Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Music Break - Let's Get Funked Up

This month's break features some of my favorites from the genre of R&B.

In 1967, Sylvester Stewart adopted the stage name of Sly Stone, and joined forces with his brother Freddie (guitar/vocals) to form Sly and the Family Stone, which also included Cynthia Robinson (trumpet), Jerry Martini (sax), Larry Graham (bass/vocals) and Gregg Errico (drums).  A year later, the Stones' sister Rose (keyboards/vocals) joined the group.  This lineup lasted until 1971, but in various incarnations the band lasted until 1975, with the three Stone siblings and Robinson hanging on until the end.  Sly handled a large share of the lead vocals and mainly played organ, but on Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again), he switched to guitar.

Billy Preston was an American musician who was brought over to England to help the Beatles record their Let It Be album, his contributions including the electric piano solo on Get Back.  He also played with them when they gave a performance on a rooftop in London.  After they broke up, Preston played on Ringo Starr's and George Harrison's solo albums.  During the 1970's, he also played keyboards both live and in the studio for the Rolling Stones, and in the studio for many other acts.  He also pursued his own solo career, which included the hit Will It Go 'Round In Circles, which featured heavy keyboard and horn parts, plus his own solo on the melodica.  Sadly, Preston passed away in 2006 at the age of 59, from respiratory failure brought on by pericarditis.

In 1974, the Commodores released their debut album Machine Gun, and its instrumental title track as a single.  The group had formed in 1968, when most of the members were students at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University).  In this TV performance on Soul Train, Lionel Richie, who would later be known for his many ballads, plays lead synthesizer.

One of the most successful acts for the Motown label were the Temptations.  In 1970, they released Ball Of Confusion, which includes a cameo bass vocal.  Over 40 years later, the consensus about this song seems to be "same [bleep], different decade."

In 1969, a seven-man band in Long Beach, California called Nightshift, who had also been known as The Creators, were joined by British singer Eric Burdon, formerly of the Animals, to become War.  A year later, Burdon departed, leaving the rest to sort out the vocals.  In 1975, they released Low Rider, named for a type of hot rod popular in Chicano culture.  However, the members of War were not Chicanos, but six black Americans and a harmonica player from Denmark.

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