Every February I keep missing the opportunities to have a share in something pertaining to BHM. Seeing that this is the last of the month, here’s a very small take on it.
Jimi Hendrix. Rock Guitarist. Played for Little Richard, The Isley Bros., Ike & Tina Turner, formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience with British musicians John “Mitch” Mitchell and Noel Redding (both John and Noel left the scene in recent years). Later formed the Band of Gypsys with Buddy Miles and Billy Cox. Died of an accidental drug overdose in 1970. Decades after his death, posthumously won his first Grammy Award.
Miles Davis. Jazz trumpeter. Career spanned nearly five decades before his death in late 1991. Was one of the figureheads of bebop, cool, free jazz, and jazz-fusion as well as one of the integrators of jazz and hip-hop. Has changed the face of music throughout his career. Posthumously inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame around/on (what would’ve been) his 80th birthday.
Allen Coage (Bad News Brown). Pro wrestler. To this day he remains the first and only African-American martial artist to win a bronze medal in the Olympics (1976), a record unmatched and untouched to this day. Was trained by Stu Hart to become a wrestler. Although a heel in the WWF/E in the late 80s-early 90s, he was slated to become the first Black WWF champion, but due to racial issues and politics, that never materialized. Outside the ring he was well respected by many.
Herbie Hancock. Jazz keyboardist. A disciple of Miles Davis. Anything with keys, there’s nothing that he can’t do with it. One of the figureheads of Jazz Fusion as well as jazz and hip-hop. Currently does world music and fuses that with jazz.
Prince. Singer and multi-instrumentalist. Very candid and outspoken on the stage and off. Like Herbie before him, Prince, too, is a multi-Grammy winning artist who has also won on Oscar as well. Had some personal struggles with the death of his infant son as well as his royalties with Warner Bros.. Cutting his losses, he then used the internet to further publish his music and eventually establish his current label, NPG (New Power Generation). This past decade has brought out changes in his personality as well as his music. He has become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and has made some very drastic changes in both his music and his appearance. Although he still maintains a huge fan base, there are those who miss the old Prince.
Kem. R&B musician. Tennessee born, Detroit raised. Grew up on the westside of the city. A teenage prodigy who’s future career was halted by a life of crime, drugs and alcohol and homelessness. Got a second wind by waiting tables in a restaurant and working on his music in his spare time. Has recorded three albums in a decade’s time, was recently nominated for a Grammy Award. Uses his spirituality to keep himself on the straight and narrow to this day.
Sir Lenny Henry. British comedian and actor. Teenage prodigy. Career dates back to the mid 1970s on The Black and White Minstrel Show and his career has taken off since then. Introduced to American audiences in the early 1990s with his first and sadly, only American movie Debut, True Identity where he is disguised as a white man looking to escape an angry mob. Despite his talents, the movie didn’t fare too well. Starred in the BBC Sitcom Chef! Which received high reviews and lasted 3 seasons including a Christmas special. Was knighted in recent years, and was married to Welsh Comedienne Dawn French. The couple divorced in recent years after 25 years of marriage. Credits American comedians Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy for his success. He remains Britain’s premier black comedian to this day and credits the UK’s first black comedian, Sir Charlie Williams for his career taking off. Both Williams and Pryor had left the scene in recent years.
Ron Simmons. Football player turned pro wrestler. Became the first Afro-American to win a major world championship. Career dates back to the late 70s as a football player in college, as well as the NFL, and USFL. Wrestled in various federations over a twenty year-plus career. Teamed with Butch Reed along with Theodore Long as the tag team DOOM. Defeating the Steiner Bros. in 1990 making them-although heels-one of the few Afro-American tag team champions. Simmons won his first and only World title two years later as a face. Moved to WWF/E in 1996 as Faarooq Asaad and formed the Nation of Domination with The Rock, D-Lo Brown, Mustafa, and Olympian Mark Henry. Although Simmons didn’t win any singles at that time, the other members have. Later teamed with another former NFL player, John “Bradshaw” Layfield and formed the Acolytes Protection Agency as two brawlers who drank beer and smoked cigars and have won the WWE tag team championships multiple times. Due to health problems as well as greener pastures outside of the wrestling world, both wrestlers (who are good friends to this day) have retired from the squared circle. Ron Simmons last hurrah from wrestling was-and still remains-his signature catchphrase, “DAMN!”