The National Museum of African American Music presented George Clinton, Doug E. Fresh and Gloria Gaynor with the Rhapsody & Rhythm Award at the museum’s sixth Celebration of Legends Gala the evening of Thursday, June 27, at the Music City Center’s Karl Dean Ballroom in Nashville. The gala celebrated African American musical and cultural icons who have made significant contributions to American music across all genres.
Vanderbilt University, joining with the National Museum of African American Music, announced a long-term partnership to enrich educational and research opportunities around the musical legacy of African American composers, performers and supporters and their impact on American culture and musical history.
The university’s pledge of foundational support, which totals $2 million in in-kind contributions and direct financial support, will expand the museum’s archival collection, contribute to innovative programming, support the completion of the facility and more.
Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos was in attendance as Vanderbilt was the presenting sponsor for this year’s event. The late David Williams, who was an avid supporter of NMAAM and chairman of its campaign steering committee, was also honored at the event. Williams served as Vanderbilt University’s vice chancellor for university affairs and athletics director.
Zeppos announced the innovative partnership at the Legends Gala held at the Music City Center. “We are proud to partner with the National Museum of African American Music in building global awareness of the musical legacy and impact of African American composers, performers and supporters,” Zeppos said. “This museum will expand the opportunities of our Vanderbilt community, Middle Tennesseans and visitors from around the world to engage in learning and discovery.”
“The Rhapsody and Rhythm honorees span the breadth of African American music, representing disco, hip hop and funk,” said NMAAM President and CEO H. Beecher Hicks III. “Their artistry is innovative and influential, and carries an impact that can still be felt today. Even the museum’s tagline, ‘One Nation Under A Groove,’ is an homage to George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic’s quintessential song. This was the largest attendance at the Legends Gala yet, so that makes us even more excited that we were able to spend the evening recognizing George, Doug E. and Gloria.”
Doug E. Fresh, known as the “Original Human Beatbox,” is an artistic trailblazer whose 30-year career has been groundbreaking for hip hop. As the creator of the beatbox art form, Fresh, along with the Get Fresh Crew, captivated audiences around the world with his vocal simulations of drums and other musical instruments. Among the many awards Fresh has accumulated over the years, he is a Hip Hop Hall of Fame inductee, the 2004 recipient of The Source Awards’ Lifetime Achievement honor and the 2014 BET Hip Hop Awards’ Icon honoree. Former Rhapsody & Rhythm award winner Keb’ Mo’ presented Fresh with the award.
As the lead musician of the eclectic Parliament-Funkadelic collective, George Clinton was an early pioneer of funk music. After more than 40 years in the music industry, he is best known for his colorful hair, unique fashion and “psychedelic” artistry. Clinton and members of Parliament-Funkadelic were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, and most recently, they received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019. Clinton was unable to attend due to unforeseen circumstances; but Chrissy Walter, Clinton’s daughter, was on hand to accept the award, which was presented by NMAAM’s board chair Kevin Lavender.
Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” is one of the most well-known songs to come from the 1970s disco era. Released in 1978, the single earned Gaynor the title of the “Queen of Disco.” Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” received the Grammy Award for Best Disco Recording in 1980 and landed on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” Her discography also includes contemporary R&B and Christian albums. Dr. Bobby Jones presented Gaynor with the award.
The event featured performances by Fatman Scoop and DJ Mars, honoring Doug E. Fresh; Louis York, The Shindellas and Mr. Talkbox, honoring George Clinton; and Avery Sunshine honoring Gloria Gaynor. Additionally, to highlight local emerging artists, there were performances by a trio curated by Patrick Dailey, The Stanley Brown Band, Jason Eskridge and Leondria Lott. The gala was hosted by Grammy Award-winning producer, SHANNON SANDERS.