Rhythm-&-Blues

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On this day in music history: February 10, 1956 - “Long Tall Sally” by Little Richard is recorded. Written by Robert “Bumps” Blackwell, Enortis Johnson and Richard Penniman, it is the first R&B chart topper for the singer and musician from Macon, GA. Recorded at the J&M Studio in New Orleans, LA, it is issued as Richard’s second single on Specialty Records (b/w “Slippin’ And Slidin’”) in March of 1956. It becomes his first R&B number one and first top ten pop hit peaking at #6. It out charts a competing version by Pat Boone which peaks at #12. Richard’s breakneck vocal phrasing is designed specifically to make it difficult for Boone to sing after he covers “Tutti Frutti” and scores a bigger pop hit with it. “Long Tall Sally” becomes a rock & roll standard and among the most covered of Little Richard’s songs, most notably being recorded by The Beatles in 1964. Little Richard’ original recording of “Long Tall Sally” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999.

Happy Birthday Roberta Flack! (born February 10, 1939)

Portrait of singer Roberta Flack. Printed on front: “Roberta Flack, ATCO, John Levy Enterprises, 8467 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif. 90048.” Handwritten on back: “Roberta Flack.”

  • Courtesy of the E. Azalia Hackley Collection of African Americans in the Performing Arts, Detroit Public Library
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Wanessa Milhomem // Elle Netherlands “Rhythm & Blues” May 2014 // Shot by Duy Vo // Styled by Thomas Vermeer // Hair by Daan Kneppers // Makeup by Siddhartha Bekers

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On this day in music history: November 20, 1955 - R&B legend Bo Diddley makes his one and only appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Sullivan will request that Diddley perform the song “Sixteen Tons’, he will defy the host by performing his current hit "Bo Diddley” on the live telecast. This will anger Sullivan, and Diddley will be banned from ever appearing on the show again. Though the major national television exposure will introduce him to wider audience beyond his loyal R&B fanbase. Though he will never appear on the show again, Bo Diddley’s signature syncopated rhythm will become one of the most influential in the history of rock & roll, inspiring countless songs from Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” and The Strangeloves’ “I Want Candy” to Bruce Springsteen’s “She’s The One” and George Michael’s “Faith”.

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Buddy Guy and Big Mama Thornton perform “Ball and Chain” from 1970.

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Born on this day: January 25, 1938 - R&B and blues vocal legend Etta James (born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles, CA). Happy Birthday to this R&B and Blues icon on what would have been her 78th birthday.

Why Otis Redding Matters

Like Ray Charles and Sam Cooke before him, Otis Redding had a hauntingly soulful voice and knew what to do with it musicially and emotionally. He conquered musical regions one by one. By the time of his death on December 10, 1967, he conquered the R & B circuit, appreciative European audiences and the white American underground music world. According to Marc Myers, January 8 was the 48th anniversary of the posthumous release of (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay. With that record, he crossed over into mainstream pop. But unlike Charles and Cooke, he did not live to enjoy the fruits of that success. Myers has assembled four excellent and compelling clips, culminating in a wonderful British documentary.

-Michael Cuscuna


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