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Lucky Dube 10/2007

lucky_dubeOctober 18, 2007 – Lucky Dube was born August 3rd 1964 in Ermelo, formerly of the Eastern Transvaal, now of Mpumalanga. While at school he joined a choir and formed his first musical ensemble, called The Skyway Band.

It was here too he discovered the Rastafari movement. At the age of 18 Philip joined his cousin’s band, The Love Brothers, playing Zulu pop music known as mbaqanga.

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Johnny Jackson 3/2006

Johnny JacksonMarch 1, 2006 – Johnny Jackson was born March 3, 1951 in Gary, Indiana was noted for being the drummer for The Jackson 5 from their early Gary, Indiana days in 1967 when he replaced original drummer Milford Hite, until the end of their famed career at Motown in 1975.

The label presented Johnny as the cousin of Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael, but contrary to popular belief, Johnny Jackson was not related to the Jackson family of entertainers.

Jackson grew up a few blocks from the Jackson family and had made a name for himself as a drumming prodigy before he started high school, said Gordon Keith, who has sued Jackson family members over the rights to their early recordings made for his Steeltown Records.

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Dimebag Darrell 12/2004

Dimebag Darrell1December 8, 2004 – Dimebagg Darrell Lance Abbott was born on August 20, 1966 and took up the guitar when he was twelve, with his first being a Hondo Les Paul along with a small amplifier. Upon winning a series of local guitar competitions, most notably held at the Agora Theatre and Ballroom in Dallas, Texas, Abbott was awarded a Dean ML.

At age 15 Abbott formed Pantera in 1981 with his brother Vinnie Paul on drums. The band mainly reflected their early influences in those days with thrash metal acts such as Slayer, Megadeth and Metallica as well as traditional metal bands such as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Motörhead, and Judas Priest.

While the majority of acclaimed hard rock guitarists of the early ’90s focused primarily on songwriting rather than shredding away, there were a few exceptions to the rule, like Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell. Continue reading Dimebag Darrell 12/2004

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Tupac Shakur 9/1996

tupac-shak-484098September 13, 1996 – Tupac Amaru Shakur or Tupac Shakur was an American rapper and actor with a net worth of US$40 Million mostly earned since he died. He started his career as a roadie, backup dancer and became one of the best-selling music artist in history, who sold over 75 million of his albums worldwide as of 2010. He ranked at number two in the list of The Greatest MCs of All Time and Rolling Stone named him the 86th Greatest Artist of All Time. He made his debut in the film, “Nothing But Trouble” in 1991. Five years later he was dead.

Shakur was shot several times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Koval Lane on September 7, 1996. He died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds on September 13, 1996. Continue reading Tupac Shakur 9/1996

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Mia Zapata 7/1993

July 6, 1993 – Mia Zapata (The Gits) entered this world August 25, 1965 in Louisville, Kentucky, where she also was raised. As the story goes, Mia’s father was distantly related to Emiliano Zapata, a leading figure in the Mexican revolution.

She grew up a smart and sensitive kid with a natural connection to music and performing. Influenced by rock as well as jazz, blues and R&B singers such as Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Jimmy Reed, Ray Charles, Hank Williams and Sam Cooke, Mia learned how to play the guitar and the piano by age nine.

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Paul Jeffreys 12/1988

Paul JeffreysDecember 21, 1988 – Paul Avron Jeffreys was born on February 13, 1952. Paul grew up above his parents dry cleaning shop in East Ham, London.

On bass, he was a starting member of Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel and played on the first two Cockney Rebel albums titled, “The Human Menagerie” and “The Psychomodo”. Continue reading Paul Jeffreys 12/1988

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Jaco Pastorius 9/1987

Jaco PastoriusSeptember 21, 1987 – John Francis Anthony Pastorius III aka Jaco Pastorius changed the way the bass was played. Born in Pennsylvania on December 1, 1951, Jaco’s family moved south and he grew up in Fort Lauderdale, where he first took on the drums. Being a direct descendant of poet Francis Daniel Pastorius, who drafted the first  protest against slavery in the US in 1688!, artistry ran in the family. His dad was a big band leader and singer.

During his formative years drums, like his dad, but a football injury made him move to bass. Upright bass at first but after his bass cracked because of the ocean front humidity in Florida he bought an electric bass. Continue reading Jaco Pastorius 9/1987

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Peter Tosh 9/1987

peter toshSeptember 11, 1987 – Winston Hubert McIntosh better known as Peter Tosh/Stepping Razor was a Jamaican guitarist and singer in the original Wailers of Bob Marley & the Wailers fame.  Born in Petersfield on October 19th 1944, he became a pioneer reggae musician, as the original guitarist for The Wailers and he is actaully considered as one of the originators of the choppy, syncopated reggae guitar style, and as trailblazer for the Rastafari movement and the fight to legalize cannabis.

He was a target for the police and underwent many beatings. In the early 60s Winston met Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer through his vocal teacher, Joe Higgs. Continue reading Peter Tosh 9/1987

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Marvin Gaye 4/1984

Marvin GayeApril 1, 1984 – Marvin Pentz Gay was born April 2, 1939 in Washington, D.C., he later added the “e” due to childhood teasing and to appear more professional (akin to his childhood idol Sam Cooke’s addition of an “e”). His father , Reverend Marvin Gay, Sr., was an ordained minister in the House of God, a small, conservative sect spun off from the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The church, borrowing some elements of Pentecostalism and Orthodox Judaism, has very strict codes of conduct and does not celebrate any holidays. Gaye got his start singing in the church choir and later learned to play the piano and drums to escape from his physically abusive father. Continue reading Marvin Gaye 4/1984

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John Lennon 12/1980

LennonDecember 8, 1980 – John Winston Lennon was born on October 9, 1940 at Liverpool’s Oxford Hospital. His father Alfred abandoned him and his mother Julia when John was three years old. Shortly thereafter, Julia gave up custody of John to her sister Mimi and her husband George, who then would raise him. As he entered his teens it became clear that John had a higher intellect than others his age. He hated school but was part of the school’s newspaper staff and he would contribute to it with his own illustrated short stories. Those short stories showed off just some of his emerging talent.

He also had a love for music. As a child he had learned how to play the harmonica from his Uncle George. In the early ’50s, the new sound of rock ‘n roll was taking over and he decided he wanted to be a part of it. After talking his Aunt Mimi into buying him a guitar, John taught himself how to play it after applying the banjo chords his mother had previously showed him. His interest in the guitar took over everything else in his life. In 1955, at the age of 15, he formed his own band and called them The Quarryman, named after the school he attended. It was in this band that he would meet Paul McCartney and George Harrison and the Beatles would form from it. Continue reading John Lennon 12/1980

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Bobby
Ramirez
7/1972

July 24, 1972 – Bobby Ramirez (White Trash, Rick Derringer) was born late in 1949 in Mexico. At first in his early twenties, he worked as drummer with Rick Derringer, then LaCroix and finally Edgar Winter’s White Trash.

He appeared on two of the band’s album, their self titled debut album in 1971 and Roadwork in 1972.

On July 24, 1972 23-year old Bobby Ramirez had every reason in the world to celebrate. He and his buddy Jerry LaCroix were playing in one of the hottest bands in America: Edgar Winter’s White Trash. They were touring the country with the Top 20 UK prog rockers Uriah Heep, their double live album Roadwork was on its way to gold and they’d just put on a stellar show that night in Chicago.

Ramirez, LaCroix and the band manager stopped at the wrong bar to celebrate. The story is that Ramirez went to the bathroom where a man, looking at Bobby’s long hair, suggested maybe he’d missed the sign on the door. The ladies room was next door. When Ramirez shot back something with attitude the man punched him, drawing blood. The bar owner tried to intervene but when he refused to call the police, Ramirez followed his attacker out of the bar. LaCroix followed too. The next thing LaCroix remembers is waking up to see Bobby bloodied up and dying in the band manager’s arms. His assailant had steel tipped boots and kicked Ramirez to death.

LaCroix says when Bobby died so did the band’s spirit. White Trash broke up that summer.

Of Ramirez’s drumming skills, Derringer told Modern Drummer “When I hear the recordings of our rhythm section-Bobby, me, and bassist Randy Jo Hobbs-on Edgar’s Roadwork album, it blows my mind how tight we are. I miss him even now. He was also a good human being. In the future, I know we’ll be grooving together for the Lord in heaven.

• “Bobby had the best groove of any drummer I’ve ever played with.” — Rick Derringer

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King
Curtis
8/1971

Two legends of Blues RockAugust 13, 1971 – King Curtis (The Kingpins) was born Curtis Ousley on February 7, 1934. He was adopted and brought up in Fort Worth where he started playing the saxophone locally when he was 12.

He turned down college scholarships in order to join the Lionel Hampton Band and in 1952 moved to New York to become a session musician, recording for such labels as Prestige, Enjoy, Capitol and Atco.

He recorded with Nat Adderley, Wynton Kelly, Buddy Holly, Andy Williams, The Coasters, The Five Keys, Aretha Franklin and many more. His saxophone virtuosity was widely admired in rhythm and blues, rock and roll, soul, blues, funk and soul jazz, his band The Kingpins also backed Aretha Franklin.

It was at this time that he put together his band The Kingpins which included Richard Tee, Cornell Dupree, Jerry Jemmott, and Bernard Purdie.

Curtis was best known for his distinctive sax riffs and solos such as on “Yakety Yak”, which later became the inspiration for Boots Randolph’s “Yakety Sax” and his own “Memphis Soul Stew”.

In 1970, he won the Best R&B Instrumental Performance Grammy for “Games People Play” and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 6th 2000.

Curtis was stabbed to death by Juan Montanez, a vagrant drug addict on the front steps of his New York home) on August 13, 1971. He was 37.

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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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Bobby Fuller 7/1966

July 18, 1966 – Bobby Fuller was born on October 22nd 1942 in Baytown, Texas. As a small child to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he remained until 1956, when he and his family moved to El Paso, Texas. His father got a job at El Paso Natural Gas at that time. It was the same year that Elvis Presley became popular, and Bobby Fuller became mesmerized by the new rock and roll star. Fuller soon adopted the style of fellow Texan Buddy Holly, fronting a four-man combo and often using original material.

During the early 1960s, he played in clubs and bars in El Paso, and he recorded on independent record labels in Texas with a constantly changing line-up. The only constant band members were Fuller and his younger brother, Randy Fuller (born on January 29, 1944, in Hobbs, New Mexico) on bass. Most of these independent releases (except two songs recorded at the studio of Norman Petty in Clovis), and an excursion to Yucca Records, also in New Mexico, were recorded in the Fullers’ own home studio, with Fuller acting as the producer. He even built a primitive echo chamber in the back yard. The quality of the recordings, using a couple of microphones and a mixing board purchased from a local radio station, was so impressive that he offered the use of his “studio” to local acts for free so he could hone his production skills.

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Sam Cooke 12/1964

sam-cookeDecember 11, 1964 – Sam Cooke was born on January 22, 1931 in Clarksdale Mississippi. He was the son of Reverend Charles Cook, Sr., (a Baptist minister) and Annie May Cook was born January 22, 1931 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. The family moved to Chicago, Illinois, in 1933. He had four brothers and three sisters – Willie, Charles Jr., L.C., David, Mary, Hattie and Agnes. Sam graduated from Wendell Phillips High School in 1948, where he distinguished himself as an “A” student as well as being voted “most likely to succeed.” During his formative years, Sam, together with his brothers Charles Jr., L.C. and sisters Mary and Hattie, performed as a gospel group “The Singing Children.” At the age of 15, Sam became lead singer of the famous “teenage” gospel group the “Highway QC’s” until he was 19 when he was hand-picked by Roy (S.R.) Crain, manager of the “Soul Stirrers,” to replace the legendary R.H. Harris as lead singer. Continue reading Sam Cooke 12/1964

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Sonny Boy Williamson I 6/1948

sonny-boy-williamson-1June 1, 1948 – “Sonny Boy” Williamson was born John Lee Curtis on March 30, 1914 near Jackson Tennessee. While in his teens he joined Yank Rachell and Sleepy John Estes, playing with them in Tennessee and Arkansas. In 1934 he settled in Chicago.

Williamson first recorded for Bluebird Records in 1937, and his first recording, “Good Morning, School Girl”, became a standard. He was popular among black audiences throughout the southern United States and in midwestern industrial cities, such as Detroit and Chicago, and his name was synonymous with the blues harmonica for the next decade. Other well-known recordings of his include “Sugar Mama Blues”, “Shake the Boogie”, “You Better Cut That Out”, “Sloppy Drunk”, “Early in the Morning”, “Stop Breaking Down”, and “Hoodoo Hoodoo” (also known as “Hoodoo Man Blues”). In 1947, “Shake the Boogie” made number 4 on Billboard’s Race Records chart. Williamson’s style influenced many blues harmonica performers, including Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells, Sonny Terry, Little Walter, and Snooky Pryor. Continue reading Sonny Boy Williamson I 6/1948