After a battle with cancer, Henry Jackson, better known as Big Bank Hank of the Sugarhill Gang, has passed away at the age of 57.
In 1979, Hank, along with Wonder Mike and Master Gee, broke hip hop from the streets of New York to the national attention with their seminar hip “Rappers Delight“.
Wonder Mike and Master Gee issued a statement Tuesday:
“So sad to hear about our brother’s passing. The 3 of us created musical history together with the release of Rapper’s Delight. We will always remember traveling the world together and rocking the house. Rest in peace Big Bank.”
Their story in hip hop circles is legendary and somewhat controversial. The three were unknown players in the early hip hop scene when Sylvia Robinson heard this new sound coming from her kid’s radio and decided her label could capitalize on it. She recruited the three members, including Hank, a bouncer, who was discovered rapping in the kitchen. He famously “borrowed” lyrics from an established MC, Grandmaster Caz of the Cold Crush Brothers, and brought them along to the recording session.
They used the backing track from Chic’s “Good Times” (who eventually were given a writing credit) and the song exploded becoming the first hip hop song to crack the Top 40 chart.
Hank continued to tour with various incarnations of the group for many decades. As a side note, I actually met Hank in 2006 after a concert stop in St. Louis (which was among the first non-NYC markets to break the song).
Rest in Peace, Hank. Your place in hip hop history is assured.