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Feb. 7 in Music History: Remembering J Dilla on his birthday

J Dilla, as seen on the cover of 'Donuts'
J Dilla, as seen on the cover of 'Donuts'Stones Throw

February 07, 2024

History Highlight:

Hip-hop producer and rapper James “J Dilla” Yancey was born in Detroit, Michigan, on this day in 1974. Sometimes also known as Jay Dee, Yancey was one of the most influential beatmakers of his era with a style that often employed rhythms that were unpredictable and off-kilter. In addition to working as a member of the Detroit rap group Slum Village, he became a coveted producer for artists including the Pharcyde, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Slum Village, Common, Erykah Badu, Raekwon, MF Doom, Busta Rhymes, Janet Jackson, the Roots, and many more. Yancey died in 2006 from complications related to TTP and lupus at the age of 32.

Also, Today In:

1963 - The first Beatles single "Please Please Me" was released in the U.S. on the Vee-Jay label. Capitol Records, EMI's United States label, were offered the right to release the single in the U.S., but turned it down. Dick Biondi, a disc jockey on WLS in Chicago and a friend of Vee-Jay executive Ewart Abner, played the song on the radio from February 1963, thus becoming the first DJ to play a Beatles record in the United States.

1964 - The Beatles landed in the United States for the very first time. The Fab Four arrived at JFK to a cheering crowd. They were in town to play "The Ed Sullivan Show" and unsure if Beatlemania had taken over the U.S. the way it had in Britain. The screaming throngs of sign-holding fans that greeted them were telling of their future in the U.S., to say the least.

1969 - The Who recorded "Pinball Wizard" at Morgan Studios in London. The song is one of the band's most famous live songs, being played at almost every Who concert since its debut live performance in May of 1969. The track, which featured on their 1969 rock opera album Tommy was released as a single in 1969 and reached No. 4 in the U.K. charts and No. 19 in the U.S.

1969 - John Lennon and Yoko Ono were featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, on sale for 35 Cents. John was named as Rolling Stone's Man Of The Year.

1970 - Led Zeppelin scored their first U.K. No. 1 album with Led Zeppelin II. Released in November 1969, and featuring the U.S. No. 4 single "Whole Lotta Love", it went on to stay on the U.K. chart for 136 weeks. Also reaching No. 1 in the U.S., the RIAA in the U.S. has now certified it as having sold over 12 million copies in the U.S. alone.

1970 - "Venus" by Shocking Blue went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, the first Dutch band to ever do so. The song was released in late 1969 as a single from the group's third album Scorpio's Dance. The band had sold 13.5 million records by 1973, but the group disbanded in 1974, during the final years of the hippie, flower power and other counterculture movements around the world.

1976 - Paul Simon's "Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover" was the No. 1 single in the U.S., while the best-selling album was Bob Dylan's Desire.

1976 - Bob Dylan's album Desire, featuring the songs "Isis" and "Mozambique," hits #1 in America.

1979 - The Clash launched their first American tour at the Berkeley Community Theatre. Bo Diddley served as the opening act and The Clash began their set with "I'm So Bored with the USA".

1979 - Stephen Stills became the first rock performer to record on digital equipment in Los Angeles' Record Plant Studio.

1981 - John Lennon was at No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart with "Woman", an ode to his wife Yoko Ono. It was Lennon's third No. 1 in seven weeks after his death on December 8, 1980. The track begins with Lennon whispering, "For the other half of the sky ...", a paraphrase of a Chinese proverb.

1985 - Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" becomes the official anthem of New York City. The tune, which was introduced by Liza Minnelli in the movie of the same name, was a Top 40 hit for Sinatra in 1977.

1986 - Using dancers and animation, The Rolling Stones shot footage for their new single, "Harlem Shuffle", in New York City.

1987 - George Michael and Aretha Franklin were at No. 1 in the United States, the United Kingdom, and several other countries with "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)", written by Simon Climie and Dennis Morgan. The song gave Franklin and Michael a 1987 Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

1989 - A Georgia state representative introduced a bill that would make Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti" the state's official rock song.

1989 - Roy Orbison released Mystery Girl, the last album recorded during his lifetime. It features “You Got It,” co-written with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne.

1989 - Elvis Costello released his 12th album, Spike. It features his U.S. hit “Veronica,” co-written with Paul McCartney.

1994 - Oasis started recording their debut album Definitely Maybe at Monrow studios in South Wales.

1994 - Cake release their debut studio album, Motorcade of Generosity.

1999 - Blondie went to No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart with "Maria," giving the group their 6th U.K. No. 1 single, 20 years after their first. At the age of 54, lead singer Debbie Harry became the oldest female at the time to hit No. 1.

2006 - The soundtrack album Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George by Jack Johnson "and Friends" is released.

2015 - American bass player and songwriter Joe B. Mauldin died at age 74. He was best-known as the bassist for the early rock and roll group The Crickets and later became a recording engineer at Gold Star Studios, the Los Angeles studio which became the "hit factory" for Phil Spector, Brian Wilson and other major 1960s rock performers.

2021 - Producer Elliot Mazer died at the age of 79. He is most famous for his work with Neil Young, but he also worked with The Band, Janis Joplin, Rory Gallagher and many more.


Oscar Brand, Canadian folk singer, was born today in 1920.

King Curtis, saxophonist for Aretha Franklin (“Respect”) and the Coasters (“Yakity Yak”) was born today in 1934.

Earl King, New Orleans Blues guitarist, was born today in 1934.

Jimmy Greenspoon, organist with Three Dog Night, was born today in 1948.

Garth Brooks is 62.

David Bryan of Bon Jovi is 62.

Sully Erna of Godsmack is 56.

Wes Borland of Limp Bizkit is 49.

Jeanne Louise Galice (better-known as Jain) was born on this day in 1992, making her 32 today. Jain is a French singer-songwriter who has released two albums - her debut Zanaka, released in November of 2015 and her second, Souldier, released in August of 2018.

Highlights for Today in Music History are gathered from This Day in MusicSong Facts and Wikipedia.