Jimi Hendrix

50 Surprising Facts In Black Music History

James Brown’s dance moves don’t mean what you think they mean.

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

1. Prince reportedly sent Weird Al Yankovic a telegram back in 1986, commanding the comedian to avoid eye contact with him during the entirety of the American Music Awards show.

2. Though little was known about eating disorders in his heyday, Louis Armstrong showed signs of bulimia. He binged and purged with the help of laxatives; he was often pictured with his laxative of choice, Swiss Kriss, and recommended it to his friends with the catchphrase “Satch says: Leave it all behind ya!

3. As a teen, Gil Scott-Heron wrote a number of short detective stories in the vein of Agatha Christie.

4. Snoop Dogg reportedly sold weed to Cameron Diaz back when the two attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School.

5. Lil Wayne‘s debut album The Block Is Hot, released when the rapper was only 17 years old, is nearly profanity-free because of his mother’s wishes.

6. Nas almost had Jesus in a headlock on the cover for his 1994 album Illmatic.

7. B.B. King named every guitar he owned Lucille after an incident at one of his performances. Two men had a physical altercation over a woman named Lucille; during the scuffle, they knocked over a barrel of kerosene that heated the venue and subsequently set the venue on fire. All persons inside were evacuated, but King ran back into the burning building to rescue his $30 Gibson guitar. The guitar thus became known as Lucille, as a reminder to King never to run into burning buildings or fight over women.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

8. At the height of McCarthyism in the ’50s, Lena Horne was blacklisted as a Communist over her participation in the Civil Rights Movement and her friendships with fellow activists Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois.

9. Getting fired from Office Depot inspired Janelle Monae to write “Letting Go,” the song that would reach the ears of OutKast‘s Big Boi and launch her career.

10. When a drunken emcee announced The Sledge Sisters as “Sister Sledge” on stage, the quartet rolled with it and went on to use the error professionally.

11. James Brown‘s famous dance moves were coded directions for his stage band; every hand movement meant Brown had noticed a bum note or had seen a pair of unshined shoes.

12. Jimi Hendrix often switched up the frequently misheard lyrics to “Purple Haze” in his live performances; he swapped out “kiss the sky” for “fuck the sky” during a Seattle rainstorm, and for “kiss this guy” during another performance as he pointed to drummer Mitch Mitchell.

13. Using a modified board with elevated squares, Ray Charles frequently played chess with friends and band members. In 2002, Charles faced off against (and lost to) chess grandmaster Larry Evans.

14. Chuck Berry supplemented his musician’s income by working as a trained beautician.

LaFace

LaFace

 

15. Billie Holiday was inspired to write “God Bless the Child” after she and her mother had an argument over money.

16. Marvin Gaye once shaved his head in protest of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter’s wrongful murder conviction.

17. In The Last Days of Left Eye, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes of TLC voiced her objection to the glorification of revenge-cheating in the group’s hit single “Creep.” Left Eye threatened to wear pieces of black tape over her mouth during the filming of the music video, but she let her resentment creep away.

18. Stevie Wonder led the campaign to have Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday designated as a national holiday.

19. Mary J. Blige‘s debut album title What’s the 411? was a shout-out to her former job as a directory assistance operator.

20. Despite his lyrics to “In Da Club” and “P.I.M.P.,” 50 Cent abstains from alcohol and drugs, citing a “bad experience” with alcohol and an outsider’s view of what drugs can do to a person.

21. Remember that video of a fresh-faced Nicki Minaj acting out a monologue? Before her rap career blew up, Nicki Minaj pursued acting and was cast in the off-Broadway play In Case You Forget.

Sal Idriss / Redferns

Sal Idriss / Redferns

 

22. Gloria Gaynor won the first and only Grammy for Best Disco Recording with “I Will Survive”; the recording academy discontinued the category after disco fell out of public favor.

23. UPenn graduate John Legend turned down admission offers from Harvard and Georgetown at the tender age of 16.

24. Aretha Franklin‘s fear of flying kept her from attending her Rock And Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

25. In spite of his fame and wealth, Ludacris drove his ‘93 Acura Legend for over a decade, racking up over 244,000 miles on the vehicle.

26. Biggie Smalls learned that another rapper had trademarked the name “Biggy Smalls” years earlier, so he changed his moniker to The Notorious B.I.G.

27. When presented with the instrumentals for eventual hits “Are You That Somebody?” and “Try Again,” Aaliyah initially didn’t like them, but recorded the songs.

28. Ol’ Dirty Bastard once saved a 4-year-old girl who was trapped under a car that hit her; Dirty and his friends lifted the car off the girl, who was then rushed to the hospital for her injuries.

Sebastien Bozon / AFP / Getty Images

29. Smokey Robinson got his stage name from his childhood nickname Smokey Joe, a “cowboy” nickname bestowed upon him by his uncle.

30. Miles Davis performed with his back to the audience; it made it easier for him to give his band signals.

31. Public Enemy’s Flavor Flav can play 15 instruments, from French horn to oboe to xylophone.

32. Kanye West was ~internationally famous~ before The College Dropout hit store shelves. He lived in China for a year as a child — his mother Donda was a visiting professor.

33. Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton recorded “Hound Dog” and “Ball ‘n Chain” long before Elvis or Janis Joplin did.

34. Frank Ocean credited his Bernese mountain dog Everest as the executive producer of his critically acclaimed album Channel Orange.

35. Missy Elliott accidentally filmed “Work It” while drunk; director Dave Meyers forgot to replace the wine glass in the restaurant scene with water. After the shot had been filmed seven times, Missy was thoroughly inebriated.

AFP / Getty Images

36. As a student at the Baltimore School of Arts, Tupac Shakur took ballet classes.

37. Jazz legends Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, and Illinois Jacquet were all arrested for gambling in a racially motivated sting set up by the vice squad of Houston’s police department.

38. Salt-N-Pepa‘s “Push It” began as a joke. Producer Hurby Azor came up with the synth line: Salt-N-Pepa’s Cheryl James and Sandra Denton found it “corny” and added the now iconic “Ooh, baby, baby” to mock it.

39. Michael Jackson‘s groundbreaking music video for “Billie Jean” was the first music video by a black artist to appear on MTV.

40. Janet Jackson initially balked at the idea of collaborating with brother Michael, citing a desire for her own fame separate from the Jackson name, but eventually caved in. Thankfully she changed her mind; the siblings went on to give us “Scream.”

41. Dizzy Gillespie‘s signature cheek pouches, caused by his blowing techniques, are now considered a medical condition.

42. Beyoncé, who is now recognized as a style icon for her red carpet looks, was a staunch tomboy who refused to wear dresses as a child.

RB / Redferns

RB / Redferns

 

43. As a high school sophomore, Lauryn Hill appeared on daytime soap As the World Turns as Kira, a troubled teen.

44. Erykah Badu was fined $500 and charged with a misdemeanor for public nudity during the filming of her music video for “Window Seat.” Badu intended her nudity to be a statement of liberation against groupthink.

45. At the height of its popularity, Chubby Checker‘s “The Twist” was explicitly forbidden in New York City Catholic schools because of the song’s “un-Christian” nature.

46. Mariah Carey‘s high school nickname was “Mirage,” thanks to her many absences.

47. Nat King Cole was the first black American to have his own television show. The Nat King Cole Show ran without national sponsors on a network-supported basis, and was eventually done in by a lack of financial support.

48. Contrary to popular belief, Jay Z‘s stage name does not come from the J and Z lines that run by his childhood home in Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects. Jay Z had been known as Jazzy, but he adopted his current moniker after Jazzy became too “glittery.”

49. The phone number in Alicia Keys’ “Diary” was her old phone number, which led to a number of headaches for Georgia resident J.D. Turner, who had Keys’ old number (albeit a different area code.)

50. Whitney Houston nearly became a member of the Huxtable clan. She auditioned for the role of Sondra Huxtable, the eldest daughter on The Cosby Show, but lost the role to Sabrina LeBeauf.

Read more: http://www.buzzfeed.com/moniquemelendez/50-surprising-facts-in-black-music-history


Our 9 Favorite Feature Stories This Week: KidZania, Flashbombs, And Tiny Homes

This week for BuzzFeed News, Tim Murphy visits the Pacific Northwest, where new communities made up of tiny homes are providing some with an alternative to homelessness. Read that and these other great stories from BuzzFeed and around the web.

1. Are Tiny-House Villages the Solution to Homelessness? — BuzzFeed News

Photograph by Leah Nash for BuzzFeed

Tiny homes, once limited to the dreams of sustainable design lovers, are now popping up in communities as viable alternatives to homelessness. Yet will they ever be more than a temporary solution? Read it at BuzzFeed News.

2. The Controversial Death of Ebola’s Unsung HeroMatter

Puppets by Jöns Mellgren for Matter

Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, a world renowned ebola expert in Sierra Leone, was denied an experimental drug treatment by the international medical community when he fell ill with the virus. Joshua Hammer asks: Did he have to die? Read it at Matter.

3. Hotter Than Lava — ProPublica

Justin Volz for ProPublica

Military-style grenades, called “flashbangs,” can severely injure and even kill those who unsuspectedly fall in their paths. Yet, as Julia Angwin and Abbie Nehring investigate, that doesn’t stop police from regularly deploying them during raids with no oversight or consequence, and often on people who turn out to be innocent. Read it at ProPublica.

4. When I Grow UpThe New Yorker

Illustration by Nishant Choksi

Rebecca Mead visits KidZania, an international chain of theme parks where kids pretend to be grown ups, have jobs, and make money. “This is not about fantasy. This is not princesses and dwarfs.” Read it at The New Yorker.

5. Kaitlin Olson and the Perils of Being a (Funny) Woman in Hollywood — BuzzFeed News

Photograph by Macey Foronda for BuzzFeed

The comedian, who is entering her last season as Sweet Dee in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, sits down with Erin La Rosa to reflect on finding her place in comedy and look ahead to life after Sunny. “I’m never going to understand what Middle America wants, because I’m on a show that Middle America doesn’t necessarily like, but I think is really funny.” Read it at BuzzFeed News.

6. The Weird Science of Naming New ProductsThe New York Times Magazine

Illustration by Paul Sahre

What’s in a name? As Neal Gabler comes to find, it’s millions of dollars and months of work for companies and those they entrust with defining their brands. Read it at The New York Times Magazine.

7. A River Runs Through ItThe Believer

Evening Standard / Stringer

Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah gets a rare glimpse into Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios and offers a stunning account of its history and significance in black culture and the music industry at large. “Maybe the final wonder of Electric Lady is that, like the impossible river that still runs through it, it is alive and free in a way that makes one feel like Jimi is still there.” Read it at The Believer.

8. East of Palo Alto’s Eden — TechCrunch

Flickr: docsearls / Via Creative Commons

Kim-Mai Cutler explores the complex history of East Palo Alto, a Bay Area neighborhood known most for high levels of crime and poverty, and its relationship to the wealthy Silicon Valley giants that have boomed around it. Will the tech industry ultimately help the long-struggling community, or destroy it? Read it at TechCrunch.

9. DamageThe Big Roundtable

Via The Big Roundtable

An incredibly honest essay by Mariya Karimjee about learning to cope with the effects of female genital mutilation and forgiving her mother for allowing it to happen. “When I was younger, someone took a knife to my clitoris and cut out a small but significant part of me.” Read it at The Big Roundtable.

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Read more: http://www.buzzfeed.com/anitabadejo/our-9-favorite-feature-stories-this-week-kidzania-flashbombs