Edited by Gerald Boerner

    

    
Commentary:

JerryPhoto_thumb2_thumb_thumb_thumb_[2]Today we look at the final six of our list of African American women musicians who have made major contributions to the entertainment scene of the 20th century. Many of these individuals are still alive and continue to work for the improvement of the status and experience of Blacks, both in the United States and abroad. Many of these works help to fight for the rights of the Black people in this country from slavery to freedom. Many of them have also participated in both the freedom struggles against the forces of bias, segregation, and relegation to second-class status; the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the legislation of the Great Society have given many of these women the opportunity to serve their people. These women continue to fight for the rich heritage of the African Americans.

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This is the fourth of a four part series that celebrates lives and contributions of these musicians. It is, by necessity, a long document, but it details the lives and representative work of these very talented individuals.

Let us celebrate the lives and works of these women who used their musical talents for the cause of the African American people and the Civil Rights movement. We now will proceed to examine the lives and works of these African American Women in more detail GLB

These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2012 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved

[ 4336 Words ]
    

    

Quotations Related to Milestones in History — Musicians:

[ http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/musicians.html ]

    

“The wise musicians are those who play what they can master.”
— Duke Ellington

“I went through all the musicians in my life who I admire as bright, intelligent, virtuosic players.”
— David Bowie

“A composer is a guy who goes around forcing his will on unsuspecting air molecules, often with the assistance of unsuspecting musicians.”
— Frank Zappa

“The world must be filled with unsuccessful musical careers like mine, and it’s probably a good thing. We don’t need a lot of bad musicians filling the air with unnecessary sounds. Some of the professionals are bad enough.”
— Andy Rooney

“Those little nimble musicians of the air, that warble forth their curious ditties, with which nature hath furnished them to the shame of art.”
— Izaak Walton

“When we came into the studio I became more and more me, making the tracks and choosing the musicians, partly because a great deal of the time during Bridge, Artie wasn’t there.”
— Paul Simon

“But, I would be naive not to recognize the number of musicians who tell me they have been influenced by me and sight me – as well as Alex and Neil – as a musician who has been a positive influence on their playing.”
— Geddy Lee

“I talked to ex-wives of musicians of the ’70s for research. They’re the funniest people in the world, yet there is this sad, beautiful thing in their eyes that says they’ve seen more than they could ever possibly tell you.”
— Kate Hudson

    

Milestones — Unsung Heroes of Black History: Black Women Musicians, Part 4…

    

    
Harlem-Renaissance-Graphic_thumb2_th[2]The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned the 1920s and 1930s. At the time, it was known as the "New Negro Movement", named after the 1925 anthology by Alain Locke. Though it was centered in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, many French-speaking black writers from African and Caribbean colonies who lived in Paris were also influenced by the Harlem Renaissance.

Historians disagree as to when the Harlem Renaissance began and ended. The Harlem Renaissance is unofficially recognized to have spanned from about 1919 until the early or mid 1930s. Many of its ideas lived on much longer. The zenith of this "flowering of Negro literature", as James Weldon Johnson preferred to call the Harlem Renaissance, was placed between 1924 (the year that Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life hosted a party for black writers where many white publishers were in attendance) and 1929 (the year of the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression).

A new way of playing the piano called the Harlem Stride Style was created during the Harlem Renaissance, and helped blur the lines between the poor Negros and socially elite Negros. The traditional jazz band was composed primarily of brass instruments and was considered a symbol of the south, but the piano was considered an instrument of the wealthy. With this instrumental modification to the existing genre, the wealthy blacks now had more access to jazz music. Its popularity soon spread throughout the country and was consequently at an “all time high.” Innovation and liveliness were important characteristics of performers in the beginnings of jazz. Jazz musicians at the time like Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, and Willie "The Lion" Smith were very talented and competitive, and were considered to have laid the foundation for future musicians of their genre.

During this time period, the musical style of blacks was becoming more and more attractive to whites. White novelists, dramatists and composers started to exploit the musical tendencies and themes of African-American in their works. Composers used poems written by African American poets in their songs, and would implement the rhythms, harmonies and melodies of African-American music—such as blues, spirituals, and jazz—into their concert pieces. Negros began to merge with Whites into the classical world of musical composition. The first Negro male to gain wide recognition as a concert artist in both his region and internationally was Roland Hayes. He trained with Arthur Calhoun in Chattanooga, and at Fisk University in Nashville. Later, he studied with Arthur Hubbard in Boston and with George Henshel and Amanda Ira Aldridge in London, England. He began singing in public as a student, and toured with the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1911.

*** Our focus here is upon the unsung heroes of this African American experience as they have contributed to the Arts and Literature over the last two hundred years or so. Today, we focus upon those Black Women who have made significant contributions as musicians — singers, song writers, and opera performers. Typically, their contributions have been ignored in favor of the contributions of their male counterparts, such as Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, "The Lion" Smith, and Jelly Roll Morton. But the dozen women that we feature here have made significant contributions to the body of American Musical scene. For that contribution, we salute them. (Part 4 of 4)
    

    

    

History Channel’s Unsung Heroes:
Black Women Musicians (Part 4)

    
TLC (1991– )

Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, and Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins of TLC in 1999. (Photo Credit: Jon Ragel/Corbis)

    

tlcTLC is an American musical trio whose repertoire spanned R&B, hip-hop, soul, funk, and new jack swing. Originally consisting of singer Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, rapper-singer Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes and singer Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas it found success in the 1990s while also enduring a series of spats with the law, each other, and the group’s record label.

Initially, TLC achieved commercial success following the release of its debut album Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip, which sold four million copies worldwide. The group’s second studio album, CrazySexyCool, went on to be certified diamond by the RIAA, and eventually sold 22 million copies worldwide. TLC released four multiplatinum studio albums before going on hiatus due to the death of Lopes in Honduras in 2002.

Billboard magazine ranked the group as one of the greatest musical trios. Between 1992 and 2003 the band accumulated ten top ten singles, four number one singles, four multiplatinum albums, and four Grammy Awards. At the end of 1999, the band was ranked as the seventh most successful act of the 1990s by Billboard. In 2008, the group was inducted into the All Time Hot 100 Artist Hall of Fame by the same magazine, at 56th place. That year it was also listed as the #25 R&B/hip-hop artist of the preceding 25 years.

With over 50 million albums sold, they are the top selling American female group of all time.

In 1990–1991, Atlanta, Georgia, teenager Crystal Jones put out a call for two more girls to join her in a trio to be called 2nd Nature. Her request was eventually answered by Tionne Watkins, a native of Des Moines, Iowa, who moved to Atlanta with her family at an early age, and Lisa Lopes, a rapper who had just moved to the city from her native Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with only a keyboard and US$750 ($1,260 today).

The group eventually managed to arrange an audition with R&B singer Perri "Pebbles" Reid, who had started her own management and production company, Pebbitone. Impressed by the girls, Reid renamed the group "TLC" (an amalgation of the first letters of each of their names) and arranged an audition for them with local record label LaFace Records, run by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Reid’s then-husband, Antonio "L.A." Reid. The latter Reid saw potential in Watkins and Lopes but felt that Jones should be replaced; within a few days, part-time Damian Dame backup dancer Rozonda Thomas was brought in to replace Jones. Thomas was christened with the nickname "Chilli" so as to keep the TLC name, while Watkins became "T-Boz" and Lopes was named "Left Eye". The girls were signed to LaFace through a production deal with Pebbitone (with Perri Reid taking the role of the group’s manager) (see artist development deal) and almost immediately went into the studio with producers Reid and Edmonds, Dallas Austin, Jermaine Dupri, and Marley Marl to produce their first album.
    

    
Natalie Cole (1950– )

Natalie Cole, the daughter of Nat King Cole, is a Grammy Award winning musician in her own right. (Photo Credit: Corbis)

    
natalie-coleNatalie Maria Cole
(born February 6, 1950) is an American singer, songwriter and performer. The daughter of jazz legend Nat King Cole, Cole rode to musical success in the mid-1970s as an R&B artist with the hits "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)", "Inseparable" and "Our Love". After a period of failing sales and performances due to a heavy drug addiction, Cole reemerged as a pop artist with the 1987 album, Everlasting, and her cover of Bruce Springsteen’s "Pink Cadillac". In the 1990s, she re-recorded standards by her father, resulting in her biggest success, Unforgettable… with Love, which sold over seven million copies and also won Cole numerous Grammy Awards.

Becoming an instant star, Cole responded to critics of an impending sophomore slump with Natalie, released in 1976. The album, like Inseparable, became a gold success thanks to the funk-influenced cut, "Sophisticated Lady (She’s a Different Lady)" and the jazz-influenced "Mr. Melody".

Cole released her first platinum record with her third release, Unpredictable, mainly thanks to the number-one R&B hit, "I’ve Got Love on My Mind". Originally an album track, the album’s closer, "I’m Catching Hell", nonetheless became a popular Cole song during live concert shows. Later in 1977, Cole issued her fourth release and second platinum album, Thankful, which included another signature Cole hit, "Our Love". To capitalize on her fame, Cole starred on her own TV special, which attracted such celebrities as Earth, Wind & Fire, and in 1978, released her first live album, Natalie Live!

In early 1979, the singer was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. That same year, she released two more albums, I Love You So and the Peabo Bryson duet album, We’re the Best of Friends. Both albums reached gold status in the U.S. continuing her popularity.
    

    
Whitney Houston (1963–2012)  R.I.P.

Whitney Houston is an American singer and actress whose first four albums, released between 1985 and 1992, amassed global sales in excess of 86 million copies. (Photo Credit: Corbis)

    

whitney-houstonWhitney Elizabeth Houston (August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012) was an American recording artist, actress, producer, and model. In 2009, the Guinness World Records cited her as the most-awarded female act of all time. Her awards include two Emmy Awards, six Grammy Awards, 30 Billboard Music Awards, and 22 American Music Awards, among a total of 415 career awards in her lifetime. Houston was also one of the world’s best-selling music artists, having sold over 170 million albums, singles and videos worldwide. Houston began singing with her New Jersey church’s junior gospel choir at age 11. After she began performing alongside her mother in night clubs in the New York City area, she was discovered by Arista Records label head Clive Davis. Houston released seven studio albums and three movie soundtrack albums, all of which have diamond, multi-platinum, platinum or gold certification.

Houston is the only artist to chart seven consecutive No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits ("Saving All My Love for You", "How Will I Know", "Greatest Love of All", "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)", "Didn’t We Almost Have It All", "So Emotional" and "Where Do Broken Hearts Go"). She is the second artist behind Elton John and the only female artist to have two number-one Billboard 200 Album awards (formerly "Top Pop Album") on the Billboard magazine year-end charts (Whitney Houston and The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album). Houston’s 1985 debut album Whitney Houston became the best-selling debut album by a female act at the time of its release. The album was named Rolling Stone‘s best album of 1986, and was ranked at number 254 on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Her second studio album Whitney (1987) became the first album by a female artist to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Houston’s crossover appeal on the popular music charts as well as her prominence on MTV, starting with her video for "How Will I Know", influenced several African-American female artists to follow in her footsteps.

Houston’s first acting role was as the star of the feature film The Bodyguard (1992). The film’s original soundtrack won the 1994 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Its lead single "I Will Always Love You", became the best-selling single by a female artist in music history. With the album, Houston became the first act (solo or group, male or female) to sell more than a million copies of an album within a single week period.[5] The album makes her the top female act in the top 10 list of the best-selling albums of all time, at number four. Houston continued to star in movies and contribute to their soundtracks, including the films Waiting to Exhale (1995) and The Preacher’s Wife (1996). The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack became the best-selling gospel album in history. Three years after the release of her fourth studio album My Love Is Your Love (1998), she renewed her recording contract with Arista Records. She released her fifth studio album Just Whitney in 2002, and the Christmas-themed One Wish: The Holiday Album in 2003. In 2009, Houston released her seventh studio album I Look to You.

On February 11, 2012, Houston was found dead in her guest room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, in Beverly Hills, California, of causes not immediately known. News of her death, the day before the 2012 Grammy Awards, dominated American and international media.
    

    
Lauryn Hill (1975– )

Lauren Hill’s 1998 album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was nominated for 10 Grammy Awards, winning 5. (Photo Credit: Corbis)

    
lauryn-hill
Lauryn Noelle Hill (born May 26, 1975) is an American singer-songwriter, rapper, record producer, and actress.

Early in her career, she established her reputation as a member of the Fugees. In 1998, she launched her solo career with the release of the commercially successful and critically acclaimed album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The recording earned Hill five Grammy Awards, including the coveted Album of the Year and Best New Artist.

Following the success of her debut album, Hill largely dropped out of public view, in part due to her displeasure with fame and the music industry. After a four-year hiatus, she released MTV Unplugged No. 2.0, a live recording of "deeply personal songs" performed mostly solo with an acoustic guitar. In more recent years, she has recorded songs for soundtracks and mixtapes, as well as performing live at several music festivals. Hill has six children, five of whom are with Rohan Marley, one of reggae musician Bob Marley’s sons. She still avoids publicity.

In 1997, Hill began production on an album that would eventually become The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The title was inspired by The Mis-Education of the Negro book by Carter G. Woodson and The Education of Sonny Carson, a film and autobiographical novel. The album featured contributions from D’Angelo, Carlos Santana, Mary J. Blige and a then-unknown John Legend. Songs for the album were largely written in an attic studio in South Orange, New Jersey and recorded at Chung King Studios in Jamaica. Wyclef Jean initially did not support Hill recording a solo album, but eventually offered his production help; Hill turned him down. Several songs on the album concerned her frustrations with The Fugees; "I Used to Love Him" dealt with the break-down of the relationship between Hill and Wyclef Jean. "To Zion" spoke about her decision to have her first baby, even though many at the time encouraged her to abort the pregnancy so as to not interfere with her blossoming career.

After the release of her debut album, she explored other methods of expressing herself, including creating an extensive amount of music, poetry, and clothing designs. She started writing a screenplay about the life of Bob Marley, in which she planned to act as his wife Rita. She also began producing a romantic comedy about soul food with a working title of Sauce, and accepted a starring role in the film adaptation of Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved; she later dropped out of both projects due to pregnancy. Hill became dissatisfied with the music industry; she felt she was being unfairly controlled by her record label, and disliked being unable "to go to the grocery store without makeup.” She fired her management team and began attending Bible study classes five days a week; she also stopped doing interviews, watching television and listening to music. She started associating with a "spiritual adviser" named Brother Anthony. Some familiar with Hill believe Anthony more resembled a cult leader than a spiritual advisor, and thought his guidance probably inspired much of Hill’s more controversial public behavior. 
    

    
Queen Latifah (1970– )

Queen Latifah earned a Grammy Award in 1993 for her single "U.N.I.T.Y.," which decried sexism and violence against women. (Photo Credit: Corbis)

    
queen-latifah
Dana Elaine Owens (born March 18, 1970), better known by her stage name Queen Latifah, is an American singer, rapper, and actress. Her work in music, film and television has earned her a Golden Globe award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Image Awards, a Grammy Award, six additional Grammy nominations, an Emmy Award nomination and an Academy Award nomination.

After Order in the Court, Latifah shifted primarily to singing soul music and jazz standards, which she had used sparingly in her previous hip-hop-oriented records. In 2004, she released the soul/jazz standards The Dana Owens Album. On July 11, 2007, Latifah sang at the famed Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles as the headlining act in a live jazz concert. Before a crowd of more than 12,400, she was backed by a 10-piece live orchestra and three backup vocalists, which was billed as the Queen Latifah Orchestra. Latifah performed new arrangements of standards including "California Dreaming", first made popular by ’60s icons The Mamas & the Papas. Later in 2007, Latifah released an album titled Trav’lin’ Light. Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Joe Sample, George Duke, Christian McBride, and Stevie Wonder made guest appearances. It was nominated for a Grammy in the "Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album" category.

In 2009, Latifah, along with the Jubilation Choir, recorded the title track on the album Oh, Happy Day: An All-Star Music Celebration, covering the song that the Edwin Hawkins Singers made popular in 1969.

Although she had already received some critical acclaim, she gained mainstream success after being cast as Matron "Mama" Morton in the Oscar-winning film adaptation of the musical Chicago, the recipient of the Best Picture Oscar. Latifah received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her role, but lost to co-star Catherine Zeta-Jones. Latifah is one of four hip-hop artists to receive an Academy Award nomination in an acting category (Best Supporting Actress, Chicago, 2002). The others are Will Smith (Best Actor, Ali, 2001, and Best Actor, The Pursuit of Happyness, 2006), Jamie Foxx, (Best Actor, Ray, 2004) and Mark Wahlberg (Best Supporting Actor, "The Departed", 2006).

In 2003, she starred with Steve Martin in the film Bringing Down the House, which was a major success at the box office. She also recorded a song "Do Your Thing" for the soundtrack. Since then, she has had both leading and supporting roles in a multitude of films that received varied critical and box office receptions, including films such as Scary Movie 3, Barbershop 2: Back in Business, Taxi, Kung Faux, Beauty Shop, and Hairspray. In early 2006, Latifah appeared in a romantic comedy/drama entitled Last Holiday. Film critic Richard Roeper stated that "this is the Queen Latifah performance I’ve been waiting for ever since she broke into movies". Also in 2006, Latifah voiced Ellie, a friendly mammoth, in the animated film, Ice Age: The Meltdown (her first voice appearance in an animated film), and also appeared in the drama Stranger Than Fiction.
    

    
Beyoncé Knowles (1981– )

Beyoncé, full name Beyoncé Knowles, got her start with the Grammy-winning group Destiny’s Child but has had multi-platinum success as a solo artist. (Photo Credit: Corbis)

    

beyoncéBeyoncé Giselle Knowles (born September 4, 1981), known mononymously as Beyoncé, is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, and actress. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, she enrolled in various performing arts schools and was first exposed to singing and dancing competitions as a child. Knowles rose to fame in the late 1990s as the lead singer of the R&B girl group Destiny’s Child, one of the world’s best-selling girl groups of all time.

During the hiatus of Destiny’s Child, Knowles released her debut solo album, Dangerously in Love, in 2003, which spawned two number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100—"Crazy in Love" and "Baby Boy"—and became one of the most successful albums of that year, earning her a then record-tying five Grammy Awards. Following the disbandment of Destiny’s Child in 2005, Knowles released her second solo album, B’Day, in 2006, and included the top 10 singles "Déjà Vu", "Irreplaceable" and "Beautiful Liar". Her third solo album I Am… Sasha Fierce, released in 2008, spawned four commercially successful singles—"If I Were a Boy", "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)", "Halo" and "Sweet Dreams". The album helped Knowles earn six Grammys in 2010, breaking the record for most Grammy Awards won by a female artist in one night. Knowles released her fourth solo album, 4, in 2011, and became her fourth consecutive number-one album on the Billboard 200 as a solo artist. This made her the third artist in history to have her first four studio albums debut atop the chart.

Apart from her work in music, Knowles has also launched a career in acting. She made her debut in the 2001 musical film Carmen: A Hip Hopera, prior to appearing in major films, including Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002), Dreamgirls (2006), which earned her two Golden Globe nominations, Cadillac Records (2008) and Obsessed (2009). Knowles and her mother introduced their family’s fashion line, House of Deréon, in 2005, and has also endorsed brands including, L’Oréal, Pepsi, Tommy Hilfiger, Nintendo and Vizio. In June 2010, she was ranked first on Forbes list of the 100 Most Powerful and Influential musicians in the world, and second on its list of the 100 Most Powerful and Influential celebrities in the world.

Knowles’ work has earned her numerous awards and accolades, including 16 Grammy Awards, 11 MTV Video Music Awards, 4 American Music Awards, a Billboard Millennium Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with Destiny’s Child. In 2009, Billboard named her the Top Radio Songs Artist of the 2000s decade, and ranked her as the 4th overall Artist of the Decade (and as the First Female Artist of that period). The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), also recognized Knowles as the Top Certified Artist of the 2000s. As of May 2010, Knowles has sold over 11.2 million albums in the United States. As of January 2012, she has sold over 30.4 million digital singles in the US. Knowles has also sold 75 million records worldwide, which makes her one of the best-selling music artists of all time. In 2010, VH1 included Knowles on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
    

         

The paragraphs in italics above were taken from the slide show published by the History Channel (see References). Click HERE to access that slideshow. The photographs of the women are courtesy of Corbis and Getty Images.

    

    

The History of African American Musicians… (3:50)

    

    

Please take time to further explore more about African Americans, Black Women Musicians, Harlem Renaissance, TLC (Hip-Hop Trio), Natalie Cole, Whitney Houston, Lauryn Hill, Queen Latifah, and Beyoncé Knowles by accessing the Wikipedia articles referenced below…

    

    

References

    

Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: African Americans
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_Americans

Wikipedia: TLC (Hip-Hop Trio)…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TLC_(band)

Wikipedia: Natalie Cole…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natalie_Cole

Wikipedia: Whitney Houston…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whitney_Houston

Wikipedia: Lauryn Hill…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lauryn_Hill

Wikipedia: Queen Latifah…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_Latifah

Wikipedia: Beyoncé Knowles…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beyonc%C3%A9_Knowles

Wikipedia: Harlem Renaissance…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harlem_Renaissance

History Channel: Black Women in Art and Literature: Black Women Musicians
http://www.history.com/topics/black-women-in-art-and-literature/photos#black-women-musicians

Brainy Quote: Musicians Quotes…
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/musicians.html

    

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Prof. Boerner’s Explorations: Civil Rights: Marian Anderson’s Concert at Lincoln Memorial…
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Prof. Boerner’s Explorations: Black Women in History: Josephine Baker…
http://www.boerner.net/jboerner/?p=8389

Prof. Boerner’s Explorations: Black Women in History: Billy Holiday…
http://www.boerner.net/jboerner/?p=8987

Prof. Boerner’s Explorations: Ella Fitzgerald: Wins Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater…
http://www.boerner.net/jboerner/?p=20875