BLACK CELEBRITIES WHO DIED WITH LITTLE OR NO FANFARE-PART I:

R&B duo "Damian Dame" (pictured above) consisted of Debra Jean Hurd aka "Deah Dame," and Bruce Edward Brodus aka Damian.  They were the first act signed to the "LaFace," label by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Antonio "L.A." Reid.  They were famous for the following hits, "Exclusivity," "Right Down To It," and "Gotta Learn My Rhythm."  Deah would die in an car accident on June 27, 1994.  She was 35 years old.  Damian would die on the same day (June 27th) two years later of colon cancer.

Singer Richard "Dimples" Fields (pictured above) was famous for the songs, "If It Ain't One Thing, It's Another," and "She's Got Papers On Me."  Fields would die of an massive stroke on Jan. 12th, 2000.  He was 58 years old.

Edmund Sylvers (pictured above) was the lead singer of the group "The Sylvers."  At age 47, he would succumb to lung cancer in 2004, following a 10-month illness.  The Sylvers hits include: "Boogie Fever," and "Hot Line."

Actress Teresa Graves (pictured above) appeared on "Laugh-In," and starred in the television series, "Get Christie Love," she popularized the word "sugar," in the series.  Graves died in a house fire four years ago.  She was found unconscious in a rear addition to the house where a faulty spare heater sparked the blaze and she was pronounced dead at the scene.  It took 50 firefighters, 30 minutes to put the fire out.

Dino Connor, 28, (pictured above) was the lead singer of the group "H-Town."  He was killed along with his girlfriend in 2003.  They had just left the studio when their vehicle was struck by a SUV that ran a red light.  The group rose to prominance 12 years ago with their smash hit, "Knockin The Boots."

Renee Diggs (pictured above) was the lead vocalist for the group "Starpoint."  Their big hit was "Object Of My Desire."  Diggs died last year of heart-related complications and she also suffered from multiple sclerosis.  Miss Diggs was 50.

Singing trio "The Jones Girls," (pictured above) were sisters who sung background for Diana Ross.  They rose to fame after Ross got them a record deal to go out on their own. Their hits included, "You're Going To Make Me Love Somebody Else," and "Dance Turned Into Romance."  Sadly, member Valorie Jones, 45, died in 2001, cause of death is unknown.

Actress Shirley Hemphill (pictured above) appeared in the 70's sitcom "What's Happening."  She died in 1999 from kidney failure. She was 50.  It was nearly two weeks before her body was discovered in her home.

Lynn Collins (pictured above) who sung with James Brown and recorded the smash hit "Think" in the early 70's died last year of cardiac arrhythmia.  She was 56 years old.

Van McCoy (January 6, 1940-July 6, 1979) was a music producer, musician, songwriter, and orchestra conductor most famous for his massive 1975 disco hit "The Hustle," which is still played on dance floors today, almost 30 years after his death. He is also notable for producing such recording artists as Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Stylistics, Aretha Franklin, Brenda & The Tabulations, David Ruffin (Walk Away From Love) and Peaches & Herb, Melba Moore (Lean On Me) and Stacy Lattisaw.  McCoy died of a massive heart attack in 1979.

Harry Ray (first photo) was the original lead singer of the "Moments," and "Ray Goodman & Brown."  Their hits included, "Love On A Two Way Street," "Special Lady," and "Happy Anniversary."  Ray would die of a massive stroke in 1992.

Harold Melvin (above, center) formed the group "Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes," with Teddy Pendergrass on lead vocals.  The group had numerous hits during the 70's, including "Wake Up Everybody," and "Bad Luck."  Pendergrass would leave to pursue a successful solo career.  Harold Melvin continued to tour with various lineups of Blue Notes until suffering a massive stroke.  Melvin died on March 24, 1997 at the age of fifty-seven.

Singer Gwen Guthrie is best known for her hit, "Ain't Nothing Going On But The Rent," in 1986.   Guthrie started her career by moonlighting as a singer of commercial jingles, sometimes with her friend Valerie Simpson (of Ashford & Simpson fame).  A songwriting partnership with Patrick Grant resulted in Ben E. King's comeback single, "Supernatural Thing," and "This Time I'll Be Sweeter," covered by numerous artists.  She was also the writer of Roberta Flack's "God Don't Like Ugly," and she contributed to the Sister Sledge album, "Circle Of Love."   Miss Guthrie died of uterine cancer on February 3, 1999 at the age of 48.

Wylie Draper, the actor who portrayed Michael Jackson in the mini-series, "The Jacksons: An American Dream," died a year after the program aired.  Draper died from a rare form of leukemia.

Theodore "Teddy" Wilson (pictured on the bottom half of the above photo with the mustache) was an character actor best known for his recurring role as Sweet Daddy Williams on the CBS sitcom Good Times from 1976 until 1979.  Wilson also played the role of Al Dunbar in a popular two-part episode of the 1970s sitcom What's Happening!!. In the conclusion of the two-parter, Wilson's character gets arrested for bootlegging a Doobie Brothers concert. Wilson was married to actress Joan Pringle.  He died from AIDS-related complications on July 21, 1991 at the age of 47 in Los Angeles, California.

Vocalist/writer/producer David Townsend (pictured above in the hat) from the '80s vocal trio "Surface," known for such lush ballads as "Happy," "Closer Than Friends," "Shower Me With Your Love" and "The First Time," was found dead inside his Northridge, California home by a close friend. The cause of death was unknown.  Townsend was 50.  Townsend was the son of the late songwriter/producer Ed Townsend, who was responsible for co-writing "Let's Get It On" by the late great Marvin Gaye and had his own solo hit, "For Your Love" back in 1958.

Lead singer, Kenny "G-Love," Greene (pictured in the center) of the 90's group "Intro," died of AIDS complications in 2001.

 

Actor Steve James (pictured above, on the right) starred mostly in low-budget action films such as the American Ninja series, The Delta Force (1986), The Exterminator (1980), and Enter the Game of Death (1978).  James also starred as Kung Fu Joe in the 1988 comedy/spoof "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka."  His uncle was James Wall, who played Mr. Baxter on Captain Kangaroo.  James was also close friends with actor Michael Dudikoff (above left, the two met while shooting American Ninja) and director William Friedkin described him as "One of the most nicest, toughest and professional actors I've ever worked with."  Steve James died of pancreatic cancer in Burbank, California, at age 41 in 1993.  Eulogies at James' funerial service were delivered by Sidney Poitier and director-writer S.C. Dacy.

Kevin Peter Hall (pictured above) was an actor famous for his roles as Dr. Elvin Lincoln in Misfits of Science (1985), the 'monsters' in Prophecy (1979), Harry and the Hendersons (1987), Predator (1987), and Predator 2 (1990).  He also had guest spots on shows like Night Court and Star Trek: The Next Generation. He was frequently cast in monster roles due to his extremely tall stature—he stood 7' 2½" (2.20 m).  His mother stood a top height of 6'2" and his father stood 6'6." He married 227 actress Alaina Reed in 1989 after appearing on the program. In the fall of 1990, Hall was involved in a car accident in Los Angeles and required a blood transfusion, which was later discovered to be contaminated with HIV.  He contracted AIDS and died from complications related to the disease shortly afterwards. He and his wife had two children.

When Cameo first hit the scene, Wayne Cooper (1st, black and white photo) was the lead singer. He sung lead on hits "Why Have I Lost You?" "We're Going Out Tonight," and "Shake Your Pants."

Before joining Cameo, Cooper reportedly was featured on background vocals on Eddie Kendricks' solo albums.

Cooper is considered one of the best falsetto vocalists of all-time, in the same league as Bobby DeBarge and Philip Bailey.

Cooper reportedly left Cameo to pursue a solo career but his career was cut short by his death-that is still shrouded in mystery.

Some reports indicate that Cooper died in a plane crash in 1981 and other reports claim that Cooper allegedly succumbed to AIDS in 1984 at the age of 28.

Depending on who you talk to, 16-year old actress, Tara McMullen (pictured above with Martin Lawrence) was either bi-racial or part Latino.  Regardless, we decided to include her in this segment.  Tara Correa-McMullen (May 24, 1989–October 21, 2005) is the stage name of Shalvah McMullen, an actress who was well-known for a recurring role playing a gang member, Graciela Reyes, on the CBS TV series, Judging Amy.  In 2005, she co-starred in her first movie, "Rebound," with Martin Lawrence.   Correa-McMullen was born in Westminster, Vermont to Devra Correa and Thomas McMullen.  She moved to Los Angeles, California and sang in the Venice High School choir.  McMullen was also known for her temper, she got into scuffles with high school classmates and she threw furniture.  She eventually stopped going to school and started hanging out with a older gangbanger.  One day, she arrived on the "Judging Amy," set and said, "I don't want to do this anymore," despite making thousands per episode, she simply preferred hanging out on the corners with gang buddies.  Before that, she would arrive on the set with black eyes, claiming, she got jumped in during a gang initiation, she also started dressing in all red.   On October 21, 2005, Correa-McMullen was shot to death outside an apartment complex in Inglewood, California.  Suspected gang member Damien Watts, 20, was charged with her murder on March 1, 2006.  When charged, Watts was already in custody for a separate shooting. While police believe her death was gang-related (mirroring her most well-known role), "she may have just been at the wrong place at the wrong time," claimed Sgt. Steve Overly.

'REAL LIFE DEATHS' OF 3 ACTORS WHO APPEARED IN THE FILM "A SOLDIER'S STORY"

Larry Riley  (pictured above on the set of A Soldier's Story) was an actor, best known to screen viewers for his role as C.J. Memphis in the movie "A Soldier's Story," and as Frank Williams in the prime-time soap opera Knots Landing.  When Riley wasn't working as an actor, he was a respected craftsman who built Hollywood sets.  He died of AIDS in 1992.  He was forced to give up his role in "Knots Landing," because of his declining health due to the illness.

Adolph Caesar is best remembered for his role in director Norman Jewison's film, "A Soldier's Story," for which he received a nomination for "Best Actor in a Supporting Role" from both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes.  He also played the role of "Old Mister," opposite Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover, in Steven Spielberg's film, "The Color Purple." Adolph Caesar was working on the Los Angeles set of the 1986 film, "Tough Guys," when he suffered a heart attack and died a short time later.

Howard Rollins was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Daytime Drama Series for his role on Another World. Rollins was also nominated for the 1981 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the motion picture, Ragtime. In 1984, he starred in director Norman Jewison's film, A Soldier's Story which led to his role as "Virgil Tibbs" on the In the Heat of the Night television series based on Jewison's acclaimed motion picture of the same name.  In 1993, Rollins spent about a month in jail for driving under the influence and reckless driving.  Because of continued legal problems, Rollins was ultimately dropped from In the Heat of the Night and was replaced by Carl Weathers.  Rollins was invited back as a guest star on several episodes in the seventh season, but further legal problems led to his being totally banned from the county where the series was filmed.  During this time, Rollins changed his appearance and appeared on a talk show in feminine looking clothes.  Rollins died in 1996 after complications from AIDS-related lymphoma and was interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery in his native Baltimore.  He had been diagnosed with the condition approximately six weeks earlier. 

In 1993, Earth, Wind & Fire saxophonist Don Myrick was fatally shot by LAPD in a case of mistaken identity.

Roger Troutman November 29, 1951 - April 25, 1999 was the lead singer of the band Zapp.  Born in Hamilton, Ohio, Roger was the fourth of nine children.  On a Sunday morning, April 25, 1999, Roger Troutman was found shot and critically wounded outside his northwest Dayton recording studio around 7 a.m.  According to doctors, the 47-year-old had been shot several times in the torso and was in critical condition; he died during surgery at the local hospital "Good Samaritan Hospital and Health Center."  Roger's brother Larry was discovered dead in a car a few blocks away with a single gunshot wound to the head.  A pistol was found inside the vehicle, which matched the description of a car leaving the scene of Roger Troutman's shooting according to witnesses. Police concluded it to be an apparent murder-suicide, but family members could not offer any reason or motive.  It is likely that a personal dispute had developed between the two brothers; as far as can be determined, Larry shot Roger, then shot himself.  Roger Troutman is known for popularizing the talk box within the rap community.  He was very popular with bay area rappers such as Tupac Shakur and Spice 1.  He collaborated with Tupac and Dr. Dre on "California Love," which made the top 10 on the charts and was nominated for a Grammy for best rap performance by a duo or group in 1997.

Grover Washington, Jr. (December 12, 1943 – December 17, 1999) was a jazz-funk musician born in Buffalo, New York.  Along with George Benson, David Sanborn, Bob James, Chuck Mangione, Herb Alpert, and Spyro Gyra, he is considered by many to be one of the founding fathers of the smooth jazz genre. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Washington made some of the genre's most memorable hits, including "Mr. Magic,""Black Frost," and "The Best is Yet to Come."  In addition, he performed very frequently with other artists, including Bill Withers on "Just the Two of Us" (still in regular rotation on radio today) and Phyllis Hyman on "A Sacred Kind of Love."  He is also remembered for his take on a Dave Brubeck classic, called "Take Another Five", and for his hit "Soulful Strut."  On December 17th, 1999, while waiting in the green room after taping four songs for the The Early Show, at CBS Studios in New York City, Washington collapsed.  He was taken to St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at about 7:30 p.m.  His doctors determined that he had suffered a massive heart attack.  He was 56 when he died.

Chic was one of the top selling groups of the late 70's with hits "Good Times," Le Freak," etc., and members, Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards (bassist) were a top-notch in demand production team for Diana Ross (Upside Down, I'm Coming Out), Sister Sledge (We Are Family, The Greatest Dancer), Blondie (Rapture), etc.  Sadly, at the age of 43, Bernard Edwards (pictured above, 3rd from the left) died of pneumonia while touring with the group “Power Station,” in Tokyo in 1996.  Edwards left behind a wife and five kids.  Chic drummer Tony Thompson (pictured above, on the end) would die of kidney cancer in November of 2003.

Renaldo "Obie" Benson (2nd photo, left) a member of Motown singing group the Four Tops, died two years ago at age 69. The singer died in a Detroit hospital from lung cancer. He was diagnosed after having a leg amputated due to circulation problems. The Four Tops sold 50 million records and had hits including Reach Out (I'll be There) and I Can't Help Myself. The only surviving original members are Levi Stubbs and Abdul "Duke" Fakir. Lawrence Payton (2nd  photo with glasses) died in 1997 of liver cancer.  Levi Stubbs, lead singer of the Four Tops has cancer and suffered a stroke and is sometimes confined to a wheelchair. 

Paul Edward Winfield (May 22, 1939–March 7, 2004) was an Academy Award-nominated television and film actor.  Winfield was openly gay in his private life, but remained discreet about it in the public eye.  He was best known for his portrayal of a Louisiana sharecropper who struggles to support his family during the Great Depression in the landmark film "Sounder," and as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the television miniseries "King."  Winfield also narrated the show "City Confidential," on the A&E channel.  Winfield died of a heart attack in 2004; he was 64.  His long-time partner of 30 years, architect Charles Gillan Jr., preceded him in death in 2002.

Fred "Rerun" Berry was an actor best known for the role of Fred "Rerun" Stubbs on the popular 1970s television show What's Happening!! During the 1980s, Berry battled drug addiction and alcoholism. He revived the character of Rerun in the series What's Happening Now!!, but would only be on that show for 1 year. During the 1990s he became a Baptist minister and lost 100 pounds after being diagnosed with diabetes. He was married six times to four different women. Berry came off as jovial and humorous but over the years I have heard numerous stories of brutal domestic abuse towards his ex-wives.  Allegedly, that's why none of his six marriages lasted.  At one time, he was rumored to be involved with singer Toni Basil (Mickey). Berry died in 2003 at his Los Angeles home where he was recovering from a stroke. He was 52.

I had the opportunity to meet Katherine Dunham in the late 90's.  This woman was a 'national treasure' and a renowned superstar in the world of dance.  Although she was confined to a wheelchair when I met her, she had fascinating stories to tell and she was full of wisdom.  This is for you Mrs. Dunham. 

Katherine Mary Dunham was an African-American dancer, choreographer, songwriter, author, educator and activist who was a highly trained and respected anthropologist.  She has been called the "Matriarch" and "Queen Mother of Black Dance," and had one of the most successful dance careers in American and European theater of the 20th century. During her heyday in the 1940s, 50s and 60s she was renowned throughout Europe and Latin America as La Grande Katherine, and the Washington Post called her "Dance's Katherine the Great." The Katherine Dunham troupe (which included Eartha Kitt at one time) also appeared in numerous Hollywood films.

For more than 30 years she maintained the Katherine Dunham Dance Company, the only permanent, self-subsidized American black dance troupe at that time, and over her long career she choreographed more than 90 individual dances.   In 1989, Dunham was awarded the most prestigious artistic award, "The National Medal Of Arts" at a White House ceremony.  Sadly, last year, Katherine Dunham died in her sleep in New York City on May 21, 2006, she was 97.

Willi Smith (February 29, 1948-April 17, 1987) was one of the most successful African-American fashion designers in fashion history. At its peak, his company WilliWear Ltd. sold $25 million worth of clothing a year. Although the company bared his name and he was the public figurehead, the majority of the revenue generated-went to white investors. Smith was also the brother of model Tookie Smith. Tookie had a long-term relationship with actor Robert DeNiro and is the mother of his twins. Willie designed the wedding dress worn by Mary Jane Watson when she married Peter Parker in the Spider-Man comic book and comic strip in 1987 and the suits for Edwin Schlossberg and his groomsmen when he married Caroline Kennedy in 1986. Smith also designed clothes for Spike Lee 's 1987 film School Daze. Smith died unexpectedly at the relatively young age of 39 after contracting pneumonia while on a trip to India, apparently as a result of AIDS. It is suspected that Smith, himself, didn't know he had the disease although those around him knew he was fragile in his last days.

Max Robinson (May 1, 1939 – December 20, 1988) was a television journalist and was the Chicago based co-anchor of ABC News "World News Tonight" from 1978-1983 in the United States, and is best known for being the only (as of 2006) African American broadcast network news anchor in the United States. He was also a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists. Robinson's ABC tenure was marked by conflicts between him and the management of ABC News over viewpoints and the portrayal of Black America in the news. In addition, he was known by his co-workers to show up late for work or sometimes not show up at all, along with his moods, and his use of alcohol escalated. In addition, Robinson was known to fight racism at any turn and often felt unworthy of the admiration he received and was not pleased with what he had accomplished. He was often considered a mentor to young black broadcast journalists. Robinson found out he had AIDS while he was hospitalized for pneumonia in an Illinois hospital, but he kept it a secret. In the fall of 1988, Robinson was in Washington to deliver a speech at Howard University's School of Journalism when he became increasingly ill. Robinson checked himself into Howard University Hospital, where he died of AIDS on December 20, 1988. Robinson never knew how he contracted the disease since he didn’t engage in high-risk behavior. Robinson was survived by-three ex-wives and four children.

Raymond St. Jacques (March 1, 1930 – August 27, 1990) was an African-American actor. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, he was known for playing the roles of Coffin Ed in the 1970 blaxploitation classic Cotton Comes to Harlem, Rawhide and a two year stint as Judge Clayton C. Thomas on the well-forgotten Syndicated TV show Superior Court from 1988 to 1990. He died from AIDS related lymphoma in Los Angeles, California at age 60. He was the father of Sterling St. Jacques (who died in 1984 from AIDS). St. Jacques and actor Paul Winfield were common fixtures at gay clubs in the Castro district of San Francisco when they were in town in the 70’s and 80’s.

Melvin Lindsey (1955-1992) was an African American radio and television personality in the Washington, D.C. area widely known for originating the "Quiet Storm" late-night music programming format. Lindsey began his broadcast career as an intern at Howard University radio station WHUR-FM.  In 1976, he brought "The Quiet Storm" to the station's late-night lineup, titled after a romantic hit single by tenor crooner Smokey Robinson. The show's soulfully melodic, moody musical fare made it a phenomenal success, and "The Quiet Storm" spawned scores of imitations in stations across the country serving a black, adult, urban demographic.  Lindsey's show also gave rise to a category of music of the same name.  After a nine-year run on WHUR, Lindsey took his format to another local radio station, WKYS-FM, for five more years and later hosted Screen Scene (with Suzette Charles) for Black Entertainment Television (BET). Lindsey also worked for Washington, D.C. television stations WTTG-TV and WFTY-TV and for WJZ-TV in Baltimore, Maryland. Melvin Lindsey died of AIDS in 1992, but the Quiet Storm format he originated remains a staple in radio programming today, three decades after its inception.

Luther Ingram (November 30, 1937—March 19, 2007) was an R&B soul singer and songwriter. Born in Jackson, Tennessee, his songs appeared in the pop and R & B charts, even though he worked for a small label, Koko Records, owned by his manager and producer, Johnny Baylor.  Koko and Baylor were closely associated with the Memphis-based Stax Records label during the height of its commercial success. Ingram is best known for his hit, "If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don't Want to Be Right)", written by Homer Banks, Carl Hampton and Raymond Jackson. The song placed number one on Billboard magazine's R&B chart, and peaked at number three on that publication's Hot 100 chart in 1972 (later successfully covered by Millie Jackson and Barbara Mandrell).

Other popular tracks include "Ain't That Loving You (For More Reasons Than One)" and "I'll Be Your Shelter." He also co-wrote the Staples Singers hit, "Respect Yourself." Ingram died on March 19 2007, after years of kidney problems, in St. Louis, Missouri, he was 69.

Carl M. Brashear, 75First African-American Navy master diver whose inspirational story was the basis for the film "Men of Honor," died in 2006.

Claydes Charles Smith, 57 — Co-founder of "Kool and the Gang" who played lead guitar and wrote hits like "Celebration" and "Hollywood Swinging," died in 2006 after a lengthy illness.

Lloyd Richards, 87 —The first black director on Broadway, he was the one who discovered the playwright August Wilson and then collaborated with him over two decades died in 2006.

Franklyn Seales (pictured above, far left, back row) was born in St. Vincent, Caribbean Islands.  His movie appearances include "The Onion Field," and "Star Trek."

TV appearances for Mr. Seales include three 1982 episodes of  "Hill Street Blues," one episode of "Wiseguy," one "Growing Pains" episode, and the TV sitcom Amen as Lorenzo Hollingsworth during the 1986-1987 season.  He also had a role in the mini-series Beulah Land.

Seales is most famous for his role on "Silver Spoons."  He played Dexter Stuffins, business manager and family friend of the Strattons, starting in Season 2. He also did some artwork as a painter.  He died in Brooklyn, New York of AIDS in 1990.

Frankie "Hollywood" Crocker (December 18, 1937, Buffalo, New York - October 21, 2000, North Miami Beach, Florida) was a famous New York radio DJ. (Coined "Hollywood" for his keen sense of showmanship and self-marketing tactics.)  According to popeducation.org, Frankie began his career in Buffalo, then moved to Soul station WWRL New York before being hired by top-40 WMCA in 1969.  He later worked for WBLS-FM as program director, taking that station to the top of the ratings during the late 1970's. He sometimes called himself the "Chief Rocker," and he was as well known for his boastful on-air patter as for his off-air flamboyance.

When Studio 54 was at the height of its popularity, Crocker rode in through the front entrance on a white stallion. In the studio, before he left for the day, Crocker would light a candle and invite female listeners to enjoy a candlelight bath with him.  Crocker was once linked to actress Jayne Kennedy after she divorced first husband Leon Issac Kennedy.  At his peak, Crocker was the most famous black DJ in the world and the first to command and receive a six figure annual salary.  His popularity was so immense, he worked in NY six months and worked the remaining six months in Los Angeles for a short time.  Crocker died of pancreatic cancer in 2000.

Sadly, actor Calvin Lockhart (pictured above) died from complications of a stroke in the Bahamas, recently. He was 72. When I was a child, I remember meeting Lockhart at a celebrity function I was attending with my parents. He is one of the most beautiful men I've ever seen. Flawless skin, snow white teeth, naturally curly hair, beautiful black eyes and long lashes. Every woman in the place was trying to get at Lockhart. Our condolences go out to his family. In January, Lockhart made his last movie "Rain," which was filmed in The Bahamas and not yet released. He is survived by his mother, Minerva Cooper; his wife, Jennifer Miles-Lockhart; sons Michael Lockhart and Julien Lockhart Miles; brothers Carney, Eric and Phillip Cooper; sisters, Melba and Delores. R.I.P. Mr. Lockhart.

Doreen Waddell, a former vocalist with the groups Soul II Soul and KLF, died in a traffic accident, apparently after running from a store where she had been accused of shoplifting, police said.  She was 36.

Waddell died March 1, 2002 after she was hit by cars on a highway in Shoreham in southern England, Sussex police said.  It took several days to identify her body.

Police said it appeared she had been running from a supermarket after being confronted about shoplifting. She was struck by three cars on the nearby A27 highway and was pronounced dead at a local hospital.  Goods from the store were found scattered across the road.

Waddell, who used the stage name Do'reen, sang on the influential British dance band's best-selling 1989 album "Club Classics Volume I'' and was lead vocalist on the songs "Feel Free'' and "Happiness.''

By the time the Force M.D's made a record deal, signing with Tommy Boy Records in 1984, they had already developed into a pure quiet storm/urban R&B group, with their top-ten R&B hit "Tears" from the Love Letters album, signified by their street attitude. They produced a collection of R&B hits throughout the '80s, but their sole pop hit was the Top Ten Jimmy Jam- and Terry Lewis-penned love song "Tender Love" from both their second album Chillin’ (1986) and the 1985 feature film and soundtrack Krush Groove. With the exception of their first album, the group was also the first act on Tommy Boy to have major-label distribution through its then-parent Warner Bros. Records. Tragedy struck the group three times with the passing of three of its members: Charles "Mercury" Nelson suffered a fatal heart attack in 1995, Antoine "TCD" Lundy died of Lou Gehrig's disease in 1998 and DJ Dr. Rock died under unknown circumstances.

Johnnie Wilder, Jr. (July 3, 1949 – May 13, 2006), was the co-founder and lead vocalist, of the international R&B/funk group Heatwave.  Heatwave was a popular group during the late-1970s, with hits such as "Boogie Nights," "Always and Forever" and "The Groove Line" on which Wilder sang co-lead vocals.

In February 1979, a van struck Wilder's car, paralyzing him from the neck down and hospitalizing him for a year. During the 1980s and 1990s, Wilder went on to record other albums with the group and later began a gospel career, singing a cappella on albums My Goal and One More Day.

He died in his sleep on May 13, 2006 at his home in Clayton, Ohio, at age 56.  The cause of his death is unknown.

Michael Jonas Evans (November 3, 1949 – December 14, 2006) (usually credited as Mike Evans), was an actor and co-creator of the show "Good Times," with Eric Monte (Ralph Carter's character Michael Evans was named after him).

Evans was born in Salisbury, North Carolina.  His father, Theodore Evans Sr., was a dentist, and his mother, Annie Sue Evans, was a school teacher. His family later moved to Los Angeles, where he graduated from Los Angeles High School. He later studied acting at Los Angeles City College.

Evans is most famous for creating the recurring role of Lionel Jefferson on All in the Family and was the first (and eventually final) actor to play Lionel on the spin-off The Jeffersons. He played Lionel on The Jeffersons for much of its 11-year run, with the majority of his appearances occurring from 1979-1983. Opera singer/actor Damon Evans played the role for a few years of The Jeffersons, as Michael was occupied in the production of Good Times. He returned after Good Times was cancelled in 1979.

His last TV role was in 2000, on an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger. Evans was also a real estate investor and owned properties in California's Inland Empire.

As the original Lionel, his absence was noticed at a Sherman Hemsley TV Land special, which aired in July 2006. Most of the other surviving Jeffersons cast members were present, as well as Sally Struthers and the cast of "Amen."

Evans died of throat cancer at his mother's home in Twentynine Palms, California at the age of 57. The announcement of his death was not released until a week later.

Ohio Player members: Clarence "Satch" Satchell died in January 1996 after suffering a brain aneurysm. Ralph Middlebrooks died in November 1997.

During her early years as an actress, Rosalind Cash moonlighted as a hospital aide, waitress, salesgirl, and nightclub singer. Cash made her Broadway bow in the 1966 production The Wayward Stork. Her film career began when Charlton Heston personally selected her to co-star in his 1971 sci-fi vehicle "The Omega Man."

Daytime-drama devotees know Cash best as the matriarchal Mary Mae Ward on “General Hospital,” but she has made many appearances on television in series, telepics, and miniseries. One thing that set Cash apart from other African-American actresses was her refusal to play stereotypical roles. Though she rarely had the opportunity to demonstrate the full extent of her range and ability, Cash's characters were intelligent, independent, and sexy. In 1987, Cash was given the Phoenix Award by the Black American Cinema Society in honor of her achievements. In 1992, her name was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.

Cash died of cancer in the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at the age of 56.

~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Hi-Five lead singer Tony Thompson was found dead yesterday (June 1) in his hometown of Waco, Texas.
Thompson's body was found outside of an apartment complex around 10:00 pm. He allegedly died of drug overdose, but the cause of death has yet to be confirmed. Thompson and Hi-Five hit #1 with 1990's "I Like The Way (The Kissing Game)," which was produced by R&B/Hip-Hop producer Teddy Riley and taken from the group's debut, Hi-Five.The album also produced singles like "I Can't Wait Another Minute" and "I Just Can't Handle It." Hi-Five broke up around 1994 but reunited and released a new album The Return in 2006 on Thompson's record label N'Depth.Thompson also collaborated with Port Arthur, Texas rapper Bun-B on his 2006 single "Rock Ya Body," which was produced by Play-N-Skillz. Thompson, was working on new material for an upcoming album as well.

Source: AHH

Artimus Lamont Bentley (October 25, 1973 – January 18, 2005) was an American television and film actor. He is known for his role as Hakeem Campbell on Moesha, and Crazy K in Tales from the Hood.

Bentley was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and moved to Los Angeles with his mother Loyce, who wished to ignite her career as a singer. Bentley was befriended by author and hotel magnate Christopher Spencer, who was his personal manager during his career on Moesha.

He worked on the film Buffalo Soldiers with Danny Glover. He was involved in a lawsuit with a security guard at Sunset/Gower Studios in Hollywood in which the guard accused Bentley and his friends of beating him.

On January 18, 2005, he was killed in a single-car accident in southern California's Ventura County. He was driving on Highway 118 near Simi Valley (which is 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles) when his vehicle went over an embankment, ejecting him (the sole occupant) from the vehicle and into traffic where five cars struck him. He was 31 and the father of two young daughters.

Merlin Santana (March 14, 1976 - November 9, 2002), was a Dominican American television and film actor best known for his role as teenager Romeo on The Steve Harvey Show. He also played Rudy's boyfriend Stanley on The Cosby Show.

Merlin Santana was born in Washington Heights, Manhattan, New York, United States to parents from the Dominican Republic. He attended Acenscion Catholic School in New York. His career in show business began with a push from his mother, who recognized her son's talent and wanted to keep him off the tough streets of New York. He began his career at the age of three as an advertising model for a fast food chain. His first screen appearance was as an extra in the Woody Allen film The Purple Rose of Cairo.

He later landed the recurring role of Stanley, the faithful admirer of young Rudy Huxtable (and romantic rival of Rudy's friend Kenny), on the hit comedy series "The Cosby Show." Santana was then cast as a sharp-tongued 15-year-old in the comedy series Getting By, starring Cindy Williams and Telma Hopkins. His brother was portrayed by Deon Richmond, who played Kenny on The Cosby Show.

He chose to keep his last name of Santana to represent his Afro-Latino heritage. One episode of The Steve Harvey Show marked the first time when Afro-Latinos communicated in Spanish on a commercial network. The episode was about Romeo being taken out of school by his father.

He played Romeo Santana on The Steve Harvey Show for the WB. This is probably around the same time that he got a tattoo on his chest. He proudly represented the small number of Latino actors in the television industry.

He appeared in the VH1 movie Play'd with Toni Braxton and Rashaan Nall as a rapper and had a role in Eddie Murphy's Showtime. His last television acting role was on Half & Half as a singer.

His last film role was Carlos in The Blues with his former television brother, Deon Richmond. It was filmed months before his death.

On November 9, 2002, Santana died after being shot in the head while sitting in the passenger seat of a friend’s car. He was 26 years old.

At 2:30 AM that day, Merlin was sitting in a parked car and a person approached the car and shot him (six times, according to one source). He died before any help could arrive. The public did not find out about the shooting until Monday morning. A woman was arrested early on Monday for possible connections to the murder. She was later charged. He was buried on November 18, 2002, and left behind a now 11 year old daughter.

Damien Andre Gates was convicted of the first-degree murder of Santana and the attempted murder of another man in the car, and was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences plus 70 years in prison. Brandon Douglas Bynes received 23 years' imprisonment after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon. An officer involved in the case testified that Monique King, reportedly the girlfriend of Gates and aged 15 at the time of Santana's death, falsely claimed that Santana had tried to rape her, which prompted Gates and Bynes to attack the car. King received eight years in juvenile custody.

Ronald Winans (June 30, 1956 - June 17, 2005), also known as Ron Winans, was born the second of 10 children to David and Delores Winans. He was part of "The Winans," which consisted of Ron and his brothers Marvin, Carvin and Michael. The Winans were discovered by contemporary gospel pioneer, Andrae Crouch. They released their first album in 1981, entitled Introducing The Winans; with this release the world would become familiar with the name "Winans," which is now synonymous with contemporary gospel. Ronald also had a thriving career as a solo artist, recording a series of CDs called "Ron Winans Family & Friends," and numbered I-V, each of which contained at least one song that became a smash hit, such as the extremely popular and encouraging "Stand," which featured Donnie McClurkin on lead vocals, and "But God," on which Ron's younger brother BeBe Winans (Benjamin) did an impassioned and deeply moving job on lead vocals.

In 1997, Ronald, who had always had weight problems, suffered a massive heart attack, and experienced a miraculous recovery after the doctors had all but given him up on him. In May and June 2005, Ronald was admitted to Harper Hospital for observation after the doctors discovered that he was retaining an abnormal amount of fluid in his body. This time, however, things did not go as well, and on June 16, 2005, the doctors announced that they did not feel Ron would make it through the night. He did make it past midnight, but Ron Winans died peacefully early the next morning (June 17) due to heart complications, just two weeks shy of his 49th birthday. The entire family had gathered at Harper Hospital in Detroit to be with Ronald during his final moments.

Ronald L. "Ron" Townson of the "Fifth Dimension," ( died 2 August 2001, of kidney failure, in Las Vegas, Nevada).

Milan Williams, a founding member of the Commodores, died at MD Anderson Hospital in Houston after a bout with cancer in July of 2006. He was 58.

Tamara Dobson (May 14, 1947 or 1944 - October 2, 2006) was an actress and fashion model. She was born in Baltimore, Maryland and received her degree in fashion illustration from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Dobson, who stood 6 feet 2 inches, eventually became a fashion model for Vogue Magazine. She made a few films in Hollywood but is best known for her roles in the Blaxploitation films, Cleopatra Jones (1973) and Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (1975).

According to published reports, Dobson died on October 2, 2006 in Baltimore, Maryland of complications from pneumonia and multiple sclerosis, her brother, Peter Dobson, said. She was 62.

*Sonji Clay-Glover, the first wife of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, was found dead in 2005 in her Hyde Park home on Chicago's South Side, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office. She was 59.

The office on Wednesday said her death was reported to them as being of natural causes so no autopsy would be performed. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Clay-Glover’s nephew believes she may have suffered a heart attack.

Clay first met Ali through his manager, Herbert Muhammad, back when the champ was still going by his birth name, Cassius Marcellus Clay. They married just 41 days later, on Aug. 14, 1964. But the couple divorced by January 1966 amid conflict over Ali's increasing devotion to the Nation of Islam.

"She was an independent-minded woman and she wanted to be herself," H.D. "Doc" White, Clay's friend and record producer, told the Sun-Times. "She was kind, but she just wasn't a very submissive woman. She was a very, very spirited woman."

After the divorce, Clay – portrayed in the 2001 film by actress Jada Pinkett Smith – returned to Chicago from Miami, where the couple had made their home. An aspiring singer, she recorded a couple of singles for Aries Record Productions, including "I Can't Wait (Until I See My Baby's Face)," and the ballad "Here I Am and Here I'll Stay."

*Vivian Malone Jones, (pictured above with former Governor George Wallace) is one of two black students whose effort to enroll at the University of Alabama led to George Wallace's infamous “stand in the schoolhouse door” in 1963, died in 2005. She was 63.

Jones, who eventually became the school’s first black graduate, died at Atlanta Medical Center, where she had been admitted Tuesday after suffering a stroke, said her sister, Sharon Malone.

At an appearance, before her death, she recalled meeting with Wallace in 1996, when the former governor was in frail health. He died in 1998.

"I asked him why did he do it," she said. "He said he did what he felt needed to be done at that point in time, but he would not do that today. At that point, we spoke — I spoke — of forgiveness."

According to Wireimage, Anderson Jones, a former critic for E! online, CNN Headline News and TNT's "Roughcut," suffered a major coronary during a press screening of "A Mighty Heart" Thursday at the ArcLight Theatre in Los Angeles, and died shortly thereafter. Jones, also known as Andy, was 38 and had been struggling with health issues in recent years.  Source: Juicy News

A talented teen singer who won the hearts of millions on British TV show 'Stars In their Eyes' was found bludgeoned to death in her home yesterday. Police say Kesha Wizzart, 18, her mother Beverley Samuels, 35, and her brother Fred, 13, were beaten to death sometime Wednesday or early Thursday at their home in Manchester, England.

A neighbor made the grim discovery yesterday when he climbed a ladder and peered in a window of the home. The neighbor became suspicious after a family member was unable to get an answer at the front door.

Police quiz triple murder suspect:

Pierre Williams (above) turned himself in to police.

A 32-year-old man is being questioned about the murder of a mother and her two children.

Beverley Samuels, 36, her daughter Kesha Wizzart, 18, and son Fred Junior, 13, were found beaten to death at their house in Fallowfield in Manchester.

Pierre Williams was arrested in the early hours on suspicion of murder after he telephoned police.

*If you found this feature interesting, eye opening, and informative, continue reading our Breaking News column (updated Mon-Fri.)

On August 12, 1978, in a pre-season game against the Oakland Raiders, Darryl Stingley (New England Patriots) was the victim of a hit by the Raiders' defensive back Jack Tatum. As Stingley leapt to make a catch, Tatum used his forearm in a head-on collision that knocked Stingley out cold. The hit compressed Stingley's spinal cord, breaking his fourth and fifth vertebrae.

Stingley eventually regained limited movement in his right arm, but spent the rest of his life as a quadriplegic, confined to a wheelchair.

Adding the proverbial insult to injury, Stingley had just finished negotiating a contract extension that would have made him one of the highest paid receivers in the NFL. The new contract was to be announced when the Patriots returned from the West Coast.  Instead, it was never signed.

Although controversial, the hit was not a violation of NFL rules at the time. No penalty was called on the play.

On April 5, 2007, Stingley died at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago after being discovered unresponsive in his home. His death was attributed to heart disease and pneumonia complicated by quadriplegia. The Cook County Medical Examiner listed Stingley's cause of death as an accident.

Ron O'Neal (September 1, 1937 in Utica, New York – January 14, 2004 in Los Angeles, California) was an actor, director and screenwriter.  O'Neal is most remembered for his starring role as Priest in the blaxploitation film "Superfly," although he also had a small recurring role on the television show "Living Single," as Synclaire's father.

He died in 2004 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 66 on the same day "Superfly" was released on DVD in the US.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Zola Taylor (who Halle Berry portrayed in Why Do Fools Fall In Love) broke gender barriers as the first female member of the 1950s (original) R&B group The Platters and later became entangled in a public soap opera as one of three women claiming to be pop idol Frankie Lymon's widow, has died, her nephew reported Tuesday. She was 69.

Taylor, who had been bedridden following several strokes, died Monday at Parkview Community Hospital in Riverside County from complications of pneumonia, said her nephew Alfie Robinson.

Founding Platters member Herb Reed said he spotted Taylor, the sister of Cornell Gunter of the Coasters, rehearsing with a girl group in 1955 and knew immediately she had the charisma and vocal chops the band needed.

"PLATTERS" LEAD SINGER SUCCUMBS TO AIDS:

The Platters-(not original Platters) frontman Curtis Bridgeforth (above) has quit the rock 'n' roll group to seek AIDS treatment. The 51-year-old singer released a statement two days ago, confirming he will leave the Platters at the end of the month. He said, "I found out in 1990 that I was HIV positive and I've been living with HIV for the last 17 years.

"Then two years ago, after suddenly losing 20 pounds and 30 percent of my eyesight, I learned that I had diabetes, in all probability stemming from my HIV medication. "Right now, my sugar count and cholesterol count are dangerously high, so to prevent a major heart attack or stroke, as well as deal with the HIV issue, I need to seek treatment in New York.

There is a program offered there for people like me who don't have health insurance. "Ninety-nine per cent of the people I work with every night knew nothing of my HIV until now, although our management company has been aware since 2003.

I don't want to hide it anymore - I'm an example of how to survive it and maybe I can help other people in the same situation. "After I get my health in check, I want to come back to performing. I've already been offered some opportunities.

The most important thing I do on this planet is sing to people - I can make people smile and that's a God-given gift." Bridgeforth joined the group in 1994 and has recently been performing with them at the Sahara in Las Vegas.

Sadly, Bridgeforth succumbed to AIDS in May of 2007.

Harry McGilberry joined the Temptations in 1995. McGilberry died on April 3, 2006 at the age of 56.  According to "Wikipedia," McGilberry died of an alleged drug overdose.

He was known by family members and friends as "Boom-Boom," because of his "bass" voice. McGilberry is pictured above on the far right.

By Erik Matuszewski

"NBA STAR KILLED"

Aug. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Eddie Griffin, above, who played five seasons in the NBA, died last week when the sports-utility vehicle he was driving collided with a moving train in Houston, authorities said. He was 25.

Dental comparisons were used today to identify Griffin, whose body was badly burned in the crash, Jennifer Coston, deputy chief of investigations at the Harris County, Texas, medical examiner's office, said in a telephone interview.

Griffin disregarded a warning signal, drove through a railroad arm and struck the side of a moving freight train on Aug. 17, according to a news release from the Houston Police Department. Griffin's vehicle was consumed by flames, and he died at the scene.

The 6-foot-10 Griffin spent last season with the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves, playing in 13 games as a reserve and averaging 1.4 points and 1.9 rebounds. He received a five-game suspension from the league in January for violating the NBA's anti-drug program.

Griffin had off-court problems since joining the NBA as a first-round pick in the 2001 draft out of Seton Hall University. He spent time at an alcohol-treatment center in 2003-04, was convicted of marijuana possession in January 2004, and got suspended for the first three games of the 2004-05 NBA season after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge.

Griffin, who spent his first two NBA seasons with the Houston Rockets and New Jersey Nets, was released by the Timberwolves in March.

RIP.

Melanie Janene Thornton (May 13, 1967 – November 24, 2001) was an American-German pop singer who found fame in Germany and fronted the Eurodance group La Bouche, who formed hits such as "Be My Lover" and "Sweet Dreams" in the mid-1990s. She forged a moderately successful solo career in Germany before her death. Her hits include "Love How You Love Me", "Wonderful Dream." "Memories" and "Heartbeat." Thornton died in a plane crash near Bassersdorf, Switzerland in 2001.

Joe Gilliam aka 'Joe Willy Gilly,' was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1972 in the 11th round after a college football career at Tennessee State University where he was a two-time All-American. He became the Steelers' starting Quarterback in 1974 but lost the job when Terry Bradshaw was chosen to lead the team after the first six games of the season, fueling speculation years later that Gilliam was removed because he was black. Bradshaw himself admits that Gilliam was more talented and deserving of the job that year than he was. Gilliam spiraled into a trap of severe alcoholism and substance abuse and was out of the National Football League at the end of 1975 and back on the streets in Nashville, Tennessee, where he battled his cocaine addiction on and off over the years.

His daughter Is R&B Singer Joi. His ex son-in-law is rapper Big Gipp of the Goodie Mob. On 1 July 96 his granddaughter Keypsiia Blue Daydreamer was born.

For the rest of his life, he battled cocaine addiction; but he did manage to run a football camp in Nashville at times. He was often homeless and on the streets in search of his next high. He earned the nickname "Jefferson Street Joe" for the boulevard that runs by Tennessee State University in Nashville.

Gilliam died of a heart attack on December 25, 2000. He had been sober for four years prior to his death and was able to attend the final Steelers game at Three Rivers Stadium.

MCFADDEN & WHITEHEAD (DUO DIED WITHIN TWO YEARS OF EACH OTHER)

McFadden and Whitehead were an songwriting, production, and recording duo, best known for their signature tune "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now." They wrote and produced some of the most popular R&B hits of the 1970s, and were primarily associated with Gamble and Huff's Philadelphia International soul music record label.

When they were teenagers, Gene McFadden and John Whitehead formed a group called The Epsilons. They were discovered by Otis Redding and toured with him during the late 1960s until Redding's death in a plane crash in 1967.

The duo later joined Philly International Records, where they wrote hit after hit, the first being "Back Stabbers" in 1972 for the O'Jays. It became No. 1 across the board in one week.

McFadden and Whitehead also penned hits such as "For The Love Of Money," I'll Always Love My Momma," "Bad Luck," "Wake Up Everybody," "Where Are All My Friends," "The More I Want", and "Cold, Cold World". The production team also worked with Melba Moore, Freddie Jackson and Gloria Gaynor, Teddy Pendergrass, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, Gladys Knight, The Jackson 5, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Lou Rawls, Archie Bell & the Drells and The Intruders, just to name a few.

On May 11, 2004, Whitehead was murdered while working on his car with his nephew on the street outside of his Philadelphia home. He was shot by two unknown gunmen who fled afterwards. The case remains unsolved. Whitehead was 55 years old.

On January 27, 2006, McFadden died of liver and lung cancer. He was 56.

On March 12, 2003, actress Lynn Thigpen (above) was found dead at her home in Marina del Rey, California, by a friend; she had died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 54. She had been complaining of headaches for several days. She had not been seriously ill, and her death was a surprise and shock. Drugs and foul play were ruled out by the coroner's autopsy, which found "acute cardiac dysfunction, non-traumatic systemic and spontaneous intraventricular hemorrhage and hemorrhage in the brain".

When Thigpen died, The District had a funeral for her character as well. (The show was canceled a short time later, but can be seen in reruns on the USA and A&E networks.) Her untimely death also led to the three-year hiatus of "Bear in the Big Blue House."

The film "Anger Management" (2003) starring Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson is dedicated to her memory.

An elementary school in her hometown is named in her memory.

Bobby Byrd was the original leader and founder of 'The Famous Flames,' the vocal group with which James Brown first became famous. Byrd is actually the man who discovered James Brown.

Bobby Byrd and James Brown met in a Georgia youth detention facility. Brown was an inmate, Byrd was not.

Byrd's local baseball team played the prison team of which Brown was a member. It was Bobby Byrd's family that sponsored his release and took him in afterwards.

He was married to soul singer Vicki Anderson, another James Brown collaborator. His step-daughter is Carleen Anderson.

In October 2004 Bobby Byrd's songs "I Know You Got Soul," and "Hot Pants," were featured on the "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," soundtrack.

On September 12th 2007, comforted by wife Vicki Anderson and a large, close family, Byrd died of cancer, he was 73.

Richard Biggs 44, 1960-2004, actor on TV series Babaylon 5. He died from aortic dissection.

Michelle Thomas 29, 1969-1998. She played Myra on "Family Matters." Thomas died of stomach cancer in 1998.   Thomas' father is one of the original members of Kool & The Gang and she once dated actor Malcolm Jamal Warner.

Carlton Williams II who played Clinton in the movie "Crooklyn," died in October of 2003 from complications of Sickle Cell Anemia.

Nell Ruth Hardy aka Nell Carter
Born: 13-Sep-1948
Birthplace: Birmingham, AL
Died: 23-Jan-2003
Location of death: Beverly Hills, CA
Cause of death: Diabetes complications
Remains: Buried, Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery, Culver City, CA
Gender: Female
Religion: Jewish
Race or Ethnicity: Black
Sexual orientation: Bisexual
Occupation: Actor, Singer

Musician David Cole (very top photo, red hair) and Robert Clivillýs formed the musical group C + C Music Factory in 1990. The duo had several hits, including their most popular Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now). They went on to win a Producers Grammy in 1993 for their work on the original soundtrack album "The Bodyguard." In 1995 Cole died of spinal meningitis although rumors persist that he died of AIDS.

If you were listening to rap in the early '90s, there's no doubt you heard the provocative Professor X and his New York-based group X-Clan. "Professor X" Carson, whose best-known records are "Funkin' Lesson" and "Fire & Earth (100% Natural)," died in a New York hospital after succumbing to spinal meningitis at the age of 49. Although X-Clan released just two albums and never enjoyed the commercial success of their politically minded contemporaries (particularly Public Enemy), X and his crew still carved out a slice of hip-hop history for themselves with their funky beats and rhymes about afrocentrism and activism.

In the 1990s, actress Mabel King (What's Happening!), front row, far right) battled diabetes, and eventually lost both of her legs and an arm to the disease. In 1999, she died from complications of diabetes and a stroke. Her only child, a son, Larry King (from her marriage to Melvin King; no relation to the talk show host) predeceased her by three years.

Eugene Record (December 23, 1940 – July 22, 2005) was lead vocalist of Chicago based The Chi-Lites during the 1960s and 1970s. He also released three solo albums (entitled Eugene Record, Trying to Get to You, and Welcome to My Fantasy) via the Warner Music Group before rejoining the Chi-Lites in 1980. He wrote and produced many of the group's hits, such as "Have You Seen Her" and "Oh Girl", frequently in collaboration with other songwriters. He also wrote and produced for other artists, including Barbara Acklin, Jackie Wilson, and The Dells. Record left the Chi-Lites again in 1988 before eventually becoming a gospel singer. He died on July 22, 2005, after a long battle with cancer. He was 64.

Brock Peters (July 2, 1927 – August 23, 2005) was an actor, perhaps best known for the roles in "To Kill a Mockingbird," and "Star Trek VI."  Mr. Peters died in Los Angeles, California of pancreatic cancer on August 23, 2005 at the age of 78. He was survived by his daughter Lise Jo Peters.

Julius "Nipsey" Russell (September 15, 1918 – October 2, 2005) was an African-American comedian, best known today for his many appearances as a guest panelist on game shows from the 1960s through the 1990s, especially Match Game, Password, Hollywood Squares, To Tell the Truth and Pyramid.  During the 1990s Mr. Russell gained popularity with a new generation of television viewers as a regular on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Russell would often appear during comedy sketches between scheduled guests and deliver his trademark rhymes. Russell's final TV appearance was as a panelist for one week (specifically, a game show-themed week) on the final season of the Tom Bergeron version of Hollywood Squares.

He died at age 87 in New York City, after suffering from stomach cancer.

Tyrone Davis made numerous records for the Dakar and Columbia record labels from the 1970s, right through the disco and funk booms, and into the 21st century. Davis' best-known hits were "Turn Back the Hands of Time," "Can I Change My Mind," and "In The Mood." He died in a Chicago hospital in 2005 of complications following a stroke in October 2004, from which he never fully recovered.

Natasja Saad (October 31, 1974 - June 24, 2007), also known as Lil T, Little T and Natasja, she was a Danish rapper and reggae singer whose vocals on a popular U.S. and European remix of "Calabria" gained her fame and a number one spot on Billboard's Hot Dance Airplay chart six months after her death in a car accident.

Natasja died on June 24, 2007 in a car accident in Spanish Town, Saint Catherine, Jamaica. Two other passengers were critically injured, but Saad's friend, Danish singer Karen Mukupa, was relatively unhurt. She and the other injured were rushed to the Spanish Town Hospital where the singer was pronounced dead.

Rudy Pardee was born and Raised in Cleveland, OH on June 29, 1957. His love for music took him to Los Angeles, in pursuit of the musical dream. He found a partner and was half of the duo called the L.A. Dream Team, the group coined the hits "Rockberry Jam," and "The Dream Team Is In The House."  Sadly, on August 30, 1998, Rudy died in a freak scuba diving accident.

Reggae star Lucky Dube, 43, was shot and killed in an apparent carjacking attempt after dropping his son off in suburban Johannesburg, yesterday.  We will provide more details as they come in.

La La Brown (on the right) pictured with Lyfe Jennings was recently murdered. She sang on Jenning's S.E.X. She was found dead with her boyfriend in the basement of a recording studio. She leaves behind a young daughter.

Jermaine Stewart and Gene Anthony Ray are not included in this feature because they are featured in our "Scandals & Tragedies," segment.  Click the following link to read their stories as well as other celebrity stories.  Scandals & Tragedies

June Pointer died in 2006. She was 52. She died of cancer at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, California, with her sisters Ruth and Anita at her bedside.

King Floyd died from a stroke and complications with diabetes in California. He was 61. He was best remembered for his single 'Groove Me', which hit the number one spot on the R & B charts in 1971.

Lou Rawls died on January 6, 2006 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 72 and was suffering from lung cancer and later brain cancer.

Edward Patten, far right, a member of Gladys Knight and The Pips, died early on Friday the 25th of February at St. Mary's Mercy Hospital in Livonia, Michigan, in 2005. He was 65.

Tony Sylvester, of the group-Main Ingredient, has died.  A reader, describing themselves as an relative of Sylvester's recently emailed us, informing us, that Sylvester allegedly died of a form of bone cancer.

In 2005, a Baton Rouge blues singer was killed and another woman was wounded after the singer's ex-boyfriend opened fire in a crowded beauty salon before turning the gun on himself.

Police say James White walked into T'Nails and Hair Salon and shot singer Jackie Neal and critically wounded Angela Myers, who was running away from the shooting.

Baton Rouge Police Major Pat Tauzin says Neal, who was in her late 30s, died at the scene, and both Myers and White were rushed to a hospital with critical injuries.

Tauzin says White faces counts of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. She termed the shooting a "domestic" incident.

Tauzin says White had gone into the salon to talk to Neal earlier in the evening. Family and friends of Neal said White is Neal's ex-boyfriend and Neal had broken off the relationship about three months ago.

Neal was the daughter of internationally known Baton Rouge blues man Raful Neal and the brother of musician Kenny Neal. She released three CDs between 1995 and 2002 that veered between blues, funk and pop.

The Neal family is one of the most prominant blues family's in this country.  Similar to what the Hawkins and Winans families are to gospel.

During her career, Jackie recorded four albums.

Jackie's career was on the rise at the time of her murder.  She had just launched a independent record label.

Jackie was extremely popular in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and all surrounding Southern states.

(WILLIE HUTCH)

Willie McKinley Hutchinson, known professionally as Willie Hutch (December 6, 1944 – September 19, 2005) was an singer, guitarist, songwriter, and record producer. Hutch, born in Los Angeles, California and raised in Dallas, Texas, is notable as both a performer and songwriter/producer for the Motown label during the 1970s. Before joining Motown, Hutch worked as a producer for acts such as The 5th Dimension. Besides writing hit songs such as The Jackson 5's "I'll Be There." Hutch also recorded several albums for Motown (and later for Whitfield Records, run by former Motown producer Norman Whitfield), and had top 20 R&B hits with singles such as "Brother's Gonna Work It Out" from the "Mack," soundtrack and "Slick" (both 1973). Following in the tradition of Curtis Mayfield, he recorded the soundtrack album for the blaxploitation films The Mack (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974) and he also contributed to the "Cleopatra Jones," soundtrack.

Hutch died on September 19, 2005 of reasons yet to be disclosed. He was 60.

Having played a leading role in the Broadway production of Hair, Ronnie Dyson pursued his thespian ambitions in "Salvation," a less infamous musical, from 1970. One of its songs, "(If You Let Me Make Love To You Then) Why Can't I Touch You?", was a US Top 10 hit, while the singer reached the R&B chart with several subsequent singles, including "I Don't Wanna Cry" (1970) and "The More You Do It (The More I Like It Done To Me)" (1976). In 1971 "When You Get Right Down To It" reached the UK Top 40. Despite switching labels from Columbia Records to Cotillion, Dyson was unable to achieve another major success, and "All Over Your Face" (1983) was his last chart entry. He died of heart failure in 1990.

Edwin Starr (January 21, 1942 – April 2, 2003) was an soul music singer. Born Charles Edwin Hatcher in Nashville, Tennessee, Starr is most famous for his Norman Whitfield produced Motown singles of the 1970s, most notably the number one hit "War." Edwin Starr died of a heart attack at the age of 61 in his home in Beeston near Nottingham. His brother Angelo Starr is now fronting "The Team," the band that Edwin Starr toured with until his death.

Trevor Berbick briefly held the WBC heavyweight title in 1986, before losing it to Mike Tyson. He was also noted for being the last man to fight Muhammad Ali, winning their 10-round contest in Nassau, Bahamas on December 11, 1981.  Berbick was arrested on a number of occasions throughout his life and was sentenced in Florida to 5 years in prison (he served only 15 months) for sexually assaulting his children's babysitter in 1992. In 1997, he violated his parole and was ordered to be deported from the United States. One of the more memorable sports events in Berbick's life was his well publicized feud with Holmes, whom he fought in 1981. Their feud culminated in a public brawl in 1991 which was caught on tape (see link below) in which Larry Holmes landed a flying drop kick on Berbick off the hood of a car while Berbick was being escorted by police. He retired in Florida to be with his wife and three children (he also had three children with his first wife in Montreal) and started to train boxers at Kenny Barrett's Gym (Tamarac Florida). However, Berbick's problems only escalated. He was again ordered deported from the U.S. on December 2, 2002.

On October 28, 2006, he was murdered at a church in Norwich, Jamaica by an assailant wielding a 2 inch thick steel pipe. He suffered multiple blows to the head which resulted in him dying at the scene of the attack.  Police have arrested 2 men (one of the men arrested and charged is Berbick's 20-year-old nephew in connection with the death, and were interrogating him at the Port Antonio police station in Portland as of early in the morning of October 29. Local residents have indicated that the suspect was involved in a land dispute with Berbick. On November 3 it was reported that Berbick's nephew, 20-year-old Harold Berbick, and an unidentified 18-year-old man had been charged with his murder by Jamaican police. On December 20, 2007 Harold Berbick was found guilty of the murder of his uncle. His alleged accomplice, Kenton Gordon, was found guilty of manslaughter. Both will be sentenced on January 11, 2008.

Oscar Emmanuel Peterson (15 August 1925 – 23 December 2007) was a Canadian jazz pianist and composer. Called the "Maharajah of the keyboard" by Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson is considered to have been one of the greatest piano players in the history of jazz. He played to audiences worldwide in a career lasting more than 60 years.  His work has earned him seven Grammy awards over the years and he was elected to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1978. He also belongs to the Juno Awards Hall of Fame and the Canadian Jazz and Blues Hall of Fame.  Peterson had to cancel his performance at the 2007 Toronto Jazz Festival, and attendance at a June 8 Carnegie Hall all-star performance in his honor, due to illness. On December 23, 2007, he died of kidney failure at his home in Mississauga, a western suburb of Toronto, he was 82.

OSCAR BROWN, JR.

Oscar Brown, Jr. (October 10, 1926 – May 29, 2005) was a singer, songwriter, playwright, poet, humanitarian and civil rights activist. He ran for office in the Illinois state legislature and U.S. Congress, both unsuccessfully.  Brown recorded 11 albums.  He also wrote/co-wrote 10 musicals which he also starred in.  Lena Horne and Mahalia Jackson recorded compositions written by Brown.  Brown married Jean Pace (sister of actress Judy Pace).  Two of his seven children grew to become performers, with whom he regularly worked until his son, Oscar "Bobo" Brown III, an accomplished bassist, vocalist, and composer, died in a tragic automobile accident on August 12, 1996, at the age of 39.  Oscar Brown, Jr., died in 2005 at the age of 79, cause of death unknown.  He is survived by his wife Jean, their one son and four daughters.

Junior Walker (born Autry DeWalt Mixon, Jr., June 14, 1931 – November 23, 1995) & the All Stars were signed to the Motown label in the 1960s, and became one of the label's signature acts.  Their first and signature hit was "Shotgun", written by Junior Walker and produced by Berry Gordy. "Shotgun" reached #4 on the Pop chart and #1 on the R&B chart in 1965, and was followed by many other hits, such as "(I'm A) Road Runner", "Shake and Fingerpop" and covers of the Motown classics "Come See About Me" and "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)." In 1969 the group had another hit entering the top 5. "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" reached #4 on the Pop chart and #1 on the R&B chart. From that time on Walker sang more on the records than earlier in their career. In 1983, Walker was re-signed with Motown. He died on November 23, 1995 in Battle Creek, Michigan of cancer. Drummer James Graves died in 1967 in a car accident, and guitarist Willie Woods in 1997 at age 60.

Roebuck "Pops" Staples died after a brief illness in 2007, he was 85.  Daughter Cleotha is currently suffering with Alzheimers disease.

Jimmy Smith, (December 8, 1925 (year of birth is disputable & is often stated as 1928) – February 8, 2005) was a jazz musician whose Hammond B-3 electric organ performances helped to popularize this instrument.  In 2005, Jimmy Smith was awarded the NEA Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest honors that the United States bestows upon jazz musicians.  While the electric organ was used in jazz by Fats Waller and Count Basie, Smith's virtuoso improvisation technique on the Hammond helped to popularize the electric organ as a jazz and blues instrument.   Smith influenced bands such as the Beastie Boys, who sampled the bassline from "Root Down (and Get It)" from Root Down—and saluted Smith in the lyrics—for their own hit "Root Down," Medeski, Martin & Wood, and The Hayden-Eckert Ensemble.  Smith and Joey DeFrancesco later played together on the collaborative album" Legacy," released in 2005 shortly after Smith's death.

The Following Celebrities Who Died In 2007, courtesy of: Jackie Jones @ Black America Web.com:

Darrent Williams of the Denver Broncos was killed in a drive-by shooting just hours into the New Year after leaving a nightclub in Denver. Williams, a second-round pick in the 2005 draft out of Oklahoma State, started nine games as a rookie due to injuries. This season, he took over as the starter for Lenny Walls alongside Champ Bailey and was second on the team with four interceptions and tied for third with 86 tackles.

Billy Henderson, 67, (above, center) a member of the band The Spinners, whose voice was heard most prominently on "I'll Be Around," died on Feb. 2.

Alice Coltrane, the jazz pianist and organist who was closely linked with the music of her late husband, legendary saxophonist John Coltrane, died Jan. 14. She was known for her contributions to jazz and early New Age music, including bringing the harp into jazz music and featuring astral compositions, as well as being the keeper of her husband’s archive and musical legacy. A convert to Hinduism, Coltrane was also a significant spiritual leader and founded the Vedantic Center, a spiritual commune in the Los Angeles area.

Singer-actress Barbara McNair, 72, who gained fame as a nightclub singer and Broadway star in the ‘60s, died on Feb. 4. After strong reviews in a musical called “The Body Beautiful” in 1958, McNair starred in the Broadway musical “No Strings” in 1963. She hosted her own TV variety show from 1969 to 1971 and starred with Sidney Poitier in the 1970 films “They Call Me Mister Tibbs” and “The Organization” in 1971.

Dennis Johnson, 52, a five-time All-Star and star defensive guard who was part of three NBA championships, died Feb. 22. He played on title teams with the Boston Celtics in 1984 and 1986 and the Seattle SuperSonics in 1979, a series in which he won the finals MVP title. Johnson was coach of the Austin Toros of the NBA Development League.

Damien Nash, 24, was a running back for the Denver Broncos, died Feb 24. The fifth-round draft choice by Tennesee in 2005 played in just three games for the Titans. The Broncos signed him as a free agent last season. He played in three games, rushing for 66 yards on 18 carries. In his two-year career, he had 24 carries for 98 yards and seven receptions for 55 yards.

Percy Rodrigues’ role as a neurosurgeon in the 1960s television series "Peyton Place" broke ground because he was cast as an authority figure when relatively few black actors were given such parts. When Rodrigues was added to the "Peyton Place" cast in 1968 as Dr. Harry Miles, the headline in The New York Times read, "A Doctor's Role for Negro Actor." Rodrigues, 89, who died Sept. 6, also had a long career as a voice over actor. About the same time as his breakthrough on "Peyton Place," Rodrigues, a Canadian of African and Portuguese descent, played a commodore in a Star Trek TV episode and an embittered doctor in the 1968 film, "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter." From the 1950s through the 1980s, he acted in more than 80 film and television productions, including the 1979 miniseries "Roots: The Next Generation."

Olympic medalist Willye White, 67, a two-time Olympic medalist in track and field and the first woman to compete for the United States in five Olympics, died Feb. 6. White competed in five consecutive Olympic Games between 1956 and 1972. She won a silver medal in the long jump at the 1956 Games in Melbourne, Australia, at age 16 and won her second silver medal in 1964 as a member of the 4x100-meter relay team in Tokyo.

Ronnie Wells, a popular jazz vocalist based in Washington, D.C. who came to prominence in the mid-1960s, making several television appearances and singing on stage with a number of luminaries, including Billy Eckstine, Lonnie Liston Smith and Oscar Brown, Jr., died March 7. She appeared semi-annually for five years, beginning in 1992, at Blackbeard’s Castle in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and also performed on a number of occasions with the U.S. Airmen of Note, the U.S. Navy Commodores Orchestra and appeared at the Kennedy Center, Smithsonian Institution and other concert halls nightclubs and jazz festivals in the U.S. and abroad. She also had taught jazz vocal techniques in a program she created at the University of Maryland’s Department of Music.

Actor Carl Wright, 75, began his career as a tap dancer and comedian and later appeared in movies including "Barbershop" and "Big Momma's House." His film credits also included "Soul Food," "Barbershop 2: Back in Business" and "The Cookout." He died May 19.

Yolanda Denise King, 51, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s eldest child, pursued her father's dream of racial harmony through drama and motivational speaking. King, who died May 15, appeared in a number of films, including a role as civil rights martyr Medgar Evers’ daughter in "Ghosts of Mississippi," and as Rosa Parks in the 1978 television miniseries "King." King also ran a film production company. King, who was 12 when her father was slain, learned of his death from a television news bulletin while washing dishes at her family’s home in Atlanta.

New England Patriots defensive end Marquise Hill, 24, spent much of his free time and his NFL paycheck helping loved ones in New Orleans rebuild in the hurricane-damaged city where he grew up.The former LSU star died in a jet ski accident on Lake Pontchartrain on May 27.

Rhythm-and-blues singer Bill Pinkney, 81, the last survivor of the original members of the musical group The Drifters, died July 4. Pinkney was among the seven significant contributors to The Drifters inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, including original members Clyde McPhatter and Gerhardt Thrasher, and subsequent members Ben E. King. Charlie Thomas, Rudy Lewis and Johnny Moore.

Max Roach, 83, a master percussionist whose rhythmic innovations and improvisations defined bebop jazz during a wide-ranging career where he collaborated with artists from Duke Ellington to rapper Fab Five Freddy, died Aug. 15.

Frank Morgan, 73, a jazz saxophonist whom critics likened to Charlie Parker, but whose fame was diminished by a three-decade struggle with drug addiction, died Dec. 14. He debuted as a solo artist in 1955 with a hard bop collection before slipping into addiction. He played off and on, but after a prison conversion to Islam, Morgan produced his second album in 1985 and in 1986 played a series of acclaimed performances at the Village Vanguard in New York, maintaining a rigorous schedule of performances even after he suffered a stroke in 1998. He was the lead instrumentalist on more than a dozen albums, playing with noted musicians including Wynton Marsalis, McCoy Tyner, Kenny Burrell and singer Abbey Lincoln.

Clarinetist Alvin Batiste toured with Ray Charles and Cannonball Adderley, recorded with Branford Marsalis and taught pianist Henry Butler. Though his age was not precisely known, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival officials said he was born in New Orleans in 1932. Batiste suffered a heart attack and died May 6, just hours before he was to perform at the festival with Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr.

The legendary former Grambling State University football coach Eddie Robinson, 88, sent more than 200 players to the NFL, including Hall of Famers Charlie Joiner, Buck Buchanan, Willie Davis and Willie Brown. Robinson, who died April 3, won 408 games in 45 winning seasons, nine National Black College championships and 17 Southwestern Athletic Conference titles during a 57-year career. Robinson’s tenure spanned 11 presidents, several wars and the civil rights movement.

Donda West, 58, mother of rapper Kanye West, was the former chairwoman of Chicago State University's English department and was the inspiration for the song, "Hey Mama," on Kanye West's 2005 album, "Late Registration." In May, she published the book, "Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip-Hop Star," in which she paid homage to her famous son. She died Nov. 10.

Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor, 24, died on Nov. 27, a day after he was shot at home during a botched burglary at his Florida home. An All-American at the University of Miami, Taylor was drafted by the Redskins as the fifth overall selection in 2004.

Rapper Pimp C, 33, who helped define Southern hip-hop with his group, UGK, died Dec. 4. Pimp C, whose real name was Chad Butler, formed UGK with his partner, Bun B, in the late 1980s in Port Arthur, Texas. The group's first nationally distributed album, "Too Hard to Swallow," was released in 1992. The next year, a song from the album was included on the soundtrack for the film, "Menace II Society."

Ike Turner’s role as one of rock's critical architects was overshadowed by his ogrelike image as the man who abused former wife and icon Tina Turner. Turner, 76, managed to rehabilitate his image somewhat in his later years, touring with his band, the Kings of Rhythm, and drawing critical acclaim for his work. Turner died Dec. 12. He won a Grammy in 2007 in the traditional blues album category for "Risin' With the Blues."

Louil Silas, founder and President of Silas Records, died of kidney failure. His death received little fanfare in 2001. He was 44. Louil was responsible for the careers of New Edition, Jody Watley & Chanté Moore. Silas worked in promotions prior to launching Silas Records formation, Silas was very instrumental to the success of SOLAR (Sound Of Los Angeles Records) and their artists, including The Whispers, Shalamar, Dynasty, etc.

Marvin "Sweet Louie" Smith (above, right) one half of the R&B duo, the Checkmates, has died. He was 68.

Smith died Saturday of a heart attack aboard the Caribbean Princess cruise ship in the Caribbean, where he was scheduled to perform, said his agent, Mike Moloney. Smith's counterpart, Sonny Charles, a friend since childhood in Fort Wayne, Indiana, found Smith in his cabin before they were to rehearse for a show that evening, Moloney said.

The two had served in the Army together under the late-1950s "buddy system," touring in the entertainment division of the Army's Special Services, after which they set their sights on Las Vegas.

The act took off in 1964, when the Checkmates started performing at the Pussycat A Go Go, located on what is now the site of the Wynn Las Vegas resort. The group went on to perform at the Sands and Caesars Palace.

The duo's best-known recordings include "Love is All I Have to Give" and a remake of "Proud Mary." But 1969's Phil Spector-produced "Black Pearl" was their most successful single, a Top 10 hit.

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Smith was a contemporary of some of the greatest performers of all time, including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Bill Cosby, Moloney said.

Some of the duo's highlights included performing with Sinatra at the Oakland Coliseum, a concert at Madison Square Garden with Herb Alpert and singing the national anthem for the "Thrilla in Manila," the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier heavyweight championship boxing match in the Philippines.

The Checkmates were inducted into the Las Vegas Hall of Fame in 2000.

DEATH OF A BLACK SUPERMODEL:

Rewind: Nicknamed the "black princess", the 47-year-old Katoucha Niane went missing from her home on a central stretch of the river on the night of February 1.

The mother-of-three disappeared after being dropped off from a party and her handbag was later recovered near her houseboat.

Born in Conakry, Katoucha worked with the greatest couture stars at the height of her career in the 1980s including Saint Laurent.

Katoucha left the catwalk for good in 1994, but in recent years she made headlines as an outspoken campaigner against female circumcision, launching a foundation against the practice.

Excised at the age of nine, in her home country Guinea, Katoucha recounted the ordeal in a recent book entitled "In My Flesh".

She said she saw her career as a top model as a form of "revenge" for the horror of excision.

"I embodied the most arrogant and admired kind of femininity, I who was supposed to be diminished," she wrote.

Fast Forward: Paris judicial police say the body of former top model Katoucha Niane has been found in the River Seine.

Police say the body was found Thursday and that a subsequent autopsy confirmed it as the model's.

Police say the body showed no signs of foul play, pointing to the possibility that she may have fallen accidentally in the river.

The former model went missing in February.

Ivan Dixon was an actor and television director, best known for his roles in the 1960's sitcom "Hogan's Heroes," and for his Emmy Award-nominated role in the 1967 telefilm "The Final War of Olly Winter." Dixon also directed hundreds of episodes for numerous TV shows. He was also active in the Civil Rights movement, he served as a president of Negro Actors for Action.  After his career as an actor and director, Dixon was the owner-operator of radio station KONI (FM) in Maui. In 2001 he left the islands for health reasons and sold the radio station in 2002.

Ivan Dixon died in 2008 at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina after a hemorrhage and complications from kidney failure, according to his daughter, Doris Nomathande Dixon of Charlotte. He was also survived by a son, Alan Kimara Dixon, and by his wife of 58 years, the former Berlie Ray.

On November 10, 2006, Gerald Levert was found dead in his bed at his Newbury home when a cousin tried to wake him. Initial reports stated that Levert had died of an apparent heart attack. In February of 2007, an autopsy report conducted by the Cuyahoga County coroner's office concluded that Levert's death was caused by a fatal combination of prescription narcotics and over-the-counter drugs. The drugs in his bloodstream included the narcotic pain relievers Vicodin, Percocet, and Darvocet, along with anxiety medication Xanax and two over-the-counter antihistamines. The autopsy also revealed that Levert had pneumonia. The official cause of death was acute intoxication, and the death was ruled accidental. Gerald Levert was 40 years old.

Sean Levert, a third of the 1980s R&B trio LeVert and son of lead O'Jays singer Eddie Levert, has died after falling ill while serving a jail term. He was 39. Authorities said Monday an autopsy was inconclusive but foul play was ruled out. Levert was sentenced last week to 22 months behind bars for failing to pay $89,025 in child support. He died at Lutheran Hospital in Cleveland late Sunday, less than an hour after he was taken there from the jail, said coroner Frank Miller.

Henrietta Bell Wells--the lone female debater (above, 3rd from the left) on the historic Wiley College debate team in the 1930s, depicted in the recent movie The Great Debaters--died on March 12, 2008, at age 96.  She was portrayed in the film by actress Jurnee Smollett (2nd photo).

Three days after his 32nd birthday on February 10, 2006, J Dilla (born James Yancey) died of complications related to lupus, an inflammatory disease that can affect a person’s blood, skin, joints and kidneys.

The Detroit-born producer, also known as Jay Dee, was highly regarded for creating bottom-heavy, soulful tracks for several R&B and hip-hop luminaries including Common, Erykah Badu and A Tribe Called Quest, among others.

Billy Preston died on June 6, 2006 in Scottsdale, Arizona, of complications of malignant hypertension that resulted in kidney failure and other complications. He had been in a coma since November 21, 2005. His funeral was held on June 20 at the Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, California. Preston is interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood, California.

Lawrence Lloyd Brown, Sr., an original member of the legendary Blue Notes, the Philly-based R&B group orignally known as Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, died Sunday of a respiratory condition. He was 63 and lived in North Philadelphia. Lawrence was still performing with the group until January, when he became ill while singing at the Harrah's casino, in Chester.

"Show & Tell" singer dies

R&B singer Al Wilson, best known for his hit single, "Show & Tell", died on 4/22/08 at Kaiser Permanente in Fontana, according to a family spokesperson.Born June 19, 1939 in Meridian, Miss., Wilson moved to the San Bernardino area in 1958 where he worked odd jobs as a mail carrier, a janitor, and an office clerk before touring for four years with Johnny Harris and the Statesmen. After a two-year stint in the Navy, Wilson moved to Los Angeles and toured local clubs performing with groups The Jewels and The Souls before he was signed with manager Marc Gordon in 1966. He released his first single, "The Snake", in 1968.Wilson was a San Bernardino resident at the time of his death.

 

Orish Grinstead (above) founding member of R&B girl group 702 out of Las Vegas, Nevada, passed away on Sunday, April 20th from kidney failure. She was 27 years old. Orish, who created the group along with her twin sister, Irish and big sister Lameisha, was what friends called ‘a good person, sweet, sincere, humble and full of life.’ According to friends Orish had been ill for a long time, and sadly, due to other medical complications she suffered from including cancer that had yet to be treated, she was not expected to live too long.

Bo Diddley died on June 2, 2008 of heart failure at his home in Archer, Florida. Garry Mitchell, a grandson of Diddley and one of more than 35 family members at the musician's home when he died at 1:45 a.m. EDT (05:45 GMT), said his death was not unexpected. "There was a gospel song that was sung (at his bedside) and (when it was done) he said 'wow' with a thumbs up," Mitchell told Reuters, when asked to describe the scene at Diddley's deathbed. "The song was 'Walk Around Heaven' and in his last words "I'm going to heaven."

At the time of his death, Diddley's survivors included his 4 children, Evelyn Kelly, Ellas A. McDaniel, Tammi D. McDaniel, and Terri Lynn McDaniel; 15 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and 3 great-great-grandchildren; and a brother, Kenneth Haynes of Biloxi, MS.

Bernie Mac suffered from sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease that produces tiny lumps of cells in the body's organs, but had said the condition went into remission in 2005.

On July 24, 2008, Mac was hospitalized with an infection, that was later identified as pneumonia. The news of his hospitalization would not be announced for over a week, when his publicist claimed that Mac had pneumonia. The next day, responding to rumors that the actor was in "very, very critical condition," his publicist said that he was responding well to treatment, and should be released soon. On August 9, his publicist announced that Mac had died from complications of pneumonia unrelated to sarcoidosis.

The 2008 Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago, on the day he died, was dedicated to his memory.

Mac's funeral was held on August 16 at the House of Hope megachurch. More than 6,000 people attended his funeral.

Isaac Lee Hayes, Jr. (August 20, 1942 – August 10, 2008) was an American soul and funk singer-songwriter, musician, record producer, arranger, composer, and actor. Hayes was one of the main creative forces behind southern soul music label Stax Records, where he served as both an in-house songwriter and producer with partner David Porter during the mid-1960s. In the late 1960s, Hayes became a recording artist, and recorded successful soul albums such as Hot Buttered Soul (1969) and Black Moses (1971) as the Stax label's premier artist.

Alongside his work in popular music, Hayes was a film score composer for motion pictures. His best known work, for the 1971 blaxploitation film Shaft, earned Hayes an Academy Award for Best Original Song (the first Academy Award received by an African-American in a non-acting category) and two Grammy Awards. He received a third Grammy for the album Black Moses.

Hayes was found unconscious in his home located just east of Memphis, Tennessee on August 10, 2008 as reported by the Shelby County Sheriff's Department. A Shelby County Sheriff's deputy responded to Hayes's home after his wife found him on the floor near a still-running treadmill. Hayes was taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis, where he was pronounced dead at 2:08pm at the age of 65. The cause of death was not immediately known, though authorities subsequently listed stroke as the cause of death. At the time of his death, he was preparing his first new studio album since 1995.

Motown lost a musical sensation.

Pervis Jackson, (far left, above) a member of "The Spinners," died from cancer at Sinai Grace hospital this morning.

The group took off in the 70's with one of its bigger hits - Games People Play.

Pervis Jackson was 70-years-old.

Ray Vitte who starred in films, "Car Wash," "Thank God It's Friday," and "Grambling White Tiger," was shot and killed by a policeman during a scuffle at a party on 2/20/83 in Los Angeles.

Eugene Thurman Upshaw, Jr. (August 15, 1945 – August 20, 2008) was a football player for the Oakland Raiders and executive director of the National Football League Players' Association (NFLPA). In 1987, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

While on vacation in mid-August 2008 at his home in Lake Tahoe, Upshaw began to feel ill. His wife Terri noticed that his breathing was labored, so she convinced him to go to the emergency room, where he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on August 17. On August 20, just five days after his 63rd birthday, Upshaw died with Terri and his sons Eugene III, Justin, and Daniel by his side.

Julius J. Carry III (March 12, 1952 - August 19, 2008), was an actor. Carry is best known for his role in the film "The Last Dragon," where he portrayed Sho'Nuff.  He also appeared primarily in numerous television roles, including Dr. Abraham Butterfield on Doctor, Doctor and the bounty hunter Lord Bowler in the The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.  He has also appeared on shows such as "Family Matters," "A Different World," " Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place," and "Boy Meets World."

He died on August 19, 2008 of pancreatic cancer.

Kevin Jerome Duckworth (April 1, 1964 – August 25, 2008) was a professional basketball player at center in the National Basketball Association, most notably as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers.  Duckworth died of a heart attack on Monday, August 25, 2008 in Gleneden Beach, Oregon, near the coastal town of Lincoln City. He collapsed in his hotel room, and emergency services were unable to revive him. His death was confirmed by the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office. Duckworth was in town as part of a Trail Blazers group hosting a free kids basketball clinic. An autopsy identified the cause of death as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy with congestive heart failure. He was 44.

Arthur L. 'Art' Porter, Jr., (3 August 1961 - 23 November 1996), was a jazz saxophonist. He was also the son of legendary jazz musician Art Porter, Sr., as well as the namesake of "The Art Porter Bill."

In 1996 Porter traveled to Thailand to appear at the Thailand International Jazz Festival. After the festival on 23 November he went boating on the Kratha Taek reservoir in Sai Yok, Thailand. Tragically, the boat Porter was traveling on overturned, and Porter, along with several others, drowned. Porter was survived by his wife and two elementary age sons.

Producer/songwriter Norman Whitfied is mostly known for his work with Berry Gordy's Motown label during the 1960s. He was credited as being one of the creators of the Motown Sound, as well as one of the major instrumental figures in the late-60s sub-genre of psychedelic soul.

Hit singles Whitfield produced in his 25-year career included "I Heard It through the Grapevine", "Ain't Too Proud to Beg."Cloud  Nine,"  "War,"  "Papa Was a Rolling Stone," "Smiling Faces Sometimes" and "Car Wash."  Alongside his Motown lyrical collaborator Barrett Strong, he was inducted to the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 2004.

On January 18, 2005, Whitfield pleaded guilty for failing to report royalty income he earned from 1995 to 1999 to the Internal Revenue Service. Facing charges of tax evasion on over $2 million worth of income, he was sentenced to six months of house arrest and a $25,000 fine. The producer was not imprisoned because of health problems such as diabetes.

During his last months alive, Whitfield stayed bedded at Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where he underwent treatment for his bout with diabetes and other ailments. Within a few weeks before his death, Whitfield fell into a coma, which he eventually recovered from.  According to The Undisputed Truth leader Joe Harris, Whitfield died on September 16, 2008 at approximately 3:30 pm.

After moving to Los Angeles in 1975, Nathan Cook was known for roles on two television series. He played Milton Reese, one of the high school basketball players, on "The White Shadow," (1978-1980). He also played security head Billy Griffin on "Hotel," (1983-1988). Between these two he had a shorter role (1981-1982) as Detective Virgil Brooks in "Hill Street Blues."

He was also involved for a time with the actress Alfre Woodard before marrying and having two children in 1984 and 1986.

He also made frequent appearances as a celebrity guest on the game shows "Body Language," "Super Password," and "The $100,000 Pyramid."

Cook, an accomplished jazz flute player, died in 1988 from a severe allergic reaction to penicillin.

His favorite saying was: "It's okay to fool the people, as long as you don't fool yourself."

Distinguished African-American actress Gloria Foster studied at the Goodman Theatre, making her earliest professional appearances with the University of Chicago County Theater. Foster's first Broadway role was Ruth in Lorraine Hansbury's Raisin in the Sun. In 1963, she appeared in the powerful dramatic review In White America, earning an Obie Award as well as a two-page spread in Life Magazine. The following year, she was honored with a Theatre World award for her portrayal of Medea, one of dozens of classic stage roles to her credit. She made her film bow in 1963's The Cool World, followed by a sizeable role opposite Ivan Dixon in the critically acclaimed Nothing But a Man. She later co-starred with Bill Cosby (To All My Friends on Shore, Leonard Part 6) and Sidney Poitier (Separate but Equal). Gloria Foster's many television credits include two guest appearances on The Mod Squad, co-starring with her then-husband, actor/director Clarence Williams III. Though her film roles remained relatively scarce throughout the 1990s, Foster's role as The Oracle in the 1999 metaphysical sci-fi smash The Matrix proved a welcome sight to fans who hadn't seen her since her 1993 television effort Percy and Thunder. Returning to the role for 2003's The Matrix Reloaded, Foster sadly died of diabetes before completing all of her scenes for the film (and having not even begun shooting her scenes for the same year's The Matrix Revolutions). She was 64

This space is usually reserved for Black "celebrities" who died with little or no fanfare but in this case we have to make an exception.  One of our avid readers who was also a lurker on the message board recently died in a motorcycle crash.  Shalina Guess (above) was a panachigan (part of our online/offline PR family) and a big supporter of the site.  Her mom turned her on to Panache Report.com.  One of our distributors circulates offline PR newsletters at her mom's job. 

Her mother took the newsletters home and this is how Shalina discovered PR, she never turned back and was awaiting PR merchandise (t-shirts and caps).  Shalina was also responsible for turning on a younger generation (in the bay area) to our site through word of mouth. 

Shalina was riding shotgun on the back of a motorcycle driven by a friend, the motorcycle lost control and struck a tree.  Shalina was killed instantly, the driver escaped with minor cuts and bruises.  Invesitgators theorize the driver may have been going at a high rate of speed.  Shalina Guess was 21.  May you RIP.

Darrent Williams was selected by the Denver Broncos in the second round (56th overall) in the 2005 NFL Draft. He recorded his first career interception on November 13, 2005 versus the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders were driving to score, when quarterback Kerry Collins attempted a pass to wide receiver Jerry Porter. Williams jumped the route, intercepted the ball and took it 82 yards for the touchdown. The Broncos won the game, 31-17.

On January 1, 2007, Williams was shot during a drive-by shooting, at approximately 2:10 A.M. Williams and two other passengers were shot when another vehicle pulled beside his rented Hummer H2 limousine in downtown Denver, Colorado. The shooting occurred near 11th Ave. and Speer Blvd. It happened less than 12 hours after the Broncos played their final game of the 2006 season against the San Francisco 49ers in Denver.

Williams had been attending a New Year's Eve party and birthday party held for and by Denver Nuggets player Kenyon Martin at the nightclub, "The Shelter." The Denver Police Department reported that the shooting was preceded by some type of altercation or argument at the nightclub between Crips gang members and other unknown patrons. A police spokesman said, "There was some confrontation between a group of people in the vehicle and a group at the nightclub." Williams was not involved in the altercation.

According to the county coroner's office, Williams sustained a single gunshot wound to the neck, killing him instantly. After Williams was shot, he fell in the lap of Broncos teammate, Javon Walker. He was pronounced dead around 2:30 a.m. The two other passengers injured in the shooting, Brandon Flowers and Nicole Reindl, were both released from the hospital the day after the shooting.

Denver police impounded a vehicle in connection with the shooting. The suspected vehicle was registered to Brian Hicks, a 28-year-old Crips gang member, who was already incarcerated awaiting trial for attempted murder and drug charges. Other associates of Hicks were questioned as potential material witnesses to the Williams shooting. Rumors persist that it was a gang-related event; however, there hasn't been any concrete evidence to suggest that. Williams' family and teammates also say that the scenario was highly unlikely.

Williams was survived by his seven-year-old son, four-year-old daughter and 24-year-old girlfriend, all of whom live in Fort Worth, Texas. A memorial fund was set up in their name. Denver Nuggets stars, Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin, who were with Williams at the nightclub the evening of the shooting, planned to honor their friend by possibly setting up a college fund for Williams' children. A fan-constructed memorial was formed on the southern wall of the fountain in front of Invesco Field at Mile High.

Javon Walker decided to wear his hair in a "fro-hawk," in honor of Williams, who wore his hair in a similar way as a trademark.

On May 29, 2008, the Darrent Williams Memorial Teen Center was opened in Denver.

On May 30, 2008, the Rocky Mountain News published a story claiming that it had obtained a signed confession letter by Crips gang member Willie D. Clark, in which he admitted to firing the shots that killed Williams.

On October 8, 2008 Willie Clark was indicted by a grand jury for the murder of Darrent Williams.

Levi Stubbles (June 6, 1936 – October 17, 2008), better known by the stage name Levi Stubbs, was an baritone singer, best known as the lead vocalist of the Four Tops.

Stubbs began his professional singing career with friends Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton to form the Four Aims in 1954. Two years later, the group changed their name to the Four Tops. The group began as a supper-club act before finally signing to Motown Records in 1963; by the end of the decade, the Four Tops had over a dozen hits to their name. The most popular of the Four Tops hits, all of which featured Stubbs on lead vocals, include "Baby I Need Your Loving", "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)", "It's the Same Old Song", "Reach Out I'll Be There", "Standing in the Shadows of Love", "Bernadette", "Still Water (Love)", and "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)".

Although Stubbs was a natural baritone, most of the Four Tops' hits were written in a tenor range to give the lead vocals a sense of urgency. Stubbs and the other Tops remained a team until Payton died in 1997, at which point Theo Peoples took his place. The Four Tops were elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. Benson also died on July 1, 2005. Levi Stubbs passed away after a long illness on October 17, 2008.

As an actor, credited as Levi Stubbs, Jr., he provided the voice of the carnivorous plant "Audrey II" in the movie version of the musical Little Shop of Horrors (1986) and the voice of Mother Brain in the animated TV series Captain N: The Game Master (1989). Stubbs has also guest starred in a number of TV shows as himself.

Stubbs and his wife Clineice were married from 1960 until his death, and had five children. In 1995, Stubbs was diagnosed with cancer, and later, a stroke, and stopped touring. Since 2000, Theo Peoples has taken Stubbs' place as the lead singer of the Four Tops, with Ronnie McNeir taking the place that Payton originally held. Levi Stubbs died in his sleep on October 17, 2008 at his home in Detroit from his ailments. He was 72.

Stubbs was a cousin of soul singer Jackie Wilson. He also had a brother, Joe, who was a member of both The Contours and The Originals, who died February 5, 1998.

Bob Jones, the longtime publicist for Michael Jackson who said he dubbed the singer "the king of pop" and who co-wrote "The Man Behind the Mask," an unauthorized biography critical of the star, has died. He was 72.

Jones, who had quadruple-bypass surgery about 17 years ago, died Sept. 20 at his Los Angeles home, apparently of a heart attack, said his sister, Donna Jones.

From 1987 to 2004, Jones helped guide Jackson through "the hailstorms and minefields of unprecedented celebrity," Jones and journalist Stacy Brown wrote in their 2005 book.

When Jackson hired him, Jones had spent 17 years as a Motown Records publicist, helping to craft the images of such singers as Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and Lionel Richie.

Dee Dee Warwick (September 25, 1945 – October 18, 2008 was an African-American soul singer. She was born in Newark, New Jersey as Delia Mae Warrick. Following the lead of her elder sister, Dionne Warwick, she changed her surname from Warrick to Warwick in the early 1960s.

She is best-known for her hits during the 1960s, including the #13 R&B hit "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me", co-written by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff.  This song was later covered by Diana Ross & the Supremes & The Temptations. She is also a two time Grammy nominee for "Foolish Fool" and "She Didn't Know."

She had been in failing health for several months. Dionne Warwick was with her when she died on October 18, 2008 in a nursing home in Essex County, New Jersey.

Rudy Ray Moore (March 17, 1927 – October 19, 2008) was an American comedian, musician, singer, film actor, and film producer. He was perhaps best known as Dolemite, the uniquely articulate pimp from the 1975 film Dolemite, and its sequel, The Human Tornado. The persona was developed during his earlier stand-up comedy records.  On October 19, 2008, Moore died of complications from diabetes.

Former Motown Records president and chief executive Jheryl Busby,who helped launch the careers of Boyz II Men and Queen Latifah, has died.

Busby was found on Tuesday in a hot tub at his home in Malibu, California, the Los Angeles County Assistant Coroner Chief Ed Winter has confirmed. The 59-year-old's official cause of death has yet to be determined, but it is believed that no foul play was involved.

Busby began his career in music at the famed Stax Records in Memphis, Tennessee, and later went on to become the president of the black music division of MCA Records in 1984.

In 1988, he was named the president and chief executive officer of Motown Records, where he oversaw acts like Boyz II Men, Queen Latifah and Johnny Gill.

And soul legend Smokey Robinson maintains Busby's death is a great loss for the music industry.

In a statement, Robinson says: "I had tremendous respect for the way he continued the Motown legacy... My condolences to his family at this difficult time."

(JAY-Z'S DEF JAM SUCCESSOR COMMITS SUICIDE)

Def Jam executive VP Shakir Stewart (1st photo) reportedly committed suicide today (Nov. 1) in Atlanta, according to sources. No other details were available at deadline.

"L.A. Reid and all of us at Island Def Jam Music Group are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend and colleague Shakir Stewart," read a statement sent from the label today. "Shakir was an amazing man in every sense of the word. A truly incredible friend and father who was an inspiration to not only our artists and employees, but to his family and the many people that had the privilege of counting him as a friend. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family at this very difficult time."

Stewart succeeded Jay-Z at the top of the Def Jam ladder in June and also retained his duties as senior VP of A&R at Island Def Jam. The Oakland, Calif., native signed such artists as Rick Ross, Young Jeezy and newcomer Karina Pasian.

Stewart cut his teeth as a music executive at Hitco Music Publishing, where he was creative director and later senior VP of creative/GM and signed Beyonce Knowles.

Even before he gained a rep for promoting rap concerts during his Morehouse College days, Stewart was "the guy who was the head of passing out fliers at seven clubs a night, seven days a week in 20-degree weather," he told Billboard this summer.

Stewart said at the time it was his goal to help develop "new, young executives ... The hot executive who's 21, 22 years old and has a serious passion for music and the desire to work 27 hours a day. That's where I was at that time in my life. And that's who I'm looking to mentor. I don't see many people like that. Instead, I see a lot of kids who want to live the lifestyle but don't want to put in the work and do what it takes."

Beah Richards (July 12, 1920 – September 14, 2000) was an actress with a long career on stage, screen and television. She was also a poet, playwright and author.

She made numerous guest television appearances including recurrent roles on The Bill Cosby Show, Designing Women, and ER (as Dr. Peter Benton's mother.) She was the winner of two Emmy Awards.

In the last year of her life, Richards was the subject of a documentary created by actress Lisa Gay Hamilton. The documentary Beah: A Black Woman Speaks was created from over 70 hours of their conversations. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the AFI Film Festival.

Beah Richards died from emphysema in her hometown of Vicksburg, Mississippi at the age of 80.

"FAMILY MATTERS ACTRESS DIES"

*Rosetta LeNoir, whom many of us now as Mother Winslow from the long-lived sitcom "Family Matters," died in New Jersey after a what has only been described as a long illness. She was 90.

*Introduction: Orson Wells called her the most exciting woman in the world. She was pursued by billionaires, celebrities and diplomats. She was the epitome of class and sophistication. There will never be another Eartha Kitt. May you RIP. -MP

"EARTHA KITT DEAD AT THE AGE OF 81"

Eartha Mae Kitt was born on a cotton plantation in the tiny town of North, South Carolina. Though her ancestry is somewhat uncertain, she stated her mother was of African-American and Native American descent, and her father, German and Dutch descent. She claimed she was conceived by rape.

Kitt was raised by Anna Mae Riley, a black woman whom she believed to be her mother, but after Riley's death, she was sent to live in New York City with Mamie Kitt, reportedly Riley's sister. Eartha Kitt believes that Mamie Kitt was her biological mother.

Kitt suffered terrible abuse and neglect at the hands of a family to whom Anna Mae Riley entrusted her, or "given away for slavery" as Kitt described in many interviews.

These same family members tried to approach Kitt when (she had achieved success). She was leaving the theater after a performance. They screamed out, "Eartha Mae," she knew it was them before she even turned around because only family members called her Eartha Mae.

She said, childhood abuse memories came back and she stiffened without even turning around, she casually stepped in her limo and instructed her driver to drive off.

For years, Kitt was unsure of her birthplace or birth date. In 1997, a group of students at historically black Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, located her birth certificate, which verified her birth date as Jan. 17, 1927. Kitt had previously celebrated on Jan. 26.

MORE ON EARTHA KITT:

Eartha Kitt says, "I often think of my mother. Though I do not remember what she looked like, I feel her presence with me all the time. I still feel her warmth, her beauty, as she played with Pearl, my half-sister."

"We were so poor, most of the time we lived in the forest, or at least slept there covered with pine straw. I remember, a long, long period, we had been traveling a lot. I don't know where we had come from or where we were going, but I walked barefoot on the longest road I had ever seen."

"One day, we looked for shelter, during this time, other Blacks looked out for one another and helped as best they could."

"Momma turned on a pathway leading to a house. She knocked on the door a few times and it opened. I don't know what the face behind the voice looked like as I was busy hiding against Momma's back, not wanting to be seen. Momma asked for shelter and food, pleading softly with the woman. I could hear her saying, 'Just for tonight...my children are hungry and tired."

"As I glanced up to take a quick peek at the voice's owner, she was looking around to see what was hiding: 'No, I don't want that yella gal in my house."

"I wondered, why was I called a yella gal? But this wasn't the first time I heard the term and this wasn't the first time we were rejected from shelter because of my complexion."

"The next scene I remember is Momma talking to a black man, when he took one look at me, he also rejected us."

"Some time later we came to a tiny cottage. Momma knocked on the door. When the door opened I stiffened with fear, afraid of rejection. To my surprise, the older lady invited us in and invited us to stay with her."

A short time later, I realized she was blind and couldn't see my complexion to reject us.

"A few months later, I overheard a conversation between Momma and a man, she was pleading with him to take us in as a family, he shouted, "I don't want that yella gal in my house."

"Later that day, Momma left Pearl and I in the house and met the same man outside. Momma and the man walked away arm in arm and I stood at the window looking out at them. Momma seemed so happy."

"This was the last time I ever saw my mother."

Source: "Confessions Of A Sex Kitten," by Eartha Kitt

"EARTHA & THE VIETNAM WAR SCANDAL"

During the height of her popularity, Eartha Kitt was invited to the White House by President Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson.

She joined Lady Bird Johnson, along with several other prominent ladies for a discussion on the Vietnam war. Kitt became irritated when the women skirted the subject, instead, discussing on how to beautify America.

When she took the floor, she said as much. "I think we have missed out on something here today, I thought the question was about the Vietnam war and why is there so much juvenile delinquency on the streets of America?"

Suddenly, the First Lady rose from her seat and said, "Just because there is a war going on, I see no reason to be uncivilized."

She didn't like Eartha's tone which she considered uppity.

The lunch was suddenly over, abruptly, without explanation.

Kitt had a limousine when she came, but now, the limo was no longer available to her.

Kitt flagged down a cab. On the radio she heard, "Eartha Kitt makes the First Lady cry." She was stunned. The reporter also stated that Kitt conducted herself like a raving mad lunatic at the White House, which was also false.

Martin Luther King called and said, "We are proud of you Eartha, for speaking your mind."

Since the time was nearing for Kitt to honor a contractual agreement at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, she called her agent for the details of rehearsals. Strangely, he asked, what contract are you talking about? There is no contract, Eartha.

In the meantime, due to her disagreement with Lady Bird Johnson, the President was making it obvious to all the media that she was out of favor.

Meanwhile, every single one of her dates were suddenly cancelled.

According to Kitt, a CIA dossier was compiled, stating: She was a sadist, a sex nymphomaniac, crude, shrewd and difficult.

According to the file, President Johnson had put her out of work in America in two hours.

Source: "Confessions Of A Sex Kitten," by Eartha Kitt

"EARTHA MEETS THE SUPREMES"

According to Martha Reeves,"In the early days of Motown, me and the Vandellas arrived in London, we were all having a wonderful time. One night after a very successful performance, the Vandellas and the Supremes were grouped together and treated to a show featuring the legendary Eartha Kitt. At the dazzling nightclub the "Top Hat." The atmosphere was one of sheer excitement. Just being there in the audience filled me with dreams of one day performing on that same London stage.

"Eartha was superb, at her best, looking and sounding great. With each selection she grew more and more intriguing. She boldly and expertly captured and held the audience's attention. She had us eating out of her hand, totally mesmerized by every move. After one of her breathtaking numbers, she stood behind a screen with a pinpoint spotlight illuminating just her face and changed clothes with an alluring expression-using her eyes to full effect. When the lights came up she had executed a dramatic complete wardrobe change. She ended her next song lying on an exotic cat-skin rug, purring the lyrics to "Santa Baby." She received several curtain calls and standing ovations."

"I was even more elated when she agreed to receive us fellow performers after the show. We were ushered backstage with the Supremes. An assistant swung the door open and we entered the dressing room of this glamorous star. There she sat at her dressing room table, looking every inch the diva in full command."

"Before anyone else could say hello, Diana Ross stepped ahead of us all and blurted out, "Eartha, a lot of people tell me that I look like you."

"Well, after that you could have heard a pin drop. Eartha said not one word in reply. In the icy silence we were all suddenly nervous and uncomfortable.

Eartha didn't miss a beat, though. Without saying anything, she scooped up her makeup and deposited it into her evening bag. She snapped it shut, stood up and turned to our group of dumbfounded girls. She just stood there-staring first at Diana and then looking over the lot of us. As she draped her cheetah-skin coat about her shoulders, she exited saying, "I'm not half as beautiful as you."

Eartha left us all standing there with our mouths agape and bewildered. I was deeply disappointed not being given the chance to tell her how much I loved her show. Quietly, we left."

Source: "Dancing In The Streets," by Martha Reeves & Mark Bego

Miriam Makeba (4 March 1932 - 10 November 2008) was a South African singer and civil rights activist. The Grammy Award winning afrobeat artist is often referred to as Mama Afrika.

In 1959, she performed in the musical King Kong alongside Hugh Masekela, her future husband. Though she was a successful recording artist, she was only receiving a few dollars for each recording session and no provisional royalties, and was keen to go to the US. Her break came when she starred in the anti-apartheid documentary Come Back, Africa in 1959 by independent filmmaker Lionel Rogosin. She attended the premiere of the film at the Venice Film Festival.

Makeba traveled to London where she met Harry Belafonte, who assisted her in gaining entry to and fame in the United States. She released many of her most famous hits there including "Pata Pata", "The Click Song" ("Qongqothwane" in Xhosa), and "Malaika". In 1966, Makeba received the Grammy Award for Best Folk Recording together with Harry Belafonte for An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba. The album dealt with the political plight of black South Africans under apartheid.

On November 09. 2008, Miriam Makeba was performing in concert, and suffered a heart attack after singing her hit "Pata Pata," and was taken to the "Pineta Grande" hospital. Doctors were unable to revive her.

Mae Mercer, a deep-voiced blues singer who spent much of the 1960s performing at a blues bar in Paris and touring Europe before launching an acting career back home in films and television, has died. She was 76.

Mercer was found dead Oct. 29 at her home in Northridge, said Reginald D. Brown, a friend. He said the cause of death had not been determined, but Mercer had suffered two mini-strokes last year and had been in ill health.

Midwest rapper MC Breed, born Eric Breed, was found dead today (Nov. 22) after suffering kidney failure. He was 36.

Breed's manager Darryl Morris confirmed that the rapper was found dead at a friend's home in Ypsilanti, Michigan, the Detroit News is reporting.

In September, Breed collapsed on a basketball court. He was taken to the hospital and put on life support due to kidney failure. He was taken off life support days later, according to SOHH.com.

Helping the Mid-West rise to popularity within hip-hop, the Michigan-bred emcee is known for gaining notice as an independent artist with a number of early 1990's albums, including MC Breed & DFC, 20 Below, The New Breed and Funkafied. Breed's career spans 20-years and 13 albums.

Breed also famously collaborated with various West Coast rap stars including Too Short, Warren G and the late Tupac Shakur.

NEW YORK - Odetta’s monumental voice rang out in August 1963 when she sang "I’m on My Way" at the historic March on Washington, where Martin Luther King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech.

She had hoped to perform again in Washington when Barack Obama is inaugurated as the United States’ first black president. But the acclaimed folk singer, who influenced generations of musicians and was an icon in the civil rights struggle, died Tuesday after battling heart disease. She was 77.

In spite of failing health, Odetta performed 60 concerts in the last two years and her singing ability never diminished, manager Doug Yeager said.

"BLACULA ACTOR DIED"

William Horace Marshall (19 August 1924 – 11 June 2003) was an actor, director, and opera singer. He is best known for his title role in the 1972 blaxploitation classic Blacula and its sequel Scream Blacula Scream (1973), and as the "King of Cartoons" on the 1980's television show Pee-wee's Playhouse beginning with its second season. He had a commanding height of 6 ft 5 in, as well as a deep bass voice.

Marshall was the unmarried partner for 42 years of Sylvia Gussin Jarrico, former wife of blacklisted screenwriter Paul Jarrico. Marshall died June 11, 2003, from complications arising from Alzheimer's disease and diabetes. He is survived by four children: sons Tariq, Malcolm, and Claude Marshall, and daughter, singer Gina Loring. The eulogies at his funeral were spoken by Sidney Poitier, Ivan Dixon, Paul Winfield, and Marla Gibbs.

According to Celebbitchy.com: De’Angelo Wilson, a 29 year-old actor who had parts in 8 Mile, Antwone Fisher and The Salon, was found dead in what looks to be a suicide in a commercial building in Los Angeles. His family didn’t have enough money to send his body to Dayton, Ohio, and his friends including Antwone Fisher made sure he was able to be transported home for a funeral. His mother said the last time she had spoken to him was about six weeks ago. He was having trouble finding work and was depressed:

When Los Angeles police found De’Angelo Wilson’s body in the back room of a Wilshire Boulevard business, he was classified a transient, “but was well known to the people in the area,” said L.A. County coroner’s spokesman Craig Harvey.

Authorities were able to contact Gina White, a producer who had worked with Wilson on the 2002 film “Antwone Fisher,” and who had become close to him — “I kind of adopted him, almost like a son,” she said. “He didn’t talk much about where he came from, or his childhood. When I found out what happened, I made a lot of phone calls — he had a lot of friends. We were desperate to find his family — his friends in California were ready and more than willing to take responsibility, to have a memorial service. But I couldn’t stand the thought of somebody out there not knowing what had happened to their loved one.

“I remember him talking about doing something with the mayor of Dayton,” White recalled, so she searched the Internet for clues.

Wilson’s hometown mayor had, in fact, honored Wilson in September 2002 with a day in his honor and a key to the city, holding him up as an example of a young person “who did not give up on his dream and who worked hard to achieve great things,” said Mayor Rhine McLin at the time.

With that information guiding her searches, White eventually stumbled on a DaytonDailyNews.com story about Wilson’s suicide, published Friday, Dec. 5, the day after his mother had been contacted by authorities.

“I’d prayed the night before over this, and my prayers were answered,” White said. “His family doesn’t have to worry about getting him home — we’ll take care of it.”

The friends include Antwone Fisher, whose own story of overcoming a nightmarish childhood became a movie, directed by Denzel Washington.

“He was such a fun and funny guy,” said Fisher. “I’d have backyard parties and De’Angelo would always come an hour early to help me set up. He’d tell great jokes … It’s just real hard to think of a guy that happy and fun getting down so low.”

“He got depressed,” said Wilson’s mother, Debra. “His career kind of failed, and I think he was beating himself up. Things were real down and he just didn’t know how to pick himself up.” His most recent roles were in 2005’s “The Salon” and “Mercy Street” in 2006.

Wilson attended Dunbar High School, dropped out, earned a GED, and was taking acting classes at Kent State University when he was cast in “8 Mile.” He was on a roll, it seemed, until the bottom dropped out and the acting parts were few and far between.

“I talked to him about a month and a half ago,” said his mother. “He wasn’t good … I was real worried about him.”

Freddie Hubbard, the Grammy-winning jazz musician whose blazing virtuosity influenced generations of trumpet players and who collaborated with such greats as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, died a month after suffering a heart attack at the age of 70.

Hubbard died at Sherman Oaks Hospital in Los Angeles and had been in hospital since suffering the heart attack on November 26.

A towering figure in jazz circles, Hubbard played on literally hundreds of recordings in a career dating to 1958, the year he arrived in New York City from his hometown of Indianapolis.

Soon he had hooked up with such jazz legends as Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, Rollins, Coltrane and others.

Frederick Dewayne Hubbard was born in Indianapolis on April 7, 1938. He grew up playing mellophone, trumpet and French horn.

In 2006, he was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, the nation's highest jazz honor.

Hubbard is survived by his wife of 35 years, Briggie Hubbard, and his son, Duane.

Bernie Hamilton, the brother of jazz drummer Chico Hamilton, was best known for his role on the ’70s police drama “Starsky and Hutch,” but he also appeared in dozens of films and founded the Chocolate Snowman record label. He died Tuesday at age 80.

Stephen "Static Major" Garrett (November 11, 1974 – February 25, 2008) was an R&B singer, rapper, songwriter, and record producer from Louisville, Kentucky. A member of the R&B trio Playa, Static Major wrote for artists such as Aaliyah, Ginuwine, Destiny's Child, Brandy, and JoJo.  After Aaliyah's death in 2001, Static went on to write for other artists; his later co-writing credits include Truth Hurts' "Addictive" and Brandy's "Come as You Are". Aside from his longtime association with Timbaland, Static also collaborated with producers Scott Storch, Dr. Dre, and Jazze Pha. In the mid-2000s, Static worked with R&B group Pretty Ricky, R&B singer Tank, and appeared on David Banner's 2004 single "Crank It Up".

Garrett died on February 25, 2008 in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. The cause of death was due to complications from a botched medical procedure performed at Baptist East Hospital in Louisville. It was originally suspected to be due to a brain aneurysm, but it was just a rumor which was confirmed by one of his relatives and announced by his former Playa bandmate Smoke Digglera.

According to a family member, when he admitted himself to Baptist Hospital East in Louisville, Kentucky, the doctors presented him with medicine that would treat the virus. The treatment was taking the medicine through a shunt, in the neck, which treats more severe cases of this virus. Quicker than taking pills for days. Though, he didn't want the shunt, the doctors insisted that he treat it this way. While having surgery to remove it the doctors did something wrong. He died because he lost too much blood.

Part 2: (Black Celebs Who Died With No Fanfare)   Part 3: (Black Celebs Who Died With No Fanfare)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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