An FIT Playlist
By Alex Joseph
Over the years, members of the FIT community have made a little-known surprisingly significant contribution to American pop music. We put together a playlist of the best jams we know of. Know more? Email us!
Listen to our Spotify playlist of these hits! http://bit.ly/fitcelebrates75
“BE MY BABY,” THE RONETTES (1963). In 2017, Billboard magazine named this #1 on its list of the Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time. The three Ronettes included lead singer Veronica, or Ronnie, Bennett Spector and her sister Estelle (1940-2009), who attended FIT. Estelle Bennett, who is credited with developing the Ronettes’ signature look—mile-high hair and matching, fashion-forward frocks—later dated Mick Jagger and George Harrison, and recorded music under her own name after the group disbanded.
“ANTI-LOVE SONG,” BETTY DAVIS (1973). Did Betty Davis, born Mabry, attend FIT? We can’t prove it, but the rumors persist. The onetime wife of legendary trumpeter Miles Davis, Mabry recorded a collection of hugely influential funk records featuring salacious lyrics. Illustrator (and FIT alum) Antonio ’63 styled Betty’s signature edgy look—skintight outfits, natural hairdo—for the cover of her album Nasty Gal. Hmmm ...
“PULL UP TO THE BUMPER,” WRITTEN BY DANA MANNO FOR GRACE JONES (1981). Among the greatest double entendres in pop history, this song was inspired by a parking lot sign. Manno, who teaches Afro-Caribbean dance and aerobics at FIT, saw the “Pull Up to Bumper” sign in her garage, and improvised the basics of the naughty ditty on her tape recorder in 30 minutes in the front seat of her car. Soon after, she found herself in Jamaica, babysitting Grace Jones’s son; when the two women happened to be in the sauna together, Manno sang the tune and Jones liked it. The song spent seven weeks at #2 on Billboard’s dance music chart.
“YOUR LOVE,” FRANKIE KNUCKLES, FEATURING JAMIE PRINCIPLE (1987). Knuckles (1955-2014), who studied textile design at FIT, is known as “the Godfather of House Music,” and this song is considered a classic of the stripped-down style. A member of the Dance Music Hall of Fame, Knuckles cut his teeth in Chicago, and later had a successful stint at Manhattan’s Sound Factory, where he became known for his remixes of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. He won a Grammy for remixing in 1997.
“GROOVE IS IN THE HEART,” DEEE-LITE (1990). If you didn’t hear this insanely danceable retro-funk track in the early ’90s, you were probably in a coma. Cited as one of the all-time great dance tunes by Pitchfork, Buzzfeed, VH1, etc., etc.—the song was crafted in part by Deee-Lite frontwoman Lady Miss Kier (née Kierin Kirby), who studied textile design at FIT. Her distinctive eyeliner, Pucci-inspired cat suits, and Fluevogs launched her into the pop style pantheon. Dig it!
“ELEGANCE,” KILO KISH (2018). A rising star, Lakisha Kimberly Robinson, aka rapper and singer Kilo Kish, Textile/Surface Design ’12, has collaborated with Childish Gambino and Vince Staples, and Pitchfork singled out “Elegance” as a “Best New Track.” Her 2016 tune “Taking Responsibility” appeared on HBO’s teen drama Euphoria.
“SPIDERS,” JUNGLEPUSSY (2019). Shayna McHayle, Fashion Merchandising Management, who records under the provocative name Junglepussy, has been praised by artists Lil’ Kim and Erykah Badu. Her song “Bling Bling” appeared on HBO’s Insecure. Last year, she received critical praise for her first acting role in the film Support the Girls, starring Regina Hall.
“LOUNGIN’,” GURU (1993).Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal, né Keith Edward Elam (1961-2010), left graduate school at FIT to start a recording career, and became a major figure in hip-hop, recording both as Guru and, partnered with DJ Premier, Gang Starr. He’s heard on the soundtrack of Spike Lee’s Mo Better Blues (1990) and Neneh Cherry’s album Homebrew (1992). His critically lauded recording Jazzmatazz (1993) featured rhymes accompanied with live jazz accompaniment by legends Branford Marsalis, Lonnie Liston Smith, and on this track, trumpet and piano by Donald Byrd.