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Sly Stone to Velvet Underground: 11 facts about GRAMMY legends
Are you a big music fan? Will you be in New York in early July?
If you answered yes to both of these questions, you have an unprecedented opportunity to attend a once-in-a-lifetime tribute to 11 individuals who changed the landscape of popular music.
"GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends," a TV special celebrating The Recording Academy's 2017 Special Merit Awards recipients, is set to tape on July 11 at the historic Beacon Theatre in New York City.
Led by longtime "Late Show With David Letterman" musical director Paul Shaffer, GRAMMY winners Kirk Franklin, Randy Newman and Dwight Yoakam, and GRAMMY nominee Andra Day will perform and pay tribute to an esteemed group of legendary performers and music trailblazers that includes Shirley Caesar, Ahmad Jamal, Sly Stone, Nina Simone, and Charley Pride. The event will also recognize Music Educator Award recipient Keith Hancock.
Tickets are now available for the taping, which will air later this year as part of PBS' "Great Performances."
After you grab your tickets, be sure to brush up on these 11 facts about this year's cast of GRAMMY music legends who will be saluted.
Before forming Sly & The Family Stone, Stone (whose real name is Sylvester Stewart) worked as a staff record producer for San Francisco-based Autumn Records. Among the groups he produced were the Beau Brummels, Bobby Freeman and Great Society, Grace Slick's first band. Of course, Slick would go on to front fellow Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Jefferson Airplane.
Caesar, who has the most GRAMMYs by a female gospel artist with 11, has dabbled in acting. Among her credits, the First Lady of Gospel Music appeared in a 2003 episode of the UPN sitcom "The Parkers," a spinoff of the series "Moesha." Caesar played the role of Grace, the guardian angel to main character Nikki (Mo'Nique).
The legendary jazz pianist, 86, truly defines the term musical prodigy. Jamal, whose classics include "Poinciana," started playing piano at age 3 and commenced formal music lessons at 7. He joined a musicians union at the age of 14 and he began touring at 17, following his high school graduation.
Before launching his music career, Pride was a professional pitcher for the Memphis Red Sox and Birmingham Black Barons in the Negro League. The country singer/songwriter — who would later write classics such as "Kiss An Angel Good Morning" and "Crystal Chandeliers" — pitched against future MLB hall of famers Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. Pride later had tryouts with the California Angels and New York Mets.
Considered by many as the father of country music, Rodgers helped bring rural music to the masses with his early recordings with fellow Special Merit Award recipient Ralph Peer. His distinctive style set him apart from his contemporaries and launched a career that would influence countless country stars from Gene Autry to Bill Monroe to Johnny Cash. However, his career prior to making music was on the railroad as a brakeman, earning Rodgers the moniker "the Singing Brakeman" once he made the jump from railroads to records.
An artist who influenced everyone from Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright to Erykah Badu and Mary J. Blige, Simone's indelible musical impact continues today. Rihanna sang a few verses of the High Priestess of Soul's "Do What You Gotta Do" on Kanye West's 2016 album, The Life Of Pablo. Other West songs that sample Simone include "Blood On The Leaves" (from 2013's Yeezus) and his collaboration with Jay Z, "New Day" (from 2011's Watch The Throne).
Released in 1967, the Velvet Underground's debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico, ranks No. 13 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. "European Son," the last song on the album, was dedicated to Delmore Schwartz, the American poet who mentored the late Lou Reed while he was a student at Syracuse University.
A true architect of the Philadelphia sound, Bell produced soulful hits such as the Stylistics' "Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)," the Spinners' "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love" and the Delfonics' "La-La Means I Love You." At the 17th GRAMMY Awards in 1975, the Jamaican-born producer became the first person to win the GRAMMY for Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical, topping Stevie Wonder, Billy Sherrill, Lenny Waronker, and fellow Trustees Award recipient Rick Hall.
The esteemed Warner Bros. executive, who signed the likes of Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, Prince, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers during his storied career, is a big supporter of two of Los Angeles' renowned universities. Ostin serves on the board of counselors for the USC Thornton School of Music. He also donated $10 million to UCLA for a state-of-the-art campus music facility to be christened as the Evelyn and Mo Ostin Music Center.
Ralph S. Peer
Known for his seminal work engineering and producing field recordings and discovering musical talent in the South, in January 1928 Peer established the Southern Music Publishing Company, which became the foundation for Peer Music. Among his numerous accomplishments, Peer is credited as discovering fellow Special Merit Awards recipient Jimmie Rodgers. He managed Rodgers' career until the country singer/songwriter's death in 1933.
Alan Dower Blumlein
A prolific inventor who filed more than 120 patents during his lifetime, including the famous stereo microphone technique that bears his name, Blumlein is enshrined at the vaunted Abbey Road Studios, home to the Beatles, among other acts, in recognition of his standing as a pioneer of stereo technology.