Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist/Legend Charles Edward Anderson “Chuck” Berry born October 18, 1926, in St. Louis, Missouri transitioned this life at his home in St. Louis to be with the ancestors on March 18, 2017. They told us this person or that person created Rock & Roll, namely folks like Elvis, but we know like everything in America was stolen from black people. So it is well-known that the great Mr. Berry was the creator and the beginning of what is called Rock & Roll. That’s it and that’s all! Thank you sir for all that you gave the world – R.I.P. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…
Tag Archives: rock and roll
Aretha or Ree Ree, as we affectionately call her sometimes, earned the title “Lady Soul” early in her career but I think “Queen of Soul” is more appropriate, which she has worn uncontested since she recorded her first tune. As much of an international institution as she’s become, much of her work, if not all, is fitfully inspired by her gospel roots making her music a must and in some cases a necessity, for our listening pleasure.
Franklin grew up in the bosom of gospel music, one of six children, and daughter to a Baptist preacher. Moving from her birthplace of Memphis, Tenn. and finally settling with her family in Detroit. Her early years were filled with musical experiences and environments from two cities that were brimming with groundbreaking music – from gospel to soul to R & B – in the 1950s and 60s.
Franklin’s first recordings with Columbia did not receive the accolades the label thought they would receive, and it wasn’t until she began her career at Atlantic Records did she find her real place in music, eventually becoming the recipient of 18 Grammies.
Aretha’s voice has been the prize to which so many females over the last 50 years have set their eyes, striving to emulate with success her depth of feeling, her soulful cadence and the natural essence that seems to flow from within her and into her music. From girl groups to solo artists, so many women, young and old, see her more than just a role model for music, but for womanhood in general.
As a compliment to the Queen, I see her in the metaphorical sense like the guy from the movie “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which was about a man who gets younger as he ages. She gets better with time! Aretha’s ongoing, lifelong career is bar-none one of the most profound and greatest of our time. Her music remains the foundation for so many to live by and love, and it has stood the test of time. All Hail the Queen. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…
Before Motown and in the spirit of our tremendous musical legacy let me share a story of the record company that introduced the world to the blues and black music when it was called “race music”. It is the story of the legendary Chess Records Family. Let me include the great Maurice White of Earth, Wind, and Fire was nurtured and part of the Chess Family. Yes, I am talking about the ghost of the greats, which laid the founders for Rock and Roll.
Leonard Chess Phil Chess
Leonard and Phil Chess, two Polish born immigrants, founded Chess Records the pre-eminent Blues label of the 50s and 60s.Eventually they created a monopoly of Chicago music recording, doing sessions and releasing recordings by every major blues performer from John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, “King of the Slide Guitar”, to Bo Diddley through Jimmy Reed, Chuck Berry and everyone in between.
Brothers Phil and Leonard Chess owned the upscale Macamba nightclub on Chicago’s Southside. Chess Records “Home of the Electric Blues” was started by brothers Leonard and Phil Chess in the late forties. Leonard and Phil Chess – two enterprising immigrant brothers from Poland – bought into fledgling Aristocrat Records, a label that had been formed a short time before by Evelyn Aron and her husband.
By the time they got involved with Aristocrat, Leonard and Phil were already aware of what sort of music might sell in the Black community that of a young Delta-born-and-bred slide guitarist: Muddy Waters. Waters had previously recorded for Columbia, the company but none of his work was released. When he recorded “Gypsy Woman” and “Little Anna Mae” for Aristocrat the Chess brothers found in him the means to distinguish their little company from the hundreds of other independent R&B labels springing up across the country.
At the beginning, Leonard and Phil focused their recording and publishing ventures primarily in the area of popular jazz, but soon expanded into blues, receiving their first Billboard recognition in 1947. By 1949 Aristocratic Records which became Chess Records in 1950, was a fixture in the world of music and its recordings and the songs published by Arc Music remain the most impressive collection of blues music in the world.
From their experiences in the nightclub business on the South side of Chicago, the Chess brothers understood the popular preferences of their predominantly African-American audiences, but also saw the marketability of blues music to a broader audience. In the beginning Chess Records was ran as a two man business, with Phil overseeing the nightclub and the offices of Aristocrat/Chess and Arc, while Leonard alternately scouted talent, produced the sessions, and hand delivered fresh recordings to radio stations in the Chicago area.
Slide guitarist Robert Nighthawk’s pre-war popularity made him a nice acquisition, and the 1948 session that produced his “My Sweet Lovin’ Woman” was doubly important because it introduced bassist Willie Dixon, an artist whose talent as a producer/songwriter/ session player during the 1950s and 1960s vastly contributed to the label’s long-term success.
McKinley Morganfield aka Muddy Waters and sideman Little Walter
In 1950, the Chess brothers launched Chess Records with Gene Ammons’ “My Foolish Heart,” followed by Waters’ “Rollin’ Stone.” Guitarist Jimmy Rogers made his Chess debut August of 1950, with t “That’s All Right” and “Luedella.” Little Walter who revolutionized the role of the harmonica in Chicago blues with his astonishing flights of amplified fancy. Walter’s legacy is punctuated by his slew of hits during the ’50s: “Mean Old World,” “Off The Wall,” “You’re So Fine,” and the 1955 Dixon-penned R&B chart-topper, “My Babe.”
Chester Burnett aka Howlin’ Wolf
Despite his success with local talent, Leonard Chess, aided by Sam Phillips, began to look outside Chicago for talent. Phillips supervised Memphis pianist Roscoe Gordon’s smash “Booted” (1952) and shipped Chess masters by Rufus Thomas, Dr. Isaiah Ross, Joe Hill Louis, and Bobby Bland, but his top contribution to the label’s legacy was Chester Arthur Burnett, a.k.a. Howlin’ Wolf. With Ike Turner playing the piano both sides of Wolf’s first Phillips-produced Chess 78, “How Many More Years” and “Moanin’ At Midnight,” proved major sellers in 1951. By 1953, Wolf had left Memphis for Chicago, recording more hits including “Who Will Be Next” and “Smokestack Lightnin’.”
A host of other blues legends recorded for Chess during the early and mid-1950s. Memphis Slim, Eddie Boyd and Willie Mabon, assuredly did. Boyd’s 1953 “24 Hours” and “Third Degree” both sold very well, as did Mabon’s “I Don’t Know” (1952) and “I’m Mad” (1953), both number one R&B smashes.
John Lee Hooker
John Lee Hooker first recorded for Chess in 1950. Joe Williams made the charts that same year with “Every Day I Have The Blues.” Big Bill Broonzy and Washboard Sam recorded material in ’53 that straddled the fence between pre-war Chicago blues and the brasher new style.Memphis Minnie likewise attempted to resuscitate her career with a 1952 Checker single, “Me And My Chauffeur.” On the jazzier side of the tracks, saxmen Leo Parker, Tab Smith, Lynn Hope, and Eddie Johnson kept things swinging. By the early-1950s, Water’s group added pianist Otis Spann. Though he was now a star in his own right, Little Walter still recorded behind his ex-boss on Waters’ immortal “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man” and “I’m Ready.”
Rice Miller a/k/a Sonny Boy Williamson II
In 1955 new talent was added to the Chess stable. Sonny Boy Williamson, a blues legend across the Mississippi Delta thanks to his King Biscuit Time radio broadcasts, joined Checker, a Chess subsidiary label. For his first recording “Don’t Start Me Talkin'” Chess paired him with most of Water’s band. Bo Diddley was signed in 1955 too. His first two-sided smash for Checker, the self-titled “Bo Diddley” and “I’m A Man.
But no one at Chess had the impact on the future of popular music that Chuck Berry did. Berry accepted Water’s advice regarding the advantages of working with Leonard Chess, signing with the label in May of 1955 and his first unforgettable hit, “Maybellene.”
There were also vocal at Chess. Harvey Fuqua’s the Moonglows from Louisville had a 1954 hit with “Sincerely,” and The Flamingos, a Chicago quintet fronted by Nate Nelson, scored big for Checker in 1956 with their dreamy “I’ll Be Home” and “A Kiss From Your Lips.”
As Berry, Bo, and the vocal groups sold platters by the crates, some of the blues greats that had epitomized Chess during its early years of operation began to recede into the background. But mainstays Muddy, Sonny Boy, and Wolf hung tough, Wolf doing some of his best work during the early ’60s when Dixon wrote “Back Door Man,” “The Red Rooster,” and “Hidden Charms” for him (the latter manically energized by Hubert Sumlin’s elastic guitar work).
In 1960, Dixon recruited younger Chicago blues talent, signing guitarists Buddy Guy (“First Time I Met The Blues” and “Broken Hearted Blues”) and Otis Rush (1960’s “So Many Roads, So Many Trains”)
Etta James also made her Chess debut in 1960, scoring no less than four hits for the imprint that year alone. Etta’s magnificent work for Argo (and later Cadet and Chess) over the next 16 years uncovered depths of passion and pain barely
hinted at on her previous waxings. She waxed the torch ballads “At Last” and “Trust In Me” (both major hits in 1961) surrounded by sumptuous strings, rocked the house with a gospel-rooted “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” the next year, and set Muscle Shoals ablaze in ’67 with her strutting “Tell Mama,” sounding equally confident in all three diverse settings.
In addition to James had many female artists during the mid-1960s that Jan Bradley (“Mama Didn’t Lie”), Sugar Pie De Santo (“Slip-In Mules”), (“I Had A Talk With My Man”), Fontella Bass (“Rescue Me”), Jackie Ross (“Selfish One”), Jo Ann Garrett (“Stay By My Side”), Laura Lee (“Dirty Man”), and the Gems, whose precocious membership included Minnie Riperton. Even Irma Thomas joined the Chess in 1967, recording in Muscle Shoals. protégé Koko Taylor scored the last Chicago blues hit for Checker in 1966 with her growling “Wang Dang Doodle.”
As rhythm and blues merged with gospel influences to form the basis of soul, Chess was right on top of the trend. Little Milton Campbell who had hits with “We’re Gonna Make It,” “Who’s Cheating Who?” and “Grits Ain’t Groceries.”
Along with Little Milton, were the Dells, (“There Is” and “Stay In My Corner”) the Radiants (“Voice Your Choice”), Billy Stewart (“Summertime,” “Sitting In The Park”), Bobby Moore & the Rhythm Aces (“Searching For My Love”), Tony Clarke, James Phelps, and Bobby McClure.
Tommy Tucker’s “Hi-Heel Sneakers,” a huge ’64 hit on Checker, traveled bluesier terrain, while the Ramsey Lewis Trio, with Eldee Young on bass and Red Holt on drums, turned out to be a crossover sensation when their grooving instrumental remakes of “The In Crowd” and “Hang On Sloopy” vaulted up the R&B and pop charts in 1965. Nor was the Chess combine deficient in humor – albums by veteran comics Moms Mabley and Pigmeat “Here Comes The Judge” Markham made sure of that.
Chuck Berry remained at Chess into 1966, seemingly rejuvenated after serving a prison term (his 1964 hits included “No Particular Place To Go” and “You Never Can Tell”). After unwisely switching to Mercury Records for a few lean years, he returned home to Chess and scored his biggest pop hit of all in 1972 with “My Ding-A-Ling.” Bo Diddley recorded a slew of Checker LPs throughout the decade, his trademark beat never faltering.
2120 South Michigan Avenue
So inspired by the magnificent output of Chess were the Rolling Stones that they immortalized the label’s famous address, 2120 S. Michigan Avenue, in song on one of their early LPs.
During this time, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf tried their best to cope with ’60s trends. “Muddy Waters Twist” was admittedly nothing to write home about, but his ’63 Folk Singer LP was a heartening return to his Delta roots, and 1969’s Fathers and Sons set united Muddy with adoring disciples Mike Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield. Though at the tail end of the decade producer Marshall Chess submerged Waters and Wolf in a quagmire of psychedelia, each legend emerged with his vaunted reputation intact.
In 1969, Leonard Chess died, stilling the heart and soul of Chess Records. Earlier that year, he and Phil had sold the company to GRT where producers Ralph Bass and Gene Barge tried their best to hold things together. Sadly, though, the momentum that Chess had long enjoyed quickly began to erode. In 1975, GRT closed down the logo, selling it to All Platinum Records of Englewood, New Jersey.
Finally, in 1985, MCA acquired the rights to the massive Chess catalog. At the start of 1987, MCA Vice President of Catalog Development & Special Markets A&R, Andy McKaie began to mount an ambitious long-term reissue campaign of the invaluable Chess masters – an ongoing program that rages full steam ahead all year long in 1997 with the 50th anniversary celebration.
“The impact of Chess was far wider and greater than any of the others, ranging from the impact of the Chicago blues sound, the Chuck Berry/Bo Diddley School of rock & roll, and the vocal group sounds,” he continues. “The range of that impact was so great that it’s still being felt today.
It was the profound music that made the artists of Cadillac Records the groundbreaking home for black music. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…
Courtesy of DK Peneny, Published 3/98 – Last update 10/15/2009
History has shown that the black culture has influenced every aspect of American and, dare I say, white life. History has proved that white folk has stolen everything as their own; research it and you will agree. They are unequivocally drawn to the vibrant threads of black culture. Such people like Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali, Marvin Gaye, Tupac Shakur, Spike Lee, Thurgood Marshall and the work of every black musician; they hijacked the true storyline of people like these and cooped it as their own. All of these men were viewed by white America as the most vial while they lived!
Although they will never admit it because it was a rickety bridge that I will say is due to racism, which is why they will not connect the chasm between whites and blacks. Affixing a footnote, which is true; black people created Rock and Roll; men like Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry, yet they claim it was Elvis Presley and Mick Jagger! But aside from the one or two black friends they may have they tolerated much of this hateful vitriol, seeing it merely as harmless and distasteful, rhetoric to deny it was copied. It is their belief that they have the right to everything.
In essence, because most still believe they own black people. If you are in a privileged group, it is a policy to uphold and maintain the rules of white supremacy. To do this only means they are a parasite or to be politically correct cultural bandits. Hall of Fame basketball coach John Wooden once said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” Wooden stood tall in the face of an unapologetically racist society during his early life. He would not compromise his principles, even pulling his entire team from a tournament in the 1940s because his one black player was not permitted to attend. Not many white folk throughout history would take this kind of principled stand!
Most whites, then and now, dare not denounce disapproval of verbal attacks, police killings of black people, or the unfairness of the justice system’s impact on minority groups made from the comfort of our homogeneous social circles. This can be uncomfortable ground that many may not be ready or willing to walk. They know all of this is true but fear ostracization.
I would argue that they cannot take the potential retaliation from those around them who have had their ingrained stereotypes and viewpoints challenged. For fear of being buried for attempting to bring other whites a sense of compassion and understanding to the plight of minorities. Minorities, especially black, in their eyes exist for their monetary gains?
They stole Jazz music, stole R&B, and today, they have stolen Rap Music just like they did with Rock and Roll! I am only taking about music but we know they stole the land and most innovative productions of nearly everything created but always there for the monetary benefit! On a broader notion, anywhere you look in history – it all points back to Africa! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…
Hollywood 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…
On this day, I have decided to dedicate and pay homage to one of the voices of my favorite group of all-time – The Temptations. Come along as I stroll down memory lane remembering the sweetness of harmony that is realized when we think of the Temptations. We know the classic lineup change often, but the music remained true to the “Temps” style.
Those who know the group, know that the great David Ruffin was only a member for about four years. In that short period of time, he became a legend, and that classic lineup became virtually immortal. After his departure, they needed a replacement, and they turned to the perfect compliment. Dennis Edwards, an ex Contour, is truly underrated for his work taking the group in a different direction and to another level. Imagine, if you can, replacing a living legend. We could say that it was the Dennis Edwards era of greatness.
Dennis Edwards came to Motown in search of a solo career. Motown signed him on a retainer, in order to keep him from signing with another label. He was eventually slotted into the rough and rowdy Contours. Meanwhile, Otis Williams and Eddie Kendricks, having seen him as he dominated a Contours performance, figured he would be a perfect replacement for David Ruffin, whose showboating had gotten on the groups last nerve.
With the addition of Dennis came a whole new sound, thanks to the genius of Norman Whitfield. “Cloud Nine” would give Motown and the Tempts their first Grammy. For the next six years Dennis’ soulful shout would be heard on hit after hit, including “I Can’t Get Next To You”, “Don’t Let The Jonses Get You Down”, “Ball Of Confusion”, and, of course, Grammy winner “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone”.
By 1975, the group became tired of the social conscious “message” songs and wanted to return to the love songs they so enjoyed. The Tempt’s left Motown for Atlantic and Jeffrey Bowen took over production, and as a result, A Song For You would turn out to be one of the group’s most satisfying albums, as well as proving the versatility of Edwards.
Longevity is something that is rare in the music business. The Detroit-raised Edwards, who moved to St. Louis in the 70s to be close to his mother, remarked in a recent interview “I never imagined I’d be one of the last ones standing, me and Otis… We really got caught up in the times, and how the heck did I make it? … I had a mother who prayed for me, and prayer changes everything.”
Dennis always wanting a solo career, left the group and cut a solo album for Motown. The album never materialized and after a short and humbling stint as a construction worker, Dennis rejoined the group, who had returned to Motown, for the triumphant release of Power, a Berry Gordy produced album.
During all this, Dennis finally did release his first solo album, Don’t Look Any Further, in 1984. It was a great album, the title song with Siedah Garrett being one of the great duets of the decade, but Dennis began having problems with drugs. A second album, Coolin’ Out, was released the next year but proved to be far inferior to the first. The title track was a moving and autobiographical piece on which Dennis sings about trying to put his life back together.
In 1987, Dennis would again return to Motown for the appropriately titled, Together Again. But in 1988, embattled by personal crisis, he left the group for good. In 1989, after talking with friends and former group mates Ruffin and Kendricks at the Temptations R&R Hall of Fame Induction ceremony. He united with the pair and the trio set off on a historic US tour. A couple of years later, the unexpected deaths of his good friends, Ruffin and Kendrick, left Dennis alone.
After those tragic events, he formed several groups attempting to use varying forms of the name “Temptations” that he had to battle in and out of court for use of some form of the name. Now, seventy years old, he continues to perform as Dennis Edwards and the Temptations Review pleasing audiences all over the world. No matter what the result, Dennis Edwards is a true “Soul Survivor”, and one of the most gifted singers of our time. He still has his sensuous and soulful voice, and no one can take that away.
By the merciful grace of God, he is the only one of the classic Temptations lead singers alive to continue the legacy and we are so blessed. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…