Oscar Brown, Jr.
Born in Chicago, IL October 10, 1926 - May 29, 2005
Poet, Jazz Artist, Playwright, Actor
Noted for such songs as “Dat Dere,” “Work Song” and “Watermelon Man,” Oscar Brown Jr. was seen as the forerunner to socially-conscious black singer/songwriters like Gil Scott Heron. An all-around entertainer, he gained popular acclaim for merging the art of songwriting with social commentary about being black in America.
Oscar Brown, Jr.as a child
In 1958, Brown attended the opening of “A Raisin in the Sun” and was introduced to music publisher Robert Nemiroff, the husband of playwright Lorraine Hansberry. Nemiroff was impressed with Brown’s compositions and brought him to New York to meet producer Al Ham of Columbia Records. Brown always saw himself as a writer but Ham saw him as a singer. He signed Brown to a recording contract and his first release was “Sin and Soul” in 1960. Brown was able to get an engagement at the popular Village Vanguarde that opened to critical acclaim. He then began to share the bill with other jazz greats such as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and John Coltrane. By 1962, he was emcee on the television series, “Jazz Scene USA,” a variety/talk show that featured jazz artists. In the late 1960’s, Brown moved to San Francisco where he produced the musical “Big Time Buck White,” a black power manifesto. The show made it to Broadway starring Muhammad Ali who was on a government-imposed hiatus from boxing at the time. In 1967, he created “Opportunity, Please Knock,” a musical program that brought together black urban youth to showcase their creativity. The Blackstone Rangers, a notorious Chicago gang, set aside "gangbanging" to work with Brown.
By the 70’s, Brown was an artist-in-residence at Howard University, Hunter College and Malcolm X College. In 1983, he hosted the PBS series, “From Jumpstreet: A Story of Black Music.” In the 90’s, he had a small role on the TV show “Roc.” He is the recipient of the Muntu Theater Award, the Paul Robeson Award and was inducted into the Black Writers Hall of Fame in 2002.Brown was married three times and had seven children. His son, Oscar Brown III was an accomplished bassist, vocalist and composer who died in a car accident in 1996. His daughter Maggie is a jazz vocalist.
Oscar Brown, Jr.'s Wikipedia Page
Quincy Jones' Visionary Page
URL (Click to bookmark): http://www.visionaryproject.org/brownoscar