15 January

Pick a Day

15 JANUARY

In Music History

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2018 Gospel star Edwin Hawkins dies of pancreatic cancer at age 74. With his Northern California State Youth Choir, he recorded an album at his church to raise money to send them on a trip. When the radio station KSAN got a copy, they started playing "Oh Happy Day," a hymn he arranged. This led to a record deal, the choir was renamed The Edwin Hawkins Singers, and the song became the first traditional gospel tune to become a pop hit, reaching #4 in America and #2 in the UK.

2015 Kim Fowley dies of bladder cancer in Hollywood, California. The self-styled "Lord of Garbage" and founder of The Runaways was an infamous eccentric and was often sighted in his later days walking the Las Vegas strip with a cane, and his hair dyed green.

2011 Bluesman Fred Sanders Jr. dies of lung cancer at age 71.

2010 Charlie Daniels is rushed to the hospital after suffering a stroke. Daniels recovers and is released from the hospital two days later.

2009 In Tupelo, Mississippi, Darius Rucker, once a headliner with his pop band Hootie & the Blowfish, joins Brad Paisley's tour, where he is third on the bill behind Paisley and Dierks Bentley. It's Rucker's first tour as a country artist; he's willing to do "everything the new guy does" to make it happen.

2005 Sheryl Crow, Christina Aguilera and Tim McGraw participate in a benefit for victims of the tsunami in Southern Asia.

2003 In Albuquerque, New Mexico, Lou Rawls is arrested on one count of battery against his girlfriend.

1998 James Brown is admitted to a South Carolina hospital for addiction to painkillers.

1994 Ska music bubbles under in America as Billboard publishes a cover story called "Hunt for 'Next Big Thing' Unearths Ska Underground." Bands like No Doubt, Reel Big Fish and Sublime soon break through with ska-inflected sounds.

1994 Harry Nilsson, known by the mononym Nilsson, dies of heart failure at age 52, nearly one year after suffering a massive heart attack.

1993 Prolific lyricist Sammy Cahn, known for enduring tunes like "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!," dies of heart failure at age 79.

1992 Johnny Cash, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Booker T. & the MG's, The Isley Brothers, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Sam & Dave, and The Yardbirds are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

1992 Appearing on Entertainment Tonight, Brenda Lee criticizes the selections for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, noting the lack of female talent - such as The Shirelles, Dionne Warwick, and Connie Francis. She calls them "the women who pioneered rock and roll" and points out that they're just as important as the men.

1988 DJ/producer Skrillex is born Sonny Moore in Los Angeles.

1982 Harry Casey (the KC in KC and the Sunshine Band) is badly injured in a head-on collision in Hialeah, Florida. After a long rehab, he returns to action and lands another hit in 1984 with "Give It Up."

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Stevie Wonder Rallies For MLK Day

1981

Stevie Wonder leads a rally in Washington to get Martin Luther King's birthday declared an official holiday. He performs his song "Happy Birthday," written for King, which becomes a rallying call for the movement.


The Rally For Peace Press Conference at the National Mall, where King gave his historic "I Have A Dream" speech in 1963, is the culmination of a four-month tour featuring musical luminaries such as Gil Scott-Heron, Michael Jackson, and Diana Ross. The event is also a turning point in the arduous battle to bring MLK Day to fruition. Martin Luther King Jr. became a prominent figure in the American civil rights movement when he taught his fellow African Americans to fight discrimination with weapons of peace via nonviolent protest and civil disobedience. On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated by the white gunman James Earl Ray on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. Plans to recognize the activist's birthday as a national holiday were immediately put into action by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., who presented the King Holiday Bill to Congress. But again and again, the bill was rejected for reasons of finance (a paid holiday would be too costly) and prejudice (Senator Jesse Helms denounced King as a lawbreaker and a Communist). While laborers kept the cause alive through protests, Wonder used his star power to draw attention to the movement. On what would have been King's 52nd birthday, Wonder addresses a crowd of 100,000 people at the MLK rally in Washington. "As an artist, my purpose is to communicate the message that can better improve the lives of all of us," he says before asking for a moment of silence to honor the late civil rights leader. He also performs "Happy Birthday," a song that keeps the spirit of the movement alive for Wonder. "I had a vision of the Martin Luther King birthday as a national holiday," he tells Rolling Stone. "I mean I saw that. I imagined it. I wrote about it because I imagined it and I saw it and I believed it. So I just kept that in my mind till it happened." It takes two more years for President Ronald Reagan to sign the bill into existence, and still longer for it to take effect. At last, on January 20, 1986, Wonder hosts a star-studded concert celebration to commemorate the hard-won holiday, which is observed on the third Monday of January each year.

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