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Sept. 2011: Sylvia Robinson, a singer, songwriter and record producer who formed the pioneering hip-hop group Sugarhill Gang and made the first commercially successful rap recording with them, died on Thursday in Edison, N.J. She was 75.
She had been in a coma at the New Jersey Institute of Neuroscience and died there of congestive heart failure, a family spokeswoman said. Ms. Robinson lived in Englewood, N.J.
Ms. Robinson had a successful career as a rhythm and blues singer long before she and her husband, Joe Robinson, formed Sugar Hill Records in the 1970s and went on to serve as the midwives for a musical genre that came to dominate pop music.
She sang with Mickey Baker as part of the duo Mickey & Sylvia in the 1950s and had several hits, including “Love Is Strange,” a No. 1 R&B song in 1957. She also had a solo hit, under the name Sylvia, in the spring of 1973 with her sultry and sexually charged song “Pillow Talk.”
In the late 1960s, Ms. Robinson became one of the few women to produce records in any genre when she and her husband founded All Platinum Records. She played an important role in the career of The Moments, producing their 1970 hit single “Love on a Two-Way Street.”
But she achieved her greatest renown for her decision in 1979 to record the nascent art form known as rapping, which had developed at clubs and dance parties in New York City in the 1970s. She was the mastermind behind the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” the first hip-hop single to become a commercial hit. Some called her “the mother of hip-hop.”
“Back in the days when you couldn’t find females behind the mixing board, Sylvia was there,” said Dan Charnas, the author of “The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop” (2010). “It was Sylvia’s genius that made ‘Rapper’s Delight’ a hit.”
At the time, the label the Robinsons had founded was awash in lawsuits and losing money. Facing financial ruin, Ms. Robinson got an inspiration when she heard Lovebug Starski rapping over the instrumental breaks in disco songs at the Harlem World nightclub.
“She saw where a D.J. was talking and the crowd was responding to what he was saying, and this was the first time she ever saw this before,” her son, Joey Robinson, recalled in a 2000 interview with NPR. “And she said, ‘Joey, wouldn’t this be a great idea to make a rap record?’ ”
Using Joey Robinson as a talent scout, she found three young, unknown rappers in Englewood — Big Bank Hank, Wonder Mike and Master Gee — and persuaded them to record improvised rhymes as the Sugarhill Gang (sometimes rendered as Sugar Hill Gang) over a nearly 15-minute rhythm track adapted from Chic’s “Good Times.”
The song was “Rapper’s Delight,” and the Robinsons chartered a new label, Sugar Hill Records, to produce it. It sold more than 8 million copies, reached No. 4 on the R&B charts and No. 36 on Billboard’s Hot 100, opening the gates for other hip-hop artists.
Ms. Robinson later signed Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and in 1982 she was a producer of their seminal song, “The Message.” It was groundbreaking rap about ghetto life that became one of the most powerful social commentaries of its time, laying the groundwork for the gangsta rap of the late 1980s.
Ernest “Ernie” Eugene Barnes, Jr. (July 15, 1938 – April 27, 2009) was an African-American painter, well-known for his unique style of elongation and movement. He was also a professional football player, actor and author.
In December 1959 Barnes was drafted in the 10th round by the then-World Champion Baltimore Colts. He was originally selected in the 8th-round by the Washington Redskins, who renounced the pick minutes after discovering he was a Negro.
Later that month, on December 27, 1959, Barnes was invited to see the Colts’ NFL Championship Game vs. the New York Giants at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. The Colts won 31-16 and Barnes was filled with layers of emotion after watching the game from behind the Colts' bench. He had just signed his football contract and met his new teammates Johnny Unitas, Jim Parker, Lenny Moore, Art Donovan, Gino Marchetti, Alan Ameche and "Big Daddy" Lipscomb.
In 1981 Barnes played the famed baseball catcher Josh Gibson of the Negro league in the television movie Don’t Look Back: The Story of Leroy ‘Satchel’ Paige with Lou Gossett, Jr., who played Paige.
Throughout the Good Times television series (1974–79) most of the paintings “created” by the character JJ are works by Ernie Barnes. However a few images, including a Black Jesus, were not by Barnes. Sugar Shack made its debut on Good Times when it was used during the opening and closing credits during the show’s fourth season. In the fifth season it was only used in the closing credits. In the sixth season, Sugar Shack was only used in the opening credits for the first eight episodes and in a few closing credits during that season. In the fifth and sixth seasons, Sugar Shack appears in the background of the Evans family apartment.
Barnes had a bit part on two early episodes of Good Times.
Barnes died on April 27, 2009 at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, California from a rare blood disorder. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered in Durham, North Carolina near the site of where his family home once stood, and at the beach in Carmel, California, one of his favorite cities.
MEMPHIS, TN – 2010: Court documents detail a transaction between Lorenzen Wright (above) and an admitted associate of accused Memphis drug kingpin Craig Petties. The documents states: In 2008, Wright sold two luxury cars, a Cadillac SUV and Mercedes Benz to a man named Bobby Cole. At the time Cole was indicted on drug distribution charges in a case in Atlanta and admitted to FBI agents that he was associated with a drug ring connected to Petties. The cars were ultimately seized by the government.
Wright’s bullet riddled body was found in a field, hundreds of yards away from a road often traveled. His body was behind a group of bushes where black marks remain after days of decomposition.
MOST RECENT UPDATE!
Lorenzen Wright's assistant (Wendy Wilson) told a Memphis news station that she had audio recordings of Wright’s ex wife Sherry (above) threatening him! Wendy Wilson told ABC24-WPTY that she played the recordings for Lorenzen, his parents and Memphis police before his murder.
“I have the evidence that she said these things… and she knows it,” Lorenzen’s former personal assistant Wendy Wilson says. While describing the tone of the calls, Wilson said, “Oh, just basically… things like if she caught him with anyone else, she’d have him ‘F’d up’ or whatever.” She went on to say, “I’ve let the mother hear, I’ve let the father hear, I’ve let him hear. I went to Memphis police because I was concerned and made a report. Her conversation was all over… but at the same time it was threatening.”
From the day Lorenzen Wright’s body was found riddled with bullets in a grassy field in Southeast Memphis, Wilson insisted the investigation should focus on Wright’s ex-wife, Sherra. Wilson says the recordings she made of Sherra Wright’s conversations were so unsettling she warned Lorenzen, his parents and Memphis police.
Sherra Wright’s divorce attorney, Gail Mathes, paints a different picture of her client. Mathes says Sherra is a devoted and loving mother of six, struggling to pay the bills. “He gave her a little bit of money and she kept track of it. But, he wasn’t giving her much to support the family,” Mathes said.
When the couple divorced, the court ordered Lorenzen to pay Sherra $26,000 a month in child support and alimony. Mathes says the former NBA player, who earned more than $50 million during his career, hadn’t made any payments since November. “I just feel like Sherra Wright is being placed in a bad light,” Mathes says. “She does not deserve it all. She’s been an incredible mother and woman. And she’s done her best to shield her children from finical difficulties.”
The children are now left to grow up without their famous father; a hometown hero who, Wendy Wilson says, trusted her to have his back… just in case. “He’s a friend and he asked me to keep the tapes,” Wilson said. “I’m a friend to the end, but when it’s all said and done, he wouldn’t have asked me to keep them if he didn’t think he’d need them someday.”
Lorenzen Wright’s family declined to comment on the situation.
This case remains unsolved.
Cornell Gunter died on February 26, 1990. He was a member of
the Platters before joining the Coasters.
Cornell (who was gay) was in the process of making a new comeback at the "Lady Luck Hotel," when an unknown assailant shot him in his car in Las Vegas.
He was shot twice in his head, sitting behind the wheel of his car. Trying to escape, he attempted to speed away, but due to his severe injuries he drove into a brick wall-the murderer ran away (a 19-year-old man was later acquitted for the slaying).
Sammy Davis, Jr. and Bill Cosby paid for his funeral expenses.
Cornell Gunter's bass player (Nathan "Buster" Wilson) was shot in the head in 1980 while at home. Unfortunately, it didn't stop here. He also had his arms, legs and head removed and his fingerprints were removed by acid.
He was apparently killed because he knew of a fraudulent checking scheme.
"BLACK SOAP OPERA ACTOR DIED OF AIDS"
Irving Allen Lee (November 21, 1948 - September 5, 1992) was an African American actor known for playing Detective Calvin Stoner on The Edge of Night from 1977-1984 and Dr. Evan Cooper on Ryan's Hope from 1986-1988. He died from an AIDS related illness in 1992.
Irving Allen Lee, a Broadway and television actor and director, died on Saturday at his home in Manhattan. He was 43 years old.
He died of AIDS-related lymphoma, said his companion, John Uehlein.
Mr. Lee appeared in several musicals, including "Ride the Winds," "Rock-a-Bye Hamlet" and "A Broadway Musical." He replaced Ben Vereen in "Pippin," was the original understudy for the two male roles in "Ain't Misbehavin' " and recreated the role of Big Daddy in the revival of Bob Fosse's "Sweet Charity." As a director, Mr. Lee staged productions at the Manhattan Theater Club, the Henry Street Settlement and the Boston Summer Arts Theater Festival.
He was born in New York City and received a bachelor of fine arts degree in theater from Boston University. After college, he joined the Olatunji African Dance Company and became the associate artistic director of its newly formed theater company.
On television, he performed in "The Edge of Night," "Ryan's Hope" and "As the World Turns." He was also an adjunct professor in the theater arts division of Marymount Manhattan College.
He is survived by his parents, Allen and Ruth Lee of Charleston, S.C., and two brothers, Kenneth and Charles, of New York City.
Johnny Bristol first came to local attention in the Detroit area as a member of the soul duo 'Johnny & Jackey' with Jackey Beavers, an associate Bristol met while in the U.S. Air Force. The pair recorded two singles in 1959 for Anna Records, a label owned by Gwen Gordy (Berry Gordy's sister) and Billy Davis and four 45s for Gwen Gordy and Harvey Fuqua's Tri-Phi label, none of which was a success beyond the Midwestern United States.
In the mid 1960s, Motown had absorbed Tri-Phi and Bristol began working with Fuqua as a songwriter and producer. Among their successes as producers were hit singles such as Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (1967), "Your Precious Love" (1967), and "If I Could Build My Whole World Around You" (1968); Edwin Starr's "Twenty-Five Miles" (1969); and David Ruffin's "My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)" (1969).
Bristol flourished at Motown working with some of the label's best-selling acts. His producer and/or writer credits included: The Velvelettes "These Things Keep Me Loving You" (1973); Gladys Knight & the Pips' "I Don't Want To Do Wrong" (1971) and "Daddy Could Swear, I Declare" (1972); and Jr. Walker & the All Stars, who charted with a number of Bristol-written songs, including "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" (1969), "Gotta Hold On To This Feeling" (1970) and "Walk in the Night" (1972). One of his last successes was Jermaine Jackson's first solo record, "That's How Love Goes" (1972).
Notably, Bristol was the producer and co-writer of the final singles for both Diana Ross & the Supremes and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, before each group lost its namesake lead singer. While the Miracles' "We've Come Too Far to End It Now" (1972) was an original, the Supremes' "Someday We'll Be Together" (1969) was a cover version of a Johnny & Jackey single from 1961. Bristol is the male voice on the Supremes' version of "Someday We'll Be Together," singing response to Diana Ross' lead vocal (Ross actually recorded the song with session singers replacing the other two Supremes).
Bristol left Motown in 1973 to join CBS as a producer. He worked with a number of emerging singers that included Randy Crawford, for whom Bristol wrote "Caught in Love's Triangle", as well as producing established performers such as Marlena Shaw, Johnny Mathis and Boz Scaggs. Now in his early 30s, he was anxious to resume his own recording career, and when CBS/Columbia showed little enthusiasm he signed a recording contract with MGM.
At MGM, Bristol recorded two successful albums and charted with several singles, notably "Hang on in There Baby" (inspired by an adult film).
Johnny Bristol died in in 2004 (of natural causes) at the age of sixty-five.
Tragedy struck, however, when Addie "Micki" Harris McPherson suffered a massive heart attack onstage while performing in Atlanta, Georgia, in June 1982.
Paramedics were unable to save her; Harris died doing what she most loved at the age of 42. In the wake of Harris' tragic death, the original Shirelles disbanded; later, different groups including various former members of the band performed under the name. But the talent and cohesion of the original quartet of high school friends would never again be matched.
Danitra Vance (July 13, 1954 – August 21, 1994) was an American comedienne and actress best known as a cast member on the NBC sketch show "Saturday Night Live," during its eleventh season and for work in feature films like Sticky Fingers (1988), Limit Up (1990) and Jumpin' at the Boneyard (1992).
Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990, Vance underwent a single mastectomy and incorporated the experience into a solo skit, "The Radical Girl's Guide to Radical Mastectomy." The cancer recurred in 1993 and she died of the disease the following year in Markham, Illinois. She was survived by her longtime companion, Ms. Jones Miller.
July 2011: Butch Lewis (above-right), the flamboyant boxing promoter and manager best known for getting Michael Spinks a $13.5 million pay day for what became 91 seconds in the ring with Mike Tyson, died Saturday at his home in Bethany Beach, Del. He was 65.
His death was announced by Terrie Williams, a representative of his family, who said it was from natural causes.
A shrewd and tenacious figure with a gift for showmanship, Lewis went from the life of a street hustler and used-car salesman in Philadelphia to the pinnacle of dealmaking in the boxing world of the late 1970s and the 1980s.
He made his reputation mostly for representing Leon Spinks and his brother, Michael, who had both won gold medals at the 1976 Olympics.
Louis A. McCall Sr. (first photo) and singer/guitarist Michael Cooper formed Con Funk Shun as high school students in Vallejo, California.
Louis met his wife, Linda Lou Bolden, in 1973, both were working at Stax Records. The couple married on January 15, 1976 in a civil ceremony in San Francisco, California. They had two children, Lindsay Chérie (born in 1979) and Louis Anthony II (born in 1982). In addition to being the band's leader, responsible for booking many of their most lucrative tours, Louis, along with Linda Lou, wrote several songs for Con Funk Shun.
"Honey Wild," (co-written with Con Funk Shun member Danny Thomas), from their 1980 Spirit of Love album was sampled by Lil Wayne for his CD Tha Carter III-Deluxe Edition.
Louis McCall was murdered in a robbery at his Stone Mountain, Georgia home on June 25, 1997. His wife Linda Lou fought to keep the case active for eleven years, even asking the Governor of Georgia to assist in reopening the case in 2003. Finally, a suspect was indicted in 2007 in connection with the murder.
It would take another year before the case made it trial on July 21, 2008, with Marques Clair as a defendant. However, just two days after the start of Clair's murder trial, Superior Court Judge Gregory Adams halted the trial, "based on an omission" of information, said Jada Hudspeth, a spokeswoman for the DeKalb County Georgia district attorney's office. Hudspeth said District Attorney Gwen Keyes Fleming and her staff would evaluate the evidence in the case before deciding whether to retry Clair.
Marques Clair, 29 at the time of trial, was arrested as a suspect in McCall's slaying in 1999, but prosecutors dropped the charge due to the District Attorney's refusal to bring the case before a jury with insufficient evidence.
On August 7, 2008, after a mistrial was declared, the charges against Marques Clair were formally dismissed with prejudice. After a stressful and futile eleven years, Linda Lou (who had also been battling lupus for many years) and her children left Georgia. They currently reside in Phoenix, Arizona.
August 2011: Details of Paris Dupree’s death remain unconfirmed, but friends and fans began Tweeting “R.I.P. Paris Dupree” on August 15. She was living in New York City at the time of her passing. Dupree made her mark as one of the “big five” House mothers in New York’s ballroom scene. She founded the House of Dupree in the 1970’s alongside her fellow mothers Angie Xtravaganza, Dorian Corey, Avis Pendavis and Pepper LaBeijia.
"The ballroom runway ‘Grand Prize Competition’ in heaven got a bit thicker this week with the passing of Mother Paris Dupree," says famed performer Karl Xtravaganza. "Her death signals the end of an era."
Dupree’s passing also came at a very emotional time for the ballroom community, with two other deaths reported in the last few days, performers Kevin Magnifique Milan and Leo Xtravaganza.
Dupree is seen on the Paris is Burning DVD cover at upper right in the black hat.
August 2011: Nick Ashford, one-half of the legendary Motown songwriting duo Ashford & Simpson, has died at age 70.
Nick Ashford, who wrote many Motown classics with his wife Valerie Simpson, died Monday. He was 70.
His longtime friend and former publicist Liz Rosenberg told the Associated Press that Ashford — who along with wife Valerie Simpson wrote some of Motown's biggest hits — died Monday in a New York City hospital. He had been suffering from throat cancer and had undergone radiation treatment.
Among the songs Ashford & Simpson penned are "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "You're All I Need To Get By," and "Reach Out And Touch Somebody's Hand."
He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
August 2011: Esther Gordy Edwards, who helped build Motown Records alongside her brother Berry Gordy Jr. and led efforts to turn its original Detroit headquarters into a museum, has died. She was 91.
Edwards died Wednesday surrounded by family and friends in Detroit, the Motown Historical Museum said in a statement.
Edwards was a Motown executive for nearly three decades, holding numerous leadership positions within the music company whose artists included Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and The Four Tops. Motown Records, which Berry Gordy started with a family loan in 1959, churned out scores of global hits from the building it dubbed "Hitsville, U.S.A." in Detroit. The company moved to Los Angeles in 1972.
Seagram Miller, 26, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Oakland, Calif., in July 1996.
The gangsta rapper released three records on the Rap-a-Lot label.
Miller escaped injury in a shooting directed at him four days earlier that injured a police officer. Authorities say drug dealers from Oakland's 69th Avenue (housing projects) put out a hit on hip-hop artist, because he released an album decrying drugs and gangs in the "69 Ville" projects-where he lived.
Jason "Camoflauge"Johnson (December 9, 1981 - May 19, 2003), also known as Camoflauge,
was a rapper from Hitch Village housing
Seeking to put his life experiences to tape, Camoflauge started his rap career when he sold 20,000 copies of Crime Pay$, an album he released with the hip-hop group Crime Affiliates.
Universal Music Group offered the rapper a deal. However, when Camoflauge was arrested for possession of crack cocaine, Universal did not pick up the option on his contract, even though the charges were later dropped. He opened for heavyweight rap acts such as 8 Ball, MJG, Scarface, Master P, Ice-T, Pastor Troy, Lil Boosie, Birdman, Trick Daddy, and Ludacris. His last album, Keepin It Real, was released in August 2002. He was gunned down outside of a recording studio in May 2003. He was only 21 years of age.
May 2011: American plus-size model and actress Mia Amber Davis has died at the age of 36 in Los Angeles, California. Davis, who appeared in the film Road Trip, died one day after undergoing routine knee surgery.
Davis was more than 6 feet tall and weighed over 300 pounds. She was having the surgery after a prolonged basketball injury from her college days. The model returned to the hospital after feeling dizzy and later died there.
Over three years after his murder in New York City, a suspect has finally been arrested in connection with the fatal shooting of DJ Carl Blaze. The Power 105.1 mixer was shot 13 times in the Inwood Section of Washington Heights in December 2006, and robbed of his $20,000 CB gold/diamond studded chain.
Police believe that Zarnoff Taylor, 23, was in a member of a violent gang of drug dealers and motorcycle thieves, who operated in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. According to the New York Post, police believe the robbery was an inside job and that DJ Carl Blaze was set up by someone in his neighborhood.
Taylor is also accused of shooting and killing two men in the Bronx on 16th April. Police claim Taylor shot and killed Jonathan Torres and seriously wounded Juan Quinones. He then allegedly dumped them from a 2001 Dodge Caravan on a street in the Bronx.
June 2011: Clarence Clemons, the larger-than-life saxophone player for the E Street Band who was one of the key influences in Bruce Springsteen's life and music through four decades, has died. He was 69.
Clemons was hospitalized about a week ago after suffering a stroke at his home in Singer Island, Fla. He died of complications from the stroke, spokeswoman Marilyn Laverty said Saturday.
Known as the Big Man for his imposing 6-foot-5-inch, 270-plus pound frame, Clemons and his ever-present saxophone spent much of his life with The Boss, and his booming saxophone solos became a signature sound for the E Street Band on many key songs, including "Jungleland," a triumphant solo he spent 16 hours perfecting, and "Born To Run."
In recent years, Clemons had been slowed by health woes. He endured major spinal surgery in January 2010 and, at the 2009 Super Bowl, Clemons rose from a wheelchair to perform with Springsteen after double knee replacement surgery.
August 2011: Bubba Smith, a former All-Pro football player turned actor and commercial pitchman who delighted TV viewers by wrenching off the tops of "easy-opening cans" of beer, was found dead Wednesday at his Los Angeles home. He was 66.
The cause of death has not been determined, the L.A. County coroner's office said.
A caretaker found Smith at his Baldwin Hills home, police said.
A 6-foot-7, 280-pound defensive end, Smith was the No. 1 NFL draft pick from Michigan State University when he joined the Baltimore Colts in 1967.
He played five seasons for the Colts, which included their upset loss to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III and a victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V. He spent two seasons with the Oakland Raiders and two more with the Houston Oilers before a knee injury ended his career in 1976.
After football, Smith was recruited to the ranks of former professional athletes who appeared as themselves in commercials for Miller Lite beer. He and fellow NFL veteran Dick Butkus were cast as inept golfers and polo players in the TV spots. Smith was also featured solo in one commercial extolling the virtues of the beer, beaming into the camera, "I also love the easy-opening cans," while ripping off the top of the can.
Despite a lucrative contract and widespread popularity, Smith walked away from the job.
"I went back to Michigan State for the homecoming parade last year," Smith told then-Times columnist Scott Ostler in 1986. "I was the grand marshal and I was riding in the back seat of this car. The people were yelling, but they weren't saying, 'Go, State, go!' One side of the street was yelling, 'Tastes great!' and the other side was yelling 'Less filling!'
"Then we go to the stadium. The older folks are yelling 'Kill, Bubba, kill!' But the students are yelling 'Tastes great! Less filling!' Everyone in the stands is drunk. It was like I was contributing to alcohol, and I don't drink. It made me realize I was doing something I didn't want to do."
So he turned to acting in movies and TV, notably playing Moses Hightower in six "Police Academy" movies. He also appeared in a number of TV series, including "Half-Nelson," "Blue Thunder" and "Good Times."
September 2011: Lee Roy Selmon, the Hall of Fame defensive end who became a cornerstone of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their first decade in the National Football League and remained a revered figure in Tampa, Fla., died there Sunday. He was 56. Casue of death: A stroke.
August 2011: Zachery Tims, founder of the megachurch New Destiny Christian Center, is dead and police believe it may be because of a drug overdose.
A police source told the New York Daily News that a small glassine envelope allegedly containing a white powder was found on Tims. He was found dead in a hotel room at the W Hotel in Times Square, New York City, on Friday. However, the New York Medical Examiner hasn't yet published any definitive results following an inconclusive autopsy earlier this week.
Police will test the powder to determine if it's a form of narcotics, the source told the New York paper.
Tims, a former drug addict, was delivered from the habit when he was converted to Christianity. He was then called into ministry, according the church's Web site.
Tims, 42, started the 8,000-member church in Apopka, Fla. in 1996. His death has shocked the congregation.
Some of his followers have asked that the public not to judge Tims, especially seeing that no official reports have been released.
Lorenzo Emile "Lo" Charles (November 25, 1963 – June 27, 2011) was a college and professional basketball player.
Charles was a graduate of Brooklyn Technical High School. While playing for the North Carolina State University Wolfpack, Charles scored the game-winning dunk in the championship game of the 1983 NCAA Tournament over the heavily favored Houston Cougars led by Akeem Olajuwon, Clyde "The Glide" Drexler and the rest of Phi Slama Jama. Coincidentally, Charles would go on to play for a Cougars team years later — for the United States Basketball League's Raleigh Cougars.
Charles was selected 41st overall in the 1985 NBA draft and went on to have a modest professional career, playing briefly in the National Basketball Association with the Atlanta Hawks, as well as with several European teams, particularity in Italy for Arexons Cantù and Irge Desio.
Charles died on June 27, 2011, in a bus crash on Interstate 40 in Raleigh, North Carolina. He was at the controls of the Elite Coach rental bus; there were no passengers.
Sept. 2011: Orlando Brown, a bruising offensive tackle for the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens who was temporarily blinded in one eye by a referee’s errant penalty flag, leading him to file a $200 million lawsuit against the NFL, was found dead in his Baltimore apartment. He was 40.
There were no signs of foul play or suspicious materials at the scene, Anthony Guglielmi, director of public affairs for the Baltimore Police Department, said.
Brown, a 6-foot-7, 360-pound lineman nicknamed "Zeus," was a stalwart for both the Ravens and the Browns.
He was one of the highest-paid offensive linemen in the NFL and started 119 games in his 129-game career.
2004: In a varied career which took him from Motown to Madison Avenue, Billy Davis helped many rhythm'n'blues stars of the Fifties and Sixties and contributed to the most memorable advertising jingle and song of the early Seventies.
Roquel Billy Davis, songwriter, record producer and advertising executive; born Detroit 11 July 1932; married (one son); died in New York.
As well as co-writing several of Jackie Wilson's biggest hits under the pseudonym "Tyran Carlo" with his then girlfriend Gwen Gordy and her brother Berry Gordy. Davis helped launch Anna Records, the Detroit label which paved the way for Tamla Motown. He also had a seven-year spell as producer and artist and repertoire director at Chicago's Chess Records, producing "Rescue Me", the hugely popular record by the soul singer Fontella Bass, in 1965. Three years later, the versatile Davis switched to writing jingles and became music director for the McCann Erickson advertising agency in New York.
In January 1972, he really hit pay-dirt when "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)", based on "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke", one of his jingles for Coca-Cola written in partnership with the British songwriters Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, reached No 1 in the UK for the New Seekers. It went on to sell six million copies around the world. Another version, by the Hillside Singers, also made the US charts and sold a further million and a half.
The song about the iconic soft drink became a standard and made Billy Davis very rich but he remained active into his seventies and had just finished producing 19 Days in New York, the forthcoming album by the Australian singer Kate Ceberano.
Born in Detroit in 1932, Billy Davis became involved in the local music scene when he began managing the Four Aims, a vocal group featuring his cousin Lawrence Payton alongside Levi Stubbs, Abdul "Duke" Fakir and Renaldo "Obie" Benson. In the early Fifties, he would occasionally appear alongside the quartet as the Fifth Aim if he wasn't singing tenor-baritone with the 5 Jets or the 5 Stars.
"My career started early, singing on street corners," he remembered:
There was a doo-wop group for every neighbourhood and talent shows every week. That's when my desire to become a singer got strong.
However, the young Davis showed more promise as a songwriter. His friend the Detroit store-owner Joe Battle sent in some of his compositions to a California record company which paid Davis $356 for a ditty called "Lessie Mae". "This changed my attitude towards writing. From then on, I wrote three or four songs a day," claimed Davis, who was still hustling on behalf of his cousin's group, now renamed the Four Tops to avoid confusion with the Ames Brothers.
In 1956, he got Chess Records in Chicago interested in recording a single - "Kiss Me Baby"/"Could It Be You" - by the Four Tops but, to clinch the deal, he had to give the label two of his compositions ("See Saw" was released by the Moonglows and the Flamingos cut the tender ballad "A Kiss from Your Lips").
Davis was hoping to go to university when he began dating Gwen Gordy, the sister of Berry Gordy Jnr, who fancied himself as a tunesmith and local entrepreneur even if his record shop, 3rd Jazz Mart, had gone bust. Davis was also related to the local rhythm'n'blues singer Jackie Wilson on his father's side and he began pitching their songs to the former boxer whose energetic live shows as lead tenor with the Dominoes had earned him the nickname "Mr Excitement".
When Wilson went solo in 1957 and signed to Brunswick, he recorded their infectious "Reet Petite (The Finest Girl You'll Ever Want to Meet)" and scored a minor pop hit in the US as well as making the Top Ten in Britain (when reissued in 1986, "Reet Petite" became the Christmas No 1).
Soon, Davis - who used the nom de plume "Tyran Carlo" at the time - and the Gordys were on a hit-songwriting roll for Wilson. They penned the ballad "To Be Loved" and the pleading "Lonely Teardrops" as well as "That's Why (I Love You So)" and the catchy "I'll Be Satisfied", four singles which helped the vocalist cross over from the rhythm 'n'blues listings into the mainstream US pop charts. However, they fell out with their manager Nat Tarnapol when he took over Wilson's affairs following the death of the impresario Al Greene.
"We didn't even know how much we were supposed to be paid," recalled Davis, who was quickly learning about contracts and royalties:
Nat Tarnapol's position was: "Jackie's a hit artist, I can get anybody to write for Jackie now." Our answer was: "If that's how you feel, since we're doing everything anyway, we can go out and find our own artists." That's what led to the concept of Motown. If it wasn't for that rejection, then maybe there wouldn't have been a Tamla Motown.
In 1958, Davis set up Anna Records in partnership with Gwen and Anna Gordy (who soon became Marvin Gaye's first wife). The label was distributed by Leonard and Phil Chess, who ran the Chicago blues home to Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters. The first release on Anna - catalogue number Anna 101 - was "Hope and Pray" by the Voicemasters, a quintet comprising such future Motown stalwarts as the songwriter Lamont Dozier and David Ruffin (Temptations).
Davis also worked on singles by the Miracles, Marv Johnson, Joe Tex and Johnny & Jackey (a.k.a. Johnny Bristol and Jackie Beavers).
In 1960, the catchy "Money (That's What I Want)", written by Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford, and recorded by Barrett Strong became the first major hit on the Anna label, reaching No 23 in the American charts (it was one of several Motown songs subsequently covered by the Beatles). However, when Harvey Fuqua of the Moonglows joined the operation, he started a relationship with Gwen Gordy and Billy Davis found himself edged out of the embryonic Tamla Motown set-up he had contributed so much to. In 1961 he left for Chicago and a job with Chess Records.
Davis engineered a shift towards a more soulful Chess, through the short-lived Check-Mate imprint and his work with the Dells, Billy Stewart, Etta James and her cousin Sugar Pie DeSanto and the Bobby McClure and Fontella Bass duo. By the time he produced a solo Fontella Bass on "Rescue Me" for Chess in August 1965, Billy Davis was aiming to out-do Motown with a rhythm section comprising the bassist Louis Sattersfield and the future Earth, Wind & Fire leader Maurice White on drums.
"Fontella Bass sang live in the studio," he remembered:
She had big lungs, a wonderful sound, powerful and knock 'em dead delivery. "Rescue Me" wasn't a great song but it had those elements that I thought were great. It hit a groove and it stayed there. I decided to milk the groove even longer.
The success of "Rescue Me", which made the Top Ten on both sides of the Atlantic, led to Davis's being headhunted by the McCann Erickson agency in 1968 and his subsequent involvement with the "Coke" song. The germ of the idea came from the creative director Bill Backer - the man responsible for "Things Go Better With Coke" - in January 1971 when his London-bound plane from New York was diverted to Shannon airport in Ireland and he shared many bottles of Coca-Cola with fellow passengers while waiting for the fog to lift.
When he eventually reached London and told Roger Cook, Roger Greenaway and Billy Davis his idea, the last improved on it. "If I could do something for everybody in the world, it would not be to buy them a Coke," said Davis. "I'd buy everyone a home first and share with them in peace and love."
A jingle given the working title "Mom, True Love and Apple Pie" was reworked by the four into "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" and Davis produced the London session with the New Seekers. In February 1971, US radio stations began broadcasting the ad. Davis knew he was on to a winner when some of his old DJ friends began calling him: "They were saying things like: 'I'm getting requests to play your commercial like it's a hit record, you should record it as a proper record.' "
The television spot showing hundreds singing the "Coke" song added further momentum to the campaign and, when the New Seekers' manager claimed his charges were too busy, Davis hastily assembled a New York soundalike session group he called the Hillside Singers to record "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)" for the US market.
A fortnight later, the New Seekers were back in the studio to lay claim to the European charts. The tune proved so successful that it was adapted in many foreign languages. The writers and publishers added further weight to the feel-good message when they agreed to give $80,000 from their royalties to Unicef.
Billy Davis rose to senior vice- president and music director at McCann Erickson, writing further jingles for the Coca-Cola Company - "Have a Coke and a Smile", "Coke is It" - Nescafé, Miller beers, Sony and Nabisco food products. "Using music in a commercial is a great aid to recall," he told interviewers:
It will help you remember the commercial and the product. Music allows you to add emotional content.
Oct. 2011: The Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth (above-center), a blunt-talking preacher who braved beatings, bombings and fire-hosings to push Birmingham, Ala., to the forefront of the civil rights movement and advanced the historic fight with a confrontational strategy that often put him at odds with its most charismatic leader, has died. He was 89.
Shuttlesworth had been in poor health for the last year and was hospitalized with breathing problems three weeks ago at Birmingham's Princeton Baptist Medical Center, where he died, said family spokeswoman Malena Cunningham.
He was the last of the civil rights movement's "Big Three"; he, along with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957.
In 2004 he tried to revive the venerable civil rights group when it was beset by infighting and financial problems, but was ousted after several months as president when the board rejected his vision of greater activism.
He beat Muhammad Ali in the Fight of the Century, battled him nearly to the death in the Thrilla in Manila. Then Joe Frazier spent the rest of his life trying to fight his way out of Ali's shadow.
That was one fight Frazier could never win.
He was once a heavyweight champion, and a great one at that. Ali would say as much after Frazier knocked him down in the 15th round en route to becoming the first man to beat Ali at Madison Square Garden in March 1971.
But he bore the burden of being Ali's foil, and he paid the price. Bitter for years about the taunts his former nemesis once threw his way, Frazier only in recent times came to terms with what happened in the past and said he had forgiven Ali for everything he said.
Frazier, who died after a brief battle with liver cancer at the age of 67, will forever be linked to Ali. But no one in boxing would ever dream of anointing Ali as The Greatest unless he, too, was linked to Smokin' Joe.
Patrice O'Neal, 41, a veteran stand-up comic who gained a wider following through TV and radio and helped roast Charlie Sheen in September, died Tuesday from complications of a stroke he suffered last month. O'Neal's manager, Jonathan Brandstein, said he died at a New York-area hospital.
Francis Gregory Alan "Greg" Morris (September 27, 1933 – August 27, 1996) was a television and movie actor.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Morris began his acting career in the 1960s making guest appearances on many TV shows such as The Twilight Zone and Ben Casey.
In 1966, he was cast in his most recognizable role as the electronics expert Barney Collier in the TV series Mission: Impossible. Morris, Peter Lupus and Bob
Johnson were the only actors to remain with the series throughout its entire run.
Morris died in 1996 of brain cancer in Las Vegas, Nevada. Shortly before his death, he went to see the film version of Mission: Impossible that starred Tom Cruise. The reports were that he disliked the movie so much (an opinion that was shared by several of his former co-stars) that he left the theater early.
According to The Associated Press, he said of the movie: "It's an abomination."
Morris was survived by an ex-wife and three children.