Tag Archives: celebrities

Happy Birthday Teddy Bear

3Music is as much a part of black history as any part of our history. Therefore, today I want to salute Black History Month by paying homage to the ghost of the greats who made a huge impact on the world and the lives of us who lived it. Today, artists have one or two hits and they are called legends. I find this laughable because, frankly, there is no body of work, in most cases, to support the label or prove worthy of attention. Black artists and icons have mastered their craft and created genres that will last forever.

NO ONE did it better than the man we affectionately call “Teddy” – Theodore Pendergrass – one of the greatest R&B singer and songwriter of our time. Teddy rose to fame as lead singer of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes in the early 1970s prior to his hugely successful solo career at the end of the decade. In a horrible twist of fate, in 1982, Teddy was severely injured in an auto accident resulting in his being paralyzed from the chest down. After his injury, he founded the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance, a foundation that helps those with spinal cord injuries.

Teddy was not unlike most R&B singers he sang often at church and dreamed of being a pastor being ordained as a minster at the age of 10. In his early career, he sang with the Edison Mastersingers and dropped out of school in the eleventh grade to pursue the music business, recording his first song “Angel With Muddy Feet.” The recording, however, was not a commercial success.

It was the result of a chance encounter with the Blue Notes’ founder, Harold Melvin, who convinced Pendergrass to play drums in the group. Then fate stepped in and during a performance Teddy began singing along, and Melvin, impressed by his vocals, made him the lead singer. Before Pendergrass joined the group, the Blue Notes had struggled to find success. That all changed when they landed a recording deal with Philadelphia International Records in 1971, thus beginning Teddy’s successful collaboration with label founders Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. From this point there was no turning back.

I will briefly list a few of Teddy’s most memorable hits that took him high in the stratosphere starting with his self-titled album, which went platinum on the strength of the disco hit, “I Don’t Love You Anymore.” Its follow-up single, “The Whole Town’s Laughing At Me,” became a top 20 R&B hit. It was quickly followed by Life Is a Song Worth Singing. That album was even more successful with its singles including “Only You” and “Close the Door.”

2The disco single, “Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose” was popular in dance clubs and after that came two more successes, Teddy and the live release, Live Coast to Coast. Hits off Teddy included “Come and Go With Me” and “Turn Off The Lights.” This was followed by the album, “TP” that included his signature song, “Love TKO” and “Is It Still Good to You.” Between 1977 and 19981, Teddy landed five consecutive platinum albums, which was a then-record setting number for a rhythm and blues artist.

Teddy’s popularity became so massive at the end of 1977 with sold-out audiences packing his shows; his manager soon noticed that a huge number of his audience consisted of women of all races. They devised a plan for his next tour to play to just female audiences, starting a trend that continues today called “women’s only concerts.”

With five platinum albums and two gold albums, Teddy was on his way to be what the media was calling him, “the black Elvis” not only in terms of his crossover popularity but also due to him buying a mansion akin to Elvis’ Graceland, located just outside of his hometown of Philadelphia. By early 1982, Pendergrass was the leading R&B male artist of his day usurping competition including closest rivals Marvin Gaye and Barry White.

2Then tragedy struck on the night of March 18, 1982, in the East Falls section of Philadelphia on Lincoln Drive near Rittenhouse Street, Teddy was involved in an automobile accident. He lost control of his Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit – the car hit a guard rail, crossed into the opposite traffic lane, and hit two trees and was trapped in the wreckage for 45 minutes; leaving him a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down.

He kept recording through the 1990s in spite of being wheelchair bond and give the world his final hit in 1994, which was a hip-hop leaning “Believe in Love”. His most lasting memory for the world was “Wake Up Everybody” a tune that has been covered by a diverse range of acts from Simply Red, Patti LaBelle, Babyface, Little Brother, Kanye West, Cam’ron, Twista, Tyrese Gibson, DMX, 9th Wonder, and DJ Green Lantern.

Sadly, on January 13, 2010, the man we knew as “Teddy” left us to sing with the angels. I’ll tell you, and if you knew Teddy, the world will never be the same without his uniquely profound soulful voice. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Remembering The Notorious B.I.G. On The 20th Anniversary Of His Passing. #RIP Biggie Smalls

“Excellence is my presence. Never tense, never hesitant.” – Biggie Smalls.

1-These were the words left to us by mere mortal like the man whose government name was Christopher Wallace aka Biggie Smalls, also known as Notorious B.I.G. Gone too soon, but his impact will live forever. He was born May 21, 1972, in Bedford–Stuyvesant (colloquially known as Bed-Stuy) neighborhood in the north-central portion of the New York City borough of Brooklyn where some say is city’s roughest borough. There he grew up to become a drug dealer and a hustler, but his legacy was that of a master lyricist.

I have known many artists in my lifetime who have recorded and sold millions of records whereas Mr. Big recorded only three that solidified his place in music history for all-time. He started experimenting with music as a teenager and, not long after, befriended Puffy Combs and with the guidance of Tupac Shakur turned ashy into classy. His 1994 debut album, Ready to Die, was a smash hit and Life After Death became a classic.

Around his neighborhood, Biggie Smalls, as he called himself then, began building a reputation as a musician. After a tape of his landed in the hands of Mister Cee, a well-known DJ, Smalls was featured in the hip-hop publication, The Source.

Almost immediately, the Notorious B.I.G., as he now called himself, appearing on the 1993 remix of Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love,” and followed it up with a second Blige remix, “What’s the 411?” His debut as a solo artist came with the single, “Party and Bullshit,” on the soundtrack to the film, Who’s the Man?

In my view the release of his debut album, Ready to Die, which told the story of his life, from a drug dealer to rapper, was as prophetic as Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” With hits like “Juicy” and “Big Poppa,” the record went platinum, and the young hip-hop artist became a full-fledged star. That same year, The Source named the rapper “Best New Artist,”Best Live Performer” and “Lyricist of the Year.”

As his star power increased, Biggie did his best to share his prestige. He backed the work of several rappers that he’d originally performed with while starting out in Brooklyn, and took to the studio in support of other artists on Sean “Puffy” Combs’s label. He also teamed up with such stars as Michael Jackson and R. Kelly. By the close of 1995, Biggie was one of music’s best-selling and most sought after performers.

Big’s success and wealth hardly brought peace to Biggie’s life where he was often quoted as saying “more money more problems.” In the immediate aftermath of Ready to Die’s popularity, the rapper found himself in constant fear. In 1994, he told The New York Times that he was disliked for having more money, which came with his fame.

It was after the murder of Tupac Shakur that amplified Biggie’s fears about his own life, and his concern was tragically validated on March 9, 1997. Biggie, who had just come out of the Soul Train Music Awards, was sitting in an SUV when another vehicle pulled up to his car, opened fire and killed him. His murder shook the music world, prompting fears that the hip-hop world might erupt into a full-fledged war, ending numerous other lives. Biggie was only 24 years old at the time.

In the wake of Big’s killing, the record Life After Death was a giant hit, selling nearly 700,000 copies in its first week. Two years later, Born Again, an album of unreleased material from Biggie, was released. The third album of extra material, Duets: The Final Chapter was released in 2005.

Today, Biggie is still one of the music industry’s most admired hip-hop artists. Several musicians have paid tribute to Biggie by mentioning him in their songs, and his musical style has been emulated by countless up-and-coming artists. There is little doubt that Biggie’s talent, as a writer and rapper, propelled him from a place where so many have been lost and will continue to be acknowledged for decades to come.

If Biggie were alive today, it is safe to say there would be many so-called rapper starving and unknown. Knowing it or not, maybe call it destiny, the Notorious B.I.G. proved there is “Life After Death” and it’s called eternity. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Remember Mr. Excitement: Jackie Wilson

462_160The amazing Jackie Wilson was known to his many fans as “Mr. Excitement”! He was one of the most inspirational and pioneering artists of the 1950s when Black music was called “Race Music.” He was one of the most underrated performers of all times.

What is not known by many is that Berry Gordy wrote some of his biggest hits. In fact, it was because of him that we have a Motown Records Company. For the record, when you look at Elvis Presley what you see is a carbon copy or at least an attempt to be Mr. Jackie Wilson. This man was an innovator, and one of the early initiators of what became to be known as Soul Music.

In his early years, the pretty boy was a prize fighter and had a reputation for being rather quick-tempered. In spite of his phenomenal success, his personal life was full of tragedy. In 1960, in New Orleans, Wilson was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer when fans tried to climb onstage with Wilson. He shoved a policeman who had shoved one of the fans.

On February 15, 1961, in Manhattan, Wilson was injured in a shooting. It is said, the real story behind this incident was that one of his girlfriends, Juanita Jones, shot and wounded him in a jealous rage; when he returned to his Manhattan apartment with another woman, fashion model Harlean Harris, an ex-girlfriend of the late Sam Cook. Supposedly, his management concocted a story to protect Wilson’s reputation that Jones was an obsessed fan, who had threatened to shoot herself and that Wilson’s intervention resulted in his being shot.

Wilson was shot in the stomach: The bullet would result in the loss of a kidney, and lodged too close to his spine to be operated and removed. However, in early 1975, in an interview with author Arnold Shaw, Wilson maintained it actually was a zealous fan who he didn’t know that shot him. “We also had some trouble in 1961. That was when some crazy chick took a shot at me and nearly put me away for good….” Nonetheless, the story of the zealous fan was accepted, and no charges were brought against Jones. A month and a half after the shooting incident, Jackie was discharged from the hospital and apart from a limp and discomfort for a while; he was quickly on the mend.

At the time, Jackie had declared annual earnings of $263,000, while the average salary a man earned at the time was just $5,000 a year, but he discovered that, despite being at the peak of success, he was broke. Around this time, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) seized Jackie’s Detroit family home. Tarnopol and his accountants were supposed to take care of such matters. Fortunately, Jackie made arrangements with the IRS to make restitution on the unpaid taxes and to re-purchase the family home at auction.

As far as money troubles went, this was not even the beginning for Wilson. Nat Tarnopol had taken advantage of Jackie, mismanaging Wilson’s money ever since he took the role of Wilson’s manager. He even had power-of-attorney over Wilson’s finances, giving him complete control over Jackie’s money. Shortly before Wilson suffered a heart attack in 1975, Tarnopol, and 18 other Brunswick executives were indicted on charges of mail fraud and tax evasion stemming from bribery and payola scandals. Also in the indictment was the charge that Tarnopol owed at least $1 million in royalties to Wilson.

In 1976, Tarnopol and the others were found guilty; an appeals court overturned their conviction 18 months later. Although the conviction was overturned, judges went into detail, outlining that Tarnopol and Brunswick Records did defraud their artists of royalties and that there was sufficient evidence for Wilson to file a lawsuit. However, a trial to sue Tarnopol for royalties never took place, as Wilson lay in a nursing home comatose. Sadly, Wilson died riddled with debt to the IRS and Brunswick Records.

Freda Hood, Wilson’s first wife, with whom he had four children, divorced him in 1965 after 14 years of marriage, frustrated with his notorious womanizing. Although the divorce was amicable, Freda would regret her decision. Freda never stopped loving him, and Jackie treated her as though she were still his wife.

His 16-year-old son, Jackie Jr., was shot and killed on a neighbor’s porch in 1970, and two of Wilson’s daughters also died at a young age. His daughter Sandra died in 1977 at the age of 24 of an apparent heart attack. Jacqueline Wilson was killed in 1988 in a drug-related incident in Highland Park, Michigan. The death of Jackie Jr. devastated Wilson. He sank into a period of depression, and for the next couple of years he remained a recluse mostly, drinking and using drugs.

Wilson’s second marriage was to model Harlean Harris in 1967 with whom he had three children, but they separated soon after. Wilson later met and lived with Lynn Crochet. He was with Crochet until his heart attack in 1975. However, as he and Harris never officially divorced, Harris took the role of Wilson’s caregiver for the singers remaining nine years.

On September 29, 1975, Wilson was one of the featured acts in Dick Clark’s Good Ol’ Rock and Roll Revue, hosted by the Latin Casino in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Where he was in the middle of singing “Lonely Teardrops” when he suffered a heart attack, during the middle of the line “My heart is crying.”

When he collapsed on stage, audience members initially thought it was part of the act. Clark then ordered the musicians to stop the music. Cornell Gunter of The Coasters, who was backstage, noticed Wilson was not breathing. Gunter was able to resuscitate him, and Wilson was then rushed to a nearby hospital.

Medical personnel worked nearly 30 minutes to stabilize his vitals, but the lack of oxygen to his brain caused him to slip into a coma. He briefly emerged in early 1976, and was even able to take a few wobbly steps but slipped back into a semi-comatose state. He was a resident of the Medford Leas Retirement Center in Mount Holly, New Jersey when he was admitted to Virtua Memorial Hospital due to having trouble taking nourishment.

Jackie Wilson died on January 21, 1984, at the age of 49 from complications of pneumonia. Initially, he was buried in an unmarked grave at Westlawn Cemetery near Detroit. In 1987, a fundraiser collected enough money to purchase a headstone. Maybe the song “Lonely Tear Drops” came from his soul and spoke to the singer in a way that no one understood, as it seemed to be the story of his life. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


The Messenger Of Truth

007_1000I am a huge fan of wordsmiths and in my view the greatest unheralded voice of our time was Gilbert “Gil” Scott-Heron; a genius of a musician, song writer, and author. However, Gil was known primarily for his work as a messenger thought his the art of spoken word. His heyday was during the 1970s and 80s but his legacy is everlasting. His vocal stylings as he put it, was that of a “bluesologist”, which he is defined by others as “a scientist who is concerned with the origin of the blues.”

The music of Gil Scott Heron, most notably on Pieces of a Man and Winter in America in the early 1970s, influenced and helped engender later African American music genres such as hip hop and neo soul. His recorded work received much critical acclaim, especially one of his best-known compositions “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised“. His poetic style has influenced hip-hop where those artists referred to him as the Godfather. Gil’s music was a genre all to itself and worthy of recognition because he was a head of his time and courageous enough to speak truth to power on behalf of the powerless.

What we are seeing today is his prophetic prophesy. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

Winter in America 
From the Indians who welcomed the pilgrims
And to the buffalo who once ruled the plains
Like the vultures circling beneath the dark clouds
Looking for the rain
Looking for the rain
Just like the cities staggered on the coastline
Living in a nation that just can’t stand much more
Like the forest buried beneath the highway
Never had a chance to grow
Never had a chance to grow
 
And now it’s winter
Winter in America
Yes and all of the healers have been killed
Or sent away, yeah
But the people know, the people know
It’s winter
Winter in America
And ain’t nobody fighting
‘Cause nobody knows what to save
Save your soul, Lord knows
From Winter in America
 
The Constitution
A noble piece of paper
With free society
Struggled but it died in vain
And now Democracy is ragtime on the corner
Hoping for some rain
Looks like it’s hoping
Hoping for some rain
 
And I see the robins
Perched in barren treetops
Watching last-ditch racists marching across the floor
But just like the peace sign that vanished in our dreams
Never had a chance to grow
Never had a chance to grow
 
And now it’s winter
It’s winter in America
And all of the healers have been killed
Or betrayed
Yeah, but the people know, people know
It’s winter, Lord knows
It’s winter in America
And ain’t nobody fighting
Cause nobody knows what to save
Save your souls
From Winter in America
 
And now it’s winter
Winter in America
And all of the healers done been killed or sent away
Yeah, and the people know, people know
It’s winter
Winter in America
And ain’t nobody fighting
Cause nobody knows what to save
And ain’t nobody fighting
Cause nobody knows, nobody knows
And ain’t nobody fighting
Cause nobody knows what to save

Rest In Peace my brother. Thank you for the messages. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Happy Birthday MJ

(3)

What can I say about the man whose music was such a huge part of my life and growing up. Michael Jackson was no doubt the GREATEST ENTERTAINER who ever lived.

It is hard to find the words to say what he gave the world and the memories I have of the music he created still touches my heart. So I will leave you with this recorded performance to say – “I never can say goodbye”. Rest in Peace Michael Jackson.

And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


Remembering Whitney Houston

551511_873990625956130_495015768969512347_nI would like to take the time to share a remembrance of the woman known as “Nippy.” When I heard the heartbreaking news of Whitney Houston’s death; I was shocked, as I’m sure most of you were! This was one of those events that you will always be able to recall where you were for the rest of your life. In the mists of this tragedy, I wondered if you have thought about the reason we live. The process of life dictates that we are born to die. In my groundbreaking novel “Just a Season” I referred to this earthly period of existence as the “Dash” that will be placed on our final marker; placed between the beginning and end dates of our season.

Now, the more important point here is that each of us will face this quandary and will have a dash. We are only here for only a short period of time, which is only “Just a Season.” Therefore, what we should strive to accomplish is to make sure that while here you increase the equity within your dash. I’ll quote the great Richard Pryor who said, “This is the ultimate test!”

As we saw the footage concerning Whitney’s passing, I remember asking myself is this the price of fame? Kathleen Parker wrote an article that week where she said, “It is painful to watch. You can see her struggling to cooperate, but the love they (meaning the fans) wanted wasn’t there. You can only give what you have. Beneath the halfhearted smile, Houston looked empty in the end, exhausted and drained by the insistence of her audience. Maybe self-medication played a role, but the scene was a metaphor for what surely has been at least part of her internal struggle: the curse of fame.”

I tend to agree with her as she went on to say “the incredible voice that came to Earth with Whitney Houston ceased to be her own once Clive Davis put her on an album cover, which is not to pity the wildly successful sound. Who doesn’t want to be discovered, to live the big life, to have a shot at something extraordinary? But the cost is costly, especially for the phenomenally gifted.

We’ve seen this time and time again. There was Michael Jackson, Hendrix, Pryor, Cornelius, and so many more who in all their splendor and glory lived a life cursed by fame. The famous or the greats leave us far too soon to transition to the afterlife. If you pick up a newspaper and read the obituary, you will see the faces of those who’ve gone on. But in the case of stars, rich or famous people we act as if it is not supposed to happen to them. I will remind you; none of us knows the minute or the hour.

The interesting thing is that most of us can’t imagine what that level of fame is like or why anyone would want it? Frankly, the answer to that would be just about everyone. The popularity of reality shows and the extent to which some are willing to go in exchange for even fleeting recognition is something bordering on pathological.

Not long ago her only daughter, Bobbi Christina, joined you in heavenly rest. She was a young woman cursed by Whitney’s fame whose season was troubled and short but now lays beside her dear mother in her earthly resting place. In life, there are many sad stories, and this is one of the saddest. God Bless you both!!!

When you look at Whitney’s life, her fame was of a higher order, based not only on her extraordinary talent; it was more about the relationship with her fans. When she sang and pointed to the audience, it was easy to feel as if she was talking to you. When she wished us joy and happiness, it was easy to believe because when she wished us, love, we felt it. The love was a mutual connection and her beauty almost seemed less important.

There is sufficient history of the talented who met similar ends that fame is a huge risk. Fans may pay the bills, but they also siphon the spirit of the adored. You’ve heard that it is lonely at the top. What this means, if you are somebody, you belong to everybody. Now that her season has come and gone; she belongs to the ages now. Whitney, I forgive you, love you, and glad you were born. Rest in Peace for all eternity. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspectives…

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“Just a Season”

The Real Sugar Man: King Of The Ring

5 (1)We’ve all heard about the boxer called the “Greatest,” the baddest man on the planet, and the Brown Bomber but Sugar Ray Robinson (born Walker Smith Jr.) was the greatest boxer of all time! Robinson’s performances in the welterweight and middleweight divisions prompted sportswriters to create “Pound for Pound” rankings, where they compared fighters regardless of weight. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

Robinson was one of the first African Americans to establish himself as a star outside sports. According to ESPN.com’s Ron Flatter: “He was the pioneer of boxing’s bigger-than-life entourages, including a secretary, barber, masseur, voice coach, a coterie of trainers, beautiful women, a dwarf mascot and lifelong manager George Gainford.”The Sugar Man was an integral part of the New York social scene in his day. His glamorous restaurant, Sugar Ray’s, hosted stars such as Frank Sinatra, Jackie Gleason, Nat “King” Cole, Joe Lewis, and Lena Horne among others.

Robinson was known as a flamboyant personality outside the ring. He combined striking good looks, with charisma, and a flair for the dramatic. He drove a flamingo-pink Cadillac and was an accomplished singer and dancer, who once pursued a career in the entertainment industry. His larger than life persona made him the idol of millions of African American youths in the 1950s. Robinson inspired several other fighters who took the nickname “Sugar” in homage to him such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Sugar Shane Mosley, and MMA fighter “Sugar” Rashad Evans.

Robinson was 85–0 as an amateur with 69 of those victories coming by way of knockout, 40 in the first round. He turned professional in 1940 at the age of 19 and by 1951 had a professional record of 128–1–2 with 84 knockouts. From 1943 to 1951 Robinson went on a 91 fight unbeaten streak, the third longest in professional boxing history. Robinson held the world welterweight title from 1946 to 1951 and won the world middleweight title.

He retired in 1952, only to come back two and a half years later and regain the middleweight title in 1955. He then became the first boxer in history to win a divisional world championship five times, a feat he accomplished by defeating Carmen Basilio in 1958 to regain the middleweight championship. Robinson was named “fighter of the year” twice: first for his performances in 1942, then nine years and over 90 fights later, for his efforts in 1951.

Renowned for his flamboyant lifestyle outside the ring, Robinson is credited with being the originator of the modern sports “the entourage”. After his boxing career ended, Robinson attempted a career as an entertainer but struggled, and was challenged financially until his death in 1989. In 2006, he was featured on a commemorative stamp by the United States Postal Service.

The Sugar Man was a fluid boxer who possessed a quick jab and knockout power. He possessed tremendous versatility according to boxing analyst Boxing Historian Bert Sugar: Robinson could deliver a knockout blow going backward.” A TIME magazine article in 1951 said, “He was efficient with both hands, and displayed a variety of effective punches… “Robinson’s repertoire, thrown with equal speed and power by either hand, includes every standard punch from a bolo punch to a hook and a few he makes up on the spur of the moment.”

Robinson commented that once a fighter has trained to a certain level; their techniques and responses become almost reflexive. “You don’t think. It’s all instinct. If you stop to think, you’re gone.” Robinson has been ranked as the greatest boxer of all time by sportswriters, fellow boxers, and trainers. To include Hall of Fame fighters such as Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard have ranked Robinson as the greatest pound for pound boxer in history.

In 1997, The Ring ranked him as the best pound for pound fighter in history, and in 1999, he was named “welterweight of the century,” “middleweight of the century,” and overall “fighter of the century” by the Associated Press. In 2007, ESPN.com featured the piece “50 Greatest Boxers of All Time”, in which it named Robinson the top boxer in history. In 2003, The Ring magazine ranked him number 11 in the list of all-time greatest punchers. Robinson was also ranked as the #1 welterweight and the #1 pound for pound boxer of all-time by the International Boxing Research Organization.

Before all of the rest, the Sugar Man was the best “Pound for Pound”! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


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