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Gaye, Marvin (02 April 1939–01 April 1984), singer and songwriter, was born Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr., in Washington, D.C., the son of Marvin Pentz Gay, Sr., a Pentecostal minister, and Alberta (maiden name unknown), a domestic worker. The junior Gaye grew up in Washington, where he began his musical career by singing and playing organ in the choir at his father’s church. At Cardoza High School in Washington, Gaye played piano in a doo-wop group called the D.C. Tones. He dropped out after eleventh grade and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. After a year of openly rebelling against his commanding officers and feigning mental illness, Gaye was discharged in 1957 for inability to serve....

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Vick, Harold (03 April 1936–13 November 1987), jazz and soul tenor saxophonist, was born Harold Edward Vick in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. His mother’s given name was Alice; other details of his parents are unknown. Vick took piano lessons at age eight for a few months but without serious interest. He began clarinet lessons at age twelve, and the following year he was given a good instrument by his uncle, the renowned jazz clarinetist and tenor saxophonist ...

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Waits, Freddie (27 April 1943–18 November 1989), jazz and soul music drummer, was born Frederick Douglas Waits in Jackson, Mississippi, the son of Lillie B. Weathers. (His father’s name is unknown.) Waits played drums as a child and studied flute and drums at Lanier High School. At age sixteen, in the summer before his senior year, he toured with the Upsetters, accompanying rhythm-and-blues musician Little Willie John. In this setting he first performed in New York City, at Smalls’ Paradise....

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Wilson, Jackie (09 June 1934–21 January 1984), singer, was born Jack Leroy Wilson, in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Eliza Lee. Nothing is known about his father. Known as Sonny and described as “a tough street kid” at his mother’s urging he began singing at the Russell Street Baptist Church, becoming a member of the Ever Ready Gospel Singers in his early teens....