Airing on TV One since 2008, Unsung is sort of a black Behind the Music, detailing the rise and fall of various R&B stars who haven’t gotten their proper respect with time.
The show has covered some of my all-time faves (Tammi Terrell, Florence Ballard), as well as acts outside my palette (Alexander O’Neal, Angela Winbush), but even if I start out not caring at all about the people in question, I find myself riveted–wrapped up in their rise up the charts and glued to the sad derailing that often involves bad management, saggy label support, internal fighting, bad luck, or some kind of addictive behavior.
I have watched entire Unsungs about Klymaxx and Atlantic Starr without even knowing what they really did, or giving a crap. And by the end, I adore everyone involved and become desperate for them to make a huge, splashy comeback.
The show beautifully tells a story using interviews and archival footage, creating a tapestry of music dreams achieved and dashed, all related with realness and feeling.
The one about Angela Bofill–who had a string of hits, then petered out and had a stroke–is one of the best, a testament to life and love.
On that show, she’s seen duetting with Phyllis Hyman, the talented beauty who was her friendly rival, and who tragically ended up killing herself.
Phyllis, naturally, has her own Unsung as well.
Long may these people be sung (along with Teena Marie, Minnie Riperton, Sly & the Family Stone, and on and on).
The new season includes shows on Mint Condition, Lou Rawls, and EPMD (pictured above).
Check with me in a few months and I will be one of their biggest fans.