This Day In History: January 21
When the name Jam Master Jay is mentioned, one would typically associate it with the rap group Run-D.M.C, rather than the Caribbean-born singer Billy Ocean. In addition to being award-winning artists, both men share the same birthday of January 21.
The first to enter the world was Billy Ocean. He was born Leslie Sebastian Charles on January 21, 1950, in Trinidad. His family relocated to London and he soon began finding his passion for music by exploring genres such as calypso, soul and rock. He began performing under the name Les Charles before adopting the moniker Billy Ocean.
Following the name change to Billy Ocean, he released ”Love Really Hurts Without You,” and it became a hit single in the U.K. as well as the U.S. He then recorded hits such as “Love on Delivery” and “Red Light Spells Danger” before signing with Jive Records. The change in record labels led to his Grammy award-winning single, Caribbean Queen. His popularity was on the rise and he continued releasing No. 1 songs including “There’ll be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)” and “Get Outta My Dreams; Get Into My Car.”
Despite his newfound status, Billy Ocean decided to step away from the spotlight and spend time with his family. He eventually made his return to music in 2007 and toured with his daughter around the U.S., Europe, Canada, Australia, Africa, the Caribbean and more. Billy Ocean released his 11th album titled, One World in 2020.
Similar to Billy Ocean, Jam Master Jay took an interest in music early on in life. Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell was born on January 21, 1965, in New York. He began experimenting with turntables at the age of 13 and started performing at local parks. Prior to connecting with fellow talents Joseph “Run” Simmons and Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels, Mizell played the drums and bass for different bands.
However, in 1982, he joined forces with Simmons and McDaniels and agreed to be the group’s DJ. He is credited with helping to develop the sound and style that Run-D.M.C became known for. In 1989, Mizell established Jam Master Jay Records and aided in the careers of artists such as Onyx, DJ Scratch and 50 Cent.
Mizell also created the Scratch DJ Academy just before he was gunned down in a New York City studio on October 30, 2002. In honor of his legacy, Mizell’s wife founded the Jam Master Jay Foundation For Music to provide students with access to music, dance and other forms of the arts. More than three decades after the release of Run- D.M.C’s first album, the group was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.