The life of Jesse Mae Robinson was short-lived. However, Mrs. Robinson’s impact on music was enormous. Her music was performed by the great Dinah Washington who performed Mrs. Robinson’s first recorded song, “Mellow Man Blues”, in 1945, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson recorded “Clean Head Blues” in 1946 and “Old Maid Boogie”, in 1947; which made it to number one on an R&B chart. This was again one of the first for a song written by an African American female writer.
Among Ms. Robinson’s top selling blues songs were Black Night #1, Seven Long Days #2, by Charles Brown; Roomin House Boogie #2, Tears, Tears, Tears #5 and In The Middle of The Night, #6, by Amos Milburn and Sneakin Around #15 by BB King. In 1952 Mrs. Robinson made history when her song by Patti Page, “I Went To Your Wedding”, first released by Damita Jo went Number 1 on the Pop Charts and then stayed 12 weeks selling $1.5 million copies.
Because of the success of her exceptional storytelling, depth and broad reach through her writing often of life’s struggle and pain, Mrs. Robinson broke the color barrier and became one of the first (if not the first) African-American female writers admitted to ASCAP and possibly the first African American.
Miss Robinson’s songs were also recorded by other such greats as Sarah Vaughn, BB King, Elvis Presley, Julie Garland, Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis, Little Milton, Frankie Laine, Tony Bennett, Nina Simone, Greg Allman and the group the Go’s Go’s to name a few.
William Allen Young, Master of Ceremonies:
an acclaimed American actor and director who has starred in more than 100 television, stage and film projects in his illustrious acting career, including two Academy Award-nominated films “A Soldier’s Story” and “District 9.” He is beloved by millions of worldwide fans for his portrayal of Frank Mitchell, the tough-but-loving father on the hit TV series “Moesha.” William most recently starred as Dr. Rollie Guthrie on the CBS medical drama “Code Black.” He is widely respected in the Arts and Entertainment industry for his professional accomplishments and his efforts to diversify the ranks of writers, actors, directors and producers in Hollywood. As former co-chair of the Directors Guild of America’s African American Steering Committee, William helped to broker the historic 2000 Network Agreement which led to increases in training and hiring of ethnic minorities and women in TV and film projects.
Dorian Holley, Star of “A Love Letter to Marvin Gaye” & Vocal Director “This is It”:
Dorian Holley was the vocal director for the late Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” tour and for 27 years performed as a vocalist on every one of Jackson’s solo tours. He has toured with Rod Stewart, Queen Latifah, James Taylor, Don Henley, Lionel Richie, Linda Ronstadt, and Jimmy Vaughn. He has backed up Stevie Wonder, Sting, Adele, Jason Derulo, The Dave Matthews Band, Usher, Tori Kelly, Erykah Badu, Seal, Christina Aguilera, Fifth Harmony and countless others. The lead singer in The Rickey Minor Band during Jay Leno’s last three years on The Tonight Show, Dorian has also spent twelve years as vocal coach on American Idol (including its recent season on ABC) and has coached on Fox’s The Four. Dorian’s first solo CD was entitled Independent Film. The Dorian Holley Band is fresh off six sizzling, sold-out performances of A Love Letter to Marvin Gaye, a two hour retrospective of The Prince of Motown’s canon. Dorian was the voice of Grosberger in Stir Crazy and the voice of Choir Boy in The Five Heartbeats. He sang in Jungle Book, the latest Star Wars film, and the upcoming How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Terry Steele, International recording artist/co-writer of Here & Now by Luther Vandross:
Terry Steele is a two-time Grammy Award nominee and two-time ASCAP Award-winning who has toured internationally as a professional recording artist with concert performances all over the world. As a professional songwriter, Terry has written for or has collaborated with such megastar artists as Whitney Houston, Dionne Warwick, Starship, Hiroshima, Patti Labelle, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, The Spinners, Barry White, The Pointer Sisters, Natalie Cole, George Duke, and saxophonist Richard Elliott. As the principal writer of the blockbuster hit, “Here and Now,” (recorded by the late Luther Vandross) he garnered a Grammy nomination for “Best Rhythm and Blues Song” in 1990. He has held staff songwriting positions at EMI Music/SBK Records, Warner Chappell Music (USA), and most recently, the Germany-based music publishing house, CBM Entertainment (Europe) and Sony Music (South Africa). He has recorded three internationally released solo albums and has recorded six albums as lead singer for the renowned world-music band Hiroshima. Terry has also commanded the worldwide stage with leading roles in theatrical dance-plays and musical productions, and in 2007 he took his first leap into the starring role of the hugely successful off-Broadway production, Here and Now: The Legacy of Luther Vandross. Terry is currently authoring his first non-fiction book entitled, The Chronicles Of A Songwriter and is recording his fourth solo album, Studio Sessions.
Michael “Kidd Funkadelic” Hampton, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer:
Michael Hamption is a funk rock guitarist, composer and musical director who, in 1997, was inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of fame inductee with the band George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic. His performances of “Maggot Brain” and “Red Hot Momma” were a fixture of the band’s concerts over the years. Also a multi-instrumentalist including drums, keyboards, synth programming as credited on Funkadelic’s album, The Electric Spanking of War Babies, he has played and recorded on various projects, including the acclaimed P-funk spin off band, 420 Funk Mob, Deee Lite along with Bootsy Collins, and Bill Laswell’s various projects with Bernie Worrel. In 1998, Hampton recorded his first complete solo album, Heavy Metal Funkason, featuring his heavy fuzzy guitar solo with psychedelic and earthy atmosphere from Funkadelic with straight rock groove. He parted the Parliament Funkadelic tour band in 2015. He is now working on new material, including his own Kidd Funkadelic Band as well as collaborating with other artist across genres.
Marva Smith, Recording Artist:
A Los Angeles-based, powerhouse vocalist, Marva Smith’s vocal stylings were developed singing in her church choir. The daughter of a Baptist preacher, Marva counted Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan among her musical influences. Her professional journey began after a night out with her friends, singing karaoke in a local hot spot, when local playwright Brandi Burks convinced her she should be in her new stage play—a gospel musical. In the audience was Don B. Welch, who later cast her in his production, and the rest is history. Marva has spent the last next several years performing in plays and independent films. In 2014, Marva signed a recording contract with Jadar Entertainment and released the single “Catching Hell,” a cover of Natalie Cole’s 1970’s hit, to rave reviews. The song is available across digital platforms. Marva is a nonprofit development consultant who balances her entertainment career with her passion for community and politics. She is currently working on several musical projects as well as performing and acting as often as possible.
Masta Edwards, Blues Great:
An acclaimed vocalist and songwriter, Masta Edwards has the distinction of performing with the best and brightest in the music industry over the last four decades. Among his many collaborators are Don Covay, Seal, Scott Henderson, Thelma Houston, Mandrill, Keb Mo, Preston Glass, and LTD to name a few. Since 1991, students at the Musicians Institute of Hollywood have been blessed by his dedication to instruction. Under his guidance and mentorship, students have developed their creativity while enhancing the intricacies of their vocal instrument. He was featured in Warner Brothers’ Instructional Vocal Series and has performed in numerous plays and commercials.
Lura Daniels-Ball, Inspirational Recording Artist:
Lauded for her tonally rich, emotionally powerful and uniquely nuanced vocals, Lura Daniels-Ball stuns listeners with her ability to sing in any genre – whether classical, traditional, spiritual, gospel, jazz, R&B or pop music. Her solo performances include original theatrical productions, orchestral works during Christmas and Easter, and featured entertainment for special events. She has also performed the national anthem at NFL games and was selected twice as a national finalist in the prestigious American Traditions Competition for Singers, held in Savannah, Georgia.
Lura has performed several times in a signature original multimedia program entitled, MLK: A Tribute in Song, where she takes the audience on a compelling, emotional, yet celebratory musical journey highlighting the milestones of Dr. King’s legendary life and incomparable legacy. Recent performances of MLK: A Tribute in Song, include: the 50th Commemoration of the Voting Rights Act/Immigration and Nationality Act in Los Angeles; and in Houston, Texas at University Christian Church to help launch a regional voter registration training effort for The Disciples of Christ Church. She continues to perform it upon demand. In April of this year, Lura closed the ICYOLA/SCLC-SC
50th Anniversary Concert for the Remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion with Dr. King’s favorite “If I Can Help Somebody”. Lura recently launched her 3rd release, God is the Strength of My Heart. She also has a holiday CD, In The Joy of The Season , a fan favorite. She also continues to minister through song as a soloist at the Congregational Church of Christian Fellowship (Sr. Pastor, Rev. James K. McKnight).
Patrick Minner, Gospel and Soul Singer:
Since age ten, Patrick Minner has performed for political dignitaries and heads of state, including tributes and celebrations honoring the Tuskegee Airmen, Dr. Dorothy Height, Fayyad Nicholas (of the famed Nicholas Brothers) and Nichelle Nichols to name a few. He received praise from the late Betty Shabazz (wife of slain Civil rights leader Malcolm-X) for his rendition of “A Change is Gonna’ Come” performance for the opening of the Malcolm-X Library in San Diego, CA. Patrick’s singing has also won him principal roles in stage productions including Harlem, Harlem!, Foul Play, Lady Sings the Blues, The Wiz, Children of Eden, and his acclaimed one-man show Lonely Teardrops-The Jackie Wilson Story to name a few. He had made television appearances where he performed at the legendary Apollo Theater on Showtime at the Apollo.
TC Campbell, Musical Director:
Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, TC Campbell attended Tennessee State University, where he majored in music. In 1977, while playing keyboards in Nashville, TC met singer Peabo Bryson. The two bonded and went on to record the LP Crosswinds and tour for the next two years. During this time, they collaborated as writers on the song “We’re The Best of Friends,” featuring Peabo and Natalie Cole. His career began to flourish after joining the group Cameo in late 1979. With them he performed and wrote the recordings “I Like It” and “Knights By Knight.” In 1983, he became musical director for Evelyn “Champagne” King. His talent and outgoing personality attracted the attention of Jeffrey Osborne in 1985. Osborne quickly enlisted his service as musical director for the next six years. Together they wrote and co-produced “Who Would Have Guessed,” “Love’s Not Ready,” and “Come Midnight” on Osborne’s Emotional album. He later became musical director and compose for the legendary Della Reese. When she was invited to perform as featured artist for the July 4th, 1997 Celebration at the Hollywood Bowl, he composed and orchestrated her songs. He appeared and worked as music coordinator on the CBS television hit series Touched by An Angel. Accompanying the late Luther Vandross on a special episode was one of the highlights of his experience with the show. As co-founder and CEO of Spiritual Icon Records, TC stays busy arranging and composing for numerous projects.
Sandra Evers-Manly, Producer:
Founded the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center (BHERC) in 1996 to support events just like the tribute this evening. BHERC is a nonprofit, public benefit organization designed to advocate, educate, research, develop, and preserve the history and future of Blacks in film, television and entertainment.
Ms. Manly is also the creator of Films With A Purpose (FWAP) which supports the production, completion and distribution of diverse films, stories that impact the hearts and mind of the viewer. With (FWAP) she aims to Educate, Inspire and Empower future diverse filmmakers, writers and directors; and to raise the anticipation of audiences for meaningful storytelling and excellence in filmmaking for generations to come. She is a noted corporate executive, community activist and patron to African American Filmmakers and artists who has been making a difference across the nation in diverse communities for more than 25 years. She believes in the power of films and the revival of significant Black cultural events and historical discovery as a viable tool to educate and uplift.
Evers-Manly was executive producer for 5 short films in 1990 about Gang Violence thru Fight Back with Films, an organization she founded. She established the S.E. Manly Film Short Festival, the African American Film Festival and Marketplace, Sistah’s are Doin’ It For Themselves, Reel Black Men and Youth Diversity Film Festivals which take place annually in Los Angeles, CA.
Reginald Brown, Director:
Reginald D. Brown is a Director member of the Director’s Guild of America and a seasoned Television Writer in the Writers Guild of America, west. His 40 years of professional experience entail highly rated TV programs such as the PBS Special I Remember Beale Street; Syndicated Specials Lou Rawls Parade of Stars, Dionne Warwick’s Celebrate the Soul of American Music, Stellar Gospel Awards, Trumpet Awards, Dick Griffey/Solar Records Today’s Child, Tomorrow’s Hope, The Gospel of Music with Jeff Majors and America Salute Rosa Parks at the John F. Kennedy Center.
Reginald’s award-winning film credits include Witness To A Dream, A Profile in Courage: Linda L. Smith and the Indie romantic comedy Love and Other Four Letter Words starring Tangi Miller and Essence Atkins. No stranger to the corporate world, a few of Reginald’s clients include Anheuser Busch Companies, UCLA School of Medicine, Nestles and Global Electric Transportation. Currently, Reginald is the Co-Producer of the Indie documentary, The Last Mambo.