The Native American musical tradition has been brought up to contemporary standards by New Mexico-born producer, vocalist, songwriter, and owner of the leading Native American-oriented record label, Sound of America Records (SOAR), Tom Bee. Under Bee's leadership, SOAR has continued to grow. In addition to the parent label, which specializes on contemporary and traditional Native American music, SOAR includes a division for urban rap and rock (Warrior), a division for children's music and spoken word recordings (Dakotah), and a division for new age recordings (Natural Visions). Among the numerous awards that have been bestowed upon Bee are the Eagle award, awarded by the American Indian Film Institute in 1994, and the Will Simpson Award, which he received at the first convention of the Native American Arts Association in 1996 and was named Producer of the Year the following year. In 1993, Bee was nominated for a NAIRD award for his production of the music video "We're the Boyz," based on a song recorded by his on, Robbie Bee.
A member of the Dakota tribe, Bee was inspired by the Leonard and Marshall Chess who ran the Chess record label in the 1950s. Founding a R&B label, Lance Records and Music, in the 1960s, Bee sold 45 rpm singles from the trunk of his car.
In the 1970s, Bee performed with a Native American rock band, XIT (pronounced: Exit). Signed by the Motown label for their Rare Earth subsidiary, the group released their debut album, Plight of the Redman, featuring a mixture of English lyrics and native chants, in 1971. Their second album, Silent Warrior, released two years later, coincided with the protests at Wounded Knee and the band became cultural ambassadors of the Native American struggle. Their third album, Relocation, was reissued with four additional songs, as one of the first releases on the SOAR label in 1984. SOAR also released a live album, Across the Atlantic, that was recorded in Switzerland. During his tenure at Motown, Bee became involved with other artists on the label. Two of his songs, "We've Got Blue Skies" and "Joyful Jukebox Music" were covered by the Jackson Five. Bee's Native Amreican chanting was added to Smokey Robinson's interpretation of his song, "Just My Soul Responding," on his first solo album, Smokey, in 1973. Taka Boom, the younger sister of Shaka Khan, recorded his song "Red Hot."
Bee has remained active as a performer. In addition to releasing a solo album, Color Me Red, in 1994, Bee has narrated and produced several audio books written by author Paul Goble. ~ Craig Harris, Rovi