African American Studies


Summary by Eliza Anderson.

Will Calhoun is a Grammy award-winning drummer, producer, songwriter, and Bronx native.

He was born in Brooklyn but moved to the Northeast Bronx with his parents shortly after. He attended Lutheran schools as a kid in an Italian neighborhood, where he recalls having to run away from men with bats getting to and from school before switching to Evander Childs for high school. At Evander, he encountered Drummer’s Collective and Horacee Arnold, who introduced him to musicians like Elvin Jones and took him to jazz clubs in the city.

Calhoun’s first introduction to music came from his father’s international record collection. From 10 years old he would watch musicians perform at Haffen Park and credits Errol “Pumpkin” Bedward for merging music and rap into Hip Hop. At 16 years old, he made the decision to become a drummer, studying under Horacee Arnold, Tommy Campbell, Kenwood Dennard, Lenny Nelson, and Ed Thigpen. During his high school summers, he traveled around the boroughs playing drums for the Parks Department in a band called “Fun Shine.”

He attended Berklee College of Music for engineering and recording and played in the band Dark Sarcasm, where he started to experiment with production and write and record his own material. While playing with Harry Belafonte and Brooklyn musicians in college, Calhoun was introduced to Vernon Reid, the guitarist of Living Colour. In 1986, a year after he graduated from Berklee, Reid asked him to join the band as their drummer. They were signed to Epic Records shortly after and recorded their first album, Vivid in 1988. Calhoun talks about the spiritual connections between African music and jazz and rock, but also about the unique environment and energy of the 1980s as Living Colour was starting out. He says it was like “a second renaissance,” with the convergence of rock and roll, rap, film, and theater that connected artists closely with their influences.