Hello lovely readers. I did a series last year of historic moments in black music. This year I’m doing something different, but I wanted to share last years series. Be sure to click the links below. Enjoy!
Today I wanted to explore some artists that may not even be known of or recognized and one of those are violin duo, Black Violin.
Black Violin consists of viola/violin players Will B and Kev Marcus who met in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida while playing in the high school orchestra. After graduating college they teamed up and became the hip-hop violin duo known as Black Violin. They have performed for the President, hit Broadway, and even took to the Billboard Awards stage in 2004 with Alicia Keys to perform ‘Karma’ and even teaming up with Gym Class Heroes to perform ‘Stereo Heart’ for VH1s Unplugged.
One of their most recent covers and my personal fav is Bruno Mars’, ‘Locked Out of Heaven’ mashed up with Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It.’
Black Violin is all about overcoming your obstacles and staying strong. It takes 10 years to become an overnight sensation. This is just the beginning for us. Our best selling point is, we could be anywhere in the world before any kind of audience, when we pull out our instruments, people stop what they’re doing and watch. We’re looking to break out of our own box and grow the brand. We’re living proof that people can overcome their obstacles and triumph. This is something new and fresh. We want people to see what we’re all about.
On February 21, 1990, Living Colour, became the first all African American band to win in the category for Best Hard Rock Performance for their song, ‘Cult of Personality’ at the 36th Annual Grammy Awards.
They also won the following year in the same category for their song, ‘Time’s Up.’
Living Colour is a NYC band made up of Vernon Reid, Corey Glover, Muzz Skillings, and Will Calhoun. Dough Wimbish would later replace Skillings. Their debut, Vivid was released in May of 1988 peaking at #6 on the Billboard 200. It’s second album, Times Up, was released in 1990 and peaked at #13 on the Billboard 200.
‘Cult of Personality’ is well known among WWE fans with wrestler CM Punk using their song for his intro since 2011. They also performed live for his Wrestlemania 29 entrance.
There are songs that are write for love, heartbreak, happiness, and then there are those written about world peace and current events in the world. There are two classic songs that come to mind when I think of those two topics and it’s Marvin Gaye’s, ‘What’s Going On,’ and Michael Jackson/Lionel Richie, ‘We Are The World.’
‘What’s Going On,’ came from a depressing time in Marvin’s life after losing friend and singing partner, Tammi Terrell. The song was released on January 7, 1971 and in its first week it had sold 200,000 copies. It was #1 for five weeks on the Billboard R&B Charts and #2 on the Hot 100.
The song was nominated at the 14th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists. It was remade in 2001 for Artists Against Aids World Wide on October 30, 2001. A portion of the proceeds benefited the American Red Cross’ September 11th fund.
Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie along with Quincy Jones teamed up for the USA For Africa track, ‘We Are The World.’ The track was released March 7, 1985 and went on to sell over 20 million copies.
The song featured vocals from Tina Turner, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Cyndi Lauper, Stevie Wonder, and dozens more. The album won 4 Grammys at the 28th annual awards: Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Pop Performance by Duo/Group w/ Vocal, Best Music Video (Short Form).
The song was remade in 2010, We Are The World 25 for Haiti.
On February 17, 1998, Destiny’s Child released their self-titled debut album via Columbia Records. The group was made up of Houston Texans (left to right): Kelly Rowland, LaTavia Roberson, LeToya Luckett, and Beyoncé Knowles.
The album featured hits ‘No, No, No’ and ‘With Me’ and spent 26 weeks on the Billboard 200. It went on to sell 1 million copies in the U.S. and 3 million world wide. The album also awarded the girls Best R&B/Soul Album at the Soul Train Awards.
The ladies followed up this album with The Writing’s on the Wall in 1999, but despite the success of the album two of the bandmates, LaTavia Roberson and LeToya Luckett left the group. This did not stop the success or end the name Destiny’s Child as Beyoncé and Kelly stayed and Michelle joined the group. They did try to add a fourth person, Farrah Franklin, but that did not work out and the group went from being a quartet to a trio.
With the new group the ladies went on to release 2 more albums, Survivor and Destiny Fulfilled. In between those albums all the ladies went solo. Beyoncé and Kelly stayed along the lines of R&B while Michelle went the Gospel route. They teamed back up at last year’s Super Bowl and based off social media all the ladies, past and present members, are still great friends.
There have been a lot of artists to collaborate and make duet songs that have stood the test of time such as Lionel Richie & Diana Ross with ‘Endless Love,’ and Donny Hathaway & Roberta Flack with ‘The Closer I Get to You. It goes beyond just R&B and R&B/Hip Hop collabs have become very popular since the new millennium. I wanted to highlight 3 duos that made a big name for themselves as duets rather than solo artists.
While Marvin Gaye had a solo career he teamed up with Tammi Terrell to make some of the best love songs of all time. Their hits include: ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, ‘You’re All I Need to Get By,’ and ‘Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing.’
The duo only released two albums, United (1967) and You’re All I Need (1968), due to Terrell’s health issues. Tammi Terrell passed away March 16, 1970 due to complications with brain cancer at 24 years old. Marvin went on to continue his solo career before his untimely death in 1984.
Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson are more known for their songwriting than for their collaborative work as a duo. They have released 10+ albums and are most commonly known for their smash, ‘Solid (As a Rock).’
Aside from performing together the duo has written music for: Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Teddy Pendergrass, Chaka Khan , and more.
Ike and Tina Turner are known for a tumultuous relationship, but their music is not to go unnoticed. Over the course of a nearly 20 year career as a duo they released 20+ albums and hits such as ‘Proud Mary,’ and ‘Nutbush City Limits,’ gave them mainstream success.
‘Proud Mary’ earned the duo a grammy at the 14th Annual Grammy Awards (1971) for Best R&B Vocal Performance after receiving two nominations in 1961 and 1969. Their songs, ‘River Deep-Mountain High’ and ‘Proud Mary’ have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. The duo was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. Although they departed musically and personally they both received stars on the St. Louis Walk of Fame. Tina received a star for her solo work on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1986. As a solo act she’s earned 8 Grammys.
On February 8, 2004, Outkast won Album of the Year at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards making their album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, the second hip-hop album to win in that category. Here is their acceptance speech for that award:
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below was released as a dual album on, September 23,2003, and featured hits ‘The Way You Move’ and ‘Hey Ya!’ The album was an interesting release showcasing Big Boi and Andre 3000 as solo artists for the first time in their careers. The album has gone on to be certified diamond and 11 times platinum by the RIAA. At the 46th Annual Grammy Awards (2004) three out of its six nominations. In addition to winning Album of the Year the album also won Best Rap Album and Best Urban/Alternative Performance for ‘Hey Ya!’
Here’s the Grammy performance of ‘Hey Ya’:
Outkast went on to release a movie and album of the same name Idlewild which had a similar set up to Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. They took somewhat of a break after that and Big Boi went on to release two solo albums, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (2010) and Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors (2012), while Andre 3000 went to do features no tracks with artists such as: Ke$ha, Rick Ross, T.I., and countless others.
This year not only marks 10 years since their big win at the Grammys, but also 20 years since the release of their album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994). They will be headlining both Gov Ball (NYC) and Coachella (Cali) this year along with other festivals along the way. No word on new music yet, but I’ll be waiting.
Janet Jackson released her 3rd studio album, Control, on February 4, 1986 with production by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. The album featured 9 tracks with hits ‘Control,’ ‘Nasty,’ ‘Pleasure Principle,’ and more. The album was Jackson’s first to top the Billboard 200 and has been certified 5x platinum by the RIAA.