The wonderful poetic production of Langston Hughes

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By Vera M. Kutzinsk

Langston Hughes, whom Carl Van Vechten memorably called “the Poet Laureate of the Negro race,” was born on 1 February 1902 in Joplin, Missouri; he died in New York City on 22 May 1967. This year, then, we celebrate Hughes‘ birthday at the beginning of what is now Black History Month, and we honor the fiftieth anniversary of his untimely passing. Remembering Hughes will no doubt lead to more books, articles, and conferences, which is as it should be. This work will be added to what has already been written about Hughes, much of it based on the Langston Hughes Papers at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale.

Given these riches, one would imagine that there is little left to discover about Hughes. And yet, new material—new to us now—still surfaces from time to time. The story I would like to share here, however briefly, has to do with one such unexpected surfacing. It speaks loudly to the international reputation Langston Hughes enjoyed for most of his life, something we tend to forget here at home.

On 20 October 2016, I received an email from Nora Galer, one of Julio Galer’s three children, who, it turns out had been living in New York City for the past twenty-five years. She told me that she has in her possession all the letters her father, who passed in 2006, had kept from his long correspondence with Langston Hughes. If you don’t know who Julio Galer is, you’re not alone, and that is the point of recounting this story.

Born in Argentina, Julio Galer was one of Hughes’s many literary translators, and, as we well know, translators tend to be rather invisible. They certainly have not exactly received the attention they deserve. Galer stands out among those who translated Hughes’s writings into many languages because his interest in Hughes’s work was much more than a passing fancy. Starting in the later 1940s, Julio Galer worked tirelessly on his Spanish translations of Hughes’s autobiographical writings, fiction, plays, and of course poetry. In 1956, he published a hefty collection of his versions of Hughes’s poems in Buenos Aires. Throughout all this, Galer and Hughes corresponded for almost twenty years, from 1948 to 1966.

I was familiar with Galer’s translations and had written about them in The Worlds of Langston Hughes (2012), but I had no idea about the extent of his correspondence with Hughes. All I knew at the time was that he had sent Hughes a copy of his book, Poemas de Langston Hughes, which I had found at Beinecke Library, along with the Spanish versions of Mulatto, Laughing to keep from Crying, and I Wonder as I Wander.

It wasn’t until I flew up to New York City barely two weeks after Nora Galer’s email, talked with her at length, and perused her father’s papers, that I began to appreciate how much of a serious commitment Julio Galer’s Hughes translations had been from the very start. “You see, Mr. Hughes,” the twenty-three-old Galer writes in his first letter from April 1948, “I do not undertake this heavy task just for commercial purposes, I do not make my living translating but teaching.  But I want to put at the disposal of the Spanish speaking public your wonderful poetic production.… In my opinion the translator is like the apostle, because, like him, his mission is to spread the holy word, in this case the holy word of beauty and knowledge.”

Continue onto Oxford Univeristy’s Press Blog to read the complete article.

Guy On A Bike: African-American Cycling Pioneers

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Ever since the bicycle craze of the late 19th century, African-Americans have contributed to the great cycling culture of this nation. Despite economic disparities, racism and even on-track violence, black cyclists have persevered, embarking on treks of epic proportion and shattering both records and barriers in the world of cycling.

Sadly, many of these stories are not shared nearly enough, or forgotten altogether. Here are just a few of those inspiring stories.

Major Taylor

Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor was born in 1878, grew up outside of Indianapolis and received his first bicycle at the age of 12. He had a knack for the contraption and quickly taught himself some tricks. A local bike shop owner hired Taylor to perform outside of his shop. The boy executed the stunts while wearing a military uniform, which led to the nickname “Major.”

Over the following years Taylor would begin racing in Indianapolis and quickly earned a name for himself as a formidable foe on the track. Shortly after he began winning races, Taylor was banned from competing in Indianapolis because of his color. Not long after, Taylor and his mentor (and fellow racer), Louis “Birdie” Munger relocated to Massachusetts, a more tolerant part of the country.

In 1896, at the age of 18, Taylor became a professional racer. Within two years he held seven world records and was winning 70 percent of the races he entered, in spite of myriad obstacles from white opponents, which ranged from being boxed in to getting pulled off his bike and choked during a competition. By 1899 Taylor was the world champion and had earned other monikers including “The Worcester Whirlwind.”

In 1902, “The Black Cyclone” competed in the European tour and dominated the circuit. Taylor also raced in Australia and New Zealand during the peak of his career. Fans flocked to see him wherever he rode and his popularity was unparalleled. Although Taylor faced extreme racism and bigotry in the United States, he also had a lot of admirers from white America too, including President Teddy Roosevelt.

Taylor retired from racing at the age of 32. Following a divorce, persistent illness, the stock market crash and bad investments Taylor was nearly broke. The former world champion racer spent the last of his savings on a self-published autobiography which he sold at bicycle races from the trunk of his car.

Sadly, the champion cyclist died penniless in 1932, and was buried in an unmarked grave in Chicago. In 1948, the owner of Schwinn bicycles spearheaded an effort to have Taylor’s remains exhumed and reburied at Mount Glenwood Cemetery (near Chicago) with a headstone honoring his legacy.

A number of chapters of the Major Taylor Bicycling Club have sprouted up around the country in recent years, in an attempt to engage more African-Americans in the sport. The Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota was established in 1999 and holds rides throughout the year, open to all regardless of ethnicity or ability. Members of the local chapter also serve on a number of bicycle advocacy committees, both locally and nationally.

Continue onto CBS News to read more inspirational stories.

Nation’s Largest African-American Hair Show Marks 70 Years Of Black Beauty

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The country’s largest African-American beauty show turns 70 this weekend. The hair product company Bronner Bros. holds the show at Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Ga.

The event’s formal name, the Bronner Bros. International Beauty Show, might sound masculine. But behind it is a league of black women. They overcame Jim Crow laws to lay the groundwork for the industry.

The Bronner Bros. show attracts tens of thousands of hair care professionals each year. On the company’s website, they tout their commitment to “providing the best and the brightest educational experience.” This year, the beauty product event runs from Saturday through Monday, and features a special museum exhibit to mark the 70th anniversary.

It offers classes on topics like weaves and straightening. And it’s known for its competitions — hair battles that turn the heads of judges with inimitable creations, innovation and styles.

Most of the stylists and clients in attendance are black women. But they’re not just the Bronner Bros.’ target audience. They inspired this company.

It’s a story that goes back to the 1930s, when Dr. Nathaniel Bronner came to Atlanta.

His son, James Bronner, tells the story from the floor of the company’s factory on Atlanta’s west side. It’s a few weeks before the show, so the staff is at work while he slips away to talk.

He says his late father was raised in Kelly, Ga.

“The KKK burned down their home twice, so, when he came to Atlanta, he only had $20, so he started out delivering newspapers,” Bronner says.

Dr. Bronner studied business at Morehouse College and spent a lot time at his sister’s salon.

“He, one day, began to take hair products from his sister’s salon on his paper route. He looked at his sales and said, ‘Hey, these products are selling more than the newspapers.’ ”

Dr. Bronner got plenty more inspiration from female stylists on Atlanta’s Auburn Avenue.

These days, the streetcar runs past historic buildings here. But when segregation laws were in place, wealthy African-Americans came for the restaurants, clubs and hair salons.

Ricci de Forest is curator of a neighborhood history museum for African-American women in hair care. “You prepared yourself for the experience of walking up Auburn because it was that significant in terms of style and culture,” he says.

Continue onto NPR to read the complete article.

When the first all-black professional basketball team dominated … back in the ’20s

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‘They were literally pioneers and recognized that they were making a statement in front of the audiences.’

Monday was the 94th anniversary of one of the greatest basketball teams to ever lace up.

Though the New York Renaissance, the first all-black professional basketball team, played, dominated and was shuttered all before the NBA was born doesn’t mean the Rens didn’t leave a lasting impact on the game. Oh, no. Over its nearly three-decade existence, the team amassed a 2,588-529 record, including a season when the team won 112 out of 120.

“They were literally pioneers and recognized that they were making a statement in front of the audiences,” Richard Lapchick, director of Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of the Sport in Society, told NBA.com. “And there were some audiences that didn’t like that statement.”

Former UCLA coach and Hall of Famer John Wooden, who played against the Rens while on the Indianapolis Kautskys in the 1930s, raved about them: “To this day, I have never seen a team play better team basketball. They had great athletes, but they weren’t as impressive as their team play. The way they handled and passed the ball was just amazing to me then, and I believe it would be today.”

The Renaissance was a product of Bob Douglas, the “Father of Black Basketball” and the first black person inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Besides creating the Rens, Douglas made his chops organizing the Spartan Braves and Spartan Hornets in Harlem, New York, and having those teams play against a mixed group of competition for four years from 1919 to 1923. When Douglas wasn’t able to keep players amateurs because they had received money participating in other sports, he decided to move into the professional game.

With the opening of Harlem’s Renaissance Casino in 1922, Douglas had an avenue to create his team — the casino wanted publicity and Douglas wanted a venue for his team to practice and play home games, so a mutually beneficial relationship was born.

Fans of the team in the 1920s became well acquainted with players such as Hall of Famer Chuck “Tarzan” Cooper, one of basketball’s best centers, Frank Forbes, Harold “Fat” Jenkins, Leon Monde and “Wee” William Smith.

“People called my father the first great big man in basketball,” said Lapchick, the son of Celtic great Joe Lapchick, to NBA.com. “He said Cooper would play him one-on-one as absolute equals.”

These were names that would soon become stars. The Rens played in the center of the Harlem community at the cross of 137th Street and Seventh Avenue. Fans could spend part of their afternoon watching an athletic competition and turn around to dance.

Continue onto The Undefeated to read the complete article.

The designer who took a Chance with his Thank You Obama collection

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For Joseph Robinson, pulling from culture is power and gratitude is the attitude

The photo shoot is against a moody, gray background. Chance the Rapper is soaked in iridescent light — his clothes, T-shirts, hoodies and one Obama “All-Star” jersey — combine for one kaleidoscopic pop. Welcome to the Thank You Obama collection, designed by Joseph Robinson, and it sold out in one day. “At first I was just going to put a picture up that I found online of Obama, but anybody can do that,” said Robinson. “I wanted to make stuff that was unique.”

The collection isn’t just about President Barack Obama though. And it’s not just about Chance the Rapper either. It’s about Chance the Rapper’s friend, the Chicago-based designer Joe Robinson. Robinson has been making clothes for more than five years, honing his niche: pop culture references. A 2013 piece was a beanie featuring a cheeky phrase about Rihanna. Rihanna saw it and sent a cease-and-desist, but Robinson, who previously worked as a brand ambassador for Adidas, saw his career in style and fashion take off anyway. Another bump came from the 2015 MTV VMA Awards, when Kanye West made the grand proclamation that he was going to run for the presidency in 2020. Robinson quickly made a T-shirt with the newly minted declaration. He put the shirt up on his website, and he says he made $50,000 in 10 minutes.

For the Obama collection, “I did some research,” said Robinson, who sees himself as “the CNN of clothes” and a “culture vulture.” He got some facts — as opposed to putting random stuff on a shirt. Robinson’s clothes are meant to be talking pieces. “I had to actually read my biography on the Obamas to make these clothes.” The collection is meant to say something and to make you look in your closet and smile.

Robinson calls his clothes “blue-collar streetwear.” One black hoodie reads “Obama 44” with an eagle on the back, while the front reads, “Thank You.” The Harvard crimson and white “A Message To Malia” tee sports her name boldly on the front, and in tiny letters there is a reminder that “We all smoke, it’s ok.” The “King Obama” tee features the 44th president crowned, and stoically breaking the fourth wall. It has a pinkish background that increases in intensity as it reaches Obama’s face, a heat map on fabric.

For the most part, the reception of the line has been good. But there’s always bound to be a sprinkling here or there of negativity, most often found in that most lovely crevice of the internet: the comments section. One comment stuck out to Robinson the most: “What did Obama ever do for you?”

Robinson remembers the day in Chicago when Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States. People gathered in Grant Park in downtown Chicago. There were hugs exchanged, there was a sense of warmth and an aura of love that Robinson had never felt before. In that moment, a black man had become president. In that moment, Robinson knew he could do whatever he wanted to do. He was inspired. “I can’t speak for America,” he said. “But Chicago was lit that night,” he said.

Read the complete article on The Undefeated.

Little Caesars founder quietly paid Rosa Parks’ rent for years

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Those who knew Mike Ilitch, the Little Caesars founder and Detroit Tigers owner who died last Friday, have spent the past few days fondly remembering his impact on friends, on Detroit residents, and on the sports community.

Ilitch also had an impact on the daily life of one of the most iconic figures from the civil rights movement.
For more than a decade, Ilitch had quietly paid for Rosa Parks’ apartment in downtown Detroit, according to CNN affiliate WXYZ.

That story came to light thanks to Damon Keith, a Detroit native and federal judge.

“They don’t go around saying it, but I want to, at this point, let them know, how much the Ilitches not only meant to the city, but they meant so much for Rosa Parks, who was the mother of the civil rights movement,” Keith told WXYZ.

Shortly after her famed defiance of segregation sparked the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, Parks moved to Detroit and became an important presence in the city for years afterward.

But in 1994, Parks was robbed and assaulted in her home at the age of 81.

Keith, himself an important legal figure in the civil rights movement, worked to find Parks a new, safer apartment at the Riverfront Apartments in Detroit, according to the Sports Business Daily.

Ilitch read the story in the newspaper and called Keith, offering to pay for Parks’ housing indefinitely. With no fanfare, Ilitch continued paying for the apartment until Parks died in 2005, Keith said.

The entire episode was made public in 2014 in a story from Sports Business Daily. Keith even showed the reporter a copy of a 1994 check for $2,000 from Little Caesars Enterprises to Riverfront Apartments.

Continue onto CNN to read the complete article.

Oprah Winfrey’s Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks gets HBO premiere date

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Oprah Winfrey is coming to HBO this April: The premium cable network announced Tuesday that The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a film starring Winfrey, debuts Saturday, April 22.

Adapted from Rebecca Skloot’s 2010 book of the same name, the biopic tells the story of Henrietta Lacks (Hamilton‘s Renée Elise Goldsberry), the black woman whose cells — which were harvested without her permission as she lay dying from cancer in 1951 — led to the discovery of the polio vaccine, in vitro fertilization, and gene mapping. The story is told through the eyes of her daughter Deborah (Winfrey), who teams up with journalist Skloot (Rose Byrne) to learn about the mother she never knew.

“The book connects the epic with the intimate, and that’s the movie’s ambition,” George C. Wolfe, who adapted and directed it the movie, told EW in December. “This woman’s cells helped heal the planet, yet her children were suffering. They didn’t know their mother’s story, even though they were living in the shadows of Johns Hopkins. I found that dichotomy incredibly moving.”

Continue onto Entertainment Weekly to read the complete article.

Rachel Lindsay will be the first black ‘Bachelorette’

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ABC is finally delivering on its long-held promise to bring a diverse lead to its Bachelor franchise.

The network on Monday night announced its new bachelorette will be Rachel Lindsay, a 31-year-old attorney from Dallas who will be the first black lead in the history of “The Bachelor” or spin-off “The Bachelorette.”

“The Bachelor” is in the midst of airing Season 21, with suitor Nick Viall. Lindsay will star in Season 13 of “The Bachelorette.”

The announcement, made on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” comes after years of criticism for the shows’ lack of casting diversity.

ABC president Channing Dungey, the first black woman to lead the network, responded to questions about the lack of diversity last summer during the Television Critics Association press tour, saying she would “very much like to see some changes there.”

“I think one of the biggest changes that we need to do is we need to increase the pool of diverse candidates in the beginning, because part of what ends up happening as we go along is there just aren’t as many candidates to ultimately end up in the role of the next bachelor or bachelorette,” she told reporters at the time. “So that is something we really want to put some effort and energy towards.”

Read the complete article on CNN.

Nickelodeon’s New Princess Is Biracial, And A Knight

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For those parents tired of “princess culture” with its celebration of all things gender-normative, “Nella The Princess Knight” could be a welcome addition to the canon.

In case the title of the new cartoon program premiering on Nickelodeon Monday didn’t tip you off, Nella is not just a princess, she’s a princess knight. That means she rides a pink-maned unicorn but brandishes a sword and armor.

“There are a lot of princesses out there and we had to think about what would make a Nickelodeon princess unique. What became crystal clear to us in the development process is that Nella didn’t have to be a princess or a knight ― she could be both,” Nina Hahn, Senior Vice President of International Production and Development at Nickelodeon, told The Huffington Post.

The character is also biracial, with a white mother and a black father, which Hahn says is “representative of what the world looks like to kids today.”

The decision was informed by research that indicated that most children under 12 will be nonwhite by 2020 and that already 17 percent are biracial, the network told The New York Times. 

Continue onto Huffington Post to read the complete article.

This 22-Year-Old Is Already An Engineer At NASA

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Tiera Guinn is just 22 years old and she’s already working for NASA.

As a Rocket Structural Design and Analysis Engineer for the Space Launch System that aerospace company Boeing is building for NASA, Guinn designs and analyzes parts of a rocket that she said will be one of the biggest and most powerful in history.

Guinn, whose career trajectory seems like a sequel to the much-acclaimed “Hidden Figures” movie, has been aspiring to become an aerospace engineer since she was a child.

Her mom, who noticed her daughter’s skills from a young age, made sure to Guinn stayed sharp by putting her intelligence to use…at the supermarket.

“When [my mom and I] would go to the grocery store, she would get me to clip coupons [and] put it in my coupon organizer,” Guinn told WBRC News. “By the time we got to the register, I’d have to calculate the exact total, including tax. And I did that since I was six years old.”

“One day I saw a plane fly by and I just had this realization, ‘huh, I can design planes. I’m going to be an aerospace engineer,”’ Guinn said.

Continue onto the Huffington Post to read the complete article.

Diversity Is The New Norm In Super Bowl Advertising: Study

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The Super Bowl is a microcosm for observing how marketers are reacting to societal shifts that underscore the need for frequent, realistic, and diverse portrayals of minority groups. With that in mind, I recently asked my students to undertake an assignment in which they assessed diversity in Super Bowl advertising over the past five years.

What they found was that recent Super Bowl ads are showing diversity as never before. However, showing models of diverse races alone should be viewed more as a prerequisite than a recipe for success. Creative themes focusing on diversity resonate with audiences, but advertisers need to combine inclusion with general principles of advertising in order to be effective.

The student analysis, combined with the results of recent research in diversity in marketing, suggests the following key points about Super Bowl advertising:

Advertisers should not expect that merely including actors of diverse races alone will boost the effectiveness of ads.

In looking at whether ads featuring diverse models/actors affects Super Bowl ad reactions in terms of social-media buzz, ad likeability and overall ad effectiveness, the students found little correlation. The analysis found factors other than diversity, such as cuteness, effective use of humor, or focus on a key product attribute, to be correlated with social-media buzz. The inclusion of people of multiple races, on average, only slightly enhanced likeability of an ad and does not have a significant impact on overall ad effectiveness as measured by broader brand-building measures.

Despite the finding that including diverse models alone does not drive successful ads, some ads explicitly celebrating diversity as the central theme of the ad were among the most effective ads over the last five years.

Examples of ads explicitly focusing on diversity as a theme that have been among the very highest performers—ads such as Procter & Gamble’s “Like a Girl,” featuring the empowerment of diverse girls, and Jeep’s Oprah Winfrey-narrated ad, depicting a diverse set of veterans returning to their families and community. These ranked among the most impactful ads of the season.

Always “Like A Girl”


Jeep “Whole Again”


Continue onto Forbes to the complete list of diverse commercials

Rare Images Shed Light on a Century of African-American Life

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Cornell University Library has just made its Loewentheil Collection of African-American Photographs — 645 rare images dating from the 1860s through the 1960s that show a slice of American life not widely visible or preserved — available online. Donated to the university by Stephan and Beth Loewentheil in 2012, the collection includes famous faces, like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali, but mostly historical images of African-Americans going about their daily business or commemorating occasions like graduations and weddings.

“One of the goals — both the Loewentheils in putting the collection together and ours in putting the digital collection online — is to push back against the predominance of material on African-Americans as enslaved people or working in menial jobs or other stereotypical situations,” said Katherine Reagan, a curator of rare books and manuscripts at Cornell. “We wanted to show a broader swath of people in everyday settings.”

The people and places in many images are unknown, but Ms. Reagan said the collection has been of increasing interest to researchers. “You can learn a lot by how the person is dressed or situated,” she said. “These images are tantalizing for what they show, but also what they don’t show.”

Continue onto the New York Times to read the complete article.

How a pair of former Detroit Lions helped inspire one of Marvin Gaye’s most defining records

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Behind Marvin Gaye’s NFL tryout

Lem Barney had just finished a round of golf at Detroit’s Palmer Park Golf Course in the summer of 1968. Palmer, one of four prominent courses in the area, attracted many of the city’s black celebrities, including Joe Louis, Smokey Robinson and The Temptations.

Barney heard Marvin Gaye, one of his favorite artists, lived nearby. With time to kill before heading back to training camp for afternoon practice, he figured why not? Gaye sang the score to Barney’s high school and college years at the historically black Jackson State University. The second-year defensive back introduced himself to Palmer’s clubhouse employees, who quickly obliged with his request for Gaye’s address.

Barney easily found Gaye’s house, less than a mile and a half from the course. When the legendary Motown crooner and avid sports fan opened the door, he instantly recognized Barney, inviting him in for breakfast. For nearly two hours, the athlete and the singer chatted like longtime friends, bonded by mutual passions: sports and music.

Being embraced by Gaye would come to have its perks. Being excused for being late to practice would never be one of them. Barney glanced at his watch and realized he had less than 30 minutes to hop into his ’67 Ford Thunderbird and make the roughly 13-mile trek to the Cranbrook Upper School grounds in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where the Lions held training camp.

“I had to run red lights like I was Mario Andretti,” the 1992 Hall of Fame inductee says with a laugh. “Then I had to get changed, put my pads and everything on, and be down on the field in 30 minutes. I must’ve run red lights like I was a bandit!” Barney barely made it on time. Running back Mel Farr asked where Barney had been. Farr’s eyes widened with intrigue upon finding out why Barney nearly committed the cardinal sin of being late to practice. “Marvin Gaye’s house.”

Barney vowed they would all meet soon. And within weeks, the three were inseparable, with Gaye regularly attending Lions practices and games, even playing golf and basketball together.


The two Lions entered Gaye’s life as a dark cloud of uncertainty and depression stalked him.

Tammi Terrell had replaced Kim Weston as Gaye’s recording partner in 1967. The duo’s creative chemistry — her sensual, fluttery vocals and his soulful, embracing delivery — was evident from the beginning, spawning romantic rumors that both denied. Gaye and Terrell produced timeless tunes such as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing” and “You’re All I Need To Get By,” inspiring pop culture staples decades later in Hollywood (Remember The Titans) and in hip-hop (Method Man and Mary J. Blige’s “You’re All I Need” and The Notorious B.I.G.’s “My Downfall“).

Their duets were soundtracks of love for black America when race relations, classism and war dominated evening newscasts and morning papers. They recorded three albums in the next two years before their partnership ended tragically.

Continue onto The Undefeated to read the complete article.

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