Duke Ellington

American composer, pianist, and big-band leader Duke Ellington sadly died 24 May 1974. He was Born 29th April in 1899 in Washington, D.C. Ellington was born on April 29, 1899, to James Edward Ellington and Daisy (Kennedy) Ellington in Washington, D.C. Both his parents were pianists. Daisy primarily played parlor songs and James preferred operatic arias. They lived with his maternal grandparents  in the West End neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Duke’s father  James Ellington made blueprints for the United States Navy. At the age of seven, Ellington began taking piano lessons from Marietta Clinkscales. Ellington’s  casual, offhand manner, his easy grace, and his dapper dress gave him the bearing of a young nobleman, earning him the nickname “Duke.” Ellington credited his chum Edgar McEntree for the nickname. Though Ellington took piano lessons, he was more interested in baseball. Ellington went to Armstrong Technical High School in Washington, D.C. He gained his first job selling peanuts at Washington Senators baseball games. ELlington composed his first peice in 1914, while working as a soda jerk at the Poodle Dog Café, entitled Soda Fountain Rag” (also known as the “Poodle Dog Rag”) and would play the ‘Soda Fountain Rag’ as a one-step, two-step, waltz, tango, and fox trot”,

In 1913 Ellington started sneaking into Frank Holiday’s Poolroom. Hearing the poolroom pianists play ignited Ellington’s love for the instrument, and he began to take his piano studies seriously. Among the many piano players he listened to were Doc Perry, Lester Dishman, Louis Brown, Turner Layton, Gertie Wells, Clarence Bowser, Sticky Mack, Blind Johnny, Cliff Jackson, Claude Hopkins, Phil Wurd, Caroline Thornton, Luckey Roberts, Eubie Blake, Joe Rochester, and Harvey Brooks. Ellington began listening to, watching, and imitating ragtime pianists, he saw in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Atlantic City. Dunbar High School music teacher Henry Lee Grant gave him private lessons in harmony. With the additional guidance of Washington pianist and band leader Oliver “Doc” Perry, Ellington learned to read sheet music, project a professional style, and improve his technique. Ellington was also inspired by his first encounters with pianists James P. Johnson and Luckey Roberts. Later in New York he took advice from Will Marion Cook, Fats Waller, and Sidney Bechet. Ellington started playing gigs in cafés and clubs in and around Washington, D.C. And also turned down an art scholarship to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Three months before graduating he dropped out of Armstrong Manual Training School, where he was studying commercial art.

Working as a freelance sign-painter from 1917, Ellington began assembling groups to play for dances. In 1919 he met drummer Sonny Greer from New Jersey, who encouraged Ellington to become a professional musician. Ellington built his music business through his day job: ask customers if they had musical entertainment; if not, Ellington would offer to play for the occasion. He also had a messenger job with the U.S. Navy and State departments. Ellington moved out of his parents’ home and bought his own as he became a successful pianist and in 1917 formed his first group, “The Duke’s Serenaders” their first gig was at the True Reformer’s Hall. Ellington played throughout the Washington, D.C. area and into Virginia for private society balls and embassy parties. The band included childhood friend Otto Hardwick, who began playing the string bass, then moved to C-melody sax and finally settled on alto saxophone; Arthur Whetsol on trumpet; Elmer Snowden on banjo; and Sonny Greer on drums.

From the mid-1920s onward, Ellington was based in New York City and gained a national profile through his orchestra’s appearances at the Cotton Club in Harlem. In the 1930s, his orchestra toured in Europe. Though widely considered to have been a pivotal figure in the history of jazz, Ellington embraced the phrase “beyond category” as a liberating principle, and referred to his music as part of the more general category of American Music, rather than to a musical genre such as jazz. Some of the musicians who were members of Ellington’s orchestra, such as saxophonist Johnny Hodges, are considered to be among the best players in jazz. Ellington melded them into the best-known orchestral unit in the history of jazz. Some members stayed with the orchestra for several decades. A master at writing miniatures for the three-minute 78 rpm recording format, Ellington often composed specifically to feature the style and skills of his individual musicians.

Often collaborating with others, Ellington wrote more than one thousand compositions; his extensive body of work is the largest recorded personal jazz legacy, with many of his works having become standards. Ellington also recorded songs written by his bandsmen, for example Juan Tizol’s “Caravan”, and “Perdido”, which brought a Spanish tinge to big band jazz. After 1941, Ellington collaborated with composer-arranger-pianist Billy Strayhorn, whom he called his writing and arranging companion. With Strayhorn, he composed many extended compositions, or suites, as well as additional short pieces. Following an appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival, in July 1956, Ellington and his orchestra enjoyed a major career revival and embarked on world tours. Ellington recorded for most American record companies of his era, performed in several films, scoring several, and composed stage musicals.

Ellington was A major figure in the history of jazz, and his music stretched into various other genres, including blues, gospel, film scores, popular, and classical. His career spanned more than 50 years and included leading his orchestra, composing an inexhaustible songbook, scoring for movies, composing stage musicals, and world tours. Several of his instrumental works were adapted into songs that became standards.

Due to his inventive use of the orchestra, or big band, and thanks to his eloquence and extraordinary charisma, he is generally considered to have elevated the perception of jazz to an art form on a par with other traditional genres of music. His reputation increased after his death and the Pulitzer Prize Board bestowed on him a special posthumous honor in 1999. Ellington called his music “American Music” rather than jazz, and liked to describe those who impressed him as “beyond category.” These included many of the musicians who were members of his orchestra, some of whom are considered among the best in jazz in their own right, but it was Ellington who melded them into one of the most well-known jazz orchestral units in the history of jazz.

He often composed specifically for the style and skills of these individuals, such as “Jeep’s Blues” for Johnny Hodges, “Concerto for Cootie” for Cootie Williams, which later became “Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me” with Bob Russell’s lyrics, and “The Mooche” for Tricky Sam Nanton and Bubber Miley. He also recorded songs written by his bandsmen, such as Juan Tizol’s “Caravan” and “Perdido” which brought the “Spanish Tinge” to big-band jazz. Several members of the orchestra remained there for several decades. After 1941, he frequently collaborated with composer-arranger-pianist Billy Strayhorn, whom he called his “writing and arranging companion.” Ellington recorded for many American record companies, and appeared in several films. Ellington led his band from 1923 until his death in 1974. His son Mercer Ellington, who had already been handling all administrative aspects of his father’s business for several decades, led the band until his own death in 1996. At that point, the original band dissolved. Paul Ellington, Mercer’s youngest son and executor of the Duke Ellington estate, kept the Duke Ellington Orchestra going from Mercer’s death onwards

Heavy D

Jamaican-born American rapper, record producer, singer, actor, and former leader of Heavy D & the Boyz, Dwight Errington Myers (AKA Heavy D) was born May 24, 1967 in Mandeville, Middlesex, Jamaica. In the early 1970s, his family moved to Mount Vernon, New York, where he was raised. In an interview, his mother stated that he spent most of his childhood hanging out with his brother Floyd and his childhood friend Mo.

He formed Heavy D and the Boyz a hip hop group with dancers/background vocalists G-Whiz (Glen Parrish), “Trouble” T. Roy (Troy Dixon), and Eddie F (born Edward Ferrell). Heavy D & the Boyz were the first group signed to Uptown Records, with Heavy D as the frontman and only rapper. Eddie F was his business partner in the group, DJ, and one of the producers. The other two members, T-Roy and G-Wiz were the dancers. Their debut, Living Large, was released in 1987. The album was a commercial success; Big Tyme was a breakthrough that included four hits. “Trouble T. Roy” died at age 22 in a fall on July 15, 1990, in Indianapolis. Dixon’s death led to a tribute on the follow-up platinum album, Peaceful Journey. Pete Rock & CL Smooth created a tribute to Trouble T. Roy called “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” which is regarded as a hip hop classiy

In 1989 Heavy D performed a guest rap on Janet Jackson’s hit single “Alright”. It and Blondie’s “Rapture”, recorded in 1980, were notably the first pop singles to feature a rapper, setting the trend for future hip-hop and pop collaborations. In 1992 he appeared on Michael Jackson’s single “Jam” and sang the theme song for the television program In Living Color and also MADtv. Heavy D then began focusing on his acting, appearing in various television shows before returning to the music charts with Nuttin’ But Love. After appearing in the off-Broadway play Riff Raff at Circle Repertory Company, Heavy D returned to recording with the hit Waterbed Hev.

In 1997, Heavy D collaborated with B.B. King on his duets album Deuces Wild, rapping in the song “Keep It Coming”. Heavy D was referred to in the song “Juicy” by the Notorious B.I.G., and appeared in his music video for “One More Chance. Heavy D was also partly responsible for giving Sean “Diddy” Combs and Jodeci their first big break in the music business. Heavy D also became the president of Uptown Records. During this time, and also developed the boy band Soul for Real, and was the executive producer and principal writer of several songs on the group’s breakout album, Candy Rain and became senior vice president at Universal Music. Heavy D and Eddie F also performed at the 2011 BET Hip Hop Awards on October 11, 2011 which was their first televised live performance in 15 years and would be his final live performance.

Myers sadly died on November 8, 2011, in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 44. He collapsed outside his home in Beverly Hills, California, and was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. His death was initially thought to be connected to pneumonia An autopsy report, released on December 27, 2011, stated that the cause of death was a pulmonary embolism (PE). The coroner’s office found that Myers died of a PE that had broken off from a deep vein thrombosis in the leg. He also suffered from heart disease. Craig Harvey, chief of the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner, said that the blood clot that resulted in the PE was “most likely formed during an extended airplane ride”. Heavy D had recently returned from a trip to Cardiff, Wales, where he performed at a tribute to Michael Jackson. Shortly after his death, MC Hammer and others led tributes for Heavy D on Twitter. Hammer tweeted, “We had a lot of great times touring together. He had a heart of gold. He was a part of what’s good about the world.” His funeral was held in his hometown of Mount Vernon, NY at Grace Baptist Church. He was then laid to rest in Hartsdale, NY.

Larry Blackmon (Cameo)

American Musician Lawrence Ernest Blackmon was born May 24, 1956. He is the lead singer and founder frontman of the funk and R&B band, Cameo. Starting the band “East Coast”, Blackmon and Tomi Jenkins formed the “New York City Players” as compliment to the Ohio Players. Having to rename the group due to a conflict, the band later called itself Cameo. Blackmon lived in Harlem and played drums on several hits for the band Black Ivory. He is the son of Lee Black, a former boxer.

Along with his unique vocal style, Blackmon’s other personal touches included sporting an elaborate hi-top fade haircut and a codpiece over his pants. His signature “ow!” was used as the intro for some of the band’s songs. Blackmon appeared as a backing vocalist on Ry Cooder’s 1987 album “Get Rhythm” and Cyndi Lauper’s 1989 album, A Night to Remember. He also had co-producer credits for Eddie Murphy’s 1989 album So Happy.

The snare drum sound that Blackmon created for “Word Up!” and “Candy” was duplicated on releases by a wide range of artists. The group Cameo appeared at Adventureland Palace sponsored by Black Pride, Inc., on April 26, 1978.One of his sons is heavily involved in the New York political scene, while another son is currently involved in the hip hop music industry.

Guy Fletcher (Dire Straits)

Multi instrumentalist and keyboard player with rock band Dire Straits, Guy Fletcher was born May 24th 1960 in Maidstone, Kent, England. He was born into a musical family and is the namesake of his uncle, Guy Fletcher, who has written several hit songs for other artists with composing partner Doug Flett. His mother Barbara was a session singer and his father Ted Fletcher, a well established audio designer, (Orbitsound) created a line of audio equipment named after Joe Meek with whom he had worked. Whilst learning a trade as an audio engineer at DJM Studios in London Guy also had a succession of his own bands and learned to play keyboards, guitars, and a variety of stringed instruments. He joined and toured with Steve Harley’s ‘Cockney Rebel’ in 1979 and in 1981, Roxy Music for their ‘Avalon’ world tour.

In 1983, Guy was recruited by Dire Straits’ lead guitarist Mark Knopfler to work on the music for the films Cal and ‘Comfort and Joy, he joined Dire Straits in 1984. The group released their first album, Dire Straits and toured with the Talking Heads. Upon it’s rerelease “Sultans of Swing” became one of Dire Straits’ biggest hits and has since become a fixture in the band’s live performances. “ The group’s second album, Communique was Released in June 1979, it Featured the singles “Lady Writer” and Once Upon a Time in the West”.

It continued in a similar vein as the first and was nominated for two Grammy Awards In 1980, For Best New Artist and Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for “Sultans Of Swing. Dire Straits third album. Making Movies was release in 1980 and featured longer songs with more complex arrangements, a style which would continue for the rest of the band’s career. The album featured many of Mark Knopfler’s most personal compositions. The most successful being “Romeo and Juliet”

Dire Straits’ fourth studio album Love Over Gold, was released in 1982 and contained lengthy, experimental passages, including Private Investigations. It went gold in America and spent four weeks at number one in the United Kingdom. “Private Investigations”, became another of the band’s most popular live songs. along with “Industrial Disease”, a song that looks at the decline of the British manufacturing industry in the early 1980s. In 1983, a four-song EP titled ExtendedancEPlay was released while Love Over Gold was still in the album charts. It featured the hit single “Twisting By the Pool”. Dire Straits also embarked on a world tour, and the resulting double album Alchemy Live, a recording of two live concerts of the group at London’s Hammersmith Odeon in July 1983, was released in March 1984.

Dire Straits hugely popular album Brothers in Arms, was released in 1985 containing the tracks “Money for Nothing”, “Walk of Life”, “So Far Away”, “Your Latest Trick” and “Brothers in Arms”. It entered the UK Albums Chart at number 1 and spent a total of 228 weeks in the charts, Going on to become the best-selling album of 1985 in the UK. “Money for Nothing” was also one of the first videos ever to be played on MTV in Britain and featured guest vocals by Sting, who is credited with co-writing the song with Mark Knopfler, although in fact, it was just the inclusion of the melody line from “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”.Brothers in Arms was among the first albums recorded on digital equipment due to Knopfler pushing for improved sound quality The album’s title track is reported to be the world’s first CD single. The album is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first compact disc to sell a million copies, and has been credited with helping to popularise the CD format.

The Dire Straits sound drew from a variety of musical influences, including jazz, folk, blues, and came closest to beat music within the context of rock and roll. Despite the prominence of punk rock during the band’s early years, the band’s stripped-down sound contrasted with punk, demonstrating a more “rootsy” influence that emerged out of pub rock. Many of Dire Straits’ compositions have made them one of the world’s most commercially successful bands, with worldwide album sales of over 120 million. Their fifth album, Brothers in Arms, has won many accolades. In November 2009, Dire Straits were honoured by the new PRS for Music Heritage Award. A special blue plaque was erected at Farrer House, Church Street, Deptford in south London, where the original group, Mark Knopfler, David Knopfler, John Illsley and Pick Withers once shared a council flat and performed their first ever gig in 1977. PRS for Music has set up the Heritage Award to recognise the unusual “performance birthplaces” of famous bands and artists. Dire Straits have also won numerous music awards during their career, including four Grammy Awards, three Brit Awards—winning Best British Group twice, and two MTV Video Music Awards.

After Dire Straits disbanded in 1995, Fletcher continued his association with former band founder, Mark Knopfler, as a core member of his band after launching his solo career. Between late February and August, 2005, Fletcher completed a world tour as his sideman, promoting Knopfler’s 2004 solo album, Shangri-La, and in 2006 rounded off the duets tour with Knopfler and Emmylou Harris. Fletcher also toured as part of Bryan Ferry´s band on his Mamouna world tour.Fletcher co-produced and played keyboards on Knopflers solo album, Get Lucky, and was again part of his subsequent world tour in 2010. Fletcher’s first solo album, Inamorata, was released on 28 January 2008. Mark Knopfler guests as lead guitarist for two tracks, and various musicians who have been associated with Knopfler’s band also make appearances.On 24 May 2010, Fletcher released his second solo album, titled Natural Selection.

Bob Dylan

Influential American musician, singer-songwriter, music producer, artist, and writer Bob Dylan was born; May 24, 1942. He has been an influential figure in popular music and culture for more than five decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s when he was an informal chronicler and a seemingly reluctant figurehead of social unrest. A number of Dylan’s early songs, such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’”, became anthems for the US civil rights and anti-war movements. Leaving his initial base in the culture of folk music behind, Dylan’s six-minute single “Like a Rolling Stone” radically altered the parameters of popular music in 1965.

His recordings employing electric instruments attracted denunciation and criticism from others in the folk movement.Dylan’s lyrics have incorporated a variety of political, social, philosophical, and literary influences. They defied existing pop music conventions and appealed hugely to the then burgeoning counterculture. Initially inspired by the performance style of Little Richard, and the songwriting of Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, and Hank Williams, Dylan has both amplified and personalized musical genres. His recording career, spanning fifty years, has explored many of the traditions in American song—from folk, blues, and countryto gospel, rock and roll, and rockabilly to English, Scottish, and Irish folk music, embracing even jazz and swing. Dylan performs with guitar, keyboards, and harmonica. Backed by a changing line-up of musicians, he has toured steadily since the late 1980s on what has been dubbed the Never Ending Tour. His accomplishments as a recording artist and performer have been central to his career, but his greatest contribution is generally considered to be his songwriting. Since 1994, Dylan has published three books of drawings and paintings, and his work has been exhibited in major art galleries.

As a songwriter and musician, Dylan has sold more than 100 million records worldwide and received numerous awards over the years including Grammy, Golden Globe, and Academy Awards; he has been inducted into theRock and Roll Hall of Fame, Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and Songwriters Hall of Fame. The Pulitzer Prize jury in 2008 awarded him a special citation for “his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.” In May 2000, Dylan was awarded thePolar Music Prize. In May 2012, Dylan received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama