Tag Archives: James Brown

Remembering The Ghost Of The Greats

1-I woke up this morning to the sweet sounds of soul blasting from my radio that inspired and lifted my spirits immensely. Having been awakened to a new day in such a profound way. I decided to offer my remembrance to the amazing crooners, songstress’, prolific singer-songwriters and record producers who’ve transitioned to that wonderful place all of us wish to go. Their amazing talent must make-up the most amazing heavenly choir.

We know black music has influenced every sound or beat they every made and of course, as they have in much of world history they stole what was rightfully ours. So let’s take a moment and pay homage to the innovators and creators of such amazing music. I have said many things I cannot imagine a world without Motown or that of the great black music legends!

As I began to wondering what it must be like as the ghosts of the greats walk around heaven or wherever we go in the afterlife gathering for a concert to sing that music the meant so much to us in this life. The harmony must be simply amazing. When these great artists were alive and with us; black music – soul music – was awesome. Thankfully, they left us their gifts of sound for us to forever enjoy.

I’ll just name a few choir member that are walking around heaven all day: Whitney Houston, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Ali-Ollie Woodson, Marvin Gaye, Billy Preston, James Brown, Etta James, Donny Hathaway, Isaac Hayes, Nic Ashford, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Tammie Terrell, Teena Marie, Levi Stubbs, Barry White, Grover Washington, Johnny Taylor, Bob Marley, Gerald Levert, Ray Charles, Maurice White, and Michael Jackson. Although it’s impossible to name them all – BUT WE MISS AND LOVE YOU!

Times were much difficult for black people because of your work. You added hope to our struggle and your souls brought out such creative music albeit from the secular world and the church – we were overjoyed. Today’s black artists do not know what it is to be innovative or create their own music, and if they do, they do not have what I know as soul, you hardly feel anything. The new generation started producing their music, often times, in such negative a way that it affects the black community in what I view as negative ways. Is it because they did not learn from the great artist that came before them or know what it means to be creative.

What I see and hear, for the most part, black music could be at the point of no return. Furthermore, the artists who are now deceased singing in that glorious choir in this place called heaven were originals who never imitated to gain fame. These days, you have a lot of imitators, and this is one of the main reasons why we have few black artists today that touch our souls.

Moreover or sadly is that the new generation of artists, for the most part, seem to have no knowledge of what soul music means spiritually or simply understand how to be original. So to the ghosts of the greats – Rest In Peace – you will be remembered for all times. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


Patti LaBelle

1-As I thought about a woman to give great praise and highlight during this month dedicated to great women and their achievements. My choice was Patricia Edwards better known to the world as Patti LaBelle or to those who love her as “Miss Patti”. She is renowned as a Grammy Award winning recording artist, author, and actress with over 50 years in the music industry. Miss Patti spent 16 years as lead singer of Patti Labelle and the Bluebells a group that changed their name to “Labelle” in the early 1970s and released the iconic song “Lady Marmalade”.

She started a solo career shortly after the group disbanded in 1977 becoming an established crossover success with “On My Own”, “If You Asked Me To”, “Stir It Up”, and the hit “New Attitude”. She has also recorded huge R&B ballads; “You Are My Friend”, “If Only You Knew”, and “Love, Need and Want You”.

Miss Patti possesses the vocal range far greater than any soprano. Her musical legacy and influence, she has rewarded her with inductions into the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Apollo Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame. The World Music Awards presented her with the prestigious Legend Award. She has sold over 50 million records worldwide.

She released her self-titled album in 1977 to critical success, with the highlights being the dance singles “Joy To Have Your Love” and “Dan Swit Me”, and the pop-R&B ballad “You are My Friend”, a song she and her husband co‑wrote. Her subsequent follow-ups, however, 1978s “Tasty”, 1979s “It’s Alright with Me”, and 1980s “released”, failed to be as successful. Though well-established in some circles, LaBelle never followed her live performance success with hit records, which was often the case with the Bluebelles. In 1981, she was switched to Philadelphia International Records.

Miss Patti found success outside of music, performing on Broadway, TV, and movies. Her first film role was “A Soldier’s Story” and later issued for the soundtrack of Beverly Hills Cop. She garnered headlines in 1985 for her show-stopping performances, first at Motown Returns to the Apollo where she opened the show with Joe Cocker singing “You Are So Beautiful” where she received high praise. In the same show, she engaged in the so-called “infamous mic toss” between her and Dianna Ross during the show’s finale “I Want to Know What Love Is”. In fact, most views thought she stole the show.

A longtime resident of Philadelphia married Armstead Edwards, who had one child and tow adopted boys who were the children of their next-door neighbor after their mother died of cancer. Following the death of her youngest sister Jackie Padgett, the couple raised Padgett’s teenage children. In 2000, the couple announced their separation. Their divorce was finalized in 2003.

As lead singer of the legendary group Labelle, Patti LaBelle has been called one of the pioneers of the disco movement due to singles such as “Lady Marmalade” and “Messin’ With My Mind”. In turn, “Lady Marmalade” has been also called one of the first mainstream disco hits. Rolling Stones Magazine includes LaBelle in its 100 Greatest Singers List, citing her as an influencing factor to “generations of soul singers” including Luther Vandross, Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige and Christina Aguilera.Other singers who have been inspired by Patti LaBelle are Ashford & Simpson, Celine Dion, Donna Summer, Jennifer Hudson, Jody Watley, Macy Gray, Mariah Carey, Martha Wash, Paula Abdul, Fantasia Barrino, Whitney Houston, and Ariana Grande as well as Oleta Adams, and Regina Belle.

I could go on for days praising this woman for her longevity and accomplishments but space does not allow it. But, if you have ever seen this show-stopping songstress, I am sure you will agree. As the old adage says, she is one in a million, rather I would say she is one who only appears once in a lifetime. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Remembering: Bobby Womack “The Poet”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


James Brown Mr. Dynamite

2

Music is the fragrance of culture! History proves that the black man was the original man. The first two things that happened was that his nature naturally produced the beat of the drum and dance. It was that way originally and it still is today. Overtime, there have been many black men, and women, trend setters, who created every genre of music. Yes, black people have always been at the forefront of sound, be it jazz, gospel, blues, rap, hip hop, and the most captivating sound of all – soul music.

HBO produced a documentary called Mr. Dynamite. It detailed the James Brown Story, which reminded me of the greatness of James Brown. Therefore, I want to pay homage to “Mr. Brown” for his impact on the music and the world. For all of his faults and problems nearing the end of his career, Mr. Brown was a force and not just in the entertainment field but as a groundbreaker. I think all black people should admire him if for no other reason that for his hit recording – “Say it Loud I’m Black, and I am Proud.”

I was a teenager at the time when the song was released, and it was a game changer. It was at a time when the slogan “Black Power” was spoken privately among ourselves and during what was still the Jim Crow era. He had the nerve to release that song, which could have ended his career right there, but he took a stand with this powerful message. Mind you, this was just shortly after the time of “Race Music” and for those who don’t know it was when white artist stole black music and black music was not allowed to be played on the radio for white people to hear or radio.

The untimely death of James Brown in 2006 left a huge void in what was once called “Soul Music.” Young people today who sample is music in rap, don’t realize the relevance of Mr. Brown’s accomplishments, although I doubt if Mr. Brown himself ever doubted his own significance as a historic figure and an undeniably game-changing artist. His showmanship and art altered the music world.

James Brown was an enigma, and I would imagine by his own design, which could very well be the price of fame. Brown grew up in the harsh and segregated south where the conditions of his upbringing could and should not have promised the multitude of success, obtained throughout his career. Mr. Brown didn’t bring blacks to the mainstream; instead, he brought the mainstream to blacks and made them appreciate and internalize black music and culture.

Everybody who has ever heard a song by Mr. Brown has attempted to tell his story and try to dissect his complex and multi-layered life. Regardless of the varying opinions, most have failed to capture the depth of value fully that Brown and his music played in transforming American life.

A New Year Times reporter RJ Smith wrote a book a few years ago titled “The One: The Life and Music of James Brown where he said:

“Smith not only effortlessly highlights James’s unmatched musical career, but also provides a well-studied historical context for the basis of his artistic expression. Chronicling the legacy of resistance through music, Smith explains how James’s artistry was closely linked to the struggle for civil rights as well as the cultural expression of blacks, from Africa through slavery and the journey into the 20th century. It would after all be impossible to discuss 20th-century music and the civil rights/black power movement without putting James Brown at the top of that list. And “The One” is the first serious book to explain precisely why.”

“When you reflect on the life and legacy of James Brown, it cannot be explained without taking into account the period in which he was raised and the experiences that shaped his identity. But just as important is how he incorporated his social/political views into his music in a way that was soulful and entertaining beyond belief.”

James Brown was an enigma, and I would imagine by his own design, which could very well be the price of fame. Brown grew up in the harsh and segregated south where the conditions of his upbringing could and should not have promised the multitude of success, obtained throughout his career. This was accomplished by hard work, grit, and dogged determination. His life, by virtue of being in the entertainment business, was made up of constant challenges and hurdles, but his perseverance and tenacity — coupled with sheer talent — provided the world with a lens on the American black experience.

The article also stated that “The One” thrives in highlighting how James’s irrefutable genius and artistry transcended social blockades and eventually drew audiences from all sectors of society. The funk originator never compromised his roots and never sold out in order to be accepted; rather, he made the world revolve around him. But despite his tremendous achievements, his success was still limited.

Mr. Brown was known as the hardest-working man in showbiz not only made us “black and proud” but he also possessed a soul rooted deeply in equality and justice for his people. I will not attempt to rewrite a story that has already been well written nor have I read the book because I live his life with him. I am suggesting that to understand the greatness in a man that so many have tried to tarnish – maybe we should credit him for being there and doing what he did for us to benefit from today.

He was no doubt the King of Soul, created Funk, and birthed Hip-Hop – to which we all should be grateful. I don’t believe there are any perfect men, but there are men with perfect intentions. Therefore, I’m going to overlook any faults or frailties the man may have had and just say as Mr. Brown said to

As he so boldly said in a recording at a time of harsh segregation – “Say it Load I’m Black, and I’m Proud”. – Rest in Peace Mr. Brown. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

Media Kit


Heavenly Choir

I began my day thinking about my dear son who transitioned and left this life some years ago. I like to think he is always with me and through pray he knows this. Then as I read today’s paper and read a story about the condition of Bobbi Kristina and felt deeply saddened that it appears she will not recover. As I continued, I remembered all of the friends and family who have passed.

My grandmother loved music, and I began to wonder what it must be like in heaven where the ghosts of the greats gather to sing in that heavenly choir. The harmony must be simply amazing. When these great artists were alive and with us black music – soul music – was awesome. Thankfully, they left us their gift to enjoy forever.

Of course, there are far to many to list but I’ll name a few choir member that are walking around heaven all day: Whitney Houston, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Ali-Ollie Woodson, Bobby Womack, Marvin Gaye, Billy Preston, James Brown, Etta James, Donny Hathaway, Isaac Hayes, Nic Ashford, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Tammie Terrell, Teena Marie, Levi Stubbs, Barry White, Grover Washington Jr., Johnny Taylor, Bob Marley, the Levert brothers, Ray Charles and Michael Jackson. YOU WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN, WE MISS YOU AND LOVE YOU!

Times were much difficult for black people, but the struggle brought out such creative music from the souls of these greats be it in the secular world and in the church. Today’s black artists do not know what it is to be innovative and create their own music, and if they do, they do not have what I know as soul, you hardly feel anything. The late 90′s and into the 21st century was the worst time in the world of soul music. New generations start producing their music, then it negatively affects the black community, because they did not learn from the great artist that came before them or know what it means to be creative.

What I see and hear, for the most part, black music could be at the point of no return. Furthermore, the artists who are now deceased singing in that glorious choir in this place called heaven were originals who never imitated any other music artists to gain fame. These days, you have a lot of imitators, and this is one of the main reasons why we have no more black artist with real soul that touch our souls when they sing.

Moreover, it appears that the new generations have no knowledge of what soul music means or even how to just be an original artist. 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…


That Literary Lady Talks With Author John T. Wills

41475_1273248444_3897_nAuthor John T. Wills sat down with Yolanda Bryant-Johnson “That Literary Lady” for a rare interview. An honor indeed. I invite you to listen and get to know the author of Thought Provoking Perspectives.

http://johntwills.com

“Knowledge is power and power produces an understanding that education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize those forces that breed poverty and despair. You can change the world but first – you must change your mind”.

LISTEN: http://www.spreaker.com/show/the_john_t_wills_show

thank you

John T. Wills


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