Ronnie White

Posted in Woodlawn Cemetery (MI) with tags , , , on September 26, 2022 by Cade

April 5, 1939 – August 26, 1995

As a founding member of the first successful group at Motown Records, Ronald “Ronnie” White’s place in American music history was solidified early on, even if he didn’t always get the recognition. In 1955, White – along with childhood friend, William “Smokey” Robinson – formed the vocal group that would eventually become the Miracles. When Berry Gordy was founding Tamla records in Detroit, the Miracles auditioned for him having found little interest from other labels. Gordy signed the group to the label that became Motown. The Miracles had their first hit with 1960’s “Shop Around.”

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Harold Ramis

Posted in Shalom Memorial Park with tags , , , on September 19, 2022 by Cade

November 21, 1944 – February 24, 2014

Every so often, I come across a post that I dread writing. Usually it’s because it features the life – and death, naturally – of someone I regard very highly. This is one of those posts. At any given moment, if you ask me what my favorite movie is, somewhere north of 2/3 of the time my answer will be the 1984 classic Ghostbusters. The characters in that movie were giants to me as a kid and Egon Spengler was always, always my favorite. Egon was, of course, played by legendary actor/writer/director Harold Ramis…who also wrote the movie.

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Rosa Parks

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

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February 4, 1913 – October 24, 2005

As a little girl in Jim Crow-era Alabama, Rosa McCauley had to walk to school while busses filled with White students in her community passed by. Busses, she later said, were one of the most visible ways she “realized there was a Black world and a White world.” Some years later, it was another bus that would make Rosa a quintessential symbol of the American Civil Rights movement.

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David Ruffin

Posted in Woodlawn Cemetery (MI) with tags , , , on September 5, 2022 by Cade

January 18, 1941 – June 1, 1991

Arguably one of the most iconic voices in American music, David Eli Ruffin spent his youth singing with his family in his native Mississippi and throughout the south. When he was 16, he followed his older brother, Jimmy, to Detroit; both with eyes on becoming recording artists. David met Berry Gordy and was able to work and record with minor labels in the area, but he failed to break through. Brother Jimmy was finding some moderate success as a solo artist and would often invite David onstage to perform with him. Jimmy caught a break by joining the Motortown Revue tour alongside acts like Marvin Gaye and the Temptations. David spent time on the tour and got to know the Temps well and in 1964 – when they had to fire Al Bryant from the group – they offered him a job.

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Obie Benson

Posted in Woodlawn Cemetery (MI) with tags , , , on August 29, 2022 by Cade

June 14, 1936 – July 1, 2005

The bass singer for the legendary Motown vocal group, the Four Tops, Renaldo “Obie” Benson was much more than just a background singer. The Four Tops formed in the 1950s and bounced around a couple of record labels before landing with Motown in 1963 and launching a stellar stretch of hits including #1 singles “Reach Out I’ll Be There” and “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)”.

Benson acted as choreographer during the group’s early years. And the Tops’ extensive work with Motown house songwriters Holland-Dozier-Holland peaked his interest as in writing songs as well.

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Jackie Wilson

Posted in Westlawn Cemetery with tags , on August 22, 2022 by Cade

June 9, 1934 – January 21, 1984

A common thread for musicians who grew up on the streets of 1950s Detroit was that you had two choices as a young person: join a gang or join a singing group. Jack Leroy Wilson, Jr. – known as “Sonny” or “Jackie” – opted for both. He served time in juvenile detention a couple of times, learned to box and took up drinking alcohol as a teenager. All the while, he found that, despite the fact that he wasn’t particularly religious, he enjoyed singing with other kids in church. Jackie was able to find work singing in clubs around Detroit and eventually landed a record deal with Brunswick records where he became one of the great pioneers of the burgeoning Rhythm & Blues wave that was about to sweep the nation.

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George Peppard

Posted in Northview Cemetery with tags , on August 15, 2022 by Cade

October 1, 1928 – May 8, 1994

American pop culture in the 1980’s was chock-full of iconic catchphrases.

“Where’s the beef?”
“I pity the fool!”
“Whatchu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”
“I love it when a plan comes together.”

The latter is attributed to the character Col. John “Hannibal” Smith from the hit NBC action series, The A-Team. Hannibal, the snarky, cigar-chomping leader of the titular renegade commando unit, was played genially by veteran of the stage and screen, George Peppard.

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Florence Ballard

Posted in Detroit Memorial Park East with tags , , , on August 8, 2022 by Cade

June 30, 1943 – February 22, 1976

A powerful voice. Immense ambition. A tragic life. These are often the foundations for the most compelling stories.

Florence Ballard had all three. The happy-go-lucky teenager in Detroit met a kindred during high school in the form of fellow singer, Mary Wilson. The two met at a talent show and would eventually both join the new sister act to the Primes – a local group consisting of future-Temptations Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks. Ballard, Wilson, Betty McGowan and Diana Ross – as the Primettes – enjoyed some local success and turned their eyes on a Motown contract. Berry Gordy liked what he saw but encouraged them to A) finish high school and B) change their name. Florence suggested they call themselves the “Supremes.”

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James Jamerson

Posted in Woodlawn Cemetery (MI) with tags , , , on August 1, 2022 by Cade

January 29, 1936 – August 2, 1983

For a large portion of James Jamerson’s hall of fame career, he was unknown to most of the general public. Despite playing bass on some of the biggest hits of the 1960s, Jamerson – a studio musician at Motown’s Hitsville USA studios – remained officially uncredited until 1971. The in-house studio musicians at Motown referred to themselves simply as “The Funk Brothers” and Jamerson’s jazz stylings were among their most notable qualities.

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Bobby Rogers

Posted in Woodlawn Cemetery (MI) with tags , , , on July 25, 2022 by Cade

February 19, 1940 – March 3, 2013

On February 19, 1940, in a north Detroit hospital, two future Rock and Roll Hall of Famers were born. William “Smokey” Robinson and Robert Rogers not only shared the same start, but several years later, they helped launch one of the biggest movements in popular music history as members of Motown Record’s first hit group: the Miracles.

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