web: sometimes it’s not a typo

Anomie & Bonhomie is an underrated Scritti Politti album, the rapping and scratching and turntable noises put some fans off. “Umm” is a phenomenal everything-but-the-kitchen-sink track, and “Tinseltown to the Boogiedown” just oozes style.

Don’t call me Shirley, Lee

Both tracks feature “Lee Majors” on backing vocals and rapping. Surely this can’t be the actor on The Six Million Dollar Man cheesy TV show, Lee Majors, who married Farrah Fawcett? Searching Wikipedia reveals that there is a Lee Major (no ending ‘s’) American hip-hop producer, so surely this is a typo? Someone “fixed” the Anomie & Bonhomie Wikipedia page to make this correction, and even cited a retrospective Tumbler review of the album’s reissue:

“Tinseltown to the Boogiedown” brings in Lee Major, who would go on to produce for Jay Z and others

Jennifer Kelly, confident but wrong

It seems the citation in a Wikipedia article settles the matter?! But why would all the credits of the album get this wrong and add an ‘s’? I even pulled out my CD to check the ^%$#@! illegible album credits printed in a tiny font behind the plastic shell for the CD, and it’s “Lee Majors” with an ‘s’. So I did some sleuthing (thank you Discogs) and there really is a Lee Majors-not-the-$6M-Man-actor: this Lee Majors is a Jamaican musician who was in an underground hip-hop trio called Da Bush Babees and was friends with Mos Def who most definitely raps on the Anomie and Bonhomie album.

1973 black & white photo of actor Lee Majors
Not the Six Million Dollar Lee Majors…
photo of hip-hop producer Lee Majors
not Jay-Z’s producer Lee Major…
photo of Lee Majors aka Babe-B-Face Kaos, hip-hop musician
… but Lee Majors aka Babe-B-Face Kaos, hip-hop musician

See see redirect

So, I reverted the well-intentioned edit to the Anomie & Bonhomie Wikipedia page and its citation of the well-intentioned but mistaken reviewer (whom I contacted). But… how to stop someone making the same mistaken edit in the future? Without changes, every few years someone will see “Lee Majors” on the page, thinks “The bionic actor never rapped!”, find the hip-hop producer, and “correct” the typo? So:

  1. Add a hatnote (short note at the top of the article) to the bionic actor’s page:
      For the hip-hop musician also known as Babe-B-Face Kaos, see Da Bush Babees.
    which already had a hatnote:
    For the music producer, see Lee Major.
  2. Turn the first mention of the Jamaican musician Lee Majors on the Anomie & Bonhomie page into a hyperlink to a new Wikipedia page titled “Lee Majors (hip-hop musician)”.
  3. Jamaican musician Lee Majors is not notable enough to deserve his own Wikipedia page, so create a “Lee Majors (hip-hop musician)” page that simply (if you know Mediawiki syntax) redirects to “Da Bush Babees”.

That was a fun hour fixing Wikipedia!

Not names, Q numbers

I blogged about four similar confusions in music: 1990s alternative rock supremos The Sundays vs. Japanese band SUNDAYS(サンデイズ), acid jazz Corduroy vs. Korean singer 코듀로이 (“corduroy”) (and it turns out a third Corduroy. with a period), Icelandic Casino vs. alternative rockers Casino (and it turns out various rappers named Ca$ino), and rock supremos Yes vs. mystery?? group named “Yes, Plis.” Google Now mistakenly brought albums by two of these doppelgängers to my attention because (before I got Google to not track my history between apps) it knows I love Corduroy and Yes.

As I said in that equally boring blog post, the fix for this is to refer to everyone across a semantically meaningful web with a unique identifier instead of relying on context or additional words in parentheses like (hip-hop musician) and (Korean singer-songwriter) to disambiguate. Nearly everything in Wikipedia and many other entities in the world have a “Q number” in Wikidata where facts about the entity reside; Q454088 is Lee Majors the actor and Q6514455 is Lee Major hip-hop producer. But Lee Majors the minor rapper isn’t in Wikidata, because he’s not notable enough for any Wikipedia. We would need to give a Q number to every person who’s referenced in any existing article, even if that person doesn’t have their own page… which will probably turn into hundreds of millions of items and a whole lot of “Is the John Doe the childhood friend of politician A the same John Doe who sang background vocals for musician B?”. I just found out that Discogs lists a “Lee Majors (3)”, a rapper/producer from Oakland, who probably is a third Lee Majors. Or fourth?

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