Notorious B.I.G.
“It was all a dream…” which ended too
soon for this ’90s hip-hop megastar.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Christopher
George Latore Wallace was
nicknamed “Biggie” by classmates, on
account of his hefty size. Street crime
and drug deals drifted him in and out of
jail during his juvenile years, although
he was rapping the whole time. In 1994,
after collaborating with rappers such
as LL Cool J, Biggie’s double A-side,
“Juicy/Unbelievable” hit the pop charts
at No. 27. At the time, an East Coast-
West Coast rap feud was happening, and
Notorious took the East Coast reigns
with his No. 1 rap chart hit, “Big
Poppa.” Many people wondered if he
played a role in Tupac Shakur’s 1996
murder in Las Vegas. The following year
on March 9, 1997, Notorious B.I.G. was
killed in a drive-by shooting at a Los
Angeles intersection. To this day, no
suspects have been arrested in his
murder. Notorious B.I.G. was 24 years
Aaliyah Dana Haughton was born in
Brooklyn in 1979, and raised in Detroit
through her early years as a “Star
Search” and “Family Matters” child star.
Mentored by singer-producer R. Kelly,
her album “Age Ain’t Nothing but a
Number” was released in 1994 when
she was 14. Critically and commercially
a hit, her second album “One in a
Million” peaked on the Billboard 200 at
No. 18 with hit singles such as “If your
Girl only Knew.” Film roles in “Romeo
Must Die” and “Queen of the Damned”
brought her immense popularity. Two
months before her death in July of
2001, her album “Aaliyah” opened to
her strongest numbers. On Aug. 25
2001, the twin-engine Cessna she and
eight others had boarded crashed after
takeoff, killing everyone. She was 22.
Her “Aaliyah” album shot to No. 1 the
week after her death, and she won two
posthumous American Music Awards for
Otis Redding
What a legend! Many don’t realize when
they hear this crooner’s mature,
experienced-sounding voice that he was
only 26 when he died in a plane crash
over Madison, Wisconsin. Born in 1941
in Dawson, Georgia, he died Dec. 10,
1967. Redding’s song “These Arms of
Mine,” became an R&B hit in 1962. By
1965, he was topping the soul charts
with songs such as “Respect” and “I
Can’t Turn you Loose.” Days before he
died, the single “Sittin’ on the Dock of
the Bay” was released and it became
extremely popular in early 1968 and
beyond. Cheers to the golden voice of
Mr. Redding!
Tami Terrell
Born in 1945, this young lady rose up in
the Motown world in her teens,
performing with James Brown’s Revue
for two years before signing with
Motown’s Berry Gordy in 1965. The
door she walked through led to Marvin
Gaye and a song called “Ain’t no
Mountain High Enough,” rocketing the
two to the top of the radio charts.
Subsequent duet hits including “Ain’t
Nothing like the Real Thing” and “You’re
all I Need” seemed to solidify the path
for Gaye and Terrell. In 1967, while
performing with Gaye at Hampton-
Sydney College, she collapsed in his
arms. Diagnosed with a brain tumor, she
underwent a series of operations, only
to succumb on March 16, 1970. Gaye
was so anguished by her death at age
24, he gave up touring for three years.
Robert Johnson
Johnson was always like a ghost anyway,
howling about the devil and
his impending meeting with the reaper.
His photographs haunt and his music
lingers long after you hear it. He was
only 27 when he died on Aug. 16, 1938.
Here’s the legend: a young man named
Robert Leroy Johnson lived on a
southern plantation. Wanting so badly
to be a blues singer, he went to the
crossroads late one night and met the
Devil, who took his guitar, played a few
songs, and returned it to Johnson. The
meeting imbued him with the power of
the blues, but his soul was sold in the
process. He became an itinerant delta
blues king, recording hits along the way.
Many scholars argue about the night
Johnson died in Greenwood, Mississippi.
Was he poisoned by the whiskey a
married temptress gave him? That’s one
Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes
Songs by the band TLC were played at
every hour of every day on most radio
stations during the early ’90s, especially
“Waterfalls,” a cautionary song about
AIDS. Lisa Lopes joined the band when
she was 19. In 1992, the debut album
“Ooooohhh…On the TLC Tip” sold
6 million copies, and TLC became an
immediate hit. “CrazySexyCool” ws
released in 1994, solidifying the band as
one of the biggest-selling girl groups of
all time. The media followed squabbles
between the girls, including the
infamous evening in 1994 where
Lopes burned down her NFL boyfriend
Andre Rison’s mansion, illuminating a
darker side of her life. On April 25,
2002, Lopes swerved her Mitsubishi off
a winding road in Honduras and was
ejected from the car, dying of head
trauma and neck injuries.
Sam Cooke
One of the pioneers of soul music, Sam
Cooke had the sweetest voice there
ever was. Born in Mississippi in 1931 to
a Baptist minister (one of eight kids!),
he stood up in the gospel music industry
by becoming lead singer of the Soul
Stirrers. After he released his first pop
single, “Lovable,” in 1956, he was
dropped by Specialty Records.
But Cooke became a household name in
the ’60s with hits such as “Twistin’ the
Night Away,” “Wonderful World,” and
“Another Saturday Night.” On Dec. 11,
1964, at the Hacienda Hotel in Los
Angeles, Cooke was found nearly naked
with a bullet to the heart. The hotel’s
manager, Bertha Franklin, claimed that
Cooke had attacked her and she shot
him in self defense. A second woman,
Elisa Boyer, surfaced after the homicide
and said that Cooke had kidnapped and
tried to rape her in the hotel, but she
escaped. People who saw Cooke’s
body claimed he had been so badly
beaten, it’s questionable how he
actually died.
Bob Marley
Born in 1945, Jamaican reggae singer-
songwriter-guitarist Bob Marley was the
son of a British naval officer and
Jamaican mother Cedella. Moving to
Trenchtown, Jamaica at age 12, he
formed The Wailers in 1963 with four
other musicians. Marley rocked the
small island’s music scene with hit
singles such as “Judge Not” and
“Simmer Down.” Recording the eight-
track album, “Catch a Fire,” in 1983 for
London’s Island Records proved to be
the elevator to international fame.
Subsequent albums in the ’70s includedf
“Exodus” and “Kaya.” Traveling back and
forth from England to Jamaica,
Marley performed multiple concerts
promoting peace. In 1977, malignant
melanoma was found under his toe.
By May 11, 1981, the cancer had spread
to his lung and brain. Marley died in a
Miami hospital. He was 36.
Tupac Shakur
Tupac Amaru Shakur, aka 2Pac, is one of
the biggest-selling names in any music
genre, with more than 75 million
albums sold worldwide. Born in 1971 in
East Harlem to parents who were active
in the Black Panther movement, he
started recording rap clips with the
group Digital Underground. His first
underground solo album, “2Pacalypse
Now,” was released to critical acclaim in
1991. Forming the group Thug Life in
1993, the album “Thug Life: Volume 1″
was released on Shakur’s label, Out Da
Gutta Records. His solo career continued
to flourish, and the 1994 album, “All
Eyez on Me,” is considered a
masterpiece of rap music. Film roles,
including the popular drama “Poetic
Justice” proved his versatility. On the
night of Sept. 7, 1996, a car pulled up
next to Shakur’s sedan at a Las Vegas
intersection. Multiple bullets hit Shakur.
He died Sept. 13 in his hospital bed. He
was 25.
Jimi Hendrix
Perhaps the greatest electric guitarist in
history, and a visionary of the ’60s
psychedelic music scene, Hendrix was
born in 1942 in Seattle, Washington. He
started playing the electric guitar in
various Seattle bands, displaying early
talent. Following a stint in the U.S.
Army, he kicked around the South,
forming and dissolving bands and
learning to play with his teeth. Touring
with the Isley Brothers in the early ’60s
and doing backup with Little Richard
provided him with stage and TV
appearances. It wasn’t until he went to
London and formed the Jimi Hendrix
Experience that things started to take
off. Albums “Are you Experienced” and
“Axis: Bold as Love” (both 1967) were
followed with benchmark live
performances at the Monterey Pop
Festival and Woodstock ’69. He died
Sept. 18, 1970. The coroner’s report
said Hendrix’s body was full of
barbiturates. He was 27. His flair and
fire live on.

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