Max Roach releases the album he collaborated on with Oscar, We Insist: Freedom Now Suite, which celebrates the black freedom movement in the U.S. Both icons shared a commitment to activism. We Insist set the foundation for embodying the jazz tradition and engaging in social commentary.
Columbia Records releases Oscar Brown, Jr’s debut album, Sin & Soul. This album is regarded as a “true classic.” Brown began a trend of creating self-penned lyrics for popular jazz instrumentals, a style carried on by several major jazz vocalists. Sin & Soul includes “Bid ‘Em In,” Oscar's vivid re-creation of an auctioneer’s call at a sale of female slaves.
QUOTE: “Whereas 12 Years a Slave ran 134 minutes, and Django Unchained clocked in at 165, This song (“Bid ‘Em In”) manages to compactly convey as much impact in a cool 1 minute and 28 seconds.”
Oscar Brown, Jr’s composition Brown Baby is simultaneously released by Mahalia Jackson, who was also a Columbia label Artist at the time. OBJ was inspired by the birth of his first son, yet this song wishes prosperity, peace, and pride upon all brown babies. Brown Baby became an anthem. It was later recorded by Nina Simone, Lena Horne, Diana Ross, and Toni Braxton.
Oscar Brown, Jr’s major musical KICKS & CO. is mounted with preview performances at McCormick Place, in Chicago. For the first time in television history, NBC TV host, Dave Garroway, turned over the entire 2-hour “Today” show for a virtual backers audition for Kicks & Co. Also for the first time, over $400,000.00 was raised during the program (which later prompted a new law prohibiting fund raising on network television). Stage direction and production support were contributed by Lorraine Hansberry and her husband, who was a music publisher from New York.
Oscar Brown, Jr. appears in concert at Carnegie Hall. His first concert appearance in New York, OBJ was part of a show bill titled “Blues at Carnegie Hall.”
Columbia Records releases Oscar Brown, Jr’s second album: Between Heaven & Hell. Due to the overwhelming success of his first record, the label invested more into production on this second album bringing in Quincy Jones to arrange.
“All the songs are his own creations and he could scarcely ask for a better interpreter than himself.”
Oscar Brown, Jr. hosts and performs for Steve Allen’s syndicated TV series, “Jazz Scene USA.”
Oscar Brown, Jr. records his third release for Columbia Records: In A New Mood. As the name suggests, it is the label’s attempt at diverting from the social and political messages in Oscar’s original lyrics, and substituting them with cover tunes.
Oscar Brown, Jr. mounts a one-man show in London called: Oscar Brown, Jr. Entertains. His appearance at Prince Charles Theater was met with high critical acclaim: “Oscar Brown, Jr. arrives and lives up to that ‘genius’ tag;” “High Priest of Hip;” “Oscar is unique, hip and immediately worthwhile.”
Columbia Records releases what would be their final album: Oscar Brown, Jr. Tells It Like It Is. A return to using Oscar’s original compositions, but by this time, there were changes in management at the label. These consequently coincided with an end of support required to provide the bonafied star. Brown was told he is “too messagey” and his contract was not renewed.
“Undercelebrated, Oscar Brown, Jr. was a pioneer of early 60’s vocal jazz.”
Oscar Brown, Jr. creates a very successful, long-running cabaret production called “JOY ‘66” at the Happy Medium in Chicago. Brown's “musical come-together” included Brazilian master musician, Sivucca, and dancer, singer Jean Pace.
Fontana releases two albums: Mr. Oscar Brown, Jr. Goes to Washington. Oscar’s first live concert recording, which includes the sociopolitically charged: 40 Acres & A Mule.
That same year, Fontana released Finding A New Friend, a duet recording with Oscar Brown, Jr. and Luis Henrique. The two had shared a backstage dressing room while appearing at the Cafe-A-Go-Go, and ultimately developed a unique blend of the words and music of North and South America.
Oscar Brown, Jr. mounts his musical OPPORTUNITY PLEASE KNOCK, developed with and featuring the notorious street gang members of the Blackstone Rangers. Oscar’s intention to quell violence and influence self-sufficiency, by employing members of the gang to help them “come to their own economic rescue,” in his own words, this was a turning point in his life and career.
Oscar Brown, Jr’s success in working with urban youth gained the attention of then Mayor of Gary, Indiana, Richard Hatcher. Oscar accepts Mayor Hatcher’s invitation to conduct workshops culminating in a summer talent show that discovers the Jackson 5 and Avery Brooks
The Oscar Brown, Jr. musical adaptation of Joseph Dolan Tuotti’s, black power comedy, BUCK WHITE opens on Broadway starring Muhammad Ali.