Native American jazz artists are few in number but their contributions were significant. The list includes Oscar Pettiford (Choctaw and Cherokee), Jim Pepper, Della Reese (Cherokee) and Keely Smith (part Cherokee). And before you start emailing me, trombonist Jack Teagarden's parents were both of German descent. [Pictured: Redbone]
On the rock and pop sides, the list is a little longer—and a lot more surprising: Artists with Native American heritage include Elvis Presley, Tori Amos, Jimi Hendrix, Wayne Newton, Tina Turner, Carrie Underwood, Steven Tyler, Rita Coolidge [pictured] and Cher.
Perhaps my favorite pop-soul hit by Native American artists was Redbone's Come and Get Your Love. The song had a great beat and groove, and it was built on an enormous riff. The song was written by band member Lolly Vasquez (guitar and lead vocal) and was produced by Lolly and his brother Pat Vasquez (bass and vocal).
Shortly after the song was released in 1974, it soared to #5 on Billboard's Hot 100, spending 23 weeks on the chart. It would be the group's biggest hit. Sadly, Lolly Vasquez died of lung cancer in 2010.
There were several covers by the Boys Town Band, Carol Jiani, Real McCoy and The Temprees—all of whom missed the point. The tom-tom beat and Native American chanting feel were essential to the song's earthy and infectious sound.
Here's Redbone singing Come and Get Your Love, complete with the intro dance. This is the epitome of pop-soul cool. Trust me, you'll be watching this one a few times...