Kris’s Blog: July 18th: Birthdays of History

It seems that finally I can write a blog that doesn’t read like an obituary; in seemingly dismal days it’s easy to focus on the negatives and what’s going wrong in the world – but enough of that, what about something on the positive?

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I was doing my general trawl about the internet in search of “blogspiration” as I like to call it, and uncovered not one, but two birthdays of merit on this day. July 18th sees the birthday of legendary RnB wailer Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and non other than Motown superstar Martha Reeves.

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Screamin’ Jay is quite blunty, one of the most charismatic and unapologetic performers of our time. I don’t like to peg the guy as an RnB man, he doesn’t really fit the same bill as Elvis or Little Richard. With classic 1950s recordings such as “I Put a Spell on You”, Screamin’ Jay was famed for his massively theatrical vocal delivery and energised, almost in religious trance type performances reminiscent of some manner of Voodoo Preist. Many credit his wild and over the top on stage show as being one of the early pioneers of what we know today as “shock rock”,  ie; Ozzy Osbourne, Kiss, and Alice Cooper to name a few.

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On the other side of the musical spectrum however, not everyone was on stage emerging from coffins, wielding rubber snakes and a smoking skull on a stick named Henry. Motor City was seeing some other huge musical developments through the 50s and 60s…

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Meanwhile in Berry Gordy’s camp, another birthday is being celebrated – it’s only Martha bloody Reeves’s 75th today! 33.3333r% of The Vandellas, Marthas’ is the Motown voice that brought us classics such as “Jimmy Mack”, “Dancing In The Street”, “Heatwave”, “Nowhere To Run”… the list goes on! As far as influencing the course of pop culture and steering the world of music in new directions, between the two of them Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Martha Reeves have contributed an awful lot. In fact it might be fair to say that todays date might mark one of, if not the musical birthday of the past century in terms historic influence!

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It seems we already have a few Martha Reeves & The Vandellas tunes in our repertoire, but thinking on Screamin’ Jay  – why don’t we play any of his tunes?! I guess it’s fair to say that not just any singer could just easily tackle one of his numbers, but maybe Anna fancies a challenge?

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Happy Birthday Miss Reeves and Mister Hawkins!