Thursday, March 11, 2004

Entertainment Icon Oscar Brown, Jr. Brings His Star Back to Lincoln
Brown, a 1949 graduate of the University, went on to become one of America’s most acclaimed playwrights and versatile entertainers. He was an early founder of The Jackson 5.

Lincoln University, PA (www.lincoln.edu)– Lincoln University—the nation’s first Historically Black University— welcomes home one of its favorite sons when legendary entertainer Oscar Brown, Jr. performs at the African American Museum, 701 Arch Street, in Philadelphia, on March 16 at 6:30 p.m. Brown will perform again as part of “all-star” jazz/blues combo on March 17 at 4 p.m. at Lincoln’s Mary Dod Brown Memorial Chapel as part of the Amos Scholarly Lecture Series.

Brown, a 1949 Lincoln graduate, is expected to perform with a Lincoln “all-star” jazz/blues combo.

Brown, whose entertainment career spans five decades, initially gained acclaim when he became the first commentator to broadcast news on “America’s largest minority” with his daily Negro News Front radio program in 1947. After meeting Robert Nemiroff, a manager at a New York music-publishing firm and husband of Raisin in the Sun playwright Lorraine Hansberry, Brown signed his first recording contract with Columbia Records in 1958. Brown released Sin and Soul in 1960, which would be the first of four albums he would record for Columbia Records. Brown’s association Columbia Records afforded him the chance to produce his first musical, Kicks & Company. While Kicks & Company never made it to Broadway, its debut in New York City’s Village Vanguard, subsequent reviews and airing on NBC’s Today Show in 1960, propelled Brown into the national spotlight.

Brown’s prominence as a playwright and singer allowed him to begin sharing the stage with such musical greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane and Nat “Cannonball” Adderly. Brown’s one-man show, Oscar Brown, Jr. Entertains, was featured in London, England in 1963. Entertainment critics hailed Brown as “a musical genius,” “the high priest of hip,” and “all the great ones rolled into one.” Prior to Oscar Brown Entertains, Brown hosted the television series, Jazz Scene USA, which originated from Los Angeles. It was during the taping of the television show that Brown met his future wife, singer/dancer Jean Pace.

The production of his musical, Joy ’66, brought Brown and Pace to Chicago where the couple wrote three more musicals, The Summer in the City, Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow and Opportunity Please Knock. The play was produced in 1967 and was inspired by a notorious Chicago street gang who showcased their talent on CBS’ The Smothers Brothers Show. Brown and Pace’s work with the gang brought the couple to Gary, Indiana to conduct a summer youth project. Among their early discoveries were The Jackson Five, who won the youth project’s talent show, and actor/singer Avery Brooks, who has starred on several television shows.

During the 1970s, Brown worked as an artist-in-residence by directing his works at Howard University in Washington, D.C., Hunter College in New York, and Malcolm X College in Chicago. By 1975, Brown had completed the recording of his 10th album and had re-staged and starred in the hit production Evolution of the Blues which was featured in San Francisco. Later that year, Oscar was shown in a (CBS) WBBM-TV special, Oscar Brown is Back in Town, which won him two local Emmy Awards.

To finish out the decade, Oscar hosted the 13-week PBS program From Jump Street: The Story of Black Music, and was a regular actor on the television series, Brewster Place, starring Oprah Winfrey. He also appeared in several other acting roles, including episodes of Roc and the PBS special, Zora Is My Name, written by his friend and noted actress Ruby Dee.

Brown has composed several hundred songs and over a dozen full-length theater pieces. Some critics have said, that Mr. Brown's works were "ahead of his time," that his music or views are "too outspoken," and that as a result; he has not received the recognition due to past and present political beliefs. No matter what the criticism or circumstances, it has not prevented the artist from becoming a prolific composer, nor from adding to his own extraordinary outpouring of poems, songs, and sonnets nor his powerful performances.

The Amos Scholarly Lecture Series was founded by descendants of Reverend Thomas Hunter Amos, founder and president of Harbison College in Abbeville, S.C. His father, Thomas Henry Amos, was a member of Lincoln University’s first graduating class in 1859. Thomas Henry Amos died as a missionary in Liberia, Africa. According to Amos Lecture Series Committee, Rev. Thomas Hunter Amos’ descendants established the lecture series to “stimulate the minds of the Lincoln family in pursuit of a liberal arts education, with emphasis on the theological, philosophical, classical, historical and scientific disciplines.

Located in southern Chester County, Pennsylvania, Lincoln University is nationally recognized as a major producer of African Americans with undergraduate degrees in the physical sciences (biology, chemistry and physics); computer and informational sciences; biological and life sciences. The University is in the midst of a yearlong celebration of its sesquicentennial, or 150th anniversary. Lincoln will hold 150th anniversary galas this spring in Washington, D.C. (April 17) and New York City (May 6). For more information on Lincoln, please visit our Web site at www.lincoln.edu.

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