Schizophrenia Series-Disabled Legend Alexander “Skip” Spence

Alexander Lee “Skip” Spence was born on 18 April, 1946 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada and died on 16 April, 1999 from lung cancer. Alexander “Skip” Spence was 52, just 2days shy of his 53rd birthday.

Alexander “Skip” Spence was a musician and singer-songwriter best known for his work with Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape and as a solo artist. Alexander “Skip” Spence and his family relocated to San Jose, California in the late 1950s. Alexander “Skip” Spence’s career was plauged by drug addictions coupled with mental health problems, and is described by a biographer as man who “neither died young nor had a chance to find his way out. Unlike the advice in the Neil Young song, he both burned out and faded away;” yet during his tenure in the public eye, he had a profound impact on the outsider music and psych-folk genres.

Alexander “Skip” Spence was a guitarist in an early line-up of Quicksilver Messenger Service before Marty Balin recruited him to be the drummer for Jefferson Airplane. After 1 album with Jefferson Airplane, their debut Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, he left to co-found Moby Grape, once again as a guitarist. It was with Moby Grape that Alexander “Skip” Spence found his greatest musical fame, writing among other songs, “Omaha”, from Moby Grape’s 1st album (1967) a song identified in 2008 by Rolling Stone Magazine as 1 of the 100 greatest guitar songs of all time.

Alexander “Skip” Spence is acknowledged as having been instrumental in the formation of the Doobie Brothers, by way of introducing John Hartman to Tom Johnston, and encouraging their musical development.

During the recording session of Moby Grape’s 2nd album, Wow, in 1968, Alexander “Skip” Spence attempted to break down a bandmate’s hotel room door with a fire axe, while under the influence of LSD. Alexander “Skip” Spence’s deterioration in New York and the “fire axe incident” are described by bandmate Jerry Miller as follows: “Skippy changed radically when we were in New York. There were some people there that were into harder drugs and a harder lifestyle, and some very weird shit. And so he kind of flew off with those people. Skippy kind of disappeared for a little while. Next time we saw him, he had cut off his beard, and was wearing a black leather jacket, with his chest hanging out, with some chains and just sweating like a son of a gun. I don’t know what the hell he got a hold of, man, but it just whacked him. And the next thing I know, he axed my door down in the Albert Hotel. They said at the reception area that this crazy guy had held an ax to the doorman’s head.”

As described by bandmate Peter Lewis, it appears that both Jerry Miller and bandmade Don Stevenson were targets of Alexander “Skip” Spence: “We had to do (the album) in New York because the producer (David Rubinson) wanted to be with his family. So we had to leave our families and spend months at a time in hotel rooms in New York City. Finally I just quit and went back to California. I got a phone call after a couple of days. They’d played a Fillmore East gig without me, and Skippy took off with some black witch afterward who fed him full of acid. It was like that scene in The Doors movie. He thought he was the anti-Christ. He tried to chop down the hotel room door with a fire axe to kill Don (Stevenson) to save him from himself. He went up to the 52nd floor of the CBS building where they had to wrestle him to the ground. And Rubinson pressed charges against him. They took him to the The Tombs (and then to Bellevue) and that’s where he wrote Oar. When he got out of there, he cut that album in Nashville. And that was the end of his career. They shot him full of Thorazine for 6 months. They just take you out of the game.”

During his 6 months in Bellevue, Alexander “Skip” Spence was diagnosed with schizophrenia. On the day of his release, he drove a motorcycle, dressed in only his pajamas, directly to Nashville to record his only solo album, with no other musicians appearing on it, the now-classic psychedelic/folk album Oar (1969, Columbia Records).

Alexander “Skip” Spence continued to have minor involvement in later Moby Grape projects and reunions. Alexander “Skip” Spence contributed to 20 Granite Creek(1971) and Live Grape(1978), though his bandmates always included at least 1 of his songs on group recordings, irrespective of whether he was capable of performing with the group at the time. Alexander “Skip” Spence had been similarly remembered by Jefferson Airplane, whereby his song, “My Best Friend” was included on the group’s definitive Surrealistic Pillow album (1967), despite his departure from the group.

Due to his deteriorating state and notwithstanding that he was no longer functioning in the band, Alexander “Skip” Spence was supported by Moby Grape band members for extended periods. Voluminous consumption of heroin and cocaine resulted in a further involuntary committal for Alexander “Skip” Spence, based on “Aqualung”-like behaviours. As described by Peter Lewis, “Skippy was just hanging around. He hadn’t been all there for years, because he’d been into heroin all that time. In fact he actually ODed once and they had him in the morgue in San Jose with a tag on his toe. All of a sudden he got up and asked for a glass of water. Now he was snortin’ big clumps of coke, and nothing would happen to him. We couldn’t have him around because he’d be pacing the room, describing axe murders. So we got him a little place of his own. He had a little white rat named Oswald that would snort coke too. He’d never washed his dishes, and he’d try to get these little grammar school girls to go into the house with him. He was real bad. One of the parents finally called the cops, and they took him to the County Mental Health Hospital in Santa Cruz. Where they immediately lost him, and he turned up days later in the women’s ward.”

Mental illness, drug addiction and alcoholism thus prevented Alexander “Skip” Spence from sustaining a career in the music industry. Much of his life was spent in third party care, as a ward of the State of California, and either homeless or in transient accommodations in his later years. Alexander “Skip” Spence remained in and around San Jose and Santa Cruz, California. Peter Lewis regularly visited Alexander “Skip” Spence during the latter years of his life: “The last 5 years I’d go up‚ he lived in a trailer up there‚ Capitola. I used to hang around with him; we’d spend the weekends together. But he just basically kind of hit the…he was helpless in a way in terms of being able to define anything or control his feelings.”

As 1 of his 4 children, son Omar Spence, recalls, “When I saw my dad, it broke my heart. …There were moments of clarity when he was genius smart, and then he’d wander off having a conversation with himself. Here’s a homeless guy that most people would walk past and pity, and he’d say, ‘I’ve been working on a song’, and he’d scratch out some bar chords and musical notes on a napkin.”

Spence died More Oar: A Tribute to Alexander “Skip” Spence, an album featuring contributions from Robert Plant, Tom Waits, Beck, among others, was released a few weeks after his death. Prior to its release, the CD was played for Alexander “Skip” Spence at the hospital, in his final stages before death. As Peter Lewis recalls, “He was in a coma‚ and the last thing to go is your hearing. And they had More Oar in there and were playing it for him as they pulled the plug and we were holding his hands. I mean‚ it was like this death of Van Gogh or something. That’s the drama of it. You know…it was just so intense.”

Alexander “Skip” Spence’s “Land of the Sun”, one of the only post-Grape recordings he ever completed, was nearly placed on the X-Files soundtrack, Songs In The Key of X. Alexander “Skip” Spence had been commissioned to write the song.

In June, 2008, an Alexander “Skip” Spence Tribute Concert was held in Santa Cruz. The concert featured Alexander “Skip” Spence’s son, Omar Spence, who has sung with various configurations of Moby Grape in recent years. Omar Spence, singing his father’s songs, was backed by the Santa Cruz White Album Ensemble, with Dale Ockerman and Tiran Porter, both formerly of the Doobie Brothers, and both of whom have played with various members of Moby Grape in several bands over the past 3 decades. Keith Graves of Quicksilver Messenger Service played drums. Peter Lewis joined the group onstage for the finale. An additional Alexander “Skip” Spence tribute concert is planned for October, 2008.

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Hearing Impairment Series-Disabled Legend Granville Redmond

Granville Richard Seymour Redmond was born on 9 March, 1871 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and died on 24 May, 1935 in Los Angeles.

Granville Redmond was an American Painter, born to a hearing family. Granville Redmond contracted Scarlet Fever at around 2 1/2 to the age of 3; when he recovered, he was found to be deaf. This may have prompted his family’s decision to move from the East Coast to San Jose, California: the possibility for his education at the Berkeley School for the Deaf.

Granville Redmond attended the Berkeley School for the Deaf (later the California School for the Deaf) from 1879 to 1890 where his artistic talents were recognized and encouraged. There his teacher Theophilus d’Estrella taught him painting, drawing and pantomime.

When he graduated from CSD, Granville Redmond enrolled at another CSD: the California School of Design in San Francisco, where he worked for 3 years with teachers such as Arthur Matthews and Amedee Joullion. Granville Redmond famously won the W. E. Brown Medal of Excellence. Granville Redmond associated with many other artists, including Gottardo Piazzoni and Giuseppe Cadenasso. Piazzoni learned American Sign Language and he and Granville Redmond were lifelong friends. They lived together in Parkfield, California, and Tiburon.

1893 saw Granville Redmond win a scholarship from California School of the Deaf and from the School of Design, which made it possible for him to study in Paris at the Academie Julian under teachers Jean-Paul Laurens and Benjamin Constant. At the Academie Julian, he roomed with sculptor Douglas Tilden, famous Deaf sculptor and another graduate of the California School for the Deaf. In 1895 in Paris his painting Matin d’Hiver, was accepted for the Paris Salon.

In 1898, he returned to California and settled in Los Angeles, where he painted many beautiful beach scenes. Granville Redmond was married in 1899 to Carrie Ann Jean, a former student of the Illinois School for the Deaf. Together they had three children. It is not known if they were Deaf or could hear.

While living in Los Angeles, he became friends with Charles Chaplin, who admired the natural expressiveness of a Deaf person using American Sign Language. Charles Chaplin asked Granville Redmond to help him develop the techniques Charles Chaplin later used in his silent films. Charles Chaplin, impressed with Granville Redmond’s skill gave granville Redmond a studio on the movie lot, collected his paintings, and sponsored him in silent acting roles – the sculptor in City Lights for example.

During this time Granville Redmond did not neglect his painting. Through Charles Chaplin he met Los Angeles neighbor artists Elmer Wachtel and Norman St. Clair. They showed works at the Spring Exhibition held in San Francisco in 1904. By 1905 Granville Redmond was receiving considerable recognition as a leading landscape painter and bold colorist. Granville Redmond’s artwork was sometimes compared to Matisse; he loved painting flowers and dark, moody scenes.

Granville Redmond’s work is in a variety of collections:

Irvine Museum, California

Laguna Art Museum, California

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University

De Young Museum, the Bancroft Library, San Francisco

California School for the Deaf

New York City Museum, New York

Oakland Museum, California

Granville Redmond’s Awards:

Gold Medal, W. E. Brown Award, California School of Design, 1891

Medal, Louisiana Purchase Exposition, 1904

Silver Medal, Alaska-Yukon Pacific Exposition, Seattle, Washington, 1909

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Hearing Impairment Series-Disabled Legend Dr Clayton Valli

Dr Clayton Valli died on 7 March, 2003. Dr Clayton Valli was the author of numerous articles and books on linguistics and on American Sign Language poetry. Dr Clayton Valli gave workshops and presentations across the country that raised awareness and appreciation for the movement, meter, and rhythm in ASL poetry. Dr Clayton Valli own poetic works, which have drawn international recognition for their aestheticism and contribution to literary scholarship, are available on video, taped both by him and by other ASL artists.

A frequent visitor and presenter in the Rochester area, Dr Clayton Valli gave several workshops on ASL poetry at the University of Rochester. Dr Clayton Valli also visited classes and was a keynote presenter at the Second National ASL Literature Conference, which was held at the University in 1996.

Dr Clayton Valli also made an impact in Canada, working at the Ernest C. Drury School for the Deaf in Milton, Ontario. Dr Clayton Valli provided teacher training workshops in ASL poetry for the Ontario ASL Curriculum Team. Dr Clayton Valli helped to pioneer the worldwide movement to develop an ASL-as-a-first-language curriculum for Deaf children.

Dr Clayton Valli was born in Massachusetts and attended the Austine School for the Deaf in Vermont. Dr Clayton Valli attended the University of Nevada, Reno, where he graduated with a B.A. in Social Psychology in 1978. In 1985, he received his M.A. in Linguistics from Gallaudet University. Dr Clayton Valli’s Ph.D. in Linguistics and ASL Poetics from the Union Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio which he received in 1993 made him the first person ever to achieve a doctorate in ASL poetry. Dr Clayton Valli was also the 1st individual to identify the features of ASL poetry as a literature genre in its own right.

Dr Clayton Valli authored and co-authored many books about ASL linguistics and literature. Dr Clayton Valli was also a reviewer for the Ontario monograph Teacher Research in a Bilingual-Bicultural School for Deaf Students. But it is his craft as an ASL poet and his contribution to ASL literature for which he is most remembered. Dr Clayton Valli’s poems “Cow and Horse” and “Dandelions” are known and loved by Deaf children and adults across the continent.

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Hearing Impairment Series-Disabled Legend Foxy Brown

Foxy Brown – Inga Marchand, born on 6 September, 1978, in Brooklyn, New York City, better known as Foxy Brown, is an American rapper of Afro-Trinidadian and Asian descent. Foxy Brown is known for her solo work and her brief stint as part of hip-hop music group The Firm. Foxy Brown has revealed that she is slowly losing her hearing after being diagnosed with a rare condition that only affects 1 in 10,000. On 5 December, 2005, outside of Manhattan criminal court, Foxy Brown’s attorney Joseph Tacopina stated he wanted to confirm rumors that Foxy Brown was almost totally deaf and claimed that he could no longer communicate with her verbally. Foxy Brown told reporters on 15 December that she was diagnosed with sudden hearing loss in May while she was recording her upcoming album. Shortly after Tacopina spoke to the public about her hearing condition, news spread that Foxy Brown had fired him. According to reports, Tacopina was never given permission by Foxy Brown or her agent to discuss her medical condition to reporters.

While still a teenager, Foxy Brown won a talent contest in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. At the time, production team Trackmasters were working on LL Cool J’s Mr. Smith album, the pair were in attendance that night and being impressed, they decided to let her rap over “I Shot Ya.” Foxy Brown followed her debut with appearances on several RIAA platinum and gold singles from other artists, including remixes of songs “You’re Makin’ Me High” by Toni Braxton. Foxy Brown was also featured on the soundtrack to the 1996 film The Nutty Professor, on the songs “Touch Me Tease Me” by Case and “Ain’t No Nigga” by Jay-Z. The immediate success led to a label bidding war at the beginning of 1996, and in March, Def Jam Records won as they added the then 16 year old talent to their roster.

In 1996 Foxy Brown released her debut album Ill Na Na to mixed reviews but strong sales. The album sold over 109,000 copies in the first week, and debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 album charts. The album was heavily produced by Trackmasters, and featured guest appearances from Jay-Z, Blackstreet, Method Man, and Kid Capri. The album went on to go platinum selling over 3 million records in the US, 6 million worldwide and launched 2 hit singles: “Get Me Home” (featuring Blackstreet) and “I’ll Be” (featuring Jay-Z).

Following the release of Ill Na Na, Foxy Brown joined fellow New York based hip hop artists, Nas, AZ and Nature to form the supergroup known as The Firm. The album was released via Aftermath Records and was produced and recorded by the collective team of Dr. Dre, The Trackmasters, and Steve “Comissioner” Stout of Violator Entertainment. An early form of The Firm appeared on “Affirmative Action,” from Nas’ second album, It Was Written. A remix of the song, and several group freestyles were in the album, Nas, Foxy Brown, AZ, and Nature Present The Firm: The Album. The album entered the Billboard 200 album chart at No. 1 and sold over 1 000,000 records and is RIAA certified platinum.

On 25 January, 1997 Foxy Brown spat on 2 hotel workers in Raleigh, North Carolina when they told her they didn’t have an iron available. When she missed a court appearance, an arrest warrant was issued and she finally turned herself in on 30 April, 1997. Foxy Brown eventually received a 30 day suspended sentence and was ordered to perform 80 hours of community service.

In March 1997, she joined the spring break festivities hosted by the MTV cable television network in Panama City, Florida, among other performers including rapper Snoop Dogg, pop group The Spice Girls, and rock band Stone Temple Pilots. Later, she joined the Smokin’ Grooves tour hosted by the House of Blues with the headlining rap group Cypress Hill, along with other performers like Erykah Badu, The Roots, OutKast, and The Pharcyde, the tour set to begin in Boston, Massachusetts in the summer of 1997. However, after missing several dates in the tour, she left it.

Foxy Brown made an appearance on Ricky Lake in 1998 and mentioned that she had been cast alongside Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz in the 2000 film Charlie’s Angels. However, due to her legal troubles around that time she was replaced, at first by Thandie Newton, and ultimately by Lucy Liu.

On 20 January, 1999 Foxy Brown released her second album Chyna Doll, delayed from its original November 1998 release date. It entered the Billboard 200 charts at number 1, selling 173,000 copies in its opening week. However, its sales quickly declined in later weeks. The album’s lead single “Hot Spot” failed to enter the top 50 of the Billboard pop charts, as did the follow-up single, “I Can’t” (featuring Total). Chyna Doll has been certified platinum after surpassing 1 000,000 copies in sales.

On 3 July, 1999 Foxy Brown was escorted off the stage by police at a concert in Trinidad and Tobago for using obscene language but was neither charged nor arrested. In 2000, she announced she was suffering from depression and entered rehab at Cornell University Medical College for an addiction to prescription painkillers, in particular, morphine, even stating that she couldn’t perform or make records unless she was on the illegal drug. On 6 March, 2000 Foxy Brown crashed her Range Rover in Flatbush, Brooklyn. That year she was also arrested for driving without a license.

In 2001, Foxy Brown released Broken Silence. Its first single was “BK Anthem” showcased Foxy Brown changing to a “street” image and giving a tribute to her hometown Brooklyn and famous rappers such as The Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z. The second single from the album was “Oh Yeah”, which featured her then-boyfriend, Jamaican dancehall artist Spragga Benz. The album debuted on the Billboard Charts at No. 5, selling 131,000 units its first week. Like previous albums, Broken Silence also sold over 1 000,000 records and is certified platinum by the RIAA.

In 2002, Foxy Brown returned to the music scene briefly with her single “Stylin'”, whose remix featured rappers Birdman, her brother Gavin, Loon, and N.O.R.E. was to be the first single off of her upcoming album Ill Na Na 2: The Fever. Threat of arrest faced her following an altercation at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, Jamaica from July she would be arrested if she ever would return to the country. The next year, she was featured on DJ Kayslay’s single “Too Much for Me” from his Street Sweeper’s Volume One Mixtape. Foxy Brown also appeared on Luther Vandross’ final studio album Dance with My Father. That April, Foxy Brown appeared on popular New York radio jock Wendy Williams’ radio show, and revealed the details of her relationships with Lyor Cohen, president of Def Jam Recordings at the time, and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs. Foxy Brown accused both of illegally trading her recording masters. Foxy Brown also announced that Cohen shelved her long awaited fourth album Ill Na Na 2: The Fever over personal disagreements. Therefore, “Stylin'” was released on the compilation album The Source Presents: Hip Hop Hits Vol. 6 in December 2002.

In 2004, Foxy Brown reunited with her old friend and mentor Jay-Z, when he became the president of Def Jam and signed her to its subsidiary, Roc-A-Fella Records. Later that year, Foxy Brown joined Jay-Z and several other hip-hop acts on his Jay-Z and Friends tour. Foxy Brown began recording her fourth solo album, Black Roses. Its first single was “Come Fly With Me” featuring Sizzla. Other tracks Foxy Brown recorded included a remix of the song “You Already Know” by the R&B group 112.

On 29 August, 2004 Foxy Brown attacked 2 manicurists in Chelsea, Manhattan during a dispute over a $20 bill that she refused to pay, and she in April 2005 pled not guilty to assault charges and entered 3 years of probation effective October 2006. For that incident, she would also take anger management classes. Female rapper Jacki-O, in April 2005, alleged that she and Foxy Brown got into a physical altercation at a recording studio in Miami, Florida, saying that Foxy Brown came into the studio during her session and expected her to “bow down” to her. The next month, Foxy Brown denied any such altercation in an interview with the Miami, Florida hip-hop radio station WEDR.

Joseph Tacopina, Foxy Brown’s attorney, stated on 5 December, 2005 that he wanted to confirm rumors that Foxy Brown was almost totally deaf and claimed that he could no longer communicate with her verbally. Foxy Brown told reporters on 15 December that she was diagnosed with sudden hearing loss in May while she was recording her upcoming album. Shortly after Tacopina spoke to the public about her hearing condition, news spread that Foxy Brown had fired him. According to reports, Tacopina was never given permission by Foxy Brown or her agent to discuss her medical condition to reporters.

As a result of her legal troubles, Foxy Brown entered a confrontation with radio host Egypt on New York City radio station WWPR-FM (“Power 105.1”). Foxy Brown pled not guilty in March 2007 to assaulting a beauty supply store employee. Foxy Brown’s other arrests during 2007 included leaving New York state without permission during probation, hitting a neighbor with a BlackBerry, and almost running over a stroller with a baby inside.

On 24 July, 2008 publisher Simon & Schuster Inc. sued Foxy Brown in state court in New York claiming that it paid Foxy Brown $75,000 under a 2006 contract for an autobiography tentatively titled “Broken Silence” and Foxy Brown never delivered on the contract. The case is Simon & Schuster v. Inga Marchand, 110125/2008, New York State Supreme Court (Manhattan).

On 7 September, 2007, New York Criminal Court Judge Melissa Jackson sentenced Foxy Brown to 1 year in jail for violating her probation that stemmed from the 2004 fight with 2 manicurists in a New York City nail salon. Foxy Brown was eventually released from prison on 18 April, 2008. No mention was made during the trial by anyone about Foxy Brown expecting a baby. On 12 September, 2007 her representatives stated the rapper was not pregnant in response to claims by her lawyer that she was.

On 23 October, 2007, Foxy Brown was given 76 days in solitary confinement due to a physical altercation that took place on 3 October, 2007 with another prisoner. According to the prison authorities, Foxy Brown, the next day after the incident, was also verbally abusive toward correction officers and refused to take a random drug test. Prison authorities reported on 27 November that she was released “from solitary confinement…for good behavior”, and Foxy Brown was finally released from prison on 18 April, 2008.

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