You Say It's Your Birthday: Bobby Brown

R&B star Bobby Brown is celebrating his 29th birthday today. As a member

of early '80s teen-pop sensation New Edition and as a solo artist in the '80s

and '90s, Brown can take credit for having his voice appear on some of the

biggest hip-hop-flavored R&B hits, including "My Prerogative," "Candy

Girl" and "Cool It Now," among others. Brown was born and raised in

Boston and first met future New Edition bandmates Michael Bivins,

Ricky Bell, Ronnie DeVoe and Ralph Tresvant when they were all in junior

high. Aspiring producer/promoter Maurice Starr discovered the vocal quintet

at a talent show in the early '80s and quickly began working on

tightening up their songs and dance moves. Starr received a lot of

criticism for writing all the group's songs and choreographing their moves,

but thanks to Starr's marketing savvy and knowledge of pop hooks, the group

had hits in the form of "Candy Girl" (#1) and "Is This the End" (#8) in 1983. Later

that year, however, New Edition signed to MCA and severed their

relationship with Starr, with Starr eventually moving on to do much of the

same work with New Kids on the Block. 1984's self-titled album began a

roller-coaster ride of mainstream success for New Edition, with "Cool It

Now" and "Mr. Telephone Man" hitting it big on both the pop and R&B

charts. The group continued to put out slickly produced R&B hits for the

next two years, but Brown elected to go solo in 1988. New Edition added

Johnny Gill to the lineup and released Heart Break in 1988 before

splintering off into a variety of successful solo projects.

Brown's first solo album, 1986's King of Stage, produced a #1 R&B

hit, "Girlfriend." Brown's first solo, mainstream success, however, came in

the form of 1988's Don't Be Cruel. With the help of the then

little-known team of "L.A." Reid and Babyface, Brown became one of the first artists

to ride the wave of hip-hop-flavored R&B music known as New Jack Swing to

the top of the charts. The album hit #1 on the pop and R&B charts and

scored massive hits with "My Prerogative," "Roni," "Don't Be Cruel" and

"Every Little Step." A track on the Ghostbusters II soundtrack, "On

Our Own," was also a big hit for Brown. While Brown became well-known for

his music, he also started to earn a reputation as R&B's bad boy. He was

arrested on an obscenity charge after a particularly raunchy performance of

"Roni" ("Would ya' make me go uhhhh uhhhh?/ Would ya' make me go

body-body-body-iiiii?"), and he became a frequent subject of tabloid reports about

fights in clubs and the abuse of alcohol and drugs. He married pop/soul singer

Whitney Houston in 1992, a move that caused more than a few gossip hounds

to speculate that it was a classic studio-arranged marriage to clean up the

images of both singers. 1992's Bobby was a hit based on the

success of the Houston duet "Something in Common" and "Humpin' Around,"

which addressed rumors of Brown's alleged infidelity. For the most part,

however, the spotlight remained on Brown's personal life. New Edition

reunited and toured in 1996, but Brown's Forever, released in 1997,

was dismissed by critics and met with a collective yawn from fans. Brown

was in the headlines most recently for a drunk-driving conviction that may

land him some time in jail, a year of probation and appearances in public service

announcements.

Other birthdays: Barrett Strong, 57; Cory Wells (Three Dog Night), 56;

Chuck Winfield (Blood, Sweat and

Tears), 55; Larry Cargill (Standells), 55; Al Kooper (Blood, Sweat and

Tears), 54; J.R. Cobb (the Classics IV), 54; Nigel Tufnel (Spinal Tap), 50; Chris

Barron (Spin Doctors), 30; and Michael Ivey (Basehead), 30.