PART II: "BLACK CELEBRITIES WHO DIED WITH LITTLE OR NO FANFARE-UPDATED"

Robert DoQui (April 20, 1934 – February 9, 2008) was an actor who has starred in film and on television. He is best known for his role as King George in the 1973 film, "Coffy," starring Pam Grier, and as Sgt. Warren Reed in the 1987 science fiction film RoboCop, the 1990 sequel RoboCop 2, and the 1993 sequel RoboCop 3.  He died February 9, 2008 at the age of 73. He was buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

Sterling St. Jacques was a party boy and top male model in the 1970's. His eyes appear blue (contacts) in the second photo but they were actually grey in person.  He was tall and breathtakingly handsome, he was also a professional dancer who traveled frequently between New York and Europe and he was a regular at Studio 54, his dance partner and good friend was runway icon Pat Cleveland.  He even released an album. Sterling was also the adopted son of actor Raymond St. Jacques (Cotton Comes To Harlem). Sterling died in 1984, from complications related to the AIDS virus.  Click here to hear him sing: Sterling Sings!

Arthur "T-Boy" Ross (February 28, 1949 – May 30, 1996) was a singer and songwriter most notable for his collaborations with Leon Ware and for being the younger brother of Diana Ross.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Arthur hung around rougher sections of Detroit while his elder sister went on to fame as lead singer of The Supremes in the 1960s and later solo fame in 1970s. Shortly after Diana had established herself on her own, she helped him get a job at Motown as an songwriter in 1972.

Ross hooked up with songwriter Leon Ware and together the duo wrote hits for acts such as Michael Jackson, The Miracles and Marvin Gaye. Among the hits were "I Wanna Be Where You Are," and "I Want You."

Ross was considered hard to deal with when high on drugs and alcohol.

His tough exterior made him a difficulty amongst the control booth and led to his fall out with Ware during an argument with Ware during recording sessions for Marvin Gaye's I Want You album. Ross later left and in 1979, set on becoming a singer, released his first album for Motown in 1979, "Changes." Despite help from artists like Joe Sample, it sold only 12,000 copies. Fed up with the business, Ross retired from music in the early 1980s.

He lived in seclusion away from family members including his famous sister.

During the weekend of June 22-23, 1996, police found the decaying bodies of Ross and his wife Patricia Ann Robinson in a rotting basement inside another person's dilapidated home in Oak Park, Michigan, an impoverished suburb of Detroit. The two of them were reportedly bound and gagged and died of suffocation. It was estimated that the bodies had been there for several days to a week.

The official date of death was May 30, 1996. Ross was 47 years old and his wife was 54. Strangely Ross had not been reported missing by his family. He had been scheduled to appear in a downtown Detroit courtroom on June 26, 1996 at a hearing on three charges of possessing a controlled substance

His work with Ware continues to be covered: the duo's hit "I Want You," has been covered by Robert Palmer, Madonna and even Diana Ross herself on her 2006 covers album, "I Love You."

"Shaft In Africa," and "The Eiger Sanction," star Vonetta McGee has died, she was 65.

The actress suffered cardiac arrest and died on July 9, 2010.

An icon of the blaxploitation films of the 1970s, McGee also had starring roles in "Blacula," and "Hammer."

But it was her role opposite Richard Roundtree in "Shaft in Africa," in 1973 which elevated her career. Clint Eastwood handpicked McGee to portray a government operative in "The Eiger Sanction."

According to the Los Angeles Times, McGee was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 17, although her death was not related to the disease.

May 2011: Musician Gil Scott-Heron, who helped lay the groundwork for rap by fusing minimalistic percussion, political expression and spoken-word poetry on songs such as "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," died at age 62.

A friend, Doris C. Nolan, who answered the telephone listed for his Manhattan recording company, said he died in the afternoon at St. Luke's Hospital after becoming sick upon returning from a European trip.

"We're all sort of shattered," she said.

Scott-Heron's influence on rap was such that he sometimes was referred to as the Godfather of Rap, a title he rejected.

(THE DEATH OF HIGH SOCIETY CELEBRITY MANAGER-MARGHUERITE MAYS)

*Before Naomi Campbell, Marghuerite Mays was a sought after playgirl, years later, her daughter Billie Mays would also be pursued by rich men!

When she wasn't dating or marrying rich men, she was hanging out with scandalous black gigolo Dickie Wells (not to be confused with the saxophone player).

According to Bumpy Johnson's widow: "The thing that made Dickie Wells really special as far as I was concerned, was that he never ever took a dime from a black woman. He would siphon every dollar he could from white women who were willing to pay for his affections (Ava Gardner, Tallulah Bankhead, etc.) and then come uptown to Harlem and spend his money partying with the most beautiful black women of the day, including Margherite Chapman (who later married Willie Mays) and Jean Parks (sister of the founder of Parks sausage)."

In 2010: Marti Marciano aka Marghuerite Mays, ex-wife of baseball legend Willie Mays, died in her Fort Lauderdale home. She was 84.

Backstory:

When Willie Mays proposed to Marghuerite, he presented her with the largest diamond ring in New York (at the time). After the marriage, Marghuerite was known to fly overseas to purchase shoes priced at $500-$1,000 dollars. She was also named to the Best Dressed List in the late 60's and was known as a high society hostess.

Marghuerite was a woman of many talents. She was also an consultant to the stars who hosted, among others, Gladys Knight and the Pips right in her own mansion. She worked at ringside for Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis.

She entertained famous guests at her Queens, New York night club (including Harlem Godfather-Bumpy Johnson).

Her son, Michael, describes her as a generous woman who many in the family called “sister,” regardless of how they were related, “because she was like the big sister of the clan.” According to Michael, “my mother was a great philanthropist who gave to everyone in the family. She took care of all the kids in our family at one time or another, and she doesn’t have a single friend who is not grateful to her for one thing or another. She gave everything she could.”

Also known as Marghuerite Mays, Marciano was born Scarlett Marghuerite Wendell in St. Louis, Missouri on Nov. 13, 1925 to parents Sadie and Frank Wendell.

In 1950, she married the late Bill Kinney, lead singer of renowned R&B/doo-wop group The Drifters. She was the personal manager of the group, and also worked with many other entertainers throughout her lifetime.

In 1956, she remarried, tying the knot with Mays, who is considered the greatest all-around baseball player of all time. The couple raised two children, Michael and Wilmia aka Billie.

Billie Mays was an international playgirl in the 1970's, her boyfriends included: Drug kingpin Frank Lucas and NBA superstar Walt Frazier.

Michael described his early childhood in New York, where Willie Mays played with the New York Giants, as “surreal.” As a child, Michael traveled the country and the world with his family (often by car, as Marciano preferred not to go by plane).

He and his family would follow his father’s team to wherever they played. Marciano had a complexion light enough to check into hotels in the South during segregation, and would often hide Michael under a blanket to get him into these all-white establishments.

Marciano had an amazing career. She is credited with bringing singer Gladys Knight to New York to record for Buddha Records. She also housed Knight and the Pips in her own home, and her son recalls her styling the group and coaching them on how to interview and behave from their basement.

Her son said, “She built stars. Nowadays, we understand the need for a Matthew Knowles or a Joe Jackson, but back then nobody was doing it. She pioneered it.”

As one of the first in the business to serve as a consultant to the stars, she worked for star boxers Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali. The entertainment pioneer later partnered with Ruth Bowen to develop the careers of iconic soul band the Isley Brothers.

Marciano owned the hip Queens nightclub The Dugout, which was popular with the “Amazing Mets,” New York’s 1969 world champion baseball team. She counted as guests famous athletes, entertainers and politicians.

In 1975, she married black oil heir John W. Sewell.

In 1978, she relocated to San Antonio, where she worked as a buyer for high-end women’s boutiques. In 2003, she retired to Fort Lauderdale.

In addition to her son, Michael, she is survived by her grandsons, Raymond and Lee; her brother, Charles; her sister, Annabelle and her beloved dog, Stoli. She was pre-deceased by her daughter, Wilmia.

May 2011: Mr. Don Barden recently died of cancer. My condolences to his family, friends and staff. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Barden years ago-for a regional publication, this interview was arranged by former publicist (Terrie Williams). Mr. Barden and his staff were extremely professional. At the time, Mr. Barden set me up with a world class concierge to insure my future Las Vegas visits were exceptional. You will be missed Mr. Barden, you were one of a kind and you went out of your way to help black entrepreneurs. RIP.

Backstory:

Don Barden made history by becoming the only African American to own a casino "Fitzgerald's," on the Las Vegas Strip.

Iconic Detroit businessman and casino mogul Don Barden died Thursday morning after a long battle with cancer. He was 67-years-old.

Barden was the owner and CEO of Barden Companies, Inc. and The Majestic Star and Fitzgeralds Casinos.

He was a well-known businessman who was responsible for many development projects in Detroit. His corporate headquarters is also located in the city. Barden is credited for his work in real estate development and the entertainment industry across the country.

Mayor Dave Bing released the following statement on the statement of Barden, "Don was a stalwart leader and businessman in this community, as well as a friend. We were aware of his longtime illness, and dreaded this day. We send our condolences to his family."

In the late 90s, Barden presented a joint venture with Michael Jackson in hopes of owning a casino/resort in Detroit. The plan included a theme park that wanted to call "The Thriller Theme Park." He had hoped to build the resort/casino on the riverfront, but the deal was turned down by former Mayor Dennis Archer.

At one time he built, owned and operated cable television stations in Inkster, Romulus, Van Buren, and Detroit, Michigan - which became one of the nation's largest urban cable systems.

He also became the first African-American to own a casino in Las Vegas.

In the early 90's Barden became active in his mission to help revitalize Detroit by organizing peace summits to address crime and economic issues troubling the city. High profile leaders and activists attended these summits.

He is noted as one of the top African American entrepreneurs in the country.

Over the years, Barden remained committed to Detroit with his work in the civic and business communities.

Sept. 2010: S.O.L.A.R. Records founder and former manager of Shalamar has died.

Dick Griffey, the visionary behind S.O.L.A.R Records, died last Friday from complications of quadruple bypass surgery.

Black America Web Reports:

Though Griffey operated quietly behind the scenes, his work is well known to the millions of music lovers who snapped up the posh funk hits his label generated. From its 1977 inception throughout its 1980s heyday, S.O.L.A.R. issued an impressive series of family-friendly hits performed by acts like the Whispers, Shalamar (featuring future solo stars Jody Watley and Howard Hewett), Midnight Star, Lakeside and others. S.O.L.A.R. hits like “A Night To Remember” (Shalamar), “I Miss You” (Klymaxx), “And The Beat Goes On” and “Rock Steady” (The Whispers) are essential listening for any lover of funk-era R&B.

2009: Gene Griffin and Teddy Riley were writing partners; Gene was also Teddy's godfather. Gene contributed to the early New Jack Swing hits: My Perogative, Lets Chill, Just Got Paid, etc.  Griffin and Riley would part ways a few years after Guy hit the scene. Griffin died in 2009.

August 2010: The "Godfather of Bass Guitar," Robert Wilson of the legendary Tulsa R&B and funk group the GAP Band, died in Los Angeles. He was 53, confirmed his publicist and manager, Don Jackson, in a late-night Sunday phone call to the Tulsa World.

Wilson died from a massive heart attack in his home, Jackson said. His family became concerned about him when they didn't receive their regular phone calls, and his adult son found his body on Sunday afternoon in Palmdale, Calif.

Bonita Louisa "Boni" Boyer (July 28, 1958 -December 4, 1996)

(Singer and musician) Boni Boyer contributed back-up vocals and played a wide variety of instruments for Lionel Ritchie, Tony! Toni! Tone'!, Con Funk Shun, and Digital Underground.

She was perhaps best known for her work with Prince on the "Sign O' the Times," "Lovesexy," and "Graffiti Bridge" albums and related concert tours.

A fellow classmate of Sheila E., Boyer was replaced in Prince's band with Rosie Gaines.

Boyer passed away from a brain aneurysm in 1996.

Robert "Spike" Mickens, 59, was the founding member of Kool & The Gang, established in Jersey City in 1964. Mickens was also the original Trumpet player.  Mickens died in a nursing home in Far Rockaway, NY, after an long illness, on 11/2/2010.

Freddie Perren was the most underrated music producer in R&B history.

Freddie Perren dominated the 70's and 80's. He produced "Shake Your Groove Thang," & "Reunited," for Peaches & Herb. He also produced "I Will Survive," by Gloria Gaynor and songs on the "Saturday Night Fever,' soundtrack.

He also produced "Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel," & "More Than A Woman," for Tavares and "Boogie Fever," & "Hotline," for the Sylvers.

Perren produced early Motown hits, including: "ABC," and "I Want Your Back," for the Jackson Five & "Love Machine," & "Do It Baby," by the Miracles and "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday,' featured on the "Cooley High," soundtrack.

He received two Grammy Awards for his work: the 1979 Grammy Award for Album of the Year as a producer on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, and the Grammy Award for Best Disco Recording in 1980 (the only time it was awarded) for Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive."

In 1993, Perren suffered a massive stroke. He died eleven years later (2004) at the age of sixty-one in his home in Chatsworth, California. He is interred in the Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Chatsworth.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — December 2010: Teena Marie, who made history as Motown's first white act but developed a lasting legacy with her silky soul pipes and with hits like "Lovergirl," "Square Biz," and "Fire and Desire" with mentor Rick James, has died. She was 54.

The confirmation came from a publicist, Jasmine Vega, who worked with Teena Marie on her last album. Her manager, Mike Gardner, also confirmed her death to CNN.

Teena Marie, known as the "Ivory Queen of Soul," was certainly not the first white act to sing soul music, but she was arguably among the most gifted and respected, and was thoroughly embraced by the black audience.

She was first signed to the legendary Motown label back in 1979 at age 19, working with James, with whom she would have long, turbulent but musically magical relationship.

The cover of her album, "Wild and Peaceful," did not feature her image, with Motown apparently fearing backlash by audiences if they found out the songstress with the dynamic voice was white.

But Marie notched her first hit, "I'm A Sucker for Your Love," and was on her way to becoming one of R&B's most revered queens. During her tenure with Motown, the singer-songwriter and musician produced passionate love songs and funk jam songs like "Need Your Lovin'," "Behind the Groove" and "Ooh La La La."

Marie had a daughter and had toured in recent years after overcoming an addiction to prescription drugs.

December 2010: *Bernie Wilson, a member of R&B group Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, has died. He was 64. Wilson, who sang baritone, died at Kresson View Center in Voorhees, N.J., following a stroke and a heart attack.

Jan. 2011: Gladys Horton (top left) , a founding member of the pioneering Motown girl group The Marvelettes who sang lead on their 1961 classic "Please Mr. Postman," died January 26th in Sherman Oaks, California from complications related a stroke. She was 66.  Horton and Mary Wilson were best  friends up until her death.

Smokey Robinson's Motown Memories:

Horton formed The Marvelettes (then known as the Casinyets) at Michigan's Inskter High School with members of her Glee Club when she was just 15. A 1961 talent show caught the attention of one of their teachers, who arranged an audition at Motown with Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson. The two-year old label had no experience with girl groups, but they signed the group — largely based on the powerful vocals of Horton and her group-mate Wanda Young.

Motown's Lost Heroes Emerge:

In the summer of 1961 Motown released their debut single "Dear Mr. Postman," which featured Marvin Gaye on drums. It eventually shot to Number One and the Marvelettes were put on the road. "We went through hell on those tours," Marvelette Wanda Young recalled in J. Randy Taraborrelli's 1986 book Motown. "It was so bad — the traveling, the food, the accommodations — that Juanita [Coward] went right into a nervous breakdown. We had to put her under medical care and she left the group in 1963." Despite the difficulties, the group's success helped transform Motown into a major record label and paved the way for The Ronettes, The Supremes and all girl groups that followed.

Horton sang lead on many of the group's other early 1960s hits, including "Beechwood 4-5789," "Playboy" and "Too Many Fish In The Sea." By the mid-1960s Motown turned their attention towards The Supremes and Martha & The Vandellas, and the Marvelettes' winning streak slowed down. In 1965 Wanda Young began singing lead on many songs (including "Don't Mess With Bill") and in 1967 Horton left the group — in part to care for her handicapped son.

When Horton returned to the stage in later years she had to tour as "Gladys Horton of the Marvelettes" because she didn't own the name rights, a very common situation for artists of that era. She continued to regularly perform until she suffered a stroke last year.

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Ollie Matson has died of respiratory failure at age 80, the University of San Francisco said.

Matson passed away Saturday at his home in Los Angeles.

Matson played for the Chicago Cardinals from 1952-58 and then was traded to the Los Angeles Rams for nine players. After four years with the Rams, he spent one with Detroit before finishing his career with three seasons in Philadelphia.

Matson made the all-pro team seven times and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972.

During his 14-year career, he ran for 5,173 yards on 1,170 carries (4.4-yard average) and 40 touchdowns. He also caught 222 passes for 3,285 yards (14.8-yard average) and another 23 scores.

Matson starred at the University of San Francisco, earning All-America honors and helping the Dons go 9-0 in 1951. The team passed up a post-season bowl game in the South that season because the invitation carried the condition that the two blacks on the team, Matson and Burl Toler, stay home.

Matson also won two Olympic medals in the 1952 Helsinki Games in the 400 meters and the 400-meter relay.

Feb. 2011: Dave Duerson, a starting safety on the 1985 Chicago Bears team that won the Super Bowl, was found dead in his Miami home, the team said Friday. He was 50.

Miami-Dade Police Detective Robert Williams says the body of a Dave Duerson was found Thursday in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla. Computer records show that the Duerson who lived at the address was born the same month and year as the player.

Investigators have not determined the cause of death. Williams says detectives are awaiting the medical examiner's report.

"Our family asks that you please remember Dave as a good, kind, and caring man," Duerson's ex-wife, Alicia Duerson, said, according to NBCChicago.com. "He loved and cherished his family and friends and was extremely proud of his beloved Notre Dame and ... Chicago Bears. Please keep Dave and our family in your prayers."

The Bears selected Duerson in the third round of the 1983 draft after an All-America career at Notre Dame.

He became a full-time starter for the 1985 "Super Bowl Shuffle" team that was known for its dominating defense. That team finished the regular season 15-1 and had two shutouts in the playoffs before dismantling the Patriots 46-10 in the Super Bowl.

March 2011: Former outfielder and hitting coach Mitchell Page died, according to MLB.com. He was 59. The cause of death has not been disclosed.

Page, born and raised in Los Angeles, played eight seasons in the major leagues, including from 1977 to '83 with the Oakland Athletics and in 1984 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. His best season was as a rookie when he hit 21 home runs with 75 RBI, a .307 average and 42 stolen bases to finish second in the AL Rookie of the Year Award voting to Eddie Murray.

He worked as a coach in the minor and major leagues, first serving as a first base coach for the Kansas City Royals in 1995. He was also a hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals.

March 2011: Bernard St. Clair Lee, 66, a baritone singer and original member of the Hues Corporation, which had an early disco hit in 1974 with "Rock the Boat," died at his home in Lake Elsinore, said Ava Dupree, a family spokeswoman. He died of natural causes.

The Los Angeles Police Department confirms an officer shot and killed fitness model and former college football star Reggie Doucet Jr. during a violent struggle with officers. Doucet, who was unarmed, was described as "naked and yelling" in a street after arguing with a cab driver over an unpaid fare.

KTLA:

Police say 25-year-old Reggie Doucet repeatedly punched the officers and tried to take their guns. The shooting happened just after 3 a.m. Friday in the 5600 block of Crescent Way West after LAPD officers responded to a disturbing the peace call.

Doucet apparently took a taxi to the location, began stripping off his clothing and running around naked. A witness said she heard screaming and commotion outside her window as police chased after the naked suspect. At some point, the suspect put on boxers. "I heard them try to detain him and he would not comply; and there was a fight, a physical fight," she said. She then heard two gunshots.

KTLA quotes friends who say Doucet was "intoxicated" after leaving a club. The LA Times and LA Weekly report Doucet was "yelling and behaving erratically" and suggest there could have been psychological issues.

The former quarterback for Middle Tennessee State University had an outstanding season in 2006, where he started five games and played in all 13 games. Doucet segued into modeling and fitness training and was recently featured as "Eye Candy" at Essence.com.

Source: Bossip

Oct. 2010: A man walking near the Oakwood Plaza shopping center in Edison found the body of Sean John model-Jubar (Esco) Croswell, 30, (above) off a leafy street last Thursday about 2:15p.m., Middlesex County prosecutors said.

Croswell, who lived in Fort Greene, was wearing a Louis Vuitton belt and Jet Lag cargo pants when he was discovered. It was not immediately clear how long he had been dead when he was found.

NYPD sources said Croswell was reported missing on Sept. 17, four days after he was last seen.

The cause of death is still being investigated by local authorities

Esco’s numerous friends in the industry are mourning his death, it was suspected weeks ago when he went missing that he might be dead.

While what happened remains a real mystery, there are some clues that the mainstream press hasn’t mentioned — such as the fact his car was discovered burned up in Brooklyn several weeks ago.

Esco is survived by a newborn son and the child’s mother, as well as his mother, father and brother.

General Johnson (right) 67, lead singer of the Chairmen Of The Board and best known for the 1970 hits "Give Me Just A Little More Time," and "Pay To The Piper," died at his home in Atlanta.  As a songwriter, his credits include: Clarence Carter's "Patches," Freda Payne's "Bring The Boys Home," and Honey Cone's "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show," and "Want Ads."

Duane L. Jones (February 2, 1936 – July 22, 1988) was an actor, best known for his role as Ben in the 1968 horror film Night of the Living Dead.

A graduate of the Sorbonne, Jones studied acting in New York City. His role in Night of the Living Dead marked the first time a black actor was cast as a starring role in a horror film. He taught acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. As executive director of the Richard Allen Center for Culture and Art (RACCA), he promoted African-American theater.

After leaving the American Academy of Dramatic Arts he taught a select group of students privately in Manhattan, by invitation only. His hand-selected students were of diverse ethnic backgrounds.

He spent his later years as a professor of theatre at the State University of New York at Old Westbury, where the Duane L. Jones Recital Hall is named for him.

He died of cardiopulmonary arrest in 1988. Up until his death, he proclaimed that he had never watched any of the other 'dead' films, nor any other George Romero picture, claiming that "Night of the Living Dead," was 'his' time.

Singer/songwriter-turned-music mogul Harvey Fuqua (far right) has died after suffering a heart attack.

The 80-year-old star, whose nephew is director Antoine Fuqua, passed away in a hospital in Detroit, Michigan on July 6, 2010.

Fuqua began his career in the music industry as a singer and songwriter with the 1950s doo-wop group the Moonglows. Fuqua was the male voice on the final Supremes record "Someday We'll Be Together Again."  Fuqua was also married to Berry Gordy's sister (above).

He quit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame group in 1958 and went on to become a key player in the development and success of the Motown record label in Detroit, helping his then-brother-in-law Berry Gordy set up the company by helping to distribute its first hit single, Barrett Strong's Money (That's What I Want), through his own Anna Records.

Fuqua later sold the label to Gordy and accepted a position as a songwriter and executive at Motown.

He also worked with blues icon Etta James during a stint at Chess Records and went on to serve as Smokey Robinson's road manager.

Throughout his career Fuqua was linked to soul legend Marvin Gaye - he discovered the young singer when he was part of Washington, D.C. group the Marquees and reunited with him to produce the Sexual Healing singer's acclaimed final album Midnight Love.

Fuqua also wrote and produced the majority of Sylvester's disco hits.

Al Goodman of the Moments and later Ray, Goodman & Brown died on July 28th, 2010. Goodman died of heart failure during surgery to remove a tumor. He was 63. Goodman also sung background on Alicia Keys' hit "You Don't Know My Name."

Sept. 2010: James Stovall, a Broadway actor who worked with Bob Fosse and acted in the original production of Ragtime, died Sept. 26 at a hospital in Manhattan, his talent agency, Abrams Artists & Associates confirmed. The cause of death and his age could not be determined at press time, but Mr. Stovall had been suffering from heart problems.

Mr. Stovall most recently appeared on Broadway in the 2009 revival of Finian's Rainbow. He was a preacher and a "Begat" singer. Stovall also starred alongside Debbie Allen in "Sweet Charity." Allen was his first dance teacher. RIP.

2010: Albertina Walker, the undisputed queen of gospel died at 81, of respiratory failure.  Mahalia Jackson was Walker's mentor. Walker also gave James Cleveland his big break and she introduced Shirley Caesar to the world.  She was one of the first to recognize the talent of Donny Hathaway.  Dr. Bobby Jones co-hosted Walker's last birthday celebration.  Vicki Winans says: "She paved the way for me and made sure I had a way to make it."  Fred Hammond shared a close bond with Walker.  The gospel field lost a giant!  Source: Jet Magazine.

Janet MacLachlan of the stage and screen, died on October 11, 2010 in Los Angeles.  She had suffered from cardiovascular issues recently, MacLachlan was 77.

Her life was a successful one filled with roles both on and off the stage. MacLachlan had worked with numerous actors and actresses, including Bill Cosby, Jim Brown, James Earl Jones and Maya Angelou.

In the 1960's and 1970's, she would refuse to act in the popular Blaxploitation films of that era. MacLachlan often took roles as a social worker, teacher, nurse, doctor, psychiatrist or judge. 

She would be featured in numerous television shows over the next five decades.

MacLachlan won an Emmy Award for her performance in "Voices Of Our People: In Celebration Of Black Poetry."

She is survived by her daughter, actress Samantha MacLachlan and a sister.

November 2010: Maurice Lucas (above, left), the fierce power forward known as “The Enforcer” who helped lead the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA title, has died after a long fight with bladder cancer. He was 58. Lucas, who in later years was an assistant coach with the Blazers, died Sunday at his home in Portland.

Nov. 3, 2010: Shannon Tavarez, the 11-year-old Broadway actress who starred in the hit musical "The Lion King," died after a long battle with acute myeloid leukemia.

Diagnosed with leukemia in April, Tavarez had difficulty finding a bone marrow match because of her mixed ethnicities (African-American and Hispanic). Rihanna and Alicia Keys attempted to raise awareness for the performer by encouraging fans to register as donors.

Quintin "Q" Dailey (January 22, 1961 – November 8, 2010) was a professional basketball player. A 6'3" guard who played collegiately at the University of San Francisco, he later went on to a career in the NBA, playing for the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers, and Seattle SuperSonics over the course of his 10-year tenure in the league.

Daily died in his sleep on November 8, 2010, due to hypertensive cardiovascular disease.

Carl Gordon, who parlayed his acclaimed work on stage into a breakout role on the working-class sitcom 'Roc' -- a comedy that for two seasons in the early 1990s aired live and unedited -- died on Tuesday at his home in Jetersville, Virginia. He was 78.

His family told the New York Times that the cause was non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

On 'Roc,' Gordon played straight-talking Andrew Emerson, whose son Roc (played by Charles S. Dutton) spent his days as a garbage collector in Baltimore. The walls of their modest home were strewn with portraits of Malcolm X, and although the show took a traditional tone with most of its jokes, it would occasionally tackle weighty topics like racism and inner city drug problems.

The show, which also featured a young Jamie Foxx, aired for only three seasons before FOX canceled it in 1993. It was in its second and third seasons that the show switched to a live format, a rarity in the world of sitcoms.

After 'Roc,' he worked steadily in television, making guest appearances on 'ER,' 'The Practice' and 'Law and Order.'

Gordon didn't start acting until he reached his late thirties, and found success on Broadway in plays like 'Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death' and later the August Wilson classic 'The Piano Lesson.'

He is survived by his third wife, Jacqueline Alston-Gordon, a son, and five daughters.

July 2010: R&B singer Sylvia Shemwell, 68, a founding member of the legendary Sweet Inspirations, died of natural causes in Winnetka, Calif.  Shemwell never fully recovered from a stroke in 2001.  The group featured Cissy Houston (Whitney Houston's mother), Estelle Brown and Myrna Smith.  They were best known for the 1968 hit "Sweet Inspiration."  A sought-after backup singer, Shemwell worked with Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, The Bee Gees, Roberta Flack and Elvis Presley.  In their prime, the Sweet Inspirations were the most requested and best background singers in the industry.

July 2010: Walter Hawkins, one of the voices behind the 1967 hit "Oh Happy Day," has passed away. Hawkins succumbed to a long battle with pancreatic cancer on Sunday at his home in California, his brother Edwin -- also a Grammy winner -- tells the Associated Press.

"Today, I lost my brother, my pastor, and my best friend," said Edwin Hawkins. "Bishop Hawkins suffered bravely but now he will suffer no more and he will be greatly missed."

The two performed together as the Edwin Brothers in the 1960s and enjoyed crossover success with "Oh Happy Day," one of the first Gospel songs to cross into the mainstream charts. Not only did the song win a Grammy; it was also named one of the RIAA's Songs of the Century.

Hawkins received his divinity degree at UCLA, studying while releasing solo albums. In 1973 he became a pastor, founding the Love Center Church in Oakland. Never far from music, Hawkins was very involved in the Love Center Choir. The Love Center Choir's music, released as "Love Alive" compilations, topped gospel charts from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Hawkins, who was nominated for nine Grammy Awards over his career but only won once, died while working on his next "Love Alive" record.

Oct. 2010: Soul singer Solomon Burke died at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, aged 70, after flying in from Los Angeles.

Known as the King of Rock and Soul, the Grammy winner was a preacher turned singer and had released his latest album, Nothing’s Impossible, in April.

He mixed gospel with rhythm and blues and made several soul classics, including the 1964 hit Somebody to Love.

Famed RB producer Jerry Wexler referred to him as the “best soul singer of all time”, according to Burke’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame biography.

A local news agency said Burke was declared dead at Schiphol and a doctor said he had died of natural causes. His body will be returned to the US next week.

A Schiphol airport spokeswoman in Amsterdam confirmed Burke had died, but could not provide further details.

Born on March 21st, 1940, in Philadelphia, Burke started singing in church choirs at a young age and later became a minister.

He presented gospel music on a local radio station and made some recordings between 1954 and 1958 before obtaining a contract with Atlantic Records in 1960.

He won a Grammy as recently as 2003, owned a church, a funeral enterprise and a limousine rental service.

He was known for his showmanship and on stage would sometimes sit on a throne, resplendent in regal robes. He had 21 children and 90 grandchildren. – (Reuters)

CBS News/48 hours correspondent Harold Dow (above), who won five news Emmys and the George Foster Peabody award, died Saturday after an apparent acute asthma attack while driving near his home in Hackensack, NJ. He was 62.

(JACK TATUM DEAD AT 61)

by: Mike Lopresti

July 2010: It has always been hard to mention one scarred man without adding the other.

Stingley will always be the New England receiver who ended up paralyzed in a wheelchair.

Tatum will always be the Oakland defensive back whose tackle put him there.

And here is one of the saddest things of all:

They never spoke after that terrible intersection of fates. They never reconciled.

There was never a postscript to ease any of the anguish. They were never able to look each other in the eye, and at least try to make some sense of one of the NFL's true tragedies.

They never will.

Even now, the replay is hard to watch, hinting of something ominous. You see Stingley in a white Patriots uniform cutting across the middle, reaching out for a pass, slightly off balance on his right leg. Tatum is there for the Raiders, taking aim at Stingley with one of those helmet-on-helmet tackles that earned him his feared nickname, The Assassin.

Even though it was only an exhibition game, Stingley was an opposing receiver, and in Tatum's world, that made him an enemy. Stingley never had a chance.

That lunge on his right leg was the final step of his life. There was nothing illegal about the tackle under the rules of 1978. No flag was thrown, no fine was assessed. It was the kind of hit that fans craved, and networks showed on the highlights.

Only. .. Stingley wasn't moving.

The NFL got a hard lesson that day on where the violence of its game — the violence that had won it such speedy favor on television — might lead.

New rules would come later banning such hits as the one Tatum made that day. The game would become safer. But it was too late to help Darryl Stingley

They were supposed to get together once, for a joint television interview in 1996. But Stingley found out Tatum would be pushing his new book, apparently didn't want to be part of a promotional effort, and pulled out.

Looking through various reported quotes from the two men and their camps through the years, there always seemed a chasm of misunderstanding, or mistrust, or hard feelings.

Stingley was said to be hurt that Tatum never came by after the incident.

Tatum was quoted as saying he tried, but was kept away by the Stingley family.

Stingley was reportedly upset he never heard an apology.

Tatum was quoted as saying he felt bad about what had happened, but had not done anything illegal to apologize for. The league and the fans and the media had honored him for being a hard tackler. Had everyone forgotten that?

You can find supporters of Stingley charging that Tatum never showed remorse, and indeed cherished being The Assassin to the final game of his career.

You can find supporters of Tatum saying he was deeply troubled by what had happened.

Stingley had three children and started an organization to help troubled youths in Chicago. He died of complications from his injury.

Tatum had three children and started an organization in Ohio to raise funds for diabetes research. He died of an apparent heart attack.

When news came in 2003 of Tatum losing part of his leg, Stingley told The Boston Globe: "Maybe the natural reaction is to think he got what was coming to him, but I don't accept human nature as our real nature. Human nature teaches us to hate, God teaches us to love."

When Stingley died, Tatum released a statement, "Darryl will be forever remembered for his strength and courage. My heart and prayers go out to his family."

Too bad they could never say such things to one another. They stayed distant men, but they are destined to be forever connected.

Her name and face might not be instantly recognizable to many, but Ola Hudson was a popular costume designer who clothed John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Diana Ross, and David Bowie, specifically for The Man Who Fell To Earth. Ola had two sons — Saul and Albion Hudson. Albion’s nickname is Ash, and Saul… well, his nickname is Slash-rock star. Ola Hudson died in 2009.

Altovise Davis (August 30, 1943 – March 14, 2009). Altovise was an entertainer, best known as Sammy Davis, Jr.'s third wife. She died of complications from a stroke, aged 65, on March 14, 2009 in Los Angeles.

Ron Banks (pictured above-center back row) silky falsetto helped give the Dramatics one of the most enduring careers in R&B, died at his home in Detroit. He was 58. Banks died at about noon on March 4, 2010, possibly of a massive heart attack, said Billy Wilson, president of the Motown Alumni Association.

Tony Fein, an Iraq war veteran and NFL rookie linebacker who played with the Baltimore Ravens during the preseason, died in 2009 of unexplained causes after collapsing at a friend`s house in what his agent said appears to be "an accidental situation."

Vernon "the Viper" Forrest (February 12, 1971 – July 25, 2009) was a professional boxer. He was a world champion in the welterweight and light middleweight divisions and is best known for his two fights with Shane Mosley.

In his professional debut in November 1992, Forrest defeated Charles Hawkins. Through 1996, Forrest stopped 13 out of 15 opponents. Five were stopped in the first round. As the years went by Forrest won a few minor title belts. It the year 2000 Forrest finally got his chance to fight for the IBF welterweight title against Raul Frank. A cut caused by an accidental head butt ended the bout in round three and the fight was therefore ruled a no contest.

On the evening of July 25, 2009, Forrest was shot dead during an attempted carjacking in Atlanta, Georgia. Forrest was shot seven or eight times as he attempted to stop carjackers from stealing his Jaguar, which had his girlfriend`s son in the backseat. The child is said to be alright.

The suicide of a boxer competing in the upcoming NBC reality series "The Contender" won't derail plans for the program, according to the network and its production partners.

Najai Turpin, 23, fatally shot himself in the head early Monday morning in Philadelphia, police said. He was one of 16 boxers vying for the $1 million prize on "Contender," which was produced for NBC by Mark Burnett Prods. Sylvester Stallone and DreamWorks.

The circumstances surrounding Turpin's suicide were unclear immediately after his death, but various reports suggested Turpin was dealing with personal problems. The suicide occurred in a parked car in front of the home of his girlfriend -- with whom he has a 2-year-old daughter -- while she was in the car. Both Turpin's daughter and girlfriend appeared on the program, which focuses on boxers' lives in and out of the ring.

Alaina Reed Hall (November 10, 1946 – December 17, 2009) was an American actress best known for her roles as Olivia, Gordon`s younger sister, on the long-running children`s television series Sesame Street, and Rose Lee Holloway on the NBC sitcom 227. Born as Bernice Ruth Reed in Springfield, Ohio, she began her career in Broadway and off-Broadway productions. She was among the original cast members in the 1974 off-Broadway production of Sgt. Pepper`s Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road. Hall appeared in productions of Hair, Chicago, and Eubie!. In 1976, she won the role of Olivia on the children`s series Sesame Street. Her character was a photographer and kid sister of Gordon.

In 1985, Hall co-starred on the sitcom 227, frequently traveling between New York (where Sesame Street is taped) and Los Angeles (where 227 was taped). Due to this frantic schedule, she left Sesame Street in 1988. After 227 ended in 1990, Hall appeared in guest roles on various TV shows, including Herman`s Head and Blossom. She also provided the voice for the animated characters on Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? and Sonic the Hedgehog. In 1995, Hall co-starred on the short-lived WB sitcom Cleghorne!, starring Ellen Cleghorne. The following year she appeared in the television film The Cherokee Kid. She has since had recurring roles on Ally McBeal, Any Day Now, and ER. In addition to stage and television work, Hall has also appeared in several films including Death Becomes Her (1992), opposite Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep, Cruel Intentions (1999), and the 2007 independent feature I`m Through with White Girls (The Inevitable Undoing of Jay Brooks).

Hall was married three times. Her first marriage, which produced two children, ended in divorce. In December 1988, she married actor Kevin Peter Hall after meeting him when he guest starred on 227. She was widowed in 1991 after her husband died of pneumonia-related complications after contracting AIDS. In 2008, Hall married Tamim Amini. On December 17, 2009, Hall died of breast cancer in Santa Monica, California at the age of 63.

Naomi Ruth Sims (March 30, 1948 - August 1, 2009) was an African American model, businesswoman and author who is widely credited as being the first African American supermodel.  She died of breast cancer on August 3, 2009, aged 61, in Newark, New Jersey. Her 1973 marriage to Michael Findlay ended in divorce in 1991. She is survived by her son, Bob Findlay, a granddaughter, and her elder sister, Betty Sims. Her eldest sister, Doris, died in 2008.

LeRoi Holloway Moore (September 7, 1961 – August 19, 2008) was a saxophonist best known as a founding member of the Dave Matthews Band. Moore often arranged music for the songs written by frontman Dave Matthews. Moore also co-wrote many of the band's songs, notably "Too Much" and "Stay (Wasting Time)."

Moore was injured on June 30, 2008, in an all-terrain vehicle accident on his farm outside Charlottesville, Virginia, breaking several ribs and puncturing a lung, and was hospitalized at UVA for several days. Moore was riding the ATV to another part of his farm to check a fence when the vehicle hit a grass-covered ditch. This caused the ATV to flip and partially land on Moore.

After Moore was released from the University of Virginia Health System, he traveled to his home in Los Angeles, California, to start his rehabilitation program. On the morning of August 19, Moore was feeling unwell and those who were present could see that his lips were turning blue. It was at this point that he was rushed to the hospital, but died shortly thereafter. While it was widely reported that he had died from a blood clot, the coroner's office determined his cause of death to be pneumonia.

Anna Marie Wooldridge (August 6, 1930 – August 14, 2010), and better known by her stage name Abbey Lincoln, was a jazz vocalist, songwriter, and actress. Lincoln was unusual in that she wrote and performed her own compositions, expanding the expectations of jazz audiences.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, she was one of many singers influenced by Billie Holiday. She had a very long and productive career and continued to perform until the time of her death. She often could be found at the Blue Note in New York City.

With Ivan Dixon, she co-starred in Nothing But a Man (1964), an independent film written and directed by Michael Roemer. She also co-starred with Sidney Poitier and Beau Bridges in 1968's For Love of Ivy, and received a 1969 Golden Globe nomination for her appearance in the film.

Abbey Lincoln also appeared in the 1956 film The Girl Can't Help It, for which she famously wore a dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in Gentleman Prefer Blondes and interpreted the theme song, working with Benny Carter.

She sang on the 1960s landmark jazz civil rights recording, We Insist! – Freedom Now Suite (1960) by jazz musician Max Roach and was married to him from 1962 to 1970. Especially since this album, Abbey Lincoln was connected to the political fight against racism in the United States.

In 1990, she played the role of young Bleek Gilliams' mother in the Spike Lee movie Mo' Better Blues who was very insistent that Bleek, played as an adult by Denzel Washington, come inside their house and practice his trumpet instead of playing outside with his friends.

In 2003, she received the National Endowment for the Arts NEA Jazz Masters Award.

Abbey Lincoln died on August 14, 2010, in Manhattan, at the age of 80.

Sylvester James (September 6, 1947 – December 16, 1988) better known as Sylvester, was a disco and soul singer, and a gay drag performer. Sylvester was sometimes known as the "Queen of Disco," although this moniker has also been bestowed on some of the women of the disco era (i.e. Gloria Gaynor, Donna Summer).

Sylvester James was born in Los Angeles, California, into a low-income family, and he was raised by his mother, Letha. According to TV One's Unsung, he lived in a tiny two-room house, where he and his brother shared a bunk bed. He was the oldest of six children. His father was not in his family's life. Many of the facts of his early life are uncertain, and birth dates from 1944 to 1948 have surfaced. One thing is certain though: Sylvester was a child gospel star.

Sylvester signed a solo deal with Fantasy Records in 1977, working with the production talents of legendary Motown producer Harvey Fuqua, who produced his album Stars in 1979. Sylvester later alleged that Fuqua cheated him out of millions of dollars. Sylvester soon met his frequent collaborator Patrick Cowley. Cowley's synthesizer and Sylvester's voice proved to be a magical combination, and pushed Sylvester's sound in an increasingly dance-oriented direction; his second solo album, Step II (1978), unleashed two disco classics: "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)," and "Dance (Disco Heat)". These two songs charted together on the American dance chart, and spent six weeks at #1 on this chart in August and September 1978. By this time both his live shows and recordings also recognizably featured the back-up vocals of Two Tons O' Fun: future Weather Girls Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes. 1979 brought three Billboard awards and an appearance in the movie, The Rose, starring Bette Midler. He sung "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" live for The Castro Street Fair, thanks to future first openly gay supervisor Harvey Milk.

Sylvester died of complications from AIDS in San Francisco on December 16, 1988. He was 41 years old.

On September 20, 2004 Sylvester's anthem record, "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)", was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame. A year later, on September 19, 2005, Sylvester himself was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame for his achievement as an artist.

Desmond Dekker (July 16, 1941 – May 25, 2006 was a Jamaican ska, rocksteady and reggae singer-songwriter and musician. Together with his backing group, The Aces (consisting of Wilson James and Easton Barrington Howard), he had one of the first international Jamaican hits with "Israelites". Other hits include "007 (Shanty Town)" (1967) and "It Miek" (1969). Before the ascent of Bob Marley, Dekker was one of the most popular musicians within Jamaica, and one of the best-known musicians outside it.

Dekker died of a heart attack on 25 May 2006, at his home in Thornton Heath in the London Borough of Croydon, England, aged 64. He was preparing to headline a world music festival in Prague. Dekker was divorced and is survived by a son and a daughter.

Wayman Lawrence Tisdale (June 9, 1964 – May 15, 2009) was a professional basketball player in the NBA and a smooth jazz bass guitarist. A three-time All American at the University of Oklahoma he was elected to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.

Tisdale died on the morning of May 15, 2009 at St. John Medical Center in Tulsa, where his wife had taken him when he had trouble breathing. Tisdale's agent described his death as a "great shock" and noted that Tisdale had been planning to go into the recording studio the following week for a project with jazz guitarist Norman Brown.As yet, it is unconfirmed whether his death was related to his battle with cancer.Tisdale and his wife Regina had four children.

On May 21, 2009, 4,000 mourners attended Tisdale's memorial service at the BOK Center in Tulsa. In June 2009 the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa announced that its new specialty health clinic in north Tulsa would be named in Tisdale's honor.

"THE TRAGIC DOWNFALL/DEATH OF SINGER WITH PROMISE "

Sherrick was a dynamic singer with an incredible range. He also had charisma, sex appeal and he was tall and handsome.

In the 80's he could have easily been as successful as Luther Vandross and Freddie Jackson, unfortunately, he never reached his full potential.

Like Sly Stone, David Ruffin and Jimi Hendrix, Sherrick fell victim to drugs.

Backstory:

Sherrick was discovered by Raynoma Gordy (Berry Gordy's ex-wife). They formed a production company. Raynoma also managed his career and promised him a contract with Motown.

After the meeting, she didn't hear from him for two weeks. Out of the blue, he called her from Austin, TX., and arranged for her to pick him up from the airport.

Raynoma became his mentor and he even moved in with her for a short time. Instead of signing with Motown, Raynoma got him a contract with Warner Brothers records, at that time, Benny Medina headed up the black division.

A few weeks later, Raynoma was standing in a hall outside of Sherrick's hospital door. He had disappeared again for three days, and Raynoma had received a call from his girlfriend (Rita) saying that Sherrick had turned up in the hospital.

When Raynoma went to visit him, he burst into tears and told her he was addicted to cocaine.

Sherrick agreed to check into a 28 day rehab program at the hospital. He made excellent progress. When he was released, Raynoma took him home and was preparing steaks he quietly took her car keys, slipped out of a side door and disappeared. His rehabilitation had lasted less than 8 hours.

At 4 a.m. in the morning, he called asking her to come at once and meet him in downtown L.A. with $100 dollars. She borrowed a friend's car and drove through the most nightmarish section of the city, where no one was safe, day or night.

She saw him. Her headlights reflected off a lone, frightened figure, standing disheveled and without shoes, a walking corpse.

"Where's my car?" she demanded.

"Give me the money and wait right here," Sherrick said. Taking the cash, he disappeared down a dark alley.

A few minutes later, Raynoma saw her car coasting in her direction, a stranger at the wheel.

This scenario would play out again. Only it was a worse neighborhood and he needed two hundred dollars. The same cycle, the same impassioned pledge that nothing could shake his commitment to his career. When it happened the third time, I met him at the appointed place, an even more hellish hole, I watched him disappear down the alley not to return at all.

The next night Rita called. "Sherrick's in the hospital, he's been shot."

On first sight, Raynoma had thought it had been a mistake. His lips were swollen twice their normal size. Black and blue bruising all over his face. Five scars gouged into his forehead. Stitches in his eyelids and cheeks. The once proud and handsome face had been obliterated.

Rita finally took me out in the hall. In between sobs, she said she loved him and they were supposed to get married and Lionel Richie was going to sing at the wedding.

Sherrick would stay clean for a year and in August of 1987, he released a smash single titled, "Just Call." The record took off like wildfire, he became an overnight sensation. One publication voted the record "single of the year." It became the number one most requested R&B record in the country.

Sherrick went on tour but soon disappeared. The old pattern returned.

When Sherrick reappeared, he was given an advance to start work on his second album. The tracks would remain unfinished. Before the vocals had been completed, Sherrick disappeared with $20,000 dollars, the majority of the advance money.

Raynoma stopped working with him as well as music executives.

Sherrick died in Los Angeles, California in January 1999, at the age of 41. He is survived by a wife and three children.

Click the link below to view Sherrick singing his hit song, "Just Call."

"Just Call"

Octavia St. Laurent (May 1, 1970 - May 17, 2009) was a transgendered woman and performer featured in the 1990 documentary "Paris Is Burning."

In the 2003 documentary "How Do I Look," she was using the name Heavenly Angel Octavia St. Laurent Manolo Blahnik. She also openly discussed her drug use, sex work, and fight with AIDS.

Later known as Octavia St. Laurent Mizrahi, she died after a long battle with cancer on May 17, 2009.

Michael Douglas Peters (6 August 1948 - 21 August 1994) was a choreographer. He may be the greatest black choreographer in history because he choreographed the greatest music video-Thriller. He also choreographed "Beat It," as well as the originial Broadway production of "Dreamgirls," yet he is all but forgotten. In his prime, you had to pay Peters' six figures to choreograph a video.

Michael Peters was born in Brooklyn to an African-American father and Jewish mother. His first major breakthrough came when he did choreography for Donna Summer's "Love to Love You Baby" in 1975. He went on to stage other memorable dance sequences for music videos, including Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield" (in which he has a brief cameo) and Lionel Richie's "Hello" (in which he also has a brief cameo as the dance instructor of Lionel Richie's blind love interest).

However, he was most recognized for his choreography work in Michael Jackson's videos. Especially the smash hit "Thriller", directed by John Landis, and "Beat It" directed by Bob Giraldi, which is vaguely reminiscent of "West Side Story" where Peters co-starred as one of two gang leaders who prepare for a dramatic showdown/knife fight, which is averted at the last moment by Jackson. Peters is dressed all in white, and wears sunglasses during the piece.

Peters danced with Talley Beatty, Alvin Ailey, Bernice Johnson, and Fred Benjamin, and worked with Michael Bennett. Bennett and Peters shared a 1982 Tony Award for Best Choreography for their work on the Broadway musical Dreamgirls. In 1985 he directed and choreographed the Ellie Greenwich jukebox musical Leader of the Pack.

Fred Astaire gave Michael Peters a personal award as either "The Greatest Living Dancer" or "The Greatest Living Choreographer."

Peters died in Los Angeles in 1994 of an AIDS related illness at 46.

(BLACK SINATRA WAS A SUPERSTAR IN EUROPE)

Lovelace Watkins (1938–1995) was a Las Vegas-based singer and performer who achieved fame in America as well as in Europe and Australia. In the 1970's, Watkins was the highest paid black performer on the strip, grossing $10,000 per week; all of his Las Vegas shows were usually sold out.

He received criticism when he agreed to perform in South Africa for a large amount of money during the Apartheid era. His attitude was allegedly nonchalant concerning apartheid.

Watkins was born in New Jersey when his mother was only fourteen years old and was raised by his grandmother in New Brunswick. He studied microbiology at Rutgers University and also trained as a boxer. His operatically trained and signature booming voice, reminiscent of a swinging Paul Robeson, took him to Europe where he gained fame. He became so popular in Europe that he was invited to entertain at the Royal Command Performance for the Queen of the United Kingdom.

The Times called him “the best entertainer on earth.” In South Africa he received two gold albums and was so celebrated that a public parade was held in his honor – an unprecedented reception for a black entertainer at the height of Apartheid. He appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in 1961 while promoting his album "The Big, Big Voice of Lovelace Watkins," music arranged and conducted by Ray Ellis. In addition to appearing on The Ed Sullivan show Lovelace also appeared on the Johnny Carson and Mike Douglas shows. Lovelace recorded nine albums in the United States and in Europe and gained more notoriety in Europe and Australia than in the States.

Also nicknamed "The Black Sinatra," he was one of the greatest obscure male pop singers of his time.

His stage personality was earthy and electric, and he could hold audiences spellbound in the palm of his hand. However this charisma and the power and quality of his voice never quite came over on his record releases. As a result of this, plus poor management decisions and a Hollywood screen test that never transpired Lovelace never reached his full potential in the United States; this man truly had one of the "greatest voices in the world." Lovelace Watkins at one time held the attendance record at the "Talk Of The Town" in London. Around this time, Donny Hathaway wrote or co-wrote many of his songs.

He also still holds the record for selling out the London Palladium quicker than any other entertainer in history.

At the height of his prominence, he did a "Command Performance" for Queen Elizabeth II.

 

Nearing the end of his music career Lovelace started a successful company that prepped apartments and commercial buildings for rental companies in the Las Vegas area, and continued singing at various functions in Las Vegas.

Lovelace died of leukemia in 1995.

(NELSON MANDELA'S SON & WIFE DIE OF AIDS)

Makgatho Lewanika Mandela (June 26, 1950 – January 6, 2005) was the son of former South African President Nelson Mandela and his first wife Evelyn Ntoko Mase. He was an attorney, widowed with four sons.

He died of AIDS on 6 January 2005 in Johannesburg.

His second wife, Zondi Mandela, died on 13 July 2003 at age 46. At first, her cause of death was given as pneumonia; after Makgatho's death, their son Mandla later announced that her pneumonia had been a complication of AIDS.

Sadly, the classic TV series "The Jeffersons," has lost the majority of cast members to death, below:

Isabelle Sanford (Weezy) died of cardiac arrest and heart disease in 2004, she was 86.

Roxie Roker (back row-center) died in 1995 of breast cancer, she was 65.

Grandma Jefferson (Zara Cully) died in 1978 of cancer, she was 86.

Franklin Cover (Tom-back row on the left) died of pneumonia in 2006, he was 77.

Mike Evans (Original Lionel-not pictured) died of cancer in 2006, he was 57.

Paul Benedict (Harry Bentley-not pictured) died in 2008 at his home in Martha's Vineyard, he was 70, cause of death is unknown.

LaWanda Page, born Alberta Peal (October 19, 1920 – September 14, 2002) was an actress best known for her portrayal of Aunt Esther in the 1970s sitcom Sanford and Son.

Raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Page began her career in show business working small nightclubs, billed as "The Bronze Goddess of Fire," an act which included her lighting cigarettes with her fingertips. She performed this feat on an episode of Sanford and Son, in which Fred held a circus in his front yard.

Page was convinced by her friend Redd Foxx to become a stand-up comedienne. She recorded several live comedy albums for the Laff Records label in the late 1960s and early 1970s; One release, a gold-selling album called Watch it, Sucka!, was titled after one of Aunt Esther's catchphrases to capitalize on her newfound TV fame.

On Sanford and Son, Page's Aunt Esther character was the sister of Elizabeth, Fred Sanford's late wife. Page was Foxx's only choice to play Aunt Esther. Esther would sometimes be accompanied by other formidable ladies from her church, or by her henpecked--and usually inebriated--husband Woodrow (played by Raymond Allen).

Aunt Esther was a combination of devout churchgoer and tough-as-nails realist, often sparring with Fred over both the state of his mortal soul and the lack of his success, resulting in her being insulted by Fred in return, with Fred opining on her homely appearance. The character of Esther was in direct contrast to the blue material of Page's stand-up act and record albums.

Page also appeared on several episodes of Dean Martin's "Celebrity Roasts," and over the next two decades occasionally guest-starred in episodes of other popular television shows, including Amen, Martin, 227, Family Matters, and Diff'rent Strokes. In the early 1990s she appeared on several tracks of the debut album by RuPaul entitled Supermodel of the World, most notably the hit song Supermodel (You Better Work). She also appeared in several music videos from the album. Shortly before her death she appeared in a series of comical Church's Chicken television commercials featuring the catchphrase "Gotta love it!"

Page succumbed to diabetes in September 2002. She is interred in an outdoor crypt at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California.

Lester Wilson (April 13, 1942 - February 14, 1993) was an American dancer and choreographer. Wilson attended the Juilliard School. Bob Fosse cast him in a 1963 revival of Pal Joey at the New York City Center. Wilson toured London with Sammy Davis, Jr. in "Golden Boy." When the show ended, Josephine Baker suggested he stay in Paris.

Lester's best known choreography was the 1977 movie "Saturday Night Fever" for which he coached John Travolta. Wilson choreographed for Diana Ross, Gladys Knight, Billy Crystal, Liza Minnelli and Ann Margaret's-Las Vegas stage spectaculars. Wilson was also the choreographer for the TV show "Solid Gold."

In 1991, Wilson was nominated for an American Emmy award for the choreography in the ABC special "American Dance Honors." Lester also choreographed several Broadway musicals, including "Grind" with Ben Vereen.

In February of 1993, Lester Wilson died of a heart attack in Los Angeles at the age of 50.

Esther Rolle (November 8, 1920 – November 17, 1998) was an actress of stage and television. She was perhaps best known for her portrayal of Florida Evans in two 1970s television sitcoms, Maude and Good Times.

After Good Times, she performed in a number of made-for-television movies and feature films, including "Driving Miss Daisy," and "My Fellow Americans."

She had a major role in "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," based on Maya Angelou's memoir of the same name, and has the distinction of having won the first Emmy Award for the category “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie,” in 1979 for her work in the television movie "Summer of My German Soldier." Another memorable role was that of Aunt Sarah in the 1997 film "Rosewood." Her last film, "Train Ride," was released in 2000.

Esther Rolle died November 17, 1998 in Culver City, California from diabetes complications.

"THREE ACTORS FROM BOYZ N THE HOOD ARE DEAD"

Lloyd Avery III, the actor who portrayed (Knucklehead), responsible for killing Ricky (Morris Chestnut) in the film "Boyz N The Hood," died on Sept. 11th, 2005.  At the time of his death, he was serving a life sentence for a double murder.

Actor Lexie Bigham who portrayed (Mad Dog) died on Dec. 17, 1995 in a car accident.

Dedrick D. Gobert (Pookie) had his life cut short when he was fatally shot at a drag racetrack in 1994.  The 22-year-old made his debut playing Dooky in John Singleton's "Boyz N The Hood," in 1991.

Corwin Anthony Hawkins was born in Houston, Texas on March 12, 1965. He attended St. Peter's Catholic School and graduated in 1982.  Corwin won many female impersonator competitions. In 1991, as "Amazing Grace," he was crowned Miss Gay Texas. The next year he took the title of Texas Entertainer of the Year and went on to capture the 1992 National Entertainer of the Year title in Louisville, Kentucky.

Corwin was discovered by Keenan Ivory Wayans while appearing on Def Comedy Jam, B.E.T. and HBO Comedy specials. Corwin accepted the role of (Wayman) in the film "A Low Down Dirty Shame."  A part originally written for RuPaul. He was also awarded an invitational tryout at the L. A. Improv.

Corwin passed away on August 5, 1994 at Baylor Hospital in Dallas Texas of Pneumonia. He was 29 years old.

DJ Screw, born Robert Earl Davis, Jr. (July 20, 1971 – November 16, 2000) was the main music mixer for the Screwed Up Click and he was involved in the Houston hip hop scene-screw music, was a type of rap music with heavy bass and "an eerie quality" is named for him. He died of a drug overdose.

DJ Screw created "Chopped and Screwed" versions of famous rap songs. Some examples of these tracks include R. Kelly's "I Wish," Will Smith's "Gettin Jiggy Wit It," The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Warning," Biz Markie's "Nobody Beats the Biz," and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's "Budsmokers Only." Screw also worked with Lil Flip, Pimp C and Tupac.

The medical examiner who performed the autopsy on DJ Screw concluded that DJ Screw died from a lethal combination of codeine & alcohol coupled with exhaustion.

Sporty Thievz member Marlon Brando, who rapped on the group's TLC parody "No Pigeons," died in a car accident in the Bronx on May 11, 2001.

Brando, whose real name was Marlon Bryant, was walking out of a deli around 3 a.m. when a minivan ran a red light, jumped a curb and slammed into him, according to Sporty Thievz DJ Gehai. The accident crushed both of his legs and sent his blood pressure plummeting — he died shortly after an ambulance arrived on the scene, Gehai said.

The rapper was 22 years old and the father of a newborn baby, according to Gehai.

Actor Norman Gibson was best known for his character Robert in the film "Cooley High."  In the movie, he helped murder the Lawrence Hilton Jacobs character (Cochise). In real life, Gibson was murdered when he got into an altercation over a dice game (a year after the movie was released in-1976). He was 25 years old.

(TRAGIC RISE & FALL OF SINGER JAMES CARR-DUE TO MENTAL ILLNESS)

James Carr has been accorded the title "World's Greatest Soul Singer," though certainly other great soul singers are more renowned. From the mid to late 60s, he established himself with sad songs and songs of desperation, singing them not like his life depended on them, but like what his life depended on was gone and these songs were what was left. His voice was deep and full, operatic even, and though heavy with conviction, he could soar like a preacher.

Carr was always a quiet person, and his best work was with slower material, ballads. His father was a Baptist preacher, and one imagines Carr as a youth in church, eyes trained on his father, observing the hysteria but absorbing the solemnity. A gospel influence is apparent in many of his songs ("Freedom Train"), but so is the twang of country music ("Pouring Water (On A Drowning Man)") and the grittiness of Stax ("Love Attack").

Carr's place in soul music history is assured with the original version of "Dark End Of The Street," the version to which all others are still compared.

Carr's periodic comeback attempts were plagued by mental illness, hospitalization, and management squabbles.

During a notorious 1979 Japanese tour, a comeback event that, despite several good performances, is remembered for the one gig where he stood on stage catatonic, unable to perform. Another time, he just sat still during a recording session-saying nothing, as if he was unable to record the song he was scheduled to record that evening. Unsubstantiated rumors persist Carr was illiterate and had to be fed lines to record.

Left to himself, Carr would just watch TV. "I think it's a physical problem," said his friend-Claunch. "He's on medication and man he goes off somewhere for three or four days and don't take his medicine, he starts sliding back." "If he stays on his medicine, he's just A-1."

"I really became conscious of his imbalance right after he started working on the road," says Roosevelt Jamison. He remembers a trip to the Apollo in Harlem, 1966. "He was touring with Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, that kind of act. When we were in New York, James told me he was going to sign with Phil Walden and Larry Utal. They had promised to make him bigger than Otis Redding. Later, I went up to Phil and Larry's office, and they gave me $3200 for James contract. I came downstairs and gave James $1600 and told him he better hold onto it, because I didn't know which way it was going from then on, I was going back home.

"I didn't hear from James for a while. A couple months later, he seemed to have lost his way. He had nobody out there with him. After they pushed me out and James got super sick - he came to me. He always kept my number in his mind, and he would call me from Atlanta or various places or if he was lost at an airport, drifting around the streets, wandering around, and he would call and ask me why wasn't I with him."

Jamison's voice becomes hushed as he finishes this story. "He managed to make it to my house one cold morning. There was somebody knocking on the door, and my wife asked about it. When I went to the door, snow was everywhere and he was sitting down on the steps. He said, 'Man, I kept looking for you and looking for you, where you been so long?' "

"We thought that we could help him. Most of the reasons for people being in a bad environment is because they don't have the finances to support anything other than that. But if you got him in the right environment, I really believed he could come back."

After one gig, Carr returned home with a pocket full of money and disappeared.

After another show, a friend sat in Carr's kitchen and paid him, he heard Carr say he was going to help his sister cover some bills. Then he vanished. Three weeks later when he called, he was broke: "He didn't even have no money to buy no cigarettes.

A resurgence in interest in his music, spurred by his portrayal in Peter Guralnick's 1986 book "Sweet Soul Music," helped return Carr to the recording studio but failed to deliver any further chart success.

James Carr died from lung cancer in a Memphis nursing home in 2001, aged 58.

Source: Wfmu.org. Photo Credit of James Carr: Giles Petard

Despite having a film based on "The Deacons Of Defense," with actor Forrest Whitaker portraying Robert Hicks (above)-the story about Robert Hicks and his group-the Deacons for Defense have all but been erased from public consciousness.

You check on familiar touch points like YouTube and there's nothing there. Pictures are hard to find and articles are scant. The thought of armed Black men standing up to the KKK and successfully protecting lives during the harsh days of the Jim Crow South is a scary thought for many. The truth of the matter is many African Americans did not sit back and just allow themselves to be beaten and terrorized by the KKK. Hicks represented an underplayed part of our history.

The passing of Robert Hicks (on April 13, 2010) hasn't really been acknowledged via media outlets.

BACKSTORY:

Mr. Hicks was repeatedly jailed for protesting. He watched as his 15-year-old son was bitten by a police dog. The Klan displayed a coffin with his name on it beside a burning cross. He persisted, his wife said, for one reason: “It was something that needed to be done.”

Someone had called to say the Ku Klux Klan was coming to bomb Robert Hicks’s house. The police said there was nothing they could do. It was the night of Feb. 1, 1965, in Bogalusa, La.

The Klan was furious that Mr. Hicks, a black paper mill worker, was putting up two white civil rights workers in his home. It was just six months after three young civil rights workers had been murdered in Philadelphia, Miss.

Mr. Hicks and his wife, Valeria, made some phone calls. They found neighbors to take in their children, and they reached out to friends for protection. Soon, armed black men materialized. Nothing happened.

Less than three weeks later, the leaders of a secretive, paramilitary organization of blacks called the Deacons for Defense and Justice visited Bogalusa. It had been formed in Jonesboro, La., in 1964 mainly to protect unarmed civil rights demonstrators from the Klan. After listening to the Deacons, Mr. Hicks took the lead in forming a Bogalusa chapter, recruiting many of the men who had gone to his house to protect his family and guests.

By 1968, the Deacons had pretty much vanished. In time they were “hardly a footnote in most books on the civil rights movement.”

Mr. Hicks died of cancer at his home in Bogalusa on April 13 at the age of 81, his wife said. He was one of the last surviving Deacon leaders.

Sources: Mike Jones & The NY Times

Former Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Willie Davis was found dead on March (9th) 2010-in his Burbank home, police said. He was 69.

Authorities said that a neighbor who usually brought breakfast to the former baseball star's Victory Boulevard home found Davis' body.

The case is being handled by the Los Angeles County coroner, but authorities said there was nothing to indicate foul play and that it appears that Davis died of natural causes.

Davis, an All-City athlete in several sports at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights in the late 1950s, became one of the Dodgers' early stars after the team moved to Los Angeles from Brooklyn in 1958. Known for his offense, Davis played center field for the Dodgers for 13 seasons starting in 1961. He hit in a team record 31 consecutive games in 1969 and batted .305 or above three years straight in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Davis was Mr. Excitement on the field with blazing speed.

But he also committed a World Series-record three errors in one inning against the Baltimore Orioles in 1966.

Davis left the Dodgers in 1973. His last season in the major leagues was in 1979 with the Angels.

After baseball, Davis made headlines in 1996 when he was arrested at his parents' home near Gardena for allegedly threatening to kill them and burn down the house unless they gave him $5,000. Davis was armed with a set of throwing knives and a samurai sword, officials said.

Dynamic Superiors: Toni Washington, Maurice Washington, George Peter Barks Jr, Michael McCalipin and George Spann had been singing together since junior high school in Washington DC. In 1972 they signed with Motown, working with Ashford and Simpson, and recorded four albums.

The lead singer Toni (above-4th from the left) was very openly gay both on and off stage…perfectly made up face…false eyelashes…and hair perfectly styled, and he often performed in drag.

Oftentimes, Toni would change the lyrics to songs while performing on stage. Instead of Me and Mrs Jones, Toni would sing Me and Mr Jones. There was another group member who was gay but he was not quite ready to come out at the time. Many years ago when the group played Atlanta, two policemen came to the show every night. When Toni asked one of them to come on stage and sing with him, the policeman ran out the back door…

Toni Washington is now deceased. It is alleged, that he was one of the first R&B entertainers to die of AIDS.

Click the following link to watch the Dynamic Superiors perform: "Shoe Shoe Shine"

Source: Blast From The Past

Gregg Burge (November 14, 1957 - July 4, 1998) was a tap dancer and choreographer.

Burge graduated from New York's prestigious Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts in 1975. His credits ranged from television's The Electric Company to the stage and film version of A Chorus Line (1985), for which he served as assistant to choreographer Jeffrey Hornaday and performed the role of Richie, as he had on Broadway.

A tap dancer from the age of 7, Burge won a scholarship to study at the Juilliard School when he was 17.

Burge was nominated two Drama Desk Awards, won the Fred Astaire Award twice, and also received honors for his Broadway performances in Song and Dance and Oh, Kay! for which he was nominated for a Tony Award. He also performed as the Scarecrow for four years in the Broadway production of "The Wiz," and appeared in the long-running "Sophisticated Ladies."

Burge was also active in the music video industry, choreographing Michael Jackson's "Bad," music video (directed by Martin Scorsese) with Jeffrey Daniel and another video for the reggae band Steel Pulse.

In addition, Burge ran a dance studio on Long Island.

Burge was 40 years old when he died in 1998. Though the official cause of death was a brain tumor, it is widely believed Burge was suffering from AIDS at the time of his death.

"LENA HORNE TRIBUTE"

When I was a kid, I remember older relatives referring to Lena Horne as an strong Black woman during the segregation era. According to them, she never backed down and she was the epitome of class and grace.

Lena Horne broke numerous racial barriers and if she was your friend, apparently, you had a friend for life.

When Paul Robeson was accused of communism, Lena was told by friends and management to distant herself from Robeson or suffer career suicide. Lena refused to do so, she stood by Robeson until his death.

Every black actress and singer owes Lena Horne a debt of gratitude.

She suffered racism, disrespect and humiliation on a daily basis. She did this so later generations of black women wouldn't have to go through it. She sacrificed herself for the greater good.

If it wasn't for Lena Horne, none of the black actresses or black female singers would have reached the pinnacle of success they enjoy today.

You will be missed Miss Horne and you were a true icon! RIP.

OBITUARY:

NEW YORK — Lena Horne, the enchanting jazz singer and actress who reviled the bigotry that allowed her to entertain white audiences but not socialize with them, slowing her rise to Broadway superstardom, has died. She was 92.

Horne died Sunday at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, according to hospital spokeswoman Gloria Chin. Chin would not release any other details.

Horne, whose striking beauty and magnetic sex appeal often overshadowed her sultry voice, was remarkably candid about the underlying reason for her success.

"I was unique in that I was a kind of black that white people could accept," she once said. "I was their daydream. I had the worst kind of acceptance because it was never for how great I was or what I contributed. It was because of the way I looked."

In the 1940s, she was one of the first black performers hired to sing with a major white band, the first to play the Copacabana nightclub and among a handful with a Hollywood contract.

In 1943, MGM Studios loaned her to 20th Century-Fox to play the role of Selina Rogers in the all-black movie musical "Stormy Weather." Her rendition of the title song became a major hit and her signature piece.

On screen, on records and in nightclubs and concert halls, Horne was at home vocally with a wide musical range, from blues and jazz to the sophistication of Rodgers and Hart in songs like "The Lady Is a Tramp" and "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered."

In her first big Broadway success, as the star of "Jamaica" in 1957, reviewer Richard Watts Jr. called her "one of the incomparable performers of our time." Songwriter Buddy de Sylva dubbed her "the best female singer of songs."

But Horne was perpetually frustrated with the public humiliation of racism.

"I was always battling the system to try to get to be with my people. Finally, I wouldn't work for places that kept us out. ... It was a damn fight everywhere I was, every place I worked, in New York, in Hollywood, all over the world," she said in Brian Lanker's book "I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America."

While at MGM, she starred in the all-black "Cabin in the Sky," in 1943, but in most of her other movies, she appeared only in musical numbers that could be cut in the racially insensitive South without affecting the story. These included "I Dood It," a Red Skelton comedy; "Thousands Cheer" and "Swing Fever," all in 1943; "Broadway Rhythm" in 1944; and "Ziegfeld Follies" in 1946.

"Metro's cowardice deprived the musical of one of the great singing actresses," film historian John Kobal wrote.

Early in her career Horne cultivated an aloof style out of self-preservation, becoming "a woman the audience can't reach and therefore can't hurt," she once said.

Later she embraced activism, breaking loose as a voice for civil rights and as an artist. In the last decades of her life, she rode a new wave of popularity as a revered icon of American popular music.

Her 1981 one-woman Broadway show, "Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music," won a special Tony Award. In it, the 64-year-old singer used two renditions — one straight and the other gut-wrenching — of "Stormy Weather" to give audiences a glimpse of the spiritual odyssey of her five-decade career.

A sometimes savage critic, John Simon, wrote that she was "ageless ... tempered like steel, baked like clay, annealed like glass; life has chiseled, burnished, refined her."

When Halle Berry became the first black woman to win the best actress Oscar in 2002, she sobbed: "This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. ... It's for every nameless, faceless woman of color who now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened."

Lena Mary Calhoun Horne, the great-granddaughter of a freed slave, was born in Brooklyn on June 30, 1917, to a leading family in the black bourgeoisie. Her daughter, Gail Lumet Buckley, wrote in her 1986 book "The Hornes: An American Family" that among their relatives was a college girlfriend of W.E.B. Du Bois and a black adviser to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Dropping out of school at age 16 to support her ailing mother, Horne joined the chorus line at the Cotton Club, the fabled Harlem night spot where the entertainers were black and the clientele white.

She left the club in 1935 to tour with Noble Sissle's orchestra, billed as Helena Horne, the name she continued using when she joined Charlie Barnet's white orchestra in 1940.

A movie offer from MGM came when she headlined a show at the Little Troc nightclub with the Katherine Dunham dancers in 1942.

Her success led some blacks to accuse Horne of trying to "pass" in a white world with her light complexion. Max Factor even developed an "Egyptian" makeup shade especially for the budding actress while she was at MGM.

But in his book "Gotta Sing Gotta Dance: A Pictorial History of Film Musicals," Kobal wrote that she refused to go along with the studio's efforts to portray her as an exotic Latin American.

"I don't have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I'd become," Horne once said. "I'm me, and I'm like nobody else."

Horne was only 2 when her grandmother, a prominent member of the Urban League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, enrolled her in the NAACP. But she avoided activism until 1945 when she was entertaining at an Army base and saw German prisoners of war sitting up front while black American soldiers were consigned to the rear.

That pivotal moment channeled her anger into something useful.

She got involved in various social and political organizations and — along with her friendship with Paul Robeson — got her name onto blacklists during the red-hunting McCarthy era.

By the 1960s, Horne was one of the most visible celebrities in the civil rights movement, once throwing a lamp at a customer who made a racial slur in a Beverly Hills restaurant and in 1963 joining 250,000 others in the March on Washington when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. Horne also spoke at a rally that same year with another civil rights leader, Medgar Evers, just days before his assassination.

It was also in the mid-'60s that she put out an autobiography, "Lena," with author Richard Schickel.

The next decade brought her first to a low point, then to a fresh burst of artistry.

She had married MGM music director Lennie Hayton, a white man, in Paris in 1947 after her first overseas engagements in France and England. An earlier marriage to Louis J. Jones had ended in divorce in 1944 after producing daughter Gail and a son, Teddy.

In the 2009 biography "Stormy Weather," author James Gavin recounts that when Horne was asked by a lover why she'd married a white man, she replied: "To get even with him."

Her father, her son and her husband, Hayton, all died in 1970 and 1971, and the grief-stricken singer secluded herself, refusing to perform or even see anyone but her closest friends. One of them, comedian Alan King, took months persuading her to return to the stage, with results that surprised her.

"I looked out and saw a family of brothers and sisters," she said. "It was a long time, but when it came I truly began to live."

And she discovered that time had mellowed her bitterness.

"I wouldn't trade my life for anything," she said, "because being black made me understand."

Source: AP

J. J. Jackson helped define the term "VJ" as one of the first on-air personalities on MTV when the channel launched in 1981. During his five-year tenure with the network, Jackson interviewed some of the top names of the day and was part of some key music milestones.

Jackson covered the 1985 Live Aid benefit concert in London and helped to "unmask" Kiss during a 1982 interview. He also hosted the debut episode of MTV's long-running "120 Minutes" in 1986, and brought music titans like Robert Plant and Pete Townshend to the then-fledgling channel.

Jackson died on March 17, 2004 of an apparent heart attack in Los Angeles, CA. He was 62.

2009: Jamaican music legend Wycliffe "Steely" Johnson, half of the iconic production team of Steely and Clevie, died of heart failure, which was brought on by pneumonia he contracted from kidney complications. Johnson, who was in his early '50s, played keyboards on Bob Marley and the Wailers' 9th and final album, 'Confrontation', and produced an array of artists from Jimmy Cliff and Dennis Brown to No Doubt and Sean Paul.

April 2010: Groundbreaking rapper and Gang Starr co-founder Guru died a month after the cancer-stricken artist collapsed and went into a coma, MTV reported.

The 43-year-old rapper, whose real name is Keith Elam, had been suffering from cancer for over a year. The report quoted a statement from Guru's camp that inferred the cause was complications from cancer.

“According to [producer] Solar, Guru suffered from the malicious illness for over a year and after numerous special treatments under the supervision of medical specialists failed, the legendary MC succumbed to the disease. Guru always tried to keep this harrowing diagnosis in private but in early 2010 he had to admit himself to hospital due to serious effects caused by the disease.”

Guru formed the group with DJ Premier in 1985, and they put out six albums, including the well-received "Daily Operation" and "Moment of Truth."

On March 21, 2005: Bobby Short, the cherubic singer and pianist whose high-spirited but probing renditions of popular standards evoked the glamour and sophistication of Manhattan nightlife, died at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He was 80, and had homes in Manhattan and southern France.

The cause was leukemia, said his press agent, Virginia Wicks. Short was once the constant companion of billionairess-Gloria Vanderbilt.

July 2009: The Rev. Frederick Eikerenkoetter, known as Rev. Ike to a legion of followers here and across the nation to whom he preached the blessings of prosperity while making millions from their donations, has died. He was 74.

A family spokesman said he died Tuesday in a Los Angeles hospital, two years after he suffered astroke from which he never recovered.

Rev. Ike's ministry reached its peak in the mid-1970s, when his sermons were carried on 1,770 radio stations to an audience estimated at 2.5 million.

He also preached his philosophy of self-empowerment on television and the Internet, in books and magazines, and on audiotapes and videotapes.

From the stage of the former Loews movie theater on 175th St. in Washington Heights, which he restored and transformed into his United Church Science of Living Institute, Rev. Ike would tell thousands of parishioners "this is the do-it-yourself church. The only savior in this philosophy is God in you."

He then would exhort the believers to "close your eyes and see green ... money up to your armpits, a roomful of money, and there you are, just tossing around in it like a swimming pool."

As payback for spiritual inspiration, Rev. Ike asked for cash donations from the faithful - preferably in bills not coins. "Change makes your minister nervous in the service," he would say.

Critics called Rev. Ike a con man, saying the only point of his ministry was getting rich from the donations.

They noted that he made a show of sumptuous clothes, jewelry, posh residences and exotic cars. "My garages runneth over," he would boast. Ike owned seven Rolls Royces, one for each day of the week.

But his supporters said Rev. Ike's love of luxury had roots both in the traditions of African-American evangelism and the philosophies of mind over matter.

Rev. Ike was born in Ridgeland, S.C., to a father who was a Baptist minister and a mother who taught elementary school. They divorced when he was 5.

At 14, he became an assistant pastor for his father's congregation. He briefly preached in Boston before coming to New York.

He leaves his wife, Eula, and son, Xavier Frederick.

Ali "Ollie" Woodson, a former lead singer of The Temptations, died on May 30, 2010 in California. He was 58.

Woodson had been battling cancer, said Billy Wilson, president and founder the Motown Alumni Association.

Born Oct. 12, 1951, in Detroit, Woodson headed The Temptations for most of the 1980s and 90s.

He wrote and sang lead on the 1984 hit "Treat Her Like a Lady."

"He was an excellent singer," Wilson said. "He's one of the few singers who was accommodating to virtually everything. He had a style and swagger about himself that was different than the other Temptations."

Mr. Woodson later released a solo album, "Right Here All Along," in 2001, according to allmusic.com.

Wilson said he regularly returned to Metro Detroit, including performing with a band at Arturo's Jazz Theatre and Restaurant in Southfield and with Dennis Edwards' Temptations Revue at events such as the Detroit International Jazz Fest.

"He had a tremendous number of fans," Wilson said.

This year, Woodson appeared at a CD preview party at the Detroit Fish Market for Aretha Franklin, with whom he has performed on a tour.

In 2008, Woodson had high-profile performances at a Motown Museum Fundraiser as well as the funeral for Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops.

"It's a sad day," he said of Stubbs' death. "He was the first person I met when I signed with Motown in 1983," he told The Detroit News.

PROVO, Utah – Gary Coleman once said he wanted people to think of him as something more than the chubby-cheeked child star from television show "Diff'rent Strokes," that he wanted to escape the legacy of character Arnold Jackson, whose "Whatchu talkin' 'bout?" became a catch phrase of the 1970s and '80s.

He spent his later years still keeping a hand in show business, but also moving away from it, marrying and settling in Utah, far away from Hollywood's sometimes all-too-bright lights. Still, he was dogged by ongoing health problems and struggled with legal woes.

After suffering a brain hemorrhage, Coleman was taken off life support Friday and died, his family and friends at his side, said Utah Valley Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Janet Frank. He was 42.

"He has left a lasting legacy," tweeted singer Janet Jackson, who appeared on several episodes of "Diff'rent Strokes. "I know he is finally at peace."

Marvin Isley (top left), whose muscular bass lines propelled the hits of his classic sibling band The Isley Brothers, died in Chicago at age 56.

The cause of death has not yet been announced, though Isley suffered from diabetes severe enough to have caused him to leave the band in 1997. Later, his condition led to the amputation of both legs.

Isley will be remembered for the resilience and power of his bass work, which, for one thing, formed a crucial hook in the undulating '70s hit "Fight The Power." The bassist also played on the smash "Who's That Lady," as well as on prominent songs like "For The Love Of You" and "Harvest For The World."

Isley, who grew up in Englewood, New Jersey, wasn't old enough to join the first incarnation of the Isley Brothers, who have a history snaking back to the mid-’50s and who scored hits in the '60s like 1966’s "This Old Heart Of Mine" and the funky, 1969 track "It's Your Thing." By the late '60s, while still of high school age, Isley formed a trio with older brother Ernie and brother-in-law Chris Jasper. By the dawn of the '70s, those three pacted with the other Members of the group to create the classic "3+3" album, which went Top Ten in 1973.

In 1984, the Isleys fractured again. The original group continued to perform under their brand name while Marvin, Ernie, and Chris became Isley-Jasper-Isley. With that group, Marvin scored a No. 1 R&B single with "Caravan of Love."

For the '90s, Marvin once again became an Isley Brother. But by '97s, his illness forced him to quit.

In 1992, he was inducted, along with the other key Isley Brothers, into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame.

Two early members of the group have also died: O’Kelly Isley Jr. in 1996 at age 48 and Vernon Isley, who died back in 1955, at the age of just 13, after being hit by a car on his bicycle.

The group’s two best known members-singer Ron Isley and guitarist Ernie Isley- continue to perform under the group’s name.

jfarber@nydailynews.com

Manute Bol, 47, a giant among even NBA stars and a towering symbol of hope in his native Sudan, died last week (June 2010).

The former 76ers center died at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, where he was being treated for acute kidney failure and a skin disease, Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.

Mr. Bol, who at 7-foot-7 could be an intimidating defensive presence on the court, was also known for his humanitarian efforts in Sudan. He founded Sudan Sunrise, a group based in Lenexa, Kan., working to end oppression in Sudan.

Bol nearly went bankrupt by using his NBA salary to try and wipe out poverty in his native country.

June 2010: Gary Shider, singer and guitarist died at age 56, on June 16, in his home in Upper Marlboro.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member was best known for his work with funk groups Parliament-Funkadelic and Bootsy's Rubber Band, influencing later bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Shider (above, in diaper) was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer in March and performed for the last time in April, on his final tour.

“Mr. Shider often took to the stage wearing only a loincloth -- an act for which his fans dubbed him the diaperman,” writes the Washington Post . When asked why he frequently wore a diaper on stage, Shider responded, "God loves babies and fools. I'm both."

Shider leaves behind his wife of 32 years, Linda, and their two children, Garret and Marshall Shider in Upper Marlboro. In addition, he leaves behind a son from a previous marriage, a stepson, a mother, six brothers, and five grandchildren.

2011: Hip-hop singer Nate Dogg, who along with Snoop Dogg and Warren G is credited with crafting the blend of singing and rapping now known as G-funk, has died. He was 41.

Nate Dogg, who was born Nathaniel D. Hale, died at a Laguna Niguel care facility of complications from multiple strokes, said his attorney, Mark Geragos.

2011: Soul and Disco singer Loleatta Holloway died Monday evening following a brief illness. She was 64 years old.

Holloway’s death was confirmed by her manager, Ron Richardson, who said the singer slipped into a coma before succumbing to heart failure.

2011: Hip-hop radio and TV personality DJ Megatron was shot to death March 27 on New York's Staten Island. He was 32.

Megatron, born Corey McGriff, was apparently on his way to a store near his home, his manager Justin (J. Smoove) Kirkland told the Associated Press.

He was a popular figure among East Coast rap jocks. He began his career as an intern at WKRS-FM (Kiss FM) in New York, where he became an on-air personality.

Megatron also worked at Boston's Hot 97.7 and Philadelphia's the Beat.

He was best known as an on-camera host of BET's "106 & Park" series and was featured in its man-on-the-street "What's Good" segments.

His screen credits included "State Property 2" (2005), which starred Roc-A-Fella Records exec Damon Dash and rappers Beanie Sigel and N.O.R.E. (Noreaga).

He is survived by three children.

Click here to read: Part 3: Black Celebs Who Died With Little Or No Fanfare

Part 1: Black Celebs Who Died With Little Or No Fanfare

 

 

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