Saturday, November 18, 2006

Rhythm & Blues Is Dead

Or rather, singer Ruth Brown is dead and that's basically the same thing. One sign of the long, remarkable career she had is the number of nicknames associated with her: Brown was called Miss Rhythm and The Girl With The Tear In Her Voice, while R&B was said to stand for Ruth Brown and she was such a force for Atlantic Records in its early days that the label was dubbed "The House That Ruth Built."

A typically tumultuous life marked by setbacks and comebacks, Brown did it all: she married a trumpeter who failed to mention he was already married but kept his last name because she was starting to have success; Brosn signed with Atlantic Records but got in a horrible car crash while traveling to New York and was hospitalized for a year; her first song was recorded on crutches; she literally turned Atlantic into a powerhouse label (and helped invent rock n roll mroe than any other woman), but remained in debt into the 1980s thanks to onerous contracts; came back in the musical "Black and Blue" and the movie "Hairspray" and campaigned to eliminate debt for all the major blues artists in the world, as well as getting them some back royalties. Whew! Start with any recent Atlantic compilation or the cast album to "Black and Blue" and you'll become a fan too.

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