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— Six new episodes of NAACP Image Award-winning series premiere Monday nights beginning June 6 featuring Deniece Williams, The Spinners, Alexander O’Neal and Cherrelle, Big Daddy Kane, The Ohio Players and Evelyn “Champagne” King ““
Silver Spring, MD ““ TV One helps celebrate Black Music Month with six all-new episodes of Unsung, TV One’s NAACP Image Award-winning 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, beginning Monday, June 6 at 10 PM ET.
The full picture of black music in America is much larger than acknowledged superstars and household names like Aretha, Whitney, Stevie and Marvin. Many of the greatest have either failed to achieve that same level of superstardom – or have compelling life stories the details of which have largely remained untold. Six of black music’s most talented artists and groups will be recognized this summer in all-new episodes of Unsung, one of TV One’s top-rated and most highly anticipated series. The episodes will air weekly on Mondays at 10 PM, repeating at 1 AM (all times ET) and will chronicle the careers of:
Deniece Williams (premiere episode June 6) – Deniece Williams is a singers’ singer, whose five octave range thrilled listeners on songs that ranged from ballads like “˜Black Butterfly” to gospel standards like “˜God is Amazing’ to pop hits like “˜Let’s Hear it for the Boy.’ She’s a songbird whose career started in Gary, Indiana, cutting local singles at age 17, then moving on to make her mark with Stevie Wonder’s band Wonderlove, and ultimately emerging as a songwriter of uncommon gifts, as evidenced by modern day standards like “Silly” and “Free”. But Deniece’s refusal to compromise her ideals and put music first came with a heavy cost ““ ostracized from her church, three marriages that ended in divorce, and ultimately the dissolution of her career as a pop star. In this personally revealing episode of Unsung, Deniece tells her story with poignancy and humor, and is helped along by exclusive interviews with an all-star cast of her admirers that includes Johnny Mathis, Ray Parker Jr., Phillip Bailey, Verdine White, George Duke ““ and Stevie Wonder.
The Spinners (June 13) – The vocal group that may be the greatest of them all never quite got the recognition of their peers, in part because they blended together so seamlessly that no one was ever quite sure who was the star. But Henry Fambrough and Bobby Smith, who helped form the Spinners nearly sixty years ago, weathered triumphs and tragedies to make some of the most beloved pop standards of our time ““ R&B evergreens like “I’ll be Around”, “One of a Kind”, “Sadie”, and “Could it be I’m Falling in Love.” They spent nearly a decade at Motown driving cars for the label’s top stars while waiting for their own shot, then survived the abrupt departures of two lead singers, without ever missing a beat, or a show. And in 2010 they’re still on the road, a group that just keeps on keepin’ on. In Unsung, the core members of this remarkable band, along with ace arranger and collaborator Thom Bell, tell the long and winding journey of a group that’s become an American treasure.
Alexander O’Neal and Cherrelle (June 20) ““ They were the Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell of their time ““ an unlikely pairing of opposite personalities that made musical magic together. Alexander O’Neal grew up poor and troubled in Mississippi, while Cherrelle was the pampered daughter of a successful attorney in Beverly Hills. He sang ballads with the gruff-voiced soul of a Teddy Pendergrass, while she showed off an appealing voice and good looks on infectiously fast paced dance hits. But both artists, whose most popular songs were often produced by the stellar team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, really took off when they were teamed together on unforgettable duets like “˜Saturday Love.’ Then, poised on the brink of superstardom, both of their careers abruptly fell apart, a casualty of both self-destructive acts and unforeseen tragedies. On this remarkably candid episode of Unsung, Alexander O’Neal and Cherrelle tell the stories of two extraordinary characters whose legacies will forever be entwined.
Big Daddy Kane (June 27) – With dizzying wordplay, upbeat, conscious lyrics and a chocolate Hugh Hefner-like mojo, Big Daddy Kane revolutionized hip hop’s style and sound in the 1980’s. Best known for his songwriting skills and sizzling stage shows, Kane could rock the party a la “I Get the Job Done”, battle rap with cuts like “Warm It Up Kane” or craft politically inspiring joints like “Another Victory.” But mostly, Kane was all about the ladies, on stage and off. The smooth operating native of Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy would exert a direct influence on Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z, both of whom took notes on his easy flow and take no prisoners style. (Indeed, Kane put Jay-Z on stage early on, giving the future Roc Nation mogul one of his early breaks) But as the West Coast sound crowded out stars from hip hop’s “˜Golden Era’, Kane seemed to fade from view. Or did he? In this episode, Kane and a slew of stars – including Biz Markie, Roxanne Shante and Kool Moe Dee ““ chronicle the surprising life and times of a charismatic rap kingpin, who always did it his way.
The Ohio Players (July 4) – The Ohio Players were one of the most successful funk outfits of all time, scoring monster crossover hits in the 1970s like “Fire” and “Love Rollercoaster.” They took funk into uncharted territory, bringing a jazzy, free form feel to chart-toppers like “Skin Tight,” “Heaven Must Be Like This,” and “Sweet Sticky Thing.” Along the way, The Players ““ with monikers like Sugarfoot, Diamond, and Rock – lived up to their names, with super-sexy album covers that got nearly as much attention as their songs, and by lifestyle excess that led to a major drug bust; not to mention a notoriety so extreme that the group was rumored to have killed someone during a recording session that included the dying screams in the grooves of a song. Ultimately, it was the I.R.S., and funky financial dealings among the Players themselves, that brought the group down. But not before they scored three platinum albums and 18 Top 40 hits over an eight year span, and left an indelible mark on the history and evolution of funk.
Evelyn “Champagne” King (July 11) – Evelyn “˜Champagne’ King’s rise to fame and fortune in the music business is as close to a “˜Cinderella story’ as you can get. The R&B & disco diva was discovered while singing at age 15 in the bathroom at Philly International Records, where her parents worked on the maintenance crew. When producer T. Life heard her, he assured the girl he would make her a star. And he did. Her 1979 debut single, “Shame” was an instant crossover smash and disco anthem. For the next decade, Evelyn turned out a wide ranging slew of hits including “I’m in Love,” “Love Come Down,” and “Betcha She Don’t Love You, “ while establishing her reputation as a live performer who gave fans all she had. But those same high spirits left her vulnerable, not only to the slings and arrows of the music business, but to real life episodes of personal tragedy. Now, thirty years out and still going strong, Evelyn King reveals to “˜Unsung’ the unvarnished tale of a showbiz survivor.
The new episodes of Unsung, narrated by actor Gary Anthony Williams, 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.
“New episodes of Unsung continue to generate an incredible amount of positive feedback from our viewers,” said TV One Senior Vice President of Original Programming Toni Judkins. “The good news is that no matter how many episodes we produce, we never run out of candidates for new ones. The talent pool is so deep – there are so many remarkable artists who have had incredible raw talent and amazing careers, and whose remarkable stories have never been told. We are delighted to keep bringing our viewers more of these incredible, real-life stories.”
Launched in January 2004, TV One (www.tvoneonline.com) serves nearly 53 million households throughout the U.S., offering a broad range of real-life and entertainment-focused original programming, classic series, movies, and music designed to entertain, inform and inspire a diverse audience of adult African American viewers. In December 2008, the company launched TV One High Def, which now serves more than 10.3 million U.S. households. TV One is a joint venture owned by Radio One [NASDAQ: ROIA and ROIAK; www.radio-one.com], the largest radio company that primarily targets African American and urban listeners; and Comcast Corporation [NASDAQ: CMCSA, CMCSK); www.comcast.com], one of the nation’s leading providers of entertainment, information and communications products and services.