— Series that examines and celebrates talented artists who are under-appreciated will feature premieres the first four Sunday nights in November
October 2009, Silver Spring, MD ““ This fall, 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.
Narrated by actor Gary Anthony Williams, the new episodes of Unsung will premiere, beginning Sunday November 1 at 8 PM with an encore at 11 PM (all times ET), and will chronicle the careers of:
* Teena Marie ““ (Premieres Sunday, Nov. 1) There may never be a more soulful, sexy, funky combination of voice and music like that which emanates from the “Ivory Queen of Soul,” Teena Marie. Signed by Motown at 17, and teamed up musically – and for a time, romantically – with funk master Rick James, who produced her debut album, Wild and Peaceful, and later put together their steamy duet, “Fire and Desire,” one of the all time stage show-stoppers. That, and Teena's robust sound and powerful delivery, helped to overcome long stand ing racial barriers between Black audiences and white singers. Under the auspices of James, she launched a ground-breaking initiative that allowed her to leave Motown at the height of her career, and also revolutionized the relationship between musicians and record labels throughout the industry. Teena went on to solely produce every subsequent album in her career, while earning four Grammy nominations, and recording a host of classic R&B hit singles, including “Square Biz,” “Lover Girl,” “Oh La La La” and “Portuguese Love.” She also shared a poignant reunion on stage with her friend and mentor Rick James, shortly before his passing in 2005. It's all part of an inspirational story, still unfolding, of a woman who poured her life into music, and whose music has enriched our lives.
* Bootsy Collins ““ (Premieres Sunday, Nov. 8) Bootsy Collins is at once among the most legendary and least known figures in contemporary music. Visually resplendent in star-shaped sunglasses and outrageous outfits, he's also a seriously deep musician, whose pioneering bass lines helped define the sound of both James Brown and George Clinton, and who has since gone on to record with a stunning array of artists from Snoop Dogg to Dee-lite to Slash. He's also an eloquent teller of his own life story, which he does in depth for this exclusive personal portrait. Along with interviews with members of the original JBs, musical colleagues, family and friends, Bootsy takes us on a tour of his home town, Cincinnati, including the building that once housed King Records, where Bootsy began to forge a career with the man he came to call his “˜second father' – James Brown. Viewers will see how Brown's brilliant leadership and personal “˜tough love' prepared this naturally gifted musician for his “˜anything goes' years with George Clinton in Parliament/Funkadelic, which led to Boosty stepping into the spotlight himself as the leader of Bootsy's Rubber Band , and the creation of his larger than life stage persona “˜Bootzilla.' Bootsy provides cand id insight into the personal problems which led him to withdraw from that scene at the height of his career, and what eventually brought him back. Now a civic icon in Cincinnati, happily married and basking in the glow of a life fully-lived – and a reputation fully-earned – Bootsy Collins is ready to let the funk flow in this episode of Unsung.
* Klymaxx ““ (Premieres Sunday, Nov. 15) The reign of Girl Power in the realm of funk began, and some say ended, with the all-female group of feminist funksters known as Klymaxx. The name signaled the group's determination to take audiences to the highest heights of musical excitement. Klymaxx succeeded in breaking down the boys-only world of R&B in the mid-1980s with hits like “Meeting in the Ladies Room” and “The Men All Pause.” The songs flipped the script on the kinds of male fantasies that had always dominated the genre, and boldly laid down storylines from an unabashedly female point of view. Along the way, the six women who provided the core of the band also provided an unlikely launch pad for the careers of producing superstars Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. When Klymaxx threw a pop ballad called “I Miss You” into the mix, they crossed over and lit up all the charts. “I Miss You” was the third best-selling song in the world in 1985, and the group was poised for superstar success. Their failure to achieve it provided an object lesson about how groups can be pulled apart by the strains and seductions of success. The chemistry of the group's sisterhood quickly unraveled after their flurry of hits. This episode of Unsung tells the story of Klymaxx from the inside ““ including interviews with all six of its core members, and Jam and Lewis ““ to chronicle their long shot mission to crash the macho party of R&B, their exuberant success ““ and their remarkably swift fall from grace.
* Zapp and Roger- (Premieres Sunday, Nov. 22) For twenty years, Zapp created hits that pulled together audiences of fans black, brown and white ““ while inspiring a generation of hip hop music icons from Dr. Dre to T-Pain to Snoop Dogg. Situated somewhere in the funk zone between Prince and Parliament, the Troutman brothers ““ Lester, Terry, Larry and Roger, who popularized the Talk Box as a voice in the group ““ crafted a flavorful, polished sound. Zapp and Roger's classics included “More Bounce to the Ounce,” “I Can Make You Dance,” “So Ruff So Tuff,” “Computer Love” and “I Wanna be Your Man” ““ all of which live today on classic radio as well as in contemporarily sampled hip hop music. And with the massive crossover success of Dr. Dre's and Tupac's “California Love,” Roger Troutman's career was elevated to near superstar status. But the Zapp saga is about more than music. During the height of their popularity, the Troutmans put scores of low-income families into houses they built from the ground up in their hometown of Dayton, Ohio. They maintained a drug-free, hard-working ethic that separated them from many of their peers. But all of that came crashing down on April 25, 1999 when, to everyone's shock, Larry Troutman shot his brother Roger to death, then turned the gun on himself. Ten years later, Zapp is back on the road and on record, and the Troutman family, their friends and colleagues have united to tell, for the first time, the entire, amazing story of Zapp in this exclusive episode. “Unsung” will examine the enduring hits, the unforgettable personalities and ultimately, the stark tragedy that makes the story of Zapp and Roger as timeless as their music.
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, which will premiere the first four Sundays in November at 8 PM and repeat at 11 PM (all times ET), are executive-produced by Arthur Smith, Kent Weed and Frank Sinton of A. Smith & Co. Productions. Mark Rowland is Co-Executive Producer. Executive in charge of production for TV One is Jubba Seyyid.
A. Smith & Co. produced for TV One four episodes of Unsung featuring DeBarge, Donny Hathaway, Phyllis Hyman and the Clark Sisters, that aired as a series of specials in fall 2008. The four Unsung premieres were viewed by a total 1.1 million people, and the Phyllis Hyman premiere was TV One's highest-rated original program in 2008 and ranked number one in its time slot among ad-supported cable networks for both African-American households and for African-American adults 25-54.
“Unsung really resonates with our audience. The first set of episodes last fall brought more positive comments and feedback than any other entertainment program since we aired the 30th anniversary telecast of Roots,” said TV One Senior Vice President of Original Programming Toni Judkins. “We received just as much positive feedback on the second set of episodes we aired during Black Music Month in June. There are so many more remarkable artists who have had incredible raw talent and amazing careers, but whose life circumstances have prevented them from attaining the iconic status they deserve. We are delighted to be teaming up again with A. Smith to bring our viewers more of those incredible, real-life stories.”