Speech Differences And Stutter Series-Disabled Legend Bill Withers

Bill Withers was born on 4 July, 1938. Bill Withers is an American singer-songwriter who performed and recorded from 1970 until 1985. Some of his best-known songs are “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Use Me,” “Lovely Day,” “Lean on Me”, “Grandma’s Hands”, and “Just the Two of Us”.

Bill Withers was born William Harrison Withers, Jr., Bill Withers is the son of a coal miner who worked for the Slab Fork Coal Company from 1917 to 1951 and a domestic for the William Gaston Caperton family that owned the coal company. Bill Withers was born in a house owned by the company on land leased from Beaver Coal Corporation, predecessor to Beaver Coal Company, Ltd, the youngest of 6 children in the small coal-mining unincorporated community of Slab Fork, West Virginia in Raleigh County. Bill Withers’ father, William Harrison Withers Sr. was a Baptist deacon and the treasurer for the local chapter of the United Mine Workers (UMWA). Bill Withers’ mother, Mattie Rose (née Galloway), was a widow and the mother of 4 children when she married William Harrison Withers, Sr. Withers’ parents separated in October 1941 and officially divorced in May 1942, and Bill Withers grew up both in a company house of the Slab Fork Coal Company in Slab Fork. In October 1941, he moved in with his Aunt Carrella Galloway Briggs’. In August 1944, he finally settled with his mother in Beckley, West Virginia and attended public school at East Park Elementary School and Stratton Junior High School in Beckley, and the coloured schools in Slab Fork.

After his Aunt Carrella died in 1949, Bill Withers formed a special relationship with his maternal grandmother, Lula Carter Galloway who came to live with his family until her death in 1953. Bill Withers then lived with his father in Slab Fork from 1948 to 1951 and attended the local segregated school. Returning to Beckley from Slab Fork after his father became ill, Bill Withers left school in the 7th grade after his father died, and worked several jobs, including a shoe shine boy in Beckley. On 15 July, 1951, William, Sr. died of azotemia and chronic glomerulonephritis when Bill Withers was 13. After his father’s death, Bill Withers lived with the family of the widow of his deceased brother Earl, Elfreida Martin. Bill Withers suffered from chronic stuttering until the age of 28.

In May 1956, at the age of 17, Bill Withers joined the United States Navy and served for 9 years, during which time he became interested in singing and songwriting. Bill Withers began writing songs to fill a need for lyrics that expressed what he felt. Following his discharge from the Navy in July 1965, he worked in the San Jose, California area and then moved to Los Angeles in 1967 to pursue a career in music.

Bill Withers worked as an assembler for several different companies, including Douglas Aircraft Corporation, in the Los Angeles area, while recording demo tapes with his own money that he shopped around and performing with local musicians at the night. Although he kept his job as an assembler after he debuted on the music scene in February 1971 with the single “Ain’t No Sunshine” and the album “Just As I Am,” he was shortly thereafter laid off by Weber Aircraft Corporation.

In early 1970, Bill Withers’ demo tape was received favourably by former music manager and music executive and entrepreneur Clarence Avant of the newly created Sussex Records, Inc., distributed by Buddah Records and Interior Music Corp.. Avant signed Bill Withers to recording and publishing contracts on 8 May, 1970, and Booker T. Jones of Stax Records produced Bill Withers’ debut album. Bill Withers also signed with the business manager representing Avant, Sussex, and Interior, Paul Orland of Orland, Chase, and Mucci and the law firm representing the same, the legendary music lawyers Abraham Somer, David Berman, and Richard Leher of Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp LLP. 4 3-hour studio sessions were planned to record the album, but problems with funding caused the album to be recorded in 3 sessions with a 6-month break between the 2nd and final sessions. Finally finished in January 1971, Just As I Am was released in February 1971 at the same time as the tracks “Harlem” and “Ain’t No Sunshine” were released as singles. The album was a hit, with “Ain’t No Sunshine” making it to number 3 pop and certified gold in the September 1971. Bill Withers made 1st appearance as a singer on 26 June, 1971 in Chicago at the Opera House.

At the 14th annual Grammy Awards on Tuesday, 14 March, 1972, Bill Withers won his 1st Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Song for “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Bill Withers began touring and recording with a band assembled from all Los Angeles-based members of The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band: drummer James Gadson, guitarist Bernoce Blackmon, keyboardist Ray Jackson, and bassist Melvin Dunlap. During a break in touring, Bill Withers wrote the songs for, recorded, and produced an album for the 1st time for his 2nd album, Still Bill Withers and Sussex/Buddah released it in May 1972. The single “Lean on Me” went to number 1 the week of 8 July, 1972. The album certified gold 7 September, 1972 and peaked at number 4 on the pop charts.

A Friday, 6 October, 1972 performance on a rainy night was recorded for the live album Bill Withers, Live at Carnegie Hall released 30 November, 1972. Bill Withers lost his mother, Mattie Withers to heart failure in New York in December 1972. Bill Withers married actress Donna Denise Nicholas on 17 January, 1973 in Van Nuys, CA and they divorced in October 1974 in Los Angeles, CA. This was followed by the 1974 album +’Justments.

After +’Justments, Bill Withers became involved in a legal dispute with the Sussex Records, Inc., Interior Music, and Clarence Avant beginning in January 1975 and ending in June 1975. After the lawsuit settled in June 1975, Bill Withers became free to sign with another label, but started his own independent music publishing companies, Golden Withers Music and Bleunig Music with the help of business manager Edgar Fleisher Gross of International Business Management in Century City and the noted music law firm of Hardee, Barovick, Konecky & Braun of New York and Beverly Hills. Sussex Records, Inc., went out of business, with the Internal Revenue Service auctioning off all the remaining assets in July 1975 because of unpaid federal and state taxes of $62,000. Bill Withers’ new label CBS Records received notice of the auction from Sussex Records, Inc. and Clarence Avant, CBS bought the Sussex masters in July 1975 for $50,500 at the auction. Just before this time, Bill Withers wrote and produced 2 songs on the Gladys Knight & the Pips record I Feel A Song released 1 January, 1974 and performed in concert on 23 September, 1974 at “The Zaire Music Festival” which preceded the historic Ali/Foreman fight in Zaire on 30 October, 1974. Footage of his musical performance appeared in the 1996 documentary film When We Were Kings and the accompanying soundtrack album was released in 1997.

Bill Withers signed with Columbia Records in 1975. Bill Withers’ 1st release with the label was Making Music, Making Friends, which had the single She’s Lonely and was featured in the movie Looking for Mr. Goodbar. The next 3 years saw an album released each year with Naked & Warm (1976), Menagerie (1977, containing the hit “Lovely Day”) and Bout Love (1978).

Due to problems with Columbia, he focused on joint projects for several years, including the Grammy-winning Just the Two of Us, which he performed with jazz saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr. released in June 1980 and winning a Grammy Award at the 24th Annual Grammy Awards on 24 February, 1982, Soul Shadows with The Crusaders, and In The Name Of Love with Ralph MacDonald, which was nominated for a vocal performance Grammy.

Bill Withers’ final new release was 1985’s Watching You, Watching Me, which featured the Top 40 R&B single “Oh Yeah”. Bill Withers hired noted music lawyer Bernard Fischbach of Fischbach and Fischbach, and got out of his contract with Columbia and retired from recording, although he continued performing live sporadically, but retired from constant touring in 1989, last performing live for the birthday party of billionaire Tom Gores of Platinum Equity Partners in Santa Monica in 2004. In 1988, a remixed version of “Lovely Day” from the 1977 “Menagerie” Album, titled “Lovely Day (Sunshine Mix)” and remixed by Ben Liebrand, reached the Top 10 in the UK, prompting Bill Withers to perform on the long running Top of the Pops that year. The original release, in 1977, had reached No. 7 in the UK, and the re-release climbed to No. 4.

After retiring, Bill Withers focused on parenting to his 2 children, Todd and Kori Withers, also a singer and songwriter, with his 2nd wife Marcia whom he married 31 December, 1976 in Van Nuys, CA, and who handles the day-to-day running of his Beverly Hills-based publishing companies. In 1987, he received his 9th Grammy nomination and on 2 March, 1988 his 3rd Grammy for Best Rhythm and Blues Song as a songwriter for the re-recording of Lean On Me by Club Nouveau on their debut album Life, Love and Pain released in 1986 on Warner Bros. Records.

Bill Withers contributed 2 songs to Jimmy Buffett’s 13 July, 2004 release “License To Chill.” Following the reissues of Still Bill on 28 January, 2003 and Just As I am on 8 March, 2005, there was speculation of previously unreleased material being issued as a new album. In 2006, Sony gave back to Bill Withers his previously unreleased tapes.

In 2008, a feature documentary is made about Bill Withers, called ‘Still Bill’. It is directed by Damani Baker and Alex Vlack. The movie shows Bill Withers at home jamming with members of his old band, and even brings him back on stage singing ‘Grandma’s Hands’ during a tribute concert organised for the documentary.

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Speech Differences And Stutter Series-Disabled Legend Mel Tillis

Mel Tillis was born Lonnie Melvin Tillis, on 8 August, 1932 in Tampa, Florida. Mel Tillis is an American country music singer. Although he had been recording songs since the late 1950s, his biggest success occurred in the ’70s, with a long list of Top 10 hits.

Mel Tillis’ biggest hits include, “I Ain’t Never”, “Good Woman Blues”, and “Coca-Cola Cowboy”. Mel Tillis also has won the CMA Awards most coveted award, Entertainer of the Year. Mel Tillis’ daughter is country music singer, Pam Tillis. Mel Tillis is also well-known for his speech impediment, which does not affect his singing voice.

Mel Tillis’s stutter developed during his childhood, a result of a bout of malaria. As a child, Mel Tillis learned the drums, as well as guitar. At the age of 16, he won a local talent show, and soon joined the United States Air Force, and worked for the railroad. When young Mel Tillis was stationed in Okinawa, he formed a band called The Westerners, which played at local nightclubs. Mel Tillis attended the University of Florida.

After leaving the military in 1955, Mel Tillis worked a number of odd jobs and moved to Nashville, Tennessee the following year. Mel Tillis wrote “I’m Tired”, a #3 country hit for Webb Pierce in 1957. Other Mel Tillis hits include “Honky Tonk Song” and “Tupelo County Jail”. Ray Price and Brenda Lee also charted hits with Mel Tillis’ material around this time. In the late-50s, after becoming a hit-making songwriter, he signed his own contract with Columbia Records in the late-50s. In 1958, he had his 1st Top 40 hit, “The Violet and a Rose”, followed by the Top 25 hit, “Sawmill”.

Although Mel Tillis charted on his own Billboard’s Hot Country Songs list, he had more success as a songwriter. Mel Tillis continued to be Webb Pierce’s songwriter. Mel Tillis wrote the hits, “I Ain’t Never” (Mel Tillis’ own future hit) and “Crazy, Wild Desire”. Bobby Bare, Wanda Jackson, and Stonewall Jackson also covered his songs. Mel Tillis continued to record on his own. Some well-known songs from his Columbia years include “The Brooklyn Bridge”, “Loco Weed”, and “Walk on, Boy”. However, he didn’t achieve major success on the country charts on his own.

In the mid-60s, Mel Tillis switched over to Kapp Records. In 1965, he had his 1st Top 15 hit with “Wine”. Other hits continued to follow, like “Stateside” and “Life Turned Her That Way” (which was later covered by Ricky Van Shelton in 1988, and went to #1). Mel Tillis wrote for Charley Pride (“The Snakes Crawl At Night”) and wrote a big hit for Kenny Rogers & the 1st Edition called “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town”. Mel Tillis also wrote the hit “Mental Revenge” for Outlaw superstar Waylon Jennings (and it has also been covered by the Hacienda Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, Gram Parsons, and Barbara Mandrell). In 1968, Mel Tillis achieved his 1st Top 10 hit with “Who’s Julie”. Mel Tillis also was a regular featured singer on The Porter Wagoner Show. Although success didn’t come quickly or easily as a singer in the ’60s, things would turn around for Mel Tillis a great deal in the ’70s.

Mel Tillis finally achieved the success he always wanted with 2 Top 10 country hits, “These Lonely Hands of Mine” and “She’ll Be Hanging Around Somewhere”. In 1970, he reached the Top 5 with “Heart Over Mind”, which peaked at #3 on the Hot Country Songs list. After this, Mel Tillis’ career as a country singer went into full-swing. Hits soon came quite easily, like “Heaven Everyday” (1970), “Commercial Affection” (1970), “Arms of a Fool” (1970), “Take My Hand” (a duet with Sherry Bryce in 1971), and “Brand New Mister Me” (1971). In 1972, Mel Tillis achieved his 1st chart-topper with his version of his song “I Ain’t Never”. Even though the song was previously recorded and made a hit by Webb Pierce, Mel Tillis’ version is the best-known version out of the 2. Most of these songs that were hits above were recorded under MGM Records, Mel Tillis’ record company in the early part of the decade.

After the success of “I Ain’t Never”, Mel Tillis had another hit, which came close to #1 (reached #3) entitled “Neon Rose”, followed by “Sawmill”, which also came close at #2. “Midnight Me and the Blues” was another near-chart topper in 1974. Other hits Mel Tillis had under MGM include “Stomp Them Grapes” (1974), “Memory Maker” (1974), “Woman in the Back of My Mind” (1975), and his version of “Mental Revenge” (1976). In 1976, Mel Tillis signed on with MCA Records. Mel Tillis achieved his biggest success under MCA Records. It started with a pair of 2 #1 hits in 1976, “Good Woman Blues” and “Heart Healer”. Thanks to this success, Mel Tillis won the CMA Awards’s most coveted award, Entertainer of the Year, and was also inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame that year. Mel Tills achieved another #1 in 1978 with “I Believe In You”, and then again in 1979 with “Coca-Cola Cowboy”, which was put in the Clint Eastwood movie Every Which Way But Loose. Also in 1978, Mel Tillis co-hosted a short-lived variety series on ABC television, Mel and Susan Together with model Susan Anton. Other hits around this time included “Send Me Down to Tucson”, “Ain’t No California”, and “I Got the Hoss”. In mid-1979, Mel Tillis switched over to another record company once again, this time with Elektra Records.

After signing under Elektra in mid-1979, he continued to make hit songs, like “Blind In Love” and “Lying Time Again”, both hits for Mel Tillis in 1979. Up until 1981, Mel Tillis remained on top his game as one of country music’s most successful vocalists of the era. “Your Body Is an Outlaw”, went to #3 in 1980, followed by another Top 10 hit, “Steppin’ Out”. “Southern Rains” was his last No. 1 hit, when it became a hit in 1981. That same year, he dueted with Nancy Sinatra on the Top 30 hit “Texas Cowboy Night”. Mel Tillis remained with Elektra until 1982, before switching back over to MCA for a brief period in 1983. That summer, he scored a Top 10 hit with “In The Middle Of The Night” and had his last Top 10 hit with “New Patches” in 1984. By this time however, Mel Tillis built up a financial empire, thanks to investing in music-publishing companies, like Sawgrass and Cedarwood. Mel Tillis also appeared in movies, like The Villain (1979 film), Love Revival, W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings, The Cannonball Run and Uphill All the Way, a comedy western in which he starred with fellow country singer Roy Clark, among others. In 1979 he acquired radio station KIXZ (AM) in Amarillo, TX from Sammons-Ruff Associates, which converted from Top 40 to country music and became a force in the Panhandle region. A short time later Mel Tillis acquired Rock FM station KYTX, which changed calls to KMML (a play on Mel Tillis’ stutter). Still later he operated WMML in Mobile, Alabama. All stations were sold in the fullness of time for a healthy return. Mel Tillis briefly signed with RCA Records, as well as Mercury Records, and later Curb Records in 1991. By this time, his chart success faded from view.

Since his heyday in the 1970s, Mel Tillis remained a songwriter in the 1980s, writing hits for Ricky Skaggs and Randy Travis respectively. Mel Tillis also wrote his autobiography called Stutterin’ Boy, (the title comes from Mel Tillis’ speech impediment). Mel Tillis appeared as the television commercial spokesman for the fast-food restaurant chain Whataburger during the 1980s. Mel Tillis also built a theater in Branson, Missouri, where he performed on a regular basis until 2002. In 1998, he teamed up with Bobby Bare, Waylon Jennings and Jerry Reed to form The Old Dogs. The group recorded a double album of songs penned entirely by Shel Silverstein. In July, 1998 Old Dogs Volumes 1 and 2 were released on the Atlantic Records label. A companion video, as well as a Greatest Hits album (composed of previously released material by each individual artist), were also available. In the 1990s, Mel Tillis’s daughter, Pam Tillis, became a successful country music singer in her own right, having hits like “Maybe It Was Memphis” and “Shake the Sugar Tree”. In June 1999 ABC news ran a story about Mel Tillis being frustrated by his speech impediment, and stated that he went on to grow in confidence using techniques from stutterfree and, although Mel Tillis has never spoken about this, many did note a small improvement in his problematic articulation about that time. Mel Tillis’s speech problem is not evident in singing, only in talking.

Mel Tillis was inducted into the Opry by his daughter Pam. Along with being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, it was announced on 7 August that year that Mel Tillis along with Ralph Emery and Vince Gill are the newest to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Mel Tillis has 6 children, they are: Mel Tillis Jr. (a songwriter), Pam Tillis, Carrie April Tillis, Connie Tillis, Cindy Tillis, and Hannah Tillis. Mel Tillis has 1brother, Richard, and 2 sisters, Linda and Imogene.

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Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Series-Disabled Legend Lead Belly

Huddie William Ledbetter, was born in January, 1888 and died on 6 December, 1949 in New York City, New York, USA and was buried in the Shiloh Baptist Church cemetery in Mooringsport, 8 miles (13 km) west of Blanchard, Louisiana, in Caddo Parish.

Lead Belly was an American folk and blues musician, notable for his clear and forceful singing, his virtuosity on the 12 string guitar, and the rich songbook of folk standards he introduced.

Ledbetter is best known as Leadbelly or Lead Belly. Though many releases list him as “Leadbelly,” he himself spelled it “Lead Belly.” This is also the usage on his tombstone, as well as the Lead Belly Foundation.

Although he most commonly played the 12 string, he could also play the piano, mandolin, harmonica, violin, concertina, and accordion. In some of his recordings, such as in one of his versions of the folk ballad “John Hardy”, he performs on the accordion instead of the guitar. In other recordings he just sings while clapping his hands or stomping his foot. The topics of Lead Belly’s music covered a wide range of subjects, including gospel songs; blues songs about women, liquor and racism; and folk songs about cowboys, prison, work, sailors, cattle herding and dancing. Lead Belly also wrote songs concerning the newsmakers of the day, such as President Franklin Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler, Jean Harlow, the Scottsboro Boys, and Howard Hughes.

Lead Belly’s date of birth is uncertain. Lead Belly was probably born in January 1888, although his gravestone gives his year of birth as 1889. The earliest year given for his birth has been 1885, although other sources stated either 1888 or 1889. According to the 1900 census, Hudy (the spelling given in the census) is 1 of 2 listed children (the other is his step-sister, Australia Carr), of Wes and Sallie (Brown) Ledbetter of Justice Precinct 2, Harrison County, Texas. Wesley and Sallie were legally born on wednesday 26 February, 1888, shortly after Lead Belly’s likely date of birth, even though they had lived together as husband and wife for years. The 1900 census, differing from the usual census in that it lists the month and year of birth, rather than just the age, states the birth year of ‘Hudy’ Ledbetter to be 1888 and the month listed as January; Huddie’s age is listed as 12. The census of 1910 and the census of 1930 confirm 1888 as the year of birth.

The day of his birth has also been debated. The most common date given is 20 January, but other sources suggest he was born on 21 or 29 January. The only document we have that Lead belly, himself, helped fill out is his World War II draft registration from 1942 where he gives his birth date as 23 January, 1889.

Lead Belly was born to Wesley and Sallie Ledbetter as Huddie William Ledbetter in a plantation near Mooringsport, Louisiana, but the family moved to Leigh, Texas, when he was 5 years old. By 1903, Lead Belly was already a ‘musicianer’, a singer and guitarist of some note. Lead Belly performed for nearby Shreveport, Louisiana audiences in St. Paul’s Bottoms, a notorious red-light district in the city. Lead Belly began to develop his own style of music after exposure to a variety of musical influences on Shreveport’s Fannin Street, a row of saloons, brothels, and dance halls in the Bottoms.

At the time of the 1910 census, Lead Belly, still officially listed as ‘Hudy’, was living next door to his parents with his first wife, Aletha “Lethe” Henderson, who at the time of the census was 17 years old, and was, therefore, 15 at the time of their marriage in 1908. It was also there that he received his first instrument, an accordion, from his uncle, and by his early 20s, after fathering at least 2 children, he left home to find his living as a guitarist (and occasionally, as a laborer). Lead Belly would later claim that as a youth he would “make it” with 8 to 10 women a night.

Influenced by the sinking of the RMS Titanic in April 1912, he would go on to write the song “The Titanic”, which noted the racial indifferences of the time. “The Titanic” was the first song he ever learned to play on a 12 string guitar, which was later to become his signature instrument. Lead Belly first played it in 1912 when performing with Blind Lemon Jefferson (1897-1929) in and around Dallas, Texas. Lead Belly noted that he had to leave out the verse about boxer Jack Johnson when playing before a white audience.

Lead Belly’s volatile nature sometimes led him into trouble with the law. In 1915 he was convicted “of carrying a pistol” and sentenced to do time on the Harrison County chain gang, from which he miraculously escaped, finding work in nearby Bowie County under the assumed name of Walter Boyd. In January 1918 he was thrown into prison for the second time, this time after killing one of his relatives, Will Stafford, in a fight over a woman. In 1918 he was incarcerated in Sugar Land, Texas, where he probably learned the song Midnight Special. In 1925 he was pardoned and released, having served 7 years, or virtually all of the minimum of his 7 to 35 year sentence, after writing a song appealing to Governor Pat Morris Neff for his freedom. Lead Belly had swayed Governor Neff by appealing to his strong religious values. That, in combination with good behavior (including entertaining by playing for the guards and fellow prisoners), was Lead Belly’s ticket out of jail. It was quite a testament to his persuasive powers, as Neff had run for governor on a pledge not to issue pardons (pardon by the governor was at that time the only recourse for prisoners, since in most Southern prisons there was no provision for parole). According to Charles K. Wolf and Kip Lornell’s book, The Life and Legend of Lead belly (1999), Neff had regularly brought guests to the prison on Sunday picnics to hear Lead belly perform.

In 1930, Lead Belly was back in prison, after a summary trial, this time in Louisiana, for attempted homicide — he had knifed a white man in a fight. It was there, 3 years later, that he was “discovered” by musicologists John Lomax and his 18 year old son Alan Lomax during a visit to the Angola Prison Farm. They were enchanted by Lead Belly’s talent, passion, and singularity as a performer and recorded hundreds of his songs on portable aluminum disc recording equipment for the Library of Congress. They returned to record in July of the following year (1934). On 1 August, Lead Belly was released (again having served almost all of his minimum sentence), this time after the Lomaxes had taken a petition to Louisiana Governor O.K. Allen at Lead belly’s urgent request. The petition was on the other side of a recording of his signature song, “Goodnight Irene.” A prison official later wrote to John Lomax denying that Lead Belly’s singing had anything to do with his release from Angola, and state prison records confirm that he was eligible for early release due to good behavior. A descendant of his has also confirmed this. For a time, however, both Lead Belly and the Lomaxes believed that the record they had taken to the governor had hastened his release from Angola.

There are several, somewhat conflicting stories about how Ledbetter acquired his famous nickname, though the consensus is that it was probably while in prison. Some say his fellow inmates dubbed him “Lead Belly” as a play on his last name and reference to his physical toughness; others say he earned the name after being shot in the stomach with shotgun buckshot. Another theory has it that the name refers to his ability to drink homemade liquor, which Southern farmers, black and white, used to make to supplement their incomes. Blues singer Big Bill Broonzy thought it came from a supposed tendency to lay about “with a stomach weighted down by lead” in the shade when the chain gang was supposed to be working. (This seems unlikely, unless it was ironic, given his well-known capacity for hard work.) Whatever its origin, he adopted the nickname as a pseudonym while performing, and it stuck. Regarding his toughness, it is also recounted that during his second prison term, another inmate stabbed him in the neck (leaving him with a fearsome scar that he subsequently covered with a bandanna), and he took the knife away and in turn almost killed his attacker with it. Lead belly – King of the 12 String Guitar Retrieved on 30 January, 2007.

Bob Dylan once remarked, on his XM radio show, that Lead Belly was “One of the few ex-cons who recorded a popular children’s album.”

It was the Depression and jobs were very scarce. A month after his release and in need of regular work in order to avoid having his release canceled and being sent back to prison, in September 1934, Lead Belly met with John A. Lomax and begged him to take him on as a driver. For 3 months he assisted the 67 year old John Lomax in his folk song collecting in the South. (Alan Lomax (then 19) was ill and didn’t accompany them on this trip.) In December, Lead Belly participated in a “smoker” (group sing) at an MLA meeting in Bryn Mawr College in PA., where John A. Lomax had a prior lecturing engagement. Lead Belly was written up in the press as a convict who had sung his way out of prison. On New Year’s Day, 1935, the pair arrived in New York City, where John Lomax was scheduled to meet with his publisher, Macmillan, about a new collection of folk songs. The newspapers were eager to write about the “singing convict” and Time magazine made one of its first filmed newsreels about him. Lead Belly attained fame (though not fortune). The following week, he began recording with the American Record Corporation (ARC), but achieved little commercial success with these records. Part of the reason for the poor record sales may have been because ARC insisted on releasing only his blues songs rather than the folk songs for which he would later become better known. In any case, Lead Belly continued to struggle financially. Like many performers, what income he made during his lifetime would come from touring, not from record sales. In February 1935, he married his sweetheart, Martha Promise, who came north from Louisiana for the purpose. The month of February was spent recording his and other African-American repertoire and interviews about his life with Alan Lomax for their forthcoming book, Negro Folk Songs as Sung by Lead Belly (1936). Concert appearances were slow to materialize, however, and in March 1935, Lead Belly accompanied John A. Lomax on a 2 week lecture tour of colleges and universities in the Northeast, culminating at Harvard. These lectures had been scheduled before John Lomax had teamed up with Lead Belly. At the end of month, John Lomax decided he could no longer work with Lead Belly and gave him and Martha money to go back to Louisiana by bus. Lead Belly gave Martha the money that he had earned from 3 months of performing, but in installments, on the pretext that Lead Belly would drink it all if given a lump sum. From Louisiana Lead Belly then successfully sued Lomax for the full amount and for release from his management contract with Lomax. The quarrel was very bitter and there were hard feelings on both sides. Curiously, however, in the midst of the legal wrangling Lead Belly wrote to John A. Lomax proposing that they team up together once again. But it was not to be. Nor was the book the Lomaxes published that year about Lead Belly financially successful.

In January of 1936, Lead Belly returned to New York on his own without John Lomax for an attempted comeback. Lead Belly performed twice a day at Harlem’s Lafayette theater in a live dramatic recreation of the Time Life newsreel (itself a recreation) about his prison encounter with John A. Lomax, in which he had worn stripes, even though by this time he was no longer associated with Lomax. Life magazine ran a 3 page article titled, “Lead Belly – Bad Nigger Makes Good Minstrel,” in the 19 April, 1936 issue. It included a full-page, colour (rare in those days) picture of him sitting on grain sacks playing his guitar and singing. Also included was a striking picture of Martha Promise (identified in the article as his manager); photos showing Lead Belly’s hands playing the guitar (with the caption “these hands once killed a man”); Texas Governor Pat M. Neff; and the “ramshackle” Texas State Penitentiary. The article attributes both of his pardons to his singing of his petitions to the governors, who were so moved that they pardoned him. The article’s text ends with “he… may well be on the brink of a new and prosperous period.” Lead Belly failed to stir the enthusiasm of Harlem audiences. Instead, he attained success playing at concerts and benefits for an audience of leftist folk music aficionados. Lead Belly developed his own style of singing and explaining his repertoire in the context of Southern black culture, taking the hint from his previous participation in John A. Lomax’s college lectures. Lead Belly was especially successful with his repertoire of children’s game songs (as a younger man in Louisiana he had sung regularly at children’s birthday parties in the black community). Lead Belly was written up as a heroic figure by the black novelist, Richard Wright, then a member of the Communist Party, in the columns of the Daily Worker, of which he (Wright) was the Harlem editor. The 2 men became personal friends, though Lead Belly himself was a-political — if anything, a supporter of Wendell Willkie, the centrist Republican candidate, for whom he wrote a campaign song.

In 1939, Lead Belly was back in jail for assault, after stabbing a man in a fight in Manhattan. Alan Lomax, then 24, took him under his wing and helped raise money for his legal expenses, dropping out of graduate school to do so. After his release (in 1940-41), Lead Belly appeared as a regular on Alan Lomax and Nicholas Ray’s groundbreaking CBS radio show, Back Where I Come From, broadcast nationwide. Lead Belly also appeared in night clubs with Josh White, becoming a fixture in New York City’s surging folk music scene and befriending the likes of Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Woody Guthrie, and a young Pete Seeger, all fellow performers on Back Where I Come From. During the first half of the decade he recorded for RCA, the Library of Congress, and for Moe Asch (future founder of Folkways Records), and in 1944 headed to California, where he recorded strong sessions for Capitol Records. Lead belly was the first American country blues musician to see success in Europe. In 1949 Lead Belly had a regular radio broadcast on station WNYC in New York on Sunday nights on Henrietta Yurchenko’s show. Later in the year he began his first European tour with a trip to France, but fell ill before its completion, and was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Lead Belly’s final concert was at the University of Texas in a tribute to his former mentor, John A. Lomax, who had died the previous year. Martha also performed at that concert, singing spirituals with her husband.

Lead Belly styled himself “King of the 12-string guitar,” and despite his use of other instruments like the concertina, the most enduring image of Lead Belly as a performer is wielding his unusually large Stella 12-string. This guitar had a slightly longer scale length than a standard guitar, slotted tuners, ladder bracing, and a trapeze-style tailpiece to resist bridge lifting.

Lead Belly played with finger picks much of the time, using a thumb pick to provide a walking bass line and occasionally to strum. This technique, combined with low tunings and heavy strings, gives many of his recordings a piano-like sound. Lead Belly’s tuning is debatable, but appears to be a downtuned variant of standard tuning; more than likely he tuned his guitar strings relative to one another, so that the actual notes shifted as the strings wore. Lead Belly’s playing style was popularised by Pete Seeger, who adopted the 12-string guitar in the 1950s and released an instructional LP and book using Lead belly as an exemplar of technique.

In some of the recordings where Lead Belly accompanied himself, he would make an unusual type of grunt between his verses. Lead Belly would do this grunt, “Haah!”, through many of his songs, such as, Looky Looky Yonder, Take this Hammer, Linin’ Track and Julie Ann Johnson. It gave a somewhat catchy sound to the songs. Lead Belly explains that, “Every time the men say ‘haah’, the hammer falls. The hammer rings, and we swing, and we sing”, an apparent reference to prisoners’ work songs. The grunt represents the tired deep breaths the men would take while working, singing and pausing in cadence with the work.

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Hearing Impairment series-Disabled Legend Ayumi Hamasaki

Ayumi Hamasaki was born on 2 October, 1978. Ayumi is a Japanese singer-songwriter and former actress. Also known as Ayu to her fans, Ayumi has been dubbed the “Empress of pop” and “the Empress of J-Pop” due to her popularity and widespread influence in Japan. Born and raised in Fukuoka, she moved to Tokyo at the age of 14 to pursue a career in entertainment. In 1998, under the tutelage of Avex CEO Max Matsuura, she released a string of modestly selling singles that concluded with her 1999 debut album A Song for XX, which debuted atop the Oricon charts and stayed there for 4 weeks in a row, establishing her popularity in Japan.

Because of her constantly changing image and tight control over her artistry, Ayumi has become a “trendsetter” and an “icon of fashion” in Asia; her popularity and influence in music and fashion extend to China, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea. Ayumi has appeared in or lent her songs to many advertisements and television commercials. Though she originally supported this, a 2001 event in which Avex forced her to put her greatest hits album in direct competition with Hikaru Utada’s Distance made Ayumi reconsider and eventually oppose her status as an Avex “product”.

Since her 1998 debut with the single “Poker Face”, Ayumi has sold around 50 million records, making her one of Japan’s best-selling singers. Ayumi’s singles have set records: she is the Japanese female artist with the highest singles sales, most number-one singles, and most million-seller singles. Ayumi is also the only Japanese artist to have a No. 1 single every year for 10 years straight and the 1st to have her 1st 8 studio albums top the Oricon.

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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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Mood Disorders Series-Disabled Legend John Denver

Denver’s career fell somewhere in the 80’s and he found himself without a wife. His songwritting and creative music before the 80’s were inspired mostly by the feelings of depression he already had throughout his life, and alcoholism had been strongly with him during the composition of most of his songs. He was using those emotions to write some of the best country songs there was at the time, many wish he was still among us and the music he contributed to the world will forever remain in the hearts of country music lovers.

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