Monday, August 22, 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, musicians of yesterday and today (and perhaps tomorrow).

Bruno Mars (1985– ), born Peter Gene Hernández in Honolulu, Hawai'i, U.S.A. to a Filipino mother and a Puerto Rican father, is a singer-songwriter-record producer. Raised in Honolulu, Hawai'i, U.S.A. by a family of musicians, he began making music at a young age. At the age of two, he was nicknamed "Bruno" by his father, because of his resemblance to chubby professional wrestler Bruno Sammartino. Mars was one of six children and came from a musical family who exposed him to a diverse mix of reggae, rock, hip hop, and R&B. From a young age, he was impersonating and performing songs by artists such as Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, The Isley Brothers and The Temptations. At age four, he began performing five days a week with his family's band, The Love Notes, in which he became known on the island for his impersonation of Presley. In 1990, he was featured in MidWeek magazine as "Little Elvis," going on to have a cameo in the film Honeymoon in Vegas in 1992. After performing in various musical venues in his hometown throughout his childhood, he decided to pursue a musical career and moved to Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. after graduating from high school. He began producing songs for other artists, joining production team The Smeezingtons. After an unsuccessful stint with Motown Records, he signed with Atlantic Records in 2009. He became recognized as a solo artist after lending his vocals and co-writing the hooks for the songs "Nothin' on You" by B.o.B., and "Billionaire" by Travis McCoy. He also co-wrote the hits "Right Round" by Flo Rida featuring Ke$ha, and "Wavin' Flag" by K'naan. In October 2010, he released his debut album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans. Anchored by the worldwide number one singles "Just the Way You Are" and "Grenade," the album peaked at number three on the Billboard 200. He was nominated for seven Grammys at the 53rd Grammy Awards, winning Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for "Just the Way You Are." His music is noted for displaying a wide variety of styles and influences, and contains elements of many different musical genres. As a child, he was highly influenced by artists such as Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson and would often impersonate these artists from a young age. Jon Caramanica of The New York Times referred to him as "one of the most versatile and accessible singers in pop."

Irene Cara (1959- ), born Irene Cara Escalera al estilo latino in The Bronx, New York, U.S.A. to a Puerto Rican father and a Cuban mother, is an actress-singer-songwriter. She won an Academy Award in 1984 in the category of Best Original Song for co-writing "Flashdance... What A Feeling" for the film Flashdance. She is also known for her recording of the song "Fame" from the 1980 film of the same name, in which she also starred. At age three, shewas one of five finalists for the Little Miss America pageant. She began to play the piano "by ear" and soon thereafter, she began seriously studying music, acting, and dance. Her performing career started when she was a child on Spanish-language television, professionally singing and dancing. She made early TV appearances on the "Original Amateur Hour" (singing in Spanish) and "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson." She was a regular on PBS’s educational program "The Electric Company," where she starred opposite Bill Cosby, Rita Moreno and Morgan Freeman. As a child, she recorded a Latin-market Spanish-language record; an English Christmas album soon followed. She also appeared in a major concert tribute to Duke Ellington which also featured Stevie Wonder; Sammy Davis, Jr. and Roberta Flack. She appeared in on-and off-Broadway theatrical shows including the musicals Ain't Misbehavin', The Me Nobody Knows, Maggie Flynn and Via Galactica (the last with Raúl Juliá). She was the original Daisy Allen on the 1970s daytime serial "Love of Life." Next came her role as Angela in romance/thriller Aaron Loves Angela, followed by her portrayal of the title character in Sparkle. Television brought her international acclaim for serious dramatic roles in two outstanding miniseries, "Roots: The Next Generation" and "Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones." Her third film, Fame (1980), catapulted her to stardom. She was originally cast as a dancer, and when production heard her voice they rewrote the role of Coco Hernández. In the film, she sang both the title song "Fame" and the film’s other single "Out Here on My Own." These songs helped make the film's soundtrack a chart-topping, multi-platinum album. Further history was made when at the Academy Awards that year: It was the first time two songs from the same film were nominated in the same category and both sung by the same artist. Thus, Cara had the opportunity to be one of the few singers to perform more than one song at the Oscar ceremony. "Fame," written by Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford, won the award that year. She earned Grammy nominations in 1980 for Best New Female Artist and Best New Pop Artist, as well as a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Actress in a Musical. Other film and television credits during this period include D.C. Cab; "Maya Angelou's Sister, Sister"; "For Us the Living: The Medgar Evers Story" (where she played Myrlie Evers-Williams); Killing 'em Softly. She reached the peak of her music career with the title song for the movie Flashdance: "Flashdance... What A Feeling," which she co-wrote with Giorgio Moroder and Keith Forsey. She won the 1983 Academy Award for Best Song, 1984 Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, 1984 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, and American Music Awards for Best R&B Female Artist and Best Pop Single of the Year among other accolades. Other film credits include City Heat, Certain Fury and Busted Up. In 1993, she appeared as Mary Magdalene in the record-breaking anniversary tour of Jesus Christ Superstar opposite Ted Neeley, Carl Anderson and Dennis De Young. She has released three albums thus far: Anyone Can See (1982), What A Feelin' (1983) and Carasmatic (1987). She lives in Florida and works with her band Hot Caramel. Their album called Irene Cara Presents Hot Caramel was released on April 4, 2011.

Gregory Abbott (1964?- ), born in New York, New York, U.S.A. to a Venezuelan mother and an Antiguan father, is a singer, composer, producer, pianist and drummer. During his early years, his mother taught him how to play piano and encouraged him to develop vocally. Before his career as musician, he studied psychology at University of California, Berkeley and creative writing at Stanford; where he won a Wallace Stegner fellowship. Also, he has taught English at University of California, Berkeley. One of his first opportunities in his studio was an album for an independent record label, which gave him the opportunity to do a duet with Whitney Houston. Continuing on, he produced for the group EQ on Atlantic Records. In 1986, he released his first solo album, Shake You Down. The title track for the album was a success, going platinum and topping the Billboard Hot 100. The album's second single, "I Got The Feelin (It's Over)" which reached #5 on the R&B chart. With the strength of its singles, the album propelled to platinum status and earned him several awards. Internationally, hecarried much success, winning first prize at the Tokyo Music Festival. The title track of his second album, I'll Prove It To You, released in 1988, was featured on a Japanese movie soundtrack. In Belgium, he performed with Princess Stéphanie of Monaco. Later albums include One World! (Musik International, 1996), Eyes, Whispers, Rhythm, Sex... (Musik International, 2002), Dancing the Inner Realm... (Musik International/Mojo Man, 2005) and Rhyme and Reason (Musik International, 2006). He is a dual citizen of the U.S.A. and Antigua. In 2011, a new album is said to be released by him on Spectra Records. He currently lives in both New York and the San Francisco Bay area.

Rebecca Black (1997- ) was born Rebecca Black Márquez al estilo latino in Anaheim, California, U.S.A. She is a pop singer who gained extensive media attention with her 2011 single "Friday." The daughter of two veterinarians, she is of Spanish, Italian, Polish and English descent. Her mother paid $4,000 to have the single and an accompanying music video put out as a vanity release through the record label ARK Music Factory. The song was co-written and produced by Clarence Jey and Patrice Wilson of Ark Music Factory. After the video went viral on YouTube and other social media sites, "Friday" was derided by many music critics and viewers, who dubbed it "the worst song ever." The music video received around 167 million views, causing her to gain international attention. An honor student, she studied dance, auditioned for school shows, attended music summer camps, and began singing publicly in 2008 after joining the patriotic group Celebration USA. In late 2010, a classmate of hers and music video client of ARK Music Factory, a record label based in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A., told her about the company. The resulting single, "Friday," written entirely by ARK, was released on YouTube and iTunes. The song's video was uploaded to YouTube on February 10, 2011, and received approximately 1,000 views in the first month. The video went viral on March 11, 2011, acquiring millions of views on YouTube in a matter of days, becoming the most-talked-about topic on social networking site Twitter, and garnering mostly negative media coverage. As of March 22, 2011, first-week sales of her digital single were estimated to be around 40,000 by Billboard. On March 22, 2011, Black appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," during which she performed the single and discussed the negative reaction to it. The song has peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 and the New Zealand Singles Chart at number 58 and 33, respectively. In the UK, the song debuted at number 61 on the U.K. Singles Chart. In response to the YouTube video of "Friday," she began to receive death threats in late February 2011, specifically by phone and email. These threats are being investigated by the Anaheim Police Department. MTV selected her to host its first online awards show, the O Music Awards Fan Army Party in April 2011. As an homage to "Friday," she appeared in the music video for Katy Perry's "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)," in which she plays alongside Perry as the hostess of a party Perry attends. "Friday" was also performed on an episode of the second season of "Glee." When asked about why the song was covered on "Glee," show creator Ryan Murphy replied, "The show pays tribute to pop culture and, love it or hate it, that song is pop culture." In 2011 she left public school in favor of homeschooling, both in response to constant verbal bullying at school and in order to focus more of her time on her career. Following her split from ARK Music Factory after a dispute on the ownership and distribution of "Friday", Rebecca Black established her own independent record label RB Records. The first release on the new label was "My Moment," the follow up single to "Friday." She is also set to release a digital five-track EP.

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