*Oh where to begin with you, December two? This day saw some eventful things happen within R&B and hip hop, so settle in as we go through them in chronological order from the eldest to the most recent.
Dec 2, 1957: Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me,” written by his brother, Charles “LC” Cooke, hits No. 1 for the first of three weeks. Cooke was signed to gospel label Specialty Records when his producer, Bumps Blackwell, brought this song to label owner Art Rupe. Rupe was unwilling to include the choir on the track fearing they were too secular and would alienate the label’s gospel fans. According to Songfacts, Rube offered Cooke a release from his contract in exchange for outstanding royalties. The song was passed on to the Keen label where it eventually sold over 2 million copies.
Dec. 2, 1969: The Rolling Stones, en route to what would be their deadly Dec. 6 concert at the Altamont Speedway in Northern, CA, make a pit stop at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Alabama where they recorded “Brown Sugar.” The lyrics are clearly about enslaved women from Africa who were sold in New Orleans and raped by their white masters. But the chorus appears as if the song is just Mick Jagger’s mindless ode to interracial sex. Here’s what he had to say about the verses in a 1995 interview.
“God knows what I’m on about on that song. It’s such a mishmash. All the nasty subjects in one go. […] I never would write that song now. I would probably censor myself. I’d think, ‘Oh God, I can’t. I’ve got to stop. I can’t just write raw like that.'”
The chorus of “Brown Sugar” was inspired by the group’s African American background singer, and Jagger’s one-time girlfriend, Claudia Lennear.
Dec. 2, 1969: While the Stones were in Alabama trivializing the rape of Black women in bondage, Cindy Birdsong of The Supremes was being kidnapped in Los Angeles.
As the story goes, she was approached by a knife-wielding maintenance man at her apartment building as she returned home with her then-boyfriend (later husband) Charles Hewlett and their friend, Howard Meek. The man forced her to tie up the two men, then walked her downstairs into her car. As the vehicle was moving, Birdsong managed to unlock the door and jump out onto the highway. She was treated and released from the hospital for minor knife wounds and abrasions. The maintenance man, Charles Collier, contacted police four days later and turned himself in.
More details are in this newspaper article of Collier’s arrest:
Dec. 2, 1972: The Temptations single “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” hit No. 1 on this date with a marathon running time of 6 minutes and 58 seconds, and that was the scaled down version. The album version came in at 11:46. Motown split the track in two for the single release: the A-side was the 6:58 “vocal” version and the B-side, at 4:49, was dubbed “instrumental.” The A-side, although bifurcated, is still among the longest chart-toppers in Hot 100 history. (Don McLean’s “American Pie” was the only longer song of 1972, clocking in at 8:33.)
Below is an even shorter 4-minute version for the Temps’ 1972 performance on “Soul Train.”
Dec. 2, 1983: Michael Jackson’s 14-minute “Thriller” video debuts on MTV. Directed by John Landis, the video held the door open for Black acts to be played on the cable channel after years of resistance. Network brass had insisted that MTV be reserved strictly for rock acts. Jackson’s record label CBS basically told them, “If you don’t play Michael’s videos, you won’t get videos from any of our artists,” which at the time included MTV staples Rolling Stones, Kansas, Frank Zappa, The Clash and more.
Dec. 2, 1995: “One Sweet Day,” Mariah Carey’s duet with Boyz II Men, hits No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stays there for a record 16 weeks. The record stood for the next 24 years with “Despacito” tying the 16-week run in 2017. Last year, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” took the crown when it spent its 17th week at No. 1 on Aug. 3, 2019.
Carey and Boyz II Men’s Nathan Morris penned “One Sweet Day” together. Carey was writing about her pain over the death of David Cole, the co-writer and co-producer of C+C Music Factory. Morris was writing a similar ode to his group’s road manager Kahlil Roundtree, who had just been shot and killed following a dispute with a promoter. Morris said in the book “Chicken Soup For the Soul: The Story Behind The Song” that Roundtree was “like a surrogate father on the road. Our parents trusted him to handle everything, including us, which he did very well.”
Regarding “One Sweet Day,” Morris continued: “We got a call from Tommy Mottola asking if we’d be interested in doing a duet with Mariah Carey. We went to the studio she was recording in at the Hit Factory in New York, to hear the song they had in mind. She played us the melody and the hook, and it was amazing. It was almost the same song I was writing. I told her that I was working on a song with a similar melody and, while the lyrics were, of course, different, the premise was the same. They complemented each other. I sang to her the melody and lyrics of what I had written, and we merged the two. We switched things around to make them work and wrote it that day. The other guys in the group filled in the holes to complete it.
“We came back to the studio to record it a week or so later and we only had a few hours to do everything, since we squeezed this in between dates on tour. The photo on the album cover was shot in the elevator on the way up to the studio and the video was shot during the recording session, all in those few hours that day.”
Dec. 2, 1999: This is the night that Jay-Z’s career nearly ended when he stabbed record executive Lance “Un” Rivera during a party at Manhattan’s Kit Kat Klub. Hov thought that Rivera bootlegged his album “Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter” and took matters into his own hands, literally. Rivera, the CEO and co-founder of Untertainment with Notorious B.I.G., was treated at New York’s St. Vincent Hospital for wounds to his shoulder and abdomen. Jay-Z would turn himself into the NYPD Midtown South Precinct in Manhattan where he was charged with felony assault in the second degree. His bail was $50,000 and he was out within a few hours. It’s widely assumed that “Un” gave Jay-Z’s name to police investigating the incident. The rapper was facing a 15-year prison sentence if convicted. He proclaimed his innocence and was looking forward to his day in court. But after watching the obscene media attention given to similar court cases at the time involving Sean “Puffy” Combs and Shyne, Jay decided to take a plea deal that involved just 3 years probation.
Dec. 2, 2008: Blues legend Odetta Holmes, known professionally by just her first name, died of heart disease on this day at age 77. Known as “The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement,” Odetta was a vital force in the American folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s, and influenced key artists in the genre, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mavis Staples, and Janis Joplin.
Time magazine placed her recording of “Take This Hammer” on its list of the 100 Greatest Popular Songs, stating that “Rosa Parks was her No. 1 fan, and Martin Luther King Jr. called her the queen of American folk music.”