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African-American Musicians

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African-American Musicians Part II
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.                              Musicians Duke Ellington and Little Richard.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Musicians Duke Ellington and Little Richard.
2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Below is the second part of "African American Musicians."

Edward Kennedy Ellington (1899-1974), whose great musical talent earned him the nickname "Duke," was born in Washington, D.C. He was seven years old when he began to play the piano, and at age seventeen he made his professional debut. Ellington was twenty-four when he moved to New York and became a member of the Washingtonians.

Ellington would eventually take over the band and play regularly at the Cotton Club in Harlem. Throughout his career, Duke Ellington enjoyed a worldwide reputation as a great jazz pianist and composer. He is seen by many as the best jazz composer in history.

Richard Penniman, who is known as Little Richard, was born in Macon, Georgia, in 1932. As a composer, singer, and piano player, Richard's energy and talent made him one of the first stars of rock & roll.

During the 1950s, Little Richard recorded a string of hits, including "Tutti Frutti" and "Good Golly, Miss Molly." He sometimes took a break from his music career to serve as an ordained minister in the Seventh-Day Adventist church.

Little Richard's music and flashy performances have had a great impact on other rock performers, including Mick Jagger and the great guitarist Jimi Hendrix.

Teddy Riley, king of "The New Jack Swing," is one of the most influential figures in dance music. Ever since he was small, Teddy has put his heart and soul into music. By age ten, he was playing several instruments and performing in church. He is responsible for more than thirty platinum and multiplatinum records, as well as nine gold records.

Riley produced such hits as Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative" and Johnny Kemp's "Just Got Paid," but it was with the vocal group Guy that Riley set the stage for nearly every male R&B performer who followed him.

James Todd Smith's story begins in Queens, New York. As a preschooler, Smith was inspired by his grandfather's jazz albums. By age nine he was already rapping under the name "LL Cool J." At sixteen he released his debut album, "Radio." His 1990 release, "Mama Said Knock You Out," won LL a Grammy award. In 1999 he starred in three movies, "Any Given Sunday," "Deep Blue Sea," and "In Too Deep."

LL Cool J's sitcom "In the House" earned him three Black Image awards. He also opened the Camp Cool J Foundation, a place where all children, rich or poor, could play.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd.                              Musical stylists Louis Armstrong and LL Cool J.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Musical stylists Louis Armstrong and LL Cool J.
2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Through the years, many musicians have owed a debt of gratitude to Louis Armstrong, who was born in New Orleans in 1901. Armstrong was known around the world as one of the greatest cornet and trumpet players ever. He also had a distinctive voice that made him a famous scat singer. A scat singer is one who imitates the rhythm of music with sounds rather than words.

In 1924, Armstrong, who was living in Chicago, moved to New York to join the Fletcher Henderson band. However, it was after he returned to Chicago that he made recordings that rank among the masterpieces of jazz.

These artists are just a few of many who have paved the way for today's music. They have left a legacy that links us to a rich musical past, one that has seen its share of hardships but still gave birth to musical forms that changed the world.

Will the next generation of musicians have the same impact as past greats such as Marion Anderson, Duke Ellington, Jimi Hendrix, and others? Only time will tell.

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