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Remembering Johnny Ace

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I love to journey back in time to remember the ghost of the greats. Today, I want to reach way back in the annals of music history to resurrect a great soul man John Marshall Alexander, Jr. He was famously known by the stage name Johnny Ace, who was one of the early rhythm and blues biggest stars. He scored a string of hit singles in the mid-1950s before dying of an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The son of a preacher Johnny Ace was born in Memphis, Tennessee, a place that produced many great recording artists. He joined the B.B King band and with King departed for Los Angeles. Ace took over vocal duties for the band and renamed the band The Beale Streeters. He also took over King’s WDIA radio show.

When he became “Johnny Ace,” he signed with Duke Records, originally a Memphis label associated with WDIA, in 1952. His first recording was known as a ‘heart-ballad’ – “My Song,” that topped the R&B charts for nine weeks in September of that year. The influence of this song was so profound that “My Song” was covered in 1968 by Aretha Franklin on the flip-side of “See Saw.”

With the success of “My Song,” Ace began heavy touring, often with Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton. In the next two years, he had eight hits in a row, including “Cross My Heart,” “Please Forgive Me,” “The Clock,” “Yes, Baby,” “Saving My Love for You,” and “Never Let Me Go.” As a result, he was named the Most Programmed Artist of 1954 after a national DJ poll organized by U.S. trade weekly Cash Box.

Ace’s recordings sold very well for those times. Early in 1955, Duke Records announced that the three 1954 Johnny Ace recordings, along with Thornton’s “Hound Dog,” had sold more than 1,750,000 records. After touring for a year, Ace had been performing at the City Auditorium in Houston, Teas on Christmas Day 1954. During a break between sets, he was playing with a .22-caliber revolver. Members of his band said he did this often, sometimes shooting at roadside signs from their car.

It was widely reported that Ace killed himself playing Russian roulette. Big Mama Thornton’s bass player Curtis Tillman witnessed the event and said, “I will tell you exactly what happened! Johnny Ace had been drinking, and he had this little pistol he was waving around the table, and someone said ‘Be careful with that thing…’ and he said ‘It’s okay! Gun’s not loaded…see?’ and pointed it at himself with a smile on his face and ‘Bang!’ – sad, sad thing. Big Mama ran out of the dressing room yelling ‘Johnny Ace just killed himself!”

Thornton said in a written statement (included in the book The Late Great Johnny Ace) that Ace had been playing with the gun, but not playing Russian roulette. According to Thornton, Ace pointed the gun at his girlfriend and another woman who were sitting nearby, but did not fire. He then pointed the gun at himself, bragging that he knew which chamber was loaded. The gun went off, shooting him in the side of the head.

According to Nick Tosches, Ace actually shot himself with a .32 pistol, not a .22, and it happened little more than an hour after he had bought a brand new 1955 Oldsmobile. Ace’s funeral was on January 9, 1955, at Memphis’ Clayborn Temple AME church, which was attended by an estimated 5,000 people.

His last recording was “Pledging My Love” that became a posthumous R&B No. 1 hit for ten weeks beginning February 12, 1955. As Billboard bluntly put it, Ace’s death “created one of the biggest demands for a record that has occurred since the death of Hank Williams just over two years ago.” His single sides were compiled and released as The Johnny Ace Memorial Album.

Artists who paid tributes to the great Johnny Ace.

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez performed “Never Let Me Go” on the Rolling Thunder Revue Tour late in 1975.

Elvis Presley recorded “Pledging My Love” in his last studio session in 1976. The song appeared on the Moody Blue album in 1977, his current LP at the time of his death.

Paul Simon wrote and performed the song “The Late Great Johnny Ace,” in which a boy, upon hearing of the death of Ace, orders a photograph of the deceased singer, describing: “I came all the way from Texas / With a sad and simple face / And they signed it on the bottom / From the Late Great Johnny Ace.”

David Allan Coe covered “Pledging My Love,” introducing the song with his own recollections of hearing the news of Ace’s death. Johnny Ace is also name-checked by Root Boy Slim in “House Band in Hell” as well as by Dash Rip Rock in the song “Johnny Ace.”

Ace’s song “Pledging My Love” appears in the 1973 Martin Scorsese film Mean Streets and John Carpenter‘s 1983 movie Christine, based on Stephen King‘s novel. The song also appears in the Abel Ferrara film Bad Lieutenant. The song also appears in the movie Back to the Future It is playing in the background of the scene with Marty and his mother in the yellow car. It is, however not credited.

The Teen Queens song “Eddie My Love” was originally titled “Johnny My Love” and was written in Johnny’s memory.

The Swiss singer Polo Hofer and the Schmetterband wrote the song “Johnny Ace” in 1985; it was released on the album Giggerig.

Rock and Roll historian Harry Hepcat notes: “Johnny Ace was a crooner who sounded like Johnny Mathis with soul. ….Soon after the death of Johnny Ace, Varetta Dillard recorded ‘Johnny Has Gone’ for Savoy Records in early 1955. She incorporated many of Ace’s song titles in the lyrics. This was the first of the many teen tragedy records that were to follow in the later 50s and early 1960s.”

Dave Alvin’s 2011 release, Eleven Eleven, contains a song describing his death, called “Johnny Ace is Dead.”

Who knows how great this man could have been? In most music circles, he has been forgotten but in the annals of time he will live forever. Johnny Ace’s life proves that when you do your best work it will be timeless! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

If you did not know Johnny Ace watch the video for more information.


An American Shame

“Disclaimer: This piece is long but it is knowledge everyone should know.”

2There have been many ways to suppress people over time; unfortunately, African Americans have endured the brunt of these efforts. As we know, the history of America reports that it was not only African American’s who were subjected or affected by these efforts. What I can report is that it was always a minority affected by these laws meant to ensure a permanent underclass.

This ideology began as indentured servants, then slavery, segregation, and now could it be conservatism. In each of these classifications there was a design called laws Black Codes, which I suppose make these immoral sanctions sound gentler. The truth is the sole purpose was to suppression rights. Kinda like the agenda behind the States Rights dog-whistles we hear today.

Black Codes were laws passed designed specifically to take away civil rights and civil liberties of African American on the state and local levels. This is the reason Conservatives desire a return to “States Rights” and speak of taking back their country because at the state level they can be unimpeded in turning back the hands of time.

Although, most of the discriminatory legislation, in terms of Black Codes, were used more often by Southern states to control the labor, movements and activities of newly freed slaves at the end of the Civil War. But as Malcolm X once said, “Anywhere south of Canada was south” meaning wherever you were in America you were subjected to discrimination in terms of the “separate but equal” laws, which was the law of the land.

The Black Codes of the 1860’s are not the same as the Jim Crow laws. The Black Codes were in reaction to the abolition of slavery and the South’s defeat in the Civil War. Southern legislatures enacted them during Reconstruction. The Jim Crow era began later, nearer to the end of the 19th century after Reconstruction, with its unwritten laws.

Then there were sundown laws, which meant Blacks, could not live or be caught in certain towns after dark. In some cases, signs were placed at the town’s borders with statements similar to the one posted in Hawthorne California that read “Nigger, Don’t Let The Sun Set On YOU In Hawthorne” in the 1930’s. In some cases, exclusions were official town policy, restrictive covenants, or the policy was enforced through intimidation.

After the abolition of slavery by the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which prior to that African Americans were considered 3/5’s human. Therefore, all former slave states adopted Black Codes. During 1865 every Southern state passed Black Codes that restricted the Freemen, who were emancipated but not yet full citizens. While they pursued re-admission to the Union, the Southern states provided freedmen with limited second-class civil rights and no voting rights. Southern plantation owners feared that they would lose their land. Having convinced themselves that slavery was justified, planters feared African Americans wouldn’t work without coercion. The Black Codes were an attempt to control them and to ensure they did not claim social equality.

The Black Codes outraged public opinion in the North because it seemed the South was creating a form of quasi-slavery to evade the results of the war. After winning large majorities in the 1866 elections, the Republicans put the South under military rule. They held new elections in which the Freedmen could vote. Suffrage was also expanded to poor whites. The new governments repealed all the Black Codes; they were never reenacted – OFFICALLY.

Many of these things are unknown to the generations of today because these injustices have been erased from our history and very little of it is taught in today’s classroom. For example, a sundown town was a town that was all white on purpose. The term was widely used in the United States and Canada in areas from Ohio to Oregon and well into the South. Even in Canada many towns in Southern Ontario, Alberta, and Quebec, were sundown towns prior to 1982, when it was outlawed. The term came from signs that were allegedly posted stating that people of color had to leave the town by sundown. They were also sometimes known as “sunset towns” or “gray towns”. Let me ask if you have ever been to a million dollar community – sound familiar.

The black codes that were enacted immediately after the Civil War, though varying from state to state, were all intended to secure a steady supply of cheap labor and all continued to assume the inferiority of the freed slaves. The black codes had their roots in the slave codes that had formerly been in effect. The premise behind chattel slavery in America was that slaves were property, and, as such, they had few or no legal rights. The slave codes, in their many loosely defined forms, were seen as effective tools against slave unrest, particularly as a hedge against uprisings and runaways. Enforcement of slave codes also varied, but corporal punishment was widely and harshly employed.

Let me highlight this example: In Texas, the Eleventh Legislature produced these codes in 1866. The intent of the legislation was to reaffirm the inferior position that slaves and free blacks had held in antebellum Texas and to regulate black labor. The codes reflected the unwillingness of white Texans to accept blacks as equals. You do remember “Juneteenth”? In addition, the Texans also feared that freedmen would not work unless coerced. Thus the codes continued legal discrimination between whites and blacks. The legislature, when it amended the 1856 penal code, emphasized the continuing line between whites and blacks by defining all individuals with one-eighth or more African blood as persons of color, subject to special provisions in the law.

Minorities were systematically excluded from living in or sometimes even passing through these communities after the sun went down. This allowed maids and workmen to provide unskilled labor during the day. Sociologists have described this as the nadir of American race relations. Sundown towns existed throughout the nation, but most often were located in the northern states that were not pre-Civil War slave states. There have not been any de jure sundown towns in the country since legislation in the 1960’s was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, although de facto sundown towns and counties, where no black family lives – still exist.

Therefore, we see hints of it in the racism that has raised its ugly head and risen to the surface of society’s consciousness, particularly in this political climate. Since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and especially since the Civil Rights Act of 1968 prohibited racial discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing, the number of sundown towns has decreased.

However, as sociologist suggest it is impossible to precisely count the number of sundown towns at any given time, because most towns have not kept records of the ordinances or signs that marked the town’s sundown status. It is important to note that sundown status meant more than just African Americans not being able to live in these towns. Essentially any African Americans or other groups who came into sundown towns after sundown were subject to harassment, threats, and violent acts; up to and including lynching.

As one historian has noted, “Racial segregation was hardly a new phenomenon because slavery had fixed the status of most blacks, no need was felt for statutory measures segregating the races. These restrictive Black Codes have morphed in one form or another to achieve its desired effect to maintain a superior status by the powers that be. I am only suggesting that we know and understand history for it will open the mind to what the future may present.

Frankly, if you don’t know where you came from you will never get to where you are going. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective!!!


IMAGINE

QU601ImagineJohnLennonI can recall a song written by John Lennon, who in my opinion had a depth that few men dared to explore. He caused me to “Imagine”. When you do open your mind you can realize possibilities. A wise man once told me that faith is believing what is unseen to be true. I have always imagined that people could live in peace and the world could live as one. No pain, no sorry, no racism, and above all “study war no more”.

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

And that’s my message and Thought Provoking Perspective…

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Our Continued Existence

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I have written thousands of articles and a few books with the intent to empower minds with the hope of enlightening the consciousness of mankind. For those who follow my words you know I firmly believe education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize those forces that breed poverty and despair. It is the opposition to the system of survival that has been intent on making sure education is limited and poverty in considerable.

 It was the Englishman Francis Beacon, who is credited with being the first to record the phase “knowledge is power”. I am probably not as intelligent as he but I say “knowing what to do with that knowledge is where the power of your strength rest”.

I recently had what you might call an epiphany. I was being interviewed on a radio show for a segment called “For Women Only”. As the conversation progressed, we talked about Big Mamma, the community, the children, and African American issues. For clarity, most refer to their community as a “Hood”. What is a hood? A hood is something you “hide”. So, if “it takes a village”, we must empower the community, that have become non-existent or at least hidden, to rise from its designed despair.

After making that remark the host asked, “what happened to us and John, what can we do to make it right”. If I recall I responded with an answer, something like, it was televisions fault. While in my mind I was feeling the power of the question, which really gave me a chill thinking about the question. “What Happened?”

I will start with the first question, which is sure to be a Cosby moment for many. What happened was us? After the scam called integration, we began to believe we were accepted as equal citizens of these United States. For many African Americans, we forgot about one another partaking in the false reality of assimilation and followed white flight running from our communities. We allowed anyone to come into our community, setup shops, we stopped supporting our own businesses, and let our dollars, some say is nearly a trillion annually, go elsewhere. But the biggest problem was we STOPPED PARENTING!

The institutional aspects are systemic. The unemployment rate is double for blacks than for whites, we’ve lost more homes to foreclosure than whites and we’ve lost more wealth than whites”. To any reasonable person this is not equal! If we had listen to the great minds like Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Dubois told us how to build our community. Marcus Garvey told us how to be self-sufficient and to take care of our own needs. Elijah Muhammad taught us how to carry ourselves with dignity and respect. Dr. King gave us faith and Brother Malcolm told us to do it by “Any Means Necessary!

With that said, I have been troubled, as I am sure many of you as well and struggled with the second question, which was what do we do. We are the most religious people on earth; we marched, prayed, and wait for Jesus to come to our rescue.  I hope you feel my passion here, as tears flow, and it hurts to say this but the problem rests with the person you look at each day in the mirror.

People we are still in slavery, mentally, slaves to our debt, and in slaved within the jails and prisons systems. Now, Ray Charles can see – through death and imprisonment we are becoming extinct! Add to that black women have forgotten and in many cases have no desire for black men as the image of her man has been destroyed. The reality is this: if there are no black men to procreate – we all die!

Maybe the answer to the second question is to be the people we were created to be and when you look in the mirror each day; ask yourself what have you done to benefit someone or the world. You have a choice to live or die, yet more important to continue the species. If not now “when”? If not “YOU”, then who! Well I’ll tell you – “us”! Why, because we are the keepers of the faith.

Therefore, we can change the world but first we must change ourselves! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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Young Gun Down

11The most amazing thing happened Tuesday night that marked the first time since 1899 that the House majority leader was defeated in a primary election; and badly I might add. The prevailing wisdom, at least according to the winner, Cantor was too liberal. Fact of the matter, Cantor should be ashamed of his twelve year tenure because he did nothing and was part of the worst congress in the country’s history, commonly known as “the Do Nothing Congress”.

You proclaimed himself one of the “Young Guns” of the Republican Party, which is nothing more than a code-word for the “New Jim Crow”. This guy was in line to be the next Speaker of the House when John Boehner decided he was tired of herding the opposition. The majority leader was the number two man in congress and the third most powerful republican in Washington. He was also an Arden voice against the president, yet he called himself a patriot.

His loss was devastating and a humiliating defeat. It was sweet vindication that the Republican strategy of stoking up faux-populism of just saying no and never proposing a solution to any problem has blown up spectacularly. Because in their gorgeously gerrymandered districts, their own voters felt things like shouting down the government didn’t go far enough. They said; government is the problem to which I would agree because it was Cantor and folks like that is the problem.

Moving on; the problem as I see it, if Cantor was too liberal – what do you think the guy who beat him to take his place will be like. The endpoint of this insane ideology is the election of a Tea Partiers that if like the rest are not interested in governing at all. Rather dismantling government. It is the mission of the institutional Republicans to gamble that obstructionism alone would give them power are seeing their fortunes turn, and their majority become meaningless.

They simple don’t want any government action on any issue. They want the current trend to continue to allow states rights to be the objective where individual municipalities push forward minimum wage laws because the federal government is paralyzed. Meanwhile, the gap between the rich and the poor widens every day, and Republicans have convinced many rural Americans that the problem is the tax rate on the wealthy. He also voted all of the fifty plus times to take healthcare away from American citizens.

We should be very skepticism of anything changing for the better. Cantor’s replacement will bring more of the same – nothing. But if college professor Dave Brat’s upset victory over the House majority leader indeed spells doom will certainly bring more of the same.

Here’s the irony. Cantor’s defeat had nothing to do with immigration, amnesty, or the border. It had everything to do with arrogance and the fact that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely – they realized like his cohorts simply did nothing, but leverage their positions to benefit themselves.

In an even more satisfying irony because Cantor was one of the greatest proponent of not cooperating with the administration on every piece of legislation proposed by the president. He, along with his compatriot Paul Ryan, instead has championed “broadening the tax base,” otherwise known as taxing the poor.

So overnight, he became a political dead man walking within hours of his defeat and resigned from his leadership position. So forgive me for having little joy in my heart, even if it means we get another Tea Partier in the House. For a bit, it feels as though there is some sense of justice for the left. No matter how much power you accumulate, your own monstrous sentiments can come back to bite you. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


University Student Writes Malcolm X Is Valued Hero For Today’s Times

The social and cultural impact the late civil rights leader and human rights champion Malcolm X still maintains in today’s modern society is an amazing example of his valuable existence. While the former Nation of Islam minister’s criminal past and fiery vocal assaults against the White power structure at large often defined him, it was his later acceptance of humanity as a many-hued tapestry that broadened his global appeal.


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


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