Tag Archives: Aretha Franklin

All Hail The Queen

1The world renowned Diva Aretha Franklin is without question the most profound voice of our time. She is universally considered the Queen of Soul standing head and shoulders above all others. However, she is not only a giant of the soul music genre, but to pop and gospel music as well; more than any other performer, she epitomized soul derived from her gospel-charged roots. The Queen established an astonishing run of hits like “Respect,” “I Never Loved a Man,” “Chain of Fools,” “Baby I Love You,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Think,” “The House That Jack Built,” and so many more great tunes during her career that we love.

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…

Media Kit


Remembering: Bobby Womack “The Poet”

007_1000I love to pay homage to the ghost of the greats and, in this case, this man is one of the greatest. In today’s music world, the man is one of those people called a legend. Unfortunately, most are not wise enough to know they stand on the shoulders of giants, which is really a shame when you think about it. In my view, these modern artists probably won’t be remembered in a year let alone for decades. This artist, “Robert Dwayne Womack”, affectionately known as Bobby, the poet will be remembered for all time as a legend.

Born Cleveland’s Fairfax neighborhood on March 4, 1944 and became an active recording artist in the early 1960s, when he started his career as the lead singer of his family musical group the Valentinos and as a backup   guitarist, Womack’s career spanned more than 50 years, during which he played in the styles of R&B, soul, rock and roll, doo-wop, gospel, and country. Most people don’t know that he wrote and originally recorded the Rolling Stones’ first UK No. 1 hit, “It’s All Over Now” and New Birth’s “I Can Understand It” many other songs.

According to Bobby, his father caught him playing with his guitar and was shocked by his son’s talents, as well as the talents of his other sons. Soon afterward, he bought Bobby his own guitar and formed The Womack Brothers and began touring on the gospel circuit with their parents accompanying them on organ and guitar respectively. In 1954, under the moniker Curtis Womack and the Womack Brothers, the group issued the Pennant single, “Buffalo Bill”. Bobby was only ten years old at the time.

It was the great Sam Cooke who discovered the group performing while he was still in the Soul Stirrers in 1956 and began mentoring the boys. Within four years, Cooke had formed SAR Records and signed the quintet to the label. Changing their name to the Valentinos, Cooke produced and arranged the group’s first hit single, “Looking for a love”, which was a pop version of a gospel song they had recorded titled “Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray”. The song became an R&B hit and helped land the group an opening spot for James Brown’s tour. The Valentinos’ career was left shaky after Sam Cooke was shot and killed in a Los Angeles motel. Devastated by the news, the brothers disbanded, and SAR Records folded.

However, the sad part of Womack’s story is that shortly after the death of Sam Cooke he married his wife, and the prolific songwriter was blackballed by the music industry. During this period, he worked as a studio musician play on recording made by many top artists. After years of this work, he got a break. His work as a songwriter caught the eye of music executives after Wilson Pickett took a liking to some of the songs and insisted on recording them. Among those songs included the hits “I’m a Midnight Mover” and “I’m in Love”.

Following years of isolation, in 1968, he signed with Minit Records and recorded his first solo album, Fly Me to the Moon, where he scored his first major hit with a cover of “California Dreaming”. The door was open, and the hits started coming. During this period, nearly all of the major artist either worked with or recorded his songs.

Name the artist and they were influenced by the poet: The likes of George Benson, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Snoop Dogg, Rod Stewart, the Momma’s and Poppa’s, Wilson Pickett, Rolling Stones, Sly and the Family Stone, Rufus, The Crusaders, Patti LaBelle, Jodeci, Mos Def, Mariah Carey, Destiny’s Child, Teena Marie, Gerald Levert, Ron Isley, Prince, and the list goes on and on.

As a singer he is most notable known for the hits “Lookin For a Love”, “That’s The Way I Feel About Cha”, “Woman’s Gotta Have It”, “Harry Hippie”, “Across 110th Street” and his 1980s hit “If you Think You’re Lonely Now”. In early 2012, Womack’s career was the subject of the documentary show Unsung on TV One.

One of my favorite songs Bobby made a powerful statement “Where Do We Go From Here”. I think it is a fitting statement! The poet made and wrote songs that are timeless! Sadly for the world, Bobby Womack left this earthly realm to write songs for the heavily choir in glory. Bless you my brother and God Bless your soul – RIP! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Soul Survivor Dennis Edwards

2

On this day, I have decided to dedicate and pay homage to one of the voices of my favorite group of all-time – The Temptations. Come along as I stroll down memory lane remembering the sweetness of harmony that is realized when we think of the Temptations. We know the classic lineup change often, but the music remained true to the “Temps” style.

Those who know the group, know that the great David Ruffin was only a member for about four years. In that short period of time, he became a legend, and that classic lineup became virtually immortal. After his departure, they needed a replacement, and they turned to the perfect compliment. Dennis Edwards, an ex Contour, is truly underrated for his work taking the group in a different direction and to another level. Imagine, if you can, replacing a living legend. We could say that it was the Dennis Edwards era of greatness.

Dennis Edwards came to Motown in search of a solo career. Motown signed him on a retainer, in order to keep him from signing with another label. He was eventually slotted into the rough and rowdy Contours. Meanwhile, Otis Williams and Eddie Kendricks, having seen him as he dominated a Contours performance, figured he would be a perfect replacement for David Ruffin, whose showboating had gotten on the groups last nerve.

With the addition of Dennis came a whole new sound, thanks to the genius of Norman Whitfield. “Cloud Nine” would give Motown and the Tempts their first Grammy. For the next six years Dennis’ soulful shout would be heard on hit after hit, including “I Can’t Get Next To You”, “Don’t Let The Jonses Get You Down”, “Ball Of Confusion”, and, of course, Grammy winner “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone”.

By 1975, the group became tired of the social conscious “message” songs and wanted to return to the love songs they so enjoyed. The Tempt’s left Motown for Atlantic and Jeffrey Bowen took over production, and as a result, A Song For You would turn out to be one of the group’s most satisfying albums, as well as proving the versatility of Edwards.

Longevity is something that is rare in the music business. The Detroit-raised Edwards, who moved to St. Louis in the 70s to be close to his mother, remarked in a recent interview “I never imagined I’d be one of the last ones standing, me and Otis… We really got caught up in the times, and how the heck did I make it? … I had a mother who prayed for me, and prayer changes everything.”

Dennis always wanting a solo career, left the group and cut a solo album for Motown. The album never materialized and after a short and humbling stint as a construction worker, Dennis rejoined the group, who had returned to Motown, for the triumphant release of Power, a Berry Gordy produced album.

During all this, Dennis finally did release his first solo album, Don’t Look Any Further, in 1984. It was a great album, the title song with Siedah Garrett being one of the great duets of the decade, but Dennis began having problems with drugs. A second album, Coolin’ Out, was released the next year but proved to be far inferior to the first. The title track was a moving and autobiographical piece on which Dennis sings about trying to put his life back together.

In 1987, Dennis would again return to Motown for the appropriately titled, Together Again. But in 1988, embattled by personal crisis, he left the group for good. In 1989, after talking with friends and former group mates Ruffin and Kendricks at the Temptations R&R Hall of Fame Induction ceremony. He united with the pair and the trio set off on a historic US tour. A couple of years later, the unexpected deaths of his good friends, Ruffin and Kendrick, left Dennis alone.

After those tragic events, he formed several groups attempting to use varying forms of the name “Temptations” that he had to battle in and out of court for use of some form of the name. Now, seventy years old, he continues to perform as Dennis Edwards and the Temptations Review pleasing audiences all over the world. No matter what the result, Dennis Edwards is a true “Soul Survivor”, and one of the most gifted singers of our time. He still has his sensuous and soulful voice, and no one can take that away.

By the merciful grace of God, he is the only one of the classic Temptations lead singers alive to continue the legacy and we are so blessed. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

Twitter @ John T. Wills

The Godfather Of Rock and Roll

It is a great joy to share with you the glorious past of the ghost of the greats whose shoulders we stand that are dear to my heart. I am proud to share this article because I love the story of the crossroads. It is a story about the great Delta Blues-man Robert Johnson. The history of music is littered with tragic figures, and none was more tragic than Robert Johnson’s story.

This amazing, ultimate star-crossed musical genius laid the early framework of rock and roll decades before that term was even imagined. Robert Leroy Johnson is among the most famous of all the Delta Blues musicians whose landmark recordings from 1936-37 display a remarkable combination of singing, guitar skills, and tremendous songwriting talent that have influenced generations of musicians. Johnson’s shadowy, poorly documented life, and violent death at age 27 have given rise to much speculation adding to his legend.

He is considered by some to be the “Grandfather of Rock-and-Roll,” his vocal phrasing, original songs, and guitar style influenced a range of musicians, including Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Allman Brothers Band, The Rolling Stones, The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Peter Gabriel, Neil Young, and Warren Zevon. Eric Clapton called Johnson “the most important blues musician who ever lived.

Johnson was conceived in an extramarital affair and born in Hazelhurst, Miss., in 1911. Most of his biographical details have been lost to history, but what’s known is that he learned guitar in his teens, got married, and had a girl who died in childbirth. The death led Johnson to throw himself even deeper into his music. He fled to Robinsonville, Miss., where he was influenced by early blues legends Son House and Willie Brown.

By 1933, Johnson remarried and began playing the guitar professionally. He once related the tale of selling his soul to the devil at a crossroads in exchange for his talent. Johnson tells the story in his song “Crossroads Blues.” Playing for tips up and down the Delta, Johnson gained in popularity. But as he grew in fame, he became a noted philanderer. He would also walk off in the middle of performances and not be seen or heard from for weeks at a time.

In 1936, he was put in contact with Columbia Records talent scout Ernie Oertle, who took him to San Antonio, Tex., where Johnson recorded classics including “Sweet Home Chicago,” “There’s A Hell Hound On My Trail,” and his signature “Terraplane Blues.”

Johnson began to tour nationally and became known for his unique voice and halting guitar rifts. But in 1938, as the legend goes, the devil caught up with him. While playing at a juke joint, he flirted with a woman whose husband became jealous, and the man laced Johnson’s whiskey with strychnine. Although he became violently ill, Johnson played until he collapsed. He died four days later at age 27, although conflicting stories say he survived the poisoning and died later of pneumonia.

There are at least two Mississippi gravesites that bear his name leaving questions about his passing and burial. “The reason that it’s so powerful a story is because it is the outline of the tragic side of the music that followed,” said music journalist Alan Light. “Some knew him as a musician, others by legend, but his shadow touches everyone who came out of that time and place.” I will say that Robert Johnson is truly a legend whose legacy will last forever. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

FaceBook @ John T. Wills


The War On Poverty

1aWar is unjust, evil, and futile because it only benefits the wealthy. It is particularly wretched as the system continues its assault on the poor and defenseless. The day has passed for superficial patriotism in terms of words of false prophets. He who lives with untruth lives in spiritual slavery. Freedom is still the bonus we receive for knowing the truth.

Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth… And the truth shall set you free.” I agree with Dante that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.

There is an obvious and almost facile connection between the struggles many poor people face as it relates to racial issues. Once there was a shining moment in that struggle where it seemed there was real promise for the poor, or at least hope for both black and white, through Poverty Programs. I watched these programs broken as if they were idle political playthings of a society gone mad. America will never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor.

It is estimated that America spends more than $500,000 to kill each enemy soldier. While we do not spend a hundred dollars for each person classified as poor, and much of that goes for salaries of people hired to, supposedly, help the poor. Therefore, I am increasingly compelled to see the war or poverty as an enemy of the poor. In addition, the money spent on the space program could feed every person in America. Frankly, this is a cruel manipulation of freedom and justice while anything like a moral political agenda exists, which is a disgrace.

In the end, it is families, women, children, and the elderly who suffer. The system has destroyed its two most cherished institutions: the family and the church. A true revolution of values should cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our present policies. On the one hand, we are called upon to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that is only the first step. One day, we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be changed so that men and women will not be beaten constantly as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth with righteous indignation.

The Bible says, “You shall reap what you sow”. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to speed up the day when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. With this faith, we will be able to speed up the day when the lion and the lamb will lie down together, and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid because the words of the Lord have spoken it.”

We can change the world but first we must change ourselves. If we can have respect for the living maybe the died might not die without dignity. The war on poverty is just a war on the souls of man! And that’s my THOUGHT PROVOKING PERSPECTIVE…


A Case For Reparations

1aIt’s been nearly five hundred years since that fateful day in the year of our Lord 1619, when about twenty people from Africa were first dragged onto the shores of this place they called “merica” to be slaves. Since that day, people of African descent have been chastised, criticized, punished, beaten, robbed, raped, and murdered at the hands of the oppressor. To that end, the decedent’s of those people still view all of us as the Constitutions says as three/fifths human.

This was done while the culprits, people of little conscience have enjoyed wealth and prosperity as a result of our never ending patriotism. When I think about America’s enormous wealth and power derived from its tremendous control of resources and “the least of thee”; I think about the sacrifices our families and forefathers’ made to make all of this possible. It was our labor that built this country, and we are responsible in large part for the great wealth and power America possesses. We are a unique people, a forgiving people, a steadfast people, and a brave people unlike any known to mankind.

Upon our backs, laden with the stripes of punishment for what they believed was for discipline and in spite of our loyalty, diligence and tenacity – we loved America. Even when America refused to allow us to even walk in the shadows, we followed, believing that someday we would come to be accepted as men and women. We have looked out for this country for hundreds of years and still doing today.

Our history is one of unbelievable struggle. We’ve been brave on the battlefield, despite being classified as second class citizens but in every conflict we went beyond the call of duty. Let me add something here: we’ve lived under an Apartheid like system, which is what James Crow offered. We have raised America’s children, attended to its sick, and prepared their meals while the so-called forefathers were occupied with the trappings of the good life. This is to include the times when they found pleasure in our women and enjoyment in seeing our men lynched, maimed and burned. Yet, we continued to watch over America’s soul.

We labored in the hot sun from “Cain’t to Cain’t”, that’s can’t see to can’t see to assist in realizing the dream of wealth, good fortune, and making America great. Those same people of little conscience have controlled at least 90 percent of all the resources and wealth from the beginning, and we were there from the beginning, and we are still here today. Ironically, these folks of ill repute continue to protect the system, or try, from those Black people who have the temerity to speak out against America’s past transgressions, and they do this by divide and conquer.

It was us who warned about Denmark-Vessey, told them about Gabriel Prosser’s plans, called their attention to Nat Turner, Malcolm, and Martin. It was us sounded the alarm when old John Brown came calling on Harper’s Ferry, and there are still some people of color sounding the same warnings to bigots – the Republicans. Black Nationalism has died and as result our community brings 95 percent of what it earns to businesses owned by others and keeps little for themselves. 

The less fortunate among us spend all they have at neighborhood stores, enabling them to open even more stores; simply put we will allow anyone to open a business and patronize it in our communities. Some say we, as a people, are successful today, but I shake my head and say really! I am going to take a guess that there is at best a thousand wealthy blacks. To which certain people may say great. Let me remind them that there are more than 40,000,000 of us here! Most living in despair!

We were manipulated into resisting the messages of trouble-making Blacks like Washington, Delaney, Garvey, Bethune, Tubman, Malcolm, and Truth, who fought valiantly and died on the battlefield for us. Yet, most have forgotten their names and hardly ever considered their sacrifice due to a lack of reciprocity and equity. Even though the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments were written and many died for the rights described therein. We did not resist, at all, when they changed Black rights to civil rights and allowed virtually every other group to take advantage of them, which was just another way to.

After all these years and the enormous sacrifices, this goes beyond the imagination, irrespective of the many promises that have been made and broken. Yet, they told us don’t worry, when you die you will find a place where there is a mansion waiting for you with streets paved with gold. 

Therefore, in my mind and considering this point of view, yes reparations are deserved! Of course, as some say it will never happen. But I know this for sure; it will never happen as long as we continue to prescribe to the divide and conquer theory that has worked so well for so long. Don’t you think it’s time that we have cried our last tear!

I give most of you credit for knowing that black people were stolen from Africa and robbed of their history and identity, which that along is just cause for reparations. Wake up and free your mind and your ass will follow! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


Change Is Not Always Change

thI’ll start this “Thought Provoking Perspective” with God Bless America. Everyone knows the party of “No” wants to take over the government to use that power to turn back the hands of time. The characters that have emerged in this movement are scary enough for us to ask for help from someone greater than ourselves. Of course, some of these people are justifying their position, as was done with slavery, in the name of God, which is frightening. These are the same folks who claim they are now being discriminated against.

Back in the day, there were the George Wallace’s, Bull Connor’s, Strom Thurman’s and today we have a new breed; Glenn Beck, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh – to name a few. Their rage, from sea to shining sea, infects their followers who create conspiracies and spread false narratives regarding everything to quite neatly put the country into a place of perceived fear. This place they envision or want back was not all great, I know, can remember it; elitism, white privilege, and America’s racial codes were the foundation for segregation, cruelty, and amoral agenda’s. So I suppose the new complexion of America is freighting to those who stole the country in the first place.

Let’s face it; it had been a pretty good run, about 400 years, with little sign of any serious trouble challenging their supremacy. The system was working and humming along as they came up with new forms of government so people of their hue, particularly men, benefited. They controlled or occupied every branch of government for more than two centuries and had sole possession and leadership of its executive branch, where the symbol of power is the White House.

Today that streak has been broken when a non-white president accepted the oath of office six years ago, and they went crazy or at least the right-wing faction. Hatred and bigotry came forth immediately! First they said, the president was not born in the United States; therefore, ineligible to be president. His father was Kenyan and he was born in Hawaii, which they seemed not to realize it was part of the United States. His mother was white, and the man who looks black was brought up largely by his white grandparents, which is really the root of their problem. He’s not black; he’s not white… …is he even human? Tea baggers and many Republicans believe in their hearts that the president is the antichrist. Pure psychodrama!

They believe the devil has taken over the country and for the first time in American history, those who controlled every endeavor for so long [government, finance, politics, business, education, the arts, etc.] are devastated. The man that was voted in office has somehow stolen something from them. The fear of losing their power or being replaced by young brown and black kids is neither the America they know nor the way it is suppose to be. Facing the fact that 40 percent of the nation’s population under 18 is already non-white, with that number significantly higher in the Southwest. By 2023, that number of young non-whites will be an outright national majority.

Its “Like tectonic plates, these slow-moving but irreversible forces may generate enormous turbulence as they grind against each other … At some point, when tectonic plates build up enough tension that destructive energy gets unleashed in a major earthquake.” Actually, this is a pretty good metaphor for what happened the day a black man got elected president. The conservative movement thought the world ended.

Law and Order Theme:

These people don’t seem to remember Bush and are not thinking about how distressed the economy was when Mr. Obama took office or the two wars of which neither was implemented properly or being fought with clear goals. This is to include the housing markets that resembled a war zone; a health system crippled with costs, and an auto industry in the tank. This, one would think should be reason enough to be strong Americans and pull together to fix this mess, right? No….

They lie and distort the information. Let’s add a few more bogeymen to the mix like immigration. They have made Hispanics and others from sweltering southern destinations enemies of the American Dream. Yet, their slave labor is acceptable. As a result, they took extreme measures by passing what amounts to Arizona’s slave laws that would force its residents to carry identity papers with them at all times. Now, jurisdictions around the nation are salivating to follow suit.

You do remember Laura “N-word” Schlesinger and the great white outpouring of support following the bizarre flameout of her radio show. There was a time when even a bigot thought before calling an African American the N-word. Schlesinger used the word to a black woman on air, like twenty times in a minute. Then she implied that she did not want to be NAACP-ed, whatever that means.

The reason Stand your Ground, outrageous open carry gun laws, and the blocking of voting rights were designed; as a not so subtle attempt to ensure that no person of color reside in the White House again. I am just pointing out what appears to be a tone that is not in anyone’s best interest.

Frankly, if these self-professed patriots, who I call terrorists, should obtain all three branches of government – expect an attempt to pass a law to bring slavery back. Listen carefully to the words being used by those of the extreme. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


%d bloggers like this: