A Tribute To Black Music

5White folk use to call music sung by black performers race music as they pretended not to listen to it – but stole it for white artists to use; nonetheless. Since it is true that black people are the first people to make a sound, the drum has been the foundation of rhythm since the beginning of time. Music is a world all unto itself, and some say it is the greatest communicator.

If we were to go way back to the cradle of civilization eon’s ago; it all began with the drum. When the African was captured they brought the drum to the so-called New World; bringing the rhythms that dictated our souls. It is a fact that African American people are responsible for creating all of the great music genres; Jazz, Gospel, Blues, Soul, R&B, Rap, Hip-Hop, and just about every musical sound we hear directly speaks to our glorious past.

During the despicable era of slavery and segregation, before the Civil Rights Movement, the mystical sounds of gospel music delivered an in-your-face sound that fed the souls of black people and that outlet produced some of the most timeless music ever created. Before I go further, let’s remember that it was Michael Jackson whose music video was the first black music to air on MTV just a short while ago.

I want to pay special homage to a place that was just tiny little building in Detroit that became the Mecca of black music called Motown, also known as Hitsville that changed that world. Its existence was historic and game-changing – thanks to its founder Mr. Barry Gordy. Let’s be honest, can you imagine a world without “The Motown Sound”? For many who don’t know or have forgotten, before Motown Records rarely did you see the face of an African American on the cover of an album or black music heard on mainstream radio.

The music we enjoyed and others stole was called “Race Music.” As strange as seems music was segregated the same way America was prior to the 1960s at the time Motown was founded. Before Motown, few black performers enjoyed nothing close to crossover success. By the way, an album is what was used to play music before CDs.

Motown was the first record label owned by an African American that primarily feature black artists, and its soul-based subsidiaries were the most successful proponents of what came to be known as The Motown Sound. It had a style of music with a distinct influence and soul touching flavor. From its Hitsville U.S. A building on 2648 West Grand Boulevard, Detroit, Michigan served as Motown’s headquarters produced the most universally recognized stable of songwriters and performers of our time or any time.

The music produced by Motown made a nation of people living in this nation without a nationality proud with its awe-inspiring run of hits that spoke to the essence of our souls and from that tiny little basement studio. The world was introduced to Michael Jackson, the Supremes, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, the Miracles, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, Four Tops, the Commodores, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Jr. Walker and the All-Stars, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Rick James, Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, Teena Marie, DeBarge, the Jackson Five, Martha and the Vandellas, the Marvelettes and Motown’s Funk Brothers studio band; just to name a few of the artists that graced our souls and touched our hearts making us proud.

Many of Motown’s best-known hits were written by Smokey Robinson, Barrett Strong, Norman Whitfield and the songwriting trio of Holland-Dozier-Holland, who became major forces in the music industry. For example, it’s a known fact in the music industry that in order to get a number one hit song someone would have to write more than thirty songs. Holland-Dozier-Holland had a string of more than fifty number one hits in a row with some becoming number one with several different artists like the hit “I heard it through the Grapevine”. This is profound and will never happen again. No songwriter will ever achieve this feat – guaranteed.

Although Mr. Gordy sold Motown, and it’s now in the hands of others, its legacy resides in a very special place in my hearts as well as millions around the world. So again I say, thank you Motown for the music, the love, the magic, and the many great memories.

Lastly, to the legends who are no longer with us to perform – thank you for your contribution – Rest in Peace. My guess is that they are walking around heaven all day singing with gleeful harmony the same way as it touched our souls when they were with us in this earthly realm. It must make heaven more glorious and wonderful than one could ever imagine. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

The Hypocrisy Of Democracy

001I had a Granddaddy that I loved more than life itself. This man was never formally educated, yet he was brilliant because he had a special wisdom that was common sense. I posted an article some time ago called “Granddaddy’s Lessons” where I shared some of the wisdom I learned from him. He used to recite some witty sayings as he guided me into manhood, like “even a fool makes sense sometimes” and my favorite was “never argue with a fool.” Rarely have I ever questioned “Pop’s” wisdom, but witnessing the behavior of many rooted in racism from today’s so-conservatives I am reminded of the once thought dead “Citizens Counsels.” But just as things change they remain the same. Today we have a man named Trump!

While growing up, my grandfather would shield me from the wretchedness and evils of racism. However, I was old enough to witness the brutality of peaceful demonstrations by black people on television in the early sixties begging for not just civil rights but human rights. This was to include things like the church bombing that killed four little girls, police attacking marchers with dogs, the trampling of black people on horseback on Bloody Sunday, beatings and assaulting black people with high-pressure water hoses.

I would ask Pops, why white people did those things to us. He would say, “Those acts were the lawlessness of the bigotry and hatred of us” and nothing more than the hypocrisy of democracy. Today, as I recall those dreadful horrors inflicted upon human beings of color for what they said was to uphold the “Law.” It seems eerily similar to the atmosphere and mentality of the time we now see in the world we live in today where the plan is still to eliminate our race.

Now that I have matured, I better understand that there is a philosophy that enables racism to exist. What we thought was removed from the consciousness of the American dogma was simply lying dormant. Therefore, in order to understand the current political environment that is affecting and polarizing society, we must ask the question; is what we see conservatism or racism? To answer that question; here is Webster’s definition of both words:

Conservatism: a disposition in politics to preserve what is established b: a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change; specifically: such a philosophy calling for lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs.

Racism: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial difference produces an inherent superiority of a particular race. 2: racial prejudice or discrimination.

Congressman John Lewis, who was beaten nearly to death on Bloody Sunday was assaulted with racial epithets and spit on – on the steps of the Nation’s Capital, which is the symbol, supposedly, of the freest nation on earth. Bricks were thrown through windows, death threats and other threatening messages have been made to Congressman, Government Officials, and threats against the President are the norm. President Obama continues to receive an unprecedented amount of death threats, insulted with disrespectful caricatures and referred to as the Antichrist. I would say this in the manifestation of hatred that is pure evil.

There is talk of secession, remember how well that worked out, it was called the Civil War which had its roots in the concepts that are on display now. As a result of the changing face of America, less white, the Trump types espouse predictions of Armageddon because something, as they see it, has gone terribly wrong with the America. To which I suppose only means that it is trying to live up to the lie that it has lived; meaning “a government for the people and by the people.” It amazes me, after witnessing the Bush years and the last decade of GOP criminal rule that the people elected a house and senate full of more of the same.

In the eyes of Conservatives, things are turned upside down. They tell black people that they make everything racial. Yet, they scream we want to “take back our country.” Back to what “Slavery”! More disheartening and most distasteful is that there are still African America’s, “House Negroes,” who chime in supporting their beliefs like the Trump who wants to be president. It appears that he forgot this nation was never fair or just; with respect to black people. Worse yet, there are some “Uncle Tom’s” that think race is no longer an issue or can remember the regular lynchings during the time “they” say was so great.

Just like “Manifest Destiny” was devised to justify one race’s superiority. The Conservatives movement now led by Trump is rooted in the psychology of racism, and we know that involves pitting one against the other. The standard trick is to use a black person to be the face of a situation or any number of these sellout Christians preachers that reminds me of my uncle Thomas, who we call Tom.

America’s ardent belief in Democracy, particularly everywhere else in the world, is shocking because they are not practicing it on its own shores. They make every effort to deny its own citizens the right to vote. The NEOCONs and war hawks can find billions of dollar in an instant to send anywhere in the world, but it seems to have forgotten Detroit, New Orleans, and anything related to people of color or minorities. More disturbing, an unarmed black person is shot down in the street every day, and they do nothing. Rather, their focus is to help the rich and encourage more war.

Back in the day, when we protested, peacefully, they called us un-American. They told us to “love it or leave it” – “go back to Africa.” We never threatened the lives of others when blacks begged for civil rights. However, when government officials do nothing – in my opinion it is treason. Let’s remember that once upon a time, people that had this mentality thought slavery was sanctioned by “God” and good for America. These conservatives are not just racist but the “Axis of evil.” And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

The Chess Records Story

Before Motown and in the spirit of our tremendous musical legacy let me share a story of the record company that introduced the world to the blues and black music when it was called “race music”. It is the story of the legendary Chess Records Family. Let me include the great Maurice White of Earth, Wind, and Fire was nurtured and part of the Chess Family. Yes, I am talking about the ghost of the greats, which laid the founders for Rock and Roll.


                            Leonard Chess                                                Phil Chess

Leonard and Phil Chess, two Polish born immigrants, founded Chess Records the pre-eminent Blues label of the 50s and 60s.Eventually they created a monopoly of Chicago music recording, doing sessions and releasing recordings by every major blues performer from John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, “King of the Slide Guitar”, to Bo Diddley through Jimmy Reed, Chuck Berry and everyone in between.

Brothers Phil and Leonard Chess owned the upscale Macamba nightclub on Chicago’s Southside. Chess Records “Home of the Electric Blues” was started by brothers Leonard and Phil Chess in the late forties. Leonard and Phil Chess – two enterprising immigrant brothers from Poland – bought into fledgling Aristocrat Records, a label that had been formed a short time before by Evelyn Aron and her husband.

By the time they got involved with Aristocrat, Leonard and Phil were already aware of what sort of music might sell in the Black community that of a young Delta-born-and-bred slide guitarist: Muddy Waters. Waters had previously recorded for Columbia, the company but none of his work was released. When he recorded “Gypsy Woman” and “Little Anna Mae” for Aristocrat the Chess brothers found in him the means to distinguish their little company from the hundreds of other independent R&B labels springing up across the country.

At the beginning, Leonard and Phil focused their recording and publishing ventures primarily in the area of popular jazz, but soon expanded into blues, receiving their first Billboard recognition in 1947. By 1949 Aristocratic Records which became Chess Records in 1950, was a fixture in the world of music and its recordings and the songs published by Arc Music remain the most impressive collection of blues music in the world.

From their experiences in the nightclub business on the South side of Chicago, the Chess brothers understood the popular preferences of their predominantly African-American audiences, but also saw the marketability of blues music to a broader audience. In the beginning Chess Records was ran as a two man business, with Phil overseeing the nightclub and the offices of Aristocrat/Chess and Arc, while Leonard alternately scouted talent, produced the sessions, and hand delivered fresh recordings to radio stations in the Chicago area.

Willie Dixon

Slide guitarist Robert Nighthawk’s pre-war popularity made him a nice acquisition, and the 1948 session that produced his “My Sweet Lovin’ Woman” was doubly important because it introduced bassist Willie Dixon, an artist whose talent as a producer/songwriter/ session player during the 1950s and 1960s vastly contributed to the label’s long-term success.

McKinley Morganfield aka Muddy Waters and sideman Little Walter

In 1950, the Chess brothers launched Chess Records with Gene Ammons’  “My Foolish Heart,” followed by Waters’ “Rollin’ Stone.” Guitarist Jimmy Rogers made his Chess debut August of 1950, with t “That’s All Right” and “Luedella.” Little Walter who revolutionized the role of the harmonica in Chicago blues with his astonishing flights of amplified fancy. Walter’s legacy is punctuated by his slew of hits during the ’50s: “Mean Old World,” “Off The Wall,” “You’re So Fine,” and the 1955 Dixon-penned R&B chart-topper, “My Babe.”

Chester Burnett aka Howlin’ Wolf

Despite his  success with  local talent, Leonard Chess, aided by Sam Phillips, began to look outside Chicago for talent. Phillips supervised Memphis pianist Roscoe Gordon’s smash “Booted” (1952) and shipped Chess masters by Rufus Thomas, Dr. Isaiah Ross, Joe Hill Louis, and Bobby Bland, but his top contribution to the label’s legacy was Chester Arthur Burnett, a.k.a.  Howlin’ Wolf. With Ike Turner playing the piano both sides of Wolf’s first Phillips-produced Chess 78, “How Many More Years” and “Moanin’ At Midnight,” proved major sellers in 1951. By 1953, Wolf had left Memphis for Chicago, recording more hits including “Who Will Be Next” and “Smokestack Lightnin’.”

Eddie Boyd 

Willie Mabon

                                                                          Memphis Slim 

A host of other blues legends recorded for Chess during the early and mid-1950s. Memphis Slim, Eddie Boyd and Willie Mabon, assuredly did. Boyd’s 1953  “24 Hours” and “Third Degree” both sold very well, as did Mabon’s “I Don’t Know” (1952) and “I’m Mad” (1953), both number one R&B smashes.

John Lee Hooker

John Lee Hooker first recorded for Chess in 1950. Joe Williams made the charts that same year with “Every Day I Have The Blues.” Big Bill Broonzy and Washboard Sam recorded  material in ’53 that straddled the fence between pre-war Chicago blues and the brasher new style.Memphis Minnie likewise attempted to resuscitate her career with a 1952 Checker single, “Me And My Chauffeur.” On the jazzier side of the tracks, saxmen Leo Parker, Tab Smith, Lynn Hope, and Eddie Johnson kept things swinging. By the early-1950s, Water’s group added pianist Otis Spann. Though he was now a star in his own right, Little Walter still recorded behind his ex-boss on Waters’ immortal “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man” and “I’m Ready.”

Rice Miller a/k/a Sonny Boy Williamson II

In 1955  new talent was added to the Chess stable. Sonny Boy Williamson, a blues legend across the Mississippi Delta thanks to his King Biscuit Time radio broadcasts, joined Checker, a Chess subsidiary label.  For his first recording “Don’t Start Me Talkin'” Chess paired him with most of Water’s band. Bo Diddley was signed in 1955 too. His first two-sided smash for Checker, the self-titled “Bo Diddley” and “I’m A Man.

But no one at Chess had the impact on the future of popular music that Chuck Berry did. Berry accepted Water’s advice regarding the advantages of working with Leonard Chess, signing with the label in May of 1955 and his first unforgettable hit, “Maybellene.”

There were also vocal at Chess. Harvey Fuqua’s the Moonglows from Louisville had a 1954 hit with  “Sincerely,” and The Flamingos, a Chicago quintet fronted by Nate Nelson, scored big for Checker in 1956 with their dreamy “I’ll Be Home” and “A Kiss From Your Lips.”

As Berry, Bo, and the vocal groups sold platters by the crates, some of the blues greats that had epitomized Chess during its early years of operation began to recede into the background. But mainstays Muddy, Sonny Boy, and Wolf hung tough, Wolf doing some of his best work during the early ’60s when Dixon wrote “Back Door Man,” “The Red Rooster,” and “Hidden Charms” for him (the latter manically energized by Hubert Sumlin’s elastic guitar work).

In 1960, Dixon recruited younger Chicago blues talent, signing guitarists Buddy Guy (“First Time I Met The Blues” and “Broken Hearted Blues”) and Otis Rush (1960’s “So Many Roads, So Many Trains”)

Etta James

Etta James also made her Chess debut in 1960, scoring no less than four hits for the imprint that year alone. Etta’s magnificent work for Argo (and later Cadet and Chess) over the next 16 years uncovered depths of passion and pain barely
hinted at on her previous waxings. She waxed the torch ballads “At Last” and “Trust In Me” (both major hits in 1961) surrounded by sumptuous strings, rocked the house with a gospel-rooted “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” the next year, and set Muscle Shoals ablaze in ’67 with her strutting “Tell Mama,” sounding equally confident in all three diverse settings.

Fontella Bass

In addition to James had many female artists during the mid-1960s that Jan Bradley (“Mama Didn’t Lie”), Sugar Pie De Santo (“Slip-In Mules”), (“I Had A Talk With My Man”), Fontella Bass (“Rescue Me”), Jackie Ross (“Selfish One”), Jo Ann Garrett (“Stay By My Side”), Laura Lee (“Dirty Man”), and the Gems, whose precocious membership included Minnie Riperton. Even Irma Thomas joined the Chess in 1967, recording in Muscle Shoals. protégé Koko Taylor scored the last Chicago blues hit for Checker in 1966 with her growling “Wang Dang Doodle.”

As rhythm and blues merged with gospel influences to form the basis of soul, Chess was right on top of the trend. Little Milton Campbell who had hits with “We’re Gonna Make It,” “Who’s Cheating Who?” and “Grits Ain’t Groceries.”

The Dells

Along with Little Milton, were the Dells, (“There Is” and “Stay In My Corner”) the Radiants (“Voice Your Choice”), Billy Stewart (“Summertime,” “Sitting In The Park”), Bobby Moore & the Rhythm Aces (“Searching For My Love”), Tony Clarke, James Phelps, and Bobby McClure.

Tommy Tucker’s “Hi-Heel Sneakers,” a huge ’64 hit on Checker, traveled bluesier terrain, while the Ramsey Lewis Trio, with Eldee Young on bass and Red Holt on drums, turned out to be a crossover sensation when their grooving instrumental remakes of “The In Crowd” and “Hang On Sloopy” vaulted up the R&B and pop charts in 1965. Nor was the Chess combine deficient in humor – albums by veteran comics Moms Mabley and Pigmeat “Here Comes The Judge” Markham made sure of that.

Chuck Berry remained at Chess into 1966, seemingly rejuvenated after serving a prison term (his 1964 hits included “No Particular Place To Go” and “You Never Can Tell”). After unwisely switching to Mercury Records for a few lean years, he returned home to Chess and scored his biggest pop hit of all in 1972 with “My Ding-A-Ling.” Bo Diddley recorded a slew of Checker LPs throughout the decade, his trademark beat never faltering.

2120 South Michigan Avenue

So inspired by the magnificent output of Chess were the Rolling Stones that they immortalized the label’s famous address, 2120 S. Michigan Avenue, in song on one of their early LPs.

During this time, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf tried their best to cope with ’60s trends. “Muddy Waters Twist” was admittedly nothing to write home about, but his ’63 Folk Singer LP was a heartening return to his Delta roots, and 1969’s Fathers and Sons set united Muddy with adoring disciples Mike Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield. Though at the tail end of the decade producer Marshall Chess submerged Waters and Wolf in a quagmire of psychedelia, each legend emerged with his vaunted reputation intact.

In 1969, Leonard Chess died, stilling the heart and soul of Chess Records. Earlier that year, he and Phil had sold the company to GRT where producers Ralph Bass and Gene Barge tried their best to hold things together. Sadly, though, the momentum that Chess had long enjoyed quickly began to erode. In 1975, GRT closed down the logo, selling it to All Platinum Records of Englewood, New Jersey.

Finally, in 1985, MCA acquired the rights to the massive Chess catalog. At the start of 1987, MCA Vice President of Catalog Development & Special Markets A&R, Andy McKaie began to mount an ambitious long-term reissue campaign of the invaluable Chess masters – an ongoing program that rages full steam ahead all year long in 1997 with the 50th anniversary celebration.

“The impact of Chess was far wider and greater than any of the others, ranging from the impact of the Chicago blues sound, the Chuck Berry/Bo Diddley School of rock & roll, and the vocal group sounds,” he continues. “The range of that impact was so great that it’s still being felt today.

It was the profound music that made the artists of Cadillac Records the groundbreaking home for black music. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

Courtesy of DK Peneny, Published 3/98 – Last update 10/15/2009


A Sunday Morning Thought



Shameful History Of Blacks People And The Vote

5America has always had a shameful history when it comes to blacks and the vote. Since the Civil War when blacks were given the right to vote, wink-wink; although, it really did not! There were many ways created to circumvent the process; remember it did not give the right to vote to black women! They said they did this because by claiming to give the right to vote to them was supposed to make them think they were free. I remind you of this because it is election time now and blacks are about to be hoodwinked again! Let’s be clear, black people have always been marginalized and not seen as central to our society.

Society’s context has changed, somewhat, there are many links between the freedom struggle of the 1950s and 1960s and today. The Voting Rights Act (VRA), signed into law on Aug. 6, 1965, was a victory for the Civil Rights Movement but was it democracy. It outlawed strategies that had been used by white supremacists to disenfranchise Black citizens. Together with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act ended some legal forms of white supremacy. Although this was important, it did not end all forms of racial discrimination, many of which were, and are, deeply embedded in the structures of the American society.

Let’s look back at the history of blacks and voting rights. Following the Civil War, black people used the Reconstruction Amendments to democratize the South. To be clear, only men were allowed to vote in formal elections and often had to bring weapons for their protection. Whites established oppressive Jim Crow laws that remained in place until the modern Civil Rights Movement. They used, effectively, murder and the destruction of black newspapers to help accomplish this goal.

Whites and their textbooks generally do not list the Jim Crow practices or the grandfather clauses, literacy tests, or the poll tax, but less well known are the economic terrorism and violence that backed up these strategies they used to Black voting. For example, a Mississippi sharecropper Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer describes what happened when she took the registration test in 1962: she was viciously beaten in jail, and in 1964 denied the right to vote.

Another example was in 1944, the NAACP won a landmark case, Smith v. Allwright, ruling that white primary where only white voters could participate in political primaries, later ruled unconstitutional. This victory inspired an upsurge in Black voter registration that was reinforced by Black veterans returning home from overseas. One of these veterans was Medgar Evers, who became Mississippi’s first NAACP field secretary and was assassinated in June 1963 for his civil rights work. The Supreme Court gradually outlawed discriminatory practices, like the grandfather clause, the white primary, and the poll tax, but the federal government played a passive role.

Some white supremacist judges blocked the department’s work at every turn and the FBI only reluctantly carried out the necessary investigations. And after initially promising to protect anyone working on voter registration, the Kennedy administration backtracked, and the FBI refused to protect civil rights workers, even when they were attacked on federal property in front of agents.

White supremacists responded to the voting rights campaign by manipulating the registration process, firing and evicting people, burning and bombing homes and churches, beating and even murdering people. White officials then used the low numbers of African Americans registered to vote to insist that Blacks had no interest in politics. In response, SNCC organized Freedom Days, first in Selma, Alabama, in 1963and in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in 1964.

Whether in the punishing sun or pouring rain, people lined up to demonstrate their desire to vote. With little chance of actually registering, much less voting, they stayed in line and refused to be intimidated by white threats and harassment. Then in 1963, SNCC and other began to challenge the whole idea of requiring literacy to vote. They had encountered many people who had been denied education but still had more than enough wisdom to vote on their representatives.

For example, in Lowndes County, Alabama, with an approximately 80 percent African American population, but no Black registered voters. So their efforts equip the people with the information and skills essential to running the county themselves not just as new voters but also as political leaders. The SNCC “developed a unique political education program that used workshops, mass meetings, and primers to increase general knowledge of local government and democratize political behavior.”

SNCC’s work followed Ella Baker’s belief that “In order for us as poor and oppressed people to become part of a society that is meaningful, the system under which we now exist has to be radically changed. . . It means facing a system that does not lend itself to your needs and devising means by which you change that system.”

Moving forward to today, in July 2013, a deeply divided U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder. Arguing in part that it is arbitrary and no longer necessary to focus exclusively on the former Confederacy, the Court’s majority eliminated the pre-clearance requirement for nine Southern states. This means that the Justice Department can no longer check for racial bias in new laws in these states.

This along with other forms of voter suppression enacted throughout the state in this country; it is clear that we still need robust, proactive tools to protect voting rights for all citizens, but particularly African Americans, students, immigrants, and other marginalized groups.

Rather than being curtailed, the Voting Rights Act should be extended. No doubt future historians will look back at today’s voter ID laws, ex-felon disenfranchisement, and other forms of voter suppression (including Jim Crow voting booths) as a 21st-century version of the literacy tests, poll tax, and grandfather clause of the last century.

Ella Baker’s words still echo today. In 1964 she said, “Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother’s son, we who believe in freedom cannot rest.” I agree! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Smokey Robinson A Musical Genius

The prolific singer-songwriter William “Smokey” Robinson, Jr. is the most  prolific entertainer of our lifetime. A thousand years from now you will hear Smokey’s music. To prove my point, “My Girl” first recorded by the Temptations is timeless, and the recording sounds as fresh today as it did in 1965. Smokey is also a record producer, former record executive, and one of the founders of the music label that changed the world – Motown.

Robinson is most notable for being a songwriter, sure, but he was also the founder and front man of The Miracles, for which he also served as the group’s chief songwriter and producer. Robinson led the group from its 1955 origins as The Five Chimes until 1972 when he announced retirement from the stage to focus on his role as Motown’s vice president.

Smokey was born in Detroit and raised in the city’s North End section. At one point, he and Diana Ross were next-door neighbors, which he had known since she was eight. He later told reporters when he was a child; his uncle christened him “Smokey Joe”, which he assumed was a “cowboy name for me” until he was later told that Smokey was a pejorative term for dark-skinned blacks. He once said that he remembers his uncle saying to him, “I’m doing this so you won’t ever forget that you’re black.”

In August 1958, Robinson met songwriter Berry Gordy, who had recently stopped writing songs for Jackie Wilson after getting into a royalty dispute with Wilson’s label. Gordy took an interest in Smokey and his group to which Gordy was more impressed at the fact that Robinson was a writer than as a singer. Gordy agreed to work with them and with his help the Matadors released their first single. Following this, the group changed its name to The Miracles after Claudette Rogers replaced Emerson Rogers.

After a number of failures and difficulties with money, Smokey suggested to Gordy that he start his own label, which Gordy agreed. Following the forming of Tamla Records, later reincorporated as Motown, the Miracles became one of the first acts signed to the label. In late 1960, the group recorded their first hit single, “Shop Around”, which became Motown’s first million-selling single. Between 1960 and 1970, Smokey would produce 26 top forty hits with the Miracles.

By 1969, Robinson had voiced his opinion on wanting to retire from the road to focus on raising a family with wife Claudette and their two children, and to focus on his duties as Motown’s Vice President. However, the late success of the group’s track, “Tears of a Clown”, caused Robinson to stay with the group until 1972. Robinson’s last performance with the group was on July 1972 in Washington DC.

After a year of retirement, Smokey announced his comeback with the release of the album titled “Smokey” in 1973. The album included the Miracles tribute song, “Sweet Harmony” and the hit ballad “Baby Come Close”. That same year, former Beatle George featured the track “Pure Smokey” as a tribute to his idol. In 1974, Robinson’s second album, Pure Smokey was released but failed to produce hits.

Robinson answered his critics the following year with A Quiet Storm, released in 1975. The album launched three singles – the number-one R&B hit “Baby That’s Backatcha”, “The Agony & The Ecstasy” and “Quiet Storm”. With his nearly sixty years in the music industry, he is still one of the most respected and gifted musicians to grace the stage or play the game.

Try to imagine, what the world would be like if we had never been blessed with the legend known by the name – “Smokey” – we love you and thank you for paving the way. God Bless you and that is my Thought Provoking Perspective…

The Great Haitian Liberator

220px-Toussaint_L'Ouverture_engravingThe Great Leader of the Most Successful Slave Revolt in history was Toussaint L’Overture, a black man born into Slavery rose to become the Haitian Revolutionary, Patriot and Martyr in what was then Saint-Domingue. The fact that no records were kept on slave births – no one knows for sure. He was a self-educated slave, freed in 1791.

Toussaint L’Overture’s military genius and political acumen transformed an entire society of slaves into the independent state of Haiti. The success of the Haitian Revolution shook the institution of slavery throughout the New World. Under his leadership, Haiti became the only place on earth where slaves created a nation and the only successful slave insurrection in history.

He was comparable to the great African General Hannibal. His accomplishments grasped the full meaning of French revolutionary ideas — liberté, eqalité, fraternité — and used them to create the world’s first Black republic. This revolution in Haiti made it possible for America to obtain half of its nation [The Louisiana Purchase]. This revolution by a slave frightened the white power structure to the point of making the word Haiti synonymous with HELL!!!

“In overthrowing me you have cut down in Saint Domingue only the trunk of the tree of liberty; it will spring up again from the roots, for they are numerous, and they are deep.”

Toussaint L’Overture was captured and sent to the jail in Fort-de-Joux in the Doubs, France. While in prison, he died on the seventh of April, 1803. The suggested causes of death include exhaustion, malnutrition, apoplexy, pneumonia and possibly tuberculosis. In his absence, Jean-Jacques Dessalines led the Haitian rebellion until its completion, finally defeating the French forces in 1803.

Here is a little-known fact that Americans were never taught. Not only did George Washington own hundreds of slaves, he gave his overseers written authorization to whip those enslaved Africans he considered to be in need of such “correction.” Washington sent a “rogue and runaway” enslaved African to the West Indies to be sold for rum and molasses. Therefore, Washington had no tolerance for enslaved African uprisings against slavery. In 1791 as president, he authorized emergency financial and military relief to French slave owners in Haiti to suppress the Haitian revolution.

You will not be taught this history. Watch and learn, and that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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