Sunday, December 5, 2010

Happy Birthday: Little Richard, Ozzy Osbourne & Jay-Z

Little Richard (December 5, 1932), the undisputed King of Rock-n-Roll, considered key in the transition from rhythm and blues to rock and roll in the 1950s. He began his recording career on October 16, 1951 by imitating the gospel-influenced style of late-1940s jump blues artist Billy Wright, who was a friend of his that set him up with the opportunity to record.

In 1955, under the guidance of Robert "Bumps" Blackwell, Richard began recording in a style he had been performing onstage for years, featuring varied rhythm (derived from everything from drum beats he would hear in his voice to the sounds of trains he would hear thundering by him as a child), a heavy backbeat, funky saxophone grooves, over-the-top Gospel-style singing, moans, screams, and other emotive inflections, accompanied by a combination of boogie-woogie and rhythm and blues music. This new music, which included an original injection of funk into the rock and roll beat, inspired many of the greatest recording artists of the twentieth century, including James Brown, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, and generations of other rhythm & blues, rock, and soul music artists.

In October 1951, Richard began recording jump blues records for RCA Camden. In October 1953, he began recording with Peacock Records. Records were released each year from 1951–54, but none were significant hits. Richard recorded a demo for gospel/R&B label Specialty Records on February 9, 1955. Specialty's owner, Art Rupe, loaned him money to buy out his contract from Peacock Records and placed his career in the hands of Specialty's A&R man Robert "Bumps" Blackwell. Richard told Rupe he liked Fats Domino's sound, so Rupe and Blackwell booked Cosimo Matassa's J & M Recording Studio in New Orleans, and hired studio musicians who had worked with Domino (including Earl Palmer on drums and Lee Allen on sax) rather than members of Richard's road band on many of the mid-1950s Specialty tracks.

Following some recording that did not satisfy Blackwell, they took a break. Richard began pounding out a boogie woogie rhythm on piano and hollering out impromptu recital of "Tutti Frutti", a song he had written and had been performing on stage for years. Blackwell was so impressed with the sound that he had Richard record the song. However, in order to make it commercially acceptable, Richard's lyrics were rewritten. Blackwell recognized that the lyrics, with their “minstrel modes and homosexuality humor” needed to be cleaned up. For example “Tutti Frutti, good booty", were replaced with “Tutti Frutti, aw-rooty”. The song featured the a cappella intro "A-wop-bop-a-loo-lop-a-lop-bam-boom!", which Richard first belted out years before onstage based on a drum beat he heard in his voice, that had also been altered slightly to make it commercially acceptable. The recording was released on Specialty in October 1955.


Ozzy Osbourne (December 3, 1948), born in Burmingham, England, is a singer/songwriter whose career has spanned over 40 years. As of December 2010, Osbourne has sold over 100 million albums worldwide.

Osbourne rose to prominence as lead vocalist of the pioneering English heavy metal band Black Sabbath, a band whose radically different, intentionally dark, doom sound spawned the heavy metal genre. In his subsequent solo career Osbourne achieved a multi-platinum status in addition to the one he had earned with Black Sabbath. These things are what led Osbourne to become known as the "Godfather of Heavy Metal".


Shawn Corey Carter (born December 4, 1969), better known by his stage name Jay-Z, is a rapper and businessman. He is one of the most financially successful hip hop artists and entrepreneurs in America having had a net worth of over $450 million in 2010. He has sold approximately 50 million albums worldwide, while receiving ten Grammy Awards for his musical work, and numerous additional nominations.

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