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Lisa Lopes 4/2002

Lisa LopesApril 24, 2002 – Lisa Nicole Lopes, nicknamed Left Eye by her music pals was born on May 27, 1971 in Philadelphia. Her dad was from the Cape Verde Islands, a multi talented musician with a disciplinarian character. By age 10, she formed the musical trio The Lopes Kids with her siblings, with whom she sang gospel songs at local churches.

At the age of 19, having heard of an open casting call for a new girl group through her boyfriend at the time, Lopes moved to Atlanta to audition. TLC started as a female trio called 2nd Nature. The group was renamed TLC, derived from the first initials of its then three members: Tionne, Lisa and Crystal. Things did not work out with Crystal Jones, and TLC’s manager Perri “Pebbles” Reid brought in Rozonda Thomas as a third member of the group. To keep the “initial” theme of the band’s name, Rozonda needed a name starting with C, and so became Chilli, a name chosen by Lopes.

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Criss Oliva 10/1993

criss_olivaOctober 17, 1993 – Christopher “Criss” Michael Oliva was lead guitarist and co-founder of the heavy metal band Savatage, born in Pompton Plains, NJ on April 3rd 1963. In 1976 the Oliva family moved to Dunedin, Florida and it was here that Criss and his brother Jon formed a band Avatar, in 1978.

But in 1983 as success was looming on the horizon, they had to change their name and decided on Savatage. Under that name they released their first two albums, Sirens in 1983 and The Dungeons Are Calling in 1985. Savatage continued to flourish, releasing a further 6 albums after signing with Atlantic Records in 1985.

The band toured relentlessly, with Criss winning critical acclaim, his biggest dream was for Savatage’s 1991 album Streets: A Rock Opera to achieve platinum status. Streets was Savatage’s biggest mainstream success, and Criss enjoyed the exposure the record gave the band, allowing new fans to be found for their music.

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Jim Croce 9/1973

jim croceSeptember 20, 1973 – Jim Croce was born on January 10, 1943 in South Philadelphia Pennsylvania. He had two Billboard Hot 100 chart toppers at number 1: “Time in a Bottle” and “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” He died in a plane crash in Natchitoches, Louisiana on September 20, 1973 an hour after he delivered a concert at Northwestern State University on route to a concert at Austin College Texas.

Jim Croce was a fabulous songwriter, who was not enthralled with the road. He wrote his wife from his last tour ‘Life and Times’, that he had decided to take a break from music and touring and settle down with his wife and infant son after the tour was completed. Continue reading Jim Croce 9/1973

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Little Willie John 5/1968

little-willie-johnMay 26, 1968 – Little Willie John was born William Edward John on November 15, 1937 in Cullendale, Arkansas, one of ten children; many sources erroneously give his middle name as Edgar. His family moved to Detroit, Michigan when he was four, so that his father could pursue factory work.

In the late 1940s, the eldest children, including Willie, formed a gospel singing group, and Willie also performed in talent shows, which brought him to the notice of Johnny Otis and, later, musician and producer Henry Glover. He sang with Count Basie at age 14 and won a talent contest. In 1955, had his first moderate hit with “All Around the World” which reached #5 on the R&B Chart, and #6 on the Pop Chart. After seeing him sing with the Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams orchestra, Glover signed him to a recording contract with King Records in 1955. He was nicknamed “Little Willie” John for his short stature.

He followed up with a string of R&B hits, including the original version of “Need Your Love So Bad“, written by his elder brother Mertis John Jr. One of his biggest hits, “Fever” (1956) (Pop #24), was more famously covered by Peggy Lee in 1958. However, John’s version alone sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

Another song, “Talk to Me, Talk to Me” recorded in 1958, reached #5 in the R&B chart and #20 in the Pop chart, and also sold over one million. A few years later it was a hit once again by Sunny & the Sunglows. He also recorded “I’m Shakin'” by Rudy Toombs, “Suffering With The Blues”, and “Sleep” (1960) (Pop #13). In all, John made the Billboard Hot 100 a total of fourteen times. A cover version of “Need Your Love So Bad” by Fleetwood Mac was also a hit in Europe. Another of his songs to be covered was “Leave My Kitten Alone”, (1959). The Beatles recorded a version in 1964, intended for their Beatles for Sale album, but it went unreleased until 1995.

John had a volatile temper, fueled by a taste for liquor and an insecurity regarding his slight height (5 feet 4 inches). He was known to pack a gun and knife; in 1964, he stabbed a man and was sent to the Washington State penitentiary. He appealed his conviction and was released while the case was reconsidered, during which time he recorded what was intended to be his comeback album. Because of contractual wrangling and the decline of his appeal, it was not released until 2008 (as Nineteen Sixty Six).

Back in prison, Little Willie John died on May 26, 1968 at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington. Despite counterclaims (Rolling Stone reported that the death occurred after John had checked into the prison hospital with pneumonia), the official cause of death was listed in his death certificate as a heart attack. Rumor also says he was strangled. He was 30 years old.

James Brown recorded a tribute album to John that year, and his material has been recorded by scores of artists from the Beatles to Fleetwood Mac to the Blasters. Nevertheless, Little Willie John remains a stranger to most listeners and has never received the respect his talent deserved.

He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. He never received the accolades given to the likes of Sam Cooke, Clyde McPhatter, and James Brown, but Little Willie John ranks as one of R&B’s most influential performers. His muscular high timbre and enormous technical and emotional range belied his young age (his first hit came when he was 18), but his mid-’50s work for Syd Nathan’s King label would play a great part in the way soul music would sound. Everyone from Cooke, McPhatter, and Brown to Jackie Wilson, B.B. King, and Al Green have acknowledged their indebtedness to this most overlooked of rock and soul pioneers.

 

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Patsy Cline 3/1963

Patsy ClineMarch 5, 1963 – Patsy Cline was born Virginia Patterson Hensley on September 8th 1932 in Gore Virginia. Her parents, forty-three-year-old Samuel Lawrence Hensley, a blacksmith, and his second wife, sixteen-year-old Hilda Virginia Patterson Hensley, had married six days before the birth. Until 1937 Hensley lived on her paternal grandparents’ farm near Elkton and with her maternal grandparents in Gore, just outside Winchester in Frederick County. The Hensley family moved nineteen times in sixteen years to various towns in the Shenandoah Valley, including Lexington, and during World War II to Portsmouth.

Patsy had been introduced to music at an early age, singing in church with her mother. She liked stars such as Kay Starr, Jo Stafford, Hank Williams, Judy Garland, and Shirley Temple. She also as it turned out had perfect pitch. Self-taught, she could not read music. Continue reading Patsy Cline 3/1963