The Arts

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Otis Redding

Otis Redding

Born in 1941, Otis Redding was the ultimate R&B singer.His sound was deeply rooted in gospel and country blues, but he tempered it with the mellower pop sound of Sam Cooke. He first became interested in singing by participating in church choirs. He sang at clubs and dances, joining a band in 1959.

He made had his first recording with that band in 1960 and at the end of the session he had the chance to cut two of his own songs. His soulful sound caught the ear of the president of Stax Records who signed him to a subsidiary label, Volt. Over the next two years he released several hits, and became an R&B star, but he never achieved overwhelming fame.

Sadly, it was only after his sudden and tragic death in a plane crash at the age of 26 in 1967, that he became the legendary star that he is now. Volt released “Dock of The Bay” after his death and it was Otis’s biggest record.

Lift Every Voice and Sing

lift“Lift Every Voice and Sing” — sometimes referred to as “The Negro National Hymn” or ” The Black National Anthem”— is a song written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871 – 1938) in 1899 and set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson (1873 – 1954) in 1900.

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” was publicly performed first as a poem as part of a celebration of Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12, 1900, by 500 school children at the segregated Stanton School. Its principal, James Weldon Johnson, wrote the words to introduce its honored guest Booker T. Washington. The poem was later set to music by Johnson’s brother John in 1905.

In 1939, Augusta Savage received a commission from the World’s Fair and created a 16-foot plaster sculpture called Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing which was destroyed by bulldozers at the close of the fair.  Continue reading

Geraldine McCullough

Geraldine McCullough

Renowned sculptor and painter Geraldine McCollough was born Geraldine Hamilton on December 1, 1917 in Kingston, Arkansas, and raised in Chicago from the time she was three years old. McCullough attended the Art Institute of Chicago for undergraduate and graduate studies, receiving her B.A. degree in 1948 and her M.A. degree in art education in 1955. As a student, she earned a John D. Standecker Scholarship, a Memorial Scholarship and a Figure Painting Citation.

After completing her graduate studies, McCullough taught art at Wendell Phillips High School in Chicago. She also began exhibiting her paintings at various national galleries, receiving first prize in 1961 at the Art Exhibit of Atlanta University. Continue reading

Maya Angelou

Marguerite Johnson

Maya Angelou a.k.a. Marguerite Johnson

Original name MARGUERITE JOHNSON (b. April 4, 1928, St. Louis, Mo., U.S. – d. May 28, 2014, Winston-Salem N.N.).

Maya Angelou was a black American poet whose several volumes of autobiography explore the themes of economic, racial, and sexual oppression.

Although born in St. Louis, Angelou spent much of her childhood in the care of her maternal grandmother in rural Stamps, Ark. Raped at the age of eight by her mother’s boyfriend, she went through an extended period of muteness. This early life is the focus of Angelou’s first autobiographical work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970). Subsequent volumes of autobiography include Gather Together in My Name (1974), Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas (1976), The Heart of a Woman (1981), and All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986).  Continue reading

Willie Dixon

Willie Dixon

Willie Dixon

Born in 1915, Willie Dixon did more to shape Chicago Blues than nearly anyone else besides perhaps Muddy Waters. He was the ultimate all-around blues man, working as a bass player, compser, producer, arranger and bandleader..to name a few. He initially began a career as a boxer, even sparring with Joe Louis, but it only lasted four fights after an altercation with his manager ended his pro career.

In 1939 he formed The Five Breezes which played until 1941 when he was arrested for refusing to serve in the armed forces. During his term and after he got out, he continued writing, playing and producing music all the way until his death in 1992. He was and still is a major influence in his field.

Dixon was an indispensable “behind-the-scenes�� musician in the postwar Chicago blues scene. He was a notable songwriter, and his compositions for Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Koko Taylor, and Otis Rush became part of their signature repertoires.  Continue reading

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