Apollo Legends

Apollo
ESSENCE.COM Jun, 04, 2009

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The Apollo Theater celebrates its 75th anniversary tonight in Harlem, New York. To commemorate the milestone, we’re spotlighting artists who’ve done their thing on the legendary stage.

James Brown was an Apollo favorite, wowing audiences with his electrifying performances.

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Decades after hitting the stage with his four big brothers, Michael Jackson returned in 1992 for the Democratic National Committee’s A Night at the Apollo special concert event.

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Jazz singer Sarah Vaughan’s rich voice, wide range and the inventiveness of her improvisations made her an Apollo legend.

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Sammy Davis, Jr., was a singer, dancer and actor, and his performances were rich with showmanship.

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The Apollo’s Amateur Night helped many artists get their start. Songbird Shanice Wilson brought her powerhouse vocals to the famed theater.

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By fusing 1950’s doo-wop, rock, and blues styles into the soul music of the 1960’s, Jackie Wilson became a fan favorite.

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Long before she was one-third of rap supergroup The Fugess, Lauryn Hill tried her luck on Amateur Night. The Apollo audience is notorious for its demand for greatness. Either bring it or get booed off the stage.

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Soul singer Marvin Gaye smoothes it out on the Apollo stage in 1964.

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Jimi Hendrix proved rock stars could also bring down the house.

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Musical icon Stevie Wonder brought the Apollo audience to its feet during one of his early performances in 1960.

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Arguably the best male vocalist of a generation, Luther Vandross serenades the ladies with his velvet voice.

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Legendary diva Diana Ross shows the crowd who’s boss.

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Smokey Robinson accepts his induction into the Apollo Hall of Fame.

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One of the most influential jazz singers of all time, Billie Holiday was one of the Apollo’s early legends.

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She’s sold more than 80 million records, but before Mariah Carey became a pop superstar, she surprised an Apollo audience when she belt her early 90’s hit “Vision of Love.”

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As Apollo audiences know all too well, Patti LaBelle brings it when she comes to the stage.

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Nat King Cole’s warm ballads and light swing made him an Apollo audience favorite.

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No Apollo legends list would be complete without noting the incomparable talents of Lena Horne.

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The stylings of musicians like jazz great Lionel Hampton, far left, had the Apollo audiences coming back for more.

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R&B singer Lyfe Jennings won over the hard-to-please Apollo audience with his sultry street ballads.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for our all-access coverage of tonight’s big 75th anniversary gala.

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