*The new season of TV One’s “Unsung” has kicked off with some major interviews and interesting discoveries with big stars like Isaac Hayes, Lou Rawls, Mint Condition, Johnny Gill, The Whispers, and so many more.
The docu-series covers the life and careers of dynamic African American stars, discussing their journey to success and some failure.
However, one person we will never see on the show is Stephanie Mills. She told the Huffington Post that “Unsung” is not for her.
“I don’t like that show. They have approached me quite a few times, but I [won't] do that show…I don’t feel unsung. I feel like I’ve had a wonderful career. I’ve done wonderful things and met so many wonderful different people. So I don’t feel like I’m unsung at all.”
In that case, we can only wonder what the late great Mr. Lou Rawls would have to say about being profiled on the show. That’s because if there’s anybody who is not “Unsung” material it’s him\ because he definitely received his acclaim while he was alive.
In any event, check out the season’s remaining schedule:
2/6 – EPMD
2/13 – Lou Rawls
2/20 – Disco Tribute (2 hour special)
2/27 – Eddie Kendricks
3/6 – The Whispers
3/13 – Mint Condition
3/20 – Johnny Gill
*You may not recognize his name, but you certainly know his signature wah-wah guitar – which powered such hits Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft” and The Isley Brothers’ hit “It’s Your Thing.”
Musician Skip Pitts, who received guitar advice from his neighbor Bo Diddley as a kid growing up in Washington, died Tuesday at Methodist Hospital in Memphis after a struggle with cancer. He was 65.
Following time with the Isleys’ backing band The Midnight Movers, Pitts in 1971 began a 37-year collaboration with Hayes. His distinct wah-wah pedal guitar on “Theme From Shaft” captured perfectly the blaxploitation vibe of the 1970s.
When not on the road or in the studio with Hayes, he was a session player at Memphis-based Stax Records and played on many hit recordings by such artists such as Albert King and Rufus Thomas.
More recently, Pitts performed on the score for the 2005 Oscar-winning film “Hustle and Flow” with his band The Bo-Keys and played on two Grammy-nominated albums: Al Green’s “I Can’t Stop” (2003) and Cyndi Lauper’s “Memphis Blues” (2010).
“His guitar style was very unique,” producer-musician Scott Bomar, Pitts’ bandmate in The Bo-Keys, told the Memphis newspaper The Commercial Appeal. “He took a little bit of the Bo Diddley rhythm, the Northern soul of Curtis Mayfield and the Memphis sound of Steve Cropper and Reggie Young and somehow came up with his own thing, a style that no one had.”
With Diddley’s guidance, Pitts learned to play guitar at age 11 and first recorded at 15 on Gene Chandler’s “Rainbow 65.” His uncle owned a hotel next to the prestigious Howard Theatre in Washington, and Pitts met such R&B legends as James Brown and Otis Redding. He soon was onstage himself, performing with Sam & Dave and Wilson Pickett.
“Theme From Shaft,” written and sung by Hayes, who also played keyboards, accompanied the 1971 MGM film directed by Gordon Parks and starring Richard Roundtree as suave New York private investigator John Shaft, the “black private dick who’s a sex machine to all the chicks.”
The song spent two weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1971 and won the Oscar for original song the following year. Hayes also collected the Oscar for best original dramatic score.
“I didn’t think nothing of that song,” Pitts said in a 2011 interview. “When Richard Roundtree comes up out of the subway station, [Hayes] wanted a driving rhythm with his walk. It fitted in pretty well.”
Survivors include his wife, Beverly. Funeral services will take place in Washington. Plans for a Memphis memorial service were pending.
Below, Pitts performs “Theme From Shaft” at Music City Roots live from the Loveless Cafe on July 20, 2011.
*Snoop Dogg will be saluted as a BMI Icon at the BMI Urban Awards, slated for Friday, August 26 at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. BMI President & CEO Del Bryant will share hosting duties with Catherine Brewton, Vice President, Writer/Publisher Relations, Atlanta, as the entertainment community gathers to celebrate the most-performed urban songs, songwriters and producers of the previous year.
The evening will include an all-star musical tribute to Snoop Dogg, as well as the presentation of the Urban Songwriter, Song, Producer and Publisher of the Year crystals.
BMI Icons are selected because of their “unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers.” As a BMI Icon, Snoop Dogg will join ranks that include George Clinton, The Jacksons, James Brown, Isaac Hayes, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, The Bee Gees, Willie Nelson and Carlos Santana, to name a few.
As Snoop Dogg approaches his 20th year in the entertainment industry, he remains a visionary mc with sharp instinct and velvet delivery. Since his culture-shaking 1992 debut, Doggystyle, his sound has engrossed listeners—those who recognize their own lives in his songs, and others simply drawn to Snoop Dogg’s authenticity. He is a fiercely imaginative songwriter, capable of cutting rhymes and wry wordplay.
Twelve BMI Awards spanning urban and pop point to his prominent role in hip-hop’s seduction of the mainstream. Songs including “Next Episode,” “Gin and Juice,” “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” “Beautiful,” “Sexual Eruption,” “Nuthin’ But a “G” Thang,” and so many more created the soundtrack of a generation. He has been honored by the American Music Awards, Source Awards, BET Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, and many others, and has also garnered innumerable Grammy nominations. He has also appeared in countless films and TV series, including Training Day, Old School, Starsky & Hutch, Brüno, Futurama, Weeds, and more, which, when coupled with his music, ensure that Snoop Dogg will be forever ingrained in pop culture’s collective consciousness.
Broadcast Music, Inc.® (BMI), a global leader in rights management, is an American performing right organization that represents more than 475,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers in all genres of music and more than 6.5 million works. BMI has represented the most popular and beloved music from around the world for 70 years. The U.S. corporation collects license fees from businesses that use music, which it then distributes as royalties to the musical creators and copyright owners it represents. BMI songwriters and composers were the most celebrated creative voices in awards presentations and on the charts during the past year, accounting for almost two-thirds of the Grammy Awards and dominating other key awards and honors presentations across all genres of music.
*A section of Interstate 40 in Tennessee is a step closer to being named after legendary soul musician Isaac Hayes.
The state Senate unanimously passed a measure Thursday to rename the stretch of road “Isaac Hayes Memorial Highway.” The House approved it without opposition in April, and Gov. Phil Bredesen is expected to sign the bill without objection.
Isaac Hayes Memorial Highway would be near Memphis, where Hayes had a home until he died of a stroke in 2008 at the age of 65. He was raised in Tipton County, north of Memphis.
Hayes won Academy and Grammy awards for his “Theme From Shaft.” He was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. He also acted in movies and provided the voice of Chef on the animated TV show “South Park.”