Charlie Sloth

On Air Now 16:00 – 17:45



  • Berry Gordy changes the name of his fledgling record label from Tamla to Motown. He sets up its first headquarters in Detroit, hanging a huge sign up outside that read Hitsville U.S.A. It was a prophetic sign as the Motown acts went on to clean up on the RnB charts.
  • Fats Domino was a key influence on British music. In the 1950s he sold more records than any other black star in the US playing a form of New Orleans R&B. He's attributed to being one of the creators of rock n roll - one of the most important music styles of the 20th century. Between 1960 and 1963 he had 9 tracks in the UK top 50.
  • Ray Charles and Grammys - he won four in 1960. Blind by the age of six, orphaned by his early teens, Charles studied music at the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and the Blind. He was a hugely talented and charismatic performer, creating his own flavour of pop music by working gospel, jazz and blues into R&B.


  • The Miracles' Shop Around is Motown's first no.1 in the US RnB chart (no.2 in the US pop chart).
  • Shirley Bassey has a number one in the UK with Climb Ev'ry Mountain taken from the hugely popular film, the Sound of Music. Shirley Bassey was a major star during the last half of the 20th century. and is still popular for her Bond theme tunes such as the tremendous Diamonds Are Forever (used by Kanye West) and Goldfinger. Born in 1937 in Tiger Bay, Wales, she was the youngest of seven children with a Nigerian sailor father and an English mother. This wasn't an easy start to life, but by the time she was 16 she was breaking away from her factory job to perform in working man's clubs and revues. This led to a recording contract and chart success.
  • Before they became the Ronettes, sisters Veronica (Ronnie), Estelle, and their cousin Nedra, had won a singing contest at the Apollo as the Darling Sisters. One night they went to the Peppermint Lounge dressed in tight skirts with their hair fashionably back-combed into beehives. They were mistaken by the club manager for the singing group he was expecting, so he led them onstage and they sang Ray Charles' What I Say - bringing down the house! It was the start of something major (see 1963).
  • The Shirelles: One of the most successful bands in the format of the girl group was the Shirelles. Formed in New Jersey, they were four school friends who with the help of the female label boss Florence Greenberg had a big hit with Will You Love Me Tomorrow. Other tunes of theirs included Soldier Blue and Baby It's You.


  • Ray Charles followed up his chart topping I Can't Stop Loving You with top ten hits in the UK You Don't Know Me and Your Cheating Heart. He maintained a presence in the UK charts throughout the 60s with lesser hits such as his cover of the Beatles' tunes Yesterday and Eleanor Rigby.
  • Chubby Checker's version of The Twist reached it's highest UK chart position. But before the novelty of the track wore off a huge dance craze had started. National competitions were held in British dancehalls helped by the follow up Let's Twist Again.
  • Little Richard tours the UK to enthusiastic crowds. Among the groups that supported him were the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. Little Richard played a crucial part in twisting the strong sound of 50's R&B into the electrifying style of rock & roll. Although he was only a hitmaker for a couple of years in the 50s, his influence on the 'British Invasion' stars of the '60s was enormous.
  • Nat King Cole still had a strong presence in the early 60s with nine songs in the top 40 and Ramblin' Rose reaching no. 5 in '62.


  • Phil Spector was taken by a demo done by the Ronettes. He then produced their hits Be My Baby - no. 4 in the UK and no. 2 in the US and Baby I Love You. They were the first girl group to have a strong identity with their pictures on their record sleeves.
  • Another girl group Spector was involved in was the Crystals whose Da Doo Ron Ron and Then He Kissed Me were big hits in the US and the UK.
  • Chuck Berry has two top ten hits with Let It Rock and Memphis Tennessee.
  • Legendary jazz vibraphonist Roy Ayers releases his first album, a decade before he turned on to his inimitable (and well-sampled) soul-funk.
  • TV - the music show Ready, Steady, Go! goes on the air. During it's time many key black soul artists appear on the show.
  • In the US Mary Wells is Motown's most consistent hit-maker for Motown with three top ten hits in a row.
  • Bob Marley and the Wailers form. After tuition from the singer Joe Higgs, they start recording with Coxsone Dodd. Their first track, Simmer Down, released just before Christmas 1963 is a huge hit in Jamaica - no. 1 for two months on the JBC Radio chart.
  • The Beatles' domination really starts.


  • The Beatles (whose world domination is in full swing) agree to play a concert in Jacksonville, Florida, on the condition that the audience is guaranteed to be unsegregated.
  • The Ronettes were invited to the UK to tour with the Rolling Stones. The Stones' choice of a black American act to support them was an unexpected decision and a very big deal because this had followed the British invasion of the states and the popularisation of white British acts around the world, not least in the UK.
  • Although black acts were hardly visible on the charts one notable exception was The Supremes whose Where Did Our Love Go got to no.3 and was followed by Baby Love reaching no.1. Altogether there were 18 top 40 releases in the UK - this speaks for itself.
  • Dionne Warwick's collaboration with songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David bring two significant hits in the 60s - Walk On By (no. 9 in 64) and Do You Know the Way to San Jose (no. 8 in 1968)
  • Four seasons - had no. 2 with Rag Doll - one of nine in UK top 40.
  • Howlin Wolf had a minor hit with Smokestack Lightnin but he's important to mention as he was such a big influence on UK bands and audiences. His raw blues and ability to rock the house helped shape bands like the Stones, Led Zeppelin and Cream. In fact in 1965 when the Rolling Stones were reaching the dizzy heights of their fame, they were invited onto a US music show called Shindig. They agreed to appear only if Howlin' Wolf could be their guest. It meant he got seen by a few million viewers and he always spoke highly of the Stones afterwards
  • Millie appears on Juke Box Jury singing her hit My Boy Lollipop.
  • Martha and the Vandellas release Dancing in the Street in the US.


  • The Temptations' My Girl hits no.1 in the US. As with Mary Wells' My Guy it was written by Smokey Robinson (with Ronald White for My Girl)
  • The Supremes appear on the cover of Time magazine in an article about music of the day.
  • Terry Callier records The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier after meeting Prestige label producer Samuel Charters. However the album went unreleased til 1968, and was paid little attention.
  • The real raw sound of the south was epitomised by soul man Wilson Pickett. This was a lot to do with him collaborating with the infamous Muscle Shoals rhythm section in Alabama and working at the Stax studio in Memphis. Hits such as Mustang Sally and Land of 1000 Dances followed, with In The Midnight Hour making it to no.12 in the UK charts.


  • Jimi Hendrix arrives in Britain; his musicianship and stage show would soon become the talk of London.
  • Prince Buster. This was actually the year that Rocksteady conquered Jamaica but the king of Ska (Jamaica's first indigenous music) came through with the classics, Hard Man Fe Dead, Rude, Rude, Rudie and Shanty-Town. The following year he even had a track in the UK charts - Al Capone.
  • One of the most consistent Tamla Motown acts was the Four Tops who had UK hits from the mid sixties for about 8 years. They'd actually been going for seven years before signing up with the label in 1963. Their biggest hit was 'Reach Out I'll Be There', a number one on both sides of the Atlantic in 1966. Their 'Greatest Hits' album was also a chart topper in 1968. 14 top 40 hits in the 60s in the UK.
  • Stevie Wonder started young - his first US number one was recorded when he was twelve - and has been a regular on the UK singles and album charts ever since.Uptight (Everything's Alright) - no. 14
  • Cortelia Clark was a blind street singer from Nashville who sang his songs and sold shopping bags at the corner of Church and Union. In 1966, Elvis' producer, Felton Jarvis, persuaded RCA Nashville to record Clark on that very corner, complete with street noise. The resulting album won a Grammy as Best Folk Recording.
  • British underground clubs are playing UK releases of American soul (later imports too). These clubs such as the Twisted Wheel in Manchester nurture the cultural phenomenon that grows out of mod culture - northern soul. Dave Grodin didn't coin the phrase til1970 but the appreciation of rare black music grew substantially during the 60s.
  • Blues & Soul magazine launches in London. It's part of the solidifying UK scene that pays tribute to black music and artists.


  • One of the most beloved and significant jazz musicians dies, aged 40 from liver cancer. John Coltrane's profoundly innovative and spiritual saxophone-playing not only won him generations of fans and two posthumous Grammys, but also inspired Bishop Franzo King to build the Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church in San Francisco.
  • Tamla Motown stalwarts the Four Tops had top ten hits with Standing in the Shadows of Love, Bernadette, Seven Rooms of Gloom and Walk Away Renee.
  • Aretha Franklin makes it into the UK charts with Baby I Love You, Chain of Fools, a version of the Stones' (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction and Respect which gets to no. 10.
  • Otis Redding brings the house down with Try A Little Tenderness at the Monterey Pop Festival in June. Tragically, Redding dies aged just 26 in a plane crash six months later.
  • The Monterey Pop Festival (California) is considered the first major music festival and a blueprint for Woodstock (see '69). Redding, Lou Rawls and Hugh Masekela play alongside artists like Janis Joplin and The Who.
  • It heralds the 'Summer of Love' - a fruition of the hippie philosophy which believed in peace, love, equality and respect, was devoid of racism and did impact on some of the black youth. An infamous and incredibly talented icon of hippie culture who made his American debut at the festival was Jimi Hendrix. The film of the gig captures Hendrix's iconic burning and smashing of his guitar.
  • Back in the UK the rocksteady beat of 007 (Shanty Town) was taken on by the British mod movement as an anthem. When the Jamaican rude boy star, Desmond Dekker, visited England after the song's success he was surprised by his following. By '69 he'd be the first Jamaican to have a no.1 in Britain.


  • Soul Brother Number One aka the Godfather of Soul aka James Brown.Performing from the 50s, Brown came into his own in the 60s with Night Train ('61) revealing the developing 'J.B. sound', Papa's Got A Brand New Bag and I Got You (I Feel Good)' bringing the R&B hits in '65 and in '69 the Funky Drummer being recorded - not only one of the most sampled breaks in music but an influence on rap with Brown's rhythmic spoken delivery.
  • Despite plenty of personal problems, Brown became a major positive force in music. Lyrics praising motivation and ambition filled his tracks; Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud (1968) reaching the status of an anthem. After Martin Luther King was murdered, he was key to appeasing the resulting riots. He made appeals on the radio and even visited the rioting cities to successfully appeal for calm.
  • Sly & The Family Stone perfectly epitomise the era. Made up of black, white, male and female musicians playing Stax-style soul, James Brown's proto-funk as well as psychedelic guitars and hippie-influenced lyrics they appealed to all. Dance to the Music and Everyday People are both hits in the USA with the latter reaching no.1.
  • Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World is 3rd biggest selling single of the year in the UK, staying at no. 1 for a month.
  • Another UK no.1 is Baby Come Back by the Equals. In 1965, Eddy Grant formed his first band, the Equals - unique in being one of the UK's first multiracial bands to receive any recognition. The track actually was a hit in the German charts, and then across Europe before being re-issued here as an A side and going to no.1. It even made it into the US Top 40.
  • Nina Simone was a strong black female presence in the 60s combining her jazz-soul with gospel and protest songs. She had two big hits in the UK with Ain't Got No - I Got Life and Do What You Gotta Do (and in 1969 To Love Somebody. Studied at the New York's prestigious Juilliard School of Music - a rare position for an African-American woman in the 1950s. She was deeply affected by the Civil Rights Movement and wrote Mississippi Goddam and Four Women. Wrote To Be Young Gifted & Black and Revolution with Weldon Irvine in the late 60s.


  • Marvin Gaye was another Tamla Motown star who had a no.1 on both sides of the Atlantic with I Heard it Through the Grapevine and had a top five hit with Too Busy Thinking 'bout My Baby. He also managed a succession of smaller hits dueting with Tammi Terrell, the Onion Song reaching the top ten.
  • 15-17th August: Woodstock Music and Art Fair.On a farm near New York nearly half a million gather at what is the epitome of sixties counter-culture. It's a positive and glorious close to an unsettled but pivotal decade. Music, peace and good feeling are the order of the day, and the performances of black artists such as Richie Havens, Sly & the Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix and the multi-racial Santana are considered some of the most electrifying.
  • Havens, alone with his guitar, in front of hundreds of thousands opens the Woodstock festival by default (as the first band hadn't arrived). His rhythmic guitar playing and heartfelt vocals bring continuous ovations so he keeps playing til he runs out of songs. Finally, he improvises a version of Motherless Child to which he adds a verse with the word freedom, repeated over and over. After the events of the decade, the song hits a nerve and it becomes an international hit.
  • The Isle of Wight Pop Festival is at the end of the same month and also stars Richie Havens as well as Marsha Hunt.
  • Cloud Nine is released by the Temptations and heralds the era of psychedelic soul at labels like Motown. It's an interpretation of the psychedelic sound that uses modal melodies, esoteric lyrics and trippy electronic effects but is never as popular as the tight soul style of the early 60s.


  • On July 26th guitarist Jimi Hendrix plays at his hometown of Seattle at Sicks Stadium where, under the influence of drugs, he starts verbally abusing members of the audience. He died later that year on 18th September.
  • The Beatles split, and by the end of the year all band members had released solo LPs.
  • It's a massive year for The Jackson 5; they signed with Motown and released I Want You Back, reaching No 1 in the US Charts and No 2 in the UK Charts. I'll Be There also hit No 1 in the US in October. They then smashed it again with The Love You Saved and ABC, all US top ten hits.
  • It was also a massive year for Aretha Franklin who released a staggering four albums including, This Girl's In Love With You and Sweet Bitter Love.
  • Edwin Starr's controversial single War hits No 1 in the US.
  • Diana Ross' Ain't No Mountain High Enough also hits the top spot in the US charts.
  • In the UK people were enjoying the musical sounds of Jamaica with artists like Desmond Dekker. The classic You Can Get it if You Really Want reached No 2 in the UK charts.
  • The musical output of black America had changed from soul towards funk. James Brown's musical style was defining the difference between them.
  • Crazy cat George Clinton regained rights to the name of his group Parliament after disputes with his previous label. He signed the entire line-up of Funkadelic and Parliament to Invictus Records, gradually putting together an ensemble of over 50 musicians.


  • Marvin Gaye fights and gains complete control of his music with the release of the classic single What's Going On in January. The landmark album of the same name is released in May and goes top ten in the US.
  • At the age of 21, Stevie Wonder invested the money from his trust fund into a recording studio and became the first Motown artist who could call his own shots. Wonder received creative freedom and a better financial deal.
  • King Tubby, who is credited as the pioneer of dub music and the first real producer to make remixes, opened his first recording studio in Jamaica.
  • Michael Jackson's solo career kicks off with Got to Be There and reaches the top five.
  • Sly and the Family Stone release their anticipated album There's A Riot Goin' On which produces the classic track Family Affair.
  • Soul record guru Dave Godin is the first to coin the phrase Northern Soul when writing his column in Blues & Soul magazine.
  • Gil Scott-Heron, credited by many as being the godfather of rap, released his second street poetry album Pieces Of A Man featuring the controversial and iconic track The Revolution will not be Televised'. His vocal artistry, political awareness and unique proto-rap style on this track has since influenced a generation of hip hop artists.


  • On January 31st, over 40,000 mourners file past gospel singer Mahalia Jackson's open casket in Chicago's Great Salem Baptist Church to pay their respects.
  • Diana Ross stars in the film biography of Billie Holiday's Lady Sings the Blues. The soundtrack went to No 1 in the US charts and Ross was nominated for an Academy Award.
  • After the success of Shaft, blaxploitation movie soundtracks reached their artistic peak. Marvin Gaye produced the superb Trouble Man album. Bobby Womack, assisted by JJ Johnson, showcased some of his finest soul tracks on Across 110th St However, the highlight of this period was undeniably Curtis Mayfield's Superfly.
  • Disco fever started to take prominence in clubland with the release of classic tracks such as Manu Dibango's Soul Makossa.
  • Al Green releases his fourth album Lets Stay Together and enjoys his first No 1 hit with the title track. In the same year he releases another album I'm Still In Love with You.
  • Bill Withers writes the classic Lean On Me based on his experiences growing up, which lands at No 1 in the US charts. It became a hit cover in the 1980s for Club Nouveau. It was also the title theme of a 1989 movie starring Morgan Freeman.
  • A new band by the name of The Commodores opens for the Jackson 5 tour and is signed to Motown. Berry Gordy severs ties with Detroit and takes his hit making company to Los Angeles.
  • In Jamaica, 16-year-old Dennis Brown records his classic hit, Money in my Pocket which he re-releases in 1979, achieving even more success second time round.


  • DJ Kool Herc begins spinning two turntables at neighbourhood parties playing the instrumental breakdown section of his favourite funk, soul and reggae songs sending partygoers to the dancefloor in droves. His innovations inspired other NY DJs to do the same.
  • The first major article citing disco and its rapid spreading social phenomenon appears in US Billboard Magazine.
  • Roberta Flack releases the awesome classic Killing Me Softly taken from her fifth album of the same name. It's an instant smash and goes on to win four Grammies. It was later covered by the Fugees in 1996 reaching No 1 in the US and UK charts
  • Jamaica was about to put reggae on the map with the release of the underground movie classic The Harder They Come starring Jimmy Cliff. The theme tune to the movie, sung by Jimmy Cliff turned him from a Jamaican pop star into an internationally acclaimed reggae artist.
  • Bob Marley and the Wailers released Catch a Fire. This was their first major label debut on Island, and the first of their albums to be released outside Jamaica. It immediately earned worldwide acclaim. It is now thought to be one of the finest reggae albums ever. Six months later they released Burnin spawning hits like Get Up Stand Up and I Shot the Sheriff.


  • Legendary jazz musician Duke Ellington dies aged 74. Regarded as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, we wrote over 1,000 pieces of work during his career and won 11 Grammies.
  • In Trinidad Lord Shorty, widely known as the Father Of Soca, experiments with altering the rhythm of calypso. His Endless Vibrations is the first soca LP and the first major soca hit worldwide.
  • The industry-standard turntable, the Technics SL-1200 was first released.
  • The first original 7-inch single to include extended mixes began to appear in the US.
  • Barry White releases Can't Get Enough Of Your Love Babe taken from his third album Can't Get Enough and it's an instant smash hitting No 1 in the US RnB and Pop Charts.
  • In Jamaica, after hearing some of King Tubby's early dub experiments, Lee 'Scratch' Perry rapidly puts out a number of dub releases and opens his own studio, Black Ark. It's here that he records and produces some of the early, seminal Bob Marley tracks.


  • In May Stevie Wonder performs before 125,000 people at the Washington Monument as part of Human Kindness Day festivities
  • David Mancuso starts the first ever record pool (a means for record companies to distribute promos to DJs).
  • Donna Summer hits big with the worldwide disco classic Love To Love You Baby after meeting producer Giorgio Moroder
  • In the USA The Temptations land their staggering 14th No 1 hit with Shakey Ground, achieving more number ones than any other band in history.
  • George Clinton's Parliament release the now legendary Mothership Connection. This is now seen as the album that put P-funk on the map.


  • In February Florence Ballard of The Supremes dies.
  • Stevie Wonder announced that he had signed a contract in excess of $13 million with Motown Records. In the same year he released the groundbreaking Songs In The Key Of Life album. It included tracks such as Isn't She Lovely, Sir Duke and Love's In Need Of Love Today.
  • Afrika Bambaata plays his first gig at Bronx River Community Centre in New York.
  • British band Aswad is signed to Island Records. The band was among the first homegrown acts to prove that reggae music could successfully take root in Europe. Their debut release, Back to Africa hit the No 1 slot in the UK reggae charts.
  • Salsoul Records released the first ever 12" single to the public, called Ten Percent by Double Exposure. Before this 12 inches were only released as DJ promos.
  • The movie Car Wash and the soundtrack are released and are massive hits. The soundtrack featured three US RnB top ten singles including I Wanna Get Next To You, I'm Going Down and Car Wash.


  • DJ Kool Herc develops his spinning skills at block parties and coins the term hip hop.
  • Soulful house pioneer Larry Levan begins DJing at the Paradise Garage club in New York City. The legendary club and the music played there go on to form the basis of UK and US garage.
  • Grandmaster Flash forms the Furious Five and begins a new style of spinning records which he calls the quick mix theory, later termed cutting and scratching. His protege Grand Wizard Theodore went on to develop this style, taking scratching to a whole new level.
  • In the UK, Free by Deniece Williams hits the top of the charts and Stevie Wonder's Sir Duke reaches no.2.
  • Shalamar released their Motown medley Uptown Festival originally put together by Soul Train producer Dick Griffey and British RnB producer Simon Soussan.
  • The soundtrack to the film Saturday Night Fever is an enormous hit, beginning the huge popularity of film soundtracks.
  • Kraftwerk release their classic Trans Europe Express single which became the melody of Africa Bambaata's Planet Rock.
  • Bob Marley and the Wailers released their tenth album, the classic Exodus, on Tuff Gong Records. It featured tracks such as Jamming. Waiting In Vain, People Get Ready and Natural Mystic.


  • Rose Royce released their third album, entitled Rose Royce III: Strikes Again!. It features I'm In Love and Love Don't Live Here Anymore. Both singles cracked the US RnB top five.
  • The Euro-disco group Boney M was at the height of its popularity with the release of their double A-sided single Rivers Of Babylon and Brown Girl In The Ring. It became the second-biggest selling single in UK chart history. The album, Nightflight To Venus, also topped the UK charts. Rasputin was another UK top ten hit, followed by the seasonal chart-topper Mary's Boy Child/Oh My Lord, which became the fifth-biggest selling single in UK history.
  • The Commodores' Three Times A Lady became the first single to achieve the hat-trick - the No 1 spot in the US pop, RnB and adult charts.


  • The Sugar Hill Gang released Rapper's Delight which borrowed the break from Chic's Good Times. It became a worldwide hit, eventually selling over eight million copies, marking the first ever commercial rap record.
  • Michael Jackson released his phenomenal album Off The Wall. This was Jackson's breakthrough LP that established him as a solo artist in his own right.
  • Kurtis Blow becomes the first rapper to sign to major label Mercury.
  • Janet Kay releases the hit Silly Games which reached No 2 in the UK charts. She becomes the first British female to have a reggae song in the charts.
  • In March, James Brown performed at the Grand Ole Opry.
  • Donna Summer's Bad Girls hits No 1 on the US charts, and stays there for five weeks.
  • Frustrated by sluggish reggae sales, Lee Scratch Perry goes AWOL and is spotted wandering aimlessly around Kingston wielding a hammer. Two days later, his Black Ark studio is burnt to the ground. Perry was suspected of arson, but was released without charge, due to lack of evidence.
  • On July 12 1979, Chicago radio DJ Steve Dahl and baseball promoter Mike Veeck organized an event dubbed Disco Demolition Night. People were invited to bring disco records to a baseball game and have them blown up. This caused a near-riot forcing the cancellation of the game.


  • Everyone goes dance crazy when the release of the film Fame starts the leg warmer craze.
  • Bob Marley and the Wailers returned to Africa as official guests of the State. They performed at Zimbabwe's Independence festival. Marley called the event the "greatest honour of my life". This trip highlighted the Wailers importance in the Developing World.
  • In London, the first ever black music radio station, Dread Broadcasting Corporation, began. Initially set up as a reggae station on a medium wave transmitter, it quickly grew and became an FM station playing music like soca, soul, funk and African flavours. The team of DJs included the likes of Neneh Cherry and BBC London's Ranking Miss P.
  • In the USA Kurtis Blow was the first rapper to sign and release a record on a major record label. He released The Breaks on Mercury Records which went on to sell more than one million copies - becoming a certified gold release. He was also the first to embark on a national and international tour; and the first to cement rap's mainstream marketability by signing an endorsement deal. He was also the first hip hop artist to appear on national TV when he performed The Breaks on Soul Train.
  • Blondie released Rapture after meeting Fab 5 Freddy. Lead singer Debbie Harry did the rap with lyrics about "the man from mars eating cars" but the novelty helped the song become a hit. It became the first US No 1 hit song to feature a rap.
  • Also in the US, record producer Quincy Jones received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


  • Bob Marley died from cancer at the age of 36. Bob was reggae's greatest icon and his death proved a huge loss both to the music industry and his millions of fans worldwide.
  • MTV debuted on cable TV in the USA and over 79 million viewers tuned in. Music lovers were finally able to watch a channel dedicated to music 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week.
  • Janet Jackson joined the cast of Diff'rent Strokes and stayed for a year.
  • Sugar Hill Records released The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel. This groundbreaking record showcased Flash's groundbreaking DJ skills, seamlessly mixing segments of different records together to create a new track.
  • American label Heatbeat Records launched with exclusive rights to the legendary Studio One catalogue. Pioneer Clement Coxsone Dodd, who passed away in 2004, set up Studio One in Jamaica back in 1963 where it became an invaluable training ground for a whole generation of reggae talent including Lee Scratch Perry, Alton Ellis and King Tubby. It became synonymous with the sound of Jamaica.


  • Michael Jackson released Thriller. It went on to sell more than 25 million copies and is the best selling album of all time. Its 14-minute video broke new ground due to its length and the ambition of its special effects.
  • Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force, together with producer Arthur Baker, paid tribute to Kraftwerk with their tune Planet Rock on Tommy Boy Records. It used the melody from the German pioneers' Trans-Europe Express over the rhythm from Numbers. In the process Bambaataa and Baker created electro and moved rap out of the Sugarhill age.
  • Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five released The Message, the first successful hip hop track to push rap from novelty songs into social commentary.
  • It was a big year for reggae, with the release of Gregory Isaac's classic Night Nurse. The British reggae scene reached new heights with Birmingham's new teenage group Musical Youth. They released their debut single Pass the Dutchie which hit No 1 in the UK charts, selling more than four million copies.
  • UK veteran artist and producer Eddy Grant released his most popular album Killer on the Rampage which became a hit on both sides off the Atlantic. His release I Don't Wanna Dance also hit No 1 in the UK charts.
  • Teddy Pendergrass is severely injured in a car accident in Philadelphia. His injuries resulted in him being paralyzed from the waist down.
  • Marvin Gaye made a massive comeback with the hit single Sexual Healing, which went on to earn him his first Grammy. The track became his longest running No 1 single, lasting ten consecutive weeks on the US RnB charts.
  • The Roland 808 drum machine is invented, which went on to be a classic instrument in early hip hop and electro.
  • Janet Jackson released her first album self-titled at the age of 16. It flopped.


  • The UK singles chart started to use electronic terminals in selected stores to gather sales information.
  • Technics introduced the first SL-1200 MK11 turntable. Precise, responsive and indestructible, it was to become the undisputed DJ standard for 20 years.
  • The acclaimed American jazz musician Earl 'Fatha' Hines died aged 77. He was credited with severing jazz piano from its ragtime origins and inventing the trumpet piano style. In doing so he turned the piano into a solo instrument.
  • Motown's 25th Anniversary aired on TV. The star-studded event included reunions of Diana Ross and the Supremes and the Jackson 5. Michael performed his infamous moonwalk. It became the season's top rated music special and won an Emmy for outstanding music program.
  • Diana Ross performed in NYC's Central Park in the pouring rain.
  • Run DMC released their debut single It's Like That/Sucker MCs. Run DMC were the first group to take hip hop to the mainstream. They were the first to be on the cover of Rolling Stone and the first to have a video played on MTV.
  • Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five released the anti-drug anthem White Lines.
  • New Edition released Candy Girl, which topped the US RnB chart. Featuring future solo-star and Whitney Houston-husband Bobby Brown, the group pioneered the fusion of hip hop and RnB to be called new jack swing.


  • The famine in Ethopia prompted Bob Geldolf to form Band Aid and release Do They Know it's Christmas. The proceeds of the UK No 1 single went to feed the starving people in Africa.
  • Marvin Gaye died after being shot by his father Reverend Marvin Gay Sr. The pair had a troubled relationship and Marvin Jr had moved home after problems with depression and drug addiction. The shooting followed a bitter argument.
  • Sade released her debut album Diamond Life which went top ten. In 1985 it went platinum and reached No 5 in US charts.
  • Michael Jackson's hair caught fire during the filming of a Pepsi commercial. He underwent reconstructive surgery to his scalp and face.
  • With an investment of $2,500 a piece Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin started up Def Jam Recordings from Rubin's dorm room. LL Cool J's I Need a Beat was the first record independently released by Def Jam.
  • Lionel Richie's hit Hello became Motown's first ever million-selling UK single.
  • Beat Street opened at the box office, produced by Harry Belfonte and featuring appearance from hip hop legends Afrika Bambaataa, Doug E Fresh and Kool Herc. Breakdance - The Movie also opened in cinemas.
  • The release of both Purple Rain the album and the movie made Prince a superstar. It eventually sold over ten million copies in the US and spent 24 weeks at No 1. Prince's touring band, The Revolution, partially helped to record the album which featured tracks such as Purple Rain, I Would Die For You and When Doves Cry. Prince won an Oscar for Best Song Score at the 1985 Oscars.
  • Maxi Priest and Paul Robinson produced the first UK reggae track to reach No 1 in Jamaica, Papa Levi from Saxon Sound's Mi God Mi King.


  • Bob Geldof organised Live Aid: two massive concerts to raise money for starving people in Ethopia. Two massive events were held in London and Philadelphia and raised up to £50 million. US artists including Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, Willie Nelson, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Tina Turner and Stevie Wonder recorded the song We Are The World for charity. Released under the name USA For Africa, the single was a huge hit. The accompanying album sold three million copies and the project raised $50 million for families in Africa.
  • Under political pressure the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) created Parental Advisory stickers for explicit content on rap albums.
  • Whitney Houston released her eponymous debut album. It topped the US charts and went on to sell 13 million copies.
  • The first fully digital reggae single, Wayne Smith's Under Me Sleng Teng, was recorded at Prince Jammy's studio. It marked the beginning of ragga style reggae.
  • Michael Jackson purchased the publishing rights for most of the Beatles' music for $47 million, much to the dismay of the surviving members of the band.
  • LL Cool J released his debut album Radio. It was the first LP to be released on Def Jam and peaked at No 6 in the US RnB chart.
  • A wax likeness of Michael Jackson was unveiled at London's Madame Tussauds wax museum
  • Eric B. & Rakim met and began making music together. Within a year their debut single would be a street anthem.
  • Russell Simmons ventured into films with Krush Groove starring Melle Mel, LL Cool J, Fat Boys, Kurtis Blow, Run DMC and Beastie Boys. It fictionally recounted the birth of Def Jam records.
  • Smiley Culture released his follow up to Cockney Translations the top 20 hit Police Officer.
  • Loose Ends reached No 1 in the US RnB charts with Hangin' on a String.
  • The UK's Five Star release their debut album Luxury of Life scoring two chart hits and receiving a good response from both the UK and US.


  • Run DMC released a landmark single in hip hop - Walk This Way. A collaboration with rock giants Aerosmith it made Run DMC the first hip hop group to break into the US mainstream. At the time rock dominated everything, but through this collaboration they became the first rap group to be played on MTV, be on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine and to have a platinum-selling album. Following their single My Adidas, they started the rap trend for signing sports merchandising deals after signing with the German sportswear company.
  • Erick B and Rakim released their debut Eric B Is President on small Harlem label Zakia. By the summer of 1986 the tune has blown up the streets and larger label 4th & Broadway signed them up. Hip hop infamy for the duo was on its way.
  • Billy Ocean was born in the Caribbean but moved to the UK where he worked for a car manufacturer by day and sang in the clubs by night. By 1986 his music career had taken off in the US as he released his biggest hit. Taken from the soundtrack to the film Jewel Of The Nile, the single When the Going Gets Tough the Tough Gets Going took Ocean to global fame.
  • The Beastie Boys released their debut album Licensed to Ill. A mix of punk, hip hop and fratboy jokes, the album divided people. Right wing groups thought it was sexist; hardcore hip hoppers thought of the Beasties as plagiarists. But thanks to the infectiously dumb hit single Fight For Your Right (To Party), the album became one of the biggest selling hip hop albums of the 1980s.
  • Andre Harrell left Def Jam to start his own label entitled Uptown, showcasing a more slicker refined sound bridging hip hop with RnB.


  • Reggae legend and Bob Marley collaborator Peter Tosh was murdered in his own home by an affiliate demanding money. Dennis Lobban was convicted of his murder.
  • Eric B and Rakim released their groundbreaking debut album Paid in Full. Although they never had a big mainstream hit, this album established them as one of the hip hop greats of all time. Singles I Aint No Joke and I Know You Got Soul sampled James Brown, while a sample-tastic Coldcut remix became a huge UK hit.
  • Public Enemy released their debut album Yo Bum Rush the Show. The Bomb Squad's fierce production combined with Chuck D's powerful political rhymes and Flava Flav's comedic raps were to make Public Enemy one of the most important groups of the 1980s.
  • Ice T released Rhyme Pays, one of the first credible rap albums to come out of the US West Coast, and the beginning of the gangsta rap genre.
  • LL Cool J released I Need Love, the first rap record to reach No 1 in the US RnB charts. It was also credited as the first successful rap ballad.
  • Michael Jackson released the eagerly anticipated follow up to Thriller, the Bad album. Dressed in black leathers on the cover, it was clear Jackson had moved away from the horror theme towards mainstream rock territory. The single Bad was a huge hit, but it marked the creative downturn in his career.
  • Marvin Gaye, BB King, Smokey Robinson, Muddy Waters, Jackie Wilson and Aretha Franklin were all inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Aretha was the first woman to be inducted.
  • Salt-n-Pepa released the single Push It. It went platinum - a first for a female rap group. The trio also released their debut album Hot Cool and Vicious.
  • Keith Sweat kicked off the new jack swing era with his debut album Make it Last Forever.
  • Danny Rampling launched Shoom, one of the first club nights to play early house music. It has since been heralded as one of the key clubs to take the black music of Chicago underground and kick start UK club culture.


  • This was the year the acid house movement exploded in the UK. People of all races and backgrounds found themselves raving together all over the country, at huge parties like Genesis, Biology and Sunrise.
  • Detroit-based Kevin Saunderson formed Inner City with Paris Grey and released tracks such as Good Life and Big Fun. The house & techno revolution set the foundations for jungle and later UK garage.
  • CDs outsold vinyl for the first time, though the birth of the rave scene was to inject new life into the vinyl format.
  • There's an explosion of UK talent with the music collective known as Soul II Soul releasing the street smash, Fairplay, that sows the seeds for their later commercial success.
  • Yo! MTV Raps hosted by Fab 5 Freddy premiered, giving hip hop culture global exposure.
  • Michael Jackson purchased a ranch in Santa Ynez, California. He called his new home Neverland.
  • DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince became the first duo to win a Grammy for best rap song, but they, along with the other nominees for the new rap category, refused to attend the awards because they were not going to be televised.
  • Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons parted ways. Simmons retained control of Def Jam while Rubin moved on to start Def American Records.
  • Bobby Brown released his second album Don't Be Cruel. Produced by the New Jack Swing innovator, Teddy Riley and with songs by L.A. Reid and Babyface, it sold seven million copies.


  • NWA dropped their controversial album Straight Outta Compton, heralding the birth of gangsta rap. Produced by Dr Dre, it featured Easy-E and Ice Cube. Despite no mainstream media support it reached No.9 in the Billboard RnB chart.
  • Soul II Soul reached the No.1 spot in the UK with Back to Life.
  • The legendary King Tubby is shot outside his home in Jamaica. His murder remains unsolved, but is believed to have been the result of a street robbery.
  • The Native Tongues collective is formed. It includes Afrika Bambaataa, The Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul and kick-starts a new era of hip hop, using jazzy beats and promoting Afro-centric lyrics.
  • James Brown was sentenced in Georgia to six years in prison. It followed a police chase through two different states.
  • Public Enemy's Professor Griff gave an anti-Semitic speech to the Washington Times, offending the Jewish community. Public Enemy responded by firing him.
  • Mica Paris released her debut album So Good, which went platinum.
  • Heavy D broke through to the mainstream with his album Big Tyme produced by Marley Marl and Teddy Riley.


  • A tribute concert hosted by Denzel Washington and Lenny Henry is held at Wembley to celebrate Mandela's release and is later viewed by one billion people worldwide. It includes performances by Aswad, Tracy Chapman, Anita Baker and Soul II Soul.
  • Mariah Carey released her eponymous debut album. It spawns four US No.1 singles. She goes on to be the biggest selling female singer of the 1990s.
  • Ice Cube left NWA and went solo with his debut album AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, produced by Public Enemy's Bomb Squad. In it Ice Cube portrayed inner city gangster life in both its glamour and deprivation.
  • MC Hammer released his debut album Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em which goes on to sell a phenomenal 10 million copies.
  • Vanilla Ice's Ice Ice Baby reaches No 1 and sells 8 million copies of the album topping the US charts for 16 weeks.
  • Ike Turner is sentenced to 4 years in prison for possession of cocaine.


  • The cult youth music programme Dance Energy presented by Normski launches on BBC2 as part of the Def II strand.
  • The Ministry of Sound club opened in south London. As raves moved from fields and warehouses to licensed venues, it would be the first of the 1990s global superclubs. Over the next decade it held key house, garage, RnB and jungle nights like Rulin, Smoove and AWOL.
  • Rave was in full swing and DJs create more complicated breakbeats. The labels Kickin, Shut Up & Dance and Reinforced Records are set up and tracks like Mr Kirk's Nightmare by 4 Hero and 2 Bad Mice's Bomb Scare form the cornerstone of the future jungle scene.
  • Also in the UK the London Posse release their critically acclaimed album, Gangster Chronicle, and Hijack become the first British rap group to be signed to a US label - Ice T's Rhyme Synidicate.
  • Jazz trumpeter Miles Davis died of pneumonia at 65. One of the greatest musicians of the 20th Century, Davis was an innovator in bebop, cool jazz and jazz-rock. During his 50 year career he produced classic and diverse albums like Birth of the Cool, Kind of Blue and Bitches Brew.
  • At Uptown records a young Sean "Puffy" Coombs masterminded new group Jodeci who release their debut album Forever My Lady.


  • Hackney's Shut Up & Dance were two hip hop fans who preferred rave's energy, making anthems like 5,6,7,8 and £10 To Get In. After putting clips of rock crooner Marc Cohn into Ravin I'm Ravin they not only drew attention to new issues on sampling, they scored a massive hit.
  • End Of The Road by Boyz II Men had 13 consecutive weeks at the US No.1, ending a 36-year record previously held by Elvis Presley. However Whitney Houston's I Will Always Love You capped this in 1993.
  • On the dancehall scene, everyone's doing the bogle. Chaka Demus & Pliers join up with Sly & Robbie and release the international hit Murder She Wrote.
  • In Jamaica Buju Banton, aged 19, breaks Bob Marley's record for the most No.1 singles in one year.
  • Rap's Ice T and rock's Body Count collaborated on the track Cop Killer. It sparked huge debates on censorship and the glorification of violence. Ice T's record label removed it from later album pressings and he left to start his own label.
  • Dr Dre left NWA to form Death Row Records with Suge Knight. It rapidly became a dominant force in hip hop releasing The Chronic, an album that defined the g-funk sound and launched Snoop Dogg.
  • Prince won the Soul Train Lifetime Achievement award.
  • Mary J. Blige released her debut album What's The 411? A pivotal release in the world of RnB, it brought a tougher street edge to the genre and made Mary a star.


  • 1993 saw the cementing of a new style of UK music that evolved out of the rave scene. Using pitched up funk breaks, rap hooks and ragga samples it was to be called jungle. Early pioneers were Fabio, Grooverider, Hype and Randall. Jumpin' Jack Frost and Bryan Gee's V Recordings gives Roni Size and DJ Krust their first release.
  • New York's Wu-Tang Clan released their debut album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). It unleashed producer RZA and MCs GZA, ODB, Method Man, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah on the world. Heavily influenced by martial arts films, the Clan's hardcore style was an instant hit.
  • When Snoop Doggy Dog releases Doggy Style on Death Row Records, it becomes the first ever debut album to enter the US charts at No.1.
  • Dizzie Gillespie, the American jazz trumpeter, died aged 76. Known as the "king of bebop", alongside Thelonius Monk and Charlie Parker, he helped build bebop, injecting it with his own Cuban flavours.
  • Legendary jazz musician Sun Ra died. Born Herman Blount he quickly gained an international following with his ensemble, the Arkestra. The music, outrageous costumes and on-stage antics reflected his claim that he was an angel from the planet Saturn. Along with Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor, he is considered a founder of free jazz.


  • The jungle scene was picking up momentum. Kenny Ken (Dead Dred) previewed his Dred Bass track at the club AWOL. It was the first to use the backwards bassline.
  • In a bizarre and unlikely twist of pop history, Michael Jackson married Elvis' daughter, Lisa Marie Presley. The couple would separate within 18 months.
  • New York's house scene was in fertile form. The Bucketheads aka Kenny Dope (Masters At Work) released The Bomb. A catchy disco cut-up that was a massive chart hit.
  • In hip hop, Notorious B.I.G. causes a storm with his debut, Ready To Die and Queensbridge's Nas is the first rapper to receive "5 Mics" (5/5!) in Source magazine for Illmatic. It's regarded as one of the best hip hop albums of the 90s.
  • Rapper Tupac Shakur and two of his entourage are charged with sexual assault. The day after the guilty verdict is announced, he's shot 5 times by muggers while in the lobby of a New York recording studio. Miraculously he survives.


  • Gangsta rap pioneer Eazy-E died of an Aids related illness. His death further reinforces the prevalence of HIV/Aids in all communities.
  • It was a landmark year for jungle. Goldie's Metalheadz stable ran the underground drum & bass scene. Seminal releases included Doc Scott's Drums '95 and Alex Reece's Pulp Fiction.
  • Wu-Tang unleashed their masterplan: turning one crew into individual platinum artists. Out of the Clan came a series of incredible RZA-produced solo albums including Raekwon's Only Built For Cuban Links, GZA's Liquid Swords and Method Man's Tical. With RnB's commercial dominance on the horizon, never again would hardcore hip hop be so dominant.
  • Tricky painted a difficult yet beautiful picture of UK living with his debut album Maxinquaye. A former member Bristol's Massive Attack, the MC's solo vision fused twisted hip hop beats with his own blunted rhymes.
  • TLC were the perfect fusion of smooth RnB, street hip hop and girl-band sex appeal. Their 1995 global hit Waterfalls helped drive the TLC album sales to a massive 11 million. The group's off stage antics, including Lisa Lopez' trial for arson, threatened to derail them but their success continued and they helped make RnB a global phenomenon.
  • In reggae, Shaggy's Boombastic was a rare UK and US No.1. Its popularity was helped by global exposure from a jeans advert.
  • Free jazz innovator Don Cherry died. The trumpeter was noted for his collaborations with Ornette Coleman and his solo work. He was the step-dad of Neneh Cherry.


  • The MOBOs launch and are shown on Channel 4. The awards (for Music of Black Origin) brought a much-needed emphasis to the achievements of black music and artists. In the first year Goldie won two, the Fugees won two and Jazzie B received one for Outstanding Contribution to black music.
  • Tupac Shakur was murdered, sending shockwaves through the global hip hop community. He was fatally wounded after being shot on his way to a club after a Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas. No one has ever been convicted of his murder.
  • Recently divorced from Lisa Marie Presley, Michael Jackson married Debbie Rowe, his 37-year-old nurse, at a secret ceremony in Sydney. Just ten days prior to the marriage Jackson had announced that Rowe was six months pregnant with his child. By the end of 1999 they had divorced.
  • London's garage scene started making waves. It began by UK DJs playing US garage instrumentals pitched up, then evolved into a distinct sound. The older, dressy and champagne-fuelled image of UK garage soon gained national exposure when tracks like Armand Van Helden's mix of Tori Amos broke into the UK charts. The name ëspeed garage' was soon imposed on the scene.
  • Jungle got dark and mechanical, revived by DJ Trace's groundbreaking Mutant Jazz remix that was on this years' Emotif compilation Techsteppin'. The Metalheadz club night was going strong, breaking anthems like Adam F's Metropolis and Doc Scott's Shadow Boxing.
  • The Fugees went global with their album The Score. Fusing conscious lyrics with irresistible hooks, hits like Killing Me Softly and Ready Or Not made stars out of Pras, Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill. Proof that there was a big market for hip hop.
  • Snoop Doggy Dogg and his bodyguard are acquitted of first degree murder. The jury deadlocks on voluntary manslaughter charges and a mistrial is declared.
  • Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men's collaboration, One Sweet Day, finally left the US No.1 slot after 16 weeks. It is the longest consecutive stay at No.1 in Billboard history.
  • Having enjoyed massive success taking hip hop to the commercial mainstream, MC Hammer filed for bankruptcy. His taste for the glamorous lifestyle had outstripped his income and his career would never recover.
  • Jay-Z drops his first album in 1996, called Reasonable Doubt. This would become a platform to dominate rap music in the late 1990s and beyond.


  • Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti died. Nicknamed the Black President, he was the biggest star of African music in the 1970-80s. He was also one of the most outspoken critics of Nigeria's military regimes, all of which subjected him to persecution
  • Jimi Hendrix became the first rock star to be commemorated by an English Heritage blue plaque on a property, placed in honour of the time the guitarist spent in London. Hendrix is one of the most influential figures in rock music
  • Notorious B.I.G. was shot dead leaving a Vibe magazine party in Los Angeles. According to reports up to ten shots were fired. He was dead on arrival at hospital. Hip hop mourned the loss of one of its greatest talents. Just like Tupac's death, no one has ever been convicted for Biggie's murder.
  • Following Notorious B.I.G's death his second album, spookily entitled Life After Death, was released on Puffy's Bad Boy label. It was a big hit but Puffy's tribute to his late friend I'll Be Missing You proved an even bigger global smash. Sampling The Police, it made a star out of Puffy who'd been instrumental in so many of 1990s hip hop successes. Arguably it was Puffy who pushed hip hop from the streets to the biggest selling music form though critics say he watered the sound down. He seemed to live the hip hop dream, making millions from his business moves.
  • Roni Size's Reprazent project won the prestigious Mercury Music Prize for their debut album New Forms. Fusing jazz, hip hop, and soul vocals into a live band format, the award took drum & bass into the mainstream.
  • Missy Misdemeanour Elliott released her debut album Supa Dupa Fly. After her work with Aaliyah, she'd already broken barriers as a female producer, now she did it as a solo artist; writing her own songs and creating her own style that rebuked female stereotyping. Her innovative work and collaborations with Timbaland were to redefine RnB and hip hop.
  • With the release of Tina Moore's Never Gonna Let You Go, 2-step garage got national exposure. Using RnB influences instead of a 4/4 beat, the release was the point where UK garage moved beyond its US house roots. The 2-step pattern was the first in a series of musical evolutions that will spawn the grime, dubstep and breakbeat garage styles over the coming years.


  • Photek released a compilation of his singles Form & Function on Virgin records. This difficult and experimental release represented changing times in drum & bass. In the clubs the darkness of the music was driving fans, especially female ones, to the emerging vocal 2-step scene. Having tied the underground phenomenon into record deals, major labels were at a loss as to how to mass market it. Goldie's second album, including an hour long classical tribute to his mother, flopped. The d&b scene went back underground. While it would spread to raves worldwide, its artists have not received the same level of mainstream attention since.
  • In contrast to drum & bass, the UK garage scene produced a string of accessible vocal hits. 1998 saw Ramsey & Fen's Love Bug and MJ Cole's Sincere. The latter, with its silky reversed strings and sensual vocals would change the perception of the whole scene.
  • Lauryn Hill's solo debut album was released. Critics had noted how many covers The Fugee's breakthrough album had included. They couldn't criticise The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill after she wrote so much of its classic soul influenced songs. The album was a massive hit, earning Hill 11 Grammy nominations; her career's pinnacle.
  • Jay-Z's third album, Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life brought him into the pop arena. The album's single Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem), with its catchy chorus lifted from the musical Annie, scored Jay-Z a huge hit. Over the next few years he would build on this success, laying claim to being the greatest MC of his era. Nas of course, would disagree.


  • More than 1 billion people across the world - one-sixth of humanity - logged on to three overlapping Netaid pop concerts in London, New York City and Geneva, broadcast live on the internet at All the stars, including Puff Daddy, performed free with £7.5 million from the event given to help refugees in Kosovo and Sudan.
  • American jazz vibraphonist Milt Jackson died. He was considered one of the pioneers of modern jazz who was known both as an outstanding blues and a jazz improviser. He co-founded the Modern Jazz Quartet, and worked with many of the great names including Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk.
  • It was unprecedented in the history of black music; in 1999 a white rapper broke through. There had been white rappers before - Blondie tried it in the 80s and Vanilla Ice in the 1990s - but no one took them seriously. But when Dr Dre gave his stamp of approval to Eminem, people gave the white Detroit rapper a chance. With an unsurpassed gift for hooks, controversy and concept tracks, he burst through the ranks of rappers to become a global megastar.
  • Kelis exploded into 1999 with the anti-boyfriend rant, Caught Out There. Feisty and quirky, she immediately stood out from the RnB crowd. Ladies who had been dumped by a man. Despite collaborations with The Neptunes her success in the US was not a given. It was only later with a hit Milkshake from her third album and newly formed relationship with Nas that she made it to A list RnB celebrity status.
  • The Neptunes' reign as super producers started with two hot tracks; Kelis' Caught Out There and ODB's Got Your Money. Within five years the duo would become the industry's most wanted, responsible for countless radio hits.
  • Roots Manuva dropped his debut album Brand New Second Hand. Succeeding where so many UK artists had failed before, he produced an engaging, reggae-influenced and uniquely British take on hip hop.
  • Soul legend Curtis Mayfield died. He was paralysed in 1990 after being hit by a falling rig while performing in New York, then in 1998 diabetes meant his right leg had to be amputated. He was a key star in black music in the 1960-70s, in part through the group, The Impressions. His work epitomised the Chicago Sound that rivalled Detroit's Tamla Motown, producing such hits as Move On Up, Superfly and Pusherman. He received four Grammy nominations.
  • It was a sad year for reggae, with many of its most acclaimed artists dying. I-Roy, Dennis Brown, Prince Lincoln Thompson, Henry "Junjo" Lawes and Augustus Pablo all passed away.
  • London's UK garage scene exploded into the national charts with the Artful Dodger's Rewind. The single is a UK No.1 and singer Craig David is quickly signed up as a solo artist. It marks a golden period for vocal UK garage that will last until at least 2001 when the scene returned underground.

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