Charles Stepney

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Charles Stepney
Birth nameCharles Stepney
BornMarch 26, 1931 Chicago, Illinois,
United States
OriginChicago, Illinois,
United States
DiedMay 17, 1976(1976-05-17) (aged 45) Chicago, Illinois,
United States
GenresSoul, R&B
Occupation(s)Record producer, arranger, Conductor
InstrumentsVibraphone , piano, keyboards
Years active1957–1976
LabelsChess, Coulmbia
Associated actsRamsey Lewis, The Dells Minnie Riperton, Earth, Wind & Fire
 
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Charles Stepney
Birth nameCharles Stepney
BornMarch 26, 1931 Chicago, Illinois,
United States
OriginChicago, Illinois,
United States
DiedMay 17, 1976(1976-05-17) (aged 45) Chicago, Illinois,
United States
GenresSoul, R&B
Occupation(s)Record producer, arranger, Conductor
InstrumentsVibraphone , piano, keyboards
Years active1957–1976
LabelsChess, Coulmbia
Associated actsRamsey Lewis, The Dells Minnie Riperton, Earth, Wind & Fire

Charles Stepney (March 26, 1931[1][2][3]–May 17, 1976[2][4]) was a producer, arranger, songwriter and musician famous for his Orchestral Psychedelic soul sound with Chicago's Cadet/Chess records in the 1960s/1970s and afterwards with Earth, Wind & Fire.

Production history[edit]

Charles and Marshall Chess (son of Chess Records co-founder Leonard Chess) in the mid ’60’s created the band Rotary Connection for the new experimental Cadet Concept label and between 1967 and 1971 produced six innovative studio albums for Rotary Connection (receiving a Grammy nomination in 1968[5]):

Between the creation of the Rotary Connection albums, Charles also produced, arranged & co-wrote with Rotary Connection singer Minnie Riperton’s 1970 debut album Come to My Garden.

Commenting on Minnie at the time he said that she "has a soprano range of about four octaves, a whole lot of soul, she's good-looking and she's got the experience of Rotary behind her."[6]

During this time Charles wrote, produced and conducted a Classical Jazz Symphony in 5 parts entitled "Cohesion". "Cohesion" was performed in Minneapolis, MN by the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Ramsey Lewis Trio and Minnie Riperton. It was his first opportunity to conduct live before an audience.[5]

Stepney is also credited as a musician/producer on the following albums:[7]

In the mid 1970s Charles teamed up again with Maurice White and produced a number of Ramsey Lewis Trio albums in which Maurice drummed.

Before he died he co-produced with Maurice the platinum selling Earth, Wind & Fire albums Open Our Eyes (1974), That's the Way of the World, Gratitude both released in 1975 and Spirit released in 1976.

His favorite book was The Schillinger System of Musical Composition by Joseph Schillinger.[8]

Death[edit]

The song Spirit was intended to uplift Stepney's spirit, and to show all the gratitude that Earth, Wind & Fire had towards him. Sadly, Stepney never got to hear the song. Maurice White spoke to Stepney on the afternoon of May 17, 1976, but later that day, Earth, Wind & Fire keyboardist Larry Dunn received a phone call informing him that Charles Stepney had died of a heart attack. The song Spirit then became a tribute to Stepney's life.[citation needed]

Influence[edit]

Artists such as Ramsey Lewis, Stevie Wonder, Deniece Williams, Chaka Khan, 4hero, Jean-Paul 'Bluey' Maunick, Zero 7, Elton John, Gilles Peterson & Terry Callier have been influenced by Stepney.[5][9]

Legacy[edit]

Stepney is survived by his wife Rubie and his three daughters Eibur, Charlene and Chante.

Discography[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Eddie Harris

With Ramsey Lewis

As arranger[edit]

With Ramsey Lewis

With Eddie Harris

With Minnie Ripperton

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Cook County (IL) Birth Index [database on-line]". Chicago, Illinois: Cook County Clerk's Office. 1931-03-26. Retrieved October 17, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b Charles Stepney (2009). "Social Security Death Index [database on-line]". United States: The Generations Network. Retrieved October 17, 2009. 
  3. ^ "Charles Stepney Chicago's Most Prolific Man of Music". schillingersociety.com. 
  4. ^ "Charles Stepney". discogs.com. 
  5. ^ a b c http://www.charlesstepney.org/the_man.html
  6. ^ Black, Edwin (November 26, 1970). "For The Record: Charles Stepney". Downbeat Magazine. Archived from the original on February 25, 2005. Retrieved May 8, 209.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  7. ^ "Charles Stepney legendary composer/arranger/producer who was behind some of the most spiritual albums to come out of the chicago/cadet school...". web.archive.org. Archived from the original on March 24, 2005. 
  8. ^ http://www.schillingersociety.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=62%3Acharles-stepney&Itemid=27
  9. ^ "Charles Stepney – Biography". allmusic.com. Retrieved May 8, 2009. 

External links[edit]