Saturday, May 31, 2008

Saturday Soul

He's been called the 'Poet Laureate of Soul' and Bob Dylan described him as 'America's greatest living poet.' William 'Smokey' Robinson made an appearance on HBO's Def Poetry Jam back in 2003. Take a look as Smokey recites his poem "A Black American"

Friday, May 30, 2008

Soul Fixin'

Sean Levert Died of Natural Causes
Yesterday, an Ohio coroner determined that Sean Levert died of natural causes. The Cuyahoga County coroner's reports indicates no foul play or trauma was involved in Levert's death. Coroner Frank Miller said Sean died from complications of sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease that produces tiny lumps of cells in the body's organs. However, the Levert family contends that his death could have possibly been prevented had he been allowed to seek medical attention during his stay in jail. Levert suffered from heart disease, high blood sugar and withdrawal from alprazolam, commonly known as Xanax, a drug used to treat anxiety disorders and panic attacks according to coroner Frank Miller. Attorneys for the Levert family contend that "he was exhibiting classic signs of Xanax withdrawal. A doctor would have been able to recognize these problems. Had he been able to see one in that week's time things could have been different." It has been discovered that items belonging to Sean inventoried by the sheriff's department included a bottle of Xanax, which attorneys assert Sean asked for during his time in jail. Take a listen to 'Cassanova' and let your mind go back.

Soul Fixin'

Chapter 4: Labor PainsBack in 2001, the R. Kelly penned song 'I Am Your Woman', was a staple on urban radio. The song reminded me of the Shirley Brown classic 'Woman To Woman.' I knew the woman singing the song would be around for a long time. Syleena Johnson, the youngest daughter of blues legend Syl Johnson, was that woman. One of R&B's most underrated vocalists, Syleena Johnson has released 3 studio albums, Chapter 1: Love, Pain, and Forgiveness, Chapter 2: The Voice, and Chapter 3: The Flesh.Since parting ways with Jive Records, Syleena has started her own record label, Annelys Records, and is busy putting the finishing touches on her latest album, Chapter 4: Labor Pains.The album includes a collaboration with Chicago rapper Teefa. Shawna is working on a rhyme for a track titled 'Maury Povich.' Syleena has also reached out to Twista, Dave Hollister and Kayne West. Chapter 4: Labor Pains is due in stores September 2, which also happens to be Syleena's birthday.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Donny Hathaway 'Put Your Hand In The Hand'

Donny Hathaway and gospel....need I say more?

Young, Gifted, Black and Dead!!!

A picture is worth a thousand words...

"Mercy, mercy me...things ain't what they used to be...where did all the blue skies go...poison is the wind that blows from the north and south..."

"When I look at the world it fills me with sorrow...little children today are really gonna suffer tomorrow..."

"God is my friend..Jesus is my friend...He made this world for us to live in, and gave us everything...and all he asks of us is we give each other love..."

"And He'll forgive all our sins...forgive all our sins...and all He asks of us, is we give each other love..."

"Make me wanna holler..the way they do my life...this ain't livin',...this ain't livin'..."

"Mother, Mother...there's too many of you crying...Brother, Brother, Brother...there's far too many of you dying..."

"You know we've got to find a bring some lovin' here today..."

These photographs were all taken in 2006 at various sidewalk makeshift memorials, prayer vigils, wakes, funerals, and burials in the city of Philadelphia. The deceased were all young African Americans murdered by fellow African Americans. This is not a Philadelphia problem. Black on black violence is a national problem. It's my problem. It's your problem. It's our problem. When will we solve it? The statistics are alarming; according to a 2005 Justice Department report blacks, who make up 13% of the US population, accounted for 50% of the nations murder victims, 93% of these victims were killed by fellow African Americans.

Soul Fixin'

New Award for New Edition
25 years ago, girls across the country fell in love with a group of boys from Boston. Ricky, Bobby, Mike, Ralph and Ronnie had the fellas bobbin' their heads too. 25 years later,New Edition is set to receive the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) prestigious Golden Note Award at the 21st Annual Rhythm & Soul Music Awards next month. The Golden Note Award is awarded to songwriters, composers, and artists who achieved extraordinary career milestones. After seven studio albums and a bunch of hit songs, New Edition is celebrating their 25th anniversary as a group. For 25 years we have enjoyed such hit songs as 'Popcorn Love,' 'Candy Girl,' 'Cool It Now,' 'Can You Stand The Rain,' and 'If It Isn't Love.' New Edition was at the forefront of the new jack swing movement, creating a blueprint for the genre. The success of New Edition led to the creation of groups such as New Kids on The Block, Boyz II Men, and N'Sync.
Commenting on the Golden Note Award honorees, ASCAP President and Chairman Marilyn Bergman said: "Over the last 25 years, New Edition has experienced success on multiple levels to become true legends. The group has firmly left their mark on today's music, and ASCAP is very proud to honor them."

Soul Fixin'

LaBelle Reunion

Patti, Nona, and Sarah have reunited to record their first album in more than 30 years, inspired by the recording of a tribute song to Rosa Parks in 2006. The recordings should wrap up next month and the album is expected to be released in the fall of 2008. The untitled album is being produced by Lenny Kravitz and the legendary songwriting team of Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff. The album contains a mixture of energized uptempo songs and heart-wrenching ballads. Nona said the group was able to "pull together as sisters and 'Labelle-ize'the music and the vibe and the spiritual side of what we do like nobody else on the planet." A tour to support the new album is planned, LaBelle's live performance has been cited as the groups greatest dynamic. Patti LaBelle, one who is never short for words, summed it all up "I think all you gotta say is 'we're here.' We're like that caged bird. If you love it, you open the door and let it fly because you know it's going to come back stronger. Well, we're back, baby. Anyone that knows Labelle knows we don't know how to hold anything back."

Soul Fixin'

Beyond The Elements

Earth, Wind, & Fire's 'Beyond The Elements' tour has kicked off. The tour is scheduled for 25 dates, making stops in LA, Chicago, Houston and NYC.

Partial listing of upcoming tour dates:
June 6 Las Vegas, NV -Las Vegas Hilton
June 7 Las Vegas, NV -Las Vegas Hilton
June 14 Reno, CA - Silver Legacy Casino
June 20 San Diego, CA - County Fair
June 22 Los, Angeles, CA - The Greek
July 6 Milwaukee, WI - Summerfest
July 12 Houston, TX - Verizon Wireless Theater
July 14 Atlanta, GA - Chastain Park
July 19 Memphis, TN - Botanical Gardens
July 26 Cleveland, OH - Plain Dealer Pavilion
July 27 Detroit, MI - DTE Energy Music Theatre
July 29 Chicago, IL - Chicago Theater
August 5 New York City - Radio City Music Hall

Payin' Homage

F*ck Fly...Curtis Mayfield was SUPERFLY
Words can not
begin to describe the music of Curtis Mayfield, it immediately grabs and inspires you. Hailing from Chi-Town, Mayfield was a singer, composer, producer, arranger extraordinaire. Starting off with The Impressions, Curtis went on to have a successful solo career and produced for the likes of Aretha, Gladys & The Pips, and fellow Chi-Town natives The Staple Singers. Sit back and enjoy this musical tribute to Mr. Mayfield.

Aretha Franklin 'Call Me'

Aretha performing 'Call Me' back in 1971 at the Montruex Jazz Festival.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Happy Birthday Gladys Knight

I can remember being 12 or 13 and hearing 'Midnight Train To Georgia', from that point on I fell in love with the soul music of the 60's and 70's and a love affair with Ms. Knight began. I pushed repeat on the stereo and listened to 'Midnight Train To Georgia' over and over again. At times, I pretended to be on stage with Gladys performing as one of the Pips. It would be years later, when I heard Gladys Knight & The Pips sing the Curtis Mayfield penned 'To Be Invisible.' I've heard the version recorded by Curtis, but there is something special about Gladys Knight's reading of the song. The song was off the Claudine album, the soundtrack to the 1974 movie of the same name. The film tells the story of a black Harlem woman, living on welfare, struggling to raise six children who falls in love with a garbage man. Gladys, a world away from poverty, was able to sing with the conviction of a woman just trying to make it through another day. 'To Be Invisible' spoke of a person who felt it was better to be invisible in a world that was so mean. "A world that seems not for privately, I'll be invisible..that way I won't have to explain a thing, if you know what I mean.. I won't even have to be here on the scene..." I'm glad Gladys didn't grow up feeling inferior. It would be understandable if she did. Gladys was able to find her way in a world that was so mean and for over 50 years she has blessed us with her music. We all got up and danced when she sang 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine' and we contemplated saying goodbye when we heard 'Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye.)' 'I Don't Wanna Do Wrong' and 'Make Me The Woman That You Go Home To' made us wonder if Gladys was going through the problems she was singing about but she let us know everything was alright when she sang ' The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me.'

Happy 64th Birthday, Gladys Knight!

Lalah Hathaway 'Let Go'

The eldest daughter of Eulaulah and Donny Hathaway, Lalah Hathaway is back with a new single and new album, truth be told she never left. Lalah is now signed to recently revived Stax Records.Lalah describes her first single 'Let Go', a mid-tempo track, as a song " that came out of a need for me to let go of the worry, a few pairs of old jeans, and old ideas as well as some people who were taking up too much space in my life. I had to let go in the most literal and metaphorical sense, and breathe through it all with a goal of moving toward peace." Speaking of her new album, Lalah says "I'm very excited about this album. It's very introspective...I'm also excited about being at Stax Records because it is truly the home of soul music in this country." Self Portrait will be in stores June 3.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Soul Fixin'

Usher's 'Love In This Club' Video Contest
According to his YouTube channel "Usher wants to see young couples who met and found love in the club." Participants have to "upload a short video explaining how you and your man, or woman, met in the club...the winning couple will receive a $500 gift card from Travelocity and a signed CD from Usher. The contest ends June 12.

$500 gift certificate and a signed CD....they can do better than that...$1000 gift certificate, signed CD, and concert tickets sounds much better. Don't you agree?

Check out Usher's official video announcement.

Classic Album Revisited

Donny Hathaway's musical roots were firmly planted within the walls of the sanctified church. Donny never left the church, and the church surely never left Donny. Everything Is Everything, released in '70, captured Donny's gospel ubringing. Everything is Everything spoke of love, hope, pride,inspiration, salvation, the ghetto and tryin' times. The title track, "Voices Inside [Everything Is Everything]" is a straight up jam session, it's evident that Donny and his fellow musicians let loose in the studio and had a good old time. "Je Vous Aime [I Love You]",co-written by Donny, an infectious love song was written for his wife Eulaulah. "I Believe to My Soul", a Ray Charles song, was covered by Donny Hathaway. Unlike Ray's version, which was a slow, brooding reading, Donny did something totally different. Donny kicked up the tempo and made it a lil' funky. "I Believe To My Soul" spoke of a man who believed that his woman was unfaithful. Donny testified "last night while you were sleeping, I heard you say Oooh Ronny, when you know...when you know my name is Donny...I believe...I said I believe you are trying to make a fool outta me..." Like the title track, Sugar Lee, a song written by Donny and Ric Powell was a straight up jam session with few lyrics. Donny was no stranger to the struggles of his people, "Tryin' Times" a song which had been recorded by Roberta Flack and Pops Staples, highlighted the suffering of man. "Thank You Master [For My Soul]," reminds you that Donny could have easily been a gospel artist. Written by Donny, "Thank You Master [For My Soul]," which includes an unforgettable piano solo, is nothing more than straight up church music. Donny is simply thanking the Lord. "The Ghetto" with it's memorable drums, takes you on a tour of the ghetto, the feel good elements of the ghetto. Inspired by the Lorraine Hansberry play To Be Young, Gifted, and Black, Nina Simone composed the highly inspirational song "To Be Young, Gifted, and Black." On her 1970 live album, Black Gold, Nina stated of the song "It is not addressed, primarily, to white people, though it doesn't put you down in any way. It simply ignores you! For my people need all the inspiration and love that they can get." Donny's emotional reading of this song is out of this world. Listening to Donny sing "To Be Young, Gifted and Black" brings tears to dry eyes. It would be easy to believe that Donny recorded this song within the walls of a packed Baptist church,"Young, Gifted and Black" takes you back...back to church. With pride and defiance Donny testified "that we are young...gifted...gifted and black...and that's sho'nuff where it's at..." In the words of Nina Simone, "Nuff said!"

Video Soul

Monday, May 26, 2008

Young, Gifted, Black and Dead!!!

A picture is worth a thousand words...

These photographs were all taken in 2006 at various sidewalk makeshift memorials, prayer vigils, wakes, funerals, and burials in the city of Philadelphia. The deceased were all young African Americans murdered by fellow African Americans. This is not a Philadelphia problem. Black on black violence is a national problem. It's my problem. It's your problem. It's our problem. When will we solve it? The statistics are alarming; according to a 2005 Justice Department report blacks, who make up 13% of the US population, accounted for 50% of the nations murder victims, 93% of these victims were killed by fellow African Americans.

Soul Fixin'

ReRe's Revival What: Aretha's Annual Church Revival
Where: Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God In Christ
When: June 12-14
Who: Aretha Franklin, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Dorothy Norwood, Vickie Winans, Twinkie Clark, Bill Moss Jr.; evangelists Sandra Riley, Esther Smith and Ruby Terry and pastors Rev. Edgar Vann Jr. and Rev. Donald Parsons.

"I would love to see the city of Detroit come out to the revival and refresh their spirits and faith in the gospel and the word, and allow it to give many the support and the power that they need in these economically trying times." Franklin said in a statement. "Bring the children and give them the foundation that will stay with them for a lifetime, as it has with me."

Soul Fixin'

Rizz Is Still Around
New Edition front man Ralph Tresvant aka Rizz is starring in the upcoming film Mama I Wanna Sing, a big screen adaptation of the hit stage play. Ciara, Patti LaBelle, Lynn Whitfield and Ben Vereen are also staring in the film. I'm still trying to figure out why Ciara has the lead role. Rizz plays the role of Rev. Kenneth Winter, Mama I Wanna Sing tells the story of a young gospel singer who goes from the choir to the pop charts. Rizz is celebrating 25 years in the music biz with a new single "It Must Be You", which will be released to radio on July 1. Industry insiders describe it as an "undeniable radio hit." Ralph has taken complete control over his career, his upcoming album will be released through his independently owned and operated label, Xzualt Media Group, that has direct distribution deals on Apple iTunes and other retailers. Ralph plans to hit the road on an up close and personal tour later this year.

On another note, I've always wondered about the paternity of Bobby Brown's son Landon.....Are you thinking what I'm thinking???

Soul Fixin'

Gov. Pardons Slick Rick

Rap legend Slick Rick received a full pardon from Gov. David Patterson, NY's first black governor, on May 23. According to The New York Times, Governor Patterson delivered the pardon to prevent the MC from being deported to England, where he was born and lived until the age of 11.
Back in 1991, Slick Rick was tried and convicted of attempted murder and weapon charges after shooting a cousin and acquittance. Slick Rick served 5 years in prison before being paroled. Slick Rick was under the threat of deportation, immigrants convicted of aggravated felony or weapons charges can be deported. In 2002, Slick Rick was arrested by the INS, who had been fighting for his deportation since 1995, aboard a Caribbean cruise ship. Rick spent a year in a Florida detention center before being set free.
Slick Rick's troubles are not completely over, the threat of deportation still looms over his head. Approval from immigration courts for an adjustment of status must be granted, chances of it being granted have greatly increased because of the governor's pardon.

Soul Fixin'

'Art of Love' Tour Raheem DeVaughn, son of jazz cellist Abdul Wadad, and singer/songwriter Chrisette Michele have joined forces on the "Art Of Love" tour.

'Art Of Love' Tour Dates
May 28: Dallas (House of Blues)
May 30: Minneapolis (Trocodaros)
May 31: Milwaukee, Wis. (Cooley Auditorium)
June 3: Chicago (House of Blues)
June 5: Cleveland (House of Blues)
June 6: Detroit (Chene Park)
June 7: Columbus, Ohio (The Cove Lounge)
June 8: Memphis, Tenn. (Canon Center)
June 10: New York (Hammerstein Ballroom)
June 11: Westbury, N.Y. (North Fox Theatre)
June 13: Richmond, Va. (Friday's at Sunset)
June14: Philadelphia (Fillmore)
June18: Myrtle Beach, S.C. (House of Blues)
June 20: Atlanta (Tabernacle)
June 21: Orlando, Fla. (House of Blues)
June 22: Miami (Fillmore)
June 26: Atlantic City, N.J. (House of Blues)
June 27: Hampton, Va. (Hampton Jazz Festival/Coliseum)
June 28: Raleigh, N.C. (Progressive Energy Theatre)
June 29: Columbia, Md. (Merriweather Post)

Chrisette Michele - "If I Have My Way"

Def Jam recording artist Chrisette Michele performing "If I Have May". Check her out on tour with Raheem DeVaughn.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Young, Gifted, Black and Dead!!!

On a cool October day hundreds of people dressed in black make their way inside the First Church of Love, Faith and Deliverance in Philadelphia, The City of Brotherly Love. A pearl white casket lies in the front of the sanctuary. Pink and white flowers sit at its sides. The church organ plays the gospel hymn "Everybody Oughta Know." The church pews are full and mourners begin to hug the walls. Mourners have not gathered at the First Church of Love, Faith and Deliverance to say goodbye to a person who reached old age and died of natural causes. Hundreds have gathered to say goodbye to a person who only lived a handful of years. The small tender body in the pearl white casket belongs to 5 year old Casha'e Rivers. The anguished wails of a young mother echo throughout the church. 6 days prior, little Casha'e was riding in the backseat of her mother's car. As the Oldsmobile pulled up to a stop sign in the Strawberry Mansion section of Philadelphia bullets flew through the air. The gun was in the hands of convicted drug dealer Kevin Felder, who minutes earlier shot at a suspected drug dealer. Felder fired at the Oldsmobile, believing it was tailing him. Four bullets hit the car. One bullet tore through the trunk, and went through the backseat into Casha'e's back and out her chest.

Casha'e's obituary read as such:

Casha'e Dayshinea Rivers was born on Sunday April 2, 2001. She'd just started kindergarten and was already a popular student. Her favorite color was blue. She loved to dress up with earrings and a matching bag. She loved having her fingernails and toenails polished. She loved Happy Meals and Oodles of Noodles. She loved her trip to Disneyland last April. She loved doing the Wu-Tang dance and talking on the phone. And she especially loved everything Dora The Explorer.
She leaves behind her parents, her stepfather, two brothers, five sisters, her grandmother, grandparents, four uncles, nine aunts and her best friend.
Casha'e was murdered in 2006 in Philadelphia. She was the city's 287th homicide victim of the year. Philadelphia has earned the dubious nickname Killadelphia. Makeshift memorials go up every few days in the hood. Last year 392 people were murdered in the City of Brotherly Love. The year before that, 406 people were killed, Philadelphia possessed the highest homicide rate of any big city in the nation, surpassing New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. A large majority of the victims are black males. City officials and law enforcement have blamed the worsening economy,a dismal education system, cutbacks in policing and social services and the availability of drugs and guns.

The 2006 murder of Sean Bell at the hands of the NYPD and the recent murder of a friend illustrates a sad fact. Black America becomes outraged when law enforcement kills blacks. However, Black America seems quite complacent when murders occur on their blocks. We are killing one another and people have accepted it as the norm. The whereabouts of black leaders such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are always questioned when black on black crimes occur. I'm well aware of how the media works, Al and Jesse may be in ghettos across the country leading marches on black on black violence but the news cameras aren't. I shall reserve criticism of Jackson and Sharpton. One person nor a group of people can save us. We all have to lend a hand. Don't wait until your child is murdered.

Soul Fixin'

Black In America
In the wake of the possibility of a black man becoming president the good folks at CNN have decided to not only talk about black folks in February but to talk about us in July. "CNN Presents: Black In America", a six-television event, examines the complex issues, successes and struggles of black men, women and families. The special will air in July. Check out the website.

Classic Album Revisited

I've been in an 80's New Jack Swing kinda mood, so it would only be right to revisit a classic album from that era; Guy, the album that got New Jack Swing swingin'.Teddy Riley, Aaron Hall and Timmy Gaitling formed the group Guy and released their self titled debut, Guy, back in 1988. Guy became an instant smash, producing hits "I Like," Groove Me," "Spend The Night," and "Teddy's Jam," and popularized New Jack Swing at the same time. Teddy Riley introduced us all to New Jack Swing by means of Make It Last Forever, Keith Sweat's '87 debut. However, Riley perfected the New Jack Swing sound on this album. Guy defined new jack wing and served as a blueprint for other artist. A blend of R&B, hip hop, dance, and funk Guy consisted of 10 tracks, irresistible uptempo party tracks such as "I Like" and "Teddy's Jam" and sweet slow ballads such as "Piece of My Love" and "Goodbye Love." Ranked one of VIBE's "51 Essential Albums" Guy, a study in New Jack Swing, is a must-have. Teddy Riley would go on to produce the classic Bobby Brown album Don't Be Cruel. Timmy Gaiting would eventually leave the group, he was replaced by Aaron's brother, Albert Damion Hall just in time for their 1990 release Future. The trio eventually broke up. Teddy focused on producing and songwriting and formed the group Blackstreet. Aaron Hall (the original R. Kelly) released his solo debut, The Truth, in 1994. Damion's Straight to the Point was released the following year. Guy reunited in 1999 and released Guy III in 2000.

Luther Vandross - "A House Is Not A Home"

Luther singing "A House Is Not A Home" at the 1988 NAACP Image Awards.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Young, Gifted, Black and Dead!!!

The headline in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle read "Rochester streets devour another teen." 16 year old Daniel Davis was gunned down in Rochester, NY on May 12. Davis was killed blocks away from where two African American teens, Brent Coley and D'Marri Shaw, were killed in February. Davis was described by family and friends as a "good kid" who was beginning to head down the wrong path. Police have very little information about the circumstances surrounding his death. No arrest have been made.

Brent Coley and D'Marri, both 15, were found, on the night of February 19, dying blocks apart after they were shot inside a house where drugs were being sold. Rochester Police Chief David Moore said the deaths were results of the teens' "high-risk lifestyle." Family of the victims described the boys as typical teens who were victims of a senseless crimes. Brent Coley is remembered as an energetic kid who loved playing football and hanging out with his friends. Da'Marri loved music, basketball and spending time with his seven siblings. In the words of Pastor Marlowe Washington, who spoke at Coley's funeral, "I cannot get immune to this...I'm sick and tired...of being sick and tired. I'm just sick of being sick."

"....If your mind could really see
You'd know your color is the same as me
Pardon me brother as you stand in your glory
I know you won't mind if I tell the whole story
Get yourself together, learn to know your sign
Shall we commit genocide before we check out our mind
I know we've all got problems that's why I'm here to say
Keep peace with me and I with you
Let me love in my own way
Now I know we got great respect for the sister and mother
It's even better yet
But there's the joker in the street loving one brother and killing the other
When the time comes and we are really free
There'll be no brothers left you see....."
"We The People Who Are Darker Than Blue" -Curtis Mayfield

Soul Fixin'

That's My Homegirl In The Video....
Simha Jamison, a 24 year old hair stylist testified yesterday that she recognized her childhood friend Roshona Landfair on the infamous R.Kelly sex tape. (Don't try to act like you haven't seen it.) Jamison testified "I believed it was my best friend" along with "her godfather R. Kelly." She estimated that Roshana was 13 or 14 when the tape was made. Jamison went on to say that Kelly would give Roshona "no less than $ more than $500" to go shopping. A 12 year veteran of the Chicago Police Department who was married to a relative of the girl on the video testified she learned of the video after receiving a phone call from former R. Kelly protege Sparkle, another relative of the alleged victim. When asked by the defense why she didn't take immediate action, Gibson testified that the entire situation was a very sensitive matter and neither the mother or father of the victim wanted to go forward with the charges.

Things aren't looking so good for the "Pied Piper of R&B"...Ron Isley is serving time, Wesley Snipes and Marion Jones are on their way to prison...R. Kelly might want consider going to Cuba with Assata Shakur.

Soul Fixin'

SoulCommune....where the soulful gather
Soul Music + Myspace = SoulCommune. According to it's website SoulCommune is the official portal to a growing community- the soul community. This is a place where soul lovers, organic hip hop lovers, soulful house lovers, and jazz lovers can convene, conncent, and cultivate friends, fans and business relationships.

Classic Album Revisited

Many people consider ReRe's I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You to be the greatest soul album ever released. The recording of the legendary album began on January 26, 1967 in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and ended on February 16 in NYC. The project was entrusted to the musical genius of producers Arif Madrin, Jerry Wexler, and Tom Dowd. Aretha was accompanied by an array of talented musicians, all unaware they were creating the blueprint for all soul artists to follow. The first song recorded was the title cut "I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You". Aretha accompanied herself at the piano and sang from the depths of her being, declaring "you're a no good heart breaker...your a liar and a cheat... I don't know why I let you do these things to me...." Aretha was a woman capable of expressing emotions from the depths of her soul. That was evident in "Do Right Woman-Do Right Man", a thought provoking song that tested the nature of relationships. She made it a family affair with sisters Erma and Carolyn singing background vocals along with Cissy Houston. Aretha along with sister Carolyn and legendary sax man King Curtis wrote "Save Me", a joyful infectious song that spoke of one lover wanting to be saved from the other. Aretha barred her soul and injected a gospel style sound on an emotionally charged cover of Ray Charles "Drown In My Own Tears." Sister ReRe recorded the intense "Baby Baby Baby", where she expressed her heartbreak and undying love. Superb guitar and saxophone arrangements complemented Aretha's vocals on "Don't Let Me Lose This Dream." As on of the great interpreters of soul music Aretha brought something special to an Otis Redding hit. Aretha took "Respect", with it's unforgettable "sock-it-to-me" background part, and turned it into a classic and taught us how to spell at the same time. There was no doubt that Aretha was a product of the sanctified church when she sang a personal and highly emotional rendition of Sam Cooke's, one of her early musical mentors, "A Change Is Gonna Come." Aretha serenaded listeners with "Soul Serenade", a1964 hit for King Curtis. She also breathed new life into Sam Cooke's upbeat "Good Times." "Dr. Feelgood (Love Is A Serious Business)" written by Aretha and then husband Ted White was sung with the intensity and conviction of a gospel singer. But unlike gospel it expressed adult love in its most passionate and erotic form. Aretha moaned and hollered " I don't want nobody always sitting around me and my man...but oh when me and that man get to loving... I just don't have time to sit and chit chat and smile...don't send me no doctor, filling me up with all those pills...I got me a man named Dr. Feelgood...Good God almighty the man sure makes me feel good." Aretha took us down many a road. She sung about the highs and lows of love, the harsh realities of relationships, the change needed so desperately in our country, and respect. Say it with me "R-E-S-P-E-C-T." Aretha's fusion of gospel, blues, and jazz is astounding. This album is in a class of its own, it has no peer. I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love ranked #1 on Rolling Stone's "Women In Rock: 50 Essential Albums."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Gladys Knight & The Pips - "I Heard It Through The Grapevine"

Check out Gladys, brother Bubba and cousins Edward and Will performing "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" back in '72 at the Operation PUSH sponsored Save The Children concert.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Young, Gifted, Black and DEAD!!!

I've decided to highlight the deaths of innocent young African Americans at the hands of other African Americans. Black on black crime is destroying communities of color across the country. A day after 15 year old Brandon Bethea was killed, 16 year old Tyreece Johnson was killed by a bullet to the head in the Far Rockaway section of Queens, NY. Ironically, Tyreece, the son of an entrepreneur and corrections officer, was shot as he was walking into a bodega on Monday afternoon, the day before FIVE people were shot on the same block, hours after Brandon Bethea was killed. Like Brandon, Tyreece no longer lived in the Far Rockaway neighborhood, he was sent to live with an aunt in North Carolina because of the violence that plagues Far Rockaway. Two black teens killed in less than 48 hours in the same neighborhood. When will it end?

Soul Fixin'

The R. Kelly Trail Has Finally Begun...Jurors View Sex Tape

The 25 minute sex tape at the heart of the R. Kelly trial was played today in court. R. Kelly sat expressionless as the infamous tape played. Prosecutor Shauna Brolicker described the video as "vile, disturbing, and disgusting." She told jurors they would see "the crime unfold...frame by ugly frame" in a video that was "choreographed, produced, and starring Robert Kelly." Prosecutors maintain the girl in the video could have been as young as 13 when the tape was made sometime between 1998 and 2000. The alleged victim, now 23, denies the she's the girl in the video. The defense countered that even the FBI, "the same people chasing bin Laden...cannot identify Mr. Kelly as being on the tape." The defense also stated the Kelly has had a visible mole on his back since childhood and that the man in the video did not have a mole. Kells has been charged with 14 counts of child pornography and faces 15 years in prison and a $100,000 fine if convicted.

I saw the video...if that isn't R. Kelly not only can pigs fly but I Believe I Can Fly..

Let's Meet the Jury....

Juror #69...white male...30's...listens to NPR...reads Forbes and Wall Street Journal...believes the justice system has a bias against minorities...believes R. Kelly is guilty but judge based on the evidence.
Juror female...40's or 50's...wife of Baptist preacher...lives in the same area of Chicago as Kelly but did not know much about him or the case.
Juror male...late 50's...Christian...not a fan of pornography...has heard of R. Kelly but could only name one song: "I Believe I Can Fly"
Juror #22...white male...40's...served on 2 other juries.
Juror #23...white male...30's...investment banker...wore an "Impeach Bush" button to jury duty...when asked about being fair he said "I would hold myself to a very high standard."
Juror female...late 20's...teaching assistant at Catholic school....saw the infamous video and isn't sure if it is R. Kelly in the video.
Juror male in his 30's or 40's...has heard of Sparkle and Barry Hankerson...hasn't seen the tape or followed the R. Kelly story.
Juror #48...white male...20's...past arrest for underage drinking and marijuana possession...believes people with money can afford "better lawyers."
Juror #44...white male...30's or 40's...saw a faded-out version of the video on the news...has no opinion of the case.
Juror #61...white male...60's...emigrated from Romania 38 years ago...doesn't quite understand the concept of reasonable doubt...quoted as saying " I'm not the smartest guy, but I will do what is best and fair."
Juror #68...white female...20's...rape victim...alleged rapist wasn't indicted...When asked if she could put aside what happened to her for this case, she said, "It would be very hard, but yes."

Monday, May 19, 2008

Young, Gifted, Black and DEAD!!!

On May 1, a friend of mine passed away. 22 year old Tyshawn Bierria died after being taken off of life support as a result of being stabbed several times outside his upstate NY college campus. Ty was set to graduate this month. Tyshawn's untimely death illustrates a DISEASE plaguing black communities across the country; black on black violence. One black male with a promising future killed and one black male on his way to prison.According to federal crime stats, homicide is the leading cause of death among African-American males aged 15 to 34. They also indicate that between 1976 and 2004, 94 % of black murder victims were killed by black offenders.

Why isn't Black America outraged? We march and protest when the police kill us but black men are more likely to be killed by other black men than they are to be killed by police. It should come as no surprise that law enforcement can shoot a black man dead, WE don't respect OURSELVES, how can we expect anyone to respect us?

Social activists, clergy,community leaders, public officials, and the hip-hop community need to take a stand. Truth be told, WE ALL NEED TO TAKE A STAND!!!!

In light of Ty's death I've decided to highlight the deaths of young blacks across the country. I was saddened by the death of a 15 year old Queens girl. Brandon Bethea was hanging out in the Redfern Housing Projects in Far Rockaway, Queens when she was the innocent victim of gunfire. Her family had recently moved out of the Redfern projects, ironically Brandon became a victim of the violence her family sought to escape. An aspiring dancer, Brandon was set to graduate from junior high school next month and was looking forward to attending high school in the fall. Less than 2 hours after she was shot the sound of bullets rang out again just 4 blocks away resulting in five people being taken to the hospital. This 15 year old didn't deserve to die. More should be done than just candle light vigils and having Brandons' face emblazoned on t-shirts. A large majority of black America has rallied behind the Obama campaign, I think it is safe to say that we are capable of supporting a new campaign, a campaign to save the lives our of mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers and to stop black on black violence.

Soul Fixin'

2008 BET Award Nominations

Lil Wayne, MJB and Nelly helped announce the 2008 BET Award nominees. T-Pain's non singing a** leads the pack with 5 nominations. Kanye, MJB, A. Keys, Lil' Wayne and Keyshia Cole are nominated for multiple awards. Quincy Jones will receive the Humanitarian Award and Al "Grits" Green will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. I'm looking forward to seeing Keyshia's mama, Frankie, act a fool on the red carpet. The BET Awards air June 24th at 8 PM. I'm not a big fan of BET, but the BET Awards are hands down the best award show on TV!!!!!

Soul Fixin'

It Takes 3 To Make A Thing Go Right

Essence's annual "Black Music Month" June issue features a triple cover tribute to MJB, Jill Scott and A. Keys. The three R&B singers discuss their beginnings and how they have maintained successful careers in the music biz in the article Ladies First. The "Black Music Month" issue also features the Essence Summer Music Hot List, a guide to summer releases and concerts, including the 2008 Essence Music Festival.

Here is an excerpt of the article...

Essence: One thing you all have in common is that you each had a debut album that was a phenomenal success. How do you feel when you hear those songs now?

Mary J. Blige: It’s been about six months since I’ve listened to What’s the 411? I was in Japan working out, and when I heard it, I could definitely feel my youth, but I could also hear that I’ve always had an old soul. When I think back to that time, I remember that I was singing to escape. I understand that some people are stuck in that place, but I firmly believe that if you don’t evolve and grow, you will die.

Essence: From the outside looking in, it seems that success has been yours since day one, but there probably were, and are, disappointments. How do you cope when a project doesn’t pan out?

Jill Scott: This is life, and if something doesn’t work out, then it wasn’t meant to. I feel that there is a divine plan in all things. All I can do is the best I can do, and if it’s well received, then, yeah. If not, I hope life will give me an opportunity to try again. Do I challenge myself? Absolutely. But beat myself up? I just can’t do it.

Essence: Have you ever regretted folding to pressure from record labels?

Alicia Keys: In the beginning, I didn’t understand the concept of boundaries. I wanted to make sure the music was heard, but there’s a price you pay for that. I did everything and anything to promote my first album, like flying from New York to Los Angeles and back on the same day, which was a bit excessive.

Essence: Have you figured out the ingredients for the perfect song?

Mary: Yes, but I won’t tell. [Laughs] For me, it’s about being real and honest. And the lyrics have to be relatable.

Jill: Oh, I wish I knew. I think Ne-Yo knows. I think Carvin Haggins, who does a lot of writing for Musiq Soulchild, has the ingredients, too. My songs are mostly about life experiences, about being human and falling and getting back up. About loving and losing.

Essence: But aren’t those the ingredients right there?

Alicia: It’s always a bit of a mystery. A song should deal with a widely understood emotion, have a really strong, clear explanation of that emotion and a great melody that makes you want to sing it at the top of your lungs. Then the music should evoke the same feeling as the lyrics. Somewhere within all of that lies the perfect song.

Speaking of Mary, I think I speak for many, I'M SO PROUD OF MJB. When she entered the game back in '92 she was the around the way girl we could all relate to. She reminded us of the women in our lives; mothers, aunts, cousins, friends, girlfriends. We understood and felt her pain, the pain of a young black girl from the projects longing to find her place in the world. I think it is safe to say that Mary has finally found her place.