Category: dance

Dolores Gray and Cyd Charisse photographed by Loomis Dean for

“It’s Always Fair Weather” (1955)

twixnmix:

Frances Taylor Davis (September 28, 1929 – November 17, 2018) was the first wife of jazz musician Miles Davis. She was a successful dancer before Miles made her give up her career.

Frances received a scholarship to study dance at the Katherine Dunham Company. She toured with the dance troupe in Europe and South America.  In 1948, she became the first black ballerina to perform with the Paris Opera Ballet, when they recruited her for a special presentation. Frances’ popularity grew and she regularly appeared in African-American publications like Hue magazine and Jet magazine.

In 1954, Frances was set to star opposite Sammy Davis Jr in his sitcom, but television networks couldn’t get a sponsor for the show. Probably because the the African-American cast weren’t depicted as the usual stereotypes of the time. The show had a theme about struggling musicians.

After a brief marriage to a member of the dance troupe in 1955 and giving birth to a son, Frances moved to New York City where she was cast in various Broadway musicals between 1956 and 1958, including Mr. Wonderful, Shinbone Alley, and West Side Story. While she was dancing in the original production of West Side Story, Miles made her quit in 1958. She had first met Miles in 1953, they reconnected around 1957 and began dating. He let her teach her own dance classes for a little while before they married in December 1959. She became a dutiful housewife following Miles on his international tours. She introduced him to theater and influenced a few of his albums and she also was put on the cover of a few. Soon his drinking and cocaine addiction began to take a toll. He would get jealous and took out his anger on Frances. She was offered a part in the film West Side Story (1961) and the Broadway musical Golden Boy (1964), but Miles’s wouldn’t allow her to perform anymore. Frances finally left in him 1965 when the abuse became unbearable and moved across the country seeking refuge at her friend Nancy Wilson’s home. Their divorce was finalized in 1968.

After their divorce, France taught private dance lessons and appeared in television special, including Elvis’ 1968 Comeback Special. She became a popular restaurant waitress in her retirement years. Frances died at the age of 89 in 2018.

(Video: Frances Davis Her Story – Life Before & After Miles)

twixnmix:

Frances Taylor Davis (September 28, 1929 – November 17, 2018) was the first wife of jazz musician Miles Davis. She was a successful dancer before Miles made her give up her career.

Frances received a scholarship to study dance at the Katherine Dunham Company. She toured with the dance troupe in Europe and South America.  In 1948, she became the first black ballerina to perform with the Paris Opera Ballet, when they recruited her for a special presentation. Frances’ popularity grew and she regularly appeared in African-American publications like Hue magazine and Jet magazine.

In 1954, Frances was set to star opposite Sammy Davis Jr in his sitcom, but television networks couldn’t get a sponsor for the show. Probably because the the African-American cast weren’t depicted as the usual stereotypes of the time. The show had a theme about struggling musicians.

After a brief marriage to a member of the dance troupe in 1955 and giving birth to a son, Frances moved to New York City where she was cast in various Broadway musicals between 1956 and 1958, including Mr. Wonderful, Shinbone Alley, and West Side Story. While she was dancing in the original production of West Side Story, Miles made her quit in 1958. She had first met Miles in 1953, they reconnected around 1957 and began dating. He let her teach her own dance classes for a little while before they married in December 1959. She became a dutiful housewife following Miles on his international tours. She introduced him to theater and influenced a few of his albums and she also was put on the cover of a few. Soon his drinking and cocaine addiction began to take a toll. He would get jealous and took out his anger on Frances. She was offered a part in the film West Side Story (1961) and the Broadway musical Golden Boy (1964), but Miles’s wouldn’t allow her to perform anymore. Frances finally left in him 1965 when the abuse became unbearable and moved across the country seeking refuge at her friend Nancy Wilson’s home. Their divorce was finalized in 1968.

After their divorce, France taught private dance lessons and appeared in television special, including Elvis’ 1968 Comeback Special. She became a popular restaurant waitress in her retirement years. Frances died at the age of 89 in 2018.

(Video: Frances Davis Her Story – Life Before & After Miles)

Frances Taylor Davis (September 28, 1929 – November 17, 2018) was the first wife of jazz musician Miles Davis. She was a successful dancer before Miles made her give up her career.

Frances received a scholarship to study dance at the Katherine Dunham Company. She toured with the dance troupe in Europe and South America.  In 1948, she became the first black ballerina to perform with the Paris Opera Ballet, when they recruited her for a special presentation. Frances’ popularity grew and she regularly appeared in African-American publications like Hue magazine and Jet magazine.

In 1954, Frances was set to star opposite Sammy Davis Jr in his sitcom, but television networks couldn’t get a sponsor for the show. Probably because the the African-American cast weren’t depicted as the usual stereotypes of the time. The show had a theme about struggling musicians.

After a brief marriage to a member of the dance troupe in 1955 and giving birth to a son, Frances moved to New York City where she was cast in various Broadway musicals between 1956 and 1958, including Mr. Wonderful, Shinbone Alley, and West Side Story. While she was dancing in the original production of West Side Story, Miles made her quit in 1958. She had first met Miles in 1953, they reconnected around 1957 and began dating. He let her teach her own dance classes for a little while before they married in December 1959. She became a dutiful housewife following Miles on his international tours. She introduced him to theater and influenced a few of his albums and she also was put on the cover of a few. Soon his drinking and cocaine addiction began to take a toll. He would get jealous and took out his anger on Frances. She was offered a part in the film West Side Story (1961) and the Broadway musical Golden Boy (1964), but Miles’s wouldn’t allow her to perform anymore. Frances finally left in him 1965 when the abuse became unbearable and moved across the country seeking refuge at her friend Nancy Wilson’s home. Their divorce was finalized in 1968.

After their divorce, France taught private dance lessons and appeared in television special, including Elvis’ 1968 Comeback Special. She became a popular restaurant waitress in her retirement years. Frances died at the age of 89 in 2018.

(Video: Frances Davis Her Story – Life Before & After Miles)

On this day in music history: December 7, 1974 – “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also hitting #1 on the R&B singles chart for 1 week on January 11, 1975. Written by Carl Douglas, it is the biggest hit for the Jamaican born singer. He is inspired to write the song when he sees young kids in a pinball arcade in Soho, London “mock fighting” in time with music playing in the background. “Kung Fu Fighting is initially intended to be the B-side of the song "I Want To Give You My Everything” and is recorded very quickly during the last ten minutes of a recording session with Indian born/British based producer Biddu (born Biddu Appaiah). First released through Pye Records in the UK, there is no airplay on the record at all for the first five weeks after its release. It suddenly reaches critical mass when it begins being played in dance clubs. From there radio picks up on it, setting it on the course to number one. The single is licensed to 20th Century Records for release in the US where it immediately follows its UK chart success. Entering the Hot 100 at #94 on October 12, 1974, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. The song is used in numerous films in later years including “Wayne’s World 2”, “Beverly Hills Ninja”, “Daddy Day Care”, “Bowfinger” and “Rumble In The Bronx”. A cover version of the song sung by Cee-Lo Green and Jack Black is recorded for the animated film “Kung Fu Panda” in 2008. “Kung Fu Fighting” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: December 6, 1982 – “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life” by Indeep is released. Written by Mike Cleveland, it is the debut single release and biggest hit for the dance music group from New York City. Formed in 1980 by musician Mike Cleveland, Indeep also features lead vocalists Réjane “Reggie” Magloire and Rose Marie Ramsey. In the post-disco era, the group create a unique musical hybrid that include sung vocal hooks, rap lyrics and built on a foundation of minimalist, but highly funky instrumentation. For their first single, Cleveland writes “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life”. Its narrative describes a woman who’s home alone, and is upset and frustrated that she can’t reach her man. On the verge of leaving him, she changes her mind when she hears a song on the radio that makes her reconsider, proclaiming in the chorus “Last night a DJ saved my life from a broken heart… Last night a DJ saved my life with a song…”. The track is recorded at Eastern Artists Recording Studio in East Orange, NJ, with Ramsey on lead vocals, Cleveland on guitar, bass, and rap vocals, and drummer Dave Reyes (Young & Company, Aurra). “DJ” is recorded by a young engineer named Andy Wallace, who goes on to greater fame later on working with Run DMC, Nirvana, Sheryl Crow and many others. It is mixed by Club DJ legend, remixer and producer Tony Humphries. Co-produced by Reggie Thompson (Mtume, Philip Bailey, Stanley Clarke), the single is released on the Sound Of New York Records label, founded by executive producer Gene Griffin (Guy, Wrecks-N-Effects). “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life” quickly becomes a dance floor smash, entering the Billboard Club Play chart at #60 on December 25, 1982. It enters the Billboard R&B singles chart at #83 on the R&B singles chart on January 8, 1983. It peaks at #2 on the Club Play chart five weeks later on January 29, 1983. The record holds for six weeks in the runner spot, unable to budge Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album from the top spot. “DJ” peaks at #10 on the R&B singles chart nine weeks later on March 12, 1983, holding for three consecutive weeks. Though it doesn’t make the US pop chart, bubbling under at #103, Indeep’s record is a big hit across Europe, in the UK (#13), Spain (#7), The Netherlands (#2). Belgium (#2) and Germany (#10). The group follow up their breakthrough with “When Boys Talk” (#32 R&B, #16 Club Play), “Buffalo Bill” (#81 R&B) and “The Record Keeps Spinning” (#45 R&B). Though regarded as a one hit wonder, Indeep’s “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life” has enjoyed enduring popularity, being covered most notably by Mariah Carey on the “Glitter” Soundtrack in 2001. The song has also been sampled numerous times, also being featured on the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and the television mini series The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.

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On this day in music history: December 6, 1975 – “I Love Music (Part 1)” by The O’Jays hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, peaking at #5 on the Hot 100 on January 24, 1976, also topping the Dance/Disco chart for 8 weeks on November 22, 1975. Written and produced by Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff, it is the fourth chart topper for the R&B vocal trio from Canton, OH. Recorded at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia with members of the studio band MFSB, the basic track to the song is cut live with minimal overdubbing. The song is also significant as being on the first major hit records to be mixed using console automation on the studios’ mixing board (by engineer Joe Tarsia). Released as the first single from the group’s ninth studio album “Family Reunion”, the single quickly becomes a big hit not only on pop and R&B radio, but also becomes a mainstay of the disco era. “I Love Music” is covered by several different artists over the years including versions by house music artists Rozalla and Darryl Pandy. “I Love Music (Part 1)” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: December 5, 1984 – “Sugar Walls” by Sheena Easton is released. Written by Alexander Nevermind (aka Prince), it is the thirteenth US (sixteenth UK) single release for the pop vocalist from Bellshill, North Lanarkshire, Scotland. Making a conscious effort to shed her “sweet and innocent good girl” image, Sheena Easton looks to shake things up with her sixth album “A Private Heaven”. While working on the album with her producer Greg Mathieson, Easton receives an unexpected message from Prince. At the time, he’s putting the final touches on the “Purple Rain” soundtrack and film. On January 20, 1984, Prince records the basic track for a new song he has written titled “Sugar Walls” at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, CA. The track is originally intended for singer Jill Jones, but the musician changes his mind when he sees Sheena that same night on television, performing on The Tonight Show. Impressed by her performance, the musician will say to himself, “Ya, I gotta write something for that girl”. The next day, Prince contacts Easton through recording engineer David Leonard, whom both are working with at the time. Sheena likes the track immediately, and agrees to work with Prince on the song. Easton records her vocals at Sunset Sound’s sister studio The Sound Factory on January 22, 1984. Getting on well immediately, Easton and Prince finish recording the vocals in one session. Following up the sexy first single “Strut” (#7 Pop), the even more provocative “Sugar Walls” is issued next. Poppy and undeniably funky, laced with Sheena’s equally sexy vocals, it draws immediate attention from fans and radio. Credited to the pseudonym “Alexander Nevermind”, it doesn’t take long for the public to realize that Prince, is the one behind this sexy musical confection. It also doesn’t take long for listeners to figure out the title is a euphemism for a woman’s privates. However, this doesn’t stop it from becoming an across the board smash on pop and R&B radio, as well on club dance floors. “Sugar Walls” enters the Billboard Hot 100 at #60 on December 22, 1984, peaking ten weeks later at #9 on March 2, 1985. It’s an even bigger hit on R&B stations, peaking at #3 on the R&B chart on March 9, 1985, and topping the Club Play chart for one week on February 23, 1985. After it peaks on the charts, “Sugar Walls” is the subject of further controversy and infamy, when it is singled out by the PMRC (Parents Music Research Center), as one of its “Filthy Fifteen” along side Prince’s “Darling Nikki”. The success of the collaboration between Sheena Easton and Prince leads to future musical collaborations. Easton later appears on the hit “U Got The Look” (#2 Pop, #11 R&B), co-writing the “Sign ‘O’ The Times” B-side “La, La, La, He, He, Hee”, and “The Arms Of Orion” on the “Batman Soundtrack”.

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On this day in music history: December 3, 1990 – Madonna appears on the ABC News program “Nightline” and is interviewed by Forrest Sawyer. During the interview, ABC shows the controversial video for “Justify My Love” in its entirety. Though MTV has the banned clip from airplay, it does not stop the singles’ upward chart momentum. Instead, the video (directed by Jean Baptiste-Mondino) is issued as a single on VHS tape, selling over one million copies. “Justify My Love” hits number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on January 5, 1991, spending 2 weeks at the top.

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On this day in music history: December 3, 1982 – “All I Need” the sixth album by Sylvester is released. Produced by James “Tip” Wirrick and Patrick Cowley, it is recorded at Independent Sound Studios in San Francisco, CA and Starlight Sound Studios in Richmond, CA from June – November 1982. After six years and five albums with Fantasy Records, Sylvester leaves the label, also falling out with long time producer Harvey Fuqua over unpaid royalties. Looking to take more creative control of his career, and change his sound now that Disco has fallen out of vogue, the singer makes some major changes. Securing new management, Sylvester signs with San Francisco based independent label Megatone Records, founded by musician Patrick Cowley and Marty Blecman. Making records primarily for the underground club scene, the label helps pioneer the Hi-NRG dance music genre, largely led by Cowley. By mid 1982, Patrick Cowley though musically creative as ever, is in failing health due to suffering from the AIDS virus. He asks Sylvester to sing on a couple of new tracks he’s working on, one of which is “Do You Wanna Funk?” (#4 Club Play). Released in July of 1982, “Funk” becomes an instant club classic, also hitting the charts across Europe. Plans to do more tracks with Cowley unfortunately do not come to pass, when the musician’s health further deteriorates, and passes away in November of 1982. The rest of what becomes Sylvester’s first album for Megatone, are tracks written and produced by his guitarist and touring bandleader Tip Wirrick. The songs were originally intended for a female vocalist signed to Megatone, but is dismissed when she becomes too demanding and difficult to handle. Sylvester along with his backing vocalists The Fabulashes (Martha Wash, Jeanie Tracy, Daryl Coley, Lynette Hawkins and Dennis Sanders), overdub their vocals on the existing tracks. Titled “All I Need”, the album is a departure from the singer’s trademark disco sound, experimenting with new wave, rock, pop and mainstream R&B music. The single “Hard Up”, featuring a pronounced up tempo rock/new wave sound, its music video is aired on MTV at a time when few African American artists are given air time on the fledgling cable music channel. The album spins off two more singles including “Tell Me” (#49 Club Play) and the double A-sided title track (b/w “Don’t Stop”) (#67 R&B, #3 Club Play). Several months after the release of “All I Need”, “Do You Wanna Funk?” is featured in the hit comedy “Trading Places”. The album makes its CD debut in 1990 two years after Sylvester’s passing, as a 2-fer disc set with the follow up album “Call Me”. “All I Need” peaks at number thirty five on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number one hundred sixty eight on the Top 200.

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