Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Happy Birthday: Mahalia Jackson & Bootsy Collins

Mahalia Jackson
(October 26, 1911 – January 27, 1972)

Mahalia Jackson, a woman with a very powerful voice and fondly known as "The Queen of Gospel" was born on this day in New Orleans. Jackson became one of the most influential gospel singers in the world, and was heralded internationally as a singer and civil rights activist; entertainer Harry Belafonte called her "the single most powerful black woman in the United States". She recorded about 30 albums (mostly for Columbia Records) during her career, and her 45 rpm records included a dozen "golds"—million-sellers.

In 1929, Jackson met the composer Thomas A. Dorsey, known as the Father of Gospel Music. He gave her musical advice, and in the mid-1930s they began a fourteen-year association of touring, with Jackson singing Dorsey's songs in church programs and at conventions. His "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" became her signature song.

Her good friend Martin Luther King Jr said, "A voice like hers comes along once in a millennium." She was a close friend of Doris Akers, one of the most prolific gospel composers of the 20th century. In 1958, they co-wrote the hit, "Lord, Don't Move The Mountain". Mahalia also sang many of Akers' own compositions such as, "God Is So Good To Me", "God Spoke To Me One Day", "Trouble", "Lead On, Lord Jesus", and "He's A Light Unto My Pathway", helping Doris to secure her position as the leading female Gospel composer of that time. In addition to sharing her singing talent with the world, she mentored the extraordinarily gifted Aretha Franklin. Mahalia was also good friends with Dorothy Norwood and fellow Chicago-based gospel singer Albertina Walker. She also discovered a young Della Reese. On the twentieth anniversary of her passing, Smithsonian Folkways Recording commemorated Jackson with the album I Sing Because I'm Happy, which includes interviews about her childhood conducted by Jules Scherwin.

The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences created the Gospel Music or Other Religious Recording category for Jackson making her the first Gospel Music Artist to win the prestigious Grammy Award. American Idol winner and Grammy Award-winning R&B singer Fantasia Barrino has been cast to play Mahalia Jackson in a biographical film about her life. The movie will be based on the 1993 book Got to Tell It: Mahalia Jackson, Queen of Gospel. The film is said to be directed by Euzhan Palcy.


Funk bassist, singer, and songwriter William Earl "Bootsy" Collins rose to prominence with James Brown in the late 1960s, and with Parliament-Funkadelic in the '70s, Collins's driving bass guitar and humorous vocals established him as one of the leading names in funk. With his elder brother Phelps "Catfish" Collins, and Kash Waddy and Philippé Wynne, Collins formed a funk band called The Pacemakers in 1968. In March 1970, after most of the members of James Brown's band quit over a pay dispute, The Pacemakers were hired as Brown's backing band and they became known as The J.B.'s. (They are often referred to as the "original" J.B.'s to distinguish them from later line-ups that went by the same name.) Although they worked for Brown for only 11 months, the original J.B.'s played on some of Brown's most intense funk recordings, including "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine", "Super Bad", "Soul Power", and "Talkin' Loud and Sayin' Nothing".

After parting ways with James Brown, Bootsy returned to Cincinnati and formed House Guests with his brother Phelps Collins, Rufus Allen, Clayton "Chicken" Gunnels, Frank Waddy, Ronnie Greenaway and Robert McCullough. The House Guests released two singles on the House Guests label as well as a third as The Sound of Vision on the House Guests label.

Collins next moved to Detroit, following the advice of singer and future Parliament member Mallia Franklin. Franklin introduced both Collins brothers to George Clinton, and 1972 saw both of the Collins brothers, along with Waddy, join Funkadelic. Bootsy played bass on most of Funkadelic and Parliament's albums through 1980, garnering several songwriting credits as well.

In 1976 Bootsy, Catfish, Waddy, Joel Johnson, Gary "Mudbone" Cooper, Robert Johnson and The Horny Horns formed Bootsy's Rubber Band, a separate touring unit of Clinton's P-Funk collective. The group recorded four albums together, the first three of which are often considered to be among the quintessential P-Funk recordings. The group's 1978 album Bootsy? Player of the Year reached the top of the R&B album chart and spawned the #1 R&B single "Bootzilla".

Like Clinton, Bootsy took on several alter egos, from Casper the Funky Ghost to Bootzilla, "the world's only rhinestone rockstar monster of a doll", as parts of the evolving character of an alien rock star who grew gradually more bizarre as time went on. He also adopted his trademark "space bass" around this time.

In July 2010, Collins, in partnership with former child actor Cory Danziger, launched Funk University ("Funk U"), an online-only bass guitar school in which he also serves as curator and lead professor. Funk University offers an intense curriculum tailored for intermediate to advanced bass players as well as anyone interested in a deeper understanding of funk. The curriculum is based on bass theory, history of funk, and Collins' own musical history given by Collins himself, augmented by lessons and exercises in bass and rhythm from guest bassist professors such as Les Claypool, Meshelle Ndegeocello, John B (Williams) and Victor Wooten.

Bootsy Collins Official Website

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