Tag Archives: Diana Ross

Happy Birthday Smokey Robinson: A Musical Genius

16266194_1576646812351280_7451924563813283492_nThe prolific singer-songwriter William “Smokey” Robinson, Jr. is the most  prolific entertainer of our lifetime. A thousand years from now you will hear Smokey’s music. To prove my point, “My Girl” first recorded by the Temptations is timeless, and the recording sounds as fresh today as it did in 1965. Smokey is also a record producer, former record executive, and one of the founders of the music label that changed the world – Motown.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Happy Birthday Flo: The Original Dream Girl

22Remembering Florence Ballard on the day of her birth! I thought about titling this piece “Supremely Floriffic” because she was the founding member of the original and most popular girl group The Supremes. Yet, history records her as “The Forgotten Supreme”.

Florence, Diana Ross and Mary Wilson grew up in the now demolished Brewster Projects of Detroit. To make a fascinating story short, after begging Motown Records founder Berry Gordy for work, they were hired to sing. They recorded a string of hits for Motown, which still stand as a museum on East Grand Boulevard in Detroit. Florence Ballard had a very soulful voice that added great harmony to the group.

Few Motown acts could be put into the same caliber as The Supremes. Some say the Beatles were the greatest group of that era, but I differ in that because almost any Motown act would amply fit in that category, if it were not for racism. You see most black groups of that era were restricted by their color to perform on what was known as the “Chitlin Circuit”. Until Motown, the work of black artists fell into a category called “Race Music”.

Regardless of the real reason or the reason you might believe for her dismissal. In 1967, Ballard was removed from the Supremes lineup and replaced her with Cindy Birdsong. Flo signed away, all her rights to “The Supremes”, for $139.804 in 1968, in a hush/hush meeting in the Northland Inn. After leaving the group, she signed with ABC Records in 1968 forging on an unsuccessful solo career.

It is presumed the 1981 Broadway musical Dreamgirls that chronicles a fictional group called “The Dreams” had a number of plot components that paralleled events in the Supremes’ career. The central character of Effie White, like Florence Ballard, is criticized for being overweight, and is fired from the group.

The film version of Dreamgirls released in 2006 features more overt references to Ballard’s life and the Supremes’ story, including gowns and album covers that are direct copies of Supremes originals. Jennifer Hudson won both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for her portrayal of Effie White. In her Golden Globe acceptance speech, Hudson dedicated her win to Florence Ballard.

As a member, Ballard sang on sixteen top forty singles with the group, including ten number-one hits. After being dropped from the label, Ballard struggled with many of life’s problems for a period of three years. Ballard was making an attempt for a musical comeback when she died of cardiac in February of 1976 at the age of 32. Ballard’s death was considered by one critic as “one of music’s greatest tragedies”. Ballard was posthumously inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Supremes in 1988.

On Friday, Feb 27th, almost 5000 people lined the street in front of the New Bethel Baptist Church to say goodbye to her. Diana Ross arrived and was booed by the crowd. The Reverend C.L. Franklin (Aretha’s dad) presided over the service. Members of the Four Tops, Marvin Johnson and Thearon Hill served as pallbearers and Stevie Wonder was an honorary one.

In the spirit of Black History I will not dishonor Flo’s memory with innuendo or any of the rumors that have circulated during and since her death. However, I will say this, not unlike many artists who live a soap-opera type career. She as well as many of Motown’s successful group lends credence to the old belief that great art comes from troubled lives. But even in the face of hardship their legend remains for all of eternity.Sleep well and rest in peace “Dream Girl”. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

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A Salute To Motown Records

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We are the inventors and creators of the sounds that changed world cultures. If we were to begin way back in the cradle of civilization centuries ago, it all began with the drum. When we were captured and brought to the so-called New World, we brought the drum that dictated the rhythms souls. It is a fact that Black people are responsible for the great music known to the world as Jazz, Gospel, Blues, Soul, R&B, Rap, Hip Hop, and just about every musical sound we hear speaks directly to our glorious past.

During the despicable era’s of slavery and segregation, prior to the Civil Rights Movement the hallowing sounds of gospel music delivered an in-your-face sound that fed the souls of a people, and that outlet produced some of the most timeless music ever created. Before I go further, it was not unlike the days when they called our music “race music” and radio would not play it for white audiences; let’s remember that it was Michael Jackson whose music video was the first black music to air on MTV.

This brings me to the historic, game-changing, record label Motown and its founder Mr. Barry Gordy. Let’s be honest, can you imagine a world without “The Motown Sound”. For many who don’t know or have forgotten, prior to Motown Records rarely did you see the face of an African American on the cover of an album or black music heard on white radio. The music was segregated in the same way America was prior to 1959 when Motown was founded. Prior to Motown Records, few black performers enjoyed anything close to crossover success. By the way, an album is what was used to play music before CD’s.

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

The music produced by Motown made a nation of people living in this nation without a nationality proud with its awe-inspiring run of hits that spoke to the essence of our souls.

It was from that tiny little basement studio where the world was introduced to Michael Jackson, the Supremes, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, the Miracles, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, Four Tops, the Commodores, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Jr. Walker and the All-Stars, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Rick James, Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, Teena Marie, DeBarge, the Jackson Five, Martha and the Vandellas, the Marvelettes and Motown’s Funk Brothers studio band; just to name a few of the artists that touched our hearts making us proud. Oh, even Dr. Martin Luther King recorded and album at Motown!

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

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

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


Black History: Hitsville USA

2014-09-18_21-53-42_1Black History Month continues to be relevant mainly because “there is nothing close to the truth about black history taught in schools and sadly, in many cases, in the church or in the home. Music which a world all to itself and something everyone can relate.

Therefore, we cannot have a discussion about black history without including black music and the many greats who entertained us. None is more significant than Motown Records. It all began in a small building that became known to the world as Hitsville USA because of the vast number of hits and stars produced by Motown that changed that world.

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

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

This brings me to the historic and game-changing record label – Motown and its founder Mr. Barry Gordy. Let’s be honest, can you imagine a world without “The Motown Sound”? For many who don’t know or have forgotten, prior to Motown Records rarely did you see the face of an African American on the cover of an album or black music heard on mainstream radio. The music we enjoyed and others stole was called “Race Music.” As strange as seems it was segregated in the same way America was prior to 1960s when Motown was founded. Prior to Motown few black performers enjoyed anything close to crossover success. By the way, an album is what was used to play music before CD’s and MP3’s.

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

From a tiny little basement studio we were introduced to Michael Jackson, the Supremes, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, the Miracles, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, Four Tops, the Commodores, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Jr. Walker and the All Stars, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Rick James, Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, Teena Marie, DeBarge, the Jackson Five, Martha and the Vandellas, the Marvelettes and Motown’s Funk Brothers studio band; just to name a few of the artists that graced our souls and touched our hearts making us proud.

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

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

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

 


Peace, Love, and Soul

2I wonder how many people realize how much Soul Train meant to our community and what it did for the African American pride. Let’s remember the show appeared less than a decade after society barred “collared music” from being heard on must media through a segregated program called “Race Music”.

So much of what is written on the pages of time is skewed or simply altered to fit His-Story. I have said many times “our story is the greatest story ever told”. We, as a people, have had the fortitude to make something out of nothing. Yes, and I know that is an understatement – but it is true. Through this writing, I want to pay homage to Don Cornelius who made something possible at a time when it was impossible.

I left for Vietnam in 1969. At that time, representation on television as it related to African American’s was basically nonexistent. Of course, there was the baboonery and unrealistic representations of who they wanted us to be or appear to the world. When I returned, a year and a half later, changed as a young man as well as the world I left behind. Thanks in large part to Mr. Soul Train. From the time of my return until the show ended, I devoted nearly every Saturday afternoon to viewing “Soul Train”.

The host of this groundbreaking show was a tall always stylishly dress host in the latest fashion; at least for the time. That man was Don Cornelius an enigmatic mélange of ambition, vision and begrudging affection, who like most old school show biz impresarios. African American’s knew that his rival American Bandstand did very little for the artist or our community at that time. Mr. Cornelius had the vision to create the hippest trip on television and dare I say in America.

Sadly the Soul Train creator ended his own life on February 1, 2012 with a single self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head that I would reverberated around the world. Mr. Soul Train was not just a great American story of triumph over travail; he was a hallowed symbol to the African American community.

He used his platform to change the world through its outstanding reflections of our pride and talent. The news of his suicide on the first day of Black History Month was a jarring way to enter a month-long celebration of the contributions of African Americas to the vitality and veracity of this nation and the world.

His mission was to shine a light, a bright light, on the African American culture through great music and to showcase the performers who in many cases had no other national platform. This included the known, unknown, and obscure literally making stars of them overnight. Soul Train was the powerful vehicle, and it became the longest running syndicated show on television, a black history fact to remember.

Watching Soul Train made you instantly cool, no matter if you were black, white or otherwise. Where else could you learn the latest dances, hippest fashions, and the next best way to rock that Afro and what products you had to have to keep it looking good? The legendary Soul Train Line was essential viewing. Can you remember those parties you attend on Saturday night’s after watching the show where you used the moves to do your own Soul Train line? It could be said that it raised your “Cool IQ”. Soul Train was a window into a world rarely seen by the world.

Mr. Cornelius stepped down as the host of Soul Train in 1993, but the show continued with a series of new hosts who continued his vision, inculcating a new generation of Soul Train devotees. Soul Train remained the hippest trip in American until it went off the air in 2006.

When Mr. Cornelius signed off on February 1, 2012, it was a tragic end to a long running iconic figure in American music. His contributions will never be forgotten or matched and his legacy will last – I wish him love, peace and soul. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Women’s History Month Featured Author

 
Get in Alignment
By Adrienna Turner

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We may be looking through tinted windows and afraid to see the beauty within us to shine for all to see. Although we have recognized our talents, abilities, and/or skills and put them to work, we still may not see who we truly are. God already knows who are you and where you’re going, but we either move too fast or too slow whereas we do not allow things to happen in its timing. We have to clearly understand that everything happens in its due timing (Eccl. 3).

Yet when we hear the Word or receive a revelation, we’re trying to rush and finish the race before God is in the running with us. Or we rather not receive it, ignore it, and forget that we’ve even heard it; so we do nothing. This nothing can last for years, or way longer than God ever intended it to be. A good example is the Israelites residing in the wilderness for forty years that could have taken only days.

However, I had a talk with God about being transparent and sharing a few of my talents with the world, but then wondering why I am in the wilderness. I’ve been in the literary arena for ten years and written ten published books in seven years. After this shift, I had to put projects on hold and even wanted to stop writing altogether. Behind the scenes, I sent out a few manuscripts to publishers that I’ve studied, connected with their authors, researched the literary industry and market, and even received rejection letters.

When I was at my breaking point, I received a literary award for “The Day Begins with Christ” for female author of the year and celebrated with the special ladies of my life at the event. I knew God was aligning me in position. I told God around midnight until I was able to finally around four AM that I put my heart and soul in these literary projects with His anointing to guide the pen as I was only the instrument to complete the finished craft.

But wondered why do you only give us a glimpse of these future realities? Despite the dreams, the visions, the revelations, and celebrating others breakthroughs in their crafts, my mind lingered on a statement made on UnSung with Phyllis Hyman. The statement was addressed that she was a musical genius but didn’t have the record-breaking sales like artists of her today.

Then I thought about my literary career as an author and contributing writer where I’ve volunteered at speaking events and given books for free, not yet to see the ground-breaking sales such as being on best-seller list. Or the royalty checks that reveal such effort, sweat, and those insomnia-restless nights while working on these literary pieces. But God keeps bringing certain people, dreams, visions, confirmations, or situations where I have to keep pressing through and believing that I will see the fruits of my labor.

Through my educational efforts, after seeing the economy fall, I had already experienced unemployment, lay-offs, and financial woes too many times, whereas I know how to weather the storms. Despite the speculators’ gossip, family and friends unbelief, I plan to pursue a law degree. Therefore, we have to keep hope alive because our dreams need to be showcased for someone else to stay inspired to pursue the dreams and gifts that also live within them.

We often talk about our talents and gifts, but fail to activate them when the opportunity presents itself because we allow every excuse to stand between our blessing and us (Wilson, My Business, His Way, paraphrased). Please do not let this be your downfall when aligning yourself in position. Believe and know that we are more than capable in completing our God-given assignment. Keep the faith and speak affirmations to keep pressing towards the goal (see Phil. 4:6-7). Moreover, do not let division stop the vision.

Then, I’ve done several virtual radio programs, TV appearances as a guest host locally, actress in a small stage play production for nearly two years, and appeared on other radio programs but others wonder why do you do it if you see no profitable results from it or lack of participants/listeners. I felt led to step out of the norm, my comfort zone, and venture to new avenues. After five years, four shows, I know that it’s aligning and preparing me for something much bigger.

These things are stepping stones and soon will see the top of the mountain of opportunities and to be financially secure. Ultimately, these things are meaningless without God in it. Moreover, we have to be ready when God tells us to go. Words of encouragement while getting in alignment: You are giving birth to your dreams whereas complications seem harder to PUSH this thing forth. But the more adversity, the more God’s protection and favor is coming your way! Press through the pain…heartaches…and hard times, because the miracles in the midst are worth it all! Don’t fall!

Overall, if we knew what would have happened then things would be different. We just need to change our mindset and believe the unbelievable, and get in alignment with the plans that God has for our lives.

This article was written by Adrienna Turner the award-winning author for female author of the year: The Day Begins with Christ, nonfiction. She is a graduate of a Masters Degree in Library Information Science with honors as magna cum laude and Bachelors Degree in Information Resources from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Websites: 

www.adriennaturner.webs.com
www.dream4more.org
http://dreamyourreality.webs.com


The Hollywood Illusion

22Everybody is talking about this year’s groundbreaking Oscar winning black artists, as if Oscar just realized black people were in the movies. Let me give prop’s to the winners first, and I suppose we should be proud, but in about one hundred years, so few African America’s have walked away with the prize, maybe we should not be over jubilant. In the case of the Best Supporting Actress, there have only been seven black women and in this case the role was a slave.

There was a time, believe it or not, when the only roles African Americans could get in Hollywood were the second class citizen’s rolls; you know the maids, servants, and the all too common Step-in Fetch-it kind of roles. Few blacks were on the screen, and fewer worked behind the screen. Then something interesting happened during the 1960s that was like a revolution. I don’t want to date anyone, but if you did not witness this cinematic transformation, I am going to try to capture the essence of the era.

Hollywood has never, from its conception, view or considered black people as a commodity. They expected all people to watch whatever movies they made and like it, as a result of the government mandated policy of segregation. African American’s in particular simply had no choice but to accept it. It was so extreme that in most cases black people, if they were allowed, had to sit in the balcony and had a separate entrance into the theater where the movie was shown. Hence, all of the hero’s we knew looked like whom they wanted us to emulate.

Now, as a result of the turbulent 1960s, the reflection or the realization of, the country changed. This was not due to Hollywood’s interpretation, rather as far as cinema was concerned, it actually began with a low budget independent film called “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” in 1971, written, produced, scored, directed by, and starred Melvin Van Peebles. It tells the picaresque story of a poor African American man’s flight from the white authority. Van Peebles began to develop the film after being offered a three-picture contract for Columbia Pictures.

No studio would finance the film, so Van Peebles funded the film himself, shooting it independently over a period of 19 days, performing all of his own stunts and appearing in several unsimulated sex scenes. He received a $50,000 loan from Bill Cosby to complete the project. The film’s fast-paced montages and jump-cuts were unique features in American cinema at the time. The picture was censored in some markets and received mixed critical reviews.

Then came “Shaft” produced and directed by the Gordon Parks starring Richard Roundtree and was critically acclaimed. The film produced both the Grammy Award and Academy Award winning soundtrack recorded by Isaac Hayes. These were two huge steps in the evolution of black representation on the big screen. After the success of these two films, Hollywood saw that there was a spending black audience wanting to see people who looked like them on the screen, and they began to exploit the new genre even calling it – Blaxploitation.

This brings me to the third movie that I thought never got its just due, although it is a cult classic today. This movie was Super Fly! It was about a cocaine dealer who begins to realize that his life will soon end with either prison or his death. He decides to build an escape from the life by making his biggest deal yet, converting the coke to cash and running off to start a new life. The problem was that the Mob does not have a retirement plan and will give him a choice of staying and selling for them or dying if they find out his intentions.

The star was the late Ron O’Neal a Tall, lean, handsome veteran stage and classically trained actor, whose role as Priest – the long haired, stylishly dressed cocaine dealer in the seminal 1972 crime drama. The co-stars Sheila Frasier, Carl Lee, Julius Harris, and of course we all know Freddie – Charles McGregor; all producing stellar performances. I would be remised if I did not mention the great Curtis Mayfield, who wrote the hit score. I did a little research and found the back story that speaks to the tremendous efforts of the producers and all involved.

Most surprising was that the script was only 45 pages long, which explains why there are so many shots of people walking, driving, etc. The reason I wanted to share this story is because I recently rented the movie and got an entirely different impression of the film than I did thirty years ago.

The moral of the story; when the success of the aforementioned Blaxploitation films proved that money could be made off of blacks the movie market was flooded with an explosion of this genre. My guess is that as a result of 12 Years A Slave, which was done once before, we’re are about to see more slave movies than there were slaves. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


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