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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Legendary Merry Clayton



Biography
Best known for her background vocal work on the Rolling Stones' legendary single "Gimme Shelter," Merry Clayton had a long and successful career as backup singer, solo artist, and actress. Born December 25, 1948 (hence the rather "holiday" feel of her first name), in New Orleans, LA, Clayton recorded tracks with Elvis Presley, the Supremes, Ray Charles, and Joe Cocker, as well as being a member of Ray Charles' Raelettes in the early '60s. Her solo debut, "The Doorbell Rings," was released in 1963, and she eventually found success as a session singer for the aforementioned artists. She followed up her best-known work — the appearance on "Gimme Shelter" — with a solo album of the same name, and during the '70s managed some minor R&B hits with tracks like "After All This Time" in 1971 and "Oh No Not My Baby" in 1973. After a brief hiatus from the music business, Clayton did minor acting work, appearing in the film Maid to Order and Cagney & Lacey. Clayton returned to the music side of things in 1994, albeit as a gospel singer, with the album Miracles. In 1996, Clayton performed with Marianne Faithfull and Darlene Love in the show 20th Century Pop, a performance of "20 rock-era standards."

Discography
1970 Gimme Shelter
1971 Celebration
1971 Merry Clayton
1975 Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow
1979 Emotion
1994 Miracles

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sista Monica Parker



Biography
Like E.C. Scott, Bettye LaVette, Denise LaSalle, and so many other powerful contemporary blues women, Sista Monica Parker got her start singing in church. She began singing at age seven and began touring with the choir as a 12-year-old. She sang with her local church choir in places like Chicago and Detroit, and got her exposure to show business — albeit in the church — early. Parker cites Al Green, Aretha Franklin, the Staple Singers, Jackie Wilson, and Sam Cooke as early influences. After some time in college, Parker joined the U.S. Marine Corps, attaining the rank of sergeant after three years. Upon discharge, she began her own staffing firm for the engineering professions. After several years in the Chicago area, she relocated her business to Silicon Valley in Northern California. Her blue-chip clients included Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Yahoo!, and Sun Microsystems.
Inspired by her neighbor MC Hammer, Parker decided to turn her longtime love of singing into more than just an avocation. She began sharing stages in Northern California clubs and festivals with Gladys Knight, Mavis Staples, Taj Mahal, Luther Allison, Etta James, and other blues and classic R&B legends. By 1995, she had recorded and released her debut, Get Outta My Way! Radio programmers latched onto the tune "Windy City Burner," and she and her band were able to tour around the U.S., Europe, and Canada in support of it. She recorded a second album, the self-titled Sista Monica, in 1997. In 1998 she received a W.C. Handy Award nomination under the Best Contemporary Blues, Female category and won a California Music Award the same year for Most Outstanding Blues Artist. In 2000 Parker released her third album, People Love the Blues, which showcases the talents of Jimmy Thackery, Larry McCray, and Dan Caron from the Charles Brown Band.

In 2001, she released her first gospel album, Gimme That Old Time Religion, an artistic full circle for her, as she returned to the gospel roots of her youth. That same year, she released Live in Europe, which captures the spirit and energy of her live performances with her touring band. It was on tour in Europe in the late '90s that she first got the moniker "the Blues Lioness." In 2002, she was presented with the Blues Artist of the Year award at the 17th annual Monterey Bay Blues Festival. After completing a 17-concert tour of the Netherlands in late 2002, she discovered a lump under her right arm and later found out it was a rare and severe form of cancer, synovial sarcoma. Parker underwent more than a year of chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and physical therapy, always affirming herself and holding onto her faith in God and her will to live.

In 2004, she re-emerged on the scene and recorded an album of soul and jazz standards popularized by Ray Charles and Dinah Washington, Love, Soul & Spirit, Vol. 1. Her latest release, Can't Keep a Good Woman Down!, showcases her abilities as a blues and classic R&B vocalist, but also includes some well-chosen covers, including Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away" and Sam Cooke's "A Change Gonna Come." Can't Keep a Good Woman Down! reflects her new perspective on life, reaffirms her faith in God, and casts new meaning on the healing powers of blues and gospel music. Not only is she one of today's most powerful singers of blues, gospel, classic R&B, and soul, she's also a cancer survivor. As of late 2008 and early 2009, Parker continues to tour around the U.S. and parts of Europe.

Discography
1995 - Get Out My Way
1997 - Sista Monica
2000 - People Love The Blues
2001 - Gimme That Old Time Religion
2001 - Live in Europe
2004 - Love, Soul & Spirit Vol 1
2005 - Can't Keep A Good Woman Down
2008 - Sweet Inspirations Part 1 Part 2

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