Tag Archives: civil rights struggle

Happy Birthday Sly Stone

1-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…


The Aftermath Of Integration

1I recently had a conversation with a group of young people, none of which lived during the age of government segregation. Each had strongly convoluted opinions about the era that were not based in fact. This made me think about how much the current world view has changed the reality of black life, as it relates to a historical perspective.

First, white folk never wanted it and chatted go back to Africa at the time. It was never intended to be fair or equal! I am not suggesting that integration should not have happened, but it did have a negative impact on black life and the future of African Americans in many ways. Two prominent ways were in the areas of family and black business.

One thing that happened, for sure was that the black community stopped supporting the businesses in their own communities. After segregation, African Americans flocked to support businesses owned by whites and other groups, causing black restaurants, theaters, insurance companies, banks, etc. to almost disappear. Today, black people spend 95 percent of their income at white-owned businesses. Even though the number of black firms has grown 60.5 percent between 2002 and 2007, they only make up 7 percent of all U.S firms and less than .005 percent of all U.S business receipts.

I took the opportunity to educate these young people that in 1865, just after Emancipation, 476,748 free blacks – 1.5 percent of U.S. population– owned .005 percent of the total wealth of the United States. Today, a full 135 years after the abolition of slavery, 44.5 million African Americans – 14.2 percent of the population — possess a meager 1 percent of the national wealth.

If we look at relationships from 1890 to 1950, black women married at higher rates than white women, despite a consistent shortage of black males due to their higher mortality rate. According to a report released by the Washington DC-based think tank the Urban Institute, the state of the African American family is worse today than it was in the 1960s, four years before President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act.

In 1965, only 8 percent of childbirths in the black community occurred out of wedlock. In 2010, out-of-wedlock childbirths in the black community are at an astonishing 72 percent. Researchers Heather Ross and Isabel Sawhill argue that the marital stability is directly related to the husband’s relative socio-economic standing and the size of the earnings difference between men and women.

Instead of focusing on maintaining black male employment to allow them to provide for their families, Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act with full affirmative action for women. The act benefited mostly white women and created a welfare system that encouraged the removal of the black male from the home. Many black men were also dislodged from their families and pushed into the rapidly expanding prison industrial complex that developed in the wake of rising unemployment.

Since integration, the unemployment rate of black men has been spiraling out of control. In 1954, white men had a zero percent unemployment rate, while African-American men experienced a 4 percent rate. By 2010, it was at 16.7 percent for Black men compared to 7.7 percent for white men. The workforce in 1954 was 79 percent African American. By 2011, that number had decreased to 57 percent. The number of employed black women, however, has increased. In 1954, 43 percent of African American women had jobs. By 2011, 54 percent of black women are job holders.

The Civil Rights Movement pushed for laws that would create a colorblind society, where people would not be restricted from access to education, jobs, voting, travel, public accommodations, or housing because of race. However, the legislation did nothing to eradicate white privilege. Michael K. Brown, professor of politics at University of California Santa Cruz, and co-author of“Whitewashing Race: The Myth of a Color-Blind Society” says in the U.S., “The color of one’s skin still determines success or failure, poverty or affluence, illness or health, prison or college.”

Two percent of all working African Americans work for another African American’s within their own neighborhood. Because of this, professionally trained Black people provide very little economic benefit to the black community. Whereas, prior to integration that number was significantly higher because of segregation people in the black community supported each other to sustain their lives and families.

The Black median household income is about 64 percent that of whites, while the Black median wealth is about 16 percent that of whites. Millions of Black children are being miseducated by people who don’t care about them, and they are unable to compete academically with their peers. At the same time, the criminal justice system has declared war on young Black men with policies such as “stop and frisk” and “three strikes.”

Marcus Garvey warned about this saying:

“Lagging behind in the van of civilization will not prove our higher abilities. Being subservient to the will and caprice of progressive races will not prove anything superior in us. Being satisfied to drink of the dregs from the cup of human progress will not demonstrate our fitness as a people to exist alongside of others, but when of our own initiative we strike out to build industries, governments, and ultimately empires, then and only then will we as a race prove to our Creator and to man in general that we are fit to survive and capable of shaping our own destiny.”

Maybe this proves that once past truths are forgotten, and the myths that are lies are born with an unfounded reality detrimental to all, but those who seek to benefit. As I have often said, “I firmly believe education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize those forces that breed poverty and despair. We can change the world but first, we must change ourselves.” And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

Twitter @JohnTWills

Source: Black Atlanta Star


The Middle Passage

16266194_1576646812351280_7451924563813283492_nWe cannot talk about Black History without remembering that horrible journey across the Atlantic called the Middle Passage. Imagine if you can, being captured, put on a forced march, beaten, put into pins while shackled, and then placed in a tomb-like environment with people you cannot, in many cases, communicate with for months, as you suffer a horrible journey into the abyss of the unknown. Now, look at what they call this today “The Trans-Atlantic Voyage,” as if it was a pleasure cruise Shocking!!!

These were the conditions leading to that horrible journey into the unknown for millions of Africans forcibly interned into the belly of the beast with a destination unknown. His-Story speaks to this wretched practice as part of the Atlantic slave trade. However, this was more commonly known as the “Middle Passage,” which refers to that middle leg of the transatlantic trade triangle in which millions of Africans were imprisoned, enslaved, and removed forcibly from their homelands never to return.

The transatlantic trade triangle worked this way. Ships departed Europe for African markets with commercial goods, which were in turn traded for kidnapped Africans who were transported across the Atlantic as slaves. The enslaved Africans were then sold or traded as commodities for raw materials, which would be transported back to Europe to complete the “triangular trade”. A single voyage on the Middle Passage was a large financial undertaking that was generally organized by companies or groups of investors rather than individuals.

African kings, warlords, and private kidnappers sold captives to Europeans who operated from several coastal forts. The captives were usually force-marched to these ports along the western coast of Africa, where they were held for sale to the European or American slave traders. Typical slave ships contained several hundred slaves with about thirty crew members.

The male captives were chained together in pairs to save space with their right leg chained to the next man’s left leg, with women and children having somewhat more room. The captives were fed beans, corn, yams, rice, and palm oil. Slaves were fed one meal a day with water, but if food were scarce slaveholders would get priority over the slaves.

The duration of the transatlantic voyage varied widely, from one to six months depending on weather conditions. Although, the journey became more efficient over time as the average transatlantic journey of the early 16th century lasted several months, by the 19th century the crossing often required fewer than six weeks. West Central Africa and Southeastern Africa was the most common region for traders to secure the human cargo that was destined for the Caribbean and the Americas.

An estimated 15% of the Africans died at sea, with mortality rates considerably higher in Africa itself in the process of capturing and transporting indigenous peoples to the ships. The total number of African deaths directly attributable to the Middle Passage is estimated well into the millions. A broader look at African deaths directly attributable to the institution of slavery from 1500 to 1900 suggests up to four million perished, but some say the number was close to one-third of the Africans captured, and it is believed that nearly 60 million were captured.

For two hundred years, Portugal had a quasi-monopoly on the export of slaves from Africa. During the eighteenth century, however, when the slave trade accounted for the transport of about 6 million Africans; Britain was responsible for almost 2.5 million of them. In addition to markedly influencing the cultural and demographic landscapes of both Africa and the Americas, the Middle Passage has also been said to mark the origin of a distinct African social identity. These people, in American anyway, came to be known as “Negro,” which is a Spanish word that means “Black” but no Spanish country refers to its people of color that way.

Most contemporary historians estimate that between 9 and 12 million Africans arrived in the New World while others remain firm that it was more like one-third of the continent’s population. Disease and starvation due to the length of the passage were the main contributors to the death toll with dysentery and scurvy causing most of the deaths. Then there were the outbreaks of smallpox, syphilis, measles, and other diseases spread rapidly in the close-quarter compartments.

The number of dead increased with the length of the voyage since the incidence of dysentery and scurvy increased with longer stints at sea as the quality and amount of food and water diminished with every passing day. In addition to physical sickness, many slaves became too depressed to eat or function efficiently because of the loss of freedom, family, security, and their own humanity.

While treatment of slaves on the passage varied, the treatment of the human cargo was never good since the captured African men and women were considered less than human. Yes, they were “cargo” or “goods” and treated as such as they were transported for marketing.

Slaves were ill-treated in almost every imaginable manner. While they were generally fed enough food and water to stay alive only because healthy slaves were more valuable but if resources ran low on the long, unpredictable voyages, the crew received preferential treatment. Slave punishment was very common and harsh because the crew had to turn independent people into obedient slaves. Whipping and use of the cat o’ nine tails were common occurrences or just simply beaten for “melancholy.”

The scares of this and that of slavery linger to this very day. I would call the loss of land, soul, and our history as Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

Media Kit


The Birth Of Black History Month

007_1000I love Black History Month because we have so much to be proud of during the month-long celebration of the legacy of Black History. However, it should be celebrated all year long! Therefore, it is important and we should be celebrate black history 365 days a year. This is a time for the world to know the tremendous contributions people of color, i.e. black people have made and contributed to mankind and the world. During the month of February, I will be posting an article each day resurrecting the greatness of a history denied, untold, and will feature the ghost of the greats who paved a mighty path.

I am blessed to have lived long enough to witness what no one living or dead ever thought possible. It was and is the most significant historical event since the resurrection of our Lord – the election of the first African American President of these United States and the leader of the free world. In spite of the wretched history of slavery and oppression, this man was elected twice.

This, notwithstanding, all of the storied achievements made by so many, I am proud of the many contributions African Americans have made to this great country and dare I say to the world. I am equally as confident that there is an abundance of history yet to be made. However, most people do not know the origins of Black History Month so that I will share that information.

February is dedicated to this proud annual observance for the remembrance of those important people and events honoring the African America Diaspora. The idea of Black History Month was conceived in Chicago during the summer of 1915. Dr. Woodson, an alumnus of the University of Chicago with many friends in the city hosted a convention to give honor to the untold history of black people and their accomplishments. Dr. Carter G. Woodson, known to be the father of Black History Month, traveled from Washington DC to participate. It was a national celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the so-called emancipation, sponsored by the State of Illinois.

Thousands of African Americans traveled from all across the country that summer to see exhibits highlighting the progress their people had made since the extermination of slavery. Awarded a doctorate at Harvard University three years earlier, Dr. Woodson joined other exhibitors with a black history display. He was so enamored with the idea that he began the process of making this exhibit an annual event. For this reason, we owe the celebration of Black History Month, including the study of black history, to Dr. Woodson.

In 1924, his group responded with the creation of Negro History and Literature Week, which they renamed Negro Achievement Week. Their outreach was significant, but Dr. Woodson desired a greater impact. He told students at the Hampton Institute, “We are going back to that beautiful history, and it is going to inspire us to greater achievements.” In 1925, he decided that the Association had to shoulder the responsibility. He felt going forward with this idea would both create and popularize knowledge about black history.

He sent out a press release announcing Negro History Week in February of 1926. Dr. Woodson chose the second week of February because it marked the birthdays of two Americans who greatly influenced the lives and social condition of African Americans: Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist and former slave, Frederick Douglass. For this reason, the myth, that the month of February was selected because it is the shortest month, is simply not true.

Dr. Woodson also founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. What you might not know is that black history had barely begun to be studied or even documented when the tradition originated. Further, it is important to remember that blacks had been in America since August of 1619 when a Dutch man-of-war ship rode the tide into Jamestown, Virginia, and the first slaves were dragged onto its shores. However, it was not until the 20th century that African American history gained a respectable presence in the history books.

From the beginning, Dr. Woodson was overwhelmed by the response to his call. Negro History Week appeared across the country in schools and in many public forums. The expanding black middle class became participants in and consumers of black literature and culture. Black history clubs sprang up, teachers demanded materials to instruct their pupils, and progressive whites supported their efforts. They set a theme for the annual celebration providing study materials such as pictures, lessons for teachers, plays for historical performances, and posters of important dates and people.

The 1960’s had a dramatic effect on the study and celebration of black history. Before the decade was over, Negro History Week would be well on its way to becoming Black History Month. The shift to a month-long celebration began even before Dr. Woodson’s death. As early as the 1940’s, blacks in West Virginia, a state where Dr. Woodson often spoke, began to celebrate February as Negro History Month. By the late 1960’s, as young blacks on college campuses became increasingly conscious of links with Africa, Black History Month replaced Negro History Week.

Within the Association, younger intellectuals, part of the awakening, prodded Woodson’s organization to change with the times. They succeeded and in 1976, fifty years after the first celebration, the Association used its influence to institutionalize the shifts from a week to a month and from Negro history to black history.

Since the mid-1970, every American president, Democrat, and Republican, has issued proclamations endorsing the Association’s annual theme because black history is American history. The profound legacy of our past should never be forgotten and always embraced for we are merely the sum of the whole. Thank you, Dr. Woodson! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


Why Patrice Lumumba Was Assassinated

2

e hear a lot of talk about Liberty, Democracy, and Freedom, but it is usually only when it suits America’s interests. On 17 January 1961, Patrice Lumumba, the first legally elected prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was assassinated in what most would believe for the pursuit of those ideals. This heinous crime was a culmination of two inter-related assassination plots by the American and Belgian governments, which used Congolese accomplices and a Belgian execution squad to carry out the dreadful deed.

Most of us don’t know or remember this African leader but according to Ludo De Witte, a Belgian author of the best book on this crime qualifies it as “the most important assassination of the 20th century”. He noted the assassination’s historical importance lies in a multitude of factors, the most pertinent being the global context in which it took place, its impact on Congolese politics since then and Lumumba’s overall legacy as a nationalist leader.

For 126 years, the US and Belgium have played key roles in shaping Congo’s destiny. In April 1884, seven months before the Berlin Congress, the US became the first country in the world to recognize the claims of King Leopold II of the Belgians to the territories of the Congo Basin.

When the atrocities related to brutal economic exploitation in Leopold’s Congo Free State resulted in millions of fatalities, the US joined other world powers to force Belgium to take over the country as a regular colony. It was during the colonial period that the US acquired a strategic stake in the enormous natural wealth of the Congo, following its use of the uranium from Congolese mines to manufacture the first atomic weapons which resulted in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.

With the outbreak of the cold war, it was inevitable that the US and its western allies would not be prepared to let Africans have effective control over strategic raw materials; let long allow these resources to fall into the hands of their enemies in the Soviet camp. It is in this regard that Patrice Lumumba’s determination to achieve genuine independence and to have full control over Congo’s resources in order to utilize them to improve the living conditions of its people was perceived as a threat to Western interests. To fight him, the US and Belgium used all the tools and resources at their disposal, including the United Nations secretariat, under Dag Hammarskjöld and Ralph Bunche [a black man], to buy the support of Lumumba’s Congolese rivals, and hired killers.

In Congo, Lumumba’s assassination is rightly viewed as the country’s original sin. Coming less than seven months after independence on 30 June, 1960, it was viewed as a stumbling block to the ideals of national unity, economic independence and Pan-African solidarity that Lumumba had championed, as well as a shattering blow to the hopes of millions of Congolese for freedom and material prosperity.

The assassination took place at a time when the country had fallen under four separate governments: the central government in Kinshasa; a rival central government by Lumumba’s followers in Kisangani [then Stanleyville]; and the secessionist regimes in the mineral-rich provinces of Katanga and South Kasai. Since Lumumba’s physical elimination had removed what the West saw as the major threat to their interests in the Congo, internationally-led efforts were undertaken to restore the authority of the moderate and pro-western regime in Kinshasa over the entire country. These resulted in ending the Lumumbist regime in Kisangani in August 1961, the secession of South Kasai in September 1962, and the Katanga secession in January 1963.

No sooner did this unification process end than a radical social movement for a “second independence” arose to challenge the neocolonial state and its pro-western leadership. This mass movement of peasants, workers, the urban unemployed, students and lower civil servants found an eager leadership among Lumumba’s lieutenants, most of whom had regrouped to establish a National Liberation Council (CNL) in October 1963 in Brazzaville, across the Congo river from Kinshasa. The strengths and weaknesses of this movement may serve as a way of gauging the overall legacy of Patrice Lumumba for Congo and Africa as a whole.

The most positive aspect of this legacy was manifest in the selfless devotion of Pierre Mulele to radical change for purposes of meeting the deepest aspirations of the Congolese people for democracy and social progress. On the other hand, the CNL leadership, which included Christophe Gbenye and Laurent-Désiré Kabila, was more interested in power and its attendant privileges than in the people’s welfare. This is Lumumbism in words rather than in deeds. As president three decades, later, Laurent Kabila did little to move from words to deeds.

More importantly, the greatest legacy that Lumumba left for Congo is the ideal of national unity. Recently, a Congolese radio station asked whether the independence of South Sudan should be a matter of concern with respect to national unity in the Congo. The answer was since Patrice Lumumba has died for Congo’s unity; the people will remain utterly steadfast in their defiance of our national unity. We need to know our history! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

This information was derived from a writing by Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja a professor of African and Afro-American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of The Congo from Leopold to Kabila: A People’s History.


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…


Champion Of The People

th (1)Bob Marley was the Third World’s first pop superstar. In all honesty, I don’t like the term third world because as Bob Marley said one love, which means one world. He was the man who introduced the world to the mystic power of reggae. He was a rocker at heart and gifted songwriter. He brought the lyrical force of a Bob Dylan with the personal charisma of a John Lennon, and the essential vocal stylings of Smokey Robinson into one voice. But to be clear, Bob Marley was so much more and in a class by himself which is why he became a legend!

In 1999 Time Magazine chose Bob Marley & The Wailers’ Exodus as the greatest album of the 20th century. This spoke to his international acclaim where his message continues to reverberate among people around the world. My favorite song is the huge political hit “Stand-up, Stand-up for your Rights”. The true testament of his greatness is the volume of greats artist who have recorded the many great songs he’s written.

Marley, in has life and after his death, evolved into a global symbol of freedom. Author Dave Thompson wrote in his book Reggae and Caribbean Music, laments what he perceives to be the commercialized pacification of Marley’s more militant edge, stating:

“Bob Marley ranks among both the most popular and the most misunderstood figures in modern culture … Gone from the public record is the ghetto kid who dreamed of Che Guevara and the Black Panthers, and pinned their posters up in the Wailers Soul Shack record store; who believed in freedom; and the fighting which it necessitated, and dressed the part on an early album sleeve; whose heroes were James Brown and Muhammad Ali; whose God was Ras Tafari and whose sacrament was marijuana.

Instead, the Bob Marley who surveys his kingdom today is smiling benevolence, a shining sun, a waving palm tree, and a string of hits which tumble out of polite radio like candy from a gumball machine. Of course, it has assured his immortality.”

His songs and music spoke to the struggles of the least of thee and to the souls of the ordinary person trapped outside of the establishment, which has endeared him to his fans and the world. As we celebrate and pay homage to this month dedicated to Black Music; I would be remised not to include Bob Marley as one of the greatest musical legends of our time – if not all times.

I know right now Bob Marley is “Jamming” right now with the ghosts of the greats! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

@johntwills


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