SHALAMAR - Make That Move
In 1977, concert promoter and Soul Train booking agent Dick Griffey created the group Shalamar, and produced their debut album Uptown Festival. The album was released on the Soul Train label, with vocals provided by session vocalists. After having a hit with the single for Uptown Festival Part 1, Griffey realized that the group - just musicians at the time - needed a stronger stage presence. Griffey teamed up with Soul Train producer Don Cornelius, who recruited Soul Train dancers Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniels to join with Gary Mumford in fronting the group. Mumford soon left, and after a brief replacement by Gerald Brown, his spot was taken by Soul Train dancer Howard Hewett. In 1980 Shalamar released their fourth studio album Three For Love, featuring the song Make That Move. The album, like the previous two was produced by Leon Sylvers !!!. Jody Watley left the group shortly after recording The Look, her sixth studio album with the group.
CURTIS MAYFIELD - Move On Up
In 1970 Curtis Mayfield released his solo debut album Curtis, featuring the gospel-influenced nine minute long Move On Up. At the time Mayfield was still a member of The Impressions, which he didn't officially quit until 1971. Curtis was released on Curtom Records, Mayfield's own label which he started in 1968. In 1974 Move On Up was finally released as a single, however the song didn't make the charts in the US. In 1979 the disco trio Destination released a cover version of Move On Up that was number one on the disco charts for four weeks. Mayfield was one of the first major artists to sing about the struggles in the black community, and he wrote and produced most his own songs - including Move On Up.
In the early 1980's Michael Dowling, better known as DJ Mike Music, was frequently seen DJing in Brooklyn's Bedford Stuyvesant Lafayette Park, where he was known his mixing old school hip hop with funk. In 1984 he formed the old school hip hop group Divine Sounds with his brother Richard and Shelton McCoy - also known as rapper Shelton D. The group released several singles between 1984 and 1986. They are best known for their debut single What People Do For Money, where Magic Mike is claimed to be first ever hip hop DJ to rap on a record.
TROUBLE FUNK - Hey Fellas
In 1982, Washington DC go-go band Trouble Funk released their debut Drop The Bomb album on Sugar Hill Records. The breakout album helped to popularize go-go music outside of Washington DC area. The album's first track is the go-go anthem Hey Fellas.
CLASS ACTION - Weekend
In 1978, studio band Phreek recorded the original version of Weekend as a promotional release on Atlantic Recods. Phreek was a disco band created by influential dance music arranger and producer Patrick Adams. The band included singer and songwriter Leroy Burgess - who wrote the song. Phreek's Weekend was never available commercially, but it was getting played heavily in clubs by DJ's such as New York's legendary DJ Larry Levan. In the early 1980's, the co-owner of Sleeping Bag Records asked Levin if he was interested in recording a new version of Weekend, and giving it a proper release. The group Class Acrion was formed to record the song, and it was released in 1983 featuring a mix by Levin on one side, and a mix by Morales and Munzibai (M&M) on the other side.
Rare Earth was signed to Motown Records in 1969 as the first all-white band on the label. Motown wanted to create a label imprint dedicated to the new groups they were signing in an effort break into the FM radio (rock) market. The members of Rare Earth, as a joke, suggested the label subsidiary be named after their group. Motown liked their idea, and that's what they did. Between 1969 and 1976 the label released hundreds of records, featuring dozens of bands. The most successful band on the label was Rare Earth, and in 1971 they had their biggest hit with I Want To Celebrate. The song was the lead single off their fourth studio album One World, and it was written by Motown songwriters Dino Fekaris and Nick Zesses.
EARTH WIND & FIRE - Evil
Maurice White moved to Chicago as a teenager, where he found work as a session drummer for Chess Records. He played on the records of many stars, including Etta James, Buddy Guy & Muddy Waters. Fontella Bass's 1965 hit Rescue Me is among the early hits he played drums on. In 1966 White joined the Ramsey Lewis Trio, which he left after three years to start his own band in 1969 - The Salty Dogs. While touring with his new band, White became interested in astrology. It was this that inspired him to alter the name of the band to reflect the elements of his sign -Sagittarius - Fire, Earth & Air. In 1971 he officially changed the band's name to Earth Wind & Fire, releasing a self-titled album. They had their first hit single in 1973 with Evil, off their fourth studio album Head To The Sky. The album was their first commercially successful record. Because of the success of Evil, White assumed more of a lead vocalist role in the group.
In 1973 Stevie Wonder released his landmark album Innervisions, his 16th studio album. The albums centerpiece is the song Living For The City, an explicit social commentary on inequality and racism. Wonder played every instrument on this song, which won a Grammy for best R&B song. The album also won 2 other Grammys, including Album Of The Year. Living For The City was one of the first songs to mix street sounds - traffic, people - with the music. Four days after the album was released, Wonder was in a car accident that left him in a coma for 4 days. He was listening to his newly released album while being driven home from a concert when his vehicle collided with a logging truck. A log smashed through the windshield and hit him in the forehead, leaving him bloody and unconscious. Wonder had been scheduled to a 20-city tour, the shows were all postponed except for one resilient show at Madison Square Gardens.
In 1974 twenty-one singer and songwriter Betty Wright released her Danger: High Voltage album, featuring the original version of her soul ballad Tonight's The Night. In 1978 she released a re-worked live version of the song, and it has become one of her signature songs. Wright started her music career, and recorded her first album, at the age of two with her siblings gospel group the Echoes Of Joy. When Wright was eleven the group broke up, and the following year she signed to a label as a solo artist for the first time. At fourteen she released her first album - My First Time Around. As a teenager she released numerous hit singles, and when she was seventeen she recorded Clean Up Woman, which would be her first gold record. In 1985 Wright formed her own label, and soon became the first (of only a few) black women to score a gold album on their own label. Tonight's The Night (particularly the live version) has been sampled numerous times, including by Color me Bad on their 1991 hit single I Wanna Sex You Up - without permission. That sparked a lawsuit that won her 35% of the song's royalties.
BIG MAMA THORNTON - Hound Dog
Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton is best known for being the first person to record the song Hound Dog. Thornton had been given the name "Big Mama" from the manager of Harlem's Apollo Theatre, where she was a performer after signing a recording contract with Peacock Records in 1951. Hound Dog was written for her by teenage songwriters Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller in 1952. The recording was to be produced by Johnny Otis, but the session drummer was't working out so Leiber & Stoller took over the session and replaced the drummer with Otis. This was the first recording that was produced by the songwriting duo. Hound Dog made a star out of Thornton, hitting number one on the charts in 1953, however she saw very little of the songs profits. In 1956 Elvis Presley recorded the song, and had an even bigger hit. However, Leiber and Stoller hated the Elvis version, they felt like he ruined their song that was lyrically meant for a woman to sing.
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