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Where Are They Now? 6 Artists Who Got Lots of Airplay in 1996

1996 was a heady time for popular music. We were learning the "Macarena," trying to shake the bizarrely infectious "I Love You Always Forever" from our brains, and cringing at Alanis Morissette's misuse of the word "Ironic." Okay, maybe it was less "heady" and more "crappy."

1996 was also the year I graduated from high school, and left my sleepy hometown of Venice, Florida. We all know where I ended up -- I'm a big rich* blogger now! -- but let's take a look back at some artists who got a lot of airplay back in 1996.

Boyz II Men

"One Sweet Day" (with Mariah Carey) - #2 Billboard Top 100, 1996

Boyz II Men had tremendous success in the 90's, but 1996's "One Sweet Day," recorded with Mariah Carey, became the longest running number one song in US chart history (really!). The group continued to record albums periodically until 2003, when they took a break from the music industry.

So where are they now? Hosting a "Love Cruise." For Valentine's Day, 2011, the Boyz hosted a cruise in which cruise members enjoyed the following (I'm quoting from their completely amazing website):

• Boyz II Men Welcome Cocktail Party
• Concert performance by Boyz II Men
• Additional Fan Appreciation Concert by Boyz II Men
• Special Ceremony - Renew Your Wedding Vows Onboard with Boyz II Men
• Singles Mixer with Boyz II Men
• Photo Session with Boyz II Men in small groups
• Question & Answer Session with Boyz II Men
• Formal Prom Night
• Poker Tournament
• Deck Party with Boyz II Men & Guest DJ
• Gift Bag
• Other onboard drawings for exclusive Boyz II Men Event Opportunities!
• Full Access to all of Carnival's activities and facilities!
• VIP Concierge at your service!

Prices ranged from $639 per person all the way up to $5000.

The Boyz also announced that a 20th Anniversary Album would be released in 2011, including "all four members" of the group (original member Michael McCary had been sitting out since 2003).

Gin Blossoms

"Follow You Down/Til I Hear It From You" - #15 Billboard Top 100, 1996

For one member of the Arizona-based Gin Blossoms, their first album really was a "New Miserable Experience." They named their band after a slang term for rosacea, which can be triggered by drinking. After years of failure to record a full-length album, 1992's debut "New Miserable Experience" became a massive success (remember "Hey Jealousy" and "Found Out About You?") -- and its hits were written by Doug Hopkins, who was kicked out of the band while the album was being recorded -- reportedly due to alcoholism. Hopkins committed suicide shortly after he received the gold record for "Hey Jealousy" in the mail. He was in treatment for alcoholism at the time.

The band's sophomore album, 1996's "Congratulations I'm Sorry" included the hit "Follow You Down" (which was, mercifully, not written by Hopkins). The band broke up in 1997 and focused on side projects. They reunited in 2002, albeit with lineup changes, again triggered in part by alcoholism. They released a few more records, most recently "No Chocolate Cake," which hit #1 on Amazon's MP3 album chart upon its release -- though it fell off the charts shortly thereafter.

Gin Blossoms suffered a variety of lineup changes since its inception in 1987, and now has a total of six ex-members (this band is a five-piece, so turnover is remarkably high). So where are they now? They're on tour, with dates scheduled through September 2011.

Los del Río

"Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)" - #1 Billboard Top 100, 1996

Known for their quadruple-Platinum song "Macarena," Los del Río are a Spanish folk duo who first released a Spanish-language version of "Macarena" in 1993. Lots of alternate versions followed, including the famous "Bayside Boys Mix" (with English vocals), released in 1995 and dominating the US charts in 1996. Today, the duo are still recording and performing; they released a 15th anniversary edition of the song in 2008 entitled "Quinceañera Macarena" (a Quinceañera is a girl's fifteenth birthday celebration -- the eponymous Macarena is finally of age).

So where are they now? Still playing Andalusian folk music, among other things. Check out their official MySpace page for their rendition of "Hey Jude," among other amazing tracks. You can also check out their Spanish-language website (warning: plays music!)

Seven Mary Three

"Cumbersome" - #39 Billboard Hot 100, 1996

Seven Mary Three started as an acoustic duo at William & Mary, before adding drums and bass (and a heavy grunge influence) to the mix. The name "Seven Mary Three" comes from the callsign for Larry Wilcox's character on the TV show CHiPS. 7M3's hit song "Cumbersome" actually reached the #1 spot on the US Mainstream Rock charts in 1996, and received tremendous airplay -- and it continues to be so popular that band members say their audiences often leave the concert after the song is played.

7M3 continued to release albums with steadily declining chart positions through the 90s, until they left Atlantic Records. Over the past decade they've released four albums (the most recent is a live acoustic record from 2010) on a series of progressively smaller labels. So where are they now? They're on tour, sometimes playing acoustic sets -- a bit like their William & Mary days.

Spacehog

"In the Meantime" - #1 (Peak) Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks, 1996

British glam rockers Spacehog had a series of hits in 1996, and "In the Meantime" was their biggest. Featuring a hooting falsetto vocal hook and a sample from a Penguin Cafe Orchestra song, "In the Meantime" was a staple of 1996 modern rock radio, followed closely by "Cruel to Be Kind," also from the album "Resident Alien." (Although the band's founders were all from Leeds, they met and formed the band in New York City -- offering a possible explanation for the record's title.)

So where are they now? Well, you can play "In the Meantime" in Guitar Hero 5 and Rock Band 3; samples of the vocal hook are found in Girl Talk's "All Day" (released in late 2010); and guitarist Antony Langdon appeared as an assistant/musical partner to Joaquin Phoenix in the 2010 film I'm Still Here -- he did some particularly nasty things (ahem, including defecating on the hood of a car) in the film. The band's last album was released in 2001, although they've had a few reunion shows over the years, with the last in 2009. Their web presence is mostly dead, except for an occasionally updated MySpace page.

311

"Down" - #1 (Peak) Billboard Modern Rock Tracks, 1996

311 were the funkiest group to emerge from Nebraska in the mid-90's (I had to qualify that statement so much because Omaha is actually home to lots of underground hip-hop and even a variety of minor funk acts). The name "311" comes from the Omaha police code for indecent exposure -- which they learned after the band's original guitarist was arrested for streaking. In 1996, the band appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien and The Late Show with David Letterman playing "Down" -- the song was everywhere, and I clearly remember hearing it in the waiting room at the dentist's office. Now that's mainstream success.

So where are they now? The band went on to produce albums every few years (most of which were commercially successful -- they routinely chart, and many have gone Gold or Platinum); their tenth album is slated for release in 2011. Like Boyz II Men, 311 hosted the 311 Caribbean Cruise in March of 2011 (starting on, wait for it: 3-3-11). Amenities included live performances by 311, as well as the opportunity to party with a boat full of 311 fans.

Artists We Lost

There were many popular 1996 acts who have since died. We lost Bradley Nowell of Sublime in 1996 -- the year most people heard his band for the first time. On the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart for 1996, we see hits from 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G., Blues Traveler, and TLC -- we lost 2Pac in 1996, Biggie in 1997, Bobby Sheehan (of Blues Traveler) in 1999, and Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes (of TLC) in 2002. And those are just the deaths I could easily pick out from the list.

Disclaimer & Conclusion

* = Statement of blogger's wealth may be an extreme exaggeration.

So what have we learned in this romp through the hits of fifteen years ago? It's all about the cruises. Just keep making records, and eventually your band will amass a large enough fanbase for a cruise -- that's when you know you've arrived. "I'm on a boat!"

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13 Fascinating Facts About Nina Simone
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nina Simone, who would’ve celebrated her 85th birthday today, was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.

1. NINA SIMONE WAS HER STAGE NAME.

The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.

2. SHE HAD HUMBLE BEGINNINGS.


Getty Images

There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. Luke’s CME, the church where her mother ministered. After Simone died on April 21, 2003, she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.

3. SHE WAS BOOK SMART...

Simone, who graduated valedictorian of her high school class, studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music for a brief period of time before applying to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Unfortunately, Simone was denied admission. For years, she maintained that her race was the reason behind the rejection. But a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, has gone on record to say that her skin color wasn’t a factor. “It had nothing to do with her…background,” he said in 1992. But Simone ended up getting the last laugh: Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.

4. ... WITH DEGREES TO PROVE IT.

Simone—who preferred to be called “doctor Nina Simone”—was also awarded two other honorary degrees, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.

5. HER CAREER WAS ROOTED IN ACTIVISM.

A photo of Nina Simone circa 1969

Gerrit de Bruin

At the age of 12, Simone refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stand. Many of her songs in the '60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era.

Unfortunately, her activism wasn't always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to perform, and radio stations didn’t play her songs. But she pressed on—even after the Civil Rights Movement. In 1997, Simone told Interview Magazine that she addressed her songs to the third world. In her own words: “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

6. ONE OF HER MOST FAMOUS SONGS WAS BANNED.

Mississippi Goddam,” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write, according to legend—but it made an impact that still stands the test of time. When she wrote it, Simone had been fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

“Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam,” she sang.

Some say that the song was banned in Southern radio stations because “goddam” was in the title. But others argue that the subject matter is what caused the stations to return the records cracked in half.

7. SHE NEVER HAD A NUMBER ONE HIT.

Nina Simone released over 40 albums during her decades-spanning career including studio albums, live versions, and compilations, and scored 15 Grammy nominations. But her highest-charting (and her first) hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” peaked at #2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1959. Still, her music would go on to influence legendary singers like Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin.

8. SHE USED HER STYLE TO MAKE A STATEMENT.

Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation. In 1967, she wore the same black crochet fishnet jumpsuit with flesh-colored lining for the entire year. Not only did it give off the illusion of her being naked, but “I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way,” she said. “It made it easier for me.”

9. SHE HAD MANY HOMES.

New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all places that Simone called home. She died at her home in Southern France, and her ashes were scattered in several African countries.

10. SHE HAD A FAMOUS INNER CIRCLE.

During the late '60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next to Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. He wasn't her only famous pal. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry's play of the same title. Simone even struck up a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-1970s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.

11. YOU CAN STILL VISIT SIMONE IN HER HOMETOWN.

Photo of Nina Simone
Amazing Nina Documentary Film, LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, an 8-foot sculpture of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina. Her likeness stands tall in Nina Simone Plaza, where she’s seated and playing an eternal song on a keyboard that floats in midair. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave sculptor Zenos Frudakis some of Simone’s ashes to weld into the sculpture’s bronze heart. "It's not something very often done, but I thought it was part of the idea of bringing her home," Frudakis said.

12. YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD HER MUSIC IN RECENT HITS.

Rihanna sang a few verses of Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He’s clearly a superfan: “Blood on the Leaves” and his duet with Jay Z, “New Day,” feature Simone samples as well, along with Lil’ Wayne’s “Dontgetit,” Common’s “Misunderstood” and a host of other tracks.

13. HER MUSIC IS STILL BEING PERFORMED.

Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone was released along with the Netflix documentary in 2015. On the album, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Usher, Alice Smith, and more paid tribute to the legend by performing covers of 16 of her most famous tracks.

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"Weird Al" Yankovic Is Getting the Funko Treatment
Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images
Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images

Though the New York Toy Fair—the largest trade show for playthings in the western hemisphere—won't officially kick off until Saturday, February 17, kids and kids-at-heart are already finding much to get excited about as the world's biggest toy companies ready to unleash their newest wares on the world. One item that has gotten us—and fans of fine parody songs everywhere—excited is "Weird Al" Yankovic's induction into the Funko Pop! family. The accordion-loving songwriter behind hits like "Eat It," "White & Nerdy," "Amish Paradise," and "Smells Like Nirvana" shared the news via Twitter, and included what we can only hope is a final rendering of his miniaturized, blockheaded vinyl likeness:

In late December, Funko announced that a Weird Al toy would be coming in 2018 as part of the beloved brand's Pop Rocks series. Though we know he'll be joined by Alice Cooper, Kurt Cobain, Elton John, and the members of Mötley Crüe, there's no word yet on exactly when you’ll be able to get your hands on Pop! Al. But knowing that he's coming is enough … for now.

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