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Our Summer 1999 Guest Reggae Artist -- Isaac Sellassie

100 Best: Black Century

Please visit Sellassie Y2K -- Children of Jah, our 2000 project. Support Reggae benefit concerts to aid the children in the Horn of Africa misplaced by the Eritrean-Ethiopian war. Support Peace. Get involved. Let us know if you plan to have such a concert in your community. Thank you.


MUSIC: Top Ten

DukeDuke Ellington

Ironically, Ellington's own name covers an even greater spectrum of sounds: his approximately 1,500 compositions encompass all moods from the revelry of a "Saturday Night Function" to reverence "Come Sunday" and the blues when it's "Monday Every Day." They fit into all forms from three minute pop songs to hour-long symphonies, ballets and musical comedies. They embrace all tonal colors from the highs and lows of black and white Americans to exotic sounds from Africa and the Far East. It's no coincidence that two of Ellington's most important albums of the '60s were collaborations that found the maestro fitting in equally well with major musicians who had each incorporated some of Ellington's principles to a great degree in their own music. They were John Coltrane and Frank Sinatra, who would normally never even get into a sentence together, yet had in common their Ellington influence and experience.

Ella Ella Fitzgerald

From Harlem to Hamburg, Fitzgerald thrilled her audiences with a crystal clear voice, gliding effortlessly from low notes to high, from be-bop to ballads.Born in Virginia and raised in New York, Fitzgerald began her professional career at the age of 16. She intended to dance at amateur night at the Harlem Opera House, but she lost her nerve when she got on stage. Over the years, Fitzgerald won dozens of awards. She dominated the early Grammy ceremonies, winning best female vocal performance three years in a row. In all, she won 13 Grammy awards -- more than any other jazz musician. But she maintained always an aura of graciousness -- she was at a loss for words when the Society of Singers named an award after her.

"I don't want to say the wrong thing, which I always do," she said. "I think I do better when I sing."

ArmstrongLouis Armstrong

Most historians agree; when it comes to influential musicians in this century, one name stands above the rest. Not Gershwin or Porter, Lennon or Presley. It is, indeed, Louis Armstrong who blasted the music of the world out of a tired tradition of classic orchestra and mundane Tin Pan Alley pop into the exciting era of hot jazz and swing. Not single-handedly, admittedly; but Armstrong set standards of originality and spontaneity that are yet to be surpassed.

BelafonteHarry Belafonte

An actor, humanitarian and the acknowledged "King of Calypso," Harry Belafonte ranked among the most seminal performers of the postwar era. One of the most successful African-American pop stars in history, Belafonte's staggering talent, good looks and masterful assimilation of folk, jazz and worldbeat rhythms allowed him to achieve a level of mainstream eminence and crossover popularity virtually unparalleled in the days before the advent of the civil rights movement -- a cultural uprising which he himself helped spearhead.

Ray Charles

RAY CHARLES taught himself piano at age three. When he lost his sight at the age of seven, he entered the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and Blind, where he learned classical piano and how to compose scores in Braille. This sound would become known as "soul" due to the emotional intensity invested into each lyric. He played in concerts and on TV around the world, and in the seventies he created his own label (Crossover). By the eighties, with over seventy top singles, he was a living legend: everyone from the Beatles to Billy Joel (who named his daughter Alexa Ray in honor of Charles) had claimed him as an influence. He has won both the Kennedy Center and National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Lifetime Achievement Awards. Charles' classic "I've Got a Woman" is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; so is he.

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Micheal JacksonMicheal Jackson

American popular singer, dancer, and songwriter, known for his dancing style, slight physical appearance, and unprecedented popular success. Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana. At the age of five he joined his brothers' singing group, then known as the Jackson 5 and later renamed the Jacksons. Michael's dancing ability as well as his singing skills made him the group's leader. Under the sponsorship of music producer Berry Gordy, the group became very popular, recording albums and making personal and television appearances.

MarleyBob Marley

BORN to a middle-aged white father and a teenage black mother, Robert Nesta Marley transcended the humility of his poor rural roots in Trenchtown, Jamaica, to become a platinum selling musician and reggae's biggest star. In the process, he also become a semi-religious icon whose work in promoting peace, justice, and brotherhood nearly outweighed the brilliance of his music.

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Aretha FranklinAretha Franklin

ARETHA FRANKLIN, if you really don't know, is the Queen of Soul. Under the auspices of Jerry Wexler, she sang fierce, frantic hits like "I Never Loved a Man," "Respect," "Natural Woman," and "Chain of Fools." In 1968, she made the cover of Time. In 1980, she did a cameo performance in The Blues Brothers. Her 1985 album, Who's Zoomin' Who, racked up her biggest sales yet. A 1989 gospel album, inspired by her father's coma and death (he was shot by a burglar) in 1984, earned another Grammy for her crowded shelf. She was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

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Tina TurnerTina Turner

American rhythm-and-blues (R&B) singer, whose career has spanned four decades of hit songs. Influenced by gospel music, Turner is known for her passionate and emotional style of singing. In 1985 Turner's song What's Love Got to Do With It" won two Grammy Awards, helping make her a superstar at the age of 46. She followed in 1989 when she won a Grammy Award for her album Tina Live in Europe (1988). Her 1985 biography, I, Tina, was released as a motion picture, What's Love Got to Do With It, in 1993. In 1991 Tina and Ike Turner were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Throughout the 1990's as well as the 1980's, 1970's, 1960's and 1950's, there has been only one King of the Blues - Riley B. King, affectionately known as B.B. King. Since B.B. started recording in the late 1940's, he has released over 5O albums -- many of them considered blues classics, like 1965's definitive live blues album "Live At The Regal," and 1976's collaboration with Bobby "Blue" Bland, "Together for The First Time."

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Sam CookeSam Cooke

Songwriter and performer Sam Cooke merged gospel music and secular themes and provided the early foundation of soul music. Cooke's pure, clear vocals were widely imitated, and his suave, sophisticated image set the style of soul crooners for the next decades.

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James BrownJames Brown

Over a 39 year period, James Brown amassed an amazing total of 98 entries on Billboard's top 40 R&B singles Charts, a record unsurpassed by any other artist. Seventeen on them reached number one, a feat topped only by Stevie Wonder and Louis Jordan, and equaled only by Aretha Franklin.James Brown's status as "The Godfather Of Soul" remains undiminished. Indeed, he has picked up a new generation of fans who have become familiar with his funk grooves through their frequent use as samples on rap records. A charter member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Brown added to his collections of accolades when he received a special lifetime achievement Grammy Award in 1992.

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Marvin GayeMarvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye was born Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr. on April 2, 1939 in Washington DC. The son of an apostolic minister, he grew up learning "the essential joy of music," as he called it, by playing the organ and singing in his father's church. Sixteen years later, Marvin joined his first band, the DC based group, Rainbows which included Billy Stewart and Don Covay. From 1964 to 1967, he became known as the master of make believe with songs like, "Ain't no mountain high enough","Your Precious Love," "If I Could Build My Whole World Around You," and "You're All I Need To Get By."

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Bessie SmithBessie Smith

Bessie Smith was the greatest and most influential classic blues singer of the 1920s. Her full-bodied blues delivery coupled with a remarkable self-assuredness that worked its way in and around most every note she sang, plus her sharp sense of phrasing, enabled her to influence virtually every female blues singer who followed. During her heyday, she sold hundreds of thousands of records and earned upwards of $2000 per week, which was a queenly sum in the 1920s. She routinely played to packed houses in the South as well as the North and Midwest. By the time the decade had ended, Smith had become the most respected black singer in America and had recorded a catalog of blues that still stands as the yardstick by which all other female blues singers are measured.

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Billie HolidayBillie Holiday

Billie Holiday remains (four decades after her death) the most famous of all jazz singers. "Lady Day" (as she was named by Lester Young) had a small voice and did not scat but her innovative behind-the-beat phrasing made her quite influential. The emotional intensity that she put into the words she sang (particularly in later years) was very memorable and sometimes almost scary; she often really did live the words she sang.

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Nat King ColeNat King Cole

Nat King Cole, American pianist and singer, one of the most advanced jazz pianists of the 1940s and a leading popular singer of the 1950s and 1960s. Born Nathaniel Adams Coles in Montgomery, Alabama, he grew up in Chicago.” In 1946 Cole's recording of singer Mel Torme's “The Christmas Song” became a hit, and in 1948 Cole achieved even greater success with “Nature Boy,” which sold more than a million copies soon after its release. His other hits include “Route 66” (1946), “Unforgettable” (1950), and “Mona Lisa” (1950), which won an Academy Award in 1950 as the theme song for the movie Captain Carey, U.S.A.

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Top Black Musicians of the Century
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Duke Ellington
Ella Fitzgerald
Louis Armstrong
Bob Marley
Billie Holiday

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