Today in rock history: On this date in 2007, rock and roll pioneer and R&B innovator Ike Turner died at the age of 76. Turner learned to play a variety of musical instruments as a young child, and his first recording — the 1951 classic “Rocket 88,” credited to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats — is often referred to as the first rock and roll song ever recorded. He’d soon meet Anna Mae Bullock — the dynamic performer he’d eventually marry and rename Tina Turner — and create the Ike & Tina Turner Revue which scored a string of pop and R&B hits. After splitting with Ike after bouts of abuse, Tina became an international superstar on her own. Ike would run into a string of personal problems, including drug addiction, that would land him in prison and the grave (his death was blamed on cocaine overdose). Apart from his personal turmoil, Ike Turner is still recognized as a key player in the formation of rock music.
Today in rock history: On this date in 1970, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles sat at the top of both Billboard’s pop singles chart and the R&B chart with the catchy hit, “The Tears of a Clown.” Although the song — which was released in England before the U.S. — was originally released on the group’s 1967 album Make it Happen, it didn't become a single and rise to popularity until 1970. Co-written by Robinson, who penned many hits for his group as well as for other Motown Records artists, one of the song’s other co-writers was another Motown Records legend, Stevie Wonder. “The Tears of a Clown” would later be covered by artists like pop vocalist Petula Clark, British ska band English Beat and former Genesis drummer and vocalist, Phil Collins.
Today in rock history: On this date in 1969, R&B superstar Isaac Hayes had his landmark, second solo album, Hot Buttered Soul, achieve gold sales status. Released in September of 1969, the swiftly-selling album is regarded as one of the best soul albums of all time. Consisting of only four songs, the record features Hayes and his deep, booming voice at the height of his most prolific period. An opening, 12-minute reading of Burt Bacharach’s classic “Walk on By” (originally made into a hit by Dionne Warwick) serves as the centerpiece of Hot Buttered Soul, but its closer, a 19-minute rendition of Jimmy Webb’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” takes the album to a different realm and also helped establish Hayes as one of the most imaginative and daring artists of his day.
Today in rock history: On this date in 1957, singer, percussionist and record producer Sheila E. was born in Oakland, California. Born Sheila Cecelia Escovedo, the multi-talented musician became a member of George Duke’s jazz/R&B band in the 1970s and stepped out on her own in the '80s. Working with and collaborating with Prince, Sheila E. scored hits like “The Glamorous Life” and “A Love Bizarre,” which brought her fame and notoriety. Her co-lead vocals on Prince’s naughty B-side “Erotic City” gave the racy song plenty of spice and flavor, and the two performed the tune live together throughout Prince’s record-breaking “Purple Rain” tour during the mid-'80s (Sheila E. and her band served as the opening act for that trek). Hailing from a musical family, Sheila E.’s relatives range from uncle Javier Escovedo who was a founder of California punk band The Zeros and another uncle, Coke, who was a member of Santana. Sheila E. is still musically active and remains an in-demand musician and personality.