Funk-rocker Me'Shell NdegeOcello has been receiving attention since the
early '90s for her provocative mix of R&B and pop.
NdegeOcello was born 30 years ago today in Berlin and was raised in
Washington, D.C. "NdegeOcello" (pronounced N-day-gay-O-chello) means
"free like a bird" in Swahili. She studied jazz at Duke Ellington School
of the Arts and at Howard University.
NdegeOcello, a bassist, has worked with Steve Coleman, Caron Wheeler,
Lenny White, Toshinobu Kubota, the Black Rock Coalition and Arrested
In the late '80s, NdegeOcello played with such bands as Little Bennie
and the Masters and Rare Essence in Washington, D.C. In 1990 she won in
three categories at the Washington Area Music Awards.
NdegeOcello relocated to New York in the early '90s when Alan Douglas,
Jimi Hendrix's producer, chose her to cover songs from the Hendrix catalog.
The project has yet to be released, but many record-label executives
noticed her talent, leaving NdegeOcello a large choice. She selected
Maverick Records, feeling that a new label would offer artistic and
NdegeOcello's debut, Plantation Lullabies (1993), was critically
hailed and featured the singles "I'm Diggin' You (Like an Old Soul Record)"
and the minor hit "If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)." The
latter received Grammy nominations in 1994 for Best R&B Song and Best
R&B Vocal Performance by a Female.
Plantation Lullabies was nominated for Best R&B Album and NdegeOcello
and John Mellencamp were nominated for Best Pop Vocal Collaboration for
their top-10 cover of Van Morrison's "Wild Night" that appeared on
Mellencamp's Dance Naked (1994).
Peace Beyond Passion (1996) which featured Wendy Melvoin
(of Prince fame) and Billy Preston examined NdegeOcello's psyche
on such tracks as "Deuteronomy: Niggerman," "Ecclesiastes: Free My Heart"
and "Leviticus: Faggot" (RealAudio
excerpt). The LP also included a take on Bill Withers' "Who Is
He and What Is He to You."
Last week NdegeOcello released her third LP, Bitter, featuring
"Satisfy," the single "Grace" (which was initially released via the
Internet radio service Spinner.com) and a cover of Hendrix's "May This
NdegeOcello, who shaves her head completely, recently did club gigs to
support the LP, and performed at several Lilith Fair dates.
She said: "Playing the Lilith Fair last year was great having the
opportunity to perform with people like Bonnie Raitt and the Indigo Girls.
... The 'heads' are all women, and everyone follows that lead. There
isn't a competitive attitude. We were truly enjoying ourselves."
Other birthdays: Dick Halligan (Blood, Sweat and Tears), 56; Chris
Copping (Procul Harum), 54; Dave Jenkins (Pablo Cruise), 52; Michael
Jackson, 41; Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins), 36; A+, 17; Sterling
Morrison (Velvet Underground), 1942-1995; and Dinah Washington,