September 9, 1999: Kid Rock Reunites Aerosmith and Run D.M.C.

On this day in 1999, Kid Rock reunited Aerosmith and Run D.M.C. for his debut performance at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs). This set, which continued to surprise from start to finish, was one for the ages.

1999 MTV VMA AwardsOn this day in 1999, Kid Rock reunited Aerosmith and Run D.M.C. for his debut performance at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs). This set, which continued to surprise from start to finish, was one for the ages.

No other musician has fused hip-hop, hard rock and country as wonderfully as Kid Rock. When he burst onto the scene with “Devil Without a Cause” in 1999, he had found a sound that was like nothing else music had ever seen or heard. The fact that he was also the ultimate music fan-boy only added to his charm.

When VMA performances shock us today, it is usually because they are train wrecks. This one had music fans on their feet out of admiration and appreciation. Check it out.

August 25, 1963: Schock G Born

On this day in 1963, Gregory Jacobs was born in Brooklyn, New York. The influential rapper and producer would be known on stage as Schock G and a list of alter egos, the most notable being Humpty Hump.

Schock G - 1991On this day in 1963, Gregory Jacobs was born in Brooklyn, New York. The influential rapper and producer would be known on stage as Schock G and a list of alter egos, the most notable being Humpty Hump.

He developed his musical talents in his teens, living in Tampa, Florida, and Queens. In the late 80s, Schock G moved to Oakland, where he co-formed Digital Underground. The group signed with Tommy Boy Records and released “Doowutchyalike,” which generated enough buzz on MTV for a debut album. That record, “Sex Packets,” contained the single “The Humpty Dance” that Schock G rapped as Humpty Hump (If you were a kid at the time, you thought it was hilarious. If you were a parent, you thought it was crap.).

Digital Underground has released six albums since then and Schock G has produced numerous songs for other artists. The most notable was for Tupac Shakur (2Pac), who got his start as a back-up rapper with Digital Underground. Schock G appeared on “Trapped,” 2Pac’s first minor hit and then produced “I Get Around,” which made him a star.

August 21, 2003: Wesley Willis Dies

On this day in 2003, Wesley Willis died of complications from leukemia in Skokie, Illinois. The unique musician and artist who developed a cult following in the 90s was 40 years old.

Wesley WillisOn this day in 2003, Wesley Willis died of complications from leukemia in Skokie, Illinois. The unique musician and artist who developed a cult following in the 90s was 40 years old.

Willis was born in Chicago and was a diagnosed schizophrenic. The latter probably contributed to his ability to write both punk songs and simple ditties on his keyboard with lyrics that were obnoxious, obscene, funny and sometimes very truthful. Willis released numerous albums with songs whose titles included:

Willis’ two most famous songs were probably “Rock N Roll McDonald’s” (featured in “Super Size Me”) and “Al Capone,” which contained the simple, but cogent lyrics:

Al Capone was a hoodlum
He was a gangster
He kills people in gangland style
He is a stupid asshole
He is full of shit

By all accounts, Willis was a very warm individual who appreciated his fans. If you’d like to learn more, his tribute page can be found at http://www.alternativetentacles.com/bandinfo.php?band=wesleywillis.

In addition, Willis was a talented visual artist whose work can be found at: http://www.wesleywillisart.com/.

Below are a few of his choice tunes.

Al Capone

Rock N Roll McDonald’s

I Whupped Batman’s Ass

August 16, 1975: Peter Gabriel Leaves Genesis

On this day in 1975, the media first reported that Peter Gabriel had left Genesis. This is one of the few instances where a band’s line-up drastically changed and music was actually bettered.

Peter Gabriel - 1974On this day in 1975, the media first reported that Peter Gabriel had left Genesis. This is one of the few instances where a band’s line-up drastically changed and music was actually bettered.

Genesis formed in 1967 as a progressive avant-garde band and hit its groove in the early 70s. The line-up of Gabriel on vocals, Phil Collins on drums, Mike Rutherford on bass, Tony Banks on keyboards and Steve Hackett on guitar recorded the concept double-album, “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway,” in 1974 and began touring in support of it through 1975.

During the tour, Gabriel told the rest of the band that he would be leaving at its end for personal reasons and estrangement from rest of the group. On August 16, Melody Maker reported it with a front-page story and the band confirmed a few days later. An excellent article at Bang the Drum All Day chronicles Gabriel’s departure.

Genesis decided to continue on with Phil Collins on vocals. The band gave its music a more of pop band and enjoyed amazing success in the 80s with songs like “Invisible Touch” and “Land of Confusion.” The popularity allowed Collins to launch his own lucrative solo career and for Rutherford to form Mike and the Mechanics. Gabriel had an amazing solo career as well, recording classics like “Solsbury Hill” and “In Your Eyes.”

Musical snobs would say that Genesis was the never the same after Gabriel and sold out with Collins on vocals. Rubbish. Some musicians, despite their greatness, are not meant to play together. It’s just fortunate that ones these talented were able to record the type of songs they wanted. For that, music fans everywhere benefited.

August 8, 1988: N.W.A. Releases “Straight Outta Compton”

On this day in 1988, N.W.A. (an acronym for Niggaz Wit Attitudes) released “Straight Outta Compton.” The album launched gangsta rap and remains as relevant today as it did 25 years ago.

Straight Outta Compton - N.W.A.On this day in 1988, N.W.A. (an acronym for Niggaz Wit Attitudes) released “Straight Outta Compton.” The album launched gangsta rap and remains as relevant today as it did 25 years ago.

There are few moments where artists capture lightning in a bottle and “Straight Outta Compton” is one of them.  Its introductory words on the title track, “You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge,” are a punch to the gut that no other rap album has ever duplicated.  Then it launches into the “Fuck tha Police”; horrifying at the time but after the 90s, is legitimately accepted as the view at the time of many living in South Central Los Angeles. Great songs like “Express Yourself” and “8 Ball” added more character to the album’s brutal portrayal of life on the streets.

When you look back at N.W.A.’s line-up of Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy E, MC Ren, DJ Yella and Arabian Prince (the only time it was completely together), it is probably no surprise the that this album was great. For the past two decades, critics have either eloquently or pretentiously described it as a celebration of violence and misogyny, a gritty walk through inner city Los Angeles, or both. However, publications from Rolling Stone to the Wichita Eagle-Beacon have heralded the album as great.

August 7, 1968: Lynn Strait Born

On this day in 1968, Lynn Strait was born in Manhasset, New York. Strait would become the lead singer of the band, Snot, and his tragic death would reverberate through the punk/metal/rap scene that dominated music in the late 90s.

James Lynn StraitOn this day in 1968, Lynn Strait was born in Manhasset, New York.  Strait would become the lead singer of the band, Snot, and his tragic death would reverberate through the punk/metal/rap scene that dominated music in the late 90s.

He moved to Santa Barbara, California, as a teen and quickly immersed himself in its music scene. In 1995, Strait, guitarists Mike Doling and Sonny Mayo, bassist John Fahnestock and drummer Jamie Miller formed Snot. The band was signed by Geffen Records and released its debut album, “Get Some,” in 1997. Although the album earned the respect of critics and the band’s peers, sales were low.

On December 11, 1998, Strait was killed in a six-car pile-up along with his dog, Dobbs. The band had no choice but to disband, even with a full album put together that was only missing Strait’s vocals. However, he was so beloved by his contemporaries, that Ozzy Osbourne, Korn, System of Down, Soulfly, Limp Bizkit and many others banded together to complete the vocals on an album called, “Strait Up” that was released in 2000. The album included this gem “Angel’s Son,” by Sevendust and the video is one most touching and fitting tributes any musician has ever received.

August 3, 1997: Garth Brooks Performs Central Park Concert

On this day in 1997, Garth Brooks performed a free concert in New York’s Central Park. A reported 750,000 came out to see what might the biggest concert in the park’s history.

Garth Brooks - Live From Central ParkOn this day in 1997, Garth Brooks performed a free concert in New York’s Central Park. A reported 750,000 came out to see what might the biggest concert in the park’s history.

Brooks was the biggest star in music at the time of the show and he followed in the footsteps of his idols, James Taylor and Paul Simon, with his performance. The concert was broadcast live on HBO and sold on video later that year. If you ever want to see the greatest performer in country music history in his prime, check it out.

A 2008 New York Times article called into question the high attendance numbers reported for Brooks’ show, as well as the 600,000 that Paul Simon drew in 1987 and the 300,000 that Elton John pulled in 1981, etc. The skepticism came after a 2008 Bon Jovi Central Park show that recorded by hand-count and attendance of 48,538.  Why were this band’s numbers so low?  As former city parks administrator Doug Blonsky explained to the Times: “You would get in a room with the producer, with a police official, and a person from parks, and someone would say, ‘What does it look like to you?’ The producer would say, ‘I need it to be higher than the last one.’ That’s the kind of science that went into it.”

Whether the attendance was 750,000 or 750, Brooks’ show was one for the ages.

July 29, 1973: Led Zeppelin Robbed

On this day in 1973, approximately $200,000 was stolen from Led Zeppelin’s safety deposit box at the Drake Hotel in New York. The crime remains unsolved.

Led ZeppelinOn this day in 1973, approximately $200,000 was stolen from Led Zeppelin’s safety deposit box at the Drake Hotel in New York. The crime remains unsolved.

The band was in The Big Apple performing three nights of shows at Madison Square Garden. Shortly before the band’s third and final show, tour manager Richard Cole checked the box at the Drake and found it was missing $200,000. The group carried large amounts of cash on the road, presumably for expenses, drugs and extracurricular activities like throwing televisions out of hotel windows.

New York Police conducted an extensive investigation and author Stephen Davis in his excellent biography of the band, “Hammer of the Gods,” explored all possibilities of who could’ve stolen the money. Yet to this day, the culprit and stolen money remain a mystery.

Led Zeppelin was told of the robbery before they went on to stage for the third show, which was included in “The Song Remains the Same,” the concert film that was widely panned for not capturing the band’s greatness on stage. One wonders if the stolen money may have attributed to the movie’s mediocrity.

July 23, 1984: Vanessa Williams Resigns as Miss America

On this day in 1984, Vanessa Williams resigned as Miss America. The first African-American woman to receive the crown was forced to do so before nude pictures of her were published in Penthouse magazine.

Vanessa Williams Penthouse CoverOn this day in 1984, Vanessa Williams resigned as Miss America. The first African-American woman to receive the crown was forced to do so before nude pictures of her were published in Penthouse magazine.

Williams was 10 months into her tenure as Miss America 1984 when it was revealed that nude photos she had taken with other women while working as an assistant make-up artist in 1982 would be published. She posed for the photos when she was either 18 or 19 and they were to run without her consent.

On July 23, facing pressure from the Miss America Organization, who in turn was experiencing backlash from sponsors from advertisers, Williams resigned her crown. The runner-up Suzette Charles, who was also African-American, served the last seven weeks of Williams’ reign. The Miss America Organization allowed Williams to keep her crown and scholarship money and she is listed as “Miss America 1984.” Charles is listed as “Miss America 1984-b.”

Since then Williams has had one of the most successful careers of any former Miss America, becoming a star in music, movies, television and theater. Meanwhile, the Miss America Pageant has continued to roll along while local and state pageant scandals and shows like “Toddlers and Tiaras” have allowed Williams’ poor choice in her teens to fade into history.

July 13, 1985: Live Aid

On this day in 1985, more than 50 musical acts performed in two concerts in London and Philadelphia and via satellite to raise money for Ethiopian famine relief. To date, Live Aid remains the grandest musical charity of all time, and pulled in more than $280 million in donations.

Live Aid at JFK StadiumOn this day in 1985, more than 50 musical acts performed in two concerts in London and Philadelphia and via satellite to raise money for Ethiopian famine relief. To date, Live Aid remains the grandest musical charity of all time, and pulled in more than $280 million in donations.

Organized by musicians Bob Geldof and Midge Ure as a follow-up to their charity single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, the event began at 7:00 AM Eastern time at London’s Wembley Stadium (noon British time). Shortly before 9:00 AM Eastern time, the show began at John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia. Both concerts lasted around 15 hours each.

The London show is best remembered for iconic performances by a resurging Queen and an emerging U2, while the Philly show featured the sloppy reunions of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. However, there were many great performances in between in both shows.

Below are highlights that of concerts that were seen live by more that 70,000 in London, 100,000 in Philadelphia and 1.9 billion people around the world.

Queen’s Full Performance

U2 Performs “Sunday Bloody Sunday

Dire Straits Performs “Money for Nothing

The Who Performs “Love Reign on Me” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again

Elton John Performs “I’m Still Standing

Joan Baez Sings “Amazing Grace” and “We are the World

The Four Tops Perform “I Can’t Help Myself

Black Sabbath Performs “Paranoid

Run DMC Performs “Jam Master Jay” and “King of Rock

REO Speedwagon Performs “I Can’t Fight This Feeling

Crosby, Stills and Nash Perform “Teach Your Children

Judas Priest Performs “Living After Midnight

The Beach Boys Perform “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “Good Vibrations

George Thorogood and Bo Diddley Sing “Who Do You Love?

Madonna Sings “Holiday

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Perform “American Girl

Neil Young Sings “Sugar Mountain

Phil Collins Sings “In the Air Tonight

Led Zeppelin Performs “Rock and Roll

Patti Labelle Sings “Forever Young

Mick Jagger and Tina Turner Sing “State of Shock