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Giants of Music

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CURTIS MAYFIELD 6.3.1942 — 12.26.1999

— Inducting Mayfield into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, Sean ”Puffy” Combs stumbled over his words, seemingly unsure whether Mayfield had made an impression or was an Impression. Of course, either is true: Both as the leader of the gospel-rooted vocal group the Impressions and as a politically aware solo artist, Mayfield — who spent the last decade as a quadriplegic after a 1990 accident — cast a very impressive (and Impression-istic) shadow over the world of soul. Yet while songs like ”People Get Ready” and ”Superfly” are indisputable classics, many feel the rest of his magnificent oeuvre has been overlooked. ”He never got his due, not like he should have,” says Big Boi of the rap duo OutKast. ”If it wasn’t for Curtis, OutKast would have been very different. The first single was influenced by him. His sound — that falsetto, that deep funk — is ingrained in us. People should go out and buy all his albums.” Word up. ESSENTIAL WORK The Impressions: The Greatest Hits (1998); Curtis (1970); Curtis/Live! (1971); Roots (1971); Superfly (1972)

TITO PUENTE 4.20.1923 — 5.31.2000

— When Puente was playing New York’s Palladium at the peak of the ’50s mambo craze, few could have foreseen that his name would still be every bit as synonymous with Latin music, not to mention Puerto Rican pride, when a new century dawned. The film The Mambo Kings portrayed a culture in which Puente was the mambo king — and quite the crossover prince, too, melding Latin rhythms with outsize jazz in a way that made sense well north of any border. It may not be exaggerating too much to paint Puente — as pop star Marc Anthony does — as this particular melting pot’s single musical standard-bearer over 50 years. ”If it wasn’t for Tito, there would be no salsa or Latin music as we know it,” claims Anthony. ”All those years as the representative of the foundation of our music — who else could have seen and helped generations make it their own? We should be so happy that he lived to see that.” Long live El Rey. ESSENTIAL WORK Cuban Carnival (1956); Sensacion (1986); 50 Years of Swing (1997); The Best of the Concord Years (2000)

VICKI SUE ROBINSON 5.31.1954 — 4.27.2000

— ”Vicki had an excellent voice, was vocally creative, and had so much energy on stage. She was very into her audience — which is something I liked, because if you perform for an audience, you should be into them and less into yourself. She was positive and didn’t burden other people with her illnesses — although it wouldn’t have been a burden to me, as a friend.” — Gloria Gaynor ESSENTIAL WORK ”Turn the Beat Around”

GROVER WASHINGTON JR. 12.12.1943 — 12.17.1999

— ”Grover was a jazz-oriented guy who made music that was palatable to mainstream listeners — jazz for people who don’t normally listen to jazz. He chose to play melodies that the average person could relate to, a pop-jazz fusion that was very influential. Kenny G mentioned Grover as one of his major influences.” — Bill Withers ESSENTIAL WORK Mister Magic (1975); Winelight (1980); Togethering (with Kenny Burrell) (1984)