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Sebastian Bach


Sebastian Philip Bierk (born April 3, 1968), known professionally as Sebastian Bach, is a Canadian heavy metal singer who achieved mainstream success as frontman of Skid Row from 1987 to 1996. Since his departure from Skid Row, he has had many television roles, acted in Broadway plays, and leads a successful solo career.
Kid Wikkid (1983–1985)
The members of Kid Wikkid were stationed in Peterborough. Upon hearing of the band and unaware of their ages, 14 year old Bach auditioned for the group, and was successfully hired. Kid Wikkid moved back to Toronto, and Bach’s dad eventually allowed Bach to move in with his Aunt Leslie. The event was recorded twice in the Peterborough newspaper.
Skid Row (1987–1996)
Skid Row initially formed in the late eighties with lead singer Matt Fallon. They began playing at various New Jersey clubs. Fallon would soon leave the band in 1987, leaving Skid Row without a singer. Bach was spotted singing at rock photographer Mark Weiss’s wedding at the age of 18 and the members asked him to join in early 1987. He sent them a demo of him singing “Saved By Love.” They loved it and flew him to New Jersey where they began playing gigs. Sebastian also recorded demos with Bon Jovi & Sabo’s friend Jack Ponti. (The song “She’s on Top” later came out on Jack Ponti Presents Vol. 1)
In 1991, Bach was criticized for performing wearing a T-shirt reading “AIDS Kills Fags Dead.” Later he claimed he wore it without reading it first; it had been thrown to him by a fan. Although he made light of the incident in his original apology (stating that he would’ve been offended by someone mocking his grandmother’s then-recent death with a “Cancer Kills Grandmas Dead” shirt), Bach has since repeatedly apologized for and disavowed the statement, “That was really stupid and wrong for me to wear that for one half-hour in my life. What nobody brings up is in 2000, when I was in Jekyll & Hyde, and at an auction for Broadway Cares, I donated $12,000 of my own money to fight AIDS.”
In 1990, Bach performed with Guns N’ Roses and Metallica, on the same stage, at a party held by RIP Magazine, the improvised name for the band was: The Gak. In 1992, he sang the Canadian National Anthem at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in San Diego, California.
Bach was eventually fired when he booked a show where Skid Row would have opened for KISS in 1996. Other band members told Bach that Skid Row was too big to be an opening act and that they were not going to do the show. Bach then left a message on a bandmate’s answering machine telling him that you are never too big to open up for KISS, and subsequently left the band. Ironically enough, four years later, Skid Row was one of the opening acts for the 2000 Kiss Farewell Tour, without Bach.
Broadway and other projects (1996–2006)
In 1996, Bach formed a rock band called The Last Hard Men, with Frogs guitarist Jimmy Flemion, The Breeders lead guitarist Kelley Deal, and Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin. The group recorded a full-length, self-titled album for Atlantic Records, who then opted not to release it. In 1998 it was released on Kelley Deal’s label, Nice Records, with no fanfare and a very limited pressing of 1000 CDs. This run may have been sold via mail order only. The album has since been re-released and can be purchased commercially.
In 1999 Bach released his debut solo album Bring ‘Em Bach Alive!, his first release after his departure from Skid Row. The album was mainly a live album composed of Skid Row songs of Bach’s era; however it also included five new original solo tracks (studio recordings).
In 2000, Bach began performing in Broadway productions. He made his Broadway debut with the title role in Jekyll & Hyde in April 2000. Although originally only contracted through early September, Bach received good reviews and was asked to extend until October 15. Replacing him was David Hasselhoff, whom Bach mentored slightly during rehearsals. He also appeared as Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Show in 2001. On November 28, 2001 Bach appeared at New York Steel, a benefit concert held in response to 9/11. He appeared early in the show, left to perform on Broadway, and returned at the end when all performers gathered for a final song.
In early 2002, he became the host of VH1’s Forever Wild. In October that same year, Bach was signed to perform in the national touring production of Jesus Christ Superstar, playing the title role alongside JCS veteran Carl Anderson (who reprised his familiar role from Broadway and film of Judas Iscariot). He has said if he ever did the show again, he would like to try the role of Judas next time. A DVD video of live performances called Forever Wild was released in June 2004. That same year, he reprised the title role(s) in another showing of Jekyll and Hyde.
Sometime in 2003, Bach tried out for Velvet Revolver before the band found Scott Weiland, but was turned down because, according to Slash, “We sounded like Skid Roses!” From 2003 to 2007, Bach had a recurring role on the WB television show Gilmore Girls as “Gil”, the lead guitarist in Lane Kim’s band, Hep Alien. Members of Bach Tight Five (a project initiated by Bach in 2004, but shortly dissolved thereafter) lived with Bach and his family as documented on VH1’s I Married …Sebastian Bach, one of the “I Married …” series. Stars also included Dee Snider, of the rock band Twisted Sister.
In 2005, Bach cooperated with Henning Pauly to be the singer on the Frameshift album called An Absence of Empathy, which was released in April 2005. He was recommended to Henning by Dream Theater’s James LaBrie whom Bach is very close friends with.
On May 12 and May 14, 2006 at the Guns N’ Roses’ warmup show at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, Bach joined Axl Rose on stage for the song “My Michelle”….. He joined Rose and gang for a third time the following night (May 15) to sing “My Michelle” once again. He also joined them for their Pre-Download Festival show in the Apollo Hammersmith, London, singing My Michelle. Rose introduced Bach by saying that the two had rekindled their friendship in the previous week after 13 years of not speaking. On June 4, 9 & 11 he again joined Rose on stage at the 2006 Gods of Metal Festival (Milan), Download Festival in RDS Dublin and in Donington, respectively. He also appeared on several other tour dates during GN’R’s European tour. On September 23, 2006, he joined Axl on stage once again at KROQ-FM’s Inland Invasion festival in California for a rendition of “My Michelle”. On July 30, 2006, Bach filled in for an ailing Axl Rose for “Nightrain” and the encore “Paradise City”.
SuperGroup and Angel Down (2006–2010)
Bach starred with Ted Nugent, Evan Seinfeld, Jason Bonham and Scott Ian on the VH1 show Supergroup in May 2006. The musicians formed a band called Damnocracy for the reality show, during which they lived in a mansion in Las Vegas for twelve days and created music.
Bach announced a partnership record label with EMI to jointly create a label owned by Bach, including his album Angel Down, which was released on November 20, 2007. Bach also recorded backing vocals for the track “Sorry” on Guns N’ Roses’ long-delayed Chinese Democracy, which was released on November 23, 2008. He spent the summer of 2008 playing with Poison and Dokken. He also did a solo Australian tour in May & has been working on new songs with Jamey Jasta from HATEBREED, for the follow-up to his Angel Down CD.
Sebastian Bach was the winner of the second season of the CMT reality show, Gone Country.”
Kicking & Screaming and Sterling’s departure (2010–2012)
Bach toured as an opening act for GNR’s “Chinese Democracy Tour” 2009–2010, and performed “My Michelle” with Axl Rose in Quebec City on February 1, 2010. On January 5, 2011, he was featured on NBC’s Jimmy Fallon Show in a live performance and a subsequent video of “We Are The Ducks”, a power ballad written for University of Oregon Ducks, set to play in the BCS national championship game Monday, January 10, 2011.
In spring 2011, Bach was interviewed by British metal band Asking Alexandria in the March/April issue of Revolver. The band are fans of Skid Row and covered two of their songs the preceding year of the interview. Bach also filmed in their music video “Closure”.
Sebastian has also provided the voice of Prince Triton, King Neptune’s rebellious son, in SpongeBob SquarePants in the episode, SpongeBob and the Clash of Triton, which premiered in early July 2010. In June 15, 2011, Sebastian revealed the title of his solo album would be Kicking & Screaming. In July 8, 2011 track list, cover art and title of the first single were revealed. It was released September 27, 2011 for North America and worldwide and September 23, 2011 for Europe on Frontiers Records.
On August 13, 2012, Nick Sterling was fired by Bach after refusing to sign an agreement to appear on an undisclosed TV show. Nick also broke rules set by Bach with regards to drinking before shows. Bach also stated in a radio interview that Nick is not allowed in Canada due to an alcohol-related incident. “Nick got into some legal trouble, having to do with alcohol, down in Arizona. Where he lives.” He was replaced later by Jeff George.
Recent events (2013–present)
On April 30, 2013, Bach confirmed via Twitter that a new studio album was in the works. He went on to say that Bob Marlette would be returning as producer. Bach had collaboration work for the upcoming album with John 5, Duff McKagan, and Steve Stevens. On January 13, 2014 the solo album entitled Give ‘Em Hell was announced with prospective release date of April 22, 2014. Electronic music producers Dada Life have announced Sebastian Bach as the vocalist on the upcoming rerelease of their single Born to Rage.
Give ‘Em Hell (2014)
Give ‘Em Hell is the upcoming fifth solo studio album from Sebastian Bach, scheduled to be released on April 22, 2014, by Frontiers Records.
Personal life
Bach lived in Lincroft, New Jersey. In August 2011 his New Jersey home was damaged by Hurricane Irene and declared uninhabitable. Several Kiss and Skid Row artifacts, including Skid Row master tapes, were destroyed but his father’s art, comic books, and the KISS gargoyles from their 1979 tour were salvaged. Currently he lives in a home in Beverly Hills.


Marian Anderson


Marian Anderson (February 27, 1897 – April 8, 1993) was an African-American contralto, best remembered for her performance on Easter Sunday, 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C..

Overcoming the odds of poverty, racism and the loss of her father at a young age, she persevered to become one of the most beloved singers of her day.

Experiencing firsthand the scourge of racism in America and saddened by racial inequalities, she did not take the role as an active, aggressive opponent of racism. Rather, she chose to educate and enlighten her listeners through the example of her own life. She maintained her dignity and grace, allowing those qualities to fight the ignorance of which prejudice is born.

Anderson became a great advocate and role model for African-American musicians, never seeming to give up hope for the future of both her people and her country.

Childhood and Education

Marian Anderson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Throughout her life she gave her birth date as February 17, 1902, but her death certificate records her birth date as February 27, 1897 and there is photograph taken of her as an infant that is dated 1898. She was the oldest of three daughters born to John and Anna Anderson. Her father was a loader at the Reading Terminal Market, while her mother was a former teacher, having taught in Virginia. In 1912, her father suffered a head wound at work and died soon after. Marian and her two sisters, along with their mother moved in with her father’s parents. Her mother found work cleaning, laundering, and scrubbing floors.

At the age of six, Marian joined the junior choir at the Baptist Church in which her father was very active. Soon she was nicknamed “The Baby Contralto.” When Marian was eight years old her father had bought a piano from his brother, but they could not afford to pay for lessons. This however, did not deter Marian and she began teaching herself to play.

Marian joined the senior choir at her church when she was 13 years old. She soon began visiting other churches, through which she became well-known for her vocal abilities. She began accepting invitations to sing, sometimes performing at three different places in a single night. She eventually summoned the confidence to request five dollars per performance.

At the age of 15, Marian began voice lessons with Mary Saunders Patterson, a prominent black soprano. Shortly thereafter, the Philadelphia Choral Society held a benefit concert, providing $500 for her to study for two years with leading contralto Agnes Reifsnyder.

Marian attended William Penn High School until her music vocation arose. She transferred to South Philadelphia High School, focusing on music and singing frequently at assemblies, graduating at age 18. She applied for admission to a local music school, but was coldly rejected because of her color. Reflecting on that experience, Marian later stated:

“I don’t think I said a word. I just looked at this girl and was shocked that such words could come from one so young. If she had been old and sour-faced I might not have been startled. I cannot say why her youth shocked me as much as her words. On second thought, I could not conceive of a person surrounded as she was with the joy that is music without having some sense of its beauty and understanding rub off on her. I did not argue with her or ask to see her superior. It was as if a cold, horrifying hand had been laid on me. I turned and walked out.”

Her former high school principal enabled her to meet Guiseppe Boghetti, a much sought-after teacher. He was reportedly moved to tears during the audition, when Marian performed “Deep River.”

Career and Acclaim

Anderson began to tour regionally, focusing on black colleges and churches in the South. In 1919, at the age of 22, she sang at the National Baptist Convention. Gaining knowledge and confidence with each performance, on April 23, 1924, she dared her first recital at New York’s Town Hall. However, she was uncomfortable with foreign languages and critics found her voice lacking. This discouraging experience nearly caused her to end her vocal career.

However, her confidence was soon bolstered when, while studying under Boghetti, she was granted the opportunity to sing at the Lewisohn Stadium in New York by entering a contest sponsored by the New York Philharmonic Society. She entered the Lewisohn Stadium competition in 1925. She came in first among 300 rivals and sang in New York’s amphitheater with the accompaniment of the Philharmonic Orchestra. The success of this concert gained her the attention of Arthur Judson, an important impresario, who put her under contract.

In 1926, Marian toured the East Coast and Southern states, adding songs to her repertoire. She performed a solo recital at Carnegie Hall on December 30, 1928. A New York Times critic wrote: “A true mezzo-soprano, she encompassed both ranges with full power, expressive feeling, dynamic contrast, and utmost delicacy.” However, Ms. Anderson’s popularity was not catching on with mainstream America; she was still performing mainly for black audiences.

The National Association of Negro Musicians awarded Marian a scholarship to study in Britain. On September 16, 1930, she performed at London’s Wigmore Hall. She returned only briefly to the United States. A scholarship was granted to Marian from the Julius Rosenwald Fund, which allowed her to broaden her training to include England, France, Belgium, Holland, the former Soviet Union, and Scandinavia.

Anderson was intent on perfecting her language skills (as most operas were written in Italian and German) and learning the art of lieder singing. At a debut concert in Berlin, she attracted the attention of Rule Rasmussen and Helmer Enwall, managers who arranged a tour of Scandinavia. Enwall continued as her manager for other tours around Europe.

In 1935, Anderson’s performance at the Salzburg festival earned her worldwide recognition and a compliment from the Italian conductor, Arturo Toscanini, who told her, “a voice like yours is heard only once in a hundred years.”

The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius dedicated his Solitude to her. In 1935 impresario Sol Hurok took over as her manager and was with her for the remainder of her performing career.

Controversy and Victory

In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused to allow Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall because of her race. The District of Columbia, then under the control of the Congress and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, also banned her for the same reason, from using the auditorium of a white public high school. As a result of the furor which followed, thousands of DAR members, including the President’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, resigned.

Ironically, neither Eleanor Roosevelt nor her husband, Franklin Roosevelt, had used their influence in a similar way when the school board turned down Anderson.

Finally, at the suggestion of Walter White, the executive secretary of the NAACP, Secretary of Interior Harold L. Ickes organized an open air concert for Anderson on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The concert, which commenced with a dignified and stirring rendition of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” attracted an integrated crowd of 75,000 and a much larger radio audience.

In 1943, Anderson sang at the invitation of the DAR to an integrated audience at Constitution Hall as part of a benefit for the American Red Cross. By contrast, the federal government continued to bar her from using the high school auditorium in the District of Columbia.

On January 7, 1955, Anderson broke the color barrier by becoming the first African-American to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera. On that occasion, she sang the part of Ulrica in Giuseppe Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera. The occasion was bittersweet as Anderson, at age 58, was no longer in her prime vocally.

In 1958, Anderson was officially designated delegate to the United Nations, a formalization of her role as “goodwill ambassador” of the U.S. she played earlier, and in 1972 she was awarded the United Nations Peace Prize.

Later Life

After an extensive farewell tour, Marian Anderson retired from singing in 1965. However, she continued to appear publicly, narrating Copland’s “A Lincoln Portrait,” including a performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Saratoga in 1976, conducted by the composer.

Her achievements were recognized and honored with many prizes, including the Kennedy Center Honors in 1978 and a Grammy Award for ‘Lifetime Achievement’ in 1991. She received approximately fifty honorary doctoral degrees, beginning in 1938 with a Doctor of Music degree awarded by Howard University, and including degrees from Fordham University, Harvard University, Temple University, University of Bridgeport, and Ewha Womans University in Seoul, South Korea.

In 1993, Anderson died of natural causes at the age of 95 in Portland, Oregon at the home of her nephew, the conductor James DePreist. She is interred at Eden Cemetery, a historic African-American cemetery located in Collingdale, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, near her hometown of Philadelphia.


Racism in the United States played a large role in Miss Anderson’s life and career. During her tours she experienced racial prejudice on a daily basis, being denied access to lodging facilities and restaurants. Recognizing the unique position she held, she chose not to respond to injustices as an active, aggressive opponent of racism. She believed that the greatest role she could play would be as a model of integrity, enlightening her listeners through the example of her own life and actions. She became a great advocate and role model for African-American musicians. She believed that the life of her people would improve as the ideals of her country would slowly transform the system.

The 1939 documentary film, Marian Anderson: the Lincoln Memorial Concert was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

On January 27, 2005, a commemorative U.S. postage stamp honored Marian Anderson with her image on the 37¢ issue as part of the Black Heritage series. Anderson is also pictured on the $5,000 Series I United States Treasury Savings Bond.

Anderson is a recipient of the Silver Buffalo Award, the highest adult award given by the Boy Scouts of America.

Sam Cooke


Sam Cooke (January 22, 1931 – December 11, 1964) was a popular and influential American gospel, R&B, soul, and pop singer, as well as songwriter and entrepreneur. Indeed, musicians and critics today recognize him as one of the originators of soul music and among the most influential singers in postwar American popular music.

James Brown is known as the “Godfather of Soul,” yet Cooke’s status as the “King of Soul” perhaps best reflects his stature and legacy. He had 29 Top 40 hits in the United States between 1957 and 1965, including major hits like “You Send Me,” “Chain Gang,” “Wonderful World,” and “Bring It On Home To Me.” His elegiac ballad “A Change is Gonna Come,” recorded in 1963 and released just after his death in 1964, has come to be regarded as one of his greatest and most socially conscious compositions, although overshadowed on the charts by the emergence of the Beatles.

Cooke was among the first modern black performers and composers to set the precedent of attending to the business side of his musical career by founding both a record label and a publishing company. He also took an active part in the Civil Rights Movement, refusing to perform to segregated audiences and seeking through his song-writing and singing to bridge gaps between blacks and whites. Sam Cooke died in compromising circumstances at age 33, just as he was approaching his creative zenith. A consummate artist, Cooke was a unifying voice whose broad appeal in an increasingly polarized society was tragically cut short.


Sam Cooke was born Samuel Cook in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He was one of eight children of Annie Mae and Rev. Charles Cook, a Pentecostal minister. The family moved to Chicago in 1933. Cooke began his musical career with his siblings in the Singing Children, followed by a turn in his teenage years as a member of the gospel group, the “Highway QCs”. In 1950, at the age of 19, he joined The Soul Stirrers and achieved significant success and fame within the gospel community. For six years he was the reigning voice of gospel; Cooke would have been famous for his role in the Soul Stirrers, even if he had not crossed over to pop.

Solo career

There was a considerable taboo against gospel singers performing secular music. Cooke’s first pop single, “Lovable” (1956), was released under the alias “Dale Cooke” to avoid offending his group and alienating his gospel fan base. However, the alias failed to hide Cooke’s unique and distinctive vocals. No one was fooled. Art Rupe, the head of Specialty Records, gave his blessing for Cooke to record secular music under his real name, but was unhappy about the type of music Cooke and his producer, Bumps Blackwell, were making. Rupe expected Cooke’s secular music to be similar to that of another Specialty Records artist, Little Richard. When Rupe walked in on a recording session and heard Cooke covering Gershwin, he was quite upset.

After an argument between Rupe and Blackwell, Cooke and Blackwell left the label, and Cooke signed with Keen Records in 1957, after which Cooke burst onto the pop scene with the 1957 release of his million-selling single, “You Send Me.” The song’s innovative blend of Gospel, Pop, and R&B earned him the title of “The Man Who Invented Soul” and stayed on the charts an amazing 26 weeks, rising to #1 in both the Pop and R&B markets, spending six weeks on the Billboard R&B chart and three weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart at #1. After the success of his second single, “I’ll Come Running Back to You,” Cooke created a publishing imprint and management firm. He then left Keen to sign with RCA Victor, where his first single was the famous, “Chain Gang,” which was followed by the singles “Sad Mood,” “Bring it on Home to Me” (with Lou Rawls on backing vocals), “Another Saturday Night” and “Twistin’ the Night Away.” Cooke released a critically acclaimed blues-inflected LP in 1963, “Night Beat.”

In all he had 29 top 40 hits on the pop charts, and an amazing 34 Top 40 R&B hits over his eight-year pop career, with most like “You Send Me” and “I’ll Come Running Back to You” written by Cooke himself. Cooke also wrote and recorded such classics as “Chain Gang,” “Only Sixteen,” “Cupid,” “Wonderful World,” “Having a Party,” and “A Change is Gonna Come,” and was among the original inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1986. Cooke was known for having written many of the most popular songs of all time in the genre, yet, in spite of this, is often unaccredited for many of them by the general public.

Social and political stands

Sam Cooke is remembered as a pioneer both socially and musically. Blessed with a keen sense of vision and foresight, Sam Cooke was one of the first artists to capitalize on the crossover appeal of popular music by intentionally recording songs that targeted both the black and white markets. In addition to being an accomplished singer, songwriter, and producer, he was remembered as the first artist to take a political stand and refuse to sing to segregated audiences.

He recognized the politics of the music industry early in his career. At a time when record labels often left even the most talented and successful artist broke and penniless, Sam Cooke was one of the first artists, black or white, to buck the system and demand ownership of his career. He signed an unprecedented deal with RCA, in 1960, after coming to the agreement that they let him retain control of the copyrights to his music. He was the first African-American artist to own a record label, and he established his own management company and music publishing company as well.

Record labels

In addition to his success in writing his own songs and achieving mainstream fame — a truly remarkable accomplishment for an R&B singer at that time—Cooke continued to astonish the music business in the 1960s with the founding of his own label, SAR Records, which soon included The Simms Twins, The Valentinos, Bobby Womack, and Johnnie Taylor. Yet, his legacy as a record company owner and record producer has been relatively ignored.

Cooke and fellow musician and friend, J. W. Alexander, started the SAR and Derby labels in 1957. Along with the record company, they had their own music publishing companies: Kags Music Co. (BMI) and Malloy Music Co.(ASCAP)The SAR label was geared for the rhythm ‘n’ blues market, while its companion label, Derby, was pop-oriented. The two record labels showcased the skills of Cooke and Alexander as songwriters and producers; they did most of the production and a great deal of the songwriting on everything they recorded.

The label can’t be properly understood without understanding how strong the gospel connection was with almost every artist on the label. In a much smaller and more intimate fashion, SAR was a kind of family-affair record company: Close friends and long-term associates from their years on the gospel circuit were called in by Cooke and Alexander to record for the label.

It was dissolved shortly after Cooke’s death in 1964. The rights to the recordings and the publishing were bought up shortly thereafter by Allen Klein, who was Cooke’s last manager. Fifty-seven singles and Four LPs were issued on the Sar label, and 11 45s and two LPs on Derby Records.


Cooke died under precarious circumstances at the young age of 33 on December 11, 1964 in Los Angeles. He was shot to death; the court verdict was justifiable homicide, though many believe that crucial details did not come out in court or were buried afterward. The details of the case involving Sam Cooke’s death are still in dispute.

Posthumous releases followed, many of which became hits, including “A Change Is Gonna Come,” an early protest song which is generally regarded as his greatest composition. After Cooke’s death, his widow, Barbara, married Bobby Womack. Cooke’s daughter, Linda, later married Bobby’s brother, Cecil Womack.

How it happened

The official police record states that Cooke was shot to death by Bertha Franklin, the manager of the Hacienda Motel, where Cooke had checked in earlier that evening. Franklin claimed that Cooke had broken into the manager’s office/apartment in a rage, wearing nothing but a shoe and an overcoat (and nothing beneath it) demanding to know the whereabouts of a woman who had accompanied him to the motel. Franklin said that the woman was not in the office and that she told Cooke this, but the enraged Cooke did not believe her and violently grabbed her, demanding again to know the woman’s whereabouts. According to Franklin, she grappled with Cooke, the two of them fell to the floor, and she then got up and ran to retrieve her gun. She said that she then fired at Cooke in self-defense because she feared for her life. According to Franklin, Cooke exclaimed, “Lady, you shot me,” before finally falling, mortally wounded.

According to Franklin and to the motel’s owner, Evelyn Carr, they had been on the phone together at the time of the incident. Thus, Carr claimed to have overheard Cooke’s intrusion and the ensuing confrontation and gunshots. Carr called the police to request that they go to the motel, informing them that she believed a shooting had occurred.

Court investigation and verdict

A coroner’s inquest was convened to investigate the incident. The woman who had accompanied Cooke to the motel was identified as Elisa Boyer, age 22, who had called the police that night shortly before Carr did. Boyer had called the police from a phone booth near the motel, telling them she had just escaped from being kidnapped.

Boyer told the police that she had first met Cooke earlier that night and had spent the evening in his company. She claimed that after they left a local nightclub together, she had repeatedly requested that he take her home, but that he instead took her against her will to the Hacienda Motel. She claimed that once in one of the motel’s rooms, Cooke physically forced her onto the bed and she was certain he was going to rape her. According to Boyer, when Cooke stepped into the bathroom for a moment, she quickly grabbed her clothes and ran from the room. She claimed that in her haste, she had also scooped up most of Cooke’s clothing by mistake. Boyer said that she ran first to the manager’s office and knocked on the door seeking help. However, she said that the manager took too long in responding, so, fearing Cooke would soon be coming after her, she fled the motel altogether before the manager ever opened the door. She claimed she then put her own clothing back on, stashed Cooke’s clothing away and went to the phone booth from which she called police.

Boyer’s story is the only account of what happened between the two that night. However, her story has long been called into question. Due to inconsistencies between her version of events and details reported by other witnesses, as well as other circumstantial evidence (for example, cash Cooke was reportedly carrying that was never recovered, and the fact that Boyer was soon after arrested for prostitution), many people feel it is more likely that Boyer went willingly to the motel with Cooke, and then slipped out of the room with Cooke’s clothing in order to rob him, rather than in order to escape an attempted rape.

Ultimately though, such questions were beyond the scope of the investigation. Its purpose was simply to establish the circumstances of Franklin’s role in the shooting, not to determine what had explicitly happened between Cooke and Boyer before the shooting.

Two points combined to make Franklin’s explanation valid. 1) Boyer’s leaving the motel room with almost all of Cooke’s clothing in tow (regardless of exactly why she did so) combined with the fact that 2) tests showed Cooke was inebriated at the time, provided a plausible explanation for Cooke’s bizarre behavior and state of dress, as reported by Franklin. This explanation, together with the fact that Carr’s account of what she said to have overheard corroborated Franklin’s version of events, was enough to convince the coroner’s jury to accept Franklin’s explanation that it was a case of justifiable homicide. And with that verdict, authorities officially closed the case on Cooke’s death.


However, some of Cooke’s family and supporters have rejected not only Boyer’s version of events, but also Franklin’s and Carr’s. They believe that there was a conspiracy from the start to murder Cooke, that this murder did in fact take place in some manner entirely different from the official account of Cooke’s intrusion into Franklin’s office/apartment, and that Franklin, Boyer and Carr were all lying to provide a cover story for this murder.

My brother was first class all the way. He would not check into a $3 a night motel; that wasn’t his style (Agnes Cooke-Hoskins, sister of Sam Cooke, attending the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 2005 tribute to Cooke).

In her autobiography, Rage To Survive, singer Etta James claimed that she viewed Cooke’s body in the funeral home and that the injuries she observed were well beyond what could be explained by the official account of Franklin alone having fought with Cooke. James described Cooke as having been so badly beaten that his head was nearly decapitated from his shoulders, his hands were broken and crushed and his nose was mangled.

Nevertheless, no solid, reviewable evidence supporting a conspiracy theory has been presented to date. Cooke was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale, California.


Cooke’s influence has been immense: Even people who have never heard one of his records have still heard his voice and phrasing if they have listened to any Rod Stewart or Southside Johnny. Other rock artists with a notable Cooke heritage include The Animals, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, Van Morrison, James Taylor, the Beatles (particularly John Lennon), John Mayer, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Marriot, Terry Reid, Steve Perry, and numerous others, while R&B and soul artists indebted to Cooke include Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Lou Rawls, Al Green, and many more. Shortly following his passing, Motown Records released We Remember Sam Cooke, a collection of Cooke covers recorded by The Supremes.

In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #16 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

“Wonderful World”

“Wonderful World” was a featured song in the film National Lampoon’s Animal House, the one song in that film that was not a “party” song. The song was also featured in the film Hitch starring Will Smith, Eva Mendes, and Kevin James.  After being featured prominently in the 1985 film Witness (starring Kelly McGillis and Harrison Ford), the song gained further exposure and became a hit in the United Kingdom, reaching Number 2 in re-release.

“Wonderful World” was also covered for many years by the Jerry Garcia Band.

The well-known verse of “Wonderful World”—”Don’t know much about [history, geography, and so on]”—provided the inspiration for titles of several books authored by writer Kenneth C. Davis. Davis’ books explored both basic and lesser-known facts about those subjects.

Cultural reference

Tupac Shakur mentions Cooke in his song “Thugz Mansion” “Drinkin’ peppermint schnapps with Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke, then a girl named Billie Holliday sang, sitting there kickin’ it with Malcom [X.], ’til the day came.”


Phil Spector


Phillip Harvey “Phil” Spector (born Harvey Phillip Spector, December 26, 1939) is an American record producer and songwriter.

The originator of the “Wall of Sound” production technique, Spector was a pioneer of the 1960s girl-group sound and produced and wrote or co-wrote more than twenty-five Top 40 hits from 1960 to 1965. Among his famous girl groups are the Ronettes and the Crystals. After this initial success, Spector later worked with artists including Ike and Tina Turner, John Lennon, George Harrison, and the Ramones with similar acclaim. He produced the Beatles’ album Let It Be, and the Grammy Award–winning Concert for Bangladesh by former Beatle George Harrison. In 1989, Spector was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a non-performer. The 1965 song “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”, produced and co-written by Spector for the Righteous Brothers, is listed by BMI as the song with the most U.S. airplay in the 20th century.

In 2009, Spector was convicted of second-degree murder in the 2003 shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson in his Alhambra, California home. He is serving a prison sentence of 19 years to life.

Early childhood

Spector was born on December 26, 1939, to a lower-middle-class Jewish family in the Bronx in New York City. His grandfather was an immigrant from Russia with the surname Spekter, which he anglicized to Spector after immigrating. Spector’s father committed suicide on April 20, 1949.In 1953, his mother moved the family to Los Angeles, California.

Musical career

Teenage performer and lyricist

In Los Angeles, Spector got involved with music, learning the guitar. At 16, he performed Lonnie Donegan’s version of the traditional song “Rock Island Line” at a talent show at his high school, Fairfax High School. While at Fairfax, he joined a loosely knit community of aspiring musicians, including Lou Adler, Bruce Johnston, Steve Douglas, and Sandy Nelson, the last of whom played drums on Spector’s first record release, “To Know Him Is to Love Him”.

The Teddy Bears

With three friends from high school, Marshall Leib, Harvey Goldstein, and singer Annette Kleinbard, Spector formed a group, the Teddy Bears. During this period, Spector also began visiting local recording studios, and he eventually managed to win the confidence of record producer Stan Ross, coowner of Gold Star Studios in Hollywood, who began to tutor the young man in record production and who exerted a major influence on Spector’s production style. By early 1958, Spector and his bandmates had raised enough money to buy two hours of recording time at Gold Star. With Spector producing, the Teddy Bears recorded the Spector-penned “Don’t You Worry My Little Pet”, which helped them secure a deal with Era Records. At their next session, they recorded another song Spector had written — this one inspired by the epitaph on Spector’s father’s tombstone. Released on Era’s subsidiary label, Dore Records, “To Know Him Is to Love Him” went to #1 on Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in 1958, selling over a million copies by year’s end. It was the seventh number one single on the newly formed chart. Following the success of their debut, the group signed with Imperial Records, but their next single, “I Don’t Need You Anymore” only reached #91. While several more recordings were released, including an album The Teddy Bears Sing!, the group never again charted in the Hot 100. The Teddy Bears went their separate ways in 1959.

Record producer

After the split, Spector’s career quickly moved from performing and songwriting to production. While recording the Teddy Bears’ album, Spector had met Lester Sill, a former promotion man who was a mentor to Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. His next project, the Spectors Three, was undertaken under the aegis of Sill and his partner, Lee Hazlewood. In 1960, Sill arranged for Spector to work as an apprentice to Leiber and Stoller in New York. Ronnie Crawford would become Spector’s first true recording artist and project as producer. Spector quickly learned how to use a studio. He co-wrote the Ben E. King Top 10 hit “Spanish Harlem” with Jerry Leiber and also worked as a session musician, most notably playing the guitar solo on the Drifters’ song, “On Broadway”. His own productions during this time, while less conspicuous, included releases by LaVern Baker, Ruth Brown, and Billy Storm, as well as the Top Notes’ original version of “Twist and Shout”.

Leiber and Stoller recommended Spector to produce Ray Peterson’s “Corrina, Corrina”, which reached #9 in January 1961. Later, he produced another major hit for Curtis Lee, “Pretty Little Angel Eyes”, which made it to #7. Returning to Hollywood, Spector agreed to produce one of Lester Sill’s acts. After both Liberty Records and Capitol Records turned down the master of “Be My Boy” by the Paris Sisters, Sill formed a new label, Gregmark Records, with Lee Hazlewood and released it. It only managed to reach #56, but the follow-up, “I Love How You Love Me”, was a hit, reaching #5.

Philles Records

In late 1961, Spector formed a new record company with Lester Sill, who by this time had ended his business partnership with Hazlewood. Philles Records combined the names of its two founders. Through Hill and Range Publishers, Spector found three groups he wanted to produce: the Ducanes, the Creations, and the Crystals. The first two signed with other companies, but Spector managed to secure the Crystals for his new label. Their first single, “There’s No Other (Like My Baby)” was a success, hitting #20. Their next release, “Uptown”, made it to #13. (Spector’s production of The Ducanes was issued on Goldisc and The Creations on Bigtop.)

Spector continued to work freelance with other artists. In 1962, he produced “Second Hand Love” by Connie Francis, which reached #7. In the early 1960s, he briefly worked with Atlantic Records’ R&B artists Ruth Brown and LaVerne Baker. Ahmet Ertegün of Atlantic paired Spector with Broadway star Jean DuShon for “Talk to Me”, the B-side of which was “Tired of Trying”, written by DuShon.

Spector briefly took a job as head of A&R for Liberty Records. It was while working at Liberty that he heard a song written by Gene Pitney, for whom he had produced a #41 hit, “Every Breath I Take”, a year earlier. “He’s a Rebel” was due to be released on Liberty by Vikki Carr, but Spector rushed into Gold Star Studios and recorded a cover version using Darlene Love and the Blossoms on lead vocals. The record was released on Philles, attributed to the Crystals, and quickly rose to the top of the charts.

By the time “He’s a Rebel” went to #1, Lester Sill was out of the company, and Spector had Philles all to himself. He created a new act, Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, featuring Darlene Love, Fanita James (a member of the Blossoms), and Bobby Sheen, a singer he had worked with at Liberty. The group had hits with “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” (#8), “Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Hearts?” (#38), and “Not Too Young To Get Married” (#63). Spector also released solo material by Darlene Love in 1963. In the same year, he released “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes, which went to #2.

Although predominantly a singles label, Philles released a few albums, one of which is the perennial seller A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records in 1963.

“I enjoyed all the records very much. I made them all from the heart. I made them all with art in mind, and all to reveal a picture of where I was when I made them.”

—Phil Spector,1968 Pop Chronicles interview.

The Wall of Sound

Spector’s trademark during that era was the so-called Wall of Sound, a production technique yielding a dense, layered effect that reproduced well on AM radio and jukeboxes. To attain this signature sound, Spector gathered large groups of musicians (playing some instruments not generally used for ensemble playing, such as electric and acoustic guitars) playing orchestrated parts — often doubling and tripling many instruments playing in unison — for a fuller sound. Spector himself called his technique “a Wagnerian approach to rock & roll: little symphonies for the kids”.

While Spector directed the overall sound of his recordings, he took a relatively hands-off approach to working with the musicians themselves (usually a core group that became known as the Wrecking Crew, including session players such as Hal Blaine, Larry Knechtel, Steve Douglas, Carol Kaye, Roy Caton, Glen Campbell, and Leon Russell), delegating arrangement duties to Jack Nitzsche and having Sonny Bono oversee the performances, viewing these two as his “lieutenants”. Spector frequently used songs from songwriters employed at the Brill Building (Trio Music) and at 1650 Broadway (Aldon Music), such as the teams of Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Spector often worked with the songwriters, receiving co-credit and publishing royalties for compositions.

Despite the trend towards multichannel recording, Spector was vehemently opposed to stereo releases, claiming that it took control of the record’s sound away from the producer in favor of the listener. Spector was more concerned with the overall collage of sound than with the recording fidelity or timbral quality. Sometimes a pair of strings or horns would be double-tracked multiple times to sound like an entire string or horn section. But in the final product the background sometimes could not be distinguished as either horns or strings. Spector also greatly preferred singles to albums, describing LPs as “two hits and ten pieces of junk”, reflecting both his commercial methods and those of many other producers at the time.

The first time Spector put the same amount of effort into an LP as he did into 45s was when he utilized the full Philles roster and the Wrecking Crew to make what he felt would become a hit for the 1963 Christmas season. A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records arrived in stores the day of the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Despite its initially poor reception, selections from the album are now Yuletide mainstays on radio stations, and the album has since been a regular seller during the holiday season.

The mid-Sixties

In 1964, The Ronettes appeared at the Cow Palace, near San Francisco. Also on the bill were The Righteous Brothers. Spector, who was conducting the band for all the acts, was so impressed with Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield that he bought their contract from Moonglow Records and signed them to Philles. In early 1965, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”, became the label’s second #1 single. Three more major hits with the group followed: “Just Once in My Life” (#9), “Unchained Melody” (#4, originally the B side of “Hung On You”) and “Ebb Tide” (#5). Despite having hits, he lost interest in producing the Righteous Brothers, and sold their contract and all their master recordings to Verve Records. However, the sound of the Righteous Brothers’ singles was so distinctive that the act chose to replicate it after leaving Spector, notching a second #1 hit in 1966 with the Bill Medley-produced “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration”.

The Spector-produced recording of “Unchained Melody” had a second wave of popularity 25 years after its initial release, when it was featured prominently in the 1990 hit movie Ghost. A re-release of the single re-charted on the Billboard Hot 100, and went to number one on the Adult Contemporary charts. This also put Spector (as a producer) back on the U.S. Top 40 charts for the first time since his last appearance in 1971 with John Lennon’s “Imagine”, although he did have U.K. top 40 hits in the interim with the Ramones.

Spector’s final signing to Philles was the husband-and-wife team of Ike and Tina Turner in 1966. Spector considered their recording of “River Deep – Mountain High”, to be his best work, but it failed to go any higher than #88 in the United States. The single, which was essentially a solo Tina Turner record, was more successful in Britain, reaching #3.

Spector subsequently lost enthusiasm for his label and the recording industry. Already something of a recluse, he withdrew temporarily from the public eye, marrying Veronica “Ronnie” Bennett, lead singer of the Ronettes, in 1968. Spector emerged briefly for a cameo as a drug dealer in the film Easy Rider, in 1969. (Spector, in 1967, appeared as himself in an episode of I Dream of Jeannie.)


In 1969, Spector made a brief return to the music business by signing a production deal with A&M Records. A Ronettes single, “You Came, You Saw, You Conquered” flopped, but Spector returned to the Hot 100 with “Black Pearl”, by Sonny Charles and the Checkmates, Ltd., which reached #13. In 1970, Allen Klein, manager of the Beatles, brought Spector to England. While producing John Lennon’s hit solo single “Instant Karma!”, which went to #3, Spector was invited by Lennon and George Harrison to take on the task of turning the Beatles’ abandoned “Get Back” recording sessions into a usable album. He went to work using many of his production techniques, making significant changes to the arrangements and sound of some songs. The resulting album, Let It Be, was a massive commercial success and topped the US and UK charts. The album also yielded three #1 singles: “Get Back”, “The Long and Winding Road” and “Let It Be”. His overdubbing of “The Long and Winding Road” infuriated its composer, Paul McCartney, especially since the work was allegedly completed without his knowledge and without any opportunity for him to assess the results. In 2003, McCartney spearheaded the release of Let It Be… Naked, which stripped the songs of Spector’s input.

Lennon and George Harrison were satisfied with the results, and Let It Be led to Spector co-producing albums with both ex-Beatles. For Harrison’s multiplatinum album All Things Must Pass (#1, 1970), Spector provided a cathedral-like sonic ambience, complete with ornate orchestrations and gospel-like choirs. The LP yielded two major hits: “My Sweet Lord” (#1) and “What Is Life” (#10). That same year, Spector co-produced John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band (#6) album. In 1971, Spector was named director of A&R for Apple Records. He held the post for only a year, but during that time he co-produced the single “Power to the People” with John Lennon (#11), as well as Lennon’s chart-topping album, Imagine. The album’s title track hit #3. With Harrison, Spector co-produced Harrison’s “Bangla-Desh” (a #23 hit) and wife Ronnie Spector’s “Try Some, Buy Some” (#77). That same year Spector recorded the music for the #1 triple album The Concert For Bangladesh. The album later won the “Album of the Year” award at the 1972 Grammys. Despite being recorded live, Spector used up to 44 microphones simultaneously to create his trademark Wall of Sound.

Lennon retained Spector for the 1971 Christmas single “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” and the poorly reviewed 1972 album, Some Time In New York City (#48). Similar to the unusual pattern of success that Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records experienced, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” also stalled in sales upon its initial release, only later to become a fixture on radio station playlists during the holiday season. In 1973, Spector participated in the recording sessions for what would be Lennon’s Rock ‘n’ Roll album (#6). It was during these sessions that Spector’s relationship with Lennon became strained; some versions claim that the producer suffered a breakdown in the studio, brandishing a gun and disappearing with the Rock ‘n’ Roll tapes, although Spector biographer Dave Thompson places most of the blame on the out-of-control behavior of Lennon and his entourage. After several months, Lennon retrieved the tapes and finished the album himself. In the years following the debacle, however, Spector maintained contact with Lennon, and the former Beatle had planned on recording with him again.

Later years

As the 1970s progressed, Spector became increasingly reclusive. The most probable and significant reason for his withdrawal, recently revealed by biographer Dave Thompson, was that in 1974 he was seriously injured when he was thrown through the windshield of his car in a crash in Hollywood. According to a contemporary report published in the New Musical Express, Spector was almost killed, and it was only because the attending police officer detected a faint pulse that Spector was not declared dead at the scene. He was admitted to the UCLA Medical Center on the night of March 31, 1974, suffering serious head injuries which necessitated several hours of surgery with over 300 stitches to his face and more than 400 to the back of his head. His head injuries, Thompson suggests, were the reason that Spector began his habit of wearing outlandish wigs in later years.

The 1974 accident took place shortly after Spector had established the Warner-Spector label with Warner Bros. Records, which undertook new recordings with Dion, Cher, Harry Nilsson and others, as well as several reissues. A similar relationship with Britain’s Polydor Records led to the formation of the Phil Spector International label in 1975. After a pair of failed singles with Cher, Spector produced Dion’s Born to Be with You. The majority of Spector’s classic Philles recordings had been out of print in the U.S. since the original label’s demise, although Spector had released several Philles Records compilations in Britain. Finally, he released an American compilation of his Philles recordings in 1977, which put most of the better known Spector hits back into circulation after many years.

Spector began to reemerge in the late 1970s, producing and co-writing a controversial 1977 album by Leonard Cohen, entitled Death of a Ladies’ Man. The album angered many devout Cohen fans who preferred his stark acoustic sound to the orchestral and choral wall of sound that the album contains. The recording of the album was fraught with difficulty. After Cohen had laid down practice vocal tracks, Spector reportedly mixed the album in “secret” studio sessions, literally locking Cohen, who usually took a strong role in the mixing, out of the studio. Cohen said Spector once threatened him with a crossbow, a claim, according to newspaper reports, others would make about their dealings with Spector. Cohen has remarked that the end result is “grotesque”, but also “semi-virtuous”. Cohen, however, still includes a reworked version of the track “Memories” in live concerts. Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg also participated in the background vocals on “Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On”, which is the second time Spector indirectly “produced” Dylan – the first being Dylan’s live recordings on The Concert For Bangladesh.

Spector also produced the much-publicized Ramones album End of the Century in 1980. As with his work with Leonard Cohen, End of the Century received criticism from Ramones fans who were angered over its radio-friendly sound. However, it contains some of the best known and most successful Ramones singles, such as “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School”, “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?” and their cover of a previously released Spector song for the Ronettes, “Baby, I Love You.” Guitarist Johnny Ramone later commented on working with Spector on the recording of the album, “It really worked when he got to a slower song like ‘Danny Says’ — the production really worked tremendously. For the harder stuff, it didn’t work as well.”

Rumors had circulated for years that Spector had threatened members of the Ramones with a gun during the sessions. Johnny Ramone remembered a meeting at Spector’s home in which the producer became upset when they tried to leave. “And then he reaches into his jacket pocket and well, he pulls out a gun, puts it on the table right in front of us, and says, ‘You guys don’t really have to go yet, do you?'” Drummer Marky Ramone recalled in 2008, “They (guns) were there but he had a license to carry. He never held us hostage. We could have left at any time”.

Since 2000

Spector remained inactive throughout most of the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s. He attempted to work with Céline Dion on her album Falling Into You, but that fell through. His most recent released project has been Silence Is Easy by Starsailor, released in 2003. He was originally supposed to produce the entire album, but was fired owing to personal and creative differences — however, one of the two Spector-produced songs on the album was a UK top 10 single.

Spector produced singer-songwriter Hargo’s track, “Crying For John Lennon”, which originally appears on Hargo’s 2006 album In Your Eyes, but on a visit to Spector’s mansion for an interview for the John Lennon tribute movie, Strawberry Fields, Hargo played Spector the song and asked him to produce it. Spector and former Paul McCartney drummer Graham Ward produced it in the classic Wall of Sound style on nights after his first murder trial.

In December 2007, the song “B Boy Baby” by Mutya Buena and Amy Winehouse featured melodic and lyrical passages heavily influenced by the Ronettes song “Be My Baby”. As a result, Spector was given a songwriting credit on the single. The sections from “Be My Baby” are sung by Winehouse, not directly sampled from the mono single. Winehouse referenced her admiration of Spector’s work and often performed Spector’s first hit song, “To Know Him Is to Love Him”.

Also in December 2007, Spector attended the funeral of Ike Turner, whose former wife, Tina Turner, he previously produced in 1966 (only Tina was recorded, but the record label still read “Ike and Tina Turner”). While delivering a eulogy, Spector lashed out at Tina and stated that “Ike made Tina the jewel she was. When I went to see Ike play at the Cinegrill in the 90s…there were at least five Tina Turners on the stage performing that night, any one of them could have been Tina Turner.” Spector lashed out at Oprah Winfrey for promoting Tina Turner’s autobiography that “demonized and vilified Ike.”

In mid-April 2008, BBC 2 broadcast a special entitled Phil Spector: The Agony and The Ecstasy. It consists of Spector’s first screen interview — breaking a long period of media silence. During the conversation, images from the murder court case are juxtaposed with live appearances of his tracks on television programs from the 1960s and 1970s, along with subtitles giving critical interpretation of some of his song production values. While he does not directly try to clear his name, the court case proceedings shown try to give further explanation of the facts surrounding the murder charges that were leveled against him. He also speaks about the musical instincts that led him to create some of his most enduring hit records, from “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” to “River Deep, Mountain High”, as well as the Beatles album Let It Be, along with criticisms he feels he has had to deal with throughout his life.


Many producers have tried to emulate the Wall of Sound, and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys—a fellow adherent of mono recording—considered Spector his main competition as a studio artist, going so far as to name the acclaimed Pet Sounds album using Spector’s initials.[26] Bruce Springsteen emulated the Wall of Sound technique in his recording of “Born to Run”. Shoegazing, a British musical movement in the late 1980s to mid-1990s, was heavily influenced by the Wall of Sound. In 1973, British band Wizzard, led by Roy Wood, had three heavily Spector influenced hits with “See My Baby Jive” (UK #1), “Angel Fingers” (UK #1) and “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” (UK #4), the latter becoming a perennial Christmas hit.

For his contributions to the music industry, Spector was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. In 1997, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him #63 on their list of the “Greatest Artists of All Time”.

Spector’s early musical influences included Latin music in general, and Latin percussion in particular. This is keenly perceptible in many if not all of Spector’s recordings, from the percussion in many of his hit songs: shakers, güiros (gourds) and maracas in “Be My Baby,” and the son montuno in “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” heard clearly in the song’s bridge played by session bassist Carol Kaye, while the same repeating refrain is played on harpsichord by keyboardist Larry Knechtel. Spector would visit Spanish Harlem clubs and schools to hone his listening and practical skills.

The Beach Boys paid tribute to Spector in the lyrics of their song “Mona”: “Come on/Listen to ‘Da Doo Ron Ron,’ now/Listen to ‘Be My Baby’/I know you’re gonna love Phil Spector”.

The character of Ronnie “Z-Man” Barzell in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, a 1970 Russ Meyer film, is based upon Spector, though neither Meyer nor screenwriter Roger Ebert had met him.

In Brian De Palma’s film Phantom of the Paradise (1974), the villainous character Swan (played by Paul Williams) was supposedly inspired by Spector. A music producer and head of a record label, Swan was named “Spectre” in original drafts of the film’s screenplay.

The character of Harv Stevens in the 2009 independent short film A Reasonable Man was reportedly based on Phil Spector. The film examines his relationship with John Lennon.

Murder of Lana Clarkson

On February 3, 2003, actress Lana Clarkson was found dead in Spector’s mansion (Dupuy’s Pyrenees Castle) in Alhambra, California. Her body was found slumped in a chair with a single gunshot wound to her mouth with broken teeth scattered all over the carpet. Spector stated that Clarkson’s death was an “accidental suicide” and that she “kissed the gun”. The emergency call from Spector’s home, made by Spector’s driver Adriano de Souza, quotes Spector as saying, “I think I’ve killed someone”. De Souza also said he saw Spector come out the back door of the house with a gun in his hand.

According to documents filed by the prosecution, Spector had previously pulled a gun on four women he dated. In each case, he had been drinking and “was romantically interested in the woman, but grew angry after the woman spurned him”. The prosecution alleged that on each occasion, he pointed a gun at the woman to prevent her from walking out. The prosecution argued that the testimony of the other women was important in order to demonstrate a “common plan or scheme”.

The defense sought to prevent the women from providing such testimony. Though the law in California and other states generally forbids the introduction of evidence showing a defendant’s previous transgressions, the judge sided with the prosecutors and ruled that the testimony of the other women “can be used to show lack of accident or mistake”.

First trial

Spector remained free on $1 million bail while awaiting trial. The trial began on March 19, 2007. Presiding Judge Larry Paul Fidler allowed the trial to be televised. At the start of the trial, the defense’s forensic expert Henry Lee was accused of hiding crucial evidence which the District Attorney’s office claimed could prove Spector’s guilt. On September 26, 2007, Judge Fidler declared a mistrial because of a hung jury (10 to 2 for conviction).

During the trial, defense expert Vincent DiMaio asserted that Spector may be suffering from Parkinson’s disease, stating: “Look at Mr. Spector. He has Parkinson’s features. He trembles”.

Before and during the first trial, Spector went through at least three sets of attorneys. Defense attorney Robert Shapiro represented Spector at the arraignment and early pretrial hearings and achieved his release on $1 million bail. Bruce Cutler represented him during the 2007 trial, but withdrew on August 27, 2007, claiming “a difference of opinion between Mr. Spector and me on strategy”. Attorney Linda Kenney Baden then became lead lawyer for closing arguments.

In December 2003, Donté and Gary Spector spoke to the Mail claiming they were abused as children. Donte Spector said: “For years, we were just caged animals to be let out for Dad’s amusement”.

Second trial

The retrial of Spector for murder in the second degree began on October 20, 2008, with Judge Fidler again presiding; this time it was not televised. The case went to the jury on March 26, 2009, and nineteen days later, on April 13, the jury returned a guilty verdict. In addition, he was found guilty of using a firearm in the commission of a crime. Spector was immediately taken into custody and was formally sentenced on May 29, 2009, to 19 years to life in the California state prison system.

The California Court of Appeal affirmed Spector’s conviction in May 2011 and denied his request for a rehearing of the appeal shortly thereafter. On August 17, 2011 the California Supreme Court refused to review the Court of Appeal’s decision to affirm his conviction. (S193961 Petition for review denied.)

Spector’s attorneys filed a petition pursuing judicial review of the conviction by the Supreme Court of the United States, arguing that his constitutional due process rights were violated when prosecutors used the trial judge’s comments about an expert’s testimony, effectively making the judge a witness for the prosecution. Spector’s attorney Dennis Riordan, argued the constitutional right to confront witnesses did not permit the prosecution to introduce at trial a videotape of statements made by the judge at a pretrial hearing that never were subjected to cross examination. The Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal.

Spector is serving his sentence at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison (SATF) in Corcoran, California. He will be 88 years old before becoming eligible for parole.


Phil Spector, a 2013 HBO film written and directed by David Mamet and starring Al Pacino and Dame Helen Mirren, depicted a fictionalized account of the murder and trials. The film drew criticism both from Clarkson’s family and friends, who charged that the suicide defense was given more merit than it deserved; and from Spector’s wife, who argued that Spector was portrayed as a “foul-mouthed megalomaniac” and a “minotaur”.


Spector’s first marriage was to Annette Merar, lead vocalist of the Spectors Three, a 1960s pop trio formed and produced by Spector.

Spector’s second marriage was to Veronica Bennett, later known as Ronnie Spector. Ronnie was the lead singer of the girl group, the Ronettes (another group Spector managed and produced). Their marriage lasted from 1968 to 1974.

On September 1, 2006, Spector married his third wife, Rachelle Short. Although there is a 41-year age difference, Short is quoted as saying “I like the way he looks.” “He’s boyish and cute, witty, smart and we are so much alike even though we are generations apart. We share common interests, a love of music, people, life, old films, a strong work ethic, even certain mannerisms.”  Spector met Short at a Hollywood restaurant in 2003, where she was working, shortly after his arrest in the shooting of Lana Clarkson. Short (an aspiring singer) went to work for Spector’s personal assistant, Michelle Blain as her assistant. By the time they were married (Sept 2006), she was running his business.



  • Donté Phillip Spector – born March 23, 1969; adopted by both Phil and his second wife Ronnie, at age eight months.
  • Louis Phillip Spector (twin) – born May 12, 1966.
  • Gary Phillip Spector (twin) – born May 12, 1966; both were brought home at age five ½ (December 1971) but not adopted by Phil Spector until they were age nine (1975).

With then-girlfriend Janis Zavala:

  • Nicole Audrey Spector (twin) – born October 18, 1982
  • Phillip Spector, Jr. (twin) – born October 18, 1982, died of leukemia on December 25, 1991.


Earl Rudolph “Bud” Powell


Earl Rudolph “Bud” Powell (September 27, 1924 – July 31, 1966), born in New York City, was one of the most influential pianists in the history of jazz. Along with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie he was instrumental in the development of bebop, and his virtuosity as a pianist led many to call him “the Charlie Parker of the piano.”


Powell’s grandfather was a flamenco guitarist, and his father was a stride pianist. The family lived in New York City. His older brother William played the trumpet, and by the age of fifteen Powell was playing in his brother’s band. Powell had learned classical piano from an early age, but by the age of eight was interested in jazz, playing his own transcriptions of Art Tatum and stride pianists Fats Waller and James P. Johnson. Younger brother Richie was also an accomplished pianist, as was school friend Elmo Hope. Thelonious Monk was an important early teacher and mentor, and a close friend throughout Powell’s life, dedicating the composition “In Walked Bud” to Powell. In the early forties Powell played in a number of bands, including that of Cootie Williams, and in 1944 his first recording date was with Williams’ band. This session included the first ever recording of a tune by Monk, “‘Round Midnight.” Monk also introduced Powell to the circle of bebop musicians starting to form at Minton’s Playhouse, and other early recordings included sessions with Frank Socolow, Dexter Gordon, J. J. Johnson, Sonny Stitt, Fats Navarro and Kenny Clarke. In the early years of bebop, Powell and Monk, as the first great modern jazz pianists, towered over their contemporaries, Al Haig, Ralph Burns, Dodo Marmarosa, and Walter Bishop, Jr.

Instrumental techniques

Powell soon became renowned for his ability to play accurately at fast tempos, inspired bebop soloing, and his comprehension of the ideas that Charlie Parker had suddenly unearthed from the piece Cherokee and other song-forms. Powell’s solos, conceived in emulation of and rivalry with Parker, are instantly recognizable and descriptive, with frequent arpeggiations punctuated by chromaticism. They are nonetheless progressive-sounding, reaching for the heights of the harmonic series, beyond the confines of classical harmony to the extent possible within the piano keyboard. Powell’s lines form series of brief, carefully phrased statements. They move confidently whether fully resolved or not, through moments of eloquence and near awkwardness. Powell adhered to a simplified left-hand “comping” recalling stride and pianist Teddy Wilson. The comping often consisted of single bass notes outlining the root and fifth. He also used a tenth, which he was able to reach easily due to his very large hands, with the minor seventh included.

From 1949, in Jazz News, we hear “Bud’s left hand gives his playing a fullness and sureness that no other be-bop pianist has, Bud is also sufficiently independent from the tempo to be able to improvise fast, complicated phrases in the manner of Charlie Parker, phrases that always land on their feet with amazing precision. Bud Powell has enormous inspiration, in all his solos we recognize the sound of a great musician and the true class of someone who has something to say and says it well.”

Influences on Bebop and Jazz

Powell freed the right hand for continuous linear exploration, and facilitated in the left a statement of the harmonies typical of bebop. When Art Tatum questioned Powell’s neglect of the left hand, the younger player responded audaciously in a subsequent tune by soloing with his left hand. Powell’s favoring the treble was not to avoid integrating the hands, which is essential to both a solo and accompanying technique. With his polar division of the keyboard, however, Powell was most responsible for permanently establishing the piano on an equal improvisatory footing with the horns and bass. These formed the basic small ensembles that have dominated jazz since the swing era. Before Powell, Art Tatum and Earl Hines had also somewhat explored independent homophony closely resembling later piano playing. On his music, during an interview, Bud said, “I wish it had been given a name more in keeping with it’s seriousness of purpose.” In another he added, that he, by chance, carried the same label as Charlie Parker, the label, ‘bop’…” Jay McShann said in an interview, “No, Bird has never played bebop. Bebop is only a term that they stuck onto his music. Bird was playing the blues. All of his music is based on the blues.” Miles Davis announced, “Bebop? That’s a word invented by white people.” Bud Powell brought a sensitivity and a beauty to such an intricate style. From Francis Paudras on seeing Powell in Paris, “He seemed to me a sort of alchemist, blending matchless craftsmanship with unbounded inspiration and topping it off with impeccable taste. Never had any artist or musician given me the impression of such concentration, such a headlong rush toward perfection. Each evening was an awed communion, like a religious experience.”

Powell’s leadership and personal problems

Powell’s first session as a leader was in a trio with Curly Russell and Max Roach, recorded in 1947 but not released until two years later, by Roost. He also recorded a session with Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Tommy Potter and Roach during this year. In 1945, at age twenty and already thought of by his peers as a great pianist, in an act of selfless bravado Powell took a beating from the police who were harassing his best friend and mentor Thelonious Monk. After suffering headaches and pain for a long period and unable to get relief, he was, in November 1947, admitted to Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, where he stayed for over a year, receiving electroconvulsive therapy which caused severe memory loss. The young Jackie McLean and Sonny Rollins became friendly with Powell on his release from the hospital, and Powell recommended McLean to Miles Davis. Powell suffered from mental illness throughout his life, possibly triggered by the beating from the police which certainly exacerbated his problems. He was also an alcoholic, and even small quantities of alcohol had a profound effect on his character, normally quiet and reserved, making him aggressive. Powell’s continued rivalry with Charlie Parker, essential to the production of brilliant music, was also the subject of disruptive feuding and bitterness on the band-stand, as a result of Powell’s troubled mental and physical condition.

However, in Jazz News (October 1949) Nicole Barclay claimed that, “Charlie Parker says Bud is a genius. Bud says the same thing about Parker and we think they’re both right.”

From Bill Evans, “He was so expressive, such emotion flowed out of him! It’s a feeling we sometimes get from Beethoven…It’s not that it’s beautiful in the sense of pretty or brilliant, it’s something else, something much deeper.”

“When people talk about the giants—Bird, Bud, Dizzy, and Miles—I think they underestimate Bud.”

“He was in a class by himself.”

Best recordings

It is generally agreed that his best recordings are those made prior to 1954, both for Blue Note Records and for Norman Granz (at Mercury Records, Norgran Records, Clef Records and later on Verve Records). The first Blue Note session, in August 1949, features Fats Navarro, Sonny Rollins, Powell, Tommy Potter and Roy Haynes, and the compositions Bouncing with Bud and Dance of the Infidels. The second Blue Note session was a trio with Russell and Roach, and includes Parisian Thoroughfare and Un Poco Loco, the latter selected by literary critic Harold Bloom for inclusion on his short list of the greatest works of twentieth-century American art. Sessions for Granz (more than a dozen) were all solo or trios, with a variety of bassists and drummers including Russell, Roach, Buddy Rich, Ray Brown, Percy Heath, George Duvivier, Art Taylor, Lloyd Trotman, Osie Johnson, Art Blakey and Kenny Clarke.

Powell recorded for both Blue Note and Verve throughout the fifties, interrupted by another long stay in a mental hospital from late 1951 to early 1953, following arrest for possession of marijuana. He was released into the guardianship of Oscar Goodstein, the owner of the Birdland nightclub. A 1953 trio session for Blue Note (with Duvivier and Taylor) included Powell’s composition Glass Enclosure, inspired by his near-imprisonment in Goodstein’s apartment. His playing after his release from hospital began to be seriously affected by Largactil, taken for the treatment of schizophrenia, and by the late fifties his talent was clearly in decline. In 1956 his brother Richie was killed in a car crash alongside Clifford Brown. This was a double blow for him. Three albums for Blue Note in the late fifties showcased Powell’s ability as a composer, but his playing was nowhere near the standard set by his earlier recordings for the label. After several further spells in hospital, Powell moved to Paris in 1959, in the company of Altevia “Buttercup” Edwards, a childhood friend.

French influences

In Paris, Powell worked in a trio with Pierre Michelot and Kenny Clarke. Buttercup was keeping control of his finances and also over-dosing him with Largactil, but he continued to perform and record—the 1960 live recording of the Essen jazz festival performance (with Clarke, Oscar Pettiford and on some numbers Coleman Hawkins) is particularly notable. In December 1961 he recorded two albums for Columbia Records under the aegis of Cannonball Adderley—A Portrait of Thelonious (with Michelot and Clarke), and A Tribute to Cannonball (with the addition of Don Byas and Idrees Sulieman—despite the title, Adderley only plays on one alternate take). The first album was released shortly after Powell’s death (with overdubbed audience noise), and the second in the late 1970s. Eventually Powell was befriended by Francis Paudras, a commercial artist and amateur pianist, and Powell moved into Paudras’s home in 1962. There was a brief return to Blue Note in 1963, when Dexter Gordon recorded Our Man in Paris for the label—Powell was a last-minute substitution for Kenny Drew, and the album of standards showed him to still be capable of playing well. In 1963 Powell contracted tuberculosis, and the following year he returned to New York with Paudras. The original agreement had been for the two men to go back to Paris, but Paudras returned alone, and Powell died hospitalized in 1966 after months of increasingly erratic behavior and self-neglect.

In 1986 Paudras wrote a book about his friendship with Powell, translated into English in 1997 as Dance of the Infidels: A Portrait of Bud Powell (the title is derived from one of Bud’s compositions).

In it he says, “If this great exponent of Black American culture inspired me, a white European, it is simply because I think his music is of universal scope. The work of Bud Powell is not only a message of love of a black artist for black people, it is also a message of great beauty, hope and peace for all the peoples of the world.”

The book was the basis for Round Midnight, a fine film inspired by the lives of Bud Powell and Lester Young, in which Dexter Gordon played the lead role of an expatriate jazzman in Paris.


Nina Simone


Eunice Kathleen Waymon, better known as Nina Simone (February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003), was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, and civil rights activist.

Although she disliked being categorized, Simone is generally classified as a jazz musician. Her work covers an eclectic variety of musical styles, such as jazz, soul, folk, R&B, gospel, and even pop music. Her vocal style is characterized by passion, breathiness, and tremolo. Simone recorded over 40 live and studio albums, the biggest body of her work being released between 1958 (when she made her debut with Little Girl Blue (Nina Simone album) and 1974. Songs she is best known for include My Baby Just Cares for Me, I Put A Spell On You, I Loves You Porgy, Feeling Good,, Sinnerman, and Nuff Said: Ain’t got no-I got life.

Nina Simone lifted jazz, blues, and rhythm and blues singing to a higher level with her ease at storytelling through musical notes and vibrant rhythm. She was able to go beyond ordinary music-making to relate to a greater frame of reference—to an ever expanding world fan and supporter base for this unique music. Simone made a difference and served the greater good in the world of music.


Youth (1933–1954)

Simone was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina, one of eight children. From a baby she showed genuine love of music and as a very young child was noted for her spirited clapping, on beat at church! She began playing piano at her local church and showed prodigious talent on this instrument. Her concert debut, a piano recital, was made at the age of ten. During her performance, her parents, who had taken seats in the front row, were forced to move to the back of the hall to make way for white people. Simone refused to play until her parents were moved back. This incident contributed to her later involvement in the American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968) movement.

Simone’s mother, Mary Kate Waymon (who lived into her late 90’s) of African slaves, American Indian and Irish descent was a strict Methodist minister; her father, John Divine Waymon, descended from African slaves was a handyman and sometime barber who suffered bouts of ill-health. Mrs. Waymon worked as a maid and her employer, Mrs. Miller, hearing of Nina’s talent, provided funds for piano lessons. A petite, silver-haired, bird-like English woman with a Russian painter husband became her tutor and subsequently, Miz Mizz Mazzy,(Nina’s name for her) created a local fund to assist in Eunice’s continued education.

At age seventeen, Simone moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she taught piano and accompanied singers to fund her own studying as a classical music pianist at New York City’s Juilliard School of Music. With the help of a private tutor she studied for an interview to further study piano at the Curtis Institute, but she was rejected. Simone believed that this rejection was because she was a black woman and it fueled her hatred of the racial injustice in the United States. It seemed that her dream to become the first African-American classical pianist would not be fulfilled.

Early success (1954–1959)

Simone played at the Midtown Bar & Grill on Pacific Avenue in Atlantic City, New Jersey to fund her studying. The owner said that she would have to sing as well as play the piano in order to get the job. She took on the stagename “Nina Simone” in 1954 because she didn’t want her mother to know that she was playing “the devil’s music.” “Nina” (meaning “little girl” in Spanish) was a nickname a boyfriend had given to her and “Simone” was after the French actress Simone Signoret, whom she had seen in the movie Casque d’or. Simone played and sang a mixture of jazz, blues and classical music at the bar, and by doing so she created a small but loyal fan base.

After playing in small clubs she recorded a rendition of George Gershwin’s “I Loves You Porgy” (from Porgy and Bess) in 1958, which was learned from a Billie Holiday album and performed as a favor to a friend. It became her only Billboard top 40 hit in the United States, and her debut album Little Girl Blue soon followed on Bethlehem Records. Simone would never benefit financially from the album, because she sold the rights for $ 3000. It meant that she missed out on more than 1 million dollars of royalties (mainly because of the successful re-release of “My Baby Just Cares for Me” in the 1980s). After the success of Little Girl Blue, Simone signed a contract with a bigger company under the label Colpix Records, followed by a string of studio and live albums (Simone, 1992; Brun-Lambert, 2006). Colpix relinquished all creative control, including the choice of material that would be recorded, to Nina in exchange for her signing with them. Simone, who at this point only performed pop music to make money to continue her classical music studies, was bold with her demand for control over her music because she was indifferent about having a recording contract.

Life Performances

Simone’s regal bearing and commanding stage presence earned her the title the “High Priestess of Soul.” Her live performances were regarded not as mere concerts, but as happenings. In a single concert she could be a singer, pianist, dancer, actress and activist all simultaneously. On stage Simone’s versatility became truly evident, as she moved from gospel to blues, jazz and folk, to numbers infused with European classical stylings, and counterpoint fugues. She incorporated monologues and dialogues with the audience into the program, and often used silence as a musical element. She could be very strict, in this regard, admonishing the audience to keep quiet until not a pin-drop could be heard. About this, Simone herself said:

“It’s like mass hypnosis. I use it all the time”

Many recordings exist of her concerts, expressing fragments of her on-stage power, wit, sensuality and occasional menace. Throughout most of her live and recording career she was accompanied by percussionist Leopoldo Flemming and guitarist and musical director Al Shackman.

Civil rights era (1964–1974)

Simone was made aware of the severity of racial prejudice in America by her friends Langston Hughes, James Baldwin (writer), and Lorraine Hansberry (author of the play Raisin in the Sun). In 1964, she changed record labels, from the American Colpix Records to the Dutch Philips Records, which also meant a change in the contents of her recordings. Simone had always included songs in her repertoire that hinted to her African-American origins (such as “Brown Baby” and “Zungo” on Nina at the Village Gate in 1962). But on her debut album for Philips, Nina Simone In Concert (live recording, 1964), Simone for the first time openly addresses the racial inequality that was prevalent in the United States with the song “Mississippi Goddam.” It was her response to the murder of Medgar Evers and the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four black children. The song was released as a single, being boycotted in certain southern states. With “Old Jim Crow” on the same album she reacts to the Jim Crow Laws.

From then onwards, the civil rights message was standard in Simone’s recording repertoire, where it had already become a part of her live performances. She covered Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” on Pastel Blues (1965), which is a statement on the lynching of black men in the South, and sang the W. Cuney poem “Images” on Let It All Out (1966), talking about the absence of pride in the African-American woman. Simone wrote the song “Four Women” and sings it on the album Wild Is the Wind (1966). It is about four different stereotypes of African-American women.

Simone again moved from Philips to RCA Victor Records in 1967. She sang “Backlash Blues,” written by her friend Langston Hughes on her first RCA album, Nina Simone Sings The Blues (1967). On Silk & Soul (1967) she recorded Billy Taylor’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” and “Turning Point.” The last song illustrates how white children would get indoctrinated with racism at an early age. The album Nuff Said (1968) contains live recordings from the Westbury Music Fair, April 7, 1968, three days after the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King. She dedicated the whole performance to him and sang “Why? (The King Of Love Is Dead),” a song written by her bass player directly after the news of Dr. King’s death had reached them.

Together with Langston Hughes, Simone turned the late Lorraine Hansberry’s unfinished play “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” into a civil rights song. She performed it live on Black Gold (1970). A studio recording was released as a single, and the song became the official “National Anthem of Black America” and has been covered by Aretha Franklin on Young, Gifted and Black) (1972) and Donny Hathaway.

Being “difficult”

Simone had a reputation in the music industry for being volatile and sometimes difficult to deal with, a characterization with which she strenuously took issue. In 1995, she reportedly shot and wounded her neighbor’s son with a BB gun (pneumatic pistol) after his laughing disturbed her concentration. She also fired at a record company executive whom she accused of stealing royalties.

In New York City, she was seen after finishing her set in a club performance, in the wee small hours, to demand her payment immediately, in a loud and angry voice, while exiting to her limosine. She gave the impression that people were taking advantage of her.

It is now recognized that this ‘difficulty’ was not just the result of an over-exacting artistic rigor, but her raging outbursts and diva-like extremes were actually the result of a medical condition, possibly clinical depression or borderline personality disorder, for which Simone had to take medication. All this was only known to a small group of people around the singer for many years. The biography Break Down And Let It All Out, written by Sylvia Hampton and David Nathan revealed this secret in 2004.

Later life (1978–2003)

Simone impulsively left the United States in September 1970. The continuous performances and decline of the Civil Rights movement had exhausted her. She flew to Barbados, expecting her husband and manager, Andrew Stroud, to contact her when she had to perform again. However, Stroud interpreted Simone’s sudden disappearance (and the fact that she left behind her wedding ring) as a cue for a divorce. As her manager, Stroud was also in charge of Simone’s income. This meant that after their separation Simone had no knowledge about how her business was run, and what she was actually worth. Upon returning to the United States she also learned that there were serious problems with the tax authorities, causing her to go back to Barbados again. Simone stayed in Barbados for quite some time, and had a lengthy affair with the Prime Minister, Errol Barrow. A friend, singer Miriam Makeba, convinced her to come to Liberia. After that she lived in Switzerland and the Netherlands, before settling in France in 1992. Simone’s divorce from her husband and manager can be seen as the end of her most successful years in the American music business, and the beginning of her (partially self-imposed) exile and estrangement from the world for the next two decades (Simone & Cleary, 1992; Brun-Lambert, 2006).

After her last album for RCA Records, It Is Finished (1974), it was not until 1978 that Simone was convinced by CTI Records owner Creed Taylor to record another album, Baltimore. The album was not a commercial success, but did get good reviews and marked a quiet artistic renaissance in Simone’s recording output. Her voice had not lost its power over the years, but developed an additional warmth and a vivacious maturity. Her choice of material retained its eclecticism, ranging from spiritual songs to Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl.” Four years later Simone recorded Fodder On My Wings on a French label. It is one of her most personal albums, with nearly all of the autobiographical songs written by herself. In the 1980s Simone performed regularly at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London. The album Live At Ronnie Scott’s was recorded there in 1984. Though her onstage style could be somewhat haughty and aloof, in later years, Simone particularly seemed to enjoy engaging her audiences by recounting sometimes humorous anecdotes related to her career and music and soliciting requests. Her autobiography, I Put a Spell on You, was published in 1992. She recorded her last album A Single Woman in 1993.

In 1993 Simone settled near Aix-en-Provence in the south of France. She had been ill with cancer for several years before she died in her sleep at her home in Carry-le-Rouet on April 21, 2003, aged 70. She left behind a daughter Lisa Celeste, now an actress/singer who took on the stage name Simone and has appeared on Broadway theater in Aida.


On Human Kindness Day 1974 in Washington, DC more than 10,000 people paid tribute to Simone for her music and commitment to humanity. Simone received two honorary degrees in music and humanities from the University of Massachusetts and Malcolm X College. She preferred to be called “Dr. Nina Simone” after these honors were bestowed upon her. Only two days before her death, Simone was awarded with an honorary diploma by the Curtis Institute, the school that had turned her down at the start of her career.

Best-known work

Simone had her first and biggest hit in America with a rendition of George Gershwin’s “I Loves You Porgy,” a track from her debut album Little Girl Blue (1958). It peaked at number 18 in the pop singles chart and number 2 on the black singles chart. In 1987, she experienced a resurgence in popularity when “My Baby Just Cares for Me” from the same album, became a hit all over Europe after it was featured in a Chanel no. 5 perfume commercial. A music video was then created by Aardman.

Well-known songs from her Philips years include “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” on Broadway-Blues-Ballads (1964), “I Put a Spell on You,” Ne Me Quitte Pas and “Feeling Good” on I Put A Spell On You (1965), “Lilac Wine” and “Wild Is the Wind” on Wild is the Wind (1966). “Feeling Good” was used in a Sky Movies advertisement, a 24 promotional advertisement, and in the drama series Six Feet Under (a promo for the fourth season). Several cover versions were made, most notably by British rock band Muse and Michael Bublé. It was sampled in a song by Mary J. Blige on her album The Breakthrough (2006). “Sinnerman” (from the 1965 album Pastel Blues) featured in the films The Thomas Crown Affair (1999), Cellular (2004), and Inland Empire (2006), an episode of the TV series Homicide – “Sins of the Father,” an episode of the TV series Scrubs and on the soundtrack for the videogame Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure. Hip-hop producer Kanye West sampled “Sinnerman” for the Talib Kweli single “Get By.” Talib Kweli also recorded a hip-hop remake of Four Women, which is featured on Reflection Eternal with DJ Hi-Tek. A remixed version by Felix da Housecat was used in the soundtrack of the film Miami Vice (2006). It was also covered by 16 Horsepower.

Well-known songs from her RCA-Victor years include “House of the Rising Sun” on Nina Simone Sings The Blues (1967), “Ain’t Got No – I Got Life,” “Gin House Blues” and “Do What You Gotta Do” on Nuff Said (1968), the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody” and Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin” and “I Shall Be Released” on To Love Somebody (1969).
“Ain’t Got No-I Got Life,” a medley from the musical Hair, gave Simone a new and younger audience when it became a surprise hit, reaching number 2 in the UK charts in 1968. It has since become one of her most popular songs. It has been used in a television advertising campaign in the United Kingdom for Müller Dairy and returned to the UK Top 30 in a remixed version by Groovefinder in 2006.
Simone had recorded the traditional song “House of the Rising Sun” in 1961 and it featured on Nina At The Village Gate (1962), predating versions by Dave Van Ronk, and Bob Dylan. It was picked up by The Animals and became their signature hit. They repeated this with a Simone cover of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” was also featured in the “J’adore Dior” perfume commercial.


Brenda Lee


Brenda Lee (December 11, 1944 – ) is an American country-pop singer, who was immensely popular during the 1950s and 60s. In the 60s, she had more charted hits than any other woman, and only three male acts (Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, and The Beatles) outpaced her. She was also one of the earliest pop stars to have a major international following.

Lee was given the nickname Little Miss Dynamite in 1957 after recording Dynamite, as the explosive sound pouring out of her diminutive, pre-teenage frame amazed audiences and promoters alike. Hits like “Sweet Nothin’s,” “I’m Sorry,” and “All Alone Am I” followed. Her general popularity faded as her voice matured in the late 1960s, but she successfully continued her recording career by returning to her roots as a country singer.

Lee’s song, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” is a perennial favorite that has sold more than five million copies. She has been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Early years

Lee’s father, Ruben Tarpley, was the son of a farmer in Georgia’s red-clay belt who spent 11 years in the U.S. Army playing baseball. Her mother, Annie Grayce Yarbrough came from a working-class family in Greene County, Georgia, and had a Cherokee great-grandparent.

Brenda was born in the charity ward of Grady Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, on December 11, 1944, weighing four pounds, 11 ounces at birth. She attended grade schools wherever her father found work, primarily in the corridor between Atlanta and Augusta. Her family was poor, and she shared a bed with her two siblings in a series of three-room houses without running water. Life centered around her parents’ finding work, their extended family, and the Baptist Church, where Brenda sang solos every Sunday.

The family had a battery-powered table radio that fascinated Brenda as a baby. By the time she was two, she could reportedly hear songs on the radio once and be able to whistle the complete tune. By the time she was three, she would earn free treats or coins for singing at the local candy store.

Brenda’s voice, pretty face, and complete absence of stage fright won her wider attention from the time she was five. At six, she won a local singing contest sponsored by the elementary schools. The reward was a live appearance on an Atlanta radio show, Starmakers Revue.

Benda’s father died in 1953, and by the time she turned ten, she had become the primary breadwinner of her family by singing at events and on local radio and television shows. Her break into big-time show business came when an Augusta DJ convinced Red Foley to hear her sing before a show. Foley was transfixed by the huge voice coming from the tiny girl and immediately agreed to let her perform the Hank Williams standard Jambalaya on stage that night, unrehearsed. The audience erupted in applause and refused to let her leave the stage until she had sung three more songs.

Less than two months later, on July 30, 1956, Decca Records offered her a recording contract. She began her recording career at age 11 with rockabilly songs like “BIGELOW 6-200″ (a telephone number), “Little Jonah,” and “Dynamite,” which led to her lifelong nickname, “Little Miss Dynamite.” He first hit was “One Step at Time” (1957).

The height of her career

Although Brenda began as a country country, Decca’s management felt it best to market her exclusively as a pop artist. The result was that none of her best-known recordings from the 1960s was released to country radio stations. Despite her obvious country sound, she would not have another country hit until 1969.

Brenda achieved her greatest success on the pop charts in the late 50s through the mid 60s. Her biggest hits during this time include a rockabilly version of the country classic “Jambalaya (On the Bayou),” the sexy R & B tune “Sweet Nothin’s,” and the Nashville-style ballads “I’m Sorry,” “I Want to Be Wanted,” “All Alone Am I,” and “Fool #1.”

“I’m Sorry” (1960) was Brenda’s signature song. It hit number one on the Billboard pop chart and was her first gold single. Although not released as a country song, it was the first big hit to use what was to become the new “Nashville Sound”—a string orchestra and legato harmonized background vocals.

The overall biggest selling track of Lee’s career, however, is a Christmas song. In 1958, when she was 13, Owen Bradley asked her to record a new song written by Johnny Marks, who had had success writing Christmas tunes for country singers, most notably “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (Gene Autry) and “A Holly, Jolly Christmas” (Burl Ives). Lee recorded the song, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” in July with a prominent twanging guitar part by Hank Garland. Decca released it as a single that November, but it sold only 5,000 copies. It did not do much better when it was released again in 1959, but eventually became a perennial favorite and sold over 5 million copies.

Touring in England in 1959, Lee’s 1961 rockabilly release “Let’s Jump the Broomstick” did not chart in the U.S., but went to number 12 in the UK. She also had two Top-10 hits in the UK that were not released as singles in her native country: “Speak To Me Pretty” peaked at number three in early 1962, followed by “Here Comes That Feeling.” Her last Top-10 single on the U.S. pop charts was 1963’s “Losing You.” She continued to have other minor hits such as her 1966 song “Coming On Strong” and “Is It True?” in 1964.

Country comeback

During the early 1970s, Lee re-established herself as a country music artist and earned a string of Top-10 hits on the country charts. The first of these was 1973’s “Nobody Wins,” which reached the Top 5 that spring and also became her last Top 100 pop hit, peaking at number 70. The follow-up, the Mark James composition “Sunday Sunrise,” reached number six on Billboard magazine’s Hot Country Singles chart that October. Other major country hits for Lee included “Wrong Ideas” and “Big Four Poster Bed” (1974); and “Rock On Baby” and “He’s My Rock” (1975). After a few years of lesser hits, Lee began another run at the Top 10 with 1979’s “Tell Me What It’s Like.” Two follow-ups also reached the country Top 10 in 1980: “The Cowboy and the Dandy” and “Broken Trust” (the latter featuring vocal backing by The Oak Ridge Boys). A 1982 album, The Winning Hand, featuring reissues of a number of Lee’s 1960s Monument hits, as well as that of Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson, and Willie Nelson, was a surprise hit, reaching the Top Ten on the U.S. country-albums chart. Her last well-known hit was 1985’s “Hallelujah, I Love Her So,” a duet with George Jones.

Over the ensuing years, Lee has continued to record and perform all around the world, previously cutting records in four different languages. In 1992, Lee recorded a duet (“You’ll Never Know”) with Willy DeVille, on his album Loup Garou.


Along with Connie Francis, Brenda was one of the first female singing idols, achieving huge popularity with a long string of hits. Many of her hits from the 50s and 60s are classics and her holiday song, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” is a perennial favorite.

Brenda’s marriage to Ronnie Shacklett in 1963 was a successful one, and he has been credited with ensuring her long-term financial success. They have two daughters, Jolie and Julie, and three grandchildren.

Celebrating over 50 years as a recording artist, Brenda Lee was given the Jo Meador-Walker Lifetime Achievement award by Source Nashville in September 2006. Lee is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, and the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.



Tammy Wynette


Tammy Wynette (May 5, 1942 – April 6, 1998) was a country singer and songwriter. She was known as the “First Lady of Country Music.” Wynette’s signature song, “Stand by Your Man,” was one of the biggest selling hit singles ever and became an icon of the female country vocal genre.

Beginning in 1966, her career spanned 30 years and produced many memorable hits. Wynette’s troubled marriage to country star George Jones brought additional fame and produced many fine duet recordings. The emotional tone of her performances and poignant, honest lyrics of her songs made her a “voice” not only as a country singer but also for American women in general.

Early life

Tammy Wynette was born Virginia Wynette Pugh near Tremont, Mississippi, the only child of William Hollis Pugh (died 1943) and Mildred Faye Russell (1922–1991). As a girl, she was called Wynette (pronounced Win-NET), or Nettie, instead of Virginia.

Her father was a farmer and local musician. He died of a brain tumor when Wynette was only nine months of age. Her mother worked in an office, as a substitute school teacher, and on the family farm. After the death of Hollis, Mrs. Pugh left Wynette in the care of her grandparents, Thomas Chester and Flora A. Russell, and moved to Memphis to work in a World War II defense plant. In 1946, she married Foy Lee, a farmer from Mississippi.

Wynette was raised on the Itawamba County farm of her maternal grandparents where she was born. The place was partly on the border with Alabama. Wynette claimed that the state line ran right through their property, joking that that “my top half came from Alabama and my bottom half came from Mississippi.” As a youngster, she worked in the fields picking cotton alongside the hired crews. She grew up with her aunt, Carolyn Russell, who was only five years older than she was. Wynette sang gospel tunes with her grandmother and also learned to play the piano and the guitar.

As a child and teenager, country music provided an escape from her hard life. Wynette grew up idolizing Hank Williams, Skeeter Davis, Patsy Cline, and George Jones, and would play their records over and over on the inexpensive children’s record player she owned, dreaming of one day being a star herself.

She attended Tremont High School, where she was an all-star basketball player. A month before graduation, she married her first husband, Euple Byrd, a construction worker. Byrd, whom she left before the birth of their third daughter, was not supportive of Wynette’s ambition to become a singer. Her early jobs included working as a waitress, a receptionist, a barmaid, and in a shoe factory. In 1963, she attended beauty school in Tupelo, Mississippi, and became a hairdresser. She would renew her cosmetology license every year for the rest of her life, just in case she should have to go back to a daily job.

When her youngest child developed spinal meningitis, Wynette tried to make extra money by performing at night. In 1965, she sang on the Country Boy Eddie Show on WBRC-TV in Birmingham, Alabama, which led to a brief tour with the well known country star Porter Wagoner. In 1966, she moved with her three girls from Birmingham to Nashville, where she pounded the pavement to get a recording contract. After being turned down repeatedly, she auditioned for producer Billy Sherrill, who signed her to Epic Records.

Rise to fame

Sherrill suggested Wynette consider changing her name to something that might make a better impression with the public. In her 1979 memoir, Stand by Your Man, Wynette relates that she was wearing her long, blond hair in a ponytail at their meeting, and Sherill said she reminded him of Debbie Reynolds in the film Tammy and the Bachelor. He suggested “Tammy” as a possible name; thus, she became Tammy Wynette.

Her first single, “Apartment #9″ (written by Johnny Paycheck), was released in late 1966, and reached the top 50 on the U.S. country charts. In 1967, she had hits with “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad,” “My Elusive Dreams” (a duet with David Houston), and “I Don’t Wanna Play House,” all of which reached the country top ten.

Wynette had three number one hits in 1968: “Take Me to Your World,” “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” and her best known song, “Stand by Your Man” (which she said she wrote in fifteen minutes). In 1969, she had two additional number one hits: “Singing My Song” and “The Ways to Love a Man.” That same year, Wynette earned a Gold record (awarded for albums selling in excess of one million copies) for “Tammy Wynette’s Greatest Hits.” She was the first female country artist to do so.

During this time, she began a tumultuous relationship with country mega-star George Jones, whom she would later marry. Their collaboration would produce many memorable duets (including the number one hit, “We’re Gonna Hold On”) and made them in effect, the reigning king and queen of country music. They would continue to record together, even after their divorce, through the mid 1990s.

Movie director Bob Rafelson used a number of Wynette’s songs in the soundtrack of his 1970 film, Five Easy Pieces. Her chart success continued into the 1970s with such hits as “Good Lovin’ (Makes it Right)” (1971), “He Loves Me All the Way” (1971), “Bedtime Story” (1972), “Kids Say the Darnedest Things” (1973), “Woman to Woman” (1974), “You and Me” (1976), “‘Til I can Make it on My Own” (1976), and “Womanhood” (1978).

Home life and problems

Wynette married her second husband, Don Chapel, shortly after her first divorce became final. While still married to Chapel, however, around 1968, she began a relationship with the legendary country singer George Jones, one of her girlhood idols. Eventually Wynette parted with her second husband and married Jones. Their daughter, Georgette, was born in 1970. It was a difficult marriage, however, due largely to Jones’ alcoholism, and they were divorced in 1975.

Wynette’s private life was as troubled as many of her songs. Over the course of her life, she had five husbands: Euple Byrd (married 1959–divorced 1966); Don Chapel (married 1967–annulled 1968); George Jones (married 1969–divorced 1975); Michael Tomlin (married 1976–annulled 1976); and George Richey (married 1978). Wynette also had a much-publicized relationship with actor Burt Reynolds in the 1970s.

Her marriage to Richey, who later became her manager, proved to be the lasting love of her life. Even that relationship, however, was not without controversy. In 1978, Wynette reported that she had been mysteriously abducted by a masked man at a Nashville shopping center, driven 80 miles south in her luxury car, beaten, and released. No one was ever arrested or identified. Years later, Tammy’s daughter, Jackie Daly, alleged that Tammy told her that the kidnapping story was a fabricated to disguise the fact that George Richey was beating her.

She also had a number of serious physical ailments beginning in the 1970s, including operations on her gall bladder, kidney, and on the nodules on her throat.

Later career

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Wynette dominated the country charts. She had 17 number one hits and helped redefine the role and place of female country singers. Beginning in the early 1980s, however, her chart success began to wane. While her singles and albums continued to reach the country top 40, big hits were few and far between. Meanwhile, her medical problems continued, including inflammations of her bile duct.

In 1988, she filed for bankruptcy as a result of a bad investment in two Florida shopping centers. Her 1987 album Higher Ground broke through with a new contemporary sound, broadening her audience.

Stand By Your Man, meanwhile, was becoming truly iconic. First, it had been been brought to a new and much wider audience with hilarious charm in The Blues Brothers 1980 motion picture, by the unlikely characters of Jake and Elwood Blues. Later, in 1992, future First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton said during a 60 Minutes interview that she was not “some little woman, standing by my man, like Tammy Wynette.” The remark set off a firestorm of controversy, and Mrs. Clinton eventually apologized. Wynette was nonetheless a Clinton supporter and later performed at a Clinton fund raiser.

Wynette recorded a song with the British electronica group The KLF in late 1991, titled “Justified and Ancient (Stand by the JAMs),” which became a number one hit in 18 countries the following year. In the video versions, scrolling electronic titles declared: “Miss Tammy Wynette is the first lady of country music.” Wynette appeared seated on a throne.

The 1993 album Honky Tonk Angels gave her a chance to record with Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn for the first time. Though yielding no hit singles, the album did well on the country charts. The following year, she released Without Walls, a collection of duets with a number of country, pop and rock and roll performers, including Wynonna Judd, Elton John, Lyle Lovett, Aaron Neville, Smokey Robinson, Sting, and others. Wynette also designed and sold her own line of jewelry in the 1990s.

In 1994, she suffered an abdominal infection that almost killed her. She was in a coma for six days.

In 1995, she and George Jones recorded their first new duet album in 13 years. They last performed together in 1997, at Concerts in the Country, in Lanierland, Georgia. Wynette joined with other famous singers on the U.K. number one hitPerfect Day in 1997, written by Lou Reed and recorded for charity.


After years of medical problems, numerous hospitalizations, approximately twenty-six major surgeries and an addiction to large doses of pain medication, Tammy Wynette died at the age of 55 on April 6, 1998, while sleeping on the couch in her living room in Nashville, Tennessee. The coroner later declared that she died of a cardiac arrhythmia. She is interred in Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Nashville.


Miriam Makeba


Miriam Makeba (4 March 1932 – 9 November 2008), nicknamed Mama Africa, was a Grammy Award-winning South African singer and civil rights activist.

In the 1960s she was the first artist from Africa to popularize African music around the world. She is best known for the song “Pata Pata”, first recorded in 1957 and released in the U.S. in 1967. She recorded and toured with many popular artists, such as Harry Belafonte, Paul Simon, and her former husband Hugh Masekela.

Makeba campaigned against the South African system of apartheid. The South African government responded by revoking her passport in 1960 and her citizenship and right of return in 1963. As the apartheid system crumbled she returned home for the first time in 1990.

Makeba died of a heart attack on 9 November 2008 after performing in a concert in Italy organized to support writer Roberto Saviano in his stand against the Camorra, a mafia-like organization local to the region of Campania.

Early years

Zenzile Miriam Makeba was born in Johannesburg on 4 March 1932. Her mother was a Swazi sangoma (traditional healer-herbalist). Her father, who died when she was six years old, was a Xhosa. When she was eighteen days old, her mother was arrested for selling umqombothi, an African homemade beer brewed from malt and cornmeal. Her mother was sentenced to a six-month prison term, so Miriam spent her first six months of life in jail. As a child, she sang in the choir of the Kilmerton Training Institute in Pretoria, a primary school that she attended for eight years.

In 1950 at the age of eighteen, Makeba gave birth to her only child, Bongi Makeba, whose father was Makeba’s first husband James Kubay. Makeba was then diagnosed with breast cancer, and her husband left her shortly afterwards

Her professional career began in the 1950s when she was featured in the South African jazz group the Manhattan Brothers, and appeared for the first time on a poster. She left the Manhattan Brothers to record with her all-woman group, The Skylarks, singing a blend of jazz and traditional melodies of South Africa. As early as 1956, she released the single “Pata Pata”, which was played on all the radio stations and made her name known throughout South Africa.

She had a short-lived marriage in 1959 to Sonny Pillay, a South African singer of Indian descent. Her break came in that year when she had a short guest appearance in Come Back, Africa, an anti-apartheid documentary produced and directed by American independent filmmaker Lionel Rogosin. The short cameo made an enormous impression on the viewers and Rogosin managed to organise a visa for her to attend the première of the film at the twenty-fourth Venice Film Festival in Italy, where the film won the prestigious Critics’ Award. That year, Makeba sang the lead female role in the Broadway-inspired South African musical King Kong; among those in the cast was musician Hugh Masekela. She made her U.S. debut on 1 November 1959 on The Steve Allen Show.


I always wanted to leave home. I never knew they were going to stop me from coming back. Maybe, if I knew, I never would have left. It is kind of painful to be away from everything that you’ve ever known. Nobody will know the pain of exile until you are in exile. No matter where you go, there are times when people show you kindness and love, and there are times when they make you know that you are with them but not of them. That’s when it hurts.

—Miriam Makeba

Makeba then travelled to London where she met Harry Belafonte, who assisted her in gaining entry to the United States and achieving fame there. When she tried to return to South Africa in 1960 for her mother’s funeral, she discovered that her South African passport had been cancelled. She signed with RCA Victor and released Miriam Makeba, her first U.S. studio album, in 1960. In 1962, Makeba and Belafonte sang at John F. Kennedy’s birthday party at Madison Square Garden, but Makeba did not go to the aftershow party because she was ill. President Kennedy insisted on meeting her, so Belafonte sent a car to pick her up and she met the President of the United States. In 1963, Makeba released her second studio album for RCA, The World of Miriam Makeba. An early example of world music, the album peaked at number eighty-six on the Billboard 200. Later that year, after testifying against apartheid before the United Nations, her South African citizenship and her right to return to the country were revoked. She was a woman without a country, but the world came to her aid, and Guinea, Belgium and Ghana issued her international passports, and she became, in effect, a citizen of the world. In her life, she held nine passports, and was granted honorary citizenship in ten countries.

In 1964, Makeba and Masekela were married, divorcing two years later.

In 1966, Makeba received the Grammy Award for Best Folk Recording together with Harry Belafonte for An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba. The album dealt with the political plight of black South Africans under apartheid, and it was one of the first American albums to present traditional Zulu, Sotho and Swahili songs in an authentic setting. From the time of her New York debut at the Village Vanguard, her fame and reputation grew. She released many of her most famous hits in the United States, including “The Click Song” (“Qongqothwane” in Xhosa) and “Malaika”. Time called her the “most exciting new singing talent to appear in many years,” and Newsweek compared her voice to “the smoky tones and delicate phrasing” of Ella Fitzgerald and the “intimate warmth” of Frank Sinatra. Despite the success that made her a star in the U.S., she wore no makeup and refused to curl her hair for shows, thus establishing a style that would come to be known internationally as the “Afro look”. In 1967, more than ten years after she wrote the song, the single “Pata Pata” was released in the United States and became a worldwide hit.

I’d already lived in exile for 10 years, and the world is free, even if some of the countries in it aren’t, so I packed my bags and left.

—Miriam Makeba

Her marriage to Trinidad-born civil rights activist, Black Panther, and Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee leader Stokely Carmichael in 1968 caused controversy in the United States, and her record deals and tours were cancelled. As a result, the couple moved to Guinea, her home for the next 15 years, where they became close with President Ahmed Sékou Touré and his wife, Andrée. Makeba was appointed Guinea’s official delegate to the United Nations, for which she won the Dag Hammarskjöld Peace Prize in 1986. She also separated from Carmichael in 1973 and continued to perform primarily in Africa, Europe and Asia, but not in the United States, where a de facto boycott was in effect. Makeba was one of the entertainers at the 1974 Rumble in the Jungle match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman held in Zaïre. She addressed the United Nations General Assembly for the second time in 1975. She divorced Carmichael in 1978 and married an airline executive in 1980.

In those years, when I came to the States, people were always asking me why I didn’t sing anymore. I’d tell them, ‘I sing all around the world—Asia, Africa, Europe—but if you don’t sing in the US, then you haven’t really made it.’ That’s why I’ll always be grateful to Paul Simon. He allowed me to bring my music back to my friends in this country.

—Miriam Makeba

After the death of her daughter Bongi in 1985, she decided to move to Brussels In the following year, Hugh Masekela introduced Makeba to Paul Simon, and a few months later she embarked on the very successful Graceland Tour, which was documented on music video. Two concerts held in Harare, Zimbabwe, were filmed in 1987 for release as Graceland: The African Concert. After touring the world with Simon, Warner Bros. Records signed Makeba and she released Sangoma (“Healer”), an a cappella album of healing chants named in honour of her mother who was an “isangoma” (“a healer”). Shortly thereafter, her autobiography Makeba: My Story was published and subsequently translated from English into other languages including German, French, Dutch, Italian and Spanish. She took part in the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute, a popular-music concert staged on 11 June 1988 at Wembley Stadium, London, and broadcast to 67 countries and an audience of 600 million. Also referred to as Freedomfest, Free Nelson Mandela Concert, and Mandela Day, the event called for Mandela’s release.

Return to South Africa

Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Tribute increased pressure on the government of South Africa to release Mandela, and in 1990, State President of South Africa Frederik Willem de Klerk reversed the ban on the African National Congress and other anti-apartheid organisations, and announced that Nelson Mandela would shortly be released from prison. Mandela, who was effectively released from Victor Verster Prison in Paarl on 11 February 1990, persuaded Miriam Makeba to return to South Africa. She returned home on 10 June 1990, on her French passport.

In 1991, Makeba, with Dizzy Gillespie, Nina Simone and Masekela, recorded and released her studio album, Eyes on Tomorrow. It combined jazz, R&B, pop, and African music, and was a hit in Africa. Makeba and Gillespie then toured the world together to promote it. In November of the same year, she made a guest appearance in the episode “Olivia Comes Out of the Closet” of The Cosby Show. In 1992, she starred in the film Sarafina!. The film’s plot centers on students involved in the 1976’s Soweto youth uprisings, and Makeba portrayed the title character’s mother, “Angelina”. The following year she released Sing Me a Song.

On 16 October 1999, Miriam Makeba was nominated Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). In January 2000, her album, Homeland, produced by Cedric Samson and Michael Levinsohn for the New York City based record label Putumayo World Music, was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best World Music Album category. She worked closely with Graça Machel-Mandela, who at the time was the South African first lady, for children suffering from HIV/AIDS, child soldiers, and the physically handicapped.

In 2001, she was awarded the Otto Hahn Peace Medal in Gold by the United Nations Association of Germany (DGVN) in Berlin, “for outstanding services to peace and international understanding”. She shared the Polar Music Prize with Sofia Gubaidulina. The prize is regarded as Sweden’s foremost musical honour. They received their Prize from Carl XVI Gustaf King of Sweden during a nationally-televised ceremony at Berwaldhallen, Stockholm, on 27 May 2002. She also took part in the 2002 documentary Amandla!: A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony, where she and others recalled the struggles of black South Africans against the injustices of apartheid through the use of music. In 2004, Makeba was voted 38th in the Top 100 Great South Africans. Makeba started a worldwide farewell tour in 2005, holding concerts in all of those countries that she had visited during her working life.

Death and legacy

On 9 November 2008, she became ill while taking part in a concert organized to support writer Roberto Saviano in his stand against the Camorra, a mafia-like organisation local to the Region of Campania. The concert was being held in Castel Volturno, near Caserta, Italy. Makeba suffered a heart attack after singing her hit song “Pata Pata”, and was taken to the “Pineta Grande” clinic, where doctors were unable to revive her. Her publicist notes that Makeba had suffered “severe arthritis” for some time. She and family members were based in Northriding, Gauteng, at the time of her death.

On 25, 26 and 27 September 2009, a tribute show to Makeba entitled “Hommage à Miriam Makeba” and curated by Grammy Award-winning Beninoise singer-songwriter and activist Angélique Kidjo for the Festival d’Ile de France, was held at the Cirque d’hiver in Paris. The same show but with the English title of “Mama Africa: Celebrating Miriam Makeba” was held at the Barbican in London on 21 November 2009. Mama Africa, a documentary film about the life of Miriam Makeba, co-written and directed by Finnish film director Mika Kaurismäki, was released in 2011. On 4 March 2013 Google honored her with a doodle on the homepage.




Free was an English rock band formed in London in 1968 best known for their 1970 signature song “All Right Now”. They disbanded in 1973 and lead singer Paul Rodgers went on to become a frontman of the band Bad Company along with Simon Kirke on drums; lead guitarist Paul Kossoff formed Back Street Crawler and died from a drug-induced heart failure at the age of 25 in 1976. Bassist Andy Fraser formed Sharks.

The band was famed for its sensational live shows and nonstop touring. However, early studio albums did not sell very well – until the release of Fire and Water which featured the massive hit “All Right Now”. The song helped secure them a place at the huge Isle of Wight Festival 1970 where they played to 600,000 people.

By the early 1970s, Free was one of the biggest-selling British blues-rock groups; by the time the band dissolved in 1973, they had sold more than 20 million albums around the world and had played more than 700 arena and festival concerts. “All Right Now,” remains a rock staple, and had been entered into ASCAP’s “One Million” airplay singles club.

Rolling Stone has referred to the band as “British hard rock pioneers”. The magazine ranked Rodgers No. 55 in its list of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time”, while Kossoff was ranked No. 51 in its list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.

Free were signed to Island Records in the UK and A&M Records in North America. Both labels became part of the PolyGram group in 1989, then Universal Music Group in 1998; UMG now controls the band’s catalogue worldwide.


Most remarkable about the birth of Free was the young age of the band members who first came together to rehearse and play their first gig that same evening at the Nag’s Head pub in Battersea, London, on 19 April 1968. Bass player Andy Fraser was 15 years old, lead guitarist Paul Kossoff was 17, and both lead singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke were 18. By November of that year, having been given the name Free by Alexis Korner, they had recorded their first album Tons Of Sobs for Island Records and, although it was not released until the following year, the album documents their first six months together and contains studio renditions of much of their early live set.

Paul Kossoff and Simon Kirke first became friends in the R&B band Black Cat Bones but they wanted to move on. Paul Kossoff saw vocalist Paul Rodgers singing with Brown Sugar while visiting the Fickle Pickle, an R&B club in London’s Finsbury Park. He was immediately impressed and asked if he could jam with Rodgers onstage. Along with Kirke, they would go on to form Free with the addition of Andy Fraser, who at the age of 15 had already been playing with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers.

Unlike their previous albums Tons of Sobs and Free, Fire and Water – released in 1970 – was a huge success, largely due to the album containing the hit single “All Right Now”, which reached No. 1 on the UK rock music charts, No. 2 on the UK singles chart and No. 4 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. The album reached No. 2 in the UK charts and No. 17 on the U.S charts making it the most successful Free album. Highway was their fourth studio album, recorded extremely quickly in September 1970. Though widely considered[by whom?] to be an excellent follow-up to Fire and Water, Highway performed poorly in the charts, reaching No. 41 in the UK and No. 190 in the US.

In April 1971, due to differences between singer Paul Rodgers and bassist Andy Fraser, the drug problems of guitarist Paul Kossoff, and inconsistent record sales, the band broke up. This led to the release of the live album in 1971 called Free Live!. Early in 1972 the band set aside their differences and reformed in an effort to save Kossoff from his growing drug addiction, and in June of the same year released Free at Last.

But all was not well with the band. Bassist Andy Fraser left the band in mid-1972 due to Paul Kossoff’s unreliability in being able to perform at shows or even showing up. The remaining members recruited Japanese bass player Tetsu Yamauchi and keyboardist John “Rabbit” Bundrick, who had worked with Kossoff and Kirke during Free’s initial split, recording Kossoff, Kirke, Tetsu and Rabbit and what would be Free’s final album, Heartbreaker. Free disbanded in early 1973 with Rodgers and Kirke going on to form Bad Company that same year. Fraser went on to form the band Sharks and later The Andy Fraser Band, and Kossoff would form the band Back Street Crawler.

With Kossoff in better health again in late 1975, he was delighted that ex-colleagues Rodgers and Kirke asked him to join them on stage for two nights. A British tour was set to begin on 25 April 1976 with Back Street Crawler headlining with Bad Company in support of Back Street Crawler’s second album, but again Kossoff’s drug addictions contributed to a drastic decline in the guitarist’s health. On a flight from Los Angeles to New York City on 19 March 1976, Paul Kossoff died from drug-related heart problems at the age of 25. Some speculate[who?] that he was forced to take drugs due to his illness.

Alexis Korner played a part in the Free story, recommending Andy Fraser to the band, providing the name “Free” and encouraging their early efforts. The sound that would be a trademark of Free is heard in songs like “All Right Now”, “Trouble On Double Time”, “Fire And Water” and “Wishing Well”, with Paul Rodgers being known in the rock media as “The Voice”. Rodgers would go on to explore the heavy blues stylings of Free again in his solo career during the 1980s and 1990s, and in the bands The Firm and The Law.

“All Right Now” was a No. 1 hit in over 20 territories and recognized by ASCAP(American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) in 1990 for garnering 1,000,000 plus radio plays in the US by late 1989, and in 2000 an award was given to Paul Rodgers by the British Music Industry when “All Right Now” passed 2,000,000 radio plays in the UK.

Most recently Paul Rodgers has joined the remaining members of Queen (Brian May and Roger Taylor), as vocalist. In September 2008, Queen + Paul Rodgers released their first studio album The Cosmos Rocks. Rodgers also performs Free and Bad Company songs whilst on tour with Queen, in addition to the traditional Queen songs and new cuts from their most recently released album.


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