Over the last year or so, it’s been well documented how many titans of the soul, funk & jazz world have passed on. This last week has seen yet another legendary artist depart this world – Donald Byrd.
The list of legends that Byrd blew his funky horn alongside read like a who’s who of the jazz world – Herbie Hancock, Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Lou Donaldson, Jimmy Smith the list goes on.. As well as playing alongside such legends, Byrd forged his own solo career and formed The Blackbyrds – best known for their minor hit on the r&b chart “Rock Creek Park”. So influential was Byrd that his music has been sampled on more than 100 hip-hop records, including tracks by the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, N.W.A. & Eric B & Rakim. Rest In Peace Brother Donald.
This week’s update may be familiar to some of you, and I’m sure that’s in no small part due to this selection being featured in the excellent George Clooney film, Three Kings. Rare Earth originally started out life as The Sunliners way back in 1960, but by ’68 they changed their name to that which they are still known by to this day. In ’69 they were signed to the Motown label – though they weren’t the first white act signed by the label as often incorrectly claimed (that honour belonged to The Rustix) However, they were able to release their material under an eponymously titled label (which was a subsidiary of the Motown , specifically for white rock acts)
1970 saw them achieve a number of chart hits including their cover of The Temptatons’ “Get Ready” & “I Know I’m Losing You”. The following year saw them release this selection “I Just Want To Celebrate” (which peaked at number 7 on the pop charts) and the equally excellent “Hey Big Brother”, which fared slightly worse with a number 17 chart position. The band were to have no further significant hits after this period but several line-up changes later, they can still be found performing to this day.