Earl Van Dyke

Posted in Woodlawn Cemetery (MI) with tags , , , on January 30, 2023 by Cade

July 8, 1930 – September 18, 1992

Nicknamed “Chunk O Funk” or “Big Funk” by his session-mates, Earl Van Dyke was a piano player, keyboardist and band leader for the Motown in-house band collectively known as the Funk Brothers. Van Dyke stepped into the role when Joe Hunter left Motown in 1964 and played on hit records for artists like the Temptations, the Four Tops and Marvin Gaye. He also recorded and played his own records, many of which were Motown inspired or covers of classic Motown songs.

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Judith Resnik

Posted in Arlington National Cemetery with tags , , on January 23, 2023 by Cade

April 5, 1949 – January 28, 1986

Judith A. Resnik was a certifiable genius. There was evidence of her intelligence throughout her childhood, culminating with her attaining a perfect score on her SAT exam in high school. She studied electrical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and eventually obtained a PhD in the field from the University of Maryland…with honors, always. Her early career was spent with organizations like RCA and the National Institutes of Health. She helped the Navy design components for complicated radar and telemetry systems. At the urging of a friend, she also learned to pilot airplanes…getting perfect or near-perfect scores on her license exams – naturally. She was a gifted and brilliant individual and in 1978 she applied to be an astronaut at NASA.

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Johnnie Mae Matthews

Posted in Woodlawn Cemetery (MI) with tags on January 16, 2023 by Cade

December 31, 1922 – January 6, 2002

The first African American woman to own her own record label, Johnnie Mae Matthews was a hugely – if quietly – influential figure in the early 1960’s Detroit R&B music scene. A recording artist in her own right, Matthews worked early on with the likes of Otis Williams and the Distants, Jimmy and David Ruffin, Norman Whitfield, Richard Street and Berry Gordy. Gordy often cited Matthews as the one who showed him the ropes of the music business and encouraged him to start Motown records. Johnnie, under her label, Northern Recording Company, was the original manager of the Temptations when they were still known as “the Distants.”

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Bill Monroe

Posted in Rosine Cemetery with tags , , , , on January 9, 2023 by Cade

September 13, 1911 – September 9, 1996

William Smith Monroe was a hugely influential country musician. Born into a musical family in the “Bluegrass State” of Kentucky, young Bill took up playing the mandolin since his older brothers had already learned guitar and fiddle. They formed a family band, the Monroe Brothers, to play local dances and other shows and Bill (along with brother, Charley) eventually landed spots on regional and national radio programs and a recording contract with RCA Victor. Over the next several years, Bill gathered a stable of talented musicians and eventually formed the Blue Grass Boys where he leaned heavily on his Scottish roots and the music he grew up with. By the time Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys had found and fine-tuned their unique sound, an entire new genre of country music was born.

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Aretha Franklin

Posted in Woodlawn Cemetery (MI) with tags , on December 19, 2022 by Cade

March 25, 1942 – August 16, 2018

Aretha Louise Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1942. Her father, a Baptist minister, moved the family to Detroit when Aretha was 5 years-old to preach at New Bethel Baptist Church. After her mother died in 1952, 10 year-old Aretha found solace through singing in the church. It was immediately apparent to everyone who heard, that there was something special about her. She continued to sing and gain attention and by the time she turned 18, she signed a recording contract with Columbia records. Though her time with Columbia taught her about the business and generated a few minor hits, it would take a change for the world to finally meet Ms. Franklin. In 1966, Aretha Franklin signed with Atlantic records and exploded onto the international music landscape.

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Bobbie Smith

Posted in Woodlawn Cemetery (MI) with tags , , , on December 12, 2022 by Cade

April 10, 1936 – March 16, 2013

The Spinners were a popular American R&B vocal group that formed in 1954 in a housing project outside of Detroit. The group got their professional start at Tri-Phi Records, which was eventually absorbed into Berry Gordy’s Motown label. While they paid their dues alongside hitmakers like the Temptations and the Four Tops, the Spinners’ success was finally realized when they left Motown and signed with Atlantic records in the early 1970’s. Through all the highs and lows, the most consistent lead vocal was that of Robert “Bobby” Smith. Bobby – or “Bobbie” as he sometimes spelled it – led the Spinners on certified Gold singles like “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love,” the duet with Dionne Warwick “Then Came You” and “I’ll Be Around.” The latter – originally a B-side – was an unexpected success as DJs preferred playing it to the A-side single. It became the Spinners’ first million-selling record and their first #1 hit.

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Henry Ford

Posted in Ford Cemetery with tags on December 5, 2022 by Cade

July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947

Look, history is complicated.

On one hand, Henry Ford was one of the most recognizable 20th Century names on the planet. The industrialist and businessman was largely responsible for ushering in the age of, not only mass-produced and “affordable” automobiles, but also of mass-produced goods in general. The Ford Model T began production in 1908 and opened up automobile travel to the American middle-class and changed the course of personal mobility. His formula for assembly-line production coupled with relatively well-paid workers changed American industrialism. Of course, the Ford Motor Company would go on to become one of the most recognizable brands in the world.

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Lawrence Payton

Posted in Woodlawn Cemetery (MI) with tags , , , on November 28, 2022 by Cade

March 2, 1938 – June 20, 1997

Lawrence Payton spent 43 years as part of one of the most successful R&B acts of the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. That act was the Four Tops and Payton was often cited as the musical backbone of the group. He was responsible for many of the Tops’ most memorable harmonies and arrangements.

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Wally Schirra

Posted in Cremated with tags , , on November 21, 2022 by Cade

March 12, 1923 – May 3, 2007

Walter “Wally” Schirra was a naval test pilot and one of the Mercury 7 astronauts. Schirra served aboard the USS Alaska during World War II and became a pilot for the Navy in 1948. He flew 90 missions during the Korean war and began test piloting aircraft in the years that followed. In 1959, Schirra was selected for Project Mercury and the first American manned-spaceflight program. He flew the Mercury-Atlas 8 mission onboard the Sigma 7 space capsule. MA-8 orbited the earth six times and allowed Schirra to manually pilot the capsule successfully.
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Norman “Turkey” Stearnes

Posted in Lincoln Memorial Park with tags , , on November 14, 2022 by Cade

May 8, 1901 – September 4, 1979

“If they don’t put Turkey Stearnes in the Hall of Fame, they shouldn’t put anybody in!”James “Cool Papa” Bell

Norman Stearnes was a Hall of Fame baseball player who played the entirety of his 19-year career in the Negro Leagues. Nicknamed “Turkey” from the unconventional way he ran, he was a 5x All-Star and 2x league batting champion. He was predominantly a utility outfielder – playing mostly in left field – but was praised for his versatility and speed at other positions as well.

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