep Purple’s essential musculature forged the hard-rocking sound that later solidified into heavy metal. “If there were a Mount Rushmore of hard rock, it would have only three heads – Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple,” according to guitarist extraordinaire Tom Morello. “They are the Holy Trinity of hard rock and metal bands.”

Of the three, Deep Purple has the fastest attack. While Zeppelin and Sabbath weighed their music down, to powerful effect, Purple has kept theirs fleet, presaging the pace that later helped define thrash. They further distinguish themselves with a particular mix of classical and proto-metal sounds. Several other groups in the late 60s may have drawn significant inspiration from the classical world, including the Nice, Procol Harum and the Moody Blues. But none of them grounded it in such a fiercely rocking style.

Such assets allowed Purple to progress through a range of incarnations while holding fast to their prime hue. The consistent power of the band’s lineups explains why players from iterations both preceding and following the version that fans know best are being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Of course, the band’s peak lineup – singer Ian Gillan, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, keyboardist Jon Lord, bassist Roger Glover and drummer Ian Paice – minted the most indelible works, including In Rock and Machine Head. But every incarnation has held the music to a high standard, anchored by the encompassing drumming of Paice, the sole member to bash with the band from Day One.

That day occurred in 1968, but its roots snaked back to 1967, when Chris Curtis – the former drummer of U.K. band the Searchers – had an idea for a “supergroup” of revolving musicians. It was to be called, aptly enough, Roundabout. Curtis’ first hire was Hammond organ player Jon Lord, a classically trained musician who had worked with the Artwoods (led by Ron Wood’s brother Art). Next he brought in Ritchie Blackmore, a successful session player who performed with the campy Screaming Lord Sutch. When the mercurial Curtis lost interest in the project he conceived, Lord and Blackmore decided to fill out the lineup on their own.

For the bass, Lord brought in Nick Simper, with whom both he and Blackmore had played in the past. Another audition drew a twofer of talent from a band called the Maze: vocalist Rod Evans and drummer Ian Paice. Both made the cut. (Previously, Lord and Blackmore had asked singer Ian Gillan to audition for the band – an interesting foreshadowing of the band’s future – but he turned them down, believing that his group at the time, Episode Six, had a better chance of breaking through.)

The finalized lineup began rehearsals in March 1968 in Hertfordshire. During those sessions, Blackmore suggested a fresh name: “Deep Purple,” which referenced his grandmother’s favorite song. (The band’s best rejected moniker was Concrete God.) Two months later, the group recorded its debut, Shades of Deep Purple, in just three days, which accounts for four cover songs balancing an equal number of originals. Luckily, the band had a role model for turning other artists’ compositions into vehicles for personal expression in the American group Vanilla Fudge. That U.S. band went gold by larding pop hits from Motown and the Beatles with heavy doses of psychedelia. Purple’s LP was released in America on the Tetragrammaton label, followed by a U.K. release on EMI/Parlophone.

The United States was first to embrace the band, making its cover of the Joe South song “Hush,” burnished by Evans’ commanding vocal, a Top Five hit. Purple’s sonic treatment of “Hush” as well as the Fab Four’s “Help!” was distinguished by a rash of classical quotes and flourishes borrowed from composers Rimsky-Korsakov and Ravel. Much of the impetus for this came from Lord, balanced by Blackmore’s own feverish leads in the opening instrumental “And the Address” and the funky psychedelia of “Mandrake Root,” a clear homage to Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady.” Grounding their differing approaches was the holistic drumming of Paice who, at 18, had the voraciousness of Keith Moon, but with far more precision. The album reached Billboard’s Top 25, and the band garnered an opening slot on Cream’s Farewell tour.

Purple’s second LP, The Book of Taliesyn, was released in the U.S. a brisk three months after the band’s debut. It featured three covers, including Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman,” which entered the Top 40. To vary things, the songs ran longer and delved deeper into prog-rock soloing. The original lineup’s first two albums may have been promising, but with their third release, a self-titled effort issued in June 1969, they encountered a creative standoff and a business disaster. Their American label folded, ruining the prospects of any promotion for the disc. At the same time, the ruling body of Lord and Blackmore felt that the harder direction on the album should be pushed exponentially, and sacked Simper and Evans.

Blackmore wanted to replace Evans with the powerhouse vocalist Terry Reid, but when Reid turned him down, the band tapped Ian Gillan – Episode Six, it turned out, had gone nowhere. (Reid, incidentally also rebuffed Jimmy Page, who wanted him as frontman for a little band to be called Led Zeppelin.) This time, Gillan signed on, as did the bassist from Episode Six, Roger Glover. The revamped band began its next phase with a bold twist. Fulfilling a long-held dream, Lord created a symphonic extravaganza to be known as Concerto for Group and Orchestra. In September 1969, Purple recorded that groundbreaking, three-movement work with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra live at the Royal Albert Hall. Though, in places, the music seemed less a collaboration than a face-off, the concerto’s most exciting sections proved the connection between the drama of classical music and the impact of rock. The novelty helped heighten the band’s press profile, and gave it its first U.K. chart presence. The album also included a new rock song, “Child in Time,” which would find ideal expression on the band’s next album, the pivotal Deep Purple In Rock (1970).

In Rock presented the first fully focused sound for Purple, with a velocity, density, and skill that formed the blueprint for heavy metal to come. It found a thrilling balance between Blackmore’s flight-of-the-bumblebee leads and Lord’s surging organ solos – an argumentative, call-and-response pattern that established Lord as one of the only rock organists with the power to challenge the primacy of the electric guitar. It was on this album that Gillan perfected a scream that would become one of metal’s defining cri de coeurs; a yowl so hallowed that it inspired Andrew Lloyd Webber to cast him in the lead on the original Jesus Christ Superstar recording the same year.

In Rock holds as much value in the annals of metal history as Sabbath’s Paranoid and Zeppelin’s second album, offering the ideal setup for its chaser, Fireball, released one year later. The title track opens the album like a bullet out of a gun. In the style of Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown,” it predicted the racing subgenre that, decades later, became known as speed metal. Still, those albums served as mere test runs for the band’s masterpiece, Machine Head. The 37-minute disc contains not a single slack second, from the opening rallying cry, “Highway Star,” to the final freakout, “Space Truckin.’” With its flickering riffs and pulsing rhythm, “Highway Star” captures the excitement of automated travel, with more wind-in-the-face veracity than any song this side of “Born to Be Wild.” Yet another track would become the band’s most referenced, most revered recording: There isn’t an electric guitarist alive who didn’t cut his or her teeth on the key chords of “Smoke on the Water.” Says Morello: “Only Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony gives it a run for the money as far as recognizability and badassed-ness.”

The song’s lyrics became legendary for telling the story behind the album’s creation. Originally, Purple planned to record Machine Head at the Montreux Casino, “by the Lake Geneva shoreline.” But when “some stupid with a flare gun/ burned the place to the ground,” they had to cut it in a corridor at the nearby Grand Hotel. The adversity intensified their creativity, making the album a commercial colossus upon its 1972 release, spending 118 weeks on the Billboard chart and going Number One internationally. Perhaps no work could properly follow that, but the group did manage some high points on Who Do We Think We Are (1973), especially the catchy single, “Woman From Tokyo.”

More exciting was a live album, Made in Japan, cut in 1972 in Osaka and Tokyo, which showed both the potency of the band in concert and its improvisational skill, evident in a 19-plus minute take on “Space Truckin.’” Despite their creative high, exhaustion from touring and internal tensions caused a potentially ruinous split: Both Gillan and Glover ditched the band in 1973. The defection of the signature singer proved so challenging that the remaining members wound up hiring two vocalists to replace him – the unknown David Coverdale, and ex-Trapeze player Glenn Hughes, who doubled on bass.

In 1974 the recast band released Burn, with a title track that ably underscored its trademark balance of speed and skill. While the album and its followup went gold, the band faced another potentially deadly blow when Blackmore ankled in 1975. They tried to rally by hiring the fleet, jazz-tinged American guitarist Tommy Bolin. But the drug-hampered musician lasted just one album, the funk-influenced Come Taste the Band. Clearly, the spirit had gone out of the group. They finally called it quits in March 1976. Nine months later, Bolin died of an overdose.

It seemed a sad end to a great legacy, but after a 9-year Purple diaspora, its peak lineup reunited in 1984 for the platinum-selling Perfect Strangers. Blackmore would bow out again a decade later, but the remaining core of Gillan, Paice, Lord, and Glover soldiered on with dexterous guitarist Steve Morse and, following the retirement of Lord in 2002, organist Don Airey. In 2012, at 71, Lord died of pancreatic cancer. Still, Purple continues to tour and record, with Gillan’s peacocking voice, Paice’s barreling drums, and Glover’s pumping bass extending a sound that will always epitomize a singular expression of rock’s power.

By Jim Farber

- See more at: http://www.rockhall.com/inductees/deep-purple/bio/#sthash.YWsi2FwJ.dpuf

Source: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Sam Cooke on Word Life Production's Music Hall of Fame Tags: sam cooke word life production music hall fame featured blog

In the Fifites and Sixties, Sam Cooke helped invent soul music by merging gospel sounds with secular themes. Cooke's pure, elegant crooning was widely imitated, and both his voice and his suave, sophisticated image influenced generations of soul men.

One of eight sons of a Baptist minister, Cooke was born on January 22, 1931, in Clarkesdale, Mississippi, and grew up in Chicago. As a teenager, he became lead vocalist of the Soul Stirrers (which later included Johnnie Taylor), with whom he toured and recorded for nearly six years. By 1951 Cooke was a top gospel artist, already boasting his now-famous phrasing and urban enunciation.

Hoping not to offend his gospel fans, Cooke released his pop debut, "Lovable" (1956), as Dale Cooke, but Specialty Records dropped him for deserting the Soul Stirrers. He released his own "You Send Me" the following year, and the 1.7-million-selling Number One song was the first of many hits. In the next two years his several hits — "Only Sixteen" (Number 28, 1959), "Everybody Likes to Cha Cha" (Number 31, 1959) — concentrated on light ballads and novelty items. He signed to RCA in 1960 and began writing bluesier, gospel-inflected tunes.

Beginning with his reworking of "Chain Gang" (Number Two) in August 1960, Cooke was a mainstay in the Top 40 through 1965, with "Wonderful World" (Number 12, 1960), "Sad Mood" (Number 29, 1961), "Twistin' the Night Away" (Number Nine, 1962), "Bring It On Home to Me" (Number 13, 1962), "Another Saturday Night" (Number 10, 1963), and "Shake" (Number Seven, 1965).

The nature of Cooke's death on December 11, 1964, tarnished his image. Bertha Franklin, the manager of the Hacienda motel in L.A., claimed she shot and killed the singer in self-defense after he'd tried to rape a 22-year-old woman and then turned on Franklin. The coroner ruled it a justifiable homicide. There still remain questions about the circumstances surrounding Cooke's demise.

Two months after his death, "Shake" peaked at Number Seven on the singles chart. The posthumously released "A Change Is Gonna Come," which Cooke wrote after hearing Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind," hit Number 31 in 1965. It represented a return to Cooke's roots, placing him back in the spiritual setting from which he had first emerged just nine years earlier. The song has a long legacy in social movements; it was played in Spike Lee's 1992 biopic Malcolm X and quoted by President Barack Obama in his 2008 victory speech.

Cooke also was a groundbreaking independent black-music capitalist. He owned his own record label (Sar/Derby), music publishing concern (Kags Music), and management firm. His hits have been covered widely by soul and rock singers — "Shake," for instance, has been interpreted by Otis Redding and Rod Stewart — and his influence can be heard in the music of artists as varied as Michael Jackson, Al Green and the Heptones. Rappers including the Roots, Nas and the late Tupac Shakur also have invoked Cooke's name in their songs. Cooke was one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986; three years later the Soul Stirrers entered separately.

Portions of this biography appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001). Mark Kemp contributed to this article.

Source: Rolling Stone

Buju Banton on Word Life's Music Hall of Fame Tags: buju banton music hall fame word life production new quality entertainment featured blog

Buju Banton (born Mark Myrie 1973) is a Jamaican dancehall, ragga, and reggae singer. He was born in a slum near Kingston, Jamaica called Salt Lane. “Buju” is a nickname given to chubby children which means Breadfruit. The name is ironic in light of Mark Myrie’s slim frame, but it is, nevertheless, the nickname his mother gave him as a child. “Banton” is a Jamaican word referring to someone with a superior attitude and a gift with speech, but it was also the name of a local artist Burro Banton that Buju admired as a child. It was Burro’s rough gravelly vocals that Buju emulated and ultimately made his own. Buju’s mother was a higgler, or street vendor while his father worked as a labourer at a tile factory. He was one of fifteen children born into a family which was directly descended from the Maroons, a group of escaped slaves who proudly fought off the British colonialists.

As a youngster, Buju would often watch his favourite artists perform at outdoor shows and local dancehalls. At the tender age of 13 he picked up the microphone for himself and began toasting under the monicker of “Gargamel”. His first single, “The Ruler” was released not long afterwards in 1987 under the production of Robert French at Penthouse Studios.

In 1991, Buju joined Donovan Germain’s Penthouse Label and began a fruitful partnership with producer Dave Kelly. Buju is one of the most popular musicians in Jamaican history, having burst onto the charts there suddenly in 1992, with “Bogle” and “Love Me Browning/Love Black Woman”, both massive hits in Jamaica. Controversy erupted over Love Me Browning which spoke of Banton’s preference for light-skinned women: “Mi love mi car mi love mi house mi love mi money and ting, but most of all mi love mi browning.” Some accused Banton of promoting a colonialist attitude and denigrating the beauty of black women. In response, he released “Black Woman” which spoke of his love for dark-skinned beauties: “Stop cry, fi all black woman, respect all the gyals with dark complexion.” 1992 was an explosive year for Buju as he broke the great Bob Marley’s record for the greatest number of number one singles in a year. Beginning with “man fi dead”, Buju’s gruff voice dominated the Jamaican airwaves for the duration of the year. Banton’s debut album, Mr. Mention, includes his greatest hits from that year.

1992 was also the year in which the controversy over Buju’s homophobic “PlayBoom Bye Bye” exploded. The media in Great Britain picked up on Buju’s less than admirable promotion of violence against homosexuals. Myrie, who had recently signed with Mercury records, refused to back down from his stance against homosexuals, claiming his religious beliefs prevented him from accepting homosexuality. Banton downplayed the violent content of his song, claiming that it was metaphorical. Gay Rights groups campaigned against Buju as well as Shabba Ranks who, when asked about the controversy on the British show The Word, stated, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Shabba later apologized, but Buju refused to back down which drew the ire of various homosexual advocacy groups who continue to campaign against him.

Banton released the hard-hitting Voice of Jamaica in 1993. The album included a number of conscious tracks. These tracks included “Deportees” a song which criticized those Jamaicans who went abroad but never sent money home, a remix of Little Roy’s “Tribal War”, a sharp condemnation of political violence, and “Willy, Don’t Be Silly” which promoted condom use. The conscious spin of this disc did little to stop the attacks of gay rights groups who felt that his continued performance of “Boom Bye Bye” was a slap in their faces. Some dancehall fans felt that Banton could have exploded onto the American scene if his homophobic song hadn’t held him back. Nevertheless, Buju was adopted by many new fans who appreciated his gravelly vocals and cared little about his homophobia.

Til Shiloh (1995) was a very influential album, using a studio band instead of synthesized music, and marking a slight shift away from dancehall towards roots reggae for Banton. Buju claimed to have adopted Rastafarianism and his new album reflected his new beliefs. Til Shiloh is one of the greatest dancehall albums of all time and successfully blended conscious lyrics with a hard-hitting dancehall vibe. The album included a single called “PlayMurderer” which condemned the violence in Jamaican dancehall music, inspired by the murders of dancehall musicians Panhead and Dirtsman. The song inspired several clubs to stop playing songs with excessively violent subject matter. This conscious album had a large impact on dancehall music and showed the hunger the dancehall massive had for conscious lyrics. Dancehall music did not move away from slack and violent lyrics, but the album did pave the way for a greater spirituality within the music.

Inna Heights (1997) substantially increased Banton’s international audience as Buju explored his singing ability and recorded a number of roots-tinged tracks. Banton covered The Silvertones’ “PlayDestiny” and recorded songs with such artists as Beres Hammond and the legendary Toots Hibbert. The album was well-received but had distribution problems. Also, some fans were disappointed, having hoped for another ground-breaking album like “Til Shiloh.” Still, Buju’s experimentation and soaring vocals impressed many fans and this album remains a highly regarded work.

In 1998, Buju met the punk band Rancid and recorded two tracks with them: “PlayMisty Days” and “PlayLife Won’t Wait.” The latter became the title track of Rancid’s 1999 album, Life Won’t Wait. Subsequently, Buju signed with Rancid’s eclectic Anti, a subsidiary of Epitaph and released Unchained Spirit in 2000.

In March 2003 he released Friends For Life, which featured more sharply political songs, including “Mr. Nine”, an anti-gun song that further verified his status as one of reggae’s most anti-confrontational artists. Buju is set to release Rasta Got Soul sometime in the near future.

 

Buju’s dancehall album “Too Bad” is set to release on September 12th 2006 while Buju himself is engaged on a 2 month tour of the US. Too Bad is distributed by Tommy Boy.

Banton’s latest album “Too Bad” got him nominated for a second Grammy but despite the album’s brilliance and artistic excellence “Too Bad” did not garner the award. “Too Bad” brings us back to the Buju of the nineties with his rough phenomenal voice backed by hypnotic beats and conscious lyrics that seem to stay on repeat in your head. “Too Bad” is a complete listen from start to finish and is an extra success because the Gargamel executive produced the album on his own label. Buju is an undeniable voice of reggae/dancehall culture, blending the two seamlessly and delivering phenomenally…but what else do you expect from a great?

source: VP Records 2006

Check out New Edition in our Music Hall of Fame Tags: new edition music hall fame word life production new qualtiy entertainment feature blog

New Edition is an R&B and pop group formed in Boston in 1978. The group reached its height of popularity during the 1980s. They were the progenitors of the boy band movement of the 1980s and 1990s and led the way for groups like New Kids on the Block, Boyz II Men, Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync. The group recorded mostly as a quintet.

During the group's first bout of fame in 1983, its members were Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Bobby Brown, Ronnie DeVoe, and Ralph Tresvant. Early hits included "Candy Girl," "Cool It Now" and "Mr. Telephone Man". Brown left in late 1985 to embark on a solo career. The group continued for a time with its remaining four members, but eventually recruited singer Johnny Gill, who would be introduced on their 1988 album Heart Break. The group went on hiatus in 1990, while its various members worked on side projects, such as the group Bell Biv Devoe. Gill and Tresvant also recorded successful solo albums.

All six members of New Edition reunited in 1996 to record the group's sixth studio album Home Again. During the ill-fated Home Again Tour, both Bobby Brown and Michael Bivins eventually quit the group, forcing the remainder of the tour to be canceled. Various reunions have occurred since, usually with the 1987-1990 lineup, though occasionally also including Brown. Their last studio album was 2004's One Love. As of 2010, two New Edition descendants were recording and touring: Bell Biv Devoe and Heads of State (which features Brown, Tresvant and Gill.)

On May 3, 2011 New Edition issued a press release on their official website announcing that all six members were reuniting as New Edition to kick off the 30th anniversary celebration of "Candy Girl" with their fans.

Formation

The group was formed in 1978 by childhood friends Bobby Brown, Michael Bivins, Ricky Bell, Travis Pettus and Corey Rackley, all of whom were living in the Orchard Park housing projects in Boston. They later met Brooke Payne, a local manager and choreographer, who encountered the boys at a local talent show in Roxbury. After an audition for Payne, he gave them the name New Edition to signify they were a new edition of the Jackson 5. Rackley left the group and was replaced by another neighborhood friend Ralph Tresvant, who both Bell and Brown were already acquainted with and sang with Ricky in a group called Ricky & Ralph. Travis Pettus eventually would leave the group as well. Later, Payne brought in his nephew Ronnie DeVoe to replace Pettus as the group's fifth member.

1983-1985: Beginnings

The group scored its big break in 1982, performing at the local Hollywood Talent Night held at Boston's Strand Theatre by singer/producer Maurice Starr. The first prize was $500.00 and a recording contract. Though the group came in second place, an impressed Starr decided to bring the group to his studio the following day to record what would become their debut album, Candy Girl. Released in 1983 on Starr’s Streetwise Records, the album featured the hits: "Is This The End," "Popcorn Love," "Jealous Girl" and the title track, which went to number one on both the American R&B singles chart and the UK singles chart.

 

Returning from their first major concert tour, the boys were dropped off back at their homes in the projects and were given a check in the amount of $1.87 apiece for their efforts. Tour budget and expenses were given as the explanation as to why they were not paid more. Due to these financial reasons, New Edition parted company with Starr in 1984 (Starr responded by promptly creating the group New Kids on the Block; essentially formatted after New Edition, but with white teenagers.) The group, meanwhile, hired the law firm of Steven and Martin Machat and sued Streetwise for relief from a contract that was unenforceable as well as materially breached by Streetwise. The Machats won the legal game and then secured the group a bigger recording deal with major label MCA Records, which won the bidding war amongst various other major labels who were also interested in signing the group. In need of management, the group signed with Steven Machat and his two management partners Rick Smith and Bill Dern. The management company, AMI, proceeded to escalate the group's profile in both the urban and pop music worlds. Through the production affiliate of AMI, Jump and Shoot, MCA released the group's self-titled second album the same year. Eclipsing their debut album, New Edition spun off the top five hit "Cool It Now" and the top twenty "Mr. Telephone Man," and went on to be certified double platinum in the United States.

While promoting their second album, the group was dismayed to realize that they weren't actually signed to MCA Records, but instead with the production company Jump and Shoot, which had its own deal with MCA; subsequently, all business matters pertaining to the group were controlled by the former. To buy themselves out of the stifling production deal, each of the five members borrowed one hundred thousand dollars from MCA. Though this effectively separated the group from Jump and Shoot, and allowed them to sign a new (and very long-term) contract to record for MCA directly, they were now in mortgage to the label. As a result, the group would now be forced to continually record and tour during this period in order to pay off its debt.

New Edition's third album, All for Love, was released in the latter half of 1985. While not duplicating the success of its predecessor, the album was certified platinum, and spawned the hits: "Count Me Out", "A Little Bit Of Love (Is All It Takes)" and "With You All the Way". The growing popularity of the group led to a guest appearance (as themselves) in the 1985 film Krush Groove, performing "My Secret". Toward the year's end, Christmas All Over The World, a holiday EP, was released as well as an oldies album of tunes from the '50s sung by the group with an '80s production style.

1986: The departure of Bobby Brown

 

Under pressure from MCA and their management, the group voted Bobby Brown out in December 1985, due to behavioral problems. Brown embarked on a solo career in 1986, while New Edition continued to promote All for Love as a quartet. In spite of their financial and internal conflicts, New Edition continued to peak. During this era of the group's evolution, the group appeared in the episode of Knight Rider titled "Knight Song", performing "Count Me Out." As 1986 wound to a close, they recorded a cover of The Penguins 1954 hit "Earth Angel" for the soundtrack to The Karate Kid, Part II. The song peaked at number twenty-one and inspired the group to record Under the Blue Moon, an album of doo-wop covers.

1987-1989: The introduction of Johnny Gill

After having already lost a member when Bobby Brown was terminated from the group, New Edition's future became uncertain when murmurings began to surface that lead singer Ralph Tresvant was eyeing a solo career as well. To pad his potential departure, singer Johnny Gill was voted into the group by Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ron DeVoe in 1987, despite Tresvant ultimately deciding to remain in place. A native of Washington, D.C., Johnny Gill is the only non-Boston native among the group's six members. According to IMDB:

    "Ralph (who was working on a solo album at the time) felt uneasy with Johnny taking Bobby Brown's place. After Ralph and Johnny laid some vocals, the two became very close friends and have been that way ever since."

New Edition's fifth studio release, Heart Break— which also featured Gill as the co-lead vocalist — was released in the summer of 1988. Primarily produced by the production team of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, the album was a departure from the group's previous bubblegum sound, and instead took on a smoother, stronger, and more adult resonance. Spinning off five hit singles: "If It Isn't Love," "You're Not My Kind of Girl," "Can You Stand The Rain," "Crucial" and "N.E. Heartbreak"; Heart Break became New Edition's most commercially successful album up to that point, certified double platinum in the United States, with worldwide sales of close to four million. The success of Heart Break would launch the group on a successful concert tour as well in the closing months of 1988; with former member Bobby Brown and Al B. Sure! as their opening acts.

1990–1995: Solo projects

Inspired by the substantial success Bobby Brown was having with his multi-platinum 1988 breakthrough album Don’t Be Cruel, after the run of Heart Break, New Edition went on hiatus to pursue side projects away from the group. At the suggestion of producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ron DeVoe formed a trio, Bell Biv DeVoe. Their 1990 debut album, Poison, went triple platinum. The same year, lead singers Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill (who had already recorded as a solo act prior to joining New Edition) also released self-titled solo albums, which also achieved multi-platinum success. Later that year, the group (including Bobby Brown) had a semi-reunion of sorts when they performed at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards. In 1991, all six members again reunited to record a remix of the Bell Biv DeVoe track "Word To The Mutha!"; Brown, Gill and Tresvant also appeared in the music video. Prior to this, Brown also appeared in the music videos for Bell Biv DeVoe's "BBD (I Thought It Was Me)" video, as well as Tresvant's "Stone Cold Gentleman" and "Sensitivity" remix videos.

1996-1997: Home Again reunion

By 1996, the members of New Edition had arguably achieved greater commercial success with their own side projects than the group had during its run. However, after having promised fans that there would be a reunion—and still contractually owing MCA Records another New Edition album—the group (with Bobby Brown) reunited to record Home Again, their first new album in eight years. The album debuted at number one on both the Billboard 200 and R&B Albums chart, and became the most commercially successful album of the group's career; reaching double platinum status in the United States and selling over four million copies worldwide. Home Again, meanwhile, produced several hits, including the top ten pop hits: "Hit Me Off" and "I'm Still In Love With You". The ensuing 1997 Home Again Tour, however, would prove disastrous for the group. Despite not having toured together in close to a decade (and over ten years for Brown), old rivalries and struggles for on stage dominance resurfaced as if no time had passed. By the middle leg of the tour, one evening at a concert in Las Cruces NM as Brown was extending his solo set, Ronnie DeVoe attempted to pull Brown off the stage. Brown responded by dropping his microphone and a fist fight between the two ensued. This led to both members' security guards confronting each other, gun play was brought in and the concert was halted. Bivins and Brown left the tour early while DeVoe, Bell, Gill and Tresvant finished out the rest of the tour as a quartet. Brown later admitted during an interview that he was intoxicated during the tour. Each of the group members again went their separate ways, this time on more hostile terms than ever; resulting in an indefinite hiatus that appeared to be the swan song for New Edition.

2002-2004: New Edition under Bad Boy

After their second wave of solo pursuits proved less than successful, New Edition (sans Bobby Brown) reunited once more and began touring clubs, casinos, and small arenas in 2002; including appearing on The Tom Joyner Sky Show. After having caught the attention of rapper/producer Sean Combs, who was present at one of their shows, he signed the group to his Bad Boy Records label, after their long term contract with MCA Records finally expired.

In the fall of 2004, New Edition’s seventh studio album and Bad Boy debut, One Love, was released. Though the album debuted at number twelve on the Billboard 200, it had a steady descent from the chart. The lead-off single, "Hot 2Nite," underperformed; peaking at number thirty-five and number eighty-seven on the R&B and Pop singles charts, respectively. During production of the album, the group disagreed with Combs on its creative direction. In an interview, Ricky Bell later revealed that Combs' had refused to pay New Edition's long time producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis for a track that the group wanted on the album. Reportedly, Combs told the group they were over budget, despite their having used many of Bad Boy's in-house team of writers and producers on the album. Ultimately, the group asked to be released from their Bad Boy contract. Despite the messy divorce with Bad Boy, New Edition soldiered on and continued to tour.

Recent years

In the fall of 2005, New Edition performed a medley of hits at BET’s 25th Anniversary Special. During their set, they brought Bobby Brown out onstage for an impromptu rendition of their 1985 hit "Mr. Telephone Man". It was later announced on BET and Access Hollywood that Brown had reconciled with New Edition and planned to rejoin the group for its future concert dates and studio albums.

 

On August 26, 2006, New Edition filmed a concert at the University of South Carolina's Koger Center in Columbia set for a future DVD release, the concert was billed as "Spend the Night with New Edition", a BET special presented by Lincoln with whom the group has advertised. Bobby Brown also made an appearance at the show.

In 2008, the group (minus Brown) recorded a new song with New Kids on the Block called "Full Service" for their latest album, The Block. Meanwhile, Brown, Tresvant and Gill formed a new side group called Heads of State, which performed at "The Summit Tour" in 2009. According to Gill, their group name "is inspired by the original name for The Rat Pack called "The Summit" or "The Heads of State".

On June 28, 2009, the group performed a medley of Jackson 5 hits in tribute to Michael Jackson on the BET Awards. Led by Ralph Tresvant, Bobby Brown, and Ricky Bell, New Edition sang and danced through classics such as "I Want You Back", "ABC" and "The Love You Save". Later that year, Ricky Bell and Johnny Gill joined New Kids on the Block onstage at a House Of Blues benefit show for Toys for Tots in Boston, performing "Full Service" and "This One's for the Children".

Gill later confirmed that New Edition had signed with manager Irving Azoff, that they are currently signed with Geffen Records (which absorbed the groups old label, MCA, and controls the groups back catalog) and was slating to release a comeback album.

 

On July 3, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana, all six members of New Edition reunited at the Essence Music Festival to kick off and celebrate their 30th anniversary tour. “This is just the beginning. We’re preparing for a world tour and many other exciting things that we’ll be announcing soon. The next chapter of New Edition is going to be an incredible celebration to thank our fans for all of their support over the last 30 years,” said Bell speaking on behalf of the group.

In February 2012, Brown would miss a handful of dates due to the death of ex-wife Whitney Houston. On March 9 and 11, 2012, Bobby Brown and Bell Biv DeVoe made their African debut by performing in Nigeria.

In late 2012, New Edition received the Lifetime Achievement Award during the Soul Train Awards ceremony. All six members appeared together onstage that evening.

According to Centric TV, all six original members have laid out a schedule for their 30th anniversary tour, starting with a stop in Louisville Kentucky on February 10.

Discography

Main article: New Edition discography

Studio albums

 

    Candy Girl (1983)

    New Edition (1984)

    All for Love (1985)

    Under the Blue Moon (1986)

    Heart Break (1988)

    Home Again (1996)

    One Love (2004)

Other albums

    Candy Girl 25th Anniversary Edition (2008)

Members

    Ricky Bell – vocals (1983–present)

    Michael Bivins – vocals (1983–present)

    Bobby Brown – vocals (1983-1986; 1996-1997; 2005–present)

    Ronnie DeVoe – vocals (1983–present)

    Johnny Gill – vocals (1987–present)

    Ralph Tresvant – vocals (1983–present)

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