Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist/Legend Charles Edward Anderson “Chuck” Berry born October 18, 1926, in St. Louis, Missouri transitioned this life at his home in St. Louis to be with the ancestors on March 18, 2017. They told us this person or that person created Rock & Roll, namely folks like Elvis, but we know like everything in America was stolen from black people. So it is well-known that the great Mr. Berry was the creator and the beginning of what is called Rock & Roll. That’s it and that’s all! Thank you sir for all that you gave the world – R.I.P. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…
Category Archives: blues
The racial history of America is sad and shameful, yet they continue to tell us how special and unique America is by repeating the same lie – “All men are created equal”. Most of America’s history, a black person had virtually no rights at all. However, the most egregious of them all was that a person of color could be killed for simply learning how to read or caught reading a book. The day of this ruling was one of the most important days in all of black history, except of course the slave’s emancipation!
It has been said that the South will rise again. As I look at America, it is rising with the help of the conservatives and other bigots. In fact, I say racism is alive and well. Back in the day, rather from the beginning of America, there was nothing more important to white folk of this ilk than restricting or denying education to black people; as it was against the law for the African to read. Jim Crow Laws enforced something they called “separate but equal” – better known as legal segregation. If you look at the numbers today, we are virtually in the same place regarding the current educational system in many places across the country as black people were back in the day. Also, they have virtually priced black people out of a college education.
It’s been over sixty years since the landmark Brown v Board of Education case successfully argued before Supreme Court of the United States that allow equality in education. This case changed the face of America in a way unlike any other decision before or since. Here’s the story of how that came to be.
The Brown Case, as it is known, was not the first such case regarding civil rights argued before the court. However, it was the most significant of what some would say was the final battle in the courts that had been fought by African American parents since 1849, which started with Roberts v. City of Boston, Massachusetts.
It is important to note that Kansas was the site of eleven such cases spanning from 1881 to 1949. With that said, I would like to take the opportunity to pay homage to the valor of a skillful attorney, Thurgood Marshall, who brilliantly won this case and more than fifty other cases before the Supreme Court – winning all of them.
The Brown case was initiated and organized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) leadership who recruited African American parents in Topeka, Kansas for a class action suit against the local school board. The Supreme Court combined five cases under the heading of Brown v. Board of Education: Delaware, Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The ultimate goal sought by the NAACP was to end the practice of “separate but equal” throughout every segment of society, including public transportation, dining facilities, public schools and all forms of public accommodations. The Case was named after Oliver Brown one of 200 plaintiffs.
The Brown Supreme Court ruling determined racial segregation in public education was unconstitutional in Brown I, the first opinion. The court’s implementation mandate of “with all deliberate speed” in 1955, known as Brown II. In 1979, twenty-five years later, there was a Brown III because Topeka was not living up to the earlier Supreme Court ruling, which resulted in Topeka Public Schools building three magnet schools to comply with the court’s findings.
As had been the case since Homer Plessy, the subject in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a Louisiana law mandating separate but equal accommodations for blacks and whites on intrastate railroads was constitutional. This decision provided the legal foundation to justify many other actions by state and local governments to socially separate blacks and whites.
Now that I have provided some history related to the case let me add my commentary. It has been said, “As sure as things change they remain the same”. First, it took 60 years to overturn Plessy with the Brown case, and it took “with all deliberate speed” 13 years for integration to begin fully. During this period from 1954 to 1967, Governors blocked school entrances and actually closed schools rather than comply with the law of the land. I am not going to touch on the violence that caused President’s to send the US Army and National Guard troops to schools in order to protect the safety of those the ruling was intended benefit as a result of the Brown decision.
Since then and over time many scams have been devised to disenfranchise minorities and African Americans in particular – need I remind you of “No Child Left Behind”. This brings us to where we are today. Schools are more segregated than at ever, poorly funded, dilapidated facilities, and a police presence to save, oftentimes, the kids from themselves. The dropout rate averages 2 to 1. These are just a few issues and by any measure of academic standards or common sense – is a failure.
Let’s make sure we understand that public education was not created to develop minds, rather it was intended to simply teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. It was created to maintain a permanent underclass. Maybe the word “class” is the operative word in all of this – the haves have, and the have not’s will have not. So as sure as things change they remain the same.
We must remember the ghosts of so many who fought and died for the principle that “education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize those forces that breed poverty and despair.” Black History is American History! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…
The genius whose government name is Sylvester Stewart, creator and frontman, of Sly & The Family Stone harnessed all of the disparate musical and social trends of the late 60s. This group shook up the music world creating a wild, brilliant fusion of soul, rock, R&B, and psychedelic funk that broke boundaries down without a second thought. The band was comprised of men and women, and blacks and whites, making the band the first fully integrated group in rock’s history caused an integration shone through the music, as well as their message.
Before Stone, very few soul and R&B groups delved into political and social commentary; after him, it became a tradition in soul, funk, and hip-hop that evolved into the mainstream body of music. The Family Stone’s arrangements were ingenious, filled with unexpected group vocals, syncopated rhythms, punchy horns, and pop melodies. Their music was joyous, but as the 60s ended, so did the good times. Stone became disillusioned with the ideals he had been preaching in his music, becoming addicted to a variety of drugs in the process.
His music gradually grew slower and darker, culminating in 1971s There’s a Riot Going On, which set the pace for 70s funk with its elastic bass, slurred vocals and militant Black Power stance. Stone was able to turn out one more modern funk classic, 1973s Fresh, before slowly succumbing to his addictions, which gradually sapped him of his once prodigious talents. Nevertheless, his music continued to provide the basic template for urban soul, funk, and even hip-hop well into the ’90s.
During 1966, Sly formed the Stoners, which featured trumpeter Cynthia Robinson. Though the Stoners didn’t last long, he brought Robinson along as one of the core members of his next group, Sly & the Family Stone. Formed in early 1967, the Family Stone also featured Fred Stewart (guitar, vocals), Larry Graham (bass, vocals), Greg Errico (drums), Jerry Martini (saxophone), and Rosie Stone (piano), who all were of different racial backgrounds.
The group’s eclectic music and multiracial composition made them distinctive from the numerous flower-power bands in San Francisco, and their first single, “I Ain’t Got Nobody,” became a regional hit for the local label Loadstone. The band signed with Epic Records shortly afterward, releasing their debut album, A Whole New Thing, by the end of the year.
The record stiffed, but the follow-up, Dance to the Music, generated a Top Ten pop and R&B hit with its title track early in 1968. Life followed later in 1968, but the record failed to capitalize on its predecessor’s success. “Everyday People,” released late in 1968, turned their fortunes back around, rocketing to the top of the pop and R&B charts and setting the stage for the breakthrough success of 1969’s Stand! At this point, the group took over the sound of the music industry!
Featuring “Everyday People,” “Sing a Simple Song,” “Stand,” and “I Want to Take You Higher,” became the Family Stone’s first genuine hit album, climbing to number 13 and spending over 100 weeks on the charts. Stand! Marked the emergence of a political bent in Stone’s songwriting (“Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey”), as well as the development of hard-edged, improvisational funk like “Sex Machine.” The Family Stone quickly became known as one of the best live bands of the late 60s, and their performance at Woodstock was widely hailed as one of the festival’s best.
The non-LP singles “Hot Fun in the Summertime” and “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” b/w “Everybody Is a Star” became hits, reaching number two and number one respectively in late 1969/early 1970. Both singles were included on Greatest Hits, which became a number two record upon its fall 1970 release.
While the group was at the height of its popularity, Sly was beginning to unravel behind the scenes. Developing a debilitating addiction to narcotics, Stone soon became notorious for arriving late for concerts, frequently missing the shows altogether. I personally paid to see Sly and the Family Stone on three different occasions and have yet to see him perform. However, it did not deter me from being one of their biggest fans.
Stone’s growing personal problems, as well as his dismay with the slow death of the civil rights movement and other political causes, surfaced on “There’s a Riot Goin’On”. Though the album shot to number one upon its fall 1971 release, the record — including “Family Affair,” Stone’s last number one single — was dark, hazy, and paranoid, and his audience began to shrink slightly.
During 1972, several key members of the Family Stone, including Graham and Errico, left the band; they were replaced by Rusty Allen and Andy Newmark, respectively. The relatively lighter Fresh appeared in the summer of 1973, and it went into the Top Ten on the strength of the Top Ten R&B hit “If You Want Me to Stay.” Released the following year, Small Talk was a moderate hit, reaching number 15 on the charts and going gold, but it failed to generate a big hit single. High on You, released in late 1975 and credited only to Sly Stone, confirmed that his power and popularity had faded. “I Get High on You” reached the R&B Top Ten, but the album made no lasting impact.
Sly virtually disappeared for years later to resurface destitute and homeless, but the sound he created lives on. It is said that most people get 15 minutes of fame while others become infamous for inspiring generations with a sound that changed the music world for all times. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…
There is nothing that gives me more pride than paying homage to the remarkable trailblazers who paved the way for others to follow. None was more significant that the lady known as “the Horne”! The electrifying beauty and uncompromising performer Lena Horne shattered racial boundaries by changing the way Hollywood presented black women for six decades through a singing career, stage, television, and in films.
She is best described in her own words saying, “my identity was clear because I no longer have to be a ‘credit,’ I don’t have to be a ‘symbol’ to anybody. I don’t have to be a ‘first’ to anybody. I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.”
In 1933, Ms. Horne was pushed into a job at the Cotton Club by her mother, who knew the Harlem nightclub’s choreographer. The segregated club attracted white clientele, who liked to watch the top black entertainers of the day, such as Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway, surrounded by what was promoted as a “tall, tan and terrific” chorus of girls.
The Horne, as she was endearing called because of her striking beauty and voice, considered one of the most beautiful women in the world, attracted the attention of Hollywood in 1942. She was the first black woman to sign a meaningful long-term contract with a major studio, a contract that said she would never have to play a maid. This single act transformed the image of the African American woman in Hollywood.
As a film historian, Donald Bogle said, “Movies are a powerful medium and always depicted African American women before Lena Horne as hefty, mammy-like maids who were ditzy and giggling… Lena Horne becomes the first one the studios begin to look at differently… Really just by being there, being composed and onscreen with her dignity intact paved the way for a new day” for black actresses.
In Hollywood, Ms. Horne received previously unheard-of star treatment for a black actor. Her reputation in Hollywood rested on a handful of classic musical films. Among the best were two all-black musicals from 1943: “Cabin in the Sky,” as a small-town temptress who pursues Eddie “Rochester” Anderson; and “Stormy Weather,” in which she played a career-obsessed singer opposite Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. She shared billing with hugely famous white entertainers such as Gene Kelly, Lucille Ball, Mickey Rooney and Red Skelton but was segregated onscreen so producers could clip out her singing when the movies ran in the South. “Mississippi wanted its movies without me,” she once told the New York.
Metro Goldwyn Mayer studios featured Ms. Horne in movies and advertisements as glamorously as white beauties including Hedy Lamarr, Rita Hayworth, and Betty Grable. James Gavin, who has written a biography of Ms. Horne, said: “Given the horrible restrictions of the time, MGM bent over backward to do everything they could. After MGM, she was an international star, and that made her later career possible, made her a superstar.” Ms. Horne appeared on television and at major concerts halls in New York, London, and Paris. She starred on Broadway twice, and her 1981 revue, “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music,” set the standard for the one-person musical show, reviewers said. The performance also netted her a special Tony Award and two Grammy Awards. She was formidable and the first black cabaret star for white society.
As a songstress, her repertoire consisted of sophisticated ballads of Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Frank Loesser and Billy Strayhorn. She loved the music but also said she liked surprising the white audience who expected black entertainers to sing hot jazz or blues and dance wildly. In her singing, Ms. Horne showed great range and could convincingly shift between jazz, blues, and cabaret ballads. New Yorker jazz writer Whitney Balliett praised her “sense of dynamics that allowed her to whisper and wheedle and shout.”
She told the New York Times in 1981, “I thought, ‘How can I sing about a penthouse in the sky, when with the housing restrictions the way they are, I wouldn’t be allowed to rent the place?” In the late 1940’s and 1950’s, she chose to focus on quietly defying segregation policies at upscale hotels in Miami Beach and Las Vegas where she performed. At the time, it was customary for black entertainers to stay in black neighborhoods, but Ms. Horne successfully insisted that she and her musicians be allowed to stay wherever she entertained. One Las Vegas establishment reportedly had its chambermaids burn Ms. Horne’s sheets.
In 1963, Ms. Horne appeared at the civil rights March on Washington with Harry Belafonte and Dick Gregory and was part of a group, which included authors James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry that met with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to urge a more active approach to desegregation. Ms. Horne also used her celebrity to rally front-line civil rights activists in the South and was a fundraiser for civil right groups including the NAACP and the National Council of Negro Women.
Working closely with NAACP Executive Secretary Walter White, Ms. Horne said she wanted to “try to establish a different kind of image for Negro women.” They successfully challenged the casting system that had long marginalized black performers onscreen by having them portray servants, minstrels or jungle natives.
To Ms. Horne’s surprise, her efforts to overcome servile screen parts was resented by many black actors who viewed her as a threat more than a pioneer. She said she was perceived as a danger to the system of informal “captains” in the black acting community who worked as liaisons with film producers when they needed “natives” for the latest Tarzan picture.
After the triumph of her 1981 Broadway show, she led an increasingly isolated life in her Manhattan apartment. Over my lifetime, I have seen and known giants who have illuminated the world. None shined brighter than “The Horne”. A life rich in wonder who now belong to the ages. Rest In Peace Ms. Horne as you take your rest among the ghost of the great. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…
Aretha or Ree Ree, as we affectionately call her sometimes, earned the title “Lady Soul” early in her career but I think “Queen of Soul” is more appropriate, which she has worn uncontested since she recorded her first tune. As much of an international institution as she’s become, much of her work, if not all, is fitfully inspired by her gospel roots making her music a must and in some cases a necessity, for our listening pleasure.
Franklin grew up in the bosom of gospel music, one of six children, and daughter to a Baptist preacher. Moving from her birthplace of Memphis, Tenn. and finally settling with her family in Detroit. Her early years were filled with musical experiences and environments from two cities that were brimming with groundbreaking music – from gospel to soul to R & B – in the 1950s and 60s.
Franklin’s first recordings with Columbia did not receive the accolades the label thought they would receive, and it wasn’t until she began her career at Atlantic Records did she find her real place in music, eventually becoming the recipient of 18 Grammies.
Aretha’s voice has been the prize to which so many females over the last 50 years have set their eyes, striving to emulate with success her depth of feeling, her soulful cadence and the natural essence that seems to flow from within her and into her music. From girl groups to solo artists, so many women, young and old, see her more than just a role model for music, but for womanhood in general.
As a compliment to the Queen, I see her in the metaphorical sense like the guy from the movie “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which was about a man who gets younger as he ages. She gets better with time! Aretha’s ongoing, lifelong career is bar-none one of the most profound and greatest of our time. Her music remains the foundation for so many to live by and love, and it has stood the test of time. All Hail the Queen. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…
John Harold Johnson, the grandson of slaves, rose to become one of the greatest African American entrepreneurs. Mr. Johnson was the founder of the Johnson Publishing Company and became the first African American to appear on the Forbes 400. This businessman and publisher created the most important media source for the black community ever. It is an honor for me to pay homage to Mr. Johnson for his devotion to the African American community and the pride his publication instilled.
In my view, his greatest and most important accomplishment occurred in 1955 when he made the profound decision at Emmett’s mothers request to publish young Emmett’s open casket photograph mangled and brutally beaten. If it had not been for Mr. Johnson’s JET Magazine, the world would never have known of this horrific murder. I will give thanks to him because it was this decision that sparked the modern civil rights movement.
Born in the south but after a visit with his mother to the Chicago World’s Fair, they decided that opportunities in the North were more plentiful than in the South. Facing poverty on every side in Arkansas during the Great Depression, the family moved to Chicago, Illinois, in 1933 to try to find work and for Johnson to continue his education.
Johnson endured much teasing and taunting at his high school for his ragged clothes and country ways, as he encountered something he never knew existed: Middle-class blacks. At DuSable High School, his classmates included Nat King Cole, Redd Foxx, and future entrepreneur William Abernathy. This only fueled his already formidable determination to “make something of himself”. Johnson’s high-school career was distinguished by the leadership qualities he demonstrated as student council president and as editor of the school newspaper and class yearbook. This would prove to be valuable later in his life.
Johnson began as an office boy at Supreme Life and within two years had become Pace’s assistant. His duties included preparing a monthly digest of newspaper articles. Johnson began to wonder if other people in the community might not enjoy the same type of service. He conceived of a publication patterned after Reader’s Digest. His work at Supreme Life also gave him the opportunity to see the day-to-day operations of a business owned by an African American and fostered his dream of starting a business of his own.
Once the idea of The Negro Digest occurred to him, it began to seem like a “black gold mine”, Johnson stated in his autobiography Succeeding against the Odds. He remained enthusiastic even though he was discouraged on all sides from doing so. Only his mother, a woman with biblical faith and deep religious convictions, as well as a powerful belief in her son, supported his vision and allowed him to use her furniture as collateral for a $500 loan. He used this loan to publish the first edition of Negro Digest in 1942.
Johnson expanded his business interests to areas other than his magazines. He became chairperson and chief executive officer of the Supreme Life Insurance Company. He developed a line of cosmetics, purchased three radio stations, started a book publishing company, and a television production company, and served on the board of directors of several major businesses, including the Greyhound Corporation.
Johnson Publishing Company also has a book division and employs more than 2,600 people, with sales of over $388 million. In addition, Johnson Publishing owns Fashion Fair the world’s number one makeup and skin care company for women of color, and Supreme Beauty products such as hair care for men and women, and is involved in television production and produces the Ebony Fashion Fair the world’s largest traveling fashion show, which has donated over $47 million to charity. The show visits more than 200 cities in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean.
On January 31, 2012, the United States Postal Service honored John H. Johnson with a commemorative stamp as the newest addition to its Black Heritage Series. The John H. Johnson School of Communications at Howard University is named in his honor. Therefore, I send the highest praise to this great champion of the world.
Your publishing the open coffin pictures of little Emmett Till opened the eyes of the world to the brutality inflicted upon our people was the spark that started the modern Civil Rights Movement. If I may speak for all African American’s – thank you, Sir, for having the vehicles that uplifted and inspired us all with so much pride. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…
Some tunes stand the test of time, like “My Girl” and the same can be said about some groups. When you hear the melodies and incomparable classic of the Temptations today you immediately think of the greatest group of voices that ever sang a song.
The Grammy-Winning Temptations achieved their legendary fame as one of the most successful acts to record for Motown Records. It’s rare for someone to change the course of time but this group changed the face of music. Often imitated but rarely duplicated!
The original group included second tenor/baritone Otis Williams, first tenor Elbridge “Al” Bryant, bass Melvin Franklin, first tenor/falsetto Eddie Kendricks and second tenor/baritone Paul Williams (no relation to Otis). Among the most notable future Temptations were lead singers David Ruffin and Dennis Edwards both of whom became successful Motown solo artists after leaving the group. Other members included Richard Street, Damon Harris, Ron Tyson, Ali-Ollie Woodson, Theo Peoples, G.C. Cameron and about fifty members total over time.
The history of the Temptations started in Detroit the home of Motown Records around 1961 as the Elgins. Overtime, as members came and went the new members carried the torch with finesse for decades. I would say this was accomplished because of the group’s mantra was “no one member is bigger than the group” and although the lineup frequently changed their impeccable sound did not.
A Motown-centric biography on the Temptations would start pretty glumly. Success eluded the group at first. Working at Motown was a “Dream Come True,” but even that song didn’t bring lasting fame. In 1963, a violent scuffle between Elbridge Bryant and Paul Williams preceded “Al’s” exit. Enter David Ruffin whose weathered tenor injected intriguing angst into the sweetest songs.
The Temptations with David Ruffin and new tunes by Smokey Robinson was the injection of magic and the just kept coming. The Kendricks led song, “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” broke pop’s Top 20 and “My Girl,” 1964 became their signature. Meanwhile, Ruffin switched off with Kendricks at lead was like nothing that has come before or since.
Norman Whitfield, a rival producer, offered brawnier hits than Robinson’s, like “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” and “I Wish It Would Rain.” By the late ’60s, his collaborations with Eddie Holland, and Barrett Strong, had earned him exclusive control over the music of the Temptations.
The group developed its own recognizable style. The Temptations wardrobe ran the fashion gamut: tuxedos, capes, leather, linen, blues, limes, you name it. But the Tempts always looked sharp and fun in their costumes. Eddie Kendricks held some sway over this easy sophistication.
Under the direction of Broadway hoofer Cholly Atkins, the Temptations became renowned dancers, as well. Daily two-hour rehearsals ensured their movements were precise and spectacular enough to rivet fans from bare stages. Paul Williams’ choreography, including the Temptation Walk, oozed sheer erotic energy.
Onstage, group harmony ruled. Offstage, conflicts abounded, particularly between Ruffin and the others. Too much ego and flakiness cost him his membership in 1968. Though he released his own smash, “My Whole World Ended,” solo super-stardom was not meant to be.
Enter, ex-Contour Dennis Edwards’ convincing vocals, new songs by the Temptations re-emphasized the ensemble. Whitfield’s ambitious “psychedelic soul” phase fused denser grooves with sociopolitical observations, helping fans dance and think at once. Commercially, the Tempts stayed put on “Cloud Nine.”
In 1971 brought both returns and departures after “Just My Imagination,” a throwback to their tender ballads. Exit Eddie Kendricks for a solo career and the disco-esque hits, “Keep on Truckin'” and “Boogie Down.” Exit Paul Williams died as a result of suicide. Two new tenors, Richard Street and Damon Harris gamely met the challenge and held their own against the older classics.
In 1975 things shifted from Harris to Glenn Leonard. Then from Dennis Edwards to Louis Price to Dennis Edwards (who’d leave and come back several times). Then from Motown to Atlantic in 1977, then back to Motown in the early ’80s. Just in time for a reunion tour with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks!
Enter the great Ali Ollie Woodson who played an integral part in keeping the Temptations from becoming just a nostalgia act. I would refer to him as the Temptations Temptation. I mean this in the sense that by the early 1980s, the Temptations were no longer posting hit after hit as they had in the 1960s and ’70s with songs like “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” “My Girl,” and “I Wish It Would Rain.” They soared once again with Ali!
In 1989, in flesh and in spirit, the six classic members shared the stage once more at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Smooth spokesman Otis Williams, beloved Batman fanatic Melvin Franklin, ethereally elegant Eddie Kendricks, dynamic David Ruffin, and hard-hitting Dennis Edwards all accepted the award post harmoniously for the late Paul Williams.
All I can say is thanks for the spirit of these great men for their contribution to the world. The Temptations will live for all times. Thank you fellas! And that’s my thought Provoking Perspective…