50 Surprising Facts In Black Music History

James Brown’s dance moves don’t mean what you think they mean.

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

1. Prince reportedly sent Weird Al Yankovic a telegram back in 1986, commanding the comedian to avoid eye contact with him during the entirety of the American Music Awards show.

2. Though little was known about eating disorders in his heyday, Louis Armstrong showed signs of bulimia. He binged and purged with the help of laxatives; he was often pictured with his laxative of choice, Swiss Kriss, and recommended it to his friends with the catchphrase “Satch says: Leave it all behind ya!

3. As a teen, Gil Scott-Heron wrote a number of short detective stories in the vein of Agatha Christie.

4. Snoop Dogg reportedly sold weed to Cameron Diaz back when the two attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School.

5. Lil Wayne‘s debut album The Block Is Hot, released when the rapper was only 17 years old, is nearly profanity-free because of his mother’s wishes.

6. Nas almost had Jesus in a headlock on the cover for his 1994 album Illmatic.

7. B.B. King named every guitar he owned Lucille after an incident at one of his performances. Two men had a physical altercation over a woman named Lucille; during the scuffle, they knocked over a barrel of kerosene that heated the venue and subsequently set the venue on fire. All persons inside were evacuated, but King ran back into the burning building to rescue his $30 Gibson guitar. The guitar thus became known as Lucille, as a reminder to King never to run into burning buildings or fight over women.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

8. At the height of McCarthyism in the ’50s, Lena Horne was blacklisted as a Communist over her participation in the Civil Rights Movement and her friendships with fellow activists Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois.

9. Getting fired from Office Depot inspired Janelle Monae to write “Letting Go,” the song that would reach the ears of OutKast‘s Big Boi and launch her career.

10. When a drunken emcee announced The Sledge Sisters as “Sister Sledge” on stage, the quartet rolled with it and went on to use the error professionally.

11. James Brown‘s famous dance moves were coded directions for his stage band; every hand movement meant Brown had noticed a bum note or had seen a pair of unshined shoes.

12. Jimi Hendrix often switched up the frequently misheard lyrics to “Purple Haze” in his live performances; he swapped out “kiss the sky” for “fuck the sky” during a Seattle rainstorm, and for “kiss this guy” during another performance as he pointed to drummer Mitch Mitchell.

13. Using a modified board with elevated squares, Ray Charles frequently played chess with friends and band members. In 2002, Charles faced off against (and lost to) chess grandmaster Larry Evans.

14. Chuck Berry supplemented his musician’s income by working as a trained beautician.

LaFace

LaFace

 

15. Billie Holiday was inspired to write “God Bless the Child” after she and her mother had an argument over money.

16. Marvin Gaye once shaved his head in protest of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter’s wrongful murder conviction.

17. In The Last Days of Left Eye, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes of TLC voiced her objection to the glorification of revenge-cheating in the group’s hit single “Creep.” Left Eye threatened to wear pieces of black tape over her mouth during the filming of the music video, but she let her resentment creep away.

18. Stevie Wonder led the campaign to have Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday designated as a national holiday.

19. Mary J. Blige‘s debut album title What’s the 411? was a shout-out to her former job as a directory assistance operator.

20. Despite his lyrics to “In Da Club” and “P.I.M.P.,” 50 Cent abstains from alcohol and drugs, citing a “bad experience” with alcohol and an outsider’s view of what drugs can do to a person.

21. Remember that video of a fresh-faced Nicki Minaj acting out a monologue? Before her rap career blew up, Nicki Minaj pursued acting and was cast in the off-Broadway play In Case You Forget.

Sal Idriss / Redferns

Sal Idriss / Redferns

 

22. Gloria Gaynor won the first and only Grammy for Best Disco Recording with “I Will Survive”; the recording academy discontinued the category after disco fell out of public favor.

23. UPenn graduate John Legend turned down admission offers from Harvard and Georgetown at the tender age of 16.

24. Aretha Franklin‘s fear of flying kept her from attending her Rock And Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

25. In spite of his fame and wealth, Ludacris drove his ‘93 Acura Legend for over a decade, racking up over 244,000 miles on the vehicle.

26. Biggie Smalls learned that another rapper had trademarked the name “Biggy Smalls” years earlier, so he changed his moniker to The Notorious B.I.G.

27. When presented with the instrumentals for eventual hits “Are You That Somebody?” and “Try Again,” Aaliyah initially didn’t like them, but recorded the songs.

28. Ol’ Dirty Bastard once saved a 4-year-old girl who was trapped under a car that hit her; Dirty and his friends lifted the car off the girl, who was then rushed to the hospital for her injuries.

Sebastien Bozon / AFP / Getty Images

29. Smokey Robinson got his stage name from his childhood nickname Smokey Joe, a “cowboy” nickname bestowed upon him by his uncle.

30. Miles Davis performed with his back to the audience; it made it easier for him to give his band signals.

31. Public Enemy’s Flavor Flav can play 15 instruments, from French horn to oboe to xylophone.

32. Kanye West was ~internationally famous~ before The College Dropout hit store shelves. He lived in China for a year as a child — his mother Donda was a visiting professor.

33. Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton recorded “Hound Dog” and “Ball ‘n Chain” long before Elvis or Janis Joplin did.

34. Frank Ocean credited his Bernese mountain dog Everest as the executive producer of his critically acclaimed album Channel Orange.

35. Missy Elliott accidentally filmed “Work It” while drunk; director Dave Meyers forgot to replace the wine glass in the restaurant scene with water. After the shot had been filmed seven times, Missy was thoroughly inebriated.

AFP / Getty Images

36. As a student at the Baltimore School of Arts, Tupac Shakur took ballet classes.

37. Jazz legends Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, and Illinois Jacquet were all arrested for gambling in a racially motivated sting set up by the vice squad of Houston’s police department.

38. Salt-N-Pepa‘s “Push It” began as a joke. Producer Hurby Azor came up with the synth line: Salt-N-Pepa’s Cheryl James and Sandra Denton found it “corny” and added the now iconic “Ooh, baby, baby” to mock it.

39. Michael Jackson‘s groundbreaking music video for “Billie Jean” was the first music video by a black artist to appear on MTV.

40. Janet Jackson initially balked at the idea of collaborating with brother Michael, citing a desire for her own fame separate from the Jackson name, but eventually caved in. Thankfully she changed her mind; the siblings went on to give us “Scream.”

41. Dizzy Gillespie‘s signature cheek pouches, caused by his blowing techniques, are now considered a medical condition.

42. Beyoncé, who is now recognized as a style icon for her red carpet looks, was a staunch tomboy who refused to wear dresses as a child.

RB / Redferns

RB / Redferns

 

43. As a high school sophomore, Lauryn Hill appeared on daytime soap As the World Turns as Kira, a troubled teen.

44. Erykah Badu was fined $500 and charged with a misdemeanor for public nudity during the filming of her music video for “Window Seat.” Badu intended her nudity to be a statement of liberation against groupthink.

45. At the height of its popularity, Chubby Checker‘s “The Twist” was explicitly forbidden in New York City Catholic schools because of the song’s “un-Christian” nature.

46. Mariah Carey‘s high school nickname was “Mirage,” thanks to her many absences.

47. Nat King Cole was the first black American to have his own television show. The Nat King Cole Show ran without national sponsors on a network-supported basis, and was eventually done in by a lack of financial support.

48. Contrary to popular belief, Jay Z‘s stage name does not come from the J and Z lines that run by his childhood home in Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects. Jay Z had been known as Jazzy, but he adopted his current moniker after Jazzy became too “glittery.”

49. The phone number in Alicia Keys’ “Diary” was her old phone number, which led to a number of headaches for Georgia resident J.D. Turner, who had Keys’ old number (albeit a different area code.)

50. Whitney Houston nearly became a member of the Huxtable clan. She auditioned for the role of Sondra Huxtable, the eldest daughter on The Cosby Show, but lost the role to Sabrina LeBeauf.

Read more: http://www.buzzfeed.com/moniquemelendez/50-surprising-facts-in-black-music-history

Video Recap: Michael Jackson Memorial Service in 6 Minutes

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Didn’t have a chance to watch the Michael Jackson public memorial service? Get caught up with this wrap-up. Featuring Queen Latifah, Mariah Carey, Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Jennifer Hudson, Rev. Al Sharpton, John Mayer, Brooke Shields, Jermaine Jackson,Usher, Smokey Robinson, Marlon Jackson, and daughter Paris Jackson

Stevie Wonder Sings “I Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer” and “They Won’t Go When I Go” at the Jackson memorial

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Stevie Wonder sings “I Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer” and “They Won’t Go When I Go” at the Michael Jackson memorial service.

Stevie Wonder Gives Heartfelt Performance At Michael Jackson Memorial

Wonder performs medley of ‘Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer’ and ‘They Won’t Go When I Go.’
By Jem Aswad

stevie_wonder

Stevie Wonder performs onstage at the Michael Jackson public memorial service held at Staples Center on Tuesday in Los Angeles, California

At Michael Jackson’s public memorial on Tuesday, many may have expected Stevie Wonder to perform one of Michael Jackson’s — or his own — many global hits. But instead, Wonder opted for a medley of two of his lesser-known classics that are lyrically relevant to Jackson’s sudden passing earlier this month: 1971’s “Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer” and 1974’s “They Won’t Go When I Go.”

Before performing, Wonder addressed the crowd:

“This is a moment that I wished to never see come. But as much as I can say that, and mean it, I do know that God is good, and I don know that as much as we feel — and we do — that we need Michael here with us, God must have needed him far more. Michael, I love you and I told you that many times, so I’m at peace with that.”

“Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer,” from Wonder’s Where I’m Coming From album, was co-written with Wonder’s then-wife Syreeta Wright and uses the seasons to address a failed relationship. But on Tuesday, Wonder added his friend’s name to the lyric to alter the meaning: “Michael, why didn’t you stay?”

Wonder then segued into the angry, stately “They Won’t Go When I Go,” from 1974’s Fulfillingness’ First Finale, the lyrics of which could be interpreted to convey a message about Jackson’s death:

“No more lying friends, wanting tragic ends / Though they do pretend, they won’t go when I go/ All those bleeding hearts, with sorrows to impart/ Were right here from the start, and they won’t go when I go … When I go, where I’ll go/ No one can keep me from my destiny.”

For complete coverage of the life, career and passing of the legendary entertainer, visit “Michael Jackson Remembered.”

Share your Michael Jackson memories by uploading video and comments to Your.MTV.com or joining the discussion below.

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Top 18 Results Night Group Dance: A Mia Michaels Choreography to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground’

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Behind the look of the Top 18 Group dance, from SYTYCD costume designer- Soyon

4/7 American Idol Final 8 Perform: No Tears Or Fears, Adam Lambert Becomes A True Star (Listen Here!)

There is something about a hit song that made it a hit. The judges on Idol often say that the performer should make it their own, but either the artist has to be incredible and be able to change up the song like David Cook on Billy Jean or they have to just minorly make it their own with their talent while keeping the melody. In this show, continually, the artists went too far making the show their own and ruined the performance.

In addition, we have to give a resounding thumbs down to Idol producers this week as well as Fox. They intentionally ran Idol over so that people that recorded the show on their DVR would miss the final performance. That was Adam Lambert. Because the votes are open for two hours, this could have hurt Adam’s votes too because anyone that recorded this for an hour did not see Adam perform. Boooooo Fox. Horribly unfair and amateur.

This week’s theme is songs from the year the idol hopefuls were born. Let’s begin with the performances. (Audio performance at the end of this post)

1. Danny Gokey – Stand By Me – Ben E. King — Danny started off uncharacteristically flat. The song was unrecognizable and off color. He was able to bring some character to it in the verse, but he was no winner tonight. (7/10)

2. Kris Allen – All She Wants To Do Is Dance – Don Henley — Kris took this song and overdid it. Had he kept the verse the same and made it less funky, he would have killed it. Vocally he was right on. He blew it by taking it too far out of recognition. (7/10)

3. Lil Rounds – What’s Love Got To Do With It – Tina Turner — OK, now the reverse is true. Lil tried to do this way too much like the original. She looked spectacular, and has the absolute look of a star. The camera continually takes creative license with shots on Lil’s derriere. But unlike her body, Lil sings flat and was not as good as Tina. In fact, it was an insult the original. This is the third week in a row that we have not liked Lil. (6/10)

4. Anoop Desai – True Colors – Cyndi Lauper – Anoop sang this great and bored us to tears. Lawrence Welk materials, but it will allow him to survive because the vocals were great, so we give him kudos for being on key. (6/10)

top8idols

5. Scott McIntyre – The Search Is Over – Survivor — We think Scott is horrible. He gets sympathy votes and is constantly patronized by the judges. Finally the judges took out their earplugs. They hated it. And they should have. Off key throughout. The song sounded like a deaf mute singing. And while we see that as sounding cruel, there just aren’t any hit songs sung by a deaf mute. We realize Scott is blind, but he sings like he is deaf. Horrible. (3/10)

6. Allison Iraheta – I Can’t Make You Love Me – Bonnie Raitt — This was a tingler version of the song. One that gives you chills. Allison nailed it. She gave it just enough of her personality to make it hers without destroying the classic original. Awesome. (9/10)

7. Matt Giraud – Part Time Lover – Stevie Wonder — Matt took this in the same way Allison did. He brought a bit of his style to it without attempting to rewrite the original. It was an excellent performance with a spectactular vocal. Nice falsetto and range. Soulful. Fantastic. (9/10)

8. Adam Lambert – Mad World – Tears For Fears – Great choice of song. The haunting vocals of Tears For Fears were present, and yet it was so different from the original that it shocked. Adam has that quality David Cook had. He is so great that he can twist a song to something completely different and still make it spectactular. He sang it all in falsetto and other than one flat note at the end, he nailed it. He is the winner of Idol this week. We honestly don’t think Danny can beat someone with this vocal range. (10/10)


Adam got our first 10/10. He has incredible range. Even Simon Cowel gave him a standing O. Adam is all range and power, which allows him to have creative license with any song he chooses. It is a tad unfair in that he is a professional already, but the audience doesn’t seem to mind, and if we are judging purely on talent, Adam destroyed his competition tonight. Destroyed it.

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3/25 American Idol Top 10 Performance Night Review, Motown Fun

Sometimes, there are people you meet that are so full of themselves, they forget how they affect others. They focus on themselves rather than how they impact other people, and are so sure they are right, no one can convince them how wrong they really are.

The American Idol judges are responsible for the elimination of Alexis Grace with “over the top” and amateurish criticisms of her performances over the last two weeks while ignoring poorly performed flat acts that repeated themselves tonight. There is no excuse for the judges irresponsible, lazy and incompetent behavior. If there was a way to eliminate them, tonight would have been it. Alexis should be brought back, and Simon, Paula and Randy left to America’s votes to to see if they deserve to be sent home.

The weak statement consistently made by the judges is that the performer chose the wrong song. Rubbish. If the performer does the song right, it can be great no matter what song it is. A case in point can be seen with Megan below, and Adam later. It has nothing to do with the choice of song. It has to do with the performance of that song. Unless it is totally obscure, the artist can bring it. If the artist can’t bring every song, they shouldn’t be America’s choice. It really is that simple.

Now to the performances. [Listen to the audio performances at the bottom of this page and Full studio recording]

1. Matt Giraud – “Let’s Get It On” -Marvin Gaye — Matt did a nice job. He was not exceptional. He does not hit the notes like Marvin Gaye and he ditched his piano which differentiates him. He isn’t going home, and the judges have found a soft spot for him. He did well for a first position performer. We liked the performance, but we ain’t buying the CD. (7/10)

2. Kris Allen – “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You” – Marvin Gaye (James Taylor) — Now, we think Kris nailed this tune. He played off both artists, bringing the acoustic style of James Taylor with his guitar and a bit of soulful Motown as well. It was a great job, a smooth vocal, on key and timely. If we had to vote the top performer of the night right here, Kris outscored Matt. The judges were positive but vague. There was no reason to be vague. Kris nailed it. (8/10)

3. Scott MacIntyre – “You Can’t Hurry Love” – Supremes (Diana Ross) (Phil Collins) — Scott is tone deaf. He has to honestly not be able to hear himself sing. He is so horribly off key, and this is a song requiring the singer be on top of every note. It hurt to listen to him. He was sharp and flat throughout. The piano was the only thing in tune. The judges were kind. The only points he get is for a creative piano. (5/10)

4. Megan Joy Corkrey- “For Once In My Life” – Stevie Wonder — For once in Megan’s life, she brought us no joy. Awful performance. She didn’t exploit her style well at all, and that is how she works around her weak vocals. When it came down to performing this song, she didn’t style it well like she has in past weeks and tried to just perform it straight up…and failed…miserably. If she hit on one more flat note, we likely would have had to retune our television. (3/10)

5. Anoop Desai – “Ooh Baby baby” — Smokey Robinson — Anoop can hit the notes. He hit them repeatedly in this tune. He has a deep lung vocal that is strong and on key. He is everything we would like to hear, and yet we don’t want to hear it. It was wrong. It was sad to watch. It wasn’t Motown. But he was still way better than Scott and Megan. (6/10)

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6. Michael Server – “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” – The Temptations – Michael was on key and dressed like a slob in a sport jacket. His movements had no soul, which is what Motown is all about, and he tried to make this a down home fun country song, but that isn’t what Motown is about. He got the fun part right, but he brought no soul to the table. He missed the point of the style of music he was performing, but he was OK. (6/10)

7. Lil Rounds – “Heat Wave” – Diana Ross – Lil had a major opportunity this week to demonstrate that she was a possible winner in this competition or a fading memory. Motown should be her style. She should have shown us there are no others that can do this like her. She fell flat on her rounds. The entire song was shouted. It was entirely off key, and even the choruses were missed. If Megan wasn’t worse, we would send Lil home. (3/10)

8. Adam Lambert – “The Tracks Of My Tears” – Smokey Robinson – Adam performed this throughout as a falsetto heart throb song. He dressed like a young Elvis and looked like a man for a change, which was kind of a shock for us, and we expect it was a shock for many that have seen him in prior weeks. He almost looked macho. Looks aside, the judges loved this, but in reality, Adam was off key. He was pitchy throughout on his falsetto and it wasn’t there for us. That said, not one other person in the competition could sing an entire song like this in falsetto. Adam’s range is phenomenal. He just needed a pitch pipe tonight. (7/10)

9. Danny Gokey – “Get Ready” – The Temptations – Now here is an example of where the judges can hurt a performer. Danny could have done an average job on this song and survived. But once again he brought it. Danny was on key, had timely vocals, and was incredibly fun in his performance. He didn’t miss a beat, he got us tapping our feet, and anyone that heard this on the radio would stop tuning the dial and listen while singing along. That is what Motown was all about, fun AND soul. Danny was the first to get it. The judges completely missed the point and Simon and Randy criticized an excellent performance without giving a thought to how poorly they are doing their jobs. Danny isn’t going home, and maybe the judges are trying to bring the best out in him by criticizing the best performance of the night thus far, but that backfired on Alexis and sent her home. When you pay people millions to do their job, you expect results. The judges get a 1/10 on this performance. Danny? (8/10)

10. Allison Iraheta – “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” – The Temptations – If you listen to Motown, and you are into it as a fan, this is a classic that you already love. It has its own style and roll and draws you in like a truly excellent pop tune should. So, how can you perform this song when the original was so great and succeed? We are not sure, but Allison taught us. Even the self-indulgent rubbish judges had to agree. Allison took this tune and hit every note and took us down a path with the song that made us believe she was what Lil Rounds should have been. Allison won this night hands down. She keeps it up, she could just win this competition. (9/10)

Based on our scoring: Megan Joy Corkrey is the weakest link. She should go home.

Now for our rating of the judges…

Simon Cowell – Self Indulgent Rubbish That Thinks So Much Of Himself That He Forgets He Is Judging Talent Of Which He Has None. (1/10)
Paula Abdul– Acts like she is on drugs or drunk half the time and can’t dress. Patronizing 90% of the time. (2/10)
Randy Jackson – Incredibly inconsistent. One week, right on, and other weeks, missing horribly. Could be caused by ear wax. Needs to expand his vocabulary some more other than, “yo dawg, that was dope, listen man, dude that was amazing, check it out, I liked it, it was just awright for me, you know what I’m saying??”  (3/10)
Kara DioGuardi – Better than the other three, because she is fresh. She misses sometimes, but she knows how to judge talent. Time for a judging lesson (8/10)

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