Categotry Archives: Musicians

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Chris Kelly

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Categories: Musicians, Uncategorized

Chris KellyChris “Mac Daddy” Kelly, one-half of the 1990s rap duo Kris Kross, died May 1 of an apparent drug overdose. He was 34.

Kelly and his partner Chris Smith (a.k.a. “Daddy Mac”), were only 13 years old in 1991 when they were discovered by music producer and rapper Jermaine Dupri while performing at the Greenbriar Mall in their hometown of Atlanta. Dupri’s label, So So Def, signed the boys and sent them into the studio to record their first album.

As Kris Kross, the pair rocketed to stardom a year later with the release of the single “Jump.” The song spent eight weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, became an aerobics anthem and helped their debut album “Totally Krossed Out” go multiplatinum.

Soon Kris Kross was opening for pop star Michael Jackson on his Dangerous World Tour and appearing as guests on numerous TV programs. They recorded the “Rugrats Rap” for Nickelodeon and were listed at number 90 on VH1′s roundup of “The 100 Greatest Kid Stars.”

Kris Kross became a force in fashion as well; the duo was known for wearing their clothes backward during performances, and for a time many youths copied the trend. But it was the combination of their energy and mature rapping skills that earned Kris Kross a strong fan base.

Although future albums failed to match the success of “Totally Krossed Out,” Kris Kross continued to make music for several years, releasing “Da Bomb” in 1993 and “Young, Rich and Dangerous” in 1996. Kelly and Smith recently performed together in February for the So So Def 20th Anniversary All-Star Concert. Other than his talent for rapping, Kelly played the piano and dreamed of running his own record company someday.

Dupri described Kelly as a hard worker and the son he never had.

“His understanding of what we set out to do, from day one was always on point. His passion for the music, his love for doing shows, his want to [be] better than everyone else, was always turnt [sic] up,” Dupri said in a statement.

Smith said Kelly was not only his music partner, but his best friend.

“I love him and will miss him dearly,” Smith said in a statement. “Our friendship began as little boys in first grade. We grew up together. It was a blessing to achieve the success, travel the world and entertain Kris Kross fans all around the world with my best friend. It is what we wanted to do and what brought us happiness. I will always cherish the memories of the C-Connection. KRIS KROSS FOREVER, the ‘MAC DADDY’ and ‘DADDY MAC.’”

On Wednesday evening, Kelly was found unresponsive at his home. He was transported to Atlanta Medical Center and pronounced dead. According to his mother, Donna Kelly Pratte, Kelly had a history of using cocaine and heroin, and had recently returned home to recover from his addiction. A toxicology report is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.

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Amy Winehouse

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Categories: Musicians

Amy Jade Winehouse, the Grammy Award-winning soul singer who spent years struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, was found dead in her London home on July 23. Cause of death is under investigation. She was 27.

Born in 1983 to taxi driver Mitch and his pharmacist wife Janis, Winehouse was raised in a middle class neighborhood in northern London. Around the time she turned 10, Winehouse formed a rap group with her best friend called Sweet ‘n’ Sour (she was Sour). While school didn’t interest her — she was expelled from the prestigious Sylvia Young Theatre School for piercing her nose — music did and by the time she was 12, she had picked up a guitar and immersed herself in the sounds of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington.

Although Winehouse was still in her teens when she cut her demo, it soon found a home at Universal Island Records. Her critically acclaimed debut album, “Frank,” did well in Britain — earning her nominations in 2003 for best female singer and best urban act at the Brit Awards — but the jazz-tinged record was never released in the United States. It did, however, showcase her extraordinary voice and songwriting skills, and earned her an Ivor Novello award and a spot on the shortlist for the Mercury Music Prize.

In 2006, her sophomore effort, “Back to Black,” rocketed Weinhouse to international stardom. The quasi-autobiographical album sold 3 million copies worldwide and won five Grammy Awards. Fans have been waiting for Weinhouse’s much-anticipated third album for five years. To date, it has not been released.

Weinhouse’s look was a unique combination of retro pop star and modern hard rocker. Her towering ebony beehive, heavy cat-eye makeup and multiple tattoos made her a much-copied fashion icon, yet she dismissed that label. “I just dress like…I’m an old Jewish black man. I just dress like it’s still the ’50s,” she once told Harper’s Bazaar Magazine. Winehouse would eventually collaborate with British brand Fred Perry on a 17-piece clothing and accessories collection.

Privately, Winehouse suffered from insecurity and depression. But it wasn’t until she began getting drunk and high that these traits became a liability. Her downward spiral was ubiquitous; she became intoxicated onstage and got arrested for possessing drugs and attacking people off-stage. The self-destruction knew few bounds; she rarely slept, grew skeletal from eating disorders and began cutting. During one interview, she even used a shard of mirror to carve her boyfriend’s name into her stomach.

Winehouse’s biggest hit was “Rehab,” which she wrote in response to pressure from her label to go into treatment, but the years of abusing cocaine, crack, ecstasy, ketamine, valium, marijuana and alcohol eventually affected her ability to sing. In recent years, many of her fans began booing her half-hearted concerts and demanded their money back. Multiple stints in rehab and encounters with police led promoters to cancel her tour dates.

The spotlight of celebrity revealed the troubled singer’s successes and failures, and the paparazzi documented her very public breakdown. Yet Winehouse never cared for fame. “If I had my choice, I’d be a roller-skating waitress in the middle of nowhere, singing songs to my husband while I’m cooking grits somewhere,” she told The Washington Post in 2007. “What I’m doing I’m so grateful to be doing — it’s so exciting, so fun. But I’ve never been the kind of girl who knocks on someone’s door and says, ‘Make me famous.’”

Along with her struggles with addiction, Winehouse made headlines for her abusive relationship to former music video producer Blake Fielder-Civil. During their two-year marriage, Winehouse and Fielder-Civil fought constantly, and frequently appeared in public looking bloodied and bruised from their altercations. The couple divorced in 2009.

Photo by Fionn Kidney.

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Elmer Lynn Hauldren

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Categories: Business, Musicians

“5-8-8 2-300. Empire!”

For much of the past four decades, just about everyone living in or near Chicago knew that telephone number. They knew Empire sold carpets. They knew the company spokesman on sight because he’d appeared in more than 1,000 television commercials. Between ball games, soap operas and local newscasts, The Empire Man was always there.

Elmer Lynn Hauldren — The Empire Man — died on April 26. Cause of death was not released. He was 89.

The St. Louis native served as an Army radio operator in Asia during World War II. Upon his return to the states, Hauldren worked at Young & Rubicam, Bozell Jacobs and DDB Needham as an advertising copywriter. One of his clients was the flooring company, Empire.

In the 1970s, Empire decided to try a new approach to promoting its brand. After several unsuccessful auditions, Empire’s former owner, Seymour Cohen, asked the soft-spoken Hauldren to be the company’s pitchman. Tapping into his advertising background, Hauldren created The Empire Man character, who was part-carpet installer and part-blue collar superhero. He also wrote the well-known jingle and sang it with the a cappella group The Fabulous 40s. Over time, TV viewers became so accustomed to seeingĀ Hauldren in the Empire ads that many assumed he actually owned the company.

When Empire expanded its services nationwide, The Empire Man became a pop culture icon. He was so famous that a line of Bobblehead dolls featuring his face was created. In 2007, he even threw out the first pitch at Wrigley Field on “Empire Day.”

Hauldren continued to promote Empire products in radio and TV commercials until his death. The most recent ads feature an animated version of Hauldren, for which he provided the voice.

Privately, Hauldren’s passion was music. He recorded several albums with the doctor-themed barbershop quartet Chordiac Arrest, including “Live and Well!” and “Second Opinion,” and performed with the vocal quartet Chordplay.

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Jeff Healey

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Categories: Musicians

jhealey.jpgNorman Jeff Healey, a Grammy-nominated singer and musicologist, died on March 2 of lung cancer. He was 41.

Born and raised near Toronto, Healey was diagnosed with a rare form of retinal cancer when he was only one years old. The disease, known as retinoblastoma, claimed his eyesight.

Blindness could not halt Healey’s passion for music. At three, he picked up his first guitar and taught himself to play by laying the instrument across his lap. In his teens, Healey continued to hone his guitar skills while also learning how to play the trumpet and the clarinet. He graduated from Etobicoke Collegiate Institute, performed in several bands, studied musical theory and emulated musicians such as B.B. King, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. He would eventually share a stage with King as well as George Harrison, Ringo Starr, ZZ Top, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

Healey formed The Jeff Healey Band in 1985. The group performed hundreds of concerts over a two-year period before signing with Arista Records and recording “See the Light.” The album, which featured the hit single “Angel Eyes,” went platinum in the United States and eventually sold two million copies worldwide. “See the Light” also earned Healey a Grammy nomination and the 1990 Juno Award for Entertainer of the Year. In 1989, The Jeff Healey Band performed their bluesy brand of rock music in the movie “Road House,” starring Patrick Swayze. Soon they were filling stadium venues with thousands of fans.

Healey also had a love for jazz, a genre of music he concentrated on in the 1990s. He once again picked up the trumpet, and recorded several albums with his jazz band, Jeff Healey’s Jazz Wizards. Healey also hosted the radio show “My Kinda Jazz” on CBC Radio and on Toronto’s Jazz-FM station, and operated two clubs in Toronto. His final album, “Mess of Blues,” which he recorded with the Healey’s House Band, will be released on March 20 in Europe and on April 22 in North America.

The cancer that plagued Healey in infancy returned in 2006. The husband and father of two underwent numerous operations to remove tumors from his lungs and leg, as well as aggressive radiation and chemotherapy treatments, but the disease continued to wreak havoc on his body. Healey fought the cancer physically and spiritually, but also musically, giving concerts that raised money for Daisy’s Eye Cancer Research Fund.

Two memorial concerts are scheduled to be held in May in Toronto. Information on tickets and acts will be posted on Healey’s Website. Later this year, Stony Plain will reissue two of his jazz albums, “Among Friends” and “Adventures in Jazzland.”

The Jeff Healey Band Remembering Jeff Healey

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John Wallowitch

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Categories: Musicians

jwallowitch.jpgJohn Wallowitch, a Broadway songwriter and composer who penned more than 2,000 songs, died on Aug. 15 of bone cancer. He was 81.
The Philadelphia native was only seven years old when he wrote “Waiting on Passyunk Bridge,” a song about committing suicide over unrequited love. He had hoped to become a high school music teacher when he grew up, but World War II altered his plans. Wallowitch joined the Army and served his enlistment in the United States singing in USO clubs.
After the war ended, Wallowitch attended Temple University for a short time, then moved to New York City to study classical piano at the Juilliard School of Music. He attended the prestigious institution on scholarship, supporting himself by playing piano for dance classes and coaching singers. He made his debut at the Carnegie Recital Hall, then traveled all over Europe, performing concerts for the State Department. When he returned to the states, he became a rehearsal pianist for Broadway shows, a nightclub singer and a professional songwriter.
Over the course of his five-decade career, Wallowitch played in many of Gotham’s top cabaret rooms, performing original songs like “Bruce,” “Manhattan, You’re a Dream,” “I See the World Through Your Eyes” and “Back on the Town.” He had a long-running hit revue called “The World of Wallowitch” and released seven albums. Wallowitch also coached aspiring performers and penned songs that were recorded by Tony Bennett, Blossom Dearie, Doc Severinson, Dixie Carter and Shirley Horn.
Beginning in 1980, Wallowitch produced a late-night public-access TV show called “John’s Cabaret,” which featured him singing songs from Tin Pan Alley and Hollywood that he found at yard sales and memorabilia shows. Tapes of the shows are ensconced in the Rodgers and Hammerstein Archive at Lincoln Center.
Wallowitch and his longtime partner Bertram Ross, who was Martha Graham’s principal dance partner, made their debut as a cabaret team in 1984 at The Ballroom in SoHo. John S. Wilson of The New York Times described the act as “hilarious, outrageous, sublime.” Their 34-year romance, both on-stage and off, was the subject of the 1999 documentary “Wallowitch & Ross: This Moment.” Ross died in 2003.
The talented songwriter won both the MAC and the Bistro Award for Composer of the Year. But friends say he was best known for his natty style of dress, self-proclaimed obsession with Joan Rivers and wicked sense of humor.
Each year on Christmas Eve, Wallowitch would honor his mentor, Irving Berlin, by gathering a group of friends together to sing “White Christmas” in front the lyricist’s home. In 1983, Berlin came out and told Wallowitch the annual concert was the nicest Christmas present he ever received. The tradition continued for 36 years. After Berlin’s death in 1989, the home was taken over by the Luxembourg consulate. Charmed by the holiday performance, delegates invited Wallowitch and the other carolers inside to perform in Berlin’s former library.

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