Happy birthday to DJ superstar Jason Mizell (aka Jam Master Jay) of Run DMC. He helped bring mainstream approval to DJs and hiphop in general. He also played the live instruments on Run DMC's records. He later produced Onyx and opened a DJ academy. He was shot to death in his Queens studio in 2002 but remains a popular music icon. "The best DJ in the US of A!".
One of my favorite 60s pop heroes, the NYC-born (Blackfoot Indian & Afro-Caribbean heritage) Richie Havens brought a rhythmic flair to folk guitar and with his searing vocals combined to bring new life to both classic & popular material, as well as his own tunes. His style melded urban doo-wop and gospel influence, 60s rock/pop, Indian music, Greenwich Village lefty folk, R&B, spirituals and protest blues. He was a mesmerizing solo performer deep into his years.
While best known for the timeless classic "War" and "25 Miles", the truth is that Edwin Starr made a lot of great records in the 60s and 70s, including "Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.)", "Headline News", the psychedelic "You've Got My Soul On Fire", "Stop The War Now", music from the soundtrack to "Hell Up In Harlem" and the late 70s hit "Contact", among others. Ranging from Northern Soul on the Ric-Tic label to topical psych-funk (produced by Norman Whitfield) to disco, his strong voice always blew these ears away. And there was this funky number from the flick Hell...
The king of Space Age Bachelor Pad Music, the wacky Mexican bandleader and self-taught pianist Esquivel has delighted us with bizarre arrangements and compositions that blended fully-composed jazz influence with mariachi, Brazilian music, twisted mambo, "exotic" percussion, an avant-garde approach to orchestral pop and he was a pioneer in the field of stereophonic recording. He remains the most important name in so-called "lounge music' and his music, being so far ahead of its time, stands as completely off-the-wall.
Multi-instrumentalist Huddie Ledbetter was especially noted for his playing of the 12-string guitar and soulful delivery of topical lyrics. He did four stints in prison (including one for murder) and even broke out of jail once. Twice he was pardoned for his talents. He became a popular figure on the lefty folk scene ("Bourgeois Blues") and was one of the first folk-blues artists to tour Europe. Songs like "Goodnight Irene", "Midnight Special", "Black Betty", "I Got Stripes", "Boll Weavil" and others are still often covered by a variety of bands to this day.