ABOVE PHOTO: Sly and the Family Stone
Silver Spring, MD – Summer and music go hand in hand, and TV One helps celebrate the season with eight all-new episodes of its NAACP Image Award-winning series Unsung. TV One’s top-rated series of one-hour biographies celebrating the lives and careers of successful artists or groups who, despite great talent, have not received the level of recognition they deserve or whose stories have never been told, premieres Monday, June 25 at 9 PM ET with a look at one of America’s most influential pop music groups: Sly and the Family Stone. The episode repeats at midnight.
The full picture of black music in America is a rich kaleidoscope of talented artists. While America mourns the passing this year of one of the greatest, Whitney Houston, Unsung focuses on gifted musical talents who have played an important role in recent music history, but have not necessarily become household names as have she, Aretha, Michael and Stevie.
These multi-faceted artists featured in Unsung have contributed significantly to popular culture and to the life memories and experiences of the past three or four generations, yet have either failed to achieve that same level of superstardom – or have compelling life stories the details of which have largely remained untold. Eight of black music’s most talented artists and groups will be recognized this summer in all-new episodes of Unsung, TV One’s top-rated and most highly anticipated series. The episodes will air weekly on Mondays at 9 PM, repeating at midnight (all times ET) and will chronicle the careers of:
Sly & the Family Stone (June 25) – Among the most influential groups in the history of popular music, Sly & The Family Stone fused funk, soul, rock, and R&B to create a sound that resonated well beyond the charts. Led by the brilliant and charismatic Sly Stone, it was a sound that by turns reflected the idealism of the sixties, and the fracturing of those ideals in the decade that followed. The band’s performance at the Woodstock festival in 1969 showed a group at the height of their powers, while suggesting a future of unlimited musical possibilities.
But even while crafting great music, the group gradually disintegrated, torn apart by drugs, personality clashes, and the glare of the public spotlight. Sly Stone himself became deeply reclusive, his recordings increasingly sporadic, while refusing to grant interviews for decades. On this groundbreaking episode of Unsung, Sly Stone emerges to tell that tale, with the help of bandmates and family members – a unique and remarkable musical journey that, after four decades, is still unfolding.
Angela Bofill (July 2)- With a gorgeous voice and five octave range, exotic beauty and an intoxicating stage presence, Angela Bofill took the music world by storm. A native New Yorker who grew up in Harlem and the Bronx, she was a trained musician and sophisticated singer who invested ballads like ‘This Time I’ll be Sweeter,’ and her ode to heartbreak, “I Try” with palpable emotion.
She could belt out hot dance numbers like ‘Too Tough’, and gospel-inflected inspirational hymns like “I’m on your Side’ with equal aplomb. But after a run of hits in the 1980s, she faded rapidly from view, as record labels trained their sights on a younger generation of video vixens. Bofill soldiered on for two decades, only to be literally silenced by two devastating strokes. Yet she refused to give up her dream, and is gradually returning to the stage, while sharing her inspirational life story with hard earned wit and wisdom, on this episode of Unsung.
Con Funk Shun (July 9) – With five gold albums and 16 top forty singles, Con Funk Shun strode across the funk and R&B scene like a colossus for more than a decade. From their roots as high-school friends in Vallejo, California, they honed their chops at Stax records in Memphis, while developing an irrepressibly danceable sound. With hits like “Ffun,” “Shake & Dance With Me,” “Chase Me,” and “Love’s Train,” the group performed in sold-out arenas around the country, while showing off lavish outfits and tightly choreographed moves.
But after 17 years together, a succession of personal conflicts caused the band to fall apart. And a decade later, one of their founding members was killed in circumstances at once mysterious and chilling. For this episode, the remaining original members, along with family and friends, gather for the first time to tell the story of a truly Unsung band.
Kool Moe Dee (July 16) – Kool Moe Dee is best remembered for his ever-present hats and shades, but it’s his resistance to hip-hop clichés which fortify his legacy. Anti-drugs and alcohol and pro-education, Moe was always willing to represent bold views in his music and in interviews. He demonstrated his lyrical complexity as a teen, when as a member of the groundbreaking Treacherous Three he created a new, fast-paced style of rhyming that was ultimately emulated by rap superstars like Twista and Busta Rhymes.
As a solo artist, he ruled the charts and the clubs with hits like ‘Wild, Wild West’ and ‘I Go to Work’ –while taking on longtime rival LL Cool J with ‘How Ya Like Me Now.’ On this remarkably revealing episode of Unsung, and with help from friends and admirers including Doug E. Fresh, Melle Mel, and Teddy Riley, Kool Moe Dee tells his story, as only he can.
The Marvelettes (July 23) – In 1961, five teenage girls from the sleepy Detroit suburb of Inkster, Michigan, began a meteoric rise to fame that would revolutionize Motown, while creating a catalog of popular songs that endure to this day. Plucked from the obscurity of a high school talent show, they were signed on the strength of an original song titled “Please Mr. Postman.”
Within months, the song became Motown’s first number one pop single. But despite an impressive array of follow-up hits like “Beechwood 4-5789,” “Too Many Fish in the Sea,” and the Smokey Robinson-penned classics “Don’t Mess with Bill,” and “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game” The Marvelettes remained strangely anonymous, never achieving the stature of rival acts like Martha and the Vandellas, or the Supremes. And in the space of a few short years, a stunning series of misfortunes and personal tragedies put an end to the group for good. Now, Unsung brings their full story to life, thanks to testimony from all of the surviving members, while shining a light on the music and legacy of one of the great singing groups of all time.
Gerald Levert (July 30) – Crowned by fans as ‘the last soul singer,’ Gerald Levert was one of the preeminent forces of ’80’s and 90’s R&B. He took his pedigree from his father, Eddie Levert, of the mighty O’Jays, and while still a teenager, formed his own singing group, LeVert , with Marc Gordon and his younger brother Sean, that dominated the charts.
Thanks to infectious hits like “Casanova” and “(Pop Pop Pop Pop ) Goes My Mind,” LeVert scored four straight gold records and five chart-topping singles; from there Gerald launched a formidable solo career, including a duet with his father, “Baby Hold on to Me,” which also hit number one. But Gerald could never find contentment in his many achievements, and remained driven to top himself throughout his career – a journey which ended tragically with his untimely death at the age of 40. Now, family, friends and musical admirers come together for this special portrait of a modern Unsung legend.
Arrested Development (Aug. 13) – Rarely has a group risen so high and fallen so fast as Arrested Development. This captivating musical collective stormed to the top of the charts with an exhilarating brand of countrified rap that mixed the spirit of Sly and the Family Stone with the political charge of Public Enemy, providing a positive alternative to more confrontational gangsta stylings. Their debut album 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life Of, which chronicled the time it took the group to get a record deal, sold four million copies and sparked three top ten hits– “Tennessee,” ‘Mr. Wendal” and “People Everyday”.
It also won two Grammys, including the coveted Best New Artist award in 1993, the first time hip-hop had ever taken that prize. And then it all abruptly fell apart, as internal feuding over control, direction and money belied the group’s idealistic vibe. By the time Arrested Development began work on their second album, they had split into two camps and were communicating with each other through agents and managers. After just two albums of original material, Arrested Development called it quits. Now mostly reunited, the members of this pioneering band reveal the full story of a group who flew high, fell far, and survived to tell the tale.
Lou Rawls (Aug. 20) – Lou Rawls was a singer’s singer, with a vocal style Frank Sinatra called ‘the silkiest chops in the singing game.’ He commanded the stage, and scored hits with songs that ranged from blues to jazz to uptown R&B, in the course of a magisterial recording career that spanned five decades. A definitive ‘crossover’ artist long before the term was coined, he was at home before crowds in Las Vegas and on the couches of network TV talk shows, while his pioneering work for the United Negro College Fund created a legacy far beyond music.
But the man behind that smooth-singing persona was a more complicated figure – an abandoned child whose scars never healed, and whose unpredictable explosions of anger and violence were often directed toward those he loved best. In this ground-breaking episode of ‘Unsung’, friends, family, and musical collaborators – including fellow legends Della Reese, and Gamble & Huff – come together to craft a portrait of a singer whose music transcended category, and a man whose true personality was wrapped in layers of mystery.
“What better way to celebrate summer than with music, and what better way to celebrate music than with new episodes of Unsung?,” asked TV One Executive Vice President of Original Programming and Production Toni Judkins. “While we have now produced several dozen episodes of Unsung, it t is remarkable that we have no shortage of incredibly talented candidates for new episodes – and our audience continues to want more. The winter 2012 season of Unsung was our highest-rated, most-watched season ever, and we look forward to celebrating with our viewers more amazing stories of great talent this summer and helping to paint that richer portrait of black music in America.”