Everyone has a story, they say. It seems that some of the more interesting life stories are those of celebrities. Actually, that’s not true-I know some regular people whose life stories would knock your socks off. So it’s probably better to say that celebrities have the forum by which they can have their stories told.
It would be very easy to call the TVOne Network’s series “Unsung” an R&B version of VH-1’s “Behind the Music”. Truthfully, it kind of *is*. However, unlike “BTM”, which generally focuses on household names, “Unsung” takes pains to tell the stories of artists that have not necessarily gotten the mainstream recognition they’ve deserved, despite being incredibly influential in the soul music world.
I’ve watched most of the episodes of this series so far, and the overwhelming majority of them have had me glued to the TV set. Among the artists profiled have been R&B legends like Phyllis Hyman, Minnie Riperton, The Bar-Kays, Bootsy Collins, Teena Marie, Shalamar and DeBarge. TVOne sifts through archival footage and has managed to score in-depth interviews with all of the living artists profiled (and in cases where the artist is deceased, they’ve managed to score footage from their closest kin…for example, Riperton’s widower Dick Rudolph and her daughter Maya both gave interviews to the show, as did Donny Hathaway’s widow Eulalah.) Bottom line-if you are a fan of soul music, you NEED to have this show on your watching schedule.
For their latest season, which begins Monday September 13th, the list of artists that are being profiled includes Teddy Pendergrass, who passed away at the top of this year, as well as troubled Motown siren Tammi Terrell (who died much too soon of a brain tumor), international soul/disco band Heatwave (whose leader, Johnnie Wilder, was paralyzed from the waist down at the height of the band’s success and whose main songwriter, Rod Temperton, was instrumental in the success of Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” and “Thriller” albums) and reggae group Musical Youth (who also had a member perish mysteriously at a young age). Other artists profiled in upcoming episodes include legendary Philly soul group The O’Jays, hip-hop pioneers The Fat Boys, and singer/songwriter/producer Angela Winbush, probably best known in contemporary circles for being Mrs. Ron Isley for a period of time.
I appreciate this show not only for being incredibly well made, but also for acknowledging the fact that some artists who made an incredible impact on R&B music culture have not been properly recognized and have incredible stories to tell. While I have a few ideas for future profiles (Stephanie Mills, Vanity and The Boys are a few names that come to mind immediately), you’d best believe I’ll continue to check for this series no matter who the subject is.
Head on over to the TVOne site and check out the episode on Zapp, which is streaming right now.
Incoming search terms:
- rod temperton paralyzed