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Oscar Brown, Jr

An American singer, songwriter, playwright, poet, and civil rights activist.

His singing debut was on the radio show Secret City at age 15.

When Mahalia Jackson recorded one of his songs, he began to focus on a career in music.

His first major contribution to a recorded work was a collaboration with Max Roach, We Insist! - Freedom Now, which was an early record celebrating the black freedom movement in the United States.

Columbia Records signed Brown, who was already in his mid-30's and married with five children, as a solo artist.

In 1960, he released his first LP, Sin and Soul, recorded from June 20 to October 23, 1960.

The cover to the album included personal reviews by well-known celebrities and jazz musicians of the time, including Steve Allen, Lorraine Hansberry, Nat Hentoff, Dorothy Killgallen, Max Roach and Nina Simone (Simone would later cover his "Work Song") The album is regarded as a 'true classic' for openly tackling the experiences of African-Americans with songs such as "Bid 'Em In" and "Afro-Blue".

The album is also significant because Brown's took several popular jazz instrumentals and combined them with self-penned lyrics on songs like "Dat Dere", "Afro-Blue" and "Work Song".

This began a trend that would continue with several other major jazz vocalists.

Jon Hendricks, for example, three years later composed lyrics for the Mongo Santamaría song "Yeh Yeh" later a hit for Georgie Fame Bob Dorough similarly composed lyrics for Mel Tormé's version of "Comin' Home Baby!" and musicians Larry Williams and Johnny "Guitar" Watson would also go on to compose lyrics for Cannonball Adderley's "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" for Marlena Shaw.

Several of the tracks from Sin and Soul were embraced by the 60's Mod movement, such as "Humdrum Blues","Work Song" and "Watermelon Man".

Brown was soon to fall down the pecking order at Columbia following a rearrangement of the management at the company. His third album was notable for the lack of any self-composed songs.

He was given much more creative freedom for his fourth album, and he was back to his creative best, composing songs such as "The Snake", which became a Northern Soul classic when it was covered by Al Wilson.

Brown wrote at least 1,000 songs (only 125 have been published), twelve albums, and over a dozen musical plays.

Brown died in 2005 at the age of 78.

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