Archive for the ‘singers’ Category


Solange, 2016.

Solange Knowles (1986- ) is an American R&B singer best known as the little sister of picture-perfect Beyonce. She has had three number one hits on the American dance charts:

Beyonce's sister gets attacked

2008: I Decided

Solange - Sandcastle Disco [Official Video]

2008: Sandcastle Disco

Solange T O N Y a Msica video

2009: T.O.N.Y.

The last two she wrote with Cee-Lo of Gnarls Barkley. All three songs are from her second album, “Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams” (2008). Like Raphael Saadiq, her music sounds like it is from the 1960s but made now –  neo-Motown sort of stuff. Partly because she loves old soul music and partly, no doubt, because she is desperately trying not to sound like her sister! Her first album, “Solo Star” (2003), was all over the place in terms of musical style. Hadley Street is the street in Houston, Texas where her father’s record company stands and where she recorded the album.

She was never one of the main members of Destiny’s Child, though she has been a dancer and backing singer for them and one time did fill in for Kelly Rowland. When she was 15 she travelled the world with them as a dancer. After that her father thought she was old enough to handle a recording contract. Out of that came “Solo Star”.

“Solo Star” did not do well. She went into acting and landed parts in two films: she played the daughter of Vanessa Williams and Cedric the Entertainer in “Johnson Family Vacation” (2004) and then the head black cheerleader in “Bring It On: All or Nothing” (2006), the third film in that series.

In 2004 she married a football player, Daniel Smith. They had a son later that year, Daniel Julez J. Smith, and moved to the mountains of Idaho. In 2007 they divorced. Solange moved to Hollywood with her son.

Up to this point she had taken whatever opportunities came her way. They were great opportunities but she lacked inner direction. In Idaho it seems she got her head together and made up her mind to become a singer and songwriter, singing the kind of music she liked, not whatever producers like the Neptunes or Timbaland were pushing at her, making her sound like every other singer out there. She knew she liked Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes and so on, and she started from there, writing songs. That was the beginning of what became “Hadley St. Dreams”.

In August 2009 she cut off her hair. It was a brave move but it seems to have worked out well: she looks better in short hair. It brings out the beauty of her face much more.

She made my list of women with the most beautiful lips, just ahead of Molly Ringwald.

As someone who hates how Beyonce is pushed so hard at us and as someone who is a second son, it is hard for me not to like Solange. But even apart from that I do like her music more (featured here twice so far).

I know someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows her! Yes, we are that tight.

– Abagond, 2010.

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Phyllis Hyman (1949-1995) was an American R&B and jazz singer. Nancy Wilson says she is one of the two best singers she has ever known, the other being Sarah Vaughan. Phyllis Hyman had a very unhappy love life and sang about it honestly. She never had a gold record, yet she had a strong following among her fans.

These songs made it into the top 20 on the American R&B charts:

  • 1978: Somewhere in My Lifetime (#12)
  • 1979: You Know How to Love Me (#12)
  • 1981: Can’t We Fall in Love Again (#9)
  • 1986: Old Friend (#14)
  • 1986: Living All Alone (#12)
  • 1991: Don’t Wanna Change the World (#1)
  • 1991: Living in Confusion (#9)
  • 1992: When You Get Right Down to It (#10)

These are the songs she liked best:

  • Be Careful (How You Treat My Love)
  • Somewhere in My Lifetime
  • Meet Me on the Moon
  • When I Give My Love (This Time)

They made her think about the past and the future, about love and pain and happiness.

She was born in Philadelphia but grew up poor in the housing projects of  Pittsburgh, in St Clair Village. Even as a girl her singing talent and stage presence were apparent. She said it was a gift from God: she did not grow up singing in church, she did not even have a record player to listen to music on. She stood 6 foot 1 (1.85 m).

The three singers who had the biggest effect on her:

  • Nancy Wilson, who she modelled herself after and who later helped her;
  • James Brown, whose business sense she liked; and
  • Minnie Riperton, whose way of putting her feelings into her singing she copied.

After performing with some bands in the early 1970s, she came to New York in 1975 to sing in the jazz clubs there. She soon came to the attention of producer Norman Connors. She recorded a cover of the Stylistics song, “Betcha By Golly Wow”. It got to #29 on the R&B charts.

In time she found herself at Arista working with Clive Davis. He favoured Angela Bofill over her and then along came a new girl named Whitney Houston. Arista told her it was over.

She went to sing on Broadway in the Duke Ellington tribute, “Sophisticated Ladies” for a few years and sang on other people’s songs. She even sang on television ads: “Aren’t you hungry for Burger King now?”

In 1985 she joined Gamble & Huff at Philadelphia International Records. They gave her complete freedom to sing the songs she wanted in the way she wanted.

Even though she was loved by a million people and was at the height of her talent, she was sad and alone. She had no man to love her. She also feared losing her beauty as she gained weight. She drank too much and missed concert dates. In 1993 her mother, grandmother and a close friend all died in the same month.

Then on a Friday afternoon, June 30th 1995, she took her life in an apartment in New York just hours before she was to appear at the Apollo Theatre. Her funeral was held on her 46th birthday.

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AliciaKeysAlicia Cook (c. 1979- ), better known by her stage name of Alicia Keys, was one of the top American R&B singers of the 2000s. She is best known for “Fallin'” (2001) , which made her name and is still her most unforgettable song to date. Smokey Robinson says she is one of the best new singers.

So far six of her songs have hit number one on the American R&B chart:

  • 2001: Fallin’
  • 2003; You Don’t Know My Name
  • 2004: If I Ain’t Got You
  • 2004: My Boo (with Usher)
  • 2007: No One
  • 2008: Like You’ll Never See Me Again

“Superwoman” and “Teenage Love Affair” never hit number one.

Half these songs also hit number one on the American pop chart:  “Fallin'”, “My Boo” and “No One”.

For comparison, during this same period Beyonce had five number one hits on both the R&B and pop charts in America and Mariah Carey had three each.

Mariah and Beyonce have sold way more records than Alicia Keys: they have been at it longer and their music crosses over to white audiences better.

Alicia Keys is not only talented and successful but beautiful – one of the most beautiful black women according to white people. She is half Italian by blood and looks nearly white.

Her father is black (Jamaican); her mother is white (Italian-American). She considers herself to be black, not biracial or mixed race. Unlike with Mariah Carey, it has never been a question. Also, unlike Carey, her early music was more clearly black too.

She was born in Harlem. Her parents split when she was two. She saw little of her father, a flight attendant, though he did remain in her life. Her mother was often poor but somehow she always found money for Alicia’s piano lessons. Alicia:

I’ve had a deep love for music since I was four… . Music came before everything, everything, everything. I would risk everything for it.

By seven she could play classical piano. By 11 she was writing songs. One of the songs on her first album she wrote at 14. She continued to learn and practise her singing and piano.

In 1997 she got a record deal with Columbia Records – and dropped out of Columbia University. But then Columbia Records did what they did to Aretha Franklin and Bruce Springsteen before her: tried to make her into someone else:

I felt that they wanted me to be a clone of Mariah or Whitney, and I couldn’t do that. I’m not the sequined dress type, or the high-heeled type, or the all-cleavage type. I’m not coming like that for no one.

They parted ways.

Clive Davis, the very man who brought us Whitney Houston, stepped in. He was struck by her talent and beauty. She was struck by how he took her seriously.

After many delays – Davis was kicked out of Arista and formed J Records, bringing Keys with him – she completed her first album in 2001. “Nothing before its time,” she says. Davis got her on Oprah’s television show and the rest is history.

– Abagond, 2009.

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Aaliyah Haughton (1979-2001), better known as just Aaliyah, was an American R&B singer who sold 24 million records worldwide and was an up-and-coming Hollywood actress. She died eight years ago today at the age of 22 in a plane crash. She called her singing “street but sweet”. As one fan at her funeral put it, she was beautiful both on the outside and on the inside.

Her number one songs on the American R&B charts:

  • 1994: Back & Forth
  • 1996: If Your Girl Only Knew
  • 1996: One in a Million
  • 1998: Are You That Somebody?
  • 2002: Miss You

I mainly remember her for these (their chart position in parentheses):

1998: Are You That Somebody? (#1)

2001: More Than a Woman (#7)

2002: Rock the Boat (#2)

Aaliyah was born in Brooklyn but mainly grew up in Detroit. Her mother gave up being a singer so that she could bring up Aaliyah and her older brother, Rashad. (Despite their Arab names, they seem to be Catholic.)

Aaliyah had singing lessons from an early age, took part in school plays and at age 11 appeared on the television talent show, “Star Search”:

Aaliyah in Star Search

1990: My Funny Valentine

She lost, but later that year she performed with Gladys Knight in Las Vegas and a year later got her first record deal. You see, her uncle was married to Gladys Knight and managed R. Kelly! Kelly wrote and produced Aaliyah’s first album, “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number” (1994).

It came out when she was 15 and produced a number one hit, “Back & Forth”.  But she was not the only 15-year-old girl with a number one hit that year: Brandy had one too: “I Wanna Be Down”.

That summer Aaliyah and R. Kelly got married! They both deny it but there is a marriage certificate. Aaliyah put down her age as 18, not 15. Her parents had the marriage annulled because she was underage.

After that Aaliyah and R. Kelly parted ways. She went to Atlantic Records where Timbaland and Missy Elliott wrote and produced her second and third albums: “One in a Million” (1996) and “Aaliyah” (2001).

She graduated from high school in 1997 and then went into acting, her second love. She appeared in “Romeo Must Die” (2000) opposite Jet Li  and in Anne Rice’s “Queen of the Damned” (2002).  At the time of her death she was set to appear in the Matrix films and was on a level with the likes of Rosario Dawson, Jessica Alba and Zoe Saldana in terms of the sort of parts she was getting.

Flying back to Florida from the Bahamas on August 25th 2001 after doing the video for “Rock the Boat”, the plane went down right after take-off and blew up. She and seven others on board died instantly. The plane was overloaded.

At her funeral in New York her body was taken to the church in a silver casket inside a glass carriage pulled by horses. At the end of the funeral they let 22 white doves fly into the sky, one for each year of her short life.

– Abagond, 2009, 2015.

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Michael Jackson (1958-2009), the King of Pop, the Gloved One, was an American singer of pop, R&B and rock music. He sold 750 million records worldwide – only Elvis Presley and the Beatles can even hope to match that – and had the number one album of all time, “Thriller” (1982), which sold 65 million. Janet Jackson is his sister.

He was American, he was black, he was universal. Even Imelda Marcos, she of the many shoes, cried at his death.

He was famous also for his dancing, making moves that no one thought possible, like the moonwalk.

His number one songs on the American R&B chart:

  • 1969: I Want You Back (Jackson 5)
  • 1969: Who’s Lovin’ You (Jackson 5)
  • 1970: ABC (Jackson 5)
  • 1970: The Love You Save (Jackson 5)
  • 1970: I’ll Be There (Jackson 5)
  • 1971: Never Can Say Goodbye (Jackson 5)
  • 1974: Dancing Machine (Jackson 5)
  • 1979: Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough
  • 1979: Rock With You
  • 1982: The Girl is Mine (with Paul McCartney)
  • 1983: Billie Jean
  • 1983: Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’
  • 1983: Somebody’s Watching Me (with Maxwell)
  • 1985: We Are the World (as part of USA for Africa)
  • 1987: I Just Can’t Stop Loving You (with Siedah Garrett)
  • 1987: Bad
  • 1988: The Way You Make Me Feel
  • 1988: Man in the Mirror
  • 1988: Another Part of Me
  • 1992: Remember the Time
  • 1992: In the Closet
  • 1995: You Are Not Alone

This does not even list the songs that “merely” made it to the top ten, like “Thriller”, “Ben”, “Got to be There” and “Black or White”.

On top of all that he made music videos into an art form in their own right, thus making MTV’s name. The strange thing is, MTV did not want to play him at first because he was black!

He was on stage by age six, on television coast to coast by age 11. Everyone loved his music, even white people, even then.

But growing up so famous meant he never had a proper childhood. That is why Elizabeth Taylor was one of the few who understood him. Even worse, his father was cruel. In some sense he was never a boy and yet always a boy.

He bought a place north of Los Angeles and called it Neverland Ranch, after the Neverland of Peter Pan. He put in a zoo, a roller coaster and a Ferris wheel. He invited children over, many of them dying of cancer.

Some of the children stayed over night and, sadly, some parents took advantage of that to spread ugly stories about him to take him to court for his millions, in 1994 and 2005.

Nothing was ever proved, but he had become so strange by the early 1990s – he had a pet llama and doctors were slowly turning him white – that many believed it.

He married, twice, first to Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis, and then Debbie Rowe. He had two children by Rowe, Prince Michael (1997) and Paris Katherine (1998). They divorced and he had a third child by an unknown woman, Prince Michael II (2002), better known as Blanket.

Hoping to make a comeback, Jackson sold out 50 shows in London for 2009, but then died suddenly just weeks before the first show.

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Sheila Ferguson (1947- ) is an American R&B and disco singer, better known in Britain than in her home country. She is the one who sang “When Will I See You Again” (1974) as the lead singer of the Three Degrees. She is also the first black woman to have her own sitcom in Britain, “Land of Hope and Gloria” (1992).

She was with the Three Degrees for 20 years, from 1966 to 1986, being the lead singer for most of it. They were a Philadelphia copy of the Supremes, the creation of doo-wop producer Richard Barrett, who also brought the world Frankie Lymon, the Chantels and Little Anthony.

At first the Three Degrees had no big hit songs. They were in Las Vegas opening for the likes of Engelbert Humperdinck and Wayne Newton. There they perfected their act.

Then one day Gamble and Huff saw them perform. They were songwriters and music producers from Philadelphia who gave us such songs as “Me and Mrs Jones” (1972), “If  You Don’t Know Me By Now” (1972) and “Love Train” (1973). They wanted to write a song for the Three Degrees: “When Will I See You Again”.

It was a hit first in Britain, where it went to number one, and then in America, where it reached number two. They had another hit that year in both countries: “T.S.O.P”, where they sang little more than “Doo-doo-doo-dah-doo, doo-doo, it’s time to get down”.

In America they pretty much sank out of sight after that, but in Britain they became the biggest girl group since the Supremes! They went on to have a string of hits there in the late 1970s, like “Take Good Care of Yourself” (1975), “Woman in Love” (1979) and “My Simple Heart” (1979).

Britain had never seen black women quite like them before: the big hair, the nails, the big red lips. They performed in towns that had never seen anything so Hollywood before except on television. Their years in Vegas were paying off. And their most famous fan, as it turned out, was Prince Charles himself. He even invited them to the palace to perform. Being a prince has its advantages.

But then the glory days came to an end: Ferguson was having an affair with Barrett, who was still managing them. It was tearing the group apart: she had to choose between  the Three Degrees or Barrett. She chose the Three Degrees and in 1981 they fired Barrett. It proved to be a huge blow. Ferguson turned to drink. In 1986 she left the Three Degrees and they went on without her. The Three Degrees are still together today.

Ferguson married an Englishman, settled down in Britain and brought up her twin daughters. To help them know their roots she wrote a cook book about soul food. In the 1990s she got into acting, both on the London stage and on British television. In 2007 she came out with her first album since her Three Degrees days, “New Kind of Medicine”.

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Marian Anderson (1897-1993) was an American singer. It was 70 years ago this Easter, on April 9th 1939, that she sang at the Lincoln Memorial. Toscanini said that a voice like hers comes along only once every hundred years. Her singing could bring people to tears or make them shout for joy. Despite her great talent, White Americans at first refused to hear her sing – because she was black. In time they changed their minds, making her the first black singer whose appeal crossed over the colour line in America in a big way.

She sang at the Lincoln Memorial because she could not sing at Constitution Hall, one of the top concert halls in the capital, Washington, DC. It was owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Even though Anderson was world famous by then, they said no because she was black.

Eleanor Roosevelt, the first lady, heard about this. She belonged to DAR and asked them to reconsider. They still refused. Roosevelt quit DAR and set it up so Anderson could sing at the Lincoln Memorial instead. Anderson sang there on Easter Sunday 1939 to 75,000 people and to millions across the country who heard her on the radio. Her first song was “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”.

She was born over a hundred years ago in South Philadelphia. She grew up singing in church and at school. She loved to sing more than anything, but she did not know that a black person could make a living from music till one day when she was walking down the street and saw a black woman play the piano.

So she dreamed of becoming a singer. She went to apply to a music school. She stood in line all day but they did not call on her till everyone was gone. They told her, “We don’t take coloured.”

She had to get a private teacher. After two teachers taught her everything they knew she went to see Giuseppe Boghetti, a famous voice instructor. He said he had no time to take on another student, but when he heard her sing “Deep River” he changed his mind. He became her teacher for over 20 years.

As good as she was she soon found that she had little future in America: she could not fill a concert hall because few whites would come. So in 1928 she went to Europe. She was a huge success there. They could see past her colour. She even sang for kings.

By the time she came back to America in 1935 she was world famous. Now the white people would pay to see her. She sang in cities all across the country and then came at last to Washington, DC….

It was not just DAR that was racist: as famous as she was many hotels and restaurants turned her away too and many concert halls would not allow blacks to sit next to whites even if it meant losing her. But her example helped to bring change.

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Beyonce Knowles (1981- ) is an American pop and R&B singer who made her name as the lead singer of Destiny’s Child. She has sold over 60 million records and won ten Grammys.

Here are her number one songs to date on the American charts, both as part of Destiny’s Child and, since 2003, on her own:

  • 1999: Bills, Bills, Bills
  • 2000: Say My Name
  • 2000: Independent Woman, Part I
  • 2001: Bootylicious
  • 2003: Crazy in Love
  • 2003: Baby Boy
  • 2006: Irreplaceable
  • 2008: Single Ladies

No, “Survivor” (2001) never made it to number one. Her music since Destiny’s Child has sold much better in Britain and Black America than in White America.

Her songs are good, but they are the kind that ring in your head and then a year later you forget about them. “Irreplaceable” is the only song that rises above that.


While she is rich and famous and beautiful and has a great singing voice, many do not like her but cannot quite say why. The Black Snob says it is because, unlike Lauryn Hill, she is not being herself. Instead she presents a perfect image of herself that nobody is, not even her. She does not let us into the pain of her broken heart like great singers do.

Every radio round the world know me
‘Cause that’s where I be
I’m a, a diva, hey

Na, na, na, diva is a female version of a hustla

She has been singing and dancing since she was a little girl in Houston, Texas. When she was 12 she appeared along with Kelly Rowland as part of Girl’s Tyme on “Star Search”, a television talent show. They had practised for six months straight but came in second.

It was such a huge blow to Beyonce that her father, a Xerox salesman, stepped in and took over Girl’s Tyme to set it on course to get a recording contract. In time it would become known as Destiny’s Child (from a verse in the Bible).  He was a strict taskmaster who made sure the girls practised, practised, practised. He gave up being a salesman and worked on it full-time. Kelly Rowland even moved in and lived with them.

In time he did land a contract. First a short-lived one with Elektra, then one with Columbia Records in 1996. With Wyclef Jean as their producer they became a huge crossover success.

Destiny’s Child lasted till 2005, but by 2003 Beyonce had begun to  sing on her own.

She is trying to become a Hollywood star too but lacks depth and experience as an actress. She played Etta James (badly) in “Cadillac Records” (2008) and has been picked to play Angela Davis!

She is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful black women in America. She is one of the few black women who has appeared on the cover of white American Maxim. In at least one L’Oreal ad she seems strangely white looking.

Beyonce has been with rapper Jay-Z since 2002. They married in 2008.

She is part Creole on her mother’s side. Solange Knowles is her younger sister.

– Abagond, 2009.

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robeson2Paul Robeson (1898-1976) was an American singer, actor and a fighter for equal rights for all men. He is best remembered for singing “Ol’ Man River” (1936).

In the 1930s and 1940s he was one of the best known black men in the world, but by the 1950s he had become known as a suspected communist.

His father was a slave who escaped through the Underground Railroad, later becoming a Presbyterian minister. He spoke out against injustice and was forced to resign. His mother was a schoolteacher. When Robeson was six her clothes caught on fire from the stove. She died.

From his father Robeson learned to have an “unshakable dignity and courage in spite of the press of racism and poverty”.

Robeson did well in school, became an All-American football player and then went to New York to get his law degree at Columbia University. He got into a top law firm but then found that whites refused to work with him.

He turned to stage acting. He was best known for playing the lead in “Emperor Jones” (1924, New York; 1925 London) and “Othello” (1930, London; 1943, New York). He also acted in films, “Show Boat” (1936) being his best-known. But later he left film acting: the stereotypes that Hollywood made blacks act out sickened him.

Robeson had a very deep, rich singing voice. He gave concerts and put out records. In 1925 he became the first person ever to give a concert of Negro spirituals.

But despite being a famous singer and actor who travelled the world performing, many whites still would not accept him. He was refused service at restaurants, rooms at hotels – and not just in the American South either.

In 1934 he travelled to the Soviet Union and there he found something he had never experienced before: “Here for the first time in my life … I walk in full human dignity.” He saw communism as the answer to racism.

In the 1940s he spoke out against racism in all its forms and continued to sing.

In 1950 the American government asked him to sign a piece of paper saying that he was not a communist. He refused. They took away his passport.

It got worse: He was blacklisted by concert halls. His records were pulled from shops. His income fell from $104,000 (145,000 crowns)  in 1947 to $2000. They even took away his title as an All-American football player.

When he was brought before the McCarthy hearings they asked why he did not live in the Soviet Union. He said:

Because my father was a slave, and my people died to build this country, and I am going to stay right here and have a part of it just like you. And no fascist-minded people will drive me from it. Is that clear?

He wrote a book about his life story, “Here I Stand”. When it came out in 1958 the New York Times refused to review it.

He got his passport back that year because of a Supreme Court ruling, but by then he was a broken man.

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sade21Sade Adu (1959- ), a British R & B singer from the 1980s, turns 50 today! Happy birthday, Sade! May you live to see many more and live to a ripe old age!

In America she is best remembered for singing two songs that came out there in 1985: “Smooth Operator” and “The Sweetest Taboo”. In Britain she is better remembered for “Your Love is King” (1984). She has sold nearly 40 million records worldwide and has won four Grammy Awards.

She is the ninth most beautiful black woman in the world according to this blog. She has an otherworldly look, like a princess from a storybook. That she got married in a castle in Spain does not seem out of place one bit. She has dark brown eyes, light brown skin and long black hair. Her face reminds me of the moon and its beauty for some reason.

She is not just a pretty face that can sing, she also writes songs. She wrote “Smooth Operator” with guitarist Ray St James, who was in her old band, Pride.

She was born Helen Folasade Adu. Her stage name is Sade Adu. Sade, said as “shah-day” or, as Epic Records likes to say, “shar-day”, comes from her middle name. Sade is also the name of her band.

She was born in Ibadan, Nigeria, not far from Lagos. Her father, a professor, is black African – Yoruba, in fact – and her mother, a nurse, is white British. They split up when she was four and her mother took her and her older brother back to England to live.

She grew up in the North End of London. She loved fashion, books, dancing, singing and American R & B: she listened to Curtis Mayfield, Donny Hathaway, Ray Charles, Al Green, Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye. She also liked jazz singers Billie Holiday and Nina Simone.

In 1977 she went to St Martin’s College in London to study fashion design and designed men’s clothes for a time in London’s Chalk Farm. She designed the outfits that the band Spandau Ballet wore on their first American tour. She also got some work as a model.

sade29In 1982 she joined Ray St James’s Latin funk band, Pride, as a backing singer. They sang at nightclubs in London. One of their songs was “Smooth Operator”.

In 1983 she signed a recording contract with Epic and took two of her band mates with her and formed the band Sade. They sometimes record under the name Sweetback. Their last record came out in 2004.

“Smooth Operator” has been covered many times, once as a bossa nova song (not hard to imagine) but even as a death metal song (by Ten Masked Men in 1999).  The full video for the song is eight minutes long, showing the story the song tells.

The songs of hers I like the best are “Paradise” (1988 ) and “Feel No Pain” (1992).

She has one daughter, Ila Morgan, born in 1996 to her and Bob Morgan. She was married for a time to Spanish filmmaker Carlos Scola.

– Abagond, 2009.

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Eartha Kitt (1927-2008), American singer and actress from the 1950s and 1960s. She is best remembered for singing “Santa Baby” and playing Catwoman. She was one of the most famous black women in the world in her day. In 1952 the New York Times said, “Eartha Kitt not only looks incendiary, but she can make a song burst into flame.” Her sort of music fell out of fashion in the late 1950s with the rise of R&B and rock and roll.

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Annie Ruddock

Annie Ruddock (1963- ), born Anne-Marie Teresa Antoinette Ruddock, was the lead singer of the 1980s British ska band Amazulu. They sang such hits in Britain as “Too Good to be Forgotten” (1986), “Excitable” (1985), “Don’t You Just Know It” (1985) and “Montego Bay” (1986).

In 1987 the band suddenly broke up. Ruddock and two others tried to carry on as Amazulu II. They got two songs in the top 100, but then nothing. Band mate and bass guitarist Clare Kenny went on to play for Shakespear’s Sister and Sinead O’Connor in the 1990s and is now a songwriter.

Ruddock herself appeared in the 1987 film “Straight to Hell” as Molly. She gets shot dead in that film. It is the last we ever see of her. She dropped out of sight.

Annie, where did you go!? I miss you!

I loved her: her voice, the way she looked, her stage presence, her long black dreadlocks. I loved her eyes and her thighs. Her smile and those cheekbones. Even her songs. Everything. Even if she was kind of thin.

I wonder where she came from. I know she grew up in London, but how did she wind up in a ska band in the middle 1980s? Ska was already old-fashioned music in Jamaica in those days – something your parents listened to – but somehow it lived on in Britain and she became a part of it.

I would guess she had a Jamaican father and a white British mother, but she has those three French names. That makes me think she is Catholic, that her family came from somewhere that was once under French rule but then fell under British rule. Like maybe Dominica in the Caribbean. And it is not just the names: she even looks Creole, like Lisa Bonet.

Amazulu was an almost-all-girl ska band in London that had been performing since at least 1982. Falcon Stuart, the manager of Adam & the Ants, discovered them in 1983 and got their song “Cairo” on the radio. They also appeared as a band on television shows in 1984 and 1985: “Top of the Pops”, “The Wide Awake Club” and “The Young Ones”. That helped to get them known. In 1986 they started to get airplay in America, but then a year later in 1987 the band broke up.

Amazulu is a Zulu word that means “the people from heaven”.

Word on the Internet has it that as of 2006 she was doing well, living in London, studying and working in computer software, having left the music industry long ago.

Annie, if you are reading this, drop me a line! Abagond at gmail.com. If you want to clear up any mysteries or facts, I would love to know! Or if you have any cool pictures of yourself to send. The ones on the Internet do not do you justice!

May God be with you in all you do!

Postscript: A commenter who says he is her cousin says that her parents both came from Jamaica, her mother being half Chinese. Another who says she is her sister said their father was Jamaican and their mother white.

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Josephine Baker (1906-1975) was a French jazz singer and dancer who came from America. She was the Jazz Age made flesh, a shooting star that burned across its sky. Hemingway said she was “the most sensational woman anybody ever saw or ever will.”

She was tall, coffee skin, ebony eyes, legs of paradise, a smile to end all smiles. So said Picasso.

About 1500 men asked for her hand in marriage. One killed himself at her feet. Two others fought over her with swords among the graves of St Stephen’s in Budapest.

She came to Paris in 1925. She fell in love with the city and called it her country.

Her “Danse sauvage” that year made her famous: wearing little more than some feathers she danced the Charleston to jazz music. She danced wild and free, possessed by the music.

Even though she came from a place as ordinary as St Louis in the middle of America, the daughter of a washerwoman, because she was black the white men of France saw her as more African than American. She was “primitive” and “exotic”.

“White folk’s imaginations are really something when it comes to the Negro,” she said.

She played to this picture of her as a black savage with the “Danse sauvage” and later with her famous banana dance: all she wore were 16 bananas!

From dancing she branched into singing and acting. She travelled the world and wore the most beautiful clothes. She walked her leopard down the streets of Paris.

Now famous in Europe, she returned to America in 1935. But America was not ready for an “uppity coloured girl”, as her husband later put it. When she got back to France she gave up her American citizenship and became French.

In 1940 Paris fell to Hitler. Because she was so famous she could travel freely behind enemy lines with few questions asked. She wrote down enemy secrets for the French Resistance in invisible ink on her sheet music!

In 1942 she sang for the troops in North Africa, raising their spirits in a dark time.

She was not able to have children herself – she nearly died during childbirth – so she adopted 12 children from her world travels:

  1. Aiko (Korea)
  2. Luis (Colombia)
  3. Janot (Japan)
  4. Jari (Finland)
  5. Jean-Claude (Canada)
  6. Moses (French)
  7. Marianne (France)
  8. Noel (France)
  9. Brahim (Arab)
  10. Mara (Venezuela)
  11. Koffi (Ivory Coast)
  12. Stellina (Morocco)

They all lived together at her big, beautiful house in south-western France.

She was a big believer in the brotherhood of man. That is why she spoke at the civil rights march on Washington in 1963 and yet could not support the Black Power movement.

By the 1960s she was deeply in debt and lost her house. The princess of Monaco gave her another, smaller one to live in.

In her last years she sang at Carnegie Hall in New York – accepted at last by America – and made a comeback in Paris. She died in her sleep at age 68, almost 50 years to the day after she came to Paris.

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Ida Corr

Ida Corr (1977- ) is a Danish singer, best known for singing “Let Me Think About It”, a song she did with Dutch DJ Fedde Le Grand. It hit number two in Britain in October 2007. By the start of 2008 it was the number one dance song in the world.

It is one of those songs I can play over and over and over again. And it sticks in your head. I especially like the horns. There are not enough horns in songs these days.


The music video is good too. The director said it was Prince meets Robert Palmer. Like a Robert Palmer video, the instruments are played by beautiful, soulless, look-alike women. They all wear the same lingerie, big afro hair and sunglasses. Of course.

Ida Corr seems like a singer from the days of disco in the 1970s, a poor man’s Keyshia Cole. She grew up on American R & B, listening to the music of Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Prince and others.

Some would call her a soul singer. But she lives in Europe, a world where boys play with their machines to make dance music. That is why she calls her sort of music electro soul and her latest disc of songs “RoboSoul” (2006). On the cover she is half woman, half machine.

Her mother is Danish but her father came from the Gambia in Africa. Her name is Gambian, not Danish. She grew up in Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark. By age six she was playing drums, by nine she was singing Aretha and Stevie songs in the streets of Aarhus with a band she had formed. By age 11 she won the first ever nationwide children’s song contest in Denmark.

She sang in different bands, like the girl band Sha Li Mar. Starting at age 16 she made a living as a backing singer for acts like Gnags.

In 2005 at age 27 she came out with her first album, “StreetDiva”. She could have come out with an album much sooner, but she wanted to write and produce the songs herself. She did, with the help of producer MoTrack. All the songs on “StreetDiva” were written so they can be sung to an acoustic guitar.

“StreetDiva” made her famous in Denmark and brought her to the attention of Fedde Le Grand.

“Let Me Think About It” is not their first song together. They also did “Mirror 07.07.07”, which they performed at Live Earth at the seventh minute of the seventh hour of the seventh day of the seventh year of the millennium.

She sings in English and can speak it too. That made working with Fedde Le Grand possible.

Only time will tell whether she will be more than a one-hit wonder.

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Dorothy Dandridge (1922-1965), a figure of beauty and tragedy, was an American actress, famous for starring in “Carmen Jones” (1954). Lena Horne called her “our Marilyn Monroe”. Whites at the time mainly knew her as “some kind of coloured singer”. She is a hero to Halle Berry, Janet Jackson, Angela Bassett and others.

She showed that black women can play more than just prostitutes, maids and slaves, that they have dignity, that they are women first, black second. Hollywood is still slow in learning that, but it began with her.

As a girl in the late 1920s she and her sister Vivian sang and danced on the chitlin circuit, going from town to town in the American South. Even then she was a wonder.

In 1929 times got bad and they headed for California where her mother Ruby played a maid in Hollywood films. Dorothy, Vivian and another girl became the Dandridge Sisters, appearing in Harlem in the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater.

Dandridge began to get bit parts in films. She sang “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm” in the Marx Brothers film “A Day at the Races” (1937).

Dandridge became a nightclub singer. In time she would sing in Rio, London, San Francisco and New York. She also appeared in soundies: the music videos of the day.

In 1942 she married a dancer, one of the Nicholas Brothers. A year later they had a baby girl. She was born with brain damage. Her husband began to have affairs with other women, as beautiful as she was. They divorced in 1951.

In 1954 Otto Preminger wanted to make the opera “Carmen” into a film with an all-black cast. Dandridge tried out for the lead but Preminger thought she was too sweet and nice. Dandridge came back later wearing a red rose in her black hair, a cut-off black blouse and a red skirt. Preminger said, “My God! It’s Carmen!”

She got the part. It made her name.

She fell in love with Preminger. He did not want her to appear in films that were beneath her. She turned down a part in “The King and I” where she would have played a slave. But good parts for black women were rare. It was three years before she appeared in another film.

She left Preminger when it became clear he would never leave his wife for her. He was white.

In 1959 she married a nightclub owner. It lasted for three bad years. She lost most of her money in his failing business and in the divorce that followed. Then she had to sell her house to pay back taxes.

She was broke. She could no longer pay to take care of her daughter. She had to give her daughter up to become a ward of the state.

Dandridge drank heavily. She was hooked on barbiturates, little pills that made the pain go away. On September 8th 1965 she took too many and died. She was 42.

She was writing the story of her life at the time: she died feeling she had lived in vain.

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