April 25, 2016. Posted by David Tallacksen.Billy Paul, the singer of "Me and Mrs. Jones" and other soul ballads, has died. He's seen here in 2006. (Image Credit: John M. Heller/Getty Images)
Billy Paul, the soul singer whose smooth voice and impeccable phrasing made "Me and Mrs. Jones" into a classic, has died at age 80. A Philadelphia native whose name at birth was Paul Williams, the singer had reportedly suffered from cancer.
Paul's manager, Beverly Gay, tells NBC10 in Philadelphia that the singer died Sunday morning. He had recently been diagnosed with cancer and was hospitalized last week, Gay says. She says Paul died at his home in Blackwood, N.J., southeast of Philadelphia.
A message on Paul's website confirmed his death:
"We would like to extend our most sincere condolences to his wife Blanche and family for their loss, as they and the world grieves the loss of another musical icon that helped pioneered today's R&B music. Billy will be truly missed."
In 1972, Paul won a Grammy Award and topped the charts with "Me and Mrs. Jones," a plaintive ballad about an affair. Thanks in large part to his vocal range and silky delivery, the confessional song became a hit for the ages.
Two things help explain Paul's unique vocal style: his early dreams of playing saxophone ("I took my uniqueness and treated it like a horn," he once said), and his emulation of female jazz singers such as Billie Holiday.
"I think the reason behind that is because of my high range," he said on his website. "The male singers who had the same range I did, when I was growing up, didn't do much for me. But put on Nina Simone, Carmen McRae or Nancy Wilson, and I'd be in seventh heaven. Female vocalists just did more with their voices, and that's why I paid more attention to them."
While he's most famous for singing about love, Paul made music that focused on many topics and drew on wide influences. Fellow Philadelphia native Questlove of The Roots has called Paul "one of the criminally unmentioned proprietors of socially conscious post-revolution '60s civil rights music."
That quote comes from Paul's website, which posted a video clip in which Questlove compares Paul to Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.
"Nothing against those brothers," the drummer says, "but Billy Paul, in every aspect of his presentation, is really the first person to bring reality."
Paul recorded more than a dozen albums; a list of highlight songs from those records could start with "Am I Black Enough For You" from 1972, when he sang:
"We're gonna move on up
Six by six; I gotta use my mind
Instead of my fists"
In 1976, Paul created a kind of mashup version of Paul McCartney's "Let Em In" that recast the song as a civil rights anthem, complete with samples from speeches by Malcolm X and other leaders.
As part of the Philadelphia International All Stars, Paul sang alongside other soul legends — Lou Rawls and the O'Jays, among them — to record "Let's Clean Up the Ghetto."
In 1979, he styled a plea for social harmony and stability into an upbeat disco number, with "Bring The Family Back."
As a young talent, Paul studied at the West Philadelphia Music School and the Granoff School of Music. He was just 16 when he shared a bill with jazz legend Charlie Parker at a club in Philadelphia.
"He died later that year," Paul said on his website. "I was there with him for a week and I learned what it would normally take two years to pick up. Bird told me if I kept struggling I'd go a long way, and I've never forgotten his words."
In the 1950s, while serving in the Army in post-World War II Germany, Paul shared a post with Elvis Presley. But he said Presley wasn't interested in joining the jazz band he formed with Gary Crosby (Bing's son).
"We were in Germany and we said we're going to start a band, so we didn't have to do any hard work in the service," he said on his website. "We tried to get Elvis to join but he wanted to be a jeep driver."Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
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April 22, 2016. Posted by Brandy Wood.
WBGO remembers The Purple One, The Artist – Prince - with two tribute programs this weekend, Saturday on Rhythm Revue with Felix Hernandez (10AM-2PM) and Sunday on The Checkout (7-8PM).
In describing Prince’s influence, Rhythm Revue host Hernandez said, “The impact of Prince's artistry on popular music is immeasurable. Early in his career, Prince blurred the lines between rock and R&B at a time when the divide between the genres seemed ever widening. He earned the respect and praise of musicians from every field, to say nothing of critics and the public, with sales of over one hundred million recordings to his credit. Like his genre-bending predecessors Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, David Bowie, to mention a few, Prince brought together elements of all types of music to create art that was always fresh, daring and popular, a rare accomplishment.”
This Sunday at 7PM, The Checkout will pay tribute to Prince, by featuring a variety of jazz artists performing Prince’s music, as well as presenting an interview with Thelonious Monk Institute Award winning bassist Ben Williams. In December, Williams presented a program of new arrangements of Prince songs at Harlem Stage. Williams discovered Prince as a kid by way of the very adult film Purple Rain. On Sunday’s episode, he tells that story plus shares one of his favorite Prince compositions.
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April 21, 2016
In the late 1930s, a bespectacled white man who played the clarinet was a teen idol. That was Benny Goodman, and he got to be that way from leading a quartet with Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa — one of jazz's first racially integrated bands. In a special stage show written by Geoffrey Ward and narrated by Wendell Pierce, a young band (Christian Sands, piano; Joel Ross, vibraphone; Sammy Miller, drums) with a rotating cast of clarinetists (Will Anderson, Peter Anderson, Patrick Bartley and Janelle Reichman) tells the whole story at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Jazz Night In America learns about the history of the Benny Goodman Quartet onstage from The Appel Room.Copyright 2016 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.
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April 21, 2016. Posted by David Tallacksen.Prince performs at the Fabulous Forum in Inglewood, Calif., in 1985. (Image Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Prince — the Purple One, who reeled off pop hits in four different decades — has died at age 57. The shocking news was confirmed by Prince's publicist after reports emerged that police were investigating a death at his Paisley Park estate outside of Minneapolis.
Reporting from Paisley Park Thursday, Andrea Swensson tells Minnesota Public Radio that she was among a few dozen people who had gathered at Prince's estate after hearing of a death there — and that "even the journalists are hugging each other" after hearing that Prince has died.
She added that no word has yet emerged about a possible cause of death.
Swensson, who had met Prince and spent time with him as a part of a retrospective about his film Purple Rain, described his as being "shy, sensitive – and flirtatious."
News of Prince's death emerged after police said they were investigating a death at his estate in Chanhassen, with the Carver County Sheriffs' Department saying that deputies were on the scene.
Citing the musician's recent health problems, TMZ reports:
"The singer — full name Prince Rogers Nelson — had a medical emergency on April 15th that forced his private jet to make an emergency landing in Illinois. But he appeared at a concert the next day to assure his fans he was okay. His people told TMZ he was battling the flu."
Prince was just 19 years old when he released his first album, putting out For You in 1978. In the decades that followed, he went on to develop a unique sound and style that endeared him to generations of audiences – all while exploring new ground as an artist.
His fifth album, 1999, exploded onto America's music scene. Released in 1983, it included hits like "Little Red Corvette" and "1999." It also set the stage for Purple Rain, the 1984 soundtrack album packed with songs such as "When Doves Cry" and "Let's Go Crazy" that became fixtures on the radio and established Prince as a pop culture icon.
As Swensson wrote for MPR about Purple Rain for the film's 30th anniversary in 2014, "it grossed $7.7 million in its opening weekend, beating out Ghostbusters — and racked up comparisons to movies like the Beatles's Hard Day's Night and Citizen Kane in glowing reviews from major media outlets."
Prince also won two Grammys and an Oscar (for Original Song Score) for Purple Rain. In 2007, he won a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, for "The Song of the Heart" from Happy Feet.
From 1985 to 2007, Prince won seven Grammy awards — most recently for "Future Baby Mama."Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
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April 21, 2016. Posted by Brandy Wood.
Broadway's Alexander Gemignani joins forces with jazz arranger Tedd Firth to bring the Sondheim catalogue alive. Paul Gemignani, Sondheim’s longtime collaborator will be a special guest for the evening. Event details.
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