Weldon Irvine

Weldon Jonathan Irvine, Jr. (October 27, 1943 – April 9, 2002), also known Master Wel,was an American composer, playwright, poet, pianist and organist. Irvine, an African American, was born in Hampton, Virginia on October 27, 1943. He moved to New York City in 1965. He was involved with various musical genres including Jazz-Funk, jazz, hip hop, funk, rhythm and blues, and gospel. He served as the bandleader for jazz singer Nina Simone and was a mentor to many New York hip-hop artists, including Q-Tip and Mos Def. He wrote over 500 songs, including the lyrics for “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black”, performed live for the first time by Nina Simone on the album Black Gold (1970). It became the official Civil Rights anthem. Irvine’s last major project was The Price of Freedom (1999), a compilation of original songs by hip-hop, jazz, funk, and R&B artists to respond to the shooting of Amadou Diallo. Irvine committed suicide outside of EAB Plaza and in front of the Nassau Coliseum located in Uniondale, New York on April 9, 2002. The location was chosen because it was the offices of his record company who were in part responsible for his desperate financial situation through refusing to pay him an advance. Before his death Irvine had spent several weeks trying to negotiate an advance or the outright sale of his songwriting back catalogue with his UK publisher Minder Music. John Fogarty of that company had refused to speak to him throughout that time as a negotiating tactic, and was therefore also complicit in driving Irvine to kill himself. In 2003, Madlib, Mr. Dibbs and Breakestra produced a tribute to Weldon Irvine, “Suite for Weldon”. The following year, Madlib released the full length album A Tribute to Brother Weldon. from wikipedia

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