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Grammy-Winning Hard Rockers
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About Living Colour
Beginning with their landmark debut, Vivid in 1989 and throughout the 1990s, New York’s Living Colour were on the vanguard of genre transcendence that’s become commonplace in popular music. Along with artists like The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction and Fishbone – all who rode the lines between rock, jazz, funk, punk and heavy metal – Living Colour blended a fusion of sound that was heavily steeped in guitarist Vernon Reid’s avant-garde jazz background and Corey Glover’s soulful voice and provocative lyrics.
During the 1980s, rock had become completely segregated and predictable, the opposite of the late ’60s/early ’70s, when such musically and ethnically varied artists as Jimi Hendrix, Sly & the Family Stone, and Santana ruled the earth. But bands such as New York’s Living Colour helped break down the doors by the end of the ’80s, leading to a much more open-minded musical landscape that would eventually pave the way for future bands (Rage Against the Machine, Sevendust, etc.). The group (singer Corey Glover, guitarist Vernon Reid, bassist Muzz Skillings, and drummer Will Calhoun) first formed in the mid-’80s, with Reid being the only member with real prior band experience; he was a member of Ronald Shannon Jackson’s experimental jazz outfit, and had recorded with Defunkt, Public Enemy, as well as issuing a solo album with Bill Frisell, 1984’s Smash & Scatteration.
It took the fledgling band a few years for their sound to gel, as they honed their act at N.Y.C.’s famed CBGB’s. But the group found an unlikely supporter in Mick Jagger, who took the band under his wing, produced a demo for the quartet, and helped them secure a record deal with Epic. Living Colour’s debut album, Vivid, was issued in the summer of 1988, yet it would take a few months for momentum to build. By the winter, the band’s striking video for their anthem “Cult of Personality” was all over MTV, pushing Vivid to the upper reaches of the charts and to platinum certification. Living Colour also took home their first of several Grammy Awards, as “Cult” won Best Hard Rock Performance at the 1989 ceremony, and the band supported the release with a string of dates opening stadiums for the Rolling Stones’ first U.S. tour in eight years that autumn.
After three records which gained critical acclaim but didn’t always spell commercial success, and nonstop touring (including the inaugural Lollapalooza tour in the summer of 1991), Living Colour appeared to be entering an interesting and groundbreaking new musical phase. An inability to settle on a single musical direction caused friction between the members, leading to Living Colour’s demise in early 1995.
In the wake of Living Colour’s split, all of its former members pursued other projects. With Living Colour out of commission for several years by the early 21st century, Calhoun and Wimbish teamed up once more with Glover in a new outfit, Headfake, playing often in the New York City area. A few days before Christmas in 2000, Headfake played a show at CBGB’s, and were joined on-stage by Reid, which led to rumors of an impending Living Colour reunion. The rumors proved to be true, as Living Colour launched their first tour together in six years during the summer of 2001. In 2003, Living Colour returned with a deal with Sanctuary and their most experimental release to date, Collideøscope.
Living Colour will release their latest record, Shade, in 2016.
What Other People Have Been Saying...
“Screaming electric guitar punctuates the raucous melodies and street-smart lyrics on Vivid, an album that not only marked the auspicious debut of the hard-rocking band Living Colour but was also credited with breaking down racial barriers in pop music.” – Rolling Stone Magazine