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Welcome to Eighties Babies Project - Black Music during the 80's

This is an on-going programme of research where we look at the progression of Black Music during this time.

The eighties was a period were many music forces clashed. It was common for teenagers to have electric taste in music - Punk, Disco, New Wave, Soul, Hip Hop, Dance/Acid and Pop. Each scene was using the social political times to drive their music.

Music reflected the times.
Young people in the UK were uncertain of their future and lives – die tomorrow was at the forefront of ACID music. For the first time ever, young people organised raves in fields in the countryside. With then pirate stations Kiss promoting the rave, the scene got mass appeal.

Black anger was at it's height with SUS laws, and the brutal beating of a Black American by police of Rodney King. The birth of Hip Hop took Black anger and channelled it into music. Public Enemy became the voice of all Blacks oppression throughout the world.

Here in Britain one of the best social commentators of the time was a collective group Soul II Soul. Put together by Jazzy B, Soul II Soul revolutionised the way we market music. And this model has been instrumental in the success of groups like: So Solid and even the Sugarbabes have benefited for the Soul II Soul's music trade.

Bands that Changed Music
Soul II Soul
Soul II Soul is a 2-time Grammy winning act that emerged at the end of the 80s from London. The group initially attracted attention as a sound system, playing records at house and street parties where their clothing style - dubbed "Funki Dred" - quickly made a splash, inspiring them to start a line of clothing. Opening shops in Camden and in Brixton the fashion and the sound system grabbed the public’s imagination.
Founded by Jazzie B, Soul II Soul formed a collective of artist and sound systems where no individual was the star. Without a lead singer, Soul II Soul could appear fresh and edgy, constantly changing the line up for the band and creating a new sound everytime they toured.

Jazzy B, promoted through a changing roster of musicians - Nellee Hooper and Caron Wheeler , Soul II Soul's experimental line up resulted in the dub plate "Fairplay," which secured them a deal with Virgin Records.

They had huge hits in 1989 with the singles "Keep on Movin'" and "Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)," both from their debut album Club Classics Vol. I. These songs (both featuring Wheeler on vocals) set the tone for early 90s mainstream
But what is so remarkable about this collective is that they created a brand and not a band. The brand Soul II Soul was live with various artist appearing on stage. It was not dependent on an individual star to drive the project forward, or to break up a successful group. The Soul II Soul brand was the reason people bought the albums. Today groups like Sugarbabes have continued to change artist without breaking up a successful group. The brand Sugarbabes has already proved that there is life long after Mutya's dispearence. Thanks to Soul II Soul's new revolutionary thinking, brands are here to stay.

Making History - King of Pop
Michael Jackson was the most influential and the most powerful music artist there has ever been. Michael Jackson is widely regarded as one of the greatest entertainers and most popular recording artists in human history, redefining mainstream dance and entertainment. His achievements in the music industry have included

1. Forcing MTV to broadcast the feature length video "Thriller". Before Michael Jackson, no black artist had ever appeared on MTV. He broke down the rasict barriers of corporate broadcasting and at the same time revolutionised and transformed the format of music videos

2. 1983's Thriller, took the music album in to the unheard of realm where each track was designed to be released as a hit singles. Thriller had 10 hit singles on an album and started a new trend for record companies to generate profits,

3. His distinctive style, moves, and vocals have inspired, influenced, and spawned a whole generation of Hip Hop, Pop, and R&B artists, including Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Usher, Britney Spears, LL Cool J, Missey Elliot, Justin Timberlake, Omarion, Ne-Yo, and Chris Brown, among others. In November 2006, he was named the "Most Successful Entertainer of All Time" by Guinness World Records.

Michael Jackson began his musical career at the age of seven as the lead singer of The Jackson 5 and released his first solo recording, Got to Be There, in 1971 while remaining a member of the group. He began a full-fledged solo career in 1979 and formally parted with his siblings in 1984. In his solo career, Michael Jackson recorded and co-produced the best-selling album of all time, Thriller, which has worldwide sales exceeding 104 million.

In January 1980, Michael Jackson won his first awards for his solo efforts at the American Music Awards. He won "Favorite Soul/R&B Album" for Off the Wall, "Favorite Male Soul/R&B Artist" and Favorite Soul/R&B Single for "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough". Later that month, he also won two Billboard Awards for "Top Black Artist" and "Top Black Album". On February 27, 1980, Jackson won a Grammy Award for "Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male" for "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough"

More than twenty-five years after its release, Off the Wall remains one of the defining moments in Jackson's music career and began his domination as one of Pop music's leading artists.
The Thriller Years

Thriller helped to bring music from African-American artists back into mainstream radio for the first time since the mid-1970s. The album captured the imagination and dominated much of the world's conscience in its heyday.

Winning every accolade and 8 grammies for singles on the Thriller album, Michael Jackson raised the music bar to a height that no other artist has ever matched.
It was Michael Jackson’s perpetual youth, his non sexual lifestyle that caused "Time Magazine" to describe the artist as : "Undeniably sexy. Absolutely safe. Eroticism at arm's length."

Michael Jackson's rhinestone glove and Thriller jacket became iconic. Politicians, Hollywood A list and media all wanted to be a part some of his success, even if it was only a reflective glory.

American youth sported his iconic look all too eagerly, spawning a whole industry of lookalikes, and obsessive fanzines across the globe. Nicknamed by Elizabeth Taylor as the "King of Pop", Michael Jackson was at the height of his artist career and his influence in politics, media and music grew substantially. In 1990, recognizing Michael Jackon's musical influence in the 1980s, the White House presented the singer "Artist of the Decade" award, President George H. W. Bush made an address to US nation praising Michael Jackson’s work, charity work and his immense contribution to world peace. No other African American artist has attained this level of superstardom. He was the first black man to be invited to the White House. Michael Jackson is now added to the list of : Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Frank Sinatra , all have received the attention of the incumbent President.

Grace Jones – icon of the eighties
When Grace Jones hit the scene she turned every convention on its head. Rebel, Power and adronous in looks, Grace took the world by storm and become an iconic figure of the extravgant eighties.

Grace Jones' masculine, hard featured look, her imposing 5' 10½" frame and a “ don’t give a f*** attitude earned her fame. She introduced a dangerous, edgy attitude to the "Power Dressing" movement of the 1980 which other musical artists such as Annie Lennox of Eurythmics, copied. She redefined the "Box" haircut style of the 1970s, which would be worn by many black men all over America throughout much of the next decade, notably Larry Blackmon of the funk group "Cameo".

Maintaining a parallel recording and acting career, her film roles and modelling work often overshadowed her musical output. Her naturally strong visual presence gave her stage work an Avant Garde feel. . In her performances she adopted various personas and wore outlandish costumes, particularly during her years with Goude. One such performance was at the Paradise Garage in 1985, wherein she collaborated with visual artist Keith Haring for her costume. Haring painted her body in tribal patterns and fitted her with wire armor. The muralist also painted her body for the video to "I'm Not Perfect But I'm Perfect for You".

Grace Jones the Artist.
Grace Jones secured a record deal with Island Records in 1977, which resulted in a string of dance club hits and a large gay following. The three disco albums she recorded — Portfolio (1977), Fame (1978), and Muse (1979) — generated considerable success in that market. During this period, she also became a muse to Andy Warhol, who photographed her extensively. Jones also accompanied him to famed New York City nightclub "Studio 54" on many occasions.

Towards the end of the 1970s, Jones adapted the emerging New Wave music to create a different style for herself. Still with Island, and now working with producers Alex Sadkin and Chris Blackwell, she released the acclaimed albums Warm Leatherette (1980) and Nightclubbing (1981). These included re-imaginings of songs by Sting, Iggy Pop, The Pretenders, Roxy Music, Flash and the Pan, The Normal, Ástor Piazzolla and Tom Petty.

Parallel to her musical shift was an equally dramatic visual makeover, created in partnership with stylist Jean-Paul Goude, whom she eventually married and by whom she had a son. Jones adopted a severe, androgynous look with square-cut hair and angular, padded clothes. The iconic cover photographs of Nightclubbing and, subsequently, Slave to the Rhythm (1985) exemplified this new identity. To this day, Grace Jones is known for her unique look at least as much as she is for her music. Her collaboration with Sadkin and Blackwell continued with the dub reggae-influenced album Living My Life.

In the mid 1980s, she worked with Trevor Horn for the conceptual musical collage Slave to the Rhythm and with producer Nile Rodgers for Inside Story (1986) - her first album after leaving the Island Records label. The well-received Slave to the Rhythm consisted of several re-workings of the title track and gave Grace Jones a powerful underground Art movement for her to preform.

Grace Jones is a contralto vocalist. Grace is often critized for having a flat voice, when she is in-fact a highly stylized vocalist. She sings in two modes; her monotonous talk-sing as in songs like "Private Life", "Walking in the Rain" and "The Apple Stretching" and in an almost soprano mode in such songs as La Vie en Rose and "Slave to the Rhythm". It is this distinctive voice and avant garde, experiental art house music which made her hit "Slave to the Rhythm" and overnight success.

Having been the muse to great international artists, and having influenced groups like : Eurythmics, Grace Jones has given the black community a way out of sterotypes and given them the freedom to explore sexuality, art and music for an extremely unconventional outlook.

So U think U know Eighies music?

This is your chance to win an ipod Shuffle. All you have to do is answer the following questions. Email your answers ASAP to contacts@mrandmissblackandbeautiful.com so you don’t miss out.

1. Which group sung a song to" Free Nelson Mandela?"
2. Which year did Acid rave start? Name one acid track?
3. Which British soul/pop group where described as the British Jackson 5?
4. Who sung the vocals on Rockwell’s – "I always feel like someone’s watching me? "

Answers to contacts@mrandmissblackandbeautiful.com

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