In 1969, inventive avant-garde vocalist Leon Thomas released his debut album on the Flying Dutchman label - Spirits Known and Unknown. The album showcases Thomas' distinctive and unique scat-yodel, which had gained a lot of attention earlier in 1969 when he appeared on Pharoah Saunder' renowned Karma album - particularly on the the song The Creator Has a Master Plan. Thomas composed the lyrics for the song, and a version of the song was also included on the Spirits Known and Unknown album. The album also introduced a vocal adaption of the 1965 Horance Silver instrumental Song For My Father, with lyrics written by singer/songwriter Ellen May Shashoyan (who didn't record the song herself until 1989). Over the following few years Thomas appeared on a 1970 Louis Armstrong album, and he released a half dozen critically acclaimed solo albums. Despite all the attention and success, he remained a somewhat underground vocalist. In 1973 Thomas joined the Santana band, and for 2 years he toured with the group and he recorded on their Welcome album as well as their epic 3-disc live album Lotus. In 1999, Thomas died of heart failure at 61 just after performing a show in Harlem. At the time he was living in the Bronx, where he had a five year old son - his namesake Amos Leon Thomas III. Like his father, young Amos dropped his first name and went by Leon. His father, "the man", would never see his success in music and television. When he was 10-years old, young Leon made his Broadway debut as Simba in The Lion King, and in 2006 he provided his voice for the popular children's show The Backyardigans. And from 2010 to 2013 he played Andre, a main character on the trendy Nickelodeon sitcom Victorious. Since then, Leon Thomas III has enjoyed major success as a singer and songwriter, writing hit songs for Drake, Rick Ross, Ariana Grande, Toni Braxton and many others.
Pata Pata was the signature song of South African pop singer Miriam Makeba. She hit number 12 on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1967 with the Xhosa-language international hit song. The song and it's name (which means Touch Touch) were inspired by a style of dance popular in Johannesburg. A couple years before her massive international hit she became the first African to win a Grammy Award, which she won alongside Harry Belefonte for their 1965 album An Evening With Belefonte/Makeba. Makeba is considered to be one of the first African musicians to achieve worldwide popularity, and she was well-known as a symbol of the anti-apartheid movement. She was born in Johannesburg, and was singing professionally there by the early 1950's when she around 20 years old. In 1956 she had a solo hit single in South Africa with Angel Eyes - the song was also released in English and became the first South African song to chart on the US Billboard Hot 100. In 1959 she briefly appeared in the anti-apartheid film Come Back, Africa, which led to concert engagements in London and New York City. In 1960 she moved to New York, and she recorded her first two solo albums there that year. Later that year when she tried to return to South Africa for her mother's funeral the government refused her entry. Makeba had originally recorded Pata Pata in the 1950's with her girl group The Skylarks, but her most popular and well-known version of the song was recorded in the United States for her 1967 studio album of the same name. The following year, in 1968, exiled Makeba married Stokely Carmichael, a leader of the Black Panthers Party, which brought on a backlash in the United States. Before long, when she was traveling outside of the US, her visa was revoked, causing her and Carmichael to settle down in Guinea. In her remarkable life she had numerous marriages, including to famous South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela. In 2008, just after performing Pata Pata in Italy, the 76-year old anti-apartheid and civil rights icon collapsed on stage and died after an apparent heart attack.
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