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Fred Schneider is best known as the lead singer of rock band The B-52s. He's known for his style of reciting poetry over music, called sprechgesang.
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Fred Schneider is the frontman for iconic rock band The B-52s.
Fred Schneider was born on July 1, 1951 in Newark, New Jersey. Growing up in close proximity to New York City, he was brought up immersed in Broadway show tunes and the New York arts scene. "I used to go to Broadway stuff," he remembered. "The Museum Of Natural History. I'd go with my friends." However, by the time he hit his teenage years, Schneider began to develop more distinctive musical tastes. "I never really sang around the campfire," he said. "Growing up I liked Halloween songs and nutty Christmas songs. When I started collecting records, I was into Motown. I was the only kid at the dance that didn't care to slow dance but was happy for 'Dancing in the Street' or something equally wild. Everybody else wanted to neck, I wanted to do the jerk." Although he enjoyed singing and writing songs as a teenager, Schneider never imagined making a career out of music—or anything else, for that matter. "I never was a 'when I grow up I want to be' kind of kid," he explained.
Schneider attended the University of Georgia, where he intended to study forestry. He recalled that for one open-ended final project he decided on a whim to write a book of poetry. "I just sat down and wrote everything that was in my head and I got an A," he said. "The teacher wrote, 'I didn't really understand any of this but I can see that you're serious.'" Still, Schneider soon dropped out of college and worked a variety of jobs—as a janitor and a driver for meals-on-wheels, for example—to make ends meet.
At this time, during the mid-1970s, the town of Athens, Georgia had very little in the way of the vibrant music scene it is known for today. "Athens was so boring," Schneider recalled. "At the time, it wasn't the music Mecca it is today. Now, you can see five bands a night. Back then, it was one band on the weekend, and it was usually a fraternity band." To fill this musical and cultural void, Schneider and four of his friends—Kate Pierson, Keith Strickland, Cindy Wilson and Ricky Wilson—decided to form a band. According to the band's website, the five friends declared themselves a band "on an October night in 1976 following drinks at an Athens Chinese restaurant." They named themselves the B-52's, a southern slang term for the wild bouffant hairdos sported by the band's two female members.
Schneider later recalled the early evolution of the band: "Good friends of mine were having a Valentine's party, and I said, 'Oh, I'm in a band.' We didn't have a name or anything. I said 'Do you want us to play for it?' and they said 'Sure.' And I went and told the others, and they said 'We need a name.' Keith came up with B-52s. And we started playing around at people's parties ... and it took off from there." Throughout the late 1970s, the B-52's took regular weekend road trips to play such venues as Max's in Kansas City and CBGB in New York City. Rocking elaborate 1950s-style hairdos and outlandish outfits, The B-52's built up a strong following wherever they toured, thrilling fans with their upbeat punk sound and high-energy dancing.
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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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