Tag Archives: nina simone

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…


The Nina Simone Biopic

1aHollywood has never been supportive or fair to the Black community, when they rewrite and tell our stories. We can go back to the early days of cinema and see most often our images, like His-Story, distorts our true reality. The black person was always the “buffoon” or the help, and this is being kind. More significant, recently there was a white actor selected to play Michael Jackson in an upcoming movie.

When it comes to our history, Black people’s contributions have been distorted to reflect the white culture’s view of it. Examples are abound; the Ten Commandments, Hannibal, or the most serious distorted depiction was Cleopatra, all played by white people, when, in fact, each were of African Descent.

Recently, the Nina Simone biopic debuted at Cannes. I was waiting for reviews to come out before writing anything about it.  Now a release date is set to be released in theaters on April 22, 2016. As a result, the movie titled “Nina” has been hit with criticism from Nina Simone’s daughter and others over the casting of Zoe Saldana, mostly because the 37-year-old actress doesn’t look anything like Nina Simone.

The long and short of this post is I can remember Nina Simone and have a bit of a problem with the actress chosen to play her in the movie. I think there are a number of very talented black women, who may have been a better choice. Just to name a few, Viola Davis, Kimberly Elise, India Arie (who I think would be my first choice) or Mary J Blige would be more fitting to play the High Priestess of Soul. Since popular votes don’t guarantee selection, the outcome is already a finished product starring Zoe Saldana. I am certainly not saying Saldana is not a very good actress but in my view, she does not fit the character as well as others. I am saying, in my view, just because you can don’t mean you should. Now, with that said, I like Zoe as an actress!

I can recall listening to Nina Simone’s music; I remember seeing her face. I had a childish fixation, because of her strong personality and her being unappologenicly black.  One could extend the inference of esteem extended black people. I wonder what Zoe felt inside every time she sat down and watched the make-up artist apply a prosthetic nose and darken her skin. Please take a moment to think about that process. When Zoe as Nina looks in the mirror, she is promoting mythology. Say what you want about The Great Sphinx’s missing nose, but the full lips still remain after all these centuries. A black person’s nose always gets in the way of European theory.

When I look at Nina Simone, I see a messenger with a wide nose and full lips. When I look at Zoe as Nina, I see someone in a cloak walking a windy road to an awkward redemption. I share no empathize with her being a puppet. This brings us to the supreme capitalists, who hide behind corporate curtains to profit from these deceptions. Some would say they robbed Nina’s grave, re-branded the artifacts with plans to sell and will settle all lawsuits after they count their money.

If you know or love Nina’s music, or if you dishonor her integrity means you hear her sound but not the woman of valor. What it means is that those people want soul music to be packaged in coffee bean blonde even though she told you black is the color. It means they don’t think Nina’s beautiful or glory is important, and only God knows what they think of the rest of us. This is my distain with regard to the casting. I have not seen this movie, but images are everything, and so far I feel disrespected.

Nina was not here to entertain us with dance and radio formatted songs. Her lyrics, her staging, her expressions, her espresso complexion adding another tone to the ebony and ivory, her ornaments, her natural follicles underneath the crowns adorned and the cigarette smoke she blew out her oval lips and ancient nostrils were all elements of her protest artistry.

The bottom line is that Hollywood, as it always has is driven by dollars and exploitation. I am sure Spike Lee faced a fair share of studio battles. I would venture to say that some studio executives approached him about having some white man play Malcolm X to test his integrity.

Nina Simone is dead but not gone the mind of those who knew and loved her. In the ongoing war of legacy versus exploitation, one spends a sacrificial lifetime to create a self-portrait with uncompromising colors only to have others betray your portrait with an unreal replica. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

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Nina’s Family Response


STRANGE FRUIT

?????????????????Today the news media propagate the fear of terror and how horrible the terrorist are like a drumbeat to produce fear. I wonder why they can’t see the why the terror inflicted upon black over the years was not equally as terrifying. The bombed black communities, killed our leaders, rape and pillaged the black community and its people in ways that can only be described as terror, which some would argue from the day the first African was dragged onto the share of this place the slaves call “merica”.

Of course there was protest and rage, which brings to mind the greatest protest song in history. We know the importance of Billie Holiday’s recording of the song “Strange Fruit” that tells a story that had be told than as it must be told now to our youth and we must never forget. Because when you forget history it is destined to repeat itself. In fact, it is repeating itself, only today it happens in the streets with guns instead of a rope and often times at the hands of so-called justice!

When you look at the almost weekly killings of unarmed black people at the hands of the so-called law, I often wonder why there are not many artists protesting through their craft like the song “Strange Fruit”. That song created immediate outrage and so much controversy it brought to light a grim reminder of an unnecessarily painful and ugly chapter in American history.

The song retains its force because the issues it raises about the legacy of racial terrorism in American society still resonate. The story told in this song compelled its listeners to confront the ugly past, which was genuinely disturbing then, as it is no less disturbing today.

While many people assume Strange Fruit was written by Billie Holiday herself, it actually began as a poem by a Jewish schoolteacher and union activist from the Bronx, who later set it to music. Disturbed by a photograph of a lynching, the teacher wrote in stark verse and brooding melody about the horror of lynching under the pseudonym Lewis Allan in 1938. It was first performed at a New York teacher’s union rally and was brought to the attention of the manager of Cafe Society, a popular Greenwich Village nightclub, who introduced Billy Holiday to the writer.

LISTEN TO THE WORDS AND NEVER FORGET THE TERROR!!!

“Southern trees bear a strange fruit, Blood on the leaves and blood at the root, Black body swinging in the Southern breeze, strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees. Pastoral scene of the gallant South, The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth, Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh, And the sudden smell of burning flesh! Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck, for the rain to gather, for the wind to suck, for the sun to rot, for a tree to drop, here is a strange and bitter crop.”

The version of the song you hear was done by the late Nina Simone. And that’s my THOUGHT PROVOKING PERSPECTIVE…


Never Forget: Strange Fruit

Every day, it seems, there is news of another unarmed black man gunned down simply by the police. These actions are eerily similar to the lynching’s that took place in the early half of the 20th century for pretty much the same reason as those murdered by white police in our society today. Let us remember the fallen and never forget!

The reason could be as simple as the concept of “Manifest Destiny”, which speaks to white  privilege. White America has never accepted African American’s as anything more than illegal aliens, in spite of the fact they captured the race against their will and brought to American in chains. I have repeatedly said, “We are a nation of people living in a nation without a nationality” basically because the Constitutions tells us so. You do remember the 3/5th human phrase.

In the wake of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager who was shot and killed by Zimmerman in 2012, Jordan Davis, who was also unarmed, and all of the daily killings at the hands of the police in the most recent terror upon black men killed because white men claimed they feared for their lives. Eric Gardner who was choked to death. Michael Brown, John Crawford and worst of all the kid murder while playing in the park. All lynched but just by gun!

Let’s also include the murders and shootings by the police, sanctioned by law, against African American’s such as Oscar Grant and countless others. Then there are people like Garrick Hopkins, 60, and his brother, Carl Hopkins Jr., 61, two brothers from West Virginia, who were shot and killed by a white man for what he claimed as trespassing on his land – when, in fact, they were inspecting a shed on their own property.

The attached  video is straightforward yet nuanced. The song “Strange Fruit” tells a story that must be told to our youth. We must never forget because when you forget history it is destined to repeat itself. We know the importance of Billie Holiday’s recording. But this indispensable video vivid imagery the history of the struggle against lynching, something that was very real, and for Black rights with a wealth of common history of African Americans, Jewish Americans, and the American Left. It is part of our history, part of our heritage. Teach your children and learn this chapter in our past.

The song “Strange Fruit” creates immediate controversy. Call it a grim reminder of an unnecessarily painful and ugly chapter in American history. The song retains its force, because the issues it raises about the legacy of racial terrorism in American society still resonate. The story tells a song that compelled its listeners to confront the past, which was genuinely disturbing then, and it is no less disturbing today.

While many people assume Strange Fruit was written by Billie Holiday herself, it actually began as a poem by a Jewish schoolteacher and union activist from the Bronx, who later set it to music. Disturbed by a photograph of a lynching, the teacher wrote the stark verse and brooding melody about the horror of lynching under the pseudonym Lewis Allan in 1938. It was first performed at a New York teacher’s union rally and was brought to the attention of the manager of Cafe Society, a popular Greenwich Village nightclub, who introduced Billy Holiday to the writer.

LISTEN TO THE WORDS AND NEVER FORGET THE TERROR!!!

“Southern trees bear a strange fruit, Blood on the leaves and blood at the root, Black body swinging in the Southern breeze, strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees. Pastoral scene of the gallant South, The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth, Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh, And the sudden smell of burning flesh! Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck, for the rain to gather, for the wind to suck, for the sun to rot, for a tree to drop, here is a strange and bitter crop.”

Let’s look at the murder of young black men and boys murdered today as a modern day version of lynchings. The murders an evolution of destruction and black people are nothing more than pray! They tell us not to forget 911 and the Holocaust – know this, we will never forget what you did to black people! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


George Duke: Rest In Peace

th (15)Its been one year since we lost the Grammy-winning jazz keyboardist George Duke. Mr. Duke was a producer whose sound infused acoustic jazz, electronic jazz, funk, R&B and soul. Duke was born in San Rafael, Calif. During his stellar 40-year-plus career, he appeared on a number of Frank Zappa albums and played in the Don Ellis Orchestra, Cannonball Adderley’s band and with jazz musician Stanley Clarke. Duke also played keyboard on Michael Jackson’s multi-platinum 1979 album, “Off the Wall.”

Duke began taking piano lessons when he was four years old, after seeing Duke Ellington perform. He said on his website, “I don’t remember it too well … but my mother told me I went crazy… I ran around saying, ‘Get me a piano, get me a piano!’”

Like most of the greats, Duke learned a lot about music from going to church, which helped him add a funk style to his sound. He played in high-school jazz groups and was heavily influenced by Miles Davis. He earned degrees from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and San Francisco State University.

On tour as part of the George Duke Trio, he performed in Los Angeles at a show where Adderley, Zappa and Quincy Jones were in attendance. Duke soon joined Zappa on a tour for a year in 1969. He joined Adderley’s band in 1971. He met Clarke through Adderley, and they formed the Clarke/Duke Project. Their song “Sweet Baby” was a Top 20 hit on the Billboard pop charts.

Mr. Duke became a solo artist in 1976 and released more than 30 solo albums. He also produced for Miles Davis, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick and Natalie Cole. His latest album, “DreamWeaver,” was released and features a touching tribute to her. He worked as musical director for the Soul Train Music Awards and other special events. He also scored songs on soundtracks for “The Five Heartbeats” and “Karate Kid III.”

Every life is born with a purpose. I am honored that I had the pleasure of being inspired by the wonderful music from this man of class and stature. I send my love, respect, and sympathy, from the depth of my heart to the family of George Duke for all the love he left the world. Rest In Peace and we will remember the “Dukey Stick”! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


The Godfather Of Rock and Roll

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BREAKING NEWS: Maya Angelou Dead At 86

Two independent sources close to Angelou confirmed her death to WXII’s Wanda Starke Wednesday morning. She was 86.

A police car, an ambulance and a hearse were seen outside Angelou’s home on Bartram Road around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. Winston-Salem police said they are at the home to investigate a death but released no other information.

The area near Angelou’s home has been blocked off to try to keep people out of the area, as well as to give respect to the family, WXII’s Talitha Vickers reported.

Angelou had been the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University since 1982. Wake Forest officials released the following statement:

“Today members of the Wake Forest University community mourn the loss of beloved poet, author, actress, civil rights activist and professor Dr. Maya Angelou. Dr. Angelou was a national treasure whose life and teachings inspired millions around the world, including countless students, faculty, and staff at Wake Forest….Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Angelou’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

Angelou was born April 4, 1928, in St. Louis. At 14, she became San Francisco’s first black female cable car conductor, and in the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asked Angelou to serve as northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Angelou received many accolades, including dozens of honorary degrees, the Presidential Medal of Arts in 2000 and the Lincoln Medal in 2008.

Read more: http://www.wxii12.com/news/dr-maya-angelou-dead-at-86/26204272#ixzz331Ba3qVr

R.I.P.


You Must VOTE!!!

2Elections are being held all over the nation this year. Most of these elections are on state and local level with issues that have national implications. The issues before voters encompass a wide range of concerns including union rights, voting rights, and women’s rights. Let us not be fooled by the right-wing because nothing about their views encompass the reality we face.

There are and will be issues placed before voters this fall and coming in 2016 that are serious and must not be taken lightly. Consider this, weren’t the rights of workers to organize collectively and negotiate for fair wages and safe working conditions determined long ago? If you like a 40 hour work week, overtime pay, weekends off, sick leave and paid vacations, you have no one to thank, but union organizers who brought workers together to demand these benefits.

The issue of raising the minimum wage for millions of workers and their families must be addressed in this age when “oligarchy” rules. Of course, there are other important issues. But just think about all of the people who sacrificed so much, like those who sacrificed their very lives to ensure that all citizens could exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote.

Then there are the women’s issues; isn’t it settled law that women – as full citizens of this great nation – have the right to be secure in their own person – without Republican intrusion into the difficult and personal choices they make in respect to their own bodies?

One of the greatest difficulties we face by living in this democracy, if you believe that’s what this is, we must contend with the assaults from institutional racism. The highest court in the land is against the people; the House of Representatives is not a functional body, the police are combat soldiers, and you know what – it begs the question; who do they serve. Once we were slave, but today we are all slaves on the plantation. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

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 THIS VIDEO SAYS IT ALL


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…


Last Days In Time

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I came across this thought provoking video, thank to a FaceBook page, and was compelled to share the message. America as great as it is faces a multitude of concerns that are imperative to the nation’s survival. Many of which, but not limited to, the most serious concerns are structural and coming from within.

If compared to America’s relation to time, about two and a half centuries, this system of government is relatively new and a very young experiment in democracy. The rise and fall of nations is a common as the change of seasons. With greed and division among the people; does the Universal God need to intervene and correct the situations but our so-called leaders cannot. 

The government is neglecting its citizens in every area that pertains to living and has forgotten that we are first human. Second, we are the engine of this system that makes up the American society. We the people fund the government that benefits the plutocrats and oligarchs. We have become a nation of “haves and have not’s”!

Could we be living in the “Last Days In Time”. We get caught up in a multitude of issues that really have nothing to do with critical issues facing the citizenry. Listen to the speaker who voices a compelling assessment and in his view there is a real possibility that THE END IS NEAR!

What do you think?

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