Monday, April 18, 2011

Betcha Didn't Know...?

Some of the most notable names from the dawn of film and television are of Latino descent. Here are some of them.

In this edition, some Latino pop and rock musicians.

Kelis (1981- ), born Kelis Rogers, was born in New York, New York, U.S.A. to a Chinese-Puerto Rican mother and African American father, is a singer-songwriter-musician. Her name is a portmanteau of the names of her parents (Kenneth and Eveliss). A two-time Grammy nominee and a BRIT Award winner, music runs in her family-- her father is a jazz musician and Pentecostal minister. Her mother is a former fashion designer. As a child, she sang in church choirs and played the violin, piano and saxophone. After graduating high school, she formed a band with The Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo), and, with their support, landed herself a record deal. Her records include Kaleidoscope (with the breakout hit "Caught Out There"), Wanderland, Tasty (with her biggest hit "Milkshake") and Flesh Tone.

The Lennon Sisters are a singing group consisting of five siblings: Dianne, also known as Dee Dee (1939- ); Margaret, known as Peggy (1941-); Kathleen, known as Kathy (1943- ); Janet (1946- ); and Miriam, known as Mimi (1955- ). They were all born in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. to a Mexican mother and a German-Irish father. Originally a quartet, they were the eldest four in a family of twelve siblings. In 1992, younger sister Mimi replaced second sister Peggy who retired. Sister Dianne (DeeDee) has also retired. The group were a regular on the weekly television show, "The Lawrence Welk Show." They debuted on the show on December 24, 1955, after Welk's son Larry brought them to his attention. They were a mainstay on the show until they left to start a career of their own in 1968. Their first hit, "Tonight, You Belong to Me" reached to #15 on the charts in 1956. This was followed by their 1961 single, "Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)," which turned out to be their highest-charting record. It provided them with the only number #1 single of their career, reaching the top of the charts in Japan. In the 1970s, the sisters performed regularly on "The Andy Williams Show," and toured with him across the country including engagements at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. From 1994 to 2004, the quartet performed as headliners at the Welk Champagne Theater in Branson, Missouri, U.S.A. The current group lineup, appearing mostly at Welk resorts, consists of Mimi, Janet and Kathy. They have sung for seven U.S. Presidents (Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan). In 1987, they were awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California, U.S.A. In 2001, they were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

Julián Casablancas (1978- ), born Julián Fernando Casablancas Christiansen al estilo latino, is the lead vocalist and chief songwriter of American rock band The Strokes. The son of John Casablancas (founder of Elite Model Management) and Jeanette Christiansen, he is half-Spaniard and half-Dutch. He met the members of The Strokes while in school and they formed in 1998. Their albums include Is This It (2001), Room on Fire (2003), First Impressions of Earth (2006) and their most recent work, Angles (2011). He released the solo album Phrazes for the Young (inspired by the Oscar Wilde book Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young), was released in 2009.

Maxwell (1973– ), born Maxwell Rivera, is a soul/rhythm and blues singer and musician. Born in Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A. to a Haitian mother and a Puerto Rican father, he released his first album Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite in 1996. A huge hit, it featured the songs "...Til the Cops Come Knockin'," "Ascension (Don't Even Wonder)," "Sumthin' Sumthin'" and "Whenever Wherever Whatever." Followup albums include Maxwell's MTV Unplugged (1997), Embrya (1998), Now (2001) and in 2009, the first part of a trilogy entitled BlackSummers'Night (to be called BLACKsummers'night, blackSUMMERS'night and blacksummers'NIGHT, respecively). Other hits include "Luxury: Cococure," "This Woman's Work" (cover of the Kate Bush song), "Fortunate" and "Pretty Wings." He is a two-time Grammy Award winner. In addition to singing, he plays the piano, guitar and Moog synthesizer.

?, also known as Question Mark, is the lead singer of ? and the Mysterians (known as Question Mark and the Mysterians on the record label) are an American rock and roll band formed in Bay City, Michigan, U.S.A., in 1962. The group is best known for its song "96 Tears", a garage rock classic recorded in 1966 that reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and would go on to sell over one million copies and receive a BMI award for over three million airplays. They were perhaps the first band to be described as punk rock, and also may be the first Latino rock group to have a mainstream hit record in the United States. The group named itself after the 1957 Japanese science fiction film The Mysterians, in which aliens from the destroyed planet Mysteroid arrive to conquer Earth. Question Mark was the band's frontman and primary songwriter. Though the singer has never confirmed it, Library of Congress copyright registrations indicate that his birth name is Rudy Martínez. His eccentric behavior helped to briefly establish the group in the national consciousness. He claimed (and still claims) to be a Martian who lived with dinosaurs in a past life, and he never appears in public without sunglasses. He asserts that he has traveled into the future and visited other planets. The original members of the band were ? (vocals), Larry Borjas (guitar, keyboards), Robert Balderrama (guitar) and Robert Martínez (guitar, bongos and drums). The current lineup is ?, Frank Rodríguez (keyboards), Balderrama, Martínez and Frank Lugo (bass). Former members include Eddie Serrato, Mel Schacher and Richard Schulz. The band re-recorded and re-released "96 Tears" in 1997. The band continues to tour.

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