ON THIS DAY IN BLACK MUSIC HISTORY: AUGUST 16

#1 R&B Song 1990:  “Upside Down,” Diana Ross

Born:  Al Hibbler, 1915; Richard Blandon (the Dubs), 1934; Ketty Lester, 1934

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1938   Blues icon Robert Johnson died in Greenwood, MS, after being poisoned by a vengeful husband four days earlier. His music and guitar style became an influence for future generations of stars such as Muddy Waters, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Elmore James, and Taj Mahal. Johnson, who often performed with the likes of Memphis Slim, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Elmore James, was only twenty-seven when he died.

1962   Little Stevie Wonder’s first single, “I Call It Pretty Music (But the Old People Call It Blues),” was released. It never charted but an original 45 today is an $80 collectible.

1969   The Dells’ re-recording of their hit “Oh, What A Night” (#10 R&B) charted thirteen years after the original.

1969   Appearing at one of music history’s most legendary concerts, Richie Havens performed his song “Freedom” at the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival in Bethel, NY. The song became an anthem of the times and his performance was included in the movie Woodstock. Another anthem literally was Jimi Hendrix’s interpretation of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which became a classic moment of the three-day concert. Jimi, who was paid more than any other performer in attendance ($125,000), was not even listed on the handbills given out for ticket sales.

1969   The Supremes performed at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, CA, with the Jackson 5, who were making their performance debut as a Motown group. Though the press release touted Diana as the discoverer of the group, it was actually Gladys Knight who first saw them perform and alerted Motown’s Berry Gordy Jr.

1986   Anita Baker, former lead singer of Chapter 8, swept onto the bestseller’s list with “Sweet Love.” After leaving Chapter 8 in 1980, she had taken an office job in Detroit until her chance to record solo came in 1983. “Sweet Love” was her first pop hit.

1986   Run-D.M.C.’s Raising Hell became the first rap album to reach #1 on the R&B chart.

1997   Mary J. Blige, Chaka Khan, Toni Braxton, Rod Stewart, Jon Bon Jovi, and Seal, among others, performed at London’s Wembley Stadium for the Songs & Visions: The Carlsberg Concert ’97 show.

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