Silver Spring, MD – TV One brings back Unsung, its acclaimed, original series of one-hour biographies that celebrates the lives and careers of successful artists or groups who, despite great talent, over the years have been under-recognized or under-appreciated. Everyone recognizes Aretha, Whitney, Diana, Stevie, and Marvin.
But, the full picture of black music in America is much larger than those acknowledged superstars, and many of the greatest have failed to achieve that same level of superstardom.
Four all-new episodes of Unsung, TV One’s top-rated and most highly anticipated series, will premiere, beginning Monday, March 22 at 9 PM with an encore at midnight (all times ET), and will chronicle the careers of:
Rose Royce (premieres March 22) – Rose Royce emerged from South Central Los Angeles in the mid-1970s to become one of the top-selling groups of that decade. Nurtured by legendary Motown producer Norman Whitfield (Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Gladys Knight), the group topped the charts with their first LP, a soundtrack for the movie “Car Wash” that sold three million copies and spawned such hits as “I Wanna Get Next to You,” “I’m Goin Down”, and of course, the mega-successful title track. With vocalist Gwen Dickey leading the way, this nine member ensemble combined classy pop stylings — the name says it all— with funky R&B riffs, a pop-funk blend that paved the way for Michael Jackson’s breakthrough at the end of the decade.
But after three consecutive platinum albums and lasting hits like “Wishing on a Star” and “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”, both of which have since been widely covered, Rose Royce succumbed to the too-frequent stresses of overnight success. Dickey, not yet 20 when she joined in 1975, was so burnt out and disillusioned that she left the group at its peak — some band members say she was fired and refused to perform or record for years. As the group floundered, bassist Lequeint “Duke” Jobe, a musical phenom who was widely considered one of the top R&B bass players in the world, fell prey to drugs and wound up homeless and in jail. Despite it all, the core of Rose Royce has managed to stay together for 35 years, while Dickey has developed a successful solo career in the UK, where she has lived for the past two decades. Now they reveal their long, strange journey on Unsung.
Sylvester (premieres March 29) – Sylvester James was the undisputed King and Queen of disco. He strived for fame, fortune and freedom during a time when it was highly unlikely for a large, openly gay, sometimes in drag, African American male to make it in the world of entertainment. But with a powerhouse falsetto voice to back him up, that’s exactly what Sylvester did. On this ground-breaking episode of Unsung, Sylvester’s family takes us to his childhood home and the church where it all began in Los Angeles. We visit his old neighborhood and the Palm Lane Church of God where he got his start singing and performing in the choir, becoming a gospel sensation around town. But it was also here where Sylvester would learn that being ‘different’ was both a challenge and an opportunity for someone with courage and personal flair.
Moving to San Francisco, Sylvester began his rise to stardom performing with a theater troupe, which ultimately led to a recording contract. Gold albums, movie roles, and TV appearances followed. Then the glow faded as he endured the loss of close friends through the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. Sylvester ultimately succumbed to the disease as well, while leaving a legacy of music, which embodied a generation’s determination to live their lives on their own terms. Now, through interviews with music colleagues such as Narada Michael Walden, The Pointer Sisters, Martha Wash and Jeanie Tracey, along with close family members and friends, Unsung chronicles a music career which reached heights that few expected, but in retrospect was fully earned.
Stacy Lattisaw (premieres April 12) – She was a child star who was signed to a major label at the age of 12, and enjoyed a top ten hit a year later. Stacy Lattisaw was a charming teenager with the voice of a singer far beyond her years. She seemed to be living a dream, opening for and befriending Michael Jackson, and sharing songs and romance with another teenaged talent, Johnny Gill. But after a decade long career that produced thirteen albums and nearly two dozen charted singles like “Let Me Be Your Angel” and “Love on a Two-Way Street”, Stacy abruptly turned her back on the music business and walked away – even as her farewell single “Where Do We Go From Here?” – a reunion duet with Gill – topped the R&B charts. Fans and music industry types were stunned, but family and friends were not so surprised. They knew the price she had paid for a decade at the top of the music business and how she’d fulfilled everybody’s dreams… except her own.
In this remarkably intimate portrait, Stacy Lattisaw reveals the drive and emotional forces that pushed her to stardom – and ultimately drove her away from popular music.
Bar-Kays (premieres April 19) – First rising to prominence as a house band for the legendary Stax record label, the Bar-Kays have survived 40 years, 27 albums, 25 members, 23 hits, a tragic plane crash, a stroke, a murder and at least five major shifts in Black music. By consciously adapting their style to the trends of the day and constantly tuning their voice to the will of the streets, they’ve managed to make hits in every prevailing genre: R&B, Soul, Funk, Disco, Techno and even Hip Hop. Many bands had greater hits, but none have earned greater longevity. The miracle is that this band nearly ended before it began, when all but two members – Ben Cauley and James Alexander – died in the plane crash that killed singing great Otis Redding. Yet those two members rebuilt the Bar-Kays into a remarkable hit machine – and never looked back – until this exclusive episode of Unsung.
Unsung will reveal the multiple factors that kept these artists from achieving the iconic commercial status they deserved. And, in the process, these specials will “sing” the praises and celebrate the artistry that has kept fellow artists and fans talking about them for years.
Featuring exclusive interviews, musical clips and archival footage, each episode will investigate the stories of these pivotal artists, their journey through music and their perhaps unexpected influence on the music of today.
The episodes will have a primetime encore Sunday nights at 8 PM and 11 PM (all times ET), as well as re-air Tuesdays at noon, Wednesdays at 3 AM, Thursdays at 5 PM, Fridays at 5 AM and Saturdays at noon.