Before Auto-tunes, There Was Zapp & Roger

Happy Birthday to the Father of the Talkbox

Art & Music, Featured, Film & TV, In My Opinion

It occurred to me one night while watching TV One’s Unsung on The Troutman Family what a major loss the music industry suffered in April of 1999 when both Roger and Larry Troutman left this earth in an apparent murder-suicide. Although the music family that was Roger & Zapp reached their peak in the early 80′s, the classics they created continue to keep parties going and have inspired an entire new generation of musicians to keep their creations soulful and funky.

Hailing from Dayton, Ohio, the Troutman family is an example of a true American success story. With Roger’s talent and Larry’s vision, the Troutman family succeeded in different business ventured, but music was the glue that held the family together. Roger’s signature sound, the manipulation of his voice and other instruments with a talk box, had a major impact on the music group’s success. The talk box was not a new device to the music world, having been used by artists like Stevie Wonder, Pink Floyd, and Peter Frampton, but Roger’s mastery of the device solidified Zapp & Roger’s place in Soul/Funk music history. In current music, the talk box has been replaced with a saturation of Auto-tunes, a device created to correct pitch in vocal and instrumental recordings, though most recently I was happy to hear the talk box properly resurrected in Foreign Exchange’s new album, Authenticity.

Aside from the creation of music that made your body move involuntarily (because anybody sitting down to a Zapp & Roger track is lame) the band knew the definition of showmanship. From live music to audience interaction, Roger and family knew how to get a party going onstage which always kept fans coming back for more.

As today, November 29th is the birthday of Roger Troutman, I’d like to take a moment to honor his memory with a few of my Zapp & Roger favorites. Let these tracks add more bounce to the ounce in your day:

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