Me'Shell NdegeOcello

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

Development.

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

creative freedom.

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

Be Love."

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,

1924-1963.