On November 11, only days after their Sewanee performance, the Sugarhill Gang’s original member Henry Lee Jackson, better known as “Big Bank Hank,” passed away at the age of 58 due to complications from cancer treatment. The Sugarhill Gang rocked Spencer Quad on November 7, winning the hearts and ears of Sewanee students and alums alike. Jackson was found working in a New Jersey pizza parlor by producer Sylvia Robinson, and then joined Guy “Master Gee” O’Brien and Michael “Wonder Mike” Wright to create The Sugarhill Gang. Since the release of “Rapper’s Delight” in 1979, the group has been pivotal in the history of hip-hop music and is generally considered one of the first rap groups in history along with groups such as The Cold Crush Brothers, The Funky 4 + 1, and Afrika Bam-baataa.
Jackson’s performance of the “hotel, motel” rhyme in “Rapper’s Delight” became legendary, circulating through other rap artists’ music such as Chingy’s “Holidae In” and Pitbull’s “Hotel Room Service.” The group’s song “Apache,” better known as the “Jump On It” song, sampled from the original song by Incredible Bongo Band, has been well known in hip-hop and youth culture for decades. A statement released by his fellow group members, Master Gee and Wonder Mike said, “So sad to hear about our brother’s passing. The three of us created musical history together. We will always remember traveling the world together and rocking the house.” Sewanee’s thoughts and sympathies go out to both the Gang and Jackson’s family in the wake of this loss.