#312Soul – A Celebration of Chicago’s Black Music History Debuts

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GENE CHANDLER (Photo courtesy #312SOUL)

OKRP creates month-long multimedia showcase for Black History Month

By Raymond Ward, The New 411

Throughout the month of February – in celebration of Black History Month and in conjunction with 2020 being named the “Year of Chicago Music” – Chicago agency O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul will promote Chicago’s Black Music History from 1955 through 1990 with a four-week, four-part multimedia online showcase that includes original video essays, interviews, playlists, artifacts and more. While the story of Chicago’s Blues scene has already been well-documented, this initiative reveals another side to Chicago’s music history that’s just as interesting and influential, if not as celebrated and understood.

OKRP in partnership with Vince Lawrence, a Chicago music impresario and founder of Slang Music Group, have launched “#312Soul: An Unfinished Retrospective of Chicago’s Black Music History.” This new series will share the untold stories and introduce the unsung stars who lived through each exciting era from Horns to House, Soul to Straight-up Funk.

“Music is at the heart of our best work. Music inspires how we shape stories for brands – the jingles we write for clients, the range of genres we tap into for online video and network commercials, and even the playlists we curate for the agency,” explained Matt Reinhard, co-founder and Chief Product Officer at OKRP. “We partnered with Vince Lawrence to help bring together Chicago’s living music legends, providing a digital stage to share their untold stories.”

#312Soul takes one through the evolution of music in Chicago by celebrating some of its biggest influencers from the break-out sounds of the Blues and beyond. Among the first video sessions conducted by Lawrence is a conversation with Grammy Hall of Fame artist Gene Chandler who explains how he and his band created the 1962 number-one hit “Duke of Earl” during a warm-up exercise.  Other features include a “Soulstress Spotlight” on the women who drove Chicago music, from The Opals to Chaka Khan, and “Soul Samples” that link old-school hits to new-school chart toppers: Etta James to Avicii, and the Chi-Lites to Beyoncé.

“Chicago has been at the forefront of music culture for the last 50 years,” explained Lawrence. “Every relevant culture shift in Black music has stemmed from Chicago, changing the face of music as we know it.  Chicago has given birth to some of the greatest artists of all time who have in turn had profound influence on other artists around the world. Just consider the impact of Chicago’s Curtis Mayfield, Etta James, Herbie Hancock, Chaka Khan, Earth Wind and Fire, and the list goes on.”

One of the highlights of the series is the creation of an original piece of music written by Lawrence, who in addition to being an innovator of House music is also a long-standing music producer.  The new piece was arranged by Tom Washington, a legendary music arranger known for his horns and string arrangements. The recording of the original song featured a who’s who of Chicago music playing at Soundmine Studios on Chicago’s South Side.

Tom Washington (Photo Courtesy of #312SOUL)

“Music is a way for humans to express their emotions,” says Washington during the recording. “And it isn’t finished until it has the horns and strings.”

The Eras

The multimedia showcase will feature “era-themed” content and playlists starting with the mid 1950s through the mid 1990s.

Week One (1955 – 1966) will feature Chicago performers including Gene Chandler, Major Lance, Etta James and Betty Everett. Also included is Jerry Butler and the Impressions whose “For Your Precious Love” was considered Chicago’s first soul hit in 1958.

Week Two (1967 – 1976) will highlight a new generation of innovative Black Chicago artists such as The Impressions’ Willie Henderson, The Staples Singers, The Chi-Lites, Baby Huey and Curtis Mayfield. Mayfield’s 1970 hit “Move on Up” became a classic of the Chicago Soul sound. Eddie Thomas, who in partnership with Mayfield formed Curtom Records, is interviewed.

Week Three (1977 – 1984) will feature the disco and DJ era of Chicago’s dance music scene with featured artists Linda Clifford, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Emotions, Chaka Khan and interviews with Captain Sky. This era closes with Jesse Saunders & Vince Lawrence’s 1984 dance club hit “On and On,” which many say inspired the House Music movement.

Week Four (1985 – 1990) is dedicated to the sounds of House Music and its global influence on DJs and dance club culture. Recordings from DJs and producers such as Frankie Knuckles, Ron Hardy, and Marshall Jefferson are represented at the forefront of this time period.

In addition to original content created by OKRP and Lawrence, curated links to third party content such as podcasts, rare vinyl tracks and previously conducted interviews will be available on the site as well as shared through social media. For info, visit www.312Soul.com.

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