Another season of TVOne’s UnSung, the music documentary series to end all documentary series, has ended. After getting off to a shaky start with Isaac Hayes and Lou Rawls episodes, the series gained its footing and ended with amazing episodes on The Whispers, Mint Condition and Johnny Gill.
Of course, there are still many, many unheralded artists from the world of black music that deserve to have their stories told. Theoretically, Unsung could go up to Season 70 if they wanted. Here are five artists whose stories I hope are covered in Season 7 (and yes, I realize that a few of these are repeats from similar lists.I figure if I beg enough, the folks at TVOne will have a little mercy on me and just put these things into production already.
Tevin Campbell- An uber-talented prodigy whose career ended way before it should have. Tevin was a discovery of Quincy Jones, initially appearing as a featured vocalist on his 1989 Back on the Block album. Prince then got his fingerless gloves on Tevin, and recruited him to appear in 1990’s Graffiti Bridge. For the next half decade or so, Tevin was the male teen singer du jour, with hits like “Tell Me What You Want Me To Do,” “Alone With You,” “Can We Talk,” and “I’m Ready.” The latter song was the title track to his multi-platinum second album. 1996’s Back to the World was a good album with an all-star writing and production cast (Babyface and Puff Daddy were the big contributors) but Tevin had some imaging problems and quickly found himself usurped in the male teen sweepstakes by Usher (a more charismatic performer but a significantly inferior vocalist.) After one more album, Tevin fell off the planet, only to reappear on the police blotter following a George Michael-esque incident with an undercover cop. Almost 15 years later, there have been threats of a new album, a couple of YouTube videos, but…nothing beyond that. I feel like there’s a helluva story there. Tevin just has to tell it.
Living Colour-Rock ‘n roll is black music. Living Colour is the most successful all-black rock band in history. 2013 is the 25th anniversary of their ground-breaking debut album, Vivid. The band is still together. What better way to celebrate the diversity of the Black experience and black music than by devoting an hour to a band that did so much for busting down boundaries in the age of hair metal?
Jermaine Stewart-Best known for his 1986 smash “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off,” Stewart had a pretty colorful career. He began as a “Soul Train” dancer back in the Seventies, quickly befriending Jody Watley. From there, he became Shalamar’s backup dancer. When the group split up in 1983, Stewart hung out in the UK for a while (long enough to lend his distinctive pipes to Culture Club’s “Miss Me Blind.” Signing to Arista Records, Stewart’s solo career kicked off a year later with the dance hit “The Word is Out.” Jermaine wasn’t much of a singer, but his voice was unique, and he was striking from a visual standpoint. He was also a heck of a dancer, natch.
The hits dried up by the end of the Eighties, and there wasn’t much heard from Stewart until he passed away from AIDS-related complications in 1997. A somewhat sadly ironic fate, considering his biggest hit.
The Stylistics-Super-influential, a deep catalog of hits. Russell Thompkins Jr.’s voice is one of the most distinctive in pop music EVER. And I don’t know a flippin’ thing about these guys. I also think that most of the group members are still with us. TVOne, what are y’all waiting for? There’s a hole in my soul education that needs to be filled!
The System– David Frank and Mic Murphy were at the forefront of electro-soul. The stuff that Miguel and The Weeknd are doing now? This chocolate and vanilla duo was doing that shit three decades ago. Murphy’s distinctive voice (and impressive coif) gave the duo extra swagger. After scoring dance smashes with “It’s Passion” and the iconic “You Are in My System,” The System scored a series of R&B hits over the next couple of years, culminating with 1987’s “Don’t Disturb This Groove,” a massive crossover smash that should’ve pointed towards much bigger things. The duo released one more album before Murphy went solo (yeah, he did. I have his solo record!) Since then, Frank has become an in-demand producer/songwriter, helming songs for Christina Aguilera (“Genie in a Bottle,”) Dream (“He Loves U Not,”) and more. The duo reunites periodocally, but their last official studio album was back in the late Nineties.
I know there are plenty of other artists who are deserving of one of these specials, but I want you to tell me…who would you like to see on the next season of UnSung? Leave us a comment!
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