Unsung (TV series)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Unsung logo from TV One
Country of originUnited States
Original networkTV One
Original releaseNovember 27, 2008 (2008-11-27) –
External links

Unsung is an hour-long music documentary program that airs on TV One. The series, which premiered November 27, 2008, uncovers the stories behind once well-known R&B and soul music artists, bands, or groups who exploded onto the Billboard music charts with a string of hits, only to have their career derailed by a major crisis that caused them to be essentially unappreciated by later generations of contemporary R&B and soul music listeners.[1] The series is produced by production company A. Smith & Co. Productions.[2]


Each episode usually begins with an artist's upbringing and family, painting a picture of the issues driving them in their music career. Themes of "escaping the hard life of the streets" and "experiencing physical abuse", as well as "signs of musical genius", can be found in many of the lives of Unsung's subjects. Those interviewed in this segment of the show typically are relatives and friends, although some celebrities may be interviewed depending on their relation to the artist.

The story then progresses into the trials and triumphs of the artist's early days in the music business, as the artist chases their "big break" which propels them into the limelight on the way to stardom. Fellow artists, music producers, and managers of that time pepper this section of the show with anecdotes of the artist's musical prowess and potential, and possible hints to any problems or issues the artists may have faced in their personal life or in the music business.

The next stage highlights the pinnacle of the artist's fame with the perks and perils that come with it. The show then details a turning point in the artist's life that may have affected their career, some aspect of their personal life or their health. The final act of the show typically highlights a new chapter in the artist's life, new music and plans for the future, or in the case of deceased or retired artists, pays tribute to their musical contributions.

Unsung has tailored this formula, depending on the show's subject, to portray artists whose "turning point" occurred for more business or personal reasons, and who may have recovered from it to continue a far less famous, but rewarding, career. An example includes The Spinners, a legendary R&B group with 17 Billboard Top 40 hits (7 of which were in the top 10) between 1961 and 1980, yet they have never received a Grammy Award nor been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.[3]


As of 2010, Unsung has enjoyed steady growth, particularly in African-American households, as each season has aired.[4]

After four seasons, Unsung won an NAACP Image Award in the "Outstanding Information Series or Special" category. Others nominated in this category for 2011 were Anderson Cooper 360° and Washington Watch with Roland Martin. [5] And as of 2018, the series has garnered six NAACP Image Awards.

The Unsung series has provided a platform for artists to tell their own stories as well as given a sense of closure to both the series' fans and the families of the artists who have died, as in the case of Roger Troutman of Zapp. Troutman's brother stated that the public was finally realized the uncertainty about what happened between Roger and Larry Troutman the fatal morning of the 1999 incident that led to death.[6]

While the show has enjoyed strong ratings and critical acclaim, it has also on occasion been criticized for not including some important facts. Jody Watley underscored these assessments in a series of YouTube videos made after the Shalamar episode premiered. (Shalamar was a popular R&B group which included Watley among its members). Similarly, some relatives of David Ruffin made their complaints known after his Unsung episode premiered.[citation needed] Recording artist Stephanie Mills has stated she is not a fan of the show. She admits that she has been approached by producers of the series to either be a commentator or the star of an episode, but she denied their requests. She does not believe she is "unsung".[7]

Unsung Hollywood[edit]

In October 2013, TV One announced Unsung would receive a spin-off titled Unsung Hollywood, to premiere on February 26, 2014. Unsung Hollywood focuses on actors and comedians, as well as prominent films and TV shows influential in the African American community. The second season of Unsung Hollywood premiered on February 11, 2015. Subjects of Unsung Hollywood have included episodes on: Pam Grier, Robin Harris, What's Happening!!, Dick Gregory, Redd Foxx, A Different World, Sheryl Underwood, Vivica A. Fox, Richard Roundtree, Charlie Murphy, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Meagan Good, Cooley High, Hill Harper, Jasmine Guy, and many others.[8]

Unsung Films[edit]

In October 2015, TV One announced another spin-off under the Unsung franchise. Unsung Films will feature made-for-TV movies/biopics.

  • Miki Howard - Love Under New Management: The Miki Howard Story premiered on the network on June 12, 2016. [9]
  • Switch/Bobby DeBarge - The Bobby DeBarge Story premiered on June 29, 2019. [10]

List of artists, bands and groups profiled on Unsung[edit]


  1. ^ "TV One's 'Unsung' hits the right note for Black music lovers". theloop21.com. Archived from the original on October 10, 2010. Retrieved October 8, 2010.
  2. ^ http://www.asmithco.com
  3. ^ Douglas, William (June 6, 2011). "TV series puts 'Unsung' black music stars back in the spotlight". PopMatters.com. McClatchy Newspapers. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  4. ^ "TV One's 2009-10 season the highest in network's six-year history". Target Market News. October 21, 2010.
  5. ^ "'Unsung' Gets First NAACY Image Award Nomination; New Season Scoop". Black Voices Newswire. January 13, 2011. Archived from the original on October 7, 2011.
  6. ^ Serwer, Jesse (March 29, 2010). "On TV One's 'Unsung,' singer Stacy Lattisaw gets a second life". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 29, 2010.
  7. ^ Obenson, Tambay A (May 29, 2012). "Don't Expect To See Stephanie Mills On TV One's Popular 'Unsung' Series Anytime Soon..." IndieWire.
  8. ^ Daniels, Karu F. (October 24, 2013). "'Unsung': Behind the (Black) Music". Ebony.
  9. ^ "Made For TV: Miki Howard Movie Coming To TV One". AlwaysAList.com. January 20, 2016. Archived from the original on July 6, 2016. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  10. ^ "TV One announces original film The Bobby DeBarge Story coming in June 2019".
  11. ^ "The Story of The Ohio Players". Unsung. Season 4. Episode 31. July 4, 2011.

External links[edit]