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Nu Shooz

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Formed in 1979 by guitarist John Smith, Nu Shooz originated as a stage-sharpened jazz-funk band, as heard on their independently released 1982 debut album, Can't Turn It Off. The Portland, Oregon-based act underwent a major change in membership following its release, but Smith and vocalist/percussionist Valerie Day remained its core and adapted to contemporary trends with Tha's Right, a 1984 EP with songs in several styles, including pop-oriented R&B that resembled a mix of Cameo and Change. "I Can't Wait," the most distinctive inclusion, became a regional hit but didn't spread much farther until it was remixed by Dutch DJ Peter Slaghuis. The remix, known as "the Dutch mix," was championed by Larry Levan, revered DJ at New York's Paradise Garage. Nu Shooz were subsequently signed by Atlantic; the label recirculated "I Can't Wait," and the song reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 in June 1986. Follow-up single "Point of No Return," like "I Can't Wait," topped the club chart, though it merely cracked the pop Top 30. These two hits propelled Poolside, Nu Shooz's second proper album, into gold-selling status in the U.S. The group was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best New Artist and lost to Bruce Hornsby & the Range. Although the freestyle-flavored "Are You Lookin' for Somebody Nu" became a number two club hit, and the ballad "Should I Say Yes" went Top 20 R&B, the duo's 1988 album for Atlantic, Told U So, wasn't nearly as successful as Poolside. After a long break, Smith and Day -- a married couple -- reactivated Nu Shooz and continued to perform. Additionally, they released Pandora's Box (2006), an eclectic set credited to Nu Shooz Orchestra, as well as Kung Pao Kitchen (2012), a compilation of previously unreleased material recorded during the late '80s and early '90s. Separately, Smith has composed music for films and advertisements, among other outlets. Day recorded a big-band/swing-styled album, Beginning to See the Light, and has taught jazz and contemporary voice at Portland State University. "I Can't Wait" remained one of the most enduring mid-'80s pop hits. It was frequently sampled and covered, and turned up in movies and on television programs, including Hot Tub Time Machine and Master of None. ~ Andy Kellman

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1979 in Portland, OR

Years Active:

'80s, '90s, '00s, '10s