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Created by The Core DJ's Jul 6, 2014 at 4:18pm. Last updated by The Core DJ's Jul 6, 2014.

BLACK CELEBRITIES WHO DIED WITH LITTLE OR NO FANFARE pt.3

Rapper Pimp C, 33, who helped define Southern hip-hop with his group, UGK, died Dec. 4. Pimp C, whose real name was Chad Butler, formed UGK with his partner, Bun B, in the late 1980s in Port Arthur, Texas. The group's first nationally distributed album, "Too Hard to Swallow," was released in 1992. The next year, a song from the album was included on the soundtrack for the film, "Menace II Society."

Ike Turner’s role as one of rock's critical architects was overshadowed by his ogrelike image as the man who abused former wife and icon Tina Turner. Turner, 76, managed to rehabilitate his image somewhat in his later years, touring with his band, the Kings of Rhythm, and drawing critical acclaim for his work. Turner died Dec. 12. He won a Grammy in 2007 in the traditional blues album category for "Risin' With the Blues."

Louil Silas, founder and President of Silas Records, died of kidney failure. His death received little fanfare in 2001. He was 44. Louil was responsible for the careers of New Edition, Jody Watley & Chanté Moore. Silas worked in promotions prior to launching Silas Records formation, Silas was very instrumental to the success of SOLAR (Sound Of Los Angeles Records) and their artists, including The Whispers, Shalamar, Dynasty, etc.

Marvin "Sweet Louie" Smith (above, right) one half of the R&B duo, the Checkmates, has died. He was 68.

Smith died Saturday of a heart attack aboard the Caribbean Princess cruise ship in the Caribbean, where he was scheduled to perform, said his agent, Mike Moloney. Smith's counterpart, Sonny Charles, a friend since childhood in Fort Wayne, Indiana, found Smith in his cabin before they were to rehearse for a show that evening, Moloney said.

The two had served in the Army together under the late-1950s "buddy system," touring in the entertainment division of the Army's Special Services, after which they set their sights on Las Vegas.

The act took off in 1964, when the Checkmates started performing at the Pussycat A Go Go, located on what is now the site of the Wynn Las Vegas resort. The group went on to perform at the Sands and Caesars Palace.

The duo's best-known recordings include "Love is All I Have to Give" and a remake of "Proud Mary." But 1969's Phil Spector-produced "Black Pearl" was their most successful single, a Top 10 hit.

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Smith was a contemporary of some of the greatest performers of all time, including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Bill Cosby, Moloney said.

Some of the duo's highlights included performing with Sinatra at the Oakland Coliseum, a concert at Madison Square Garden with Herb Alpert and singing the national anthem for the "Thrilla in Manila," the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier heavyweight championship boxing match in the Philippines.

The Checkmates were inducted into the Las Vegas Hall of Fame in 2000.

DEATH OF A BLACK SUPERMODEL:

Rewind: Nicknamed the "black princess", the 47-year-old Katoucha Niane went missing from her home on a central stretch of the river on the night of February 1.

The mother-of-three disappeared after being dropped off from a party and her handbag was later recovered near her houseboat.

Born in Conakry, Katoucha worked with the greatest couture stars at the height of her career in the 1980s including Saint Laurent.

Katoucha left the catwalk for good in 1994, but in recent years she made headlines as an outspoken campaigner against female circumcision, launching a foundation against the practice.

Excised at the age of nine, in her home country Guinea, Katoucha recounted the ordeal in a recent book entitled "In My Flesh".

She said she saw her career as a top model as a form of "revenge" for the horror of excision.

"I embodied the most arrogant and admired kind of femininity, I who was supposed to be diminished," she wrote.

Fast Forward: Paris judicial police say the body of former top model Katoucha Niane has been found in the River Seine.

Police say the body was found Thursday and that a subsequent autopsy confirmed it as the model's.

Police say the body showed no signs of foul play, pointing to the possibility that she may have fallen accidentally in the river.

The former model went missing in February.

Ivan Dixon was an actor and television director, best known for his roles in the 1960's sitcom "Hogan's Heroes," and for his Emmy Award-nominated role in the 1967 telefilm "The Final War of Olly Winter." Dixon also directed hundreds of episodes for numerous TV shows. He was also active in the Civil Rights movement, he served as a president of Negro Actors for Action.  After his career as an actor and director, Dixon was the owner-operator of radio station KONI (FM) in Maui. In 2001 he left the islands for health reasons and sold the radio station in 2002.

Ivan Dixon died in 2008 at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina after a hemorrhage and complications from kidney failure, according to his daughter, Doris Nomathande Dixon of Charlotte. He was also survived by a son, Alan Kimara Dixon, and by his wife of 58 years, the former Berlie Ray.

On November 10, 2006, Gerald Levert was found dead in his bed at his Newbury home when a cousin tried to wake him. Initial reports stated that Levert had died of an apparent heart attack. In February of 2007, an autopsy report conducted by the Cuyahoga County coroner's office concluded that Levert's death was caused by a fatal combination of prescription narcotics and over-the-counter drugs. The drugs in his bloodstream included the narcotic pain relievers Vicodin, Percocet, and Darvocet, along with anxiety medication Xanax and two over-the-counter antihistamines. The autopsy also revealed that Levert had pneumonia. The official cause of death was acute intoxication, and the death was ruled accidental. Gerald Levert was 40 years old.

Sean Levert, a third of the 1980s R&B trio LeVert and son of lead O'Jays singer Eddie Levert, has died after falling ill while serving a jail term. He was 39. Authorities said Monday an autopsy was inconclusive but foul play was ruled out. Levert was sentenced last week to 22 months behind bars for failing to pay $89,025 in child support. He died at Lutheran Hospital in Cleveland late Sunday, less than an hour after he was taken there from the jail, said coroner Frank Miller.

Henrietta Bell Wells--the lone female debater (above, 3rd from the left) on the historic Wiley College debate team in the 1930s, depicted in the recent movie The Great Debaters--died on March 12, 2008, at age 96.  She was portrayed in the film by actress Jurnee Smollett (2nd photo).

Three days after his 32nd birthday on February 10, 2006, J Dilla (born James Yancey) died of complications related to lupus, an inflammatory disease that can affect a person’s blood, skin, joints and kidneys.

The Detroit-born producer, also known as Jay Dee, was highly regarded for creating bottom-heavy, soulful tracks for several R&B and hip-hop luminaries including Common, Erykah Badu and A Tribe Called Quest, among others.

Billy Preston died on June 6, 2006 in Scottsdale, Arizona, of complications of malignant hypertension that resulted in kidney failure and other complications. He had been in a coma since November 21, 2005. His funeral was held on June 20 at the Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, California. Preston is interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood, California.

Lawrence Lloyd Brown, Sr., an original member of the legendary Blue Notes, the Philly-based R&B group orignally known as Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, died Sunday of a respiratory condition. He was 63 and lived in North Philadelphia. Lawrence was still performing with the group until January, when he became ill while singing at the Harrah's casino, in Chester.

"Show & Tell" singer dies

R&B singer Al Wilson, best known for his hit single, "Show & Tell", died on 4/22/08 at Kaiser Permanente in Fontana, according to a family spokesperson.Born June 19, 1939 in Meridian, Miss., Wilson moved to the San Bernardino area in 1958 where he worked odd jobs as a mail carrier, a janitor, and an office clerk before touring for four years with Johnny Harris and the Statesmen. After a two-year stint in the Navy, Wilson moved to Los Angeles and toured local clubs performing with groups The Jewels and The Souls before he was signed with manager Marc Gordon in 1966. He released his first single, "The Snake", in 1968.Wilson was a San Bernardino resident at the time of his death.

 

Orish Grinstead (above) founding member of R&B girl group 702 out of Las Vegas, Nevada, passed away on Sunday, April 20th from kidney failure. She was 27 years old. Orish, who created the group along with her twin sister, Irish and big sister Lameisha, was what friends called ‘a good person, sweet, sincere, humble and full of life.’ According to friends Orish had been ill for a long time, and sadly, due to other medical complications she suffered from including cancer that had yet to be treated, she was not expected to live too long.

Bo Diddley died on June 2, 2008 of heart failure at his home in Archer, Florida. Garry Mitchell, a grandson of Diddley and one of more than 35 family members at the musician's home when he died at 1:45 a.m. EDT (05:45 GMT), said his death was not unexpected. "There was a gospel song that was sung (at his bedside) and (when it was done) he said 'wow' with a thumbs up," Mitchell told Reuters, when asked to describe the scene at Diddley's deathbed. "The song was 'Walk Around Heaven' and in his last words "I'm going to heaven."

At the time of his death, Diddley's survivors included his 4 children, Evelyn Kelly, Ellas A. McDaniel, Tammi D. McDaniel, and Terri Lynn McDaniel; 15 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and 3 great-great-grandchildren; and a brother, Kenneth Haynes of Biloxi, MS.

Bernie Mac suffered from sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease that produces tiny lumps of cells in the body's organs, but had said the condition went into remission in 2005.

On July 24, 2008, Mac was hospitalized with an infection, that was later identified as pneumonia. The news of his hospitalization would not be announced for over a week, when his publicist claimed that Mac had pneumonia. The next day, responding to rumors that the actor was in "very, very critical condition," his publicist said that he was responding well to treatment, and should be released soon. On August 9, his publicist announced that Mac had died from complications of pneumonia unrelated to sarcoidosis.

The 2008 Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago, on the day he died, was dedicated to his memory.

Mac's funeral was held on August 16 at the House of Hope megachurch. More than 6,000 people attended his funeral.

Isaac Lee Hayes, Jr. (August 20, 1942 – August 10, 2008) was an American soul and funk singer-songwriter, musician, record producer, arranger, composer, and actor. Hayes was one of the main creative forces behind southern soul music label Stax Records, where he served as both an in-house songwriter and producer with partner David Porter during the mid-1960s. In the late 1960s, Hayes became a recording artist, and recorded successful soul albums such as Hot Buttered Soul (1969) and Black Moses (1971) as the Stax label's premier artist.

Alongside his work in popular music, Hayes was a film score composer for motion pictures. His best known work, for the 1971 blaxploitation film Shaft, earned Hayes an Academy Award for Best Original Song (the first Academy Award received by an African-American in a non-acting category) and two Grammy Awards. He received a third Grammy for the album Black Moses.

Hayes was found unconscious in his home located just east of Memphis, Tennessee on August 10, 2008 as reported by the Shelby County Sheriff's Department. A Shelby County Sheriff's deputy responded to Hayes's home after his wife found him on the floor near a still-running treadmill. Hayes was taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis, where he was pronounced dead at 2:08pm at the age of 65. The cause of death was not immediately known, though authorities subsequently listed stroke as the cause of death. At the time of his death, he was preparing his first new studio album since 1995.

Motown lost a musical sensation.

Pervis Jackson, (far left, above) a member of "The Spinners," died from cancer at Sinai Grace hospital this morning.

The group took off in the 70's with one of its bigger hits - Games People Play.

Pervis Jackson was 70-years-old.

Ray Vitte who starred in films, "Car Wash," "Thank God It's Friday," and "Grambling White Tiger," was shot and killed by a policeman during a scuffle at a party on 2/20/83 in Los Angeles.

Eugene Thurman Upshaw, Jr. (August 15, 1945 – August 20, 2008) was a football player for the Oakland Raiders and executive director of the National Football League Players' Association (NFLPA). In 1987, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

While on vacation in mid-August 2008 at his home in Lake Tahoe, Upshaw began to feel ill. His wife Terri noticed that his breathing was labored, so she convinced him to go to the emergency room, where he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on August 17. On August 20, just five days after his 63rd birthday, Upshaw died with Terri and his sons Eugene III, Justin, and Daniel by his side.

Julius J. Carry III (March 12, 1952 - August 19, 2008), was an actor. Carry is best known for his role in the film "The Last Dragon," where he portrayed Sho'Nuff.  He also appeared primarily in numerous television roles, including Dr. Abraham Butterfield on Doctor, Doctor and the bounty hunter Lord Bowler in the The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.  He has also appeared on shows such as "Family Matters," "A Different World," " Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place," and "Boy Meets World."

He died on August 19, 2008 of pancreatic cancer.

Kevin Jerome Duckworth (April 1, 1964 – August 25, 2008) was a professional basketball player at center in the National Basketball Association, most notably as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers.  Duckworth died of a heart attack on Monday, August 25, 2008 in Gleneden Beach, Oregon, near the coastal town of Lincoln City. He collapsed in his hotel room, and emergency services were unable to revive him. His death was confirmed by the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office. Duckworth was in town as part of a Trail Blazers group hosting a free kids basketball clinic. An autopsy identified the cause of death as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy with congestive heart failure. He was 44.

Arthur L. 'Art' Porter, Jr., (3 August 1961 - 23 November 1996), was a jazz saxophonist. He was also the son of legendary jazz musician Art Porter, Sr., as well as the namesake of "The Art Porter Bill."

In 1996 Porter traveled to Thailand to appear at the Thailand International Jazz Festival. After the festival on 23 November he went boating on the Kratha Taek reservoir in Sai Yok, Thailand. Tragically, the boat Porter was traveling on overturned, and Porter, along with several others, drowned. Porter was survived by his wife and two elementary age sons.

Producer/songwriter Norman Whitfied is mostly known for his work with Berry Gordy's Motown label during the 1960s. He was credited as being one of the creators of the Motown Sound, as well as one of the major instrumental figures in the late-60s sub-genre of psychedelic soul.

Hit singles Whitfield produced in his 25-year career included "I Heard It through the Grapevine", "Ain't Too Proud to Beg."Cloud  Nine,"  "War,"  "Papa Was a Rolling Stone," "Smiling Faces Sometimes" and "Car Wash."  Alongside his Motown lyrical collaborator Barrett Strong, he was inducted to the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 2004.

On January 18, 2005, Whitfield pleaded guilty for failing to report royalty income he earned from 1995 to 1999 to the Internal Revenue Service. Facing charges of tax evasion on over $2 million worth of income, he was sentenced to six months of house arrest and a $25,000 fine. The producer was not imprisoned because of health problems such as diabetes.

During his last months alive, Whitfield stayed bedded at Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where he underwent treatment for his bout with diabetes and other ailments. Within a few weeks before his death, Whitfield fell into a coma, which he eventually recovered from.  According to The Undisputed Truth leader Joe Harris, Whitfield died on September 16, 2008 at approximately 3:30 pm.

After moving to Los Angeles in 1975, Nathan Cook was known for roles on two television series. He played Milton Reese, one of the high school basketball players, on "The White Shadow," (1978-1980). He also played security head Billy Griffin on "Hotel," (1983-1988). Between these two he had a shorter role (1981-1982) as Detective Virgil Brooks in "Hill Street Blues."

He was also involved for a time with the actress Alfre Woodard before marrying and having two children in 1984 and 1986.

He also made frequent appearances as a celebrity guest on the game shows "Body Language," "Super Password," and "The $100,000 Pyramid."

Cook, an accomplished jazz flute player, died in 1988 from a severe allergic reaction to penicillin.

His favorite saying was: "It's okay to fool the people, as long as you don't fool yourself."

Distinguished African-American actress Gloria Foster studied at the Goodman Theatre, making her earliest professional appearances with the University of Chicago County Theater. Foster's first Broadway role was Ruth in Lorraine Hansbury's Raisin in the Sun. In 1963, she appeared in the powerful dramatic review In White America, earning an Obie Award as well as a two-page spread in Life Magazine. The following year, she was honored with a Theatre World award for her portrayal of Medea, one of dozens of classic stage roles to her credit. She made her film bow in 1963's The Cool World, followed by a sizeable role opposite Ivan Dixon in the critically acclaimed Nothing But a Man. She later co-starred with Bill Cosby (To All My Friends on Shore, Leonard Part 6) and Sidney Poitier (Separate but Equal). Gloria Foster's many television credits include two guest appearances on The Mod Squad, co-starring with her then-husband, actor/director Clarence Williams III. Though her film roles remained relatively scarce throughout the 1990s, Foster's role as The Oracle in the 1999 metaphysical sci-fi smash The Matrix proved a welcome sight to fans who hadn't seen her since her 1993 television effort Percy and Thunder. Returning to the role for 2003's The Matrix Reloaded, Foster sadly died of diabetes before completing all of her scenes for the film (and having not even begun shooting her scenes for the same year's The Matrix Revolutions). She was 64

This space is usually reserved for Black "celebrities" who died with little or no fanfare but in this case we have to make an exception.  One of our avid readers who was also a lurker on the message board recently died in a motorcycle crash.  Shalina Guess (above) was a panachigan (part of our online/offline PR family) and a big supporter of the site.  Her mom turned her on to Panache Report.com.  One of our distributors circulates offline PR newsletters at her mom's job. 

Her mother took the newsletters home and this is how Shalina discovered PR, she never turned back and was awaiting PR merchandise (t-shirts and caps).  Shalina was also responsible for turning on a younger generation (in the bay area) to our site through word of mouth. 

Shalina was riding shotgun on the back of a motorcycle driven by a friend, the motorcycle lost control and struck a tree.  Shalina was killed instantly, the driver escaped with minor cuts and bruises.  Invesitgators theorize the driver may have been going at a high rate of speed.  Shalina Guess was 21.  May you RIP.

Darrent Williams was selected by the Denver Broncos in the second round (56th overall) in the 2005 NFL Draft. He recorded his first career interception on November 13, 2005 versus the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders were driving to score, when quarterback Kerry Collins attempted a pass to wide receiver Jerry Porter. Williams jumped the route, intercepted the ball and took it 82 yards for the touchdown. The Broncos won the game, 31-17.

On January 1, 2007, Williams was shot during a drive-by shooting, at approximately 2:10 A.M. Williams and two other passengers were shot when another vehicle pulled beside his rented Hummer H2 limousine in downtown Denver, Colorado. The shooting occurred near 11th Ave. and Speer Blvd. It happened less than 12 hours after the Broncos played their final game of the 2006 season against the San Francisco 49ers in Denver.

Williams had been attending a New Year's Eve party and birthday party held for and by Denver Nuggets player Kenyon Martin at the nightclub, "The Shelter." The Denver Police Department reported that the shooting was preceded by some type of altercation or argument at the nightclub between Crips gang members and other unknown patrons. A police spokesman said, "There was some confrontation between a group of people in the vehicle and a group at the nightclub." Williams was not involved in the altercation.

According to the county coroner's office, Williams sustained a single gunshot wound to the neck, killing him instantly. After Williams was shot, he fell in the lap of Broncos teammate, Javon Walker. He was pronounced dead around 2:30 a.m. The two other passengers injured in the shooting, Brandon Flowers and Nicole Reindl, were both released from the hospital the day after the shooting.

Denver police impounded a vehicle in connection with the shooting. The suspected vehicle was registered to Brian Hicks, a 28-year-old Crips gang member, who was already incarcerated awaiting trial for attempted murder and drug charges. Other associates of Hicks were questioned as potential material witnesses to the Williams shooting. Rumors persist that it was a gang-related event; however, there hasn't been any concrete evidence to suggest that. Williams' family and teammates also say that the scenario was highly unlikely.

Williams was survived by his seven-year-old son, four-year-old daughter and 24-year-old girlfriend, all of whom live in Fort Worth, Texas. A memorial fund was set up in their name. Denver Nuggets stars, Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin, who were with Williams at the nightclub the evening of the shooting, planned to honor their friend by possibly setting up a college fund for Williams' children. A fan-constructed memorial was formed on the southern wall of the fountain in front of Invesco Field at Mile High.

Javon Walker decided to wear his hair in a "fro-hawk," in honor of Williams, who wore his hair in a similar way as a trademark.

On May 29, 2008, the Darrent Williams Memorial Teen Center was opened in Denver.

On May 30, 2008, the Rocky Mountain News published a story claiming that it had obtained a signed confession letter by Crips gang member Willie D. Clark, in which he admitted to firing the shots that killed Williams.

On October 8, 2008 Willie Clark was indicted by a grand jury for the murder of Darrent Williams.

 

Levi Stubbles (June 6, 1936 – October 17, 2008), better known by the stage name Levi Stubbs, was an baritone singer, best known as the lead vocalist of the Four Tops.

Stubbs began his professional singing career with friends Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton to form the Four Aims in 1954. Two years later, the group changed their name to the Four Tops. The group began as a supper-club act before finally signing to Motown Records in 1963; by the end of the decade, the Four Tops had over a dozen hits to their name. The most popular of the Four Tops hits, all of which featured Stubbs on lead vocals, include "Baby I Need Your Loving", "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)", "It's the Same Old Song", "Reach Out I'll Be There", "Standing in the Shadows of Love", "Bernadette", "Still Water (Love)", and "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)".

Although Stubbs was a natural baritone, most of the Four Tops' hits were written in a tenor range to give the lead vocals a sense of urgency. Stubbs and the other Tops remained a team until Payton died in 1997, at which point Theo Peoples took his place. The Four Tops were elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. Benson also died on July 1, 2005. Levi Stubbs passed away after a long illness on October 17, 2008.

As an actor, credited as Levi Stubbs, Jr., he provided the voice of the carnivorous plant "Audrey II" in the movie version of the musical Little Shop of Horrors (1986) and the voice of Mother Brain in the animated TV series Captain N: The Game Master (1989). Stubbs has also guest starred in a number of TV shows as himself.

Stubbs and his wife Clineice were married from 1960 until his death, and had five children. In 1995, Stubbs was diagnosed with cancer, and later, a stroke, and stopped touring. Since 2000, Theo Peoples has taken Stubbs' place as the lead singer of the Four Tops, with Ronnie McNeir taking the place that Payton originally held. Levi Stubbs died in his sleep on October 17, 2008 at his home in Detroit from his ailments. He was 72.

Stubbs was a cousin of soul singer Jackie Wilson. He also had a brother, Joe, who was a member of both The Contours and The Originals, who died February 5, 1998.

Bob Jones, the longtime publicist for Michael Jackson who said he dubbed the singer "the king of pop" and who co-wrote "The Man Behind the Mask," an unauthorized biography critical of the star, has died. He was 72.

Jones, who had quadruple-bypass surgery about 17 years ago, died Sept. 20 at his Los Angeles home, apparently of a heart attack, said his sister, Donna Jones.

From 1987 to 2004, Jones helped guide Jackson through "the hailstorms and minefields of unprecedented celebrity," Jones and journalist Stacy Brown wrote in their 2005 book.

When Jackson hired him, Jones had spent 17 years as a Motown Records publicist, helping to craft the images of such singers as Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and Lionel Richie.

Dee Dee Warwick (September 25, 1945 – October 18, 2008 was an African-American soul singer. She was born in Newark, New Jersey as Delia Mae Warrick. Following the lead of her elder sister, Dionne Warwick, she changed her surname from Warrick to Warwick in the early 1960s.

She is best-known for her hits during the 1960s, including the #13 R&B hit "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me", co-written by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff.  This song was later covered by Diana Ross & the Supremes & The Temptations. She is also a two time Grammy nominee for "Foolish Fool" and "She Didn't Know."

She had been in failing health for several months. Dionne Warwick was with her when she died on October 18, 2008 in a nursing home in Essex County, New Jersey.

Rudy Ray Moore (March 17, 1927 – October 19, 2008) was an American comedian, musician, singer, film actor, and film producer. He was perhaps best known as Dolemite, the uniquely articulate pimp from the 1975 film Dolemite, and its sequel, The Human Tornado. The persona was developed during his earlier stand-up comedy records.  On October 19, 2008, Moore died of complications from diabetes.

Former Motown Records president and chief executive Jheryl Busby,who helped launch the careers of Boyz II Men and Queen Latifah, has died.

Busby was found on Tuesday in a hot tub at his home in Malibu, California, the Los Angeles County Assistant Coroner Chief Ed Winter has confirmed. The 59-year-old's official cause of death has yet to be determined, but it is believed that no foul play was involved.

Busby began his career in music at the famed Stax Records in Memphis, Tennessee, and later went on to become the president of the black music division of MCA Records in 1984.

In 1988, he was named the president and chief executive officer of Motown Records, where he oversaw acts like Boyz II Men, Queen Latifah and Johnny Gill.

And soul legend Smokey Robinson maintains Busby's death is a great loss for the music industry.

In a statement, Robinson says: "I had tremendous respect for the way he continued the Motown legacy... My condolences to his family at this difficult time."

(JAY-Z'S DEF JAM SUCCESSOR COMMITS SUICIDE)

Def Jam executive VP Shakir Stewart (1st photo) reportedly committed suicide today (Nov. 1) in Atlanta, according to sources. No other details were available at deadline.

"L.A. Reid and all of us at Island Def Jam Music Group are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend and colleague Shakir Stewart," read a statement sent from the label today. "Shakir was an amazing man in every sense of the word. A truly incredible friend and father who was an inspiration to not only our artists and employees, but to his family and the many people that had the privilege of counting him as a friend. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family at this very difficult time."

Stewart succeeded Jay-Z at the top of the Def Jam ladder in June and also retained his duties as senior VP of A&R at Island Def Jam. The Oakland, Calif., native signed such artists as Rick Ross, Young Jeezy and newcomer Karina Pasian.

Stewart cut his teeth as a music executive at Hitco Music Publishing, where he was creative director and later senior VP of creative/GM and signed Beyonce Knowles.

Even before he gained a rep for promoting rap concerts during his Morehouse College days, Stewart was "the guy who was the head of passing out fliers at seven clubs a night, seven days a week in 20-degree weather," he told Billboard this summer.

Stewart said at the time it was his goal to help develop "new, young executives ... The hot executive who's 21, 22 years old and has a serious passion for music and the desire to work 27 hours a day. That's where I was at that time in my life. And that's who I'm looking to mentor. I don't see many people like that. Instead, I see a lot of kids who want to live the lifestyle but don't want to put in the work and do what it takes."

Beah Richards (July 12, 1920 – September 14, 2000) was an actress with a long career on stage, screen and television. She was also a poet, playwright and author.

She made numerous guest television appearances including recurrent roles on The Bill Cosby Show, Designing Women, and ER (as Dr. Peter Benton's mother.) She was the winner of two Emmy Awards.

In the last year of her life, Richards was the subject of a documentary created by actress Lisa Gay Hamilton. The documentary Beah: A Black Woman Speaks was created from over 70 hours of their conversations. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the AFI Film Festival.

Beah Richards died from emphysema in her hometown of Vicksburg, Mississippi at the age of 80.

"FAMILY MATTERS ACTRESS DIES"

*Rosetta LeNoir, whom many of us now as Mother Winslow from the long-lived sitcom "Family Matters," died in New Jersey after a what has only been described as a long illness. She was 90.

*Introduction: Orson Wells called her the most exciting woman in the world. She was pursued by billionaires, celebrities and diplomats. She was the epitome of class and sophistication. There will never be another Eartha Kitt. May you RIP. -MP

"EARTHA KITT DEAD AT THE AGE OF 81"

Eartha Mae Kitt was born on a cotton plantation in the tiny town of North, South Carolina. Though her ancestry is somewhat uncertain, she stated her mother was of African-American and Native American descent, and her father, German and Dutch descent. She claimed she was conceived by rape.

Kitt was raised by Anna Mae Riley, a black woman whom she believed to be her mother, but after Riley's death, she was sent to live in New York City with Mamie Kitt, reportedly Riley's sister. Eartha Kitt believes that Mamie Kitt was her biological mother.

Kitt suffered terrible abuse and neglect at the hands of a family to whom Anna Mae Riley entrusted her, or "given away for slavery" as Kitt described in many interviews.

These same family members tried to approach Kitt when (she had achieved success). She was leaving the theater after a performance. They screamed out, "Eartha Mae," she knew it was them before she even turned around because only family members called her Eartha Mae.

She said, childhood abuse memories came back and she stiffened without even turning around, she casually stepped in her limo and instructed her driver to drive off.

For years, Kitt was unsure of her birthplace or birth date. In 1997, a group of students at historically black Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, located her birth certificate, which verified her birth date as Jan. 17, 1927. Kitt had previously celebrated on Jan. 26.

MORE ON EARTHA KITT:

Eartha Kitt says, "I often think of my mother. Though I do not remember what she looked like, I feel her presence with me all the time. I still feel her warmth, her beauty, as she played with Pearl, my half-sister."

"We were so poor, most of the time we lived in the forest, or at least slept there covered with pine straw. I remember, a long, long period, we had been traveling a lot. I don't know where we had come from or where we were going, but I walked barefoot on the longest road I had ever seen."

"One day, we looked for shelter, during this time, other Blacks looked out for one another and helped as best they could."

"Momma turned on a pathway leading to a house. She knocked on the door a few times and it opened. I don't know what the face behind the voice looked like as I was busy hiding against Momma's back, not wanting to be seen. Momma asked for shelter and food, pleading softly with the woman. I could hear her saying, 'Just for tonight...my children are hungry and tired."

"As I glanced up to take a quick peek at the voice's owner, she was looking around to see what was hiding: 'No, I don't want that yella gal in my house."

"I wondered, why was I called a yella gal? But this wasn't the first time I heard the term and this wasn't the first time we were rejected from shelter because of my complexion."

"The next scene I remember is Momma talking to a black man, when he took one look at me, he also rejected us."

"Some time later we came to a tiny cottage. Momma knocked on the door. When the door opened I stiffened with fear, afraid of rejection. To my surprise, the older lady invited us in and invited us to stay with her."

A short time later, I realized she was blind and couldn't see my complexion to reject us.

"A few months later, I overheard a conversation between Momma and a man, she was pleading with him to take us in as a family, he shouted, "I don't want that yella gal in my house."

"Later that day, Momma left Pearl and I in the house and met the same man outside. Momma and the man walked away arm in arm and I stood at the window looking out at them. Momma seemed so happy."

"This was the last time I ever saw my mother."

Source: "Confessions Of A Sex Kitten," by Eartha Kitt

"EARTHA & THE VIETNAM WAR SCANDAL"

During the height of her popularity, Eartha Kitt was invited to the White House by President Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson.

She joined Lady Bird Johnson, along with several other prominent ladies for a discussion on the Vietnam war. Kitt became irritated when the women skirted the subject, instead, discussing on how to beautify America.

When she took the floor, she said as much. "I think we have missed out on something here today, I thought the question was about the Vietnam war and why is there so much juvenile delinquency on the streets of America?"

Suddenly, the First Lady rose from her seat and said, "Just because there is a war going on, I see no reason to be uncivilized."

She didn't like Eartha's tone which she considered uppity.

The lunch was suddenly over, abruptly, without explanation.

Kitt had a limousine when she came, but now, the limo was no longer available to her.

Kitt flagged down a cab. On the radio she heard, "Eartha Kitt makes the First Lady cry." She was stunned. The reporter also stated that Kitt conducted herself like a raving mad lunatic at the White House, which was also false.

Martin Luther King called and said, "We are proud of you Eartha, for speaking your mind."

Since the time was nearing for Kitt to honor a contractual agreement at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, she called her agent for the details of rehearsals. Strangely, he asked, what contract are you talking about? There is no contract, Eartha.

In the meantime, due to her disagreement with Lady Bird Johnson, the President was making it obvious to all the media that she was out of favor.

Meanwhile, every single one of her dates were suddenly cancelled.

According to Kitt, a CIA dossier was compiled, stating: She was a sadist, a sex nymphomaniac, crude, shrewd and difficult.

According to the file, President Johnson had put her out of work in America in two hours.

Source: "Confessions Of A Sex Kitten," by Eartha Kitt

"EARTHA MEETS THE SUPREMES"

According to Martha Reeves,"In the early days of Motown, me and the Vandellas arrived in London, we were all having a wonderful time. One night after a very successful performance, the Vandellas and the Supremes were grouped together and treated to a show featuring the legendary Eartha Kitt. At the dazzling nightclub the "Top Hat." The atmosphere was one of sheer excitement. Just being there in the audience filled me with dreams of one day performing on that same London stage.

"Eartha was superb, at her best, looking and sounding great. With each selection she grew more and more intriguing. She boldly and expertly captured and held the audience's attention. She had us eating out of her hand, totally mesmerized by every move. After one of her breathtaking numbers, she stood behind a screen with a pinpoint spotlight illuminating just her face and changed clothes with an alluring expression-using her eyes to full effect. When the lights came up she had executed a dramatic complete wardrobe change. She ended her next song lying on an exotic cat-skin rug, purring the lyrics to "Santa Baby." She received several curtain calls and standing ovations."

"I was even more elated when she agreed to receive us fellow performers after the show. We were ushered backstage with the Supremes. An assistant swung the door open and we entered the dressing room of this glamorous star. There she sat at her dressing room table, looking every inch the diva in full command."

"Before anyone else could say hello, Diana Ross stepped ahead of us all and blurted out, "Eartha, a lot of people tell me that I look like you."

"Well, after that you could have heard a pin drop. Eartha said not one word in reply. In the icy silence we were all suddenly nervous and uncomfortable.

Eartha didn't miss a beat, though. Without saying anything, she scooped up her makeup and deposited it into her evening bag. She snapped it shut, stood up and turned to our group of dumbfounded girls. She just stood there-staring first at Diana and then looking over the lot of us. As she draped her cheetah-skin coat about her shoulders, she exited saying, "I'm not half as beautiful as you."

Eartha left us all standing there with our mouths agape and bewildered. I was deeply disappointed not being given the chance to tell her how much I loved her show. Quietly, we left."

Source: "Dancing In The Streets," by Martha Reeves & Mark Bego

Miriam Makeba (4 March 1932 - 10 November 2008) was a South African singer and civil rights activist. The Grammy Award winning afrobeat artist is often referred to as Mama Afrika.

In 1959, she performed in the musical King Kong alongside Hugh Masekela, her future husband. Though she was a successful recording artist, she was only receiving a few dollars for each recording session and no provisional royalties, and was keen to go to the US. Her break came when she starred in the anti-apartheid documentary Come Back, Africa in 1959 by independent filmmaker Lionel Rogosin. She attended the premiere of the film at the Venice Film Festival.

Makeba traveled to London where she met Harry Belafonte, who assisted her in gaining entry to and fame in the United States. She released many of her most famous hits there including "Pata Pata", "The Click Song" ("Qongqothwane" in Xhosa), and "Malaika". In 1966, Makeba received the Grammy Award for Best Folk Recording together with Harry Belafonte for An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba. The album dealt with the political plight of black South Africans under apartheid.

On November 09. 2008, Miriam Makeba was performing in concert, and suffered a heart attack after singing her hit "Pata Pata," and was taken to the "Pineta Grande" hospital. Doctors were unable to revive her.

Mae Mercer, a deep-voiced blues singer who spent much of the 1960s performing at a blues bar in Paris and touring Europe before launching an acting career back home in films and television, has died. She was 76.

Mercer was found dead Oct. 29 at her home in Northridge, said Reginald D. Brown, a friend. He said the cause of death had not been determined, but Mercer had suffered two mini-strokes last year and had been in ill health.

Midwest rapper MC Breed, born Eric Breed, was found dead today (Nov. 22) after suffering kidney failure. He was 36.

Breed's manager Darryl Morris confirmed that the rapper was found dead at a friend's home in Ypsilanti, Michigan, the Detroit News is reporting.

In September, Breed collapsed on a basketball court. He was taken to the hospital and put on life support due to kidney failure. He was taken off life support days later, according to SOHH.com.

Helping the Mid-West rise to popularity within hip-hop, the Michigan-bred emcee is known for gaining notice as an independent artist with a number of early 1990's albums, including MC Breed & DFC, 20 Below, The New Breed and Funkafied. Breed's career spans 20-years and 13 albums.

Breed also famously collaborated with various West Coast rap stars including Too Short, Warren G and the late Tupac Shakur.

NEW YORK - Odetta’s monumental voice rang out in August 1963 when she sang "I’m on My Way" at the historic March on Washington, where Martin Luther King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech.

She had hoped to perform again in Washington when Barack Obama is inaugurated as the United States’ first black president. But the acclaimed folk singer, who influenced generations of musicians and was an icon in the civil rights struggle, died Tuesday after battling heart disease. She was 77.

In spite of failing health, Odetta performed 60 concerts in the last two years and her singing ability never diminished, manager Doug Yeager said.

"BLACULA ACTOR DIED"

William Horace Marshall (19 August 1924 – 11 June 2003) was an actor, director, and opera singer. He is best known for his title role in the 1972 blaxploitation classic Blacula and its sequel Scream Blacula Scream (1973), and as the "King of Cartoons" on the 1980's television show Pee-wee's Playhouse beginning with its second season. He had a commanding height of 6 ft 5 in, as well as a deep bass voice.

Marshall was the unmarried partner for 42 years of Sylvia Gussin Jarrico, former wife of blacklisted screenwriter Paul Jarrico. Marshall died June 11, 2003, from complications arising from Alzheimer's disease and diabetes. He is survived by four children: sons Tariq, Malcolm, and Claude Marshall, and daughter, singer Gina Loring. The eulogies at his funeral were spoken by Sidney Poitier, Ivan Dixon, Paul Winfield, and Marla Gibbs.

According to Celebbitchy.com: De’Angelo Wilson, a 29 year-old actor who had parts in 8 Mile, Antwone Fisher and The Salon, was found dead in what looks to be a suicide in a commercial building in Los Angeles. His family didn’t have enough money to send his body to Dayton, Ohio, and his friends including Antwone Fisher made sure he was able to be transported home for a funeral. His mother said the last time she had spoken to him was about six weeks ago. He was having trouble finding work and was depressed:

When Los Angeles police found De’Angelo Wilson’s body in the back room of a Wilshire Boulevard business, he was classified a transient, “but was well known to the people in the area,” said L.A. County coroner’s spokesman Craig Harvey.

Authorities were able to contact Gina White, a producer who had worked with Wilson on the 2002 film “Antwone Fisher,” and who had become close to him — “I kind of adopted him, almost like a son,” she said. “He didn’t talk much about where he came from, or his childhood. When I found out what happened, I made a lot of phone calls — he had a lot of friends. We were desperate to find his family — his friends in California were ready and more than willing to take responsibility, to have a memorial service. But I couldn’t stand the thought of somebody out there not knowing what had happened to their loved one.

“I remember him talking about doing something with the mayor of Dayton,” White recalled, so she searched the Internet for clues.

Wilson’s hometown mayor had, in fact, honored Wilson in September 2002 with a day in his honor and a key to the city, holding him up as an example of a young person “who did not give up on his dream and who worked hard to achieve great things,” said Mayor Rhine McLin at the time.

With that information guiding her searches, White eventually stumbled on a DaytonDailyNews.com story about Wilson’s suicide, published Friday, Dec. 5, the day after his mother had been contacted by authorities.

“I’d prayed the night before over this, and my prayers were answered,” White said. “His family doesn’t have to worry about getting him home — we’ll take care of it.”

The friends include Antwone Fisher, whose own story of overcoming a nightmarish childhood became a movie, directed by Denzel Washington.

“He was such a fun and funny guy,” said Fisher. “I’d have backyard parties and De’Angelo would always come an hour early to help me set up. He’d tell great jokes … It’s just real hard to think of a guy that happy and fun getting down so low.”

“He got depressed,” said Wilson’s mother, Debra. “His career kind of failed, and I think he was beating himself up. Things were real down and he just didn’t know how to pick himself up.” His most recent roles were in 2005’s “The Salon” and “Mercy Street” in 2006.

Wilson attended Dunbar High School, dropped out, earned a GED, and was taking acting classes at Kent State University when he was cast in “8 Mile.” He was on a roll, it seemed, until the bottom dropped out and the acting parts were few and far between.

“I talked to him about a month and a half ago,” said his mother. “He wasn’t good … I was real worried about him.”

Freddie Hubbard, the Grammy-winning jazz musician whose blazing virtuosity influenced generations of trumpet players and who collaborated with such greats as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, died a month after suffering a heart attack at the age of 70.

Hubbard died at Sherman Oaks Hospital in Los Angeles and had been in hospital since suffering the heart attack on November 26.

A towering figure in jazz circles, Hubbard played on literally hundreds of recordings in a career dating to 1958, the year he arrived in New York City from his hometown of Indianapolis.

Soon he had hooked up with such jazz legends as Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, Rollins, Coltrane and others.

Frederick Dewayne Hubbard was born in Indianapolis on April 7, 1938. He grew up playing mellophone, trumpet and French horn.

In 2006, he was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, the nation's highest jazz honor.

Hubbard is survived by his wife of 35 years, Briggie Hubbard, and his son, Duane.

Bernie Hamilton, the brother of jazz drummer Chico Hamilton, was best known for his role on the ’70s police drama “Starsky and Hutch,” but he also appeared in dozens of films and founded the Chocolate Snowman record label. He died Tuesday at age 80.

Stephen "Static Major" Garrett (November 11, 1974 – February 25, 2008) was an R&B singer, rapper, songwriter, and record producer from Louisville, Kentucky. A member of the R&B trio Playa, Static Major wrote for artists such as Aaliyah, Ginuwine, Destiny's Child, Brandy, and JoJo.  After Aaliyah's death in 2001, Static went on to write for other artists; his later co-writing credits include Truth Hurts' "Addictive" and Brandy's "Come as You Are". Aside from his longtime association with Timbaland, Static also collaborated with producers Scott Storch, Dr. Dre, and Jazze Pha. In the mid-2000s, Static worked with R&B group Pretty Ricky, R&B singer Tank, and appeared on David Banner's 2004 single "Crank It Up".

Garrett died on February 25, 2008 in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. The cause of death was due to complications from a botched medical procedure performed at Baptist East Hospital in Louisville. It was originally suspected to be due to a brain aneurysm, but it was just a rumor which was confirmed by one of his relatives and announced by his former Playa bandmate Smoke Digglera.

According to a family member, when he admitted himself to Baptist Hospital East in Louisville, Kentucky, the doctors presented him with medicine that would treat the virus. The treatment was taking the medicine through a shunt, in the neck, which treats more severe cases of this virus. Quicker than taking pills for days. Though, he didn't want the shunt, the doctors insisted that he treat it this way. While having surgery to remove it the doctors did something wrong. He died because he lost too much blood.

Robert DoQui (April 20, 1934 – February 9, 2008) was an actor who has starred in film and on television. He is best known for his role as King George in the 1973 film, "Coffy," starring Pam Grier, and as Sgt. Warren Reed in the 1987 science fiction film RoboCop, the 1990 sequel RoboCop 2, and the 1993 sequel RoboCop 3.  He died February 9, 2008 at the age of 73. He was buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

Sterling St. Jacques was a party boy and top male model in the 1970's. His eyes appear blue (contacts) in the second photo but they were actually grey in person.  He was tall and breathtakingly handsome, he was also a professional dancer who traveled frequently between New York and Europe and he was a regular at Studio 54, his dance partner and good friend was runway icon Pat Cleveland.  He even released an album. Sterling was also the adopted son of actor Raymond St. Jacques (Cotton Comes To Harlem). Sterling died in 1984, from complications related to the AIDS virus.  Click here to hear him sing: Sterling Sings!

Arthur "T-Boy" Ross (February 28, 1949 – May 30, 1996) was a singer and songwriter most notable for his collaborations with Leon Ware and for being the younger brother of Diana Ross.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Arthur hung around rougher sections of Detroit while his elder sister went on to fame as lead singer of The Supremes in the 1960s and later solo fame in 1970s. Shortly after Diana had established herself on her own, she helped him get a job at Motown as an songwriter in 1972.

Ross hooked up with songwriter Leon Ware and together the duo wrote hits for acts such as Michael Jackson, The Miracles and Marvin Gaye. Among the hits were "I Wanna Be Where You Are," and "I Want You."

Ross was considered hard to deal with when high on drugs and alcohol.

His tough exterior made him a difficulty amongst the control booth and led to his fall out with Ware during an argument with Ware during recording sessions for Marvin Gaye's I Want You album. Ross later left and in 1979, set on becoming a singer, released his first album for Motown in 1979, "Changes." Despite help from artists like Joe Sample, it sold only 12,000 copies. Fed up with the business, Ross retired from music in the early 1980s.

He lived in seclusion away from family members including his famous sister.

During the weekend of June 22-23, 1996, police found the decaying bodies of Ross and his wife Patricia Ann Robinson in a rotting basement inside another person's dilapidated home in Oak Park, Michigan, an impoverished suburb of Detroit. The two of them were reportedly bound and gagged and died of suffocation. It was estimated that the bodies had been there for several days to a week.

The official date of death was May 30, 1996. Ross was 47 years old and his wife was 54. Strangely Ross had not been reported missing by his family. He had been scheduled to appear in a downtown Detroit courtroom on June 26, 1996 at a hearing on three charges of possessing a controlled substance

His work with Ware continues to be covered: the duo's hit "I Want You," has been covered by Robert Palmer, Madonna and even Diana Ross herself on her 2006 covers album, "I Love You."

"Shaft In Africa," and "The Eiger Sanction," star Vonetta McGee has died, she was 65.

The actress suffered cardiac arrest and died on July 9, 2010.

An icon of the blaxploitation films of the 1970s, McGee also had starring roles in "Blacula," and "Hammer."

But it was her role opposite Richard Roundtree in "Shaft in Africa," in 1973 which elevated her career. Clint Eastwood handpicked McGee to portray a government operative in "The Eiger Sanction."

According to the Los Angeles Times, McGee was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 17, although her death was not related to the disease.

May 2011: Musician Gil Scott-Heron, who helped lay the groundwork for rap by fusing minimalistic percussion, political expression and spoken-word poetry on songs such as "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," died at age 62.

A friend, Doris C. Nolan, who answered the telephone listed for his Manhattan recording company, said he died in the afternoon at St. Luke's Hospital after becoming sick upon returning from a European trip.

"We're all sort of shattered," she said.

Scott-Heron's influence on rap was such that he sometimes was referred to as the Godfather of Rap, a title he rejected.

(THE DEATH OF HIGH SOCIETY CELEBRITY MANAGER-MARGHUERITE MAYS)

*Before Naomi Campbell, Marghuerite Mays was a sought after playgirl, years later, her daughter Billie Mays would also be pursued by rich men!

When she wasn't dating or marrying rich men, she was hanging out with scandalous black gigolo Dickie Wells (not to be confused with the saxophone player).

According to Bumpy Johnson's widow: "The thing that made Dickie Wells really special as far as I was concerned, was that he never ever took a dime from a black woman. He would siphon every dollar he could from white women who were willing to pay for his affections (Ava Gardner, Tallulah Bankhead, etc.) and then come uptown to Harlem and spend his money partying with the most beautiful black women of the day, including Margherite Chapman (who later married Willie Mays) and Jean Parks (sister of the founder of Parks sausage)."

In 2010: Marti Marciano aka Marghuerite Mays, ex-wife of baseball legend Willie Mays, died in her Fort Lauderdale home. She was 84.

Backstory:

When Willie Mays proposed to Marghuerite, he presented her with the largest diamond ring in New York (at the time). After the marriage, Marghuerite was known to fly overseas to purchase shoes priced at $500-$1,000 dollars. She was also named to the Best Dressed List in the late 60's and was known as a high society hostess.

Marghuerite was a woman of many talents. She was also an consultant to the stars who hosted, among others, Gladys Knight and the Pips right in her own mansion. She worked at ringside for Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis.

She entertained famous guests at her Queens, New York night club (including Harlem Godfather-Bumpy Johnson).

Her son, Michael, describes her as a generous woman who many in the family called “sister,” regardless of how they were related, “because she was like the big sister of the clan.” According to Michael, “my mother was a great philanthropist who gave to everyone in the family. She took care of all the kids in our family at one time or another, and she doesn’t have a single friend who is not grateful to her for one thing or another. She gave everything she could.”

Also known as Marghuerite Mays, Marciano was born Scarlett Marghuerite Wendell in St. Louis, Missouri on Nov. 13, 1925 to parents Sadie and Frank Wendell.

In 1950, she married the late Bill Kinney, lead singer of renowned R&B/doo-wop group The Drifters. She was the personal manager of the group, and also worked with many other entertainers throughout her lifetime.

In 1956, she remarried, tying the knot with Mays, who is considered the greatest all-around baseball player of all time. The couple raised two children, Michael and Wilmia aka Billie.

Billie Mays was an international playgirl in the 1970's, her boyfriends included: Drug kingpin Frank Lucas and NBA superstar Walt Frazier.

Michael described his early childhood in New York, where Willie Mays played with the New York Giants, as “surreal.” As a child, Michael traveled the country and the world with his family (often by car, as Marciano preferred not to go by plane).

He and his family would follow his father’s team to wherever they played. Marciano had a complexion light enough to check into hotels in the South during segregation, and would often hide Michael under a blanket to get him into these all-white establishments.

Marciano had an amazing career. She is credited with bringing singer Gladys Knight to New York to record for Buddha Records. She also housed Knight and the Pips in her own home, and her son recalls her styling the group and coaching them on how to interview and behave from their basement.

Her son said, “She built stars. Nowadays, we understand the need for a Matthew Knowles or a Joe Jackson, but back then nobody was doing it. She pioneered it.”

As one of the first in the business to serve as a consultant to the stars, she worked for star boxers Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali. The entertainment pioneer later partnered with Ruth Bowen to develop the careers of iconic soul band the Isley Brothers.

Marciano owned the hip Queens nightclub The Dugout, which was popular with the “Amazing Mets,” New York’s 1969 world champion baseball team. She counted as guests famous athletes, entertainers and politicians.

In 1975, she married black oil heir John W. Sewell.

In 1978, she relocated to San Antonio, where she worked as a buyer for high-end women’s boutiques. In 2003, she retired to Fort Lauderdale.

In addition to her son, Michael, she is survived by her grandsons, Raymond and Lee; her brother, Charles; her sister, Annabelle and her beloved dog, Stoli. She was pre-deceased by her daughter, Wilmia.

May 2011: Mr. Don Barden recently died of cancer. My condolences to his family, friends and staff. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Barden years ago-for a regional publication, this interview was arranged by former publicist (Terrie Williams). Mr. Barden and his staff were extremely professional. At the time, Mr. Barden set me up with a world class concierge to insure my future Las Vegas visits were exceptional. You will be missed Mr. Barden, you were one of a kind and you went out of your way to help black entrepreneurs. RIP.

Backstory:

Don Barden made history by becoming the only African American to own a casino "Fitzgerald's," on the Las Vegas Strip.

Iconic Detroit businessman and casino mogul Don Barden died Thursday morning after a long battle with cancer. He was 67-years-old.

Barden was the owner and CEO of Barden Companies, Inc. and The Majestic Star and Fitzgeralds Casinos.

He was a well-known businessman who was responsible for many development projects in Detroit. His corporate headquarters is also located in the city. Barden is credited for his work in real estate development and the entertainment industry across the country.

Mayor Dave Bing released the following statement on the statement of Barden, "Don was a stalwart leader and businessman in this community, as well as a friend. We were aware of his longtime illness, and dreaded this day. We send our condolences to his family."

In the late 90s, Barden presented a joint venture with Michael Jackson in hopes of owning a casino/resort in Detroit. The plan included a theme park that wanted to call "The Thriller Theme Park." He had hoped to build the resort/casino on the riverfront, but the deal was turned down by former Mayor Dennis Archer.

At one time he built, owned and operated cable television stations in Inkster, Romulus, Van Buren, and Detroit, Michigan - which became one of the nation's largest urban cable systems.

He also became the first African-American to own a casino in Las Vegas.

In the early 90's Barden became active in his mission to help revitalize Detroit by organizing peace summits to address crime and economic issues troubling the city. High profile leaders and activists attended these summits.

He is noted as one of the top African American entrepreneurs in the country.

Over the years, Barden remained committed to Detroit with his work in the civic and business communities.

Sept. 2010: S.O.L.A.R. Records founder and former manager of Shalamar has died.

Dick Griffey, the visionary behind S.O.L.A.R Records, died last Friday from complications of quadruple bypass surgery.

Black America Web Reports:

Though Griffey operated quietly behind the scenes, his work is well known to the millions of music lovers who snapped up the posh funk hits his label generated. From its 1977 inception throughout its 1980s heyday, S.O.L.A.R. issued an impressive series of family-friendly hits performed by acts like the Whispers, Shalamar (featuring future solo stars Jody Watley and Howard Hewett), Midnight Star, Lakeside and others. S.O.L.A.R. hits like “A Night To Remember” (Shalamar), “I Miss You” (Klymaxx), “And The Beat Goes On” and “Rock Steady” (The Whispers) are essential listening for any lover of funk-era R&B.

2009: Gene Griffin and Teddy Riley were writing partners; Gene was also Teddy's godfather. Gene contributed to the early New Jack Swing hits: My Perogative, Lets Chill, Just Got Paid, etc.  Griffin and Riley would part ways a few years after Guy hit the scene. Griffin died in 2009.

August 2010: The "Godfather of Bass Guitar," Robert Wilson of the legendary Tulsa R&B and funk group the GAP Band, died in Los Angeles. He was 53, confirmed his publicist and manager, Don Jackson, in a late-night Sunday phone call to the Tulsa World.

Wilson died from a massive heart attack in his home, Jackson said. His family became concerned about him when they didn't receive their regular phone calls, and his adult son found his body on Sunday afternoon in Palmdale, Calif.

Bonita Louisa "Boni" Boyer (July 28, 1958 -December 4, 1996) 

(Singer and musician) Boni Boyer contributed back-up vocals and played a wide variety of instruments for Lionel Ritchie, Tony! Toni! Tone'!, Con Funk Shun, and Digital Underground.

She was perhaps best known for her work with Prince on the "Sign O' the Times," "Lovesexy," and "Graffiti Bridge" albums and related concert tours.

A fellow classmate of Sheila E., Boyer was replaced in Prince's band with Rosie Gaines.

Boyer passed away from a brain aneurysm in 1996.

Robert "Spike" Mickens, 59, was the founding member of Kool & The Gang, established in Jersey City in 1964. Mickens was also the original Trumpet player.  Mickens died in a nursing home in Far Rockaway, NY, after an long illness, on 11/2/2010.

Freddie Perren was the most underrated music producer in R&B history.

Freddie Perren dominated the 70's and 80's. He produced "Shake Your Groove Thang," & "Reunited," for Peaches & Herb. He also produced "I Will Survive," by Gloria Gaynor and songs on the "Saturday Night Fever,' soundtrack.

He also produced "Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel," & "More Than A Woman," for Tavares and "Boogie Fever," & "Hotline," for the Sylvers.

Perren produced early Motown hits, including: "ABC," and "I Want Your Back," for the Jackson Five & "Love Machine," & "Do It Baby," by the Miracles and "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday,' featured on the "Cooley High," soundtrack.

He received two Grammy Awards for his work: the 1979 Grammy Award for Album of the Year as a producer on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, and the Grammy Award for Best Disco Recording in 1980 (the only time it was awarded) for Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive."

In 1993, Perren suffered a massive stroke. He died eleven years later (2004) at the age of sixty-one in his home in Chatsworth, California. He is interred in the Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Chatsworth.

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