Journalist, Political Reporter, Cultural Critic
The Very Best of the Shirelles
When four teenage girls from Passaic, New Jersey formed a vocal group in 1957, they had no idea how great and far-reaching their influence would be. Shirley Owens, Beverly Lee, Addie “Micki” Harris and Doris Coley, who would soon become the Shirelles, had no way of knowing that their music would influence legions of female performers.
When Columbia Records released Cheryl Lynn’s second album, In Love, in 1979, the Los Angeles native had a lot to live up to.
Thanks to the success of her 1978 smash and debut single, “Got to Be Real,” Cheryl Lynn’s name continues to be closely identified with the Disco Era. “Got to Be Real” went down in history as one of the Disco Era’s definitive anthems and has been included on numerous disco compilations. But Lynn’s legacy, truth be told, has as much to do with soul, funk and urban contemporary as it does with disco, and her popularity clearly outlived the Disco Era.
Even if Kashif had never performed as a singer or recorded any albums of his own, his impact on 1980s R&B would have been momentous.
Condition of the Heart
Album titles don’t necessarily offer insights into an artist’s musical personality; some are chosen randomly, some are catchy but don’t tell us much about the music itself. Other album titles, however, speak volumes about an artist’s creative makeup, and the title Condition of the Heart perfectly captures the essence of Kashif in the 1980s.
When one thinks of southern soul in the 1960s and 1970s, names like Sam & Dave, Booker T. & the MGs, Eddie Floyd, Carla Thomas and Wilson Pickett immediately come to mind. Those artists epitomized the raw, tough, rugged style of R&B that Memphis, Muscle Shoals and other southern cities were known for in those days. But some southern R&B artists looked north of the Mason-Dixon Line for creative inspiration, and there is no better example than the Modulations.
Johnny Kemp is best known for his 1988 smash “Just Got Paid,” which soared to #1 on Billboard’s R&B singles chart and was one of that year’s top party anthems.
Gene Page was only 58 when health problems claimed his life on August 24, 1998. But the Los Angeles-based arranger/conductor left behind a long, impressive résumé.
An Imitation of Love
When Jive Records released Millie Jackson’s An Imitation of Love in 1986, Millie Jackson knew that the R&B landscape had changed considerably since the 1960s and 1970s.
Some talented singers achieve the recognition they deserve, while others are underexposed—and in 1980s, Angela Clemmons was among the R&B talents who didn’t receive as much commercial recognition as she deserved.
This Is Love
No less than five years passed between Angela Clemmons’ self-titled debut album of 1982 and her 1987 follow-up, This Is Love—and during those five years, R&B evolved considerably.
A Special Part of Me
September 30, 2012 marked the 77th birthday of one of the most enduring figures in popular music: Johnny Mathis, who was born during the Great Depression (1935, to be exact), became famous in the 1950s and continues to perform after all these years.
A.C. [Expanded Edition)
During the 1980s, R&B and new wave pop-rock enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship. New wavers like Blondie, the Talking Heads, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Thomas Dolby, the Human League and ABC were influenced by soul, funk and disco, while elements of new wave were incorporated by the Pointer Sisters, Shalamar, Rick James, Donna Summer, the System, Irene Cara and other R&B stars. And no discussion of the 1980s’ fusion of R&B and new wave would be complete without mentioning the Minneapolis school of funk-rock, which was popularized by Prince and also included well known artists such as The Time, Sheila E. (singer/percussionist Sheila Escovedo), Vanity 6, Apollonia 6, Ta Mara & the Seen, Jesse Johnson’s Revue and, of course, the prolific singer, producer, songwriter, arranger and multi-instrumentalist André Cymone.
Do I Make You Feel Better? [Expanded Edition)
Leon “Ndugu” Chancler was a busy man during the 1970s. The list of jazz heavyweights who employed the prolific drummer, percussionist, producer and composer as a sideman during that decade reads like a who’s-who of 1970s jazz: Miles Davis, Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Henderson, Weather Report, Freddie Hubbard, Flora Purim, Lalo Schifrin, Eddie Harris, Jean-Luc Ponty, Harold Land and Hampton Hawes.
Tyrone Brunson Sticky Situation
When Epic/CBS Records released Tyrone Brunson’s debut solo album, Sticky Situation, in 1983, the times were a-changin’ for funk.
The New York Community Choir
The New York Community Choir [Expanded Edition]
Gospel, arguably, has often been the “R” in R&B. A long list of soul icons, from Aretha Franklin to Gladys Knight to Otis Redding to Teddy Pendergrass, were greatly influenced by the African-American Protestant church music they grew up with.
Chasin' a Dream [Expanded Edition]
The 1980s saw considerable changes in the way that R&B was produced.
In the 1970s, Philadelphia was one of the top cities for northern soul.