When Roxio and Napster merged, they planned a complete relaunch of the music download service - as just Napster. One of the features of this new service is artist bios; instead of just featuring biographies from All Music Guide, the company wanted original write-ups for many of the artists on the site.
In this 4-month project, I wrote 200 biographies myself, and edited another 400 that were written by other music journalists. Here is just a sampling of the work:
Before Whitney, Mariah and Christina, there was an artist who set the diva standard that would be emulated by many in the years following his debut. Elton John, known in England as “Sir” Elton John, is proudly the biggest bitch of them all. Known for his flamboyant attire (pink boas, gigantic, glittery sunglasses and seizure-inducing patterned pantsuits are just a few of his trademark accessories) and his wild, hard-partying ways, it’s a wonder John has managed to survive 30+ years in the business. But John has not only managed to get through the drugs, divorce and public “outing” of his homosexuality, among other things, he consistently placed in the Top 40 singles charts for 26 years in a row – a feat he credits, in part, to his musical collaborator, lyricist Bernie Taupin. John and Taupin cranked out hit after hit – often taking only an hour to write both the music and lyrics. Hits like “Rocket Man,” “Daniel” and the oddly titled “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” resonated with a wide audience; from hippies to rockers, disco biscuits to love saps, John was and still is considered to be one of the greatest pop artists of all time. Fabulous clothes AND the world at your feet? A true diva, indeed.
Though they influenced countless bands with their raunchy, bang-‘em-up music, the Sex Pistols were together as a band for less than two years – a surprise to many-a-young music fan. The truth: Clothing boutique owner and self-proclaimed weirdo Malcolm McLaren pulled a Ron Pearlman (that super rich guy who started NSYNC and Backstreet Boys) and suggested a few of the store’s regular customers form a punk band. Steve Jones, Paul Cook, Glen Matlock and John Lydon – a.k.a. Johnny Rotten – thought it could be a nice break from street thugging and agreed to start the Sex Pistols. Trouble began with the release of their first single, “Anarchy in the U.K.” – a song that drew gasps from not only the royals but the general public as well, and caused their label to immediately drop the band. No bother on the lads, however; after replacing Matlock with Sid Vicious (who, incidentally, could not play the bass though he was the band’s bassist), they released another scathing single, “God Save the Queen.” A two-week tour of the U.S. followed, the band broke up, Sid killed his girlfriend Nancy then died of an overdose, Rotten started Public Image Ltd., and the rest is punk rock history.
This Los Angeles-based band has a better answer than “We just, like, made it up, dude” when asked how they got their name, The Exies. Singer/guitarist Scott Stevens discovered the name while reading a John Lennon biography: When the Beatles toured Hamburg, Germany, Lennon came to learn the names for the various social cliques of the area. The art students called themselves “the existentialists” so John one-upped them and started calling the art brats “the exies.” Pretty special. After forcing their demo tape on every record label under the sun, The Exies got a deal with Ultimatum, an LA-based, independent label that the band now says signed their lives away. Though packed with catchy, rock-pop ditties, their debut record went nowhere, and soon enough the band – which includes drummer Dennis Wolfe, guitarist David Walsh and bassist Freddie Herrera – were playing tiny venues all over the U.S. in hopes someone, anyone would listen to them. Well, the one someone who mattered – Matt Serltic, a music industry veteran who now heads Virgin Records – saw them perform one night and negotiated an exit from Ultimatum (they issued an ultimatum to Ultimatum, get it?) and signed them to a new deal. Rock on!
She’s blonde, busty and babelicious and she’s loaded. Britney Spears has gone from small-town girl to sexpot pop sensation practically overnight. Well, maybe not overnight but in the time it takes most artists to get an agent, Britney has sold millions of records, bought her own Beverly Hills manse and has dated (and dumped) pop wunder-boy Justin Timberlake. Spears, like her ex-beau, started her career off as a Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeer. After the demise of MMC, she was off to New York in search of a record deal and fabulous fame. Soon after her arrival, she signed a development deal with Jive Records, which led to the release of her now-infamous Catholic-school-girl-uniformed anthem, “Baby One More Time.” Her tween-beauty looks combined with her sexy dance moves helped rocket young Britney up the charts and into the hearts of millions of idol-hungry teenagers. Since then, Miss Wholesome Girl-Next-Door has blossomed into a bona fide diva. These days, she’s not afraid to show her curvy figure or talk about her budding sexuality (and cigarette smoking and alcohol drinking). Embrace your womanhood, we say, Miss Thang!