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'Unsung' producer shares recipe for TV One's soul/R&B show

With a new season of the acclaimed show starting this week, here's a “behind-the-scenes” conversation with one of the show’s original producers

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If you’ve got cable TV and are even a casual fan of soul/R&B music, chances are you’ve watched the show “Unsung.”

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The program, which airs on the TV One network, is sort of like “Behind the Music” — except it focuses mainly on African-American singers, musicians and music industry personalities … especially those who weren’t necessarily crossover acts. We’re talking about artists like Shalamar, Klymaxx, Zapp, Rose Royce, Minnie Riperton, Donny Hathaway and many more.

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With a new season of “Unsung” starting this week (featuring, in the first episode, the life story the late singer Vesta Williams), we thought now would be a good time to share a “behind-the-scenes” conversation with one of the show’s original co-executive producers, Mark Rowland. Check it out …

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Creative Loafing: Let me start out by saying, in a very fan-boyish way, that "Unsung" is one of the best black-oriented television shows of all time. Seriously.

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Mark Rowland: Thanks. I think the quality of the show just naturally flows from the subject matter. Because it puts the songs and the music in a larger context, and a personal context and also in a kind of musical history context … it touches on social, cultural, and sometimes even political history.

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Totally. So, what was the original concept behind the show and how did it land on TV One?

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All props to TV One there. It was all their idea. The series began in 2008 with sort of a mini series for four episodes. And they came to us. We A. Smith Productions are a production company, and as is the case with most television, especially on cable, networks generally look for production companies to do the work. So I guess some people there that had the idea and knew our star track record. I ran the “American Gangster” series; you know, coming from a different angle. So TV One sort of knew about that. And before that, there was a biography series called “Beyond the Glory,” which was a sports series that ran for several years on FOX Sports network. I’m sure TV One probably went to other production companies too, but maybe because of those two series, they liked what they saw … and they decided to give us the shot. I loved the idea. Myself, I feel really lucky to be involved.




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