Living Colour

Last updated
Living Colour
Living Colour in 2017
Background information
Origin New York, New York, U.S.
Years active
  • 1984–1995
  • 2000–present
Associated acts
Past members Muzz Skillings

Living Colour is an American rock band from New York City, formed in 1984. Stylistically, the band's music is a creative fusion influenced by heavy metal, funk, jazz, hip hop, punk, and alternative rock. Their lyrics range from the personal to the political, including social commentary on racism in America.

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2018 population of 8,398,748 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 19,979,477 people in its 2018 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 22,679,948 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the United Kingdom. With roots in blues rock, psychedelic rock, and acid rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness. The genre's lyrics and performance styles are sometimes associated with aggression and machismo.

Funk genre of music

Funk is a music genre that originated in African-American communities in the mid-1960s when African-American musicians created a rhythmic, danceable new form of music through a mixture of soul music, jazz, and rhythm and blues (R&B). Funk de-emphasizes melody and chord progressions and focuses on a strong rhythmic groove of a bass line played by an electric bassist and a drum part played by a drummer, often at slower tempos than other popular music. Like much of African-inspired music, funk typically consists of a complex groove with rhythm instruments playing interlocking grooves that created a "hypnotic" and "danceable feel". Funk uses the same richly colored extended chords found in bebop jazz, such as minor chords with added sevenths and elevenths, or dominant seventh chords with altered ninths and thirteenths.


Living Colour rose to fame with their debut album Vivid in 1988. [6] Although the band scored a number of hits, they are best remembered for their signature anthem "Cult of Personality", which won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1990. They were also named Best New Artist at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards and won their second Grammy Award for their follow-up album Time's Up . After disbanding in 1995, [6] Living Colour reunited in late 2000. [7]

<i>Vivid</i> (Living Colour album) 1988 studio album by Living Colour

Vivid is the debut studio album by the American rock band Living Colour, released on May 3, 1988 through Epic Records. It was one of the most popular albums of 1988, reaching No. 6 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and certified double platinum by the RIAA. The album is also featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. In 2017, Rolling Stone ranked Vivid as 71st on their list of 'The 100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time.'

Cult of Personality (song) 1988 single by Living Colour

"Cult of Personality" is a song by rock band Living Colour. It was their second single off their debut album, Vivid, released on July 14, 1988. "Cult of Personality" reached No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 9 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart. It also won the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1990. Its music video earned the MTV Video Music Award for Best Group Video and MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist. The song was ranked No. 69 on VH1's 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs. The solo was ranked No. 87 in Guitar World's "100 Greatest Guitar Solos" list. It was also selected for inclusion in the musical reference book, 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die: And 10,001 You Must Download. The band's guitarist and founder, Vernon Reid, described the song as very special for the band not just for its commercial success but because it was essentially written in just one rehearsal session. The riff was stumbled upon while practicing something else and by the end of the session they had written what was to become Living Colour's best known song. The song contains many political references, and shares its name with a phenomenon involving psychology and politics.

Grammy Award Accolade by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States

A Grammy Award, or Grammy, is an award presented by The Recording Academy to recognize achievements in the music industry. The trophy depicts a gilded gramophone. The annual presentation ceremony features performances by prominent artists, and the presentation of those awards that have a more popular interest. The Grammys are the second of the Big Three major music awards held annually.


Early years (1984–1986)

English-born guitarist Vernon Reid had formed a number of bands, and after a few years, he formed Living Colour in New York in 1984, using the British spelling of "colour". [8] [9] Reid assembled a number of bands under the name Vernon Reid's Living Colour from 1984 to 1986. [10] Reid was well known on the downtown New York jazz scenes because of his tenure in Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society.

Vernon Reid Guitarist, songwriter and composer

Vernon Alphonsus Reid is a British-born American guitarist and songwriter. Reid was the founder and primary songwriter of the rock band Living Colour, Reid was named No. 66 on Rolling Stone magazine's 2004 list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

Ronald Shannon Jackson American drummer

Ronald Shannon Jackson was an American jazz drummer and composer from Fort Worth, Texas. A pioneer of avant-garde jazz, free funk, and jazz fusion, he appeared on over 50 albums as a bandleader, sideman, arranger, and producer. Jackson and bassist Sirone are the only musicians to have performed and recorded with the three prime shapers of free jazz: pianist Cecil Taylor, and saxophonists Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler.

Early band members included bassists Alex Mosely, Jerome Harris and Carl James, drummers Greg Carter, Pheeroan akLaff and J.T. Lewis, keyboardist Geri Allen, and vocalists D.K. Dyson and Mark Ledford, with Reid occasionally singing lead vocals himself. The band's sound was vastly different from the songs that showed up later on their major label recordings. Material from this period included instrumental jazz/funk workouts, politically pointed punk rock burners, experimental excursions via Reid's guitar synth, and an early version of the song "Funny Vibe", which was reworked for their debut album Vivid .

Jerome Harris American jazz musician

Jerome Harris is an American jazz musician specializing in electric and acoustic bass guitar, electric guitar, voice, and occasionally lap steel and small percussion.

Pheeroan akLaff American jazz drummer

Pheeroan akLaff is an American jazz drummer. Pheeroan akLaff began playing in his hometown of Detroit, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, with Travis Biggs, Ars Nova, The Ebony Set, The Last Days, and Rod Lumpkin, recorded with Major Lansky. He moved to New Haven, Connecticut, and formed DejaVu with Dwight Andrews. He debuted with Bill Baron in 1975, followed by tenure in Leo Smith's New Dalta Ahkri.

Geri Allen american composer and pianist

Geri Antoinette Allen was an American jazz pianist, composer, and recording artist. In additional to her career as a performer and bandleader, Allen was an Associate Professor of Music and the Director of the Jazz Studies Program at the University of Pittsburgh.

Mainstream success (1986–1991)

Living Colour in 1993 Living-colour-live1993.jpg
Living Colour in 1993

In 1986 a stable lineup was formed, consisting of vocalist/actor Corey Glover, guitarist Vernon Reid, bassist Muzz Skillings, and drummer Will Calhoun (who had graduated with honors from Berklee College of Music), [6] and the band hired managers Jim Grant and Roger Cramer. Soon after, the band became experienced at touring, including performing regular gigs at the club CBGB. Vivid , released on May 3, 1988, gathered sales momentum only when later that year, MTV began playing the video for "Cult of Personality". The album reached No. 6 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. On April 1, 1989, the band performed on NBC's Saturday Night Live . Four months later, the band gained further exposure as an opening act, along with Guns N' Roses, for The Rolling Stones' Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle Tour.

Corey Glover American singer, musician and guitarist

Corey Glover is an American singer, guitarist and actor. He is the lead vocalist of the rock band Living Colour and has toured as the vocalist for the funk band Galactic. As an actor, he played Francis in the 1986 war movie Platoon.

Muzz Skillings is an American bassist, singer, guitarist and songwriter. He is best known for being the original bassist with Living Colour.

Will Calhoun American musician

William "Will" Calhoun is an American drummer who is a member of the rock band Living Colour.

In 1990 the band's second full-length album, Time's Up , featured songs in numerous musical contexts; jazz fusion, punk rock, Delta blues, hip hop (cameos by Queen Latifah and Doug E. Fresh), funk, thrash metal, jive, and hints of electronica were all represented. [11] The album reached No. 13 on the Billboard 200, [6] and won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance. Other guests included Maceo Parker and Little Richard. [6]

<i>Times Up</i> (Living Colour album) 1990 studio album by Living Colour

Time's Up is the second studio album by the band Living Colour, released on August 28, 1990 through Epic Records. It was the follow-up to their successful 1988 album Vivid. Time's Up features a wide range of genres and also includes cameo appearances by Queen Latifah, Little Richard, Doug E. Fresh, Maceo Parker and James Earl Jones. After the album was released, it reached gold status, peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard 200 and later won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance. It is the final album to feature Muzz Skillings on bass, though it was not his last release with the band. In late February 2014, the album was reissued in Europe by Music On CD and is available once again.

Jazz fusion music genre

Jazz fusion is a music genre that developed in the late 1960s when musicians combined jazz harmony and improvisation with rock music, funk, and rhythm and blues. Electric guitars, amplifiers, and keyboards that were popular in rock and roll started to be used by jazz musicians, particularly those who had grown up listening to rock and roll.

Delta blues early style of blues music

Delta blues is one of the earliest-known styles of blues music. It originated in the Mississippi Delta, a region of the U.S. stretching from Memphis, Tennessee, in the north to Vicksburg, Mississippi, in the south and from Helena, Arkansas, in the west to the Yazoo River in the east. The Mississippi Delta is famous for its fertile soil and for its poverty. Delta blues is regarded as a regional variant of country blues. Guitar and harmonica are its dominant instruments; slide guitar is a hallmark of the style. Vocal styles in Delta blues range from introspective and soulful to passionate and fiery.

In 1991, Living Colour joined the inaugural Lollapalooza tour, and released an EP of outtakes entitled Biscuits . [6]

Second line-up and breakup (1992–1995)

In 1992, Skillings left the band and was replaced by Doug Wimbish. [6] This new line up released their third full-length album, Stain , in March 1993. The album reached No. 26 in the U.S., a further drop since their debut. [6]

Despite retaining their strong fan base, Living Colour disbanded in January 1995, after failing to settle on a common musical goal during sessions for their fourth studio album. [6] Four of these tracks were included on the compilation Pride .

Following the breakup, individual band members released a variety of solo efforts.

Reunion and subsequent events (2000–present)

Living Colour re-formed on December 21, 2000, at CBGB as a gig billed "Head>>Fake w/ special guests". Head>>Fake was the current drum and bass project headed by Calhoun and Wimbish. Glover was on the bill to sing a few songs and Reid came on after three songs. The reunion was followed by the release of the band's fourth studio album, Collideøscope , in 2003, their first album not to chart in the United States, although it was critically praised. [12] [13] In 2005, Sony Records released Live from CBGB's , a live album recorded on December 19, 1989, as well as another best-of compilation, Everything Is Possible: The Very Best of Living Colour , with songs from Vivid to Collideøscope.

Sziget Festival - 2006.08.15 Living Colour - Sziget Fesztival, 2006.08.15 (15).jpg
Sziget Festival - 2006.08.15
Sziget Festival - 2006.08.15 Living Colour - Sziget Fesztival, 2006.08.15 (12).jpg
Sziget Festival - 2006.08.15

In August 2006, Glover took on the role of Judas Iscariot in a national tour of Jesus Christ Superstar , touring with JCS veteran Ted Neeley. Doug Pinnick, vocalist and bassist of King's X, filled in for Glover on lead vocals. [14] Glover's tour of the musical ran through June 2008, and he then rejoined the band. On September 22, 2006, Skillings joined the band for the first time in fourteen years when they played at a private party which drummer Jack DeJohnette threw for his wife Lydia. Wimbish was unable to come back from his base in London to play for the event, so Skillings agreed to take over for the special private event.

Corey Glover and Doug Wimbish (2008) Living Colour - Live Madrid 2008.jpg
Corey Glover and Doug Wimbish (2008)
Living Colour, San Diego, CA, March 2013 Living Colour, live, Belly Up Tavern, Solana Beach, CA, March 29, 2013.jpg
Living Colour, San Diego, CA, March 2013

The band performed a week-long European Tour starting on December 12, 2006. In May 2007, the band released their first live DVD - On Stage At World Cafe Live . On July 11, 2008, the band performed at the 1980s hard rock-themed Rocklahoma festival at Pryor, Oklahoma. Once again, Skillings performed with them in August 2008 for a Black Rock Coalition Band of Gypsys tribute in Harlem. They performed "Them Changes" and "Power of Soul".

On October 25, 2008, MVD Audio and CBGB Records released CBGB OMFUG MASTERS: August 19, 2005 The Bowery Collection, a soundboard collection of songs from the Save CBGB's benefit show. On November 25, 2008, Inakustik and MVD released The Paris Concert, a DVD recorded at New Morning, in Paris, France, during their 2007 European Tour. The band released their fifth studio album, The Chair in the Doorway , on September 15, 2009 on Megaforce Records. The album sold approximately 2,800 copies in its first week and landed at No. 159 on the Billboard 200. This was the band's first album to chart since Stain in 1993. The band toured the world in support of the record. [15]

In an interview on, Glover hoped to release another album with the band next year. "We're going to do something different [for us] and make a real record, right now, right after we've done this one," Glover said with a laugh. The band's song "Cult of Personality" received fresh exposure from 2011, as it was used as the entrance music for professional wrestler CM Punk. In 2013, Living Colour performed the song live during Punk's entrance at WrestleMania 29.

On July 2, 2014 Living Colour announced on their official website that they were putting the finishing touches on their upcoming sixth album Shade , which was released on September 8, 2017. [16] "Shade is the sound of a band coming to terms with its shadows and light, From the blue pulpit of Robert Johnson to the mean red streets of Brooklyn to the golden lure of Hollywood, Shade is the next chapter of a unique American journey," Reid stated on the official website. The album includes 10 originals and 3 covers: Robert Johnson's "'Preachin' Blues", Notorious B.I.G.'s "Who Shot Ya?" and Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues'" available on CD, MP3, and vinyl.

On August 19, 2016 the band released a cover of The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Who Shot Ya?", from an upcoming EP entitled Mixtape which was released on September 9. [17] It features appearances from Chuck D, Black Thought, Pharoahe Monch, Prodigal Sunn, and Kyle Mansa. [18]

In September 2017, Living Colour released Shade on Megaforce Records

Acclaim and legacy

Living Colour was ranked No. 70 on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. [19]

"Cult of Personality" was part of the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas repertoire of radio songs in Radio X. It was also the first song to be confirmed for the track list of Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock . The version featured in Guitar Hero III is a new master recording of the song that features an updated solo, as the original masters could not be used.

In October 2006, "Love Rears Its Ugly Head" was ranked and voted 303 out of the 2006 songs featured in the Triple M Essential 2006 Countdown.

Rolling Stone have called the band "funk metal pioneers." [20]

In early 2009, WWE used "Cult of Personality" in the video promoting the induction of Stone Cold Steve Austin into its Hall of Fame. WWE performer CM Punk used the song as his entrance theme in Ring of Honor for a period of time. [21] CM Punk used other licensed music while working with WWE, but, after feigning a departure from the company in July 2011, he returned with "Cult of Personality" as his entrance theme. CM Punk also entered to the song at his debut in the world of mixed martial arts at UFC 203 and subsequently at UFC 225 for his fight versus Mike Jackson.





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<i>Live from CBGBs</i> 2005 live album by Living Colour

Live From CBGB is a live album by Living Colour recorded live on December 19, 1989 at the legendary CBGB club, but not released until January 11, 2005 by Legacy Recordings. This concert was the band's homecoming after experiencing worldwide success with the studio album Vivid throughout 1988 and 1989.

<i>Instant Live: Avalon, Boston, MA 10/17/04</i> 2005 live album by Living Colour

Instant Live: Avalon, Boston, MA 10/17/04 is a live album by Living Colour. It was recorded on the band's 2003-04 tour in support of their studio album Collideøscope. It features excerpts from the show, including several songs off Collideøscope, a few old classics, and the only officially available version of the song "Terrorism".

<i>Primer</i> (video) 1989 video by Living Colour

Primer is an early home video documenting the funk metal band Living Colour and the making of its platinum selling album Vivid. The video includes a collection of songs from Vivid and observations on the songs from band members. The live track "Broken Hearts" was filmed by MTV during a 1988 concert at Auburn University in Alabama. Released in 1989 on VHS tape and laserdisc, the video never made it to DVD and has long been out of print. The video for "Glamour Boys" was not included on the laserdisc version.

Time Tunnel (video)

Time Tunnel is a career retrospective from the funk metal band Living Colour. It includes promotional videos and live concert footage from the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was released on the heels of their Grammy Award-winning Time's Up album. Tracks include cover versions of Bad Brains' classic "Sailin' On" and The Rolling Stones' "It's Only Rock 'n Roll." Living Colour opened for the Stones on the band's 1989 Steel Wheels tour, and backstage footage from the tour is included on the video.

<i>Collideøscope</i> 2003 studio album by Living Colour

Collideøscope is the fourth album by Living Colour. Released in 2003, it is the first studio album by the band in just under a decade. After they split in 1995, Living Colour returned in the middle of 2001 and began recording Collideøscope in late 2002. Similar to the previous effort, Stain, much of the album features aggressive lyrics, as many of the songs are about the September 11 attacks. It also contains cover versions of AC/DC's "Back in Black" and The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows." While critically praised, Collideøscope is the band's first album that failed to chart.

<i>On Stage at World Cafe Live</i> 2007 video by Living Colour

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  1. The following sources refer to Living Colour as a rock band:
    • Mahon, Maureen (June 23, 2004). Right to Rock: The Black Rock Coalition and the Cultural Politics of Race. Duke University Press. p. 5. ISBN   9780822333173.
    • Caramanica, Jon (February 2002). "Electric Warriors". Vibe . p. 88.
    • Vladimir Bogdanov; Chris Woodstra; Stephen Thomas Erlewine, eds. (2002). All Music Guide to Rock. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 663. ISBN   9780879306533.
    • Larkin, Colin (May 27, 2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Omnibus Press. p. 926. ISBN   9780857125958.
  2. The following sources refer to Living Colour as hard rock:
  3. The following sources refer to Living Colour as funk metal:
  4. "Alternative Metal". Allmusic . Rovi Corporation. Archived from the original on 23 December 2015. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  5. Heller, Jason (July 9, 2013). "One of Living Colour's hits illustrates an era in transition". AV Club. Archived from the original on October 30, 2016. Retrieved April 29, 2017.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 580–581. ISBN   1-84195-017-3.
  7. Dustin Schoof (March 29, 2013). "Living Colour singer Corey Glover looks back on 25 years of 'Vivid'". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016.
  8. James, Joseph (30 April 2017). "Cult of Personality: An interview with Will Calhoun (Living Colour)". Will Not Fade. Archived from the original on June 16, 2019. Band founder Vernon Reid is English, so made a deliberate choice to spell 'colour' with the 'U' included. But most Americans spell it incorrectly out of habit. It's not much of an issue.
  9. Burgess, Mick (September 25, 2017). "We chat to Corey Glover from Living Colour ahead of Newcastle Riverside gig". ChronicleLive . Archived from the original on November 9, 2017.
  10. David Fricke (November 1, 1990). "Living Colour's Time Is Now". Rolling Stone . Archived from the original on September 12, 2017.
  11. Greg Prato. "Living Colour Time's Up". AllMusic . Archived from the original on August 6, 2015. Retrieved August 21, 2015.
  12. Davey Boy (March 4, 2009). "Review: Living Colour Collideoscope". Sputnikmusic .
  13. Dave Mount (March 6, 2008). "Living Colour Collideoscope". Prefixmag. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015.
  14. "Note from Vernon Reid". Archived from the original on 4 July 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  15. Living Colour Back With Fifth Studio Album Archived 2013-04-23 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2009-07-08.
  16. "LIVING COLOUR To Release 'Shade' Album In September; Cover Artwork Unveiled". . May 12, 2017. Archived from the original on May 15, 2017. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  17. "LIVING COLOUR To Release 'Mixtape' Featuring Reinvention Of NOTORIOUS B.I.G.'s 'Who Shot Ya'". . August 19, 2016. Archived from the original on August 22, 2016. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
  18. "Living Colour Enlist Chuck D, Black Thought, More for Notorious B.I.G. "Who Shot Ya" Remake: Listen - Pitchfork". Archived from the original on 22 November 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  19. "VH1 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock - YouTube". YouTube. Archived from the original on 21 May 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  20. Fricke, David (November 13, 2003). Living Colour: Collideoscope : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on April 12, 2009. Retrieved February 1, 2012.
  21. "What Happened After SmackDown, Punk's Theme Song, Updates on Finlay & Cara - WRESTLESCOOP". 28 July 2016. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 5 May 2018.