Wonder, Ertegen blaze Pioneer Awards

Smokey to host; Marvin gets toast

The Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s 11th annual Pioneer Awards will take place Sept. 6 at the Manhattan Center in New York City.

With Smokey Robinson serving as master of ceremonies for the third consecutive year, the event will honor Stevie Wonder with a lifetime achievement award, Marvin Gaye with a legacy tribute and Atlantic Records co-founder/current co-chairman Ahmet Ertegun — who donated the seed money to start the foundation in 1989 — with its first Founders Award.

Other honorees include Johnnie Johnson, the pianist on Chuck Berry’s early hits; songwriter Clyde Otis, whose hits include the Diamonds’ “The Stroll” and Brook Benton’s “It’s Just a Matter of Time”; and Sylvia Robinson, whose career spans performing alongside 1999 Pioneer Award honoree Mickey Baker on “Love Is Strange” as well as owning the label that issued the first rap hit (the Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”).

Also to be honored: Huey “Piano” Smith, who led the Clowns through such ’50s hits as “Don’t You Just Know It” and “Rockin’ Pneumonia”; Betty Wright, whose hits include “Clean Up Woman” and “Tonight’s the Night”; the Chi-Lites, whose hitmaking legacy stretches from “Oh Girl” to “Stoned Out of My Mind”; and the Impressions — whose ranks included Jerry Butler, the late Curtis Mayfield, Sam Gooden, Fred Cash and brothers Arthur and Richard Brooks.

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