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Cindy Wilson is best known as a vocalist for new wave rock band the B-52s. Her brother was fellow founding member Ricky Wilson.
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Born in 1957 in Athens, Georgia, Cindy Wilson is a vocalist and founding member of the new wave rock group the B-52s, known for their beehive hairdos and dance sound. The B-52s scored hits like "Loveshack" throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and continues to perform today. Wilson's brother Ricky, a fellow founding B-52, died of AIDS in 1985.
Cindy Wilson was born on February 28, 1957, in Athens, Georgia. Wilson and her brother Ricky, four years her elder, were raised by their father, a fireman, and their stepmother, a factory worker. As a child, Wilson was obsessed with music. She especially enjoyed the work of Petula Clark, Nancy Sinatra, and Gary Lewis and the Playboys. Later, when she reached her teenage years, her tastes turned to Alice Cooper and the Beatles. "I had eclectic tastes," Wilson later recalled. "I still do. I embrace it all." During her high school years, Wilson began singing and displayed incredible natural talent as a vocalist. Her brother Ricky was a virtuoso guitarist, and the two played together frequently during their high school years, often including Ricky's friend Keith Strickland, a drummer, in their jam sessions.
After graduating from high school in 1975, Wilson moved in with her brother, and the two continued to play music with Strickland and two other young aspiring musicians who had recently arrived (separately) in Athens from New Jersey—Kate Pierson, a singer, and Fred Schneider, a keyboardist. In order to help fund their sessions, Cindy Wilson took a job as a lunch waitress at a local restaurant called Kress. "I had to get a job because it was my job to buy a microphone," she recalled. Still, all the fledgling band's members remained incredibly poor. "We couldn't afford to drink except on quarter nights," Wilson remembered. "I was a waitress, and you had to pay the rent."
Despite the presence of the University of Georgia, at this time of the mid-1970s Athens bore little resemblance to the cultural hub it has since become. "Athens was so boring," Schneider lamented. "At the time, it wasn't the music Mecca it is today… Back then, it was one band on the weekend, and it was usually a fraternity band." To fill this musical and cultural void, the five young musicians (Cindy and Ricky Wilson, Strickland, Schneider, and Pierson) decided to form a real band. According to their website, the B-52's officially became a band "on an October night in 1976, following drinks at an Athens Chinese restaurant." As Strickland recalled, "We all pitched in for this giant rum drink at a Chinese restaurant. It had a Sterno can burning under it." Wilson added: "I think of it as the Night of the Flaming Volcano. It was all very ceremonial. Then we went and played."
Naming themselves the B-52's after a Southern slang term for the wild bouffant hairdos sported by Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson, the band gave their debut performance at a Valentine's Day party in 1977. "There were only 17 people," Schneider remembered.
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They make music with instruments they were born with - their voices. Gifted vocalists have entertained audiences across musical genres from the tour de force arias of Luciano Pavarotti to the classic crooning of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett to the soulful vocals of artists like Aretha Franklin and Mahalia Jackson. With their powerful lyricism, singers like Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and Bruce Springsteen became poet laureates of American music while artists including Joan Baez and Joe Strummer used their voices to prompt social change while they entertained. Rockers from Elvis Presley to The Beatles to Kurt Cobain helped define their generations through their songs while icons like Michael Jackson, Cher and Whitney Houston shaped pop culture with their larger-than-life voices and personas. See these and more famous singers who have struck a chord in musical history.
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