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Benjamin Wright

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Information about Benjamin Wright

Profile image of Benjamin Wright

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Music Arranger
Music Director
Conductor

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Green
Favorite Food:
Lobster
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Saint Martin
Favorite Quote:
Straight Ahead.

Birthplace

Born:
7/11/1946
Birth Location:
Greenville, Mississippi

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Music Arranger
Music Director
Conductor

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Green
Favorite Food:
Lobster
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Saint Martin
Favorite Quote:
Straight Ahead.

Birthplace

Born:
7/11/1946
Birth Location:
Greenville
See how Benjamin Wright is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Music director, arranger, and conductor Benjamin Franklin Wright, Jr. was born on July 11, 1946 in Greenville, Mississippi. Wright started his music career while in high school, performing as a drum major in the marching band and singing Doo Wop in a group he and his friends started. Wright attended the Chicago Conservatory of Music and received his Ph.D. from the Pentecostal Bible College in Tuskegee, Alabama.

After high school, Wright embarked on his first major musical tour with rhythm and blues icon Ted Taylor. During the tour, Wright played piano and sang back-up for the band. The Ted Taylor Tour allowed Wright to experience music arrangement for the first time, and his subsequent success within the industry took him on the road with James Brown, Otis Redding, Billy Stewart and Gladys Knight and The Pips. Shortly after Wright’s touring period, he was drafted into the United States Air Force. While there, Wright met “Fats” Ford, a trumpet player who played with Duke Ellington. Ford eventually introduced Wright to Duke Ellington, an experience that changed his life forever. After Wright’s honorable discharge from the military in Alabama, he worked for several years with Bobby Moore and The Rhythm Aces, before working on the hotel circuit and jazz trios throughout the country. In 1969, Wright worked as a copyist for notable musical arrangers such as Charles Stepney, Gene Barge, Donny Hathaway and Richard Evans. Concurrently, Wright performed with Pieces of Peace, a group of musicians who recorded music sessions for Jackie Wilson, The Chi-Lites, Jerry Butler, Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions. After traveling overseas with Pieces of Peace at the end of 1971, Wright enrolled in the Chicago Conservatory of Music, and shortly thereafter formed the Benjamin Wright Orchestra. In 1975, Wright moved to Los Angeles, California and became the musical director for The Temptations, Gladys Knight and The Pips, Aretha Franklin, and Barry White and The Love Unlimited Orchestra. In 1979, Wright acted as the string arranger for Michael Jackson’s first solo album, Off the Wall, where he met producer Quincy Jones. Between 1982 and 1983, Wright opened the Ritesonian Recording Studio, and in 1987, he went back on the road as the musical director for Gladys Knight and The Pips to do a year of one-night-only performances. In 2003, Wright and long time friend and former singer with The Temptations, Louis Price, formed the Price/Wright Orchestra. Then, in 2004, Wright wrote five new arrangements for singer Brandy and produced three songs with Otis Williams for The Temptations. Wright has also done arrangements on Outkast and Justin Timberlake’s Grammy-winning albums Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, and Justified respectively. In 2005, Wright was honored by being invited to write and conduct the Norwegian Radio Symphony Orchestra for the Patty LaBelle segment of the Nobel Peace Prize celebration in Oslo, Norway.

Wright was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 18, 2007 and March 9, 2017.

See how Benjamin Wright is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Benjamin Wright's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright describes his maternal and paternal family histories
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about his siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright talks about his parents return to Greenville, Mississippi from Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright talks about his experience at Julia L. Armstrong Elementary School
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright talks about being inspired to play piano by his church and his sister
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Benjamin Wright talks about playing his sister's piano
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright talks about his choir at Coleman High School
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about his high school doo-wop group, The Soothers
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright talks about his choir at Coleman High School in Greenville, Mississippi, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about his choir at Coleman High School in Greenville, Mississippi, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright talks about singing in the choir at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright talks about playing in his high school band director's swing group
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright describes chopping cotton and avoiding snakes with his father
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Benjamin Wright talks about his father's independent contractor business
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright talks about his early awareness of racism in Greenville, Mississippi
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about Emmett Till and meeting the Freedom Riders
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright describes the difference between his parents' attitudes about the Civil Rights Movement and his own
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright describes his growing consciousness of the Civil Rights Movement during high school
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright describes his maturation in high school
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright describes his first experience writing music
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright describes how a performance of Handel's "Messiah" encouraged him to write music
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright describes honing his ear as an arranger at Coleman High School
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright describes being expelled from Coleman High School in Greenville, Mississippi
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright talks about receiving his diploma from Coleman High School in Greenville, Mississippi
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright recalls his introduction to Down Beat magazine and HistoryMaker B.B. King
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright talks about working for his father and meeting with his high school counselor
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright describes auditioning for Ted Taylor's band
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright recalls beginning to tour with singer Ted Taylor
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright describes his experience touring with singer Ted Taylor
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about why he has never done drugs
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright describes meeting Peggy Lee and his decision to remain on the road with Ted Taylor
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about a Civil Rights march and concert with James Brown and Mitty Collier in Birmingham, Alabama in 1965
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright describes trying to avoid the Vietnam War draft by enrolling at Jackson State College in Jackson, Mississippi
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright describes a racist experience on the first night he was in the U.S. Air Force
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright talks about studying music while in the U.S. Air Force
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about his job in the communications center at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright describes the last time he saw his mother and getting an Humanitarian Deferment during the Vietnam War
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about touring as an organist with Bobby Moore and The Rhythm Aces and Skip McQueen
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright describes playing with Skip McQueen's trio
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright talks about moving to Chicago, Illinois to play with Jerry Wilson's band, the Pieces of Peace
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright recalls meeting Duke Ellington while in the U.S. Air Force, pt. 1
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright recalls meeting Duke Ellington while in the U.S. Air Force, pt. 2
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about joining the Pieces of Peace in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright talks about his family
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright describes enrolling at the Chicago Conservatory in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright describes his experience in Singapore
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright talks about his experience at the Chicago Conservatory in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright talks about the difference between music education and practical musicianship
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Benjamin Wright describes the growth of his career as an arranger
  • Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Benjamin Wright describes moving to Los Angeles, California
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Slating of Benjamin Wright's interview, session 2
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright remembers his return to civilian life
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright recalls being drafted
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about going back on tour with Bobby Moore and the Rhythm Aces after his military discharge
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright recalls the racism in the South during his early tours
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright remembers President Bill Clinton
  • Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright remembers meeting Skip McQuinn
  • Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright remembers playing music for the mob
  • Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about his decision to move to Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright talks about abstaining from drug use
  • Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about composing music
  • Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright remembers his work as a copyist
  • Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright talks about his business and marketing philosophy
  • Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright recalls the artists he's work with
  • Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright remembers passing the entrance exam to the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about his experience at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright talks about the European tour with Pieces of Peace
  • Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright describes why Pieces of Peace dissolved after their European tour
  • Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright remembers playing popular nightclubs in Chicago, Illinois with The Benjamin Wright Orchestra
  • Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright recalls his reasons for moving to Los Angeles, California
  • Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright remembers his early success in Los Angeles, California
  • Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright talks about becoming the music director for The Temptations
  • Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright reflects upon his work with The Temptations
  • Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright recalls his biggest hits as a composer
  • Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about negotiating his rate as an arranger and composer
  • Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright recalls meeting Quincy Jones
  • Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright remembers writing music for Quincy Jones
  • Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright talks about his biggest hit singles
  • Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright remembers working with Michael Jackson
  • Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright describes Quincy Jones
  • Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright remembers opening Ritesonian Recording Studio in Los Angeles, California
  • Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about his role as musical director and conductor for the 'Night of the Living Divas'
  • Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright talks about touring with Gladys Knight and the Pips
  • Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright talks about arranging music for major artists
  • Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright remembers the Easter program at the L.A. Forum for Faithful Central Church, pt. 1
  • Tape: 12 Story: 8 - Benjamin Wright remembers the Easter program at the L.A. Forum for Faithful Central Church, pt. 1
  • Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright describes his work arranging and composing music for churches
  • Tape: 13 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about his faith
  • Tape: 13 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright talks about his family
  • Tape: 13 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright describes his musical philosophy
  • Tape: 13 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright shares his work philosophy
  • Tape: 13 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright talks about his plans for the future
  • Tape: 13 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 13 Story: 8 - Benjamin Wright reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 13 Story: 9 - Benjamin Wright describes how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 13 Story: 10 - Benjamin Wright shares his advice for aspiring musicians
  • Tape: 14 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright narrates his photographs