Tag Archives: spirituality

Remembering The Greatest Blues Man Robert Johnson

th00At The Crossroads

It is a great joy to share the glorious past of the ghost of the greats whose shoulders. The history of black music is littered with tragic figures, and none are more tragic than Robert Johnson’s story that will live for eternity. Legend has it that he sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads for his story to live for all times.

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. This amazing, ultimate star-crossed musical genius laid the early framework of rock and roll decades before that term was even imagined.

Not much is known about Johnson’s shadowy, poorly documented life and violent death at age 27, which is one of the reasons that have given rise to his legend. With that being true, the music and legacy he left behind is irrefutable and unparalleled.

He is considered by some to be the “Grandfather of Rock-and-Roll” for his vocal phrasing, original songs, and guitar style. His music has 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 and was known as 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 riffs. 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. The man laced Johnson’s whiskey with strychnine that caused him to become violently ill playing 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.”

Black History is American History and I believe our story is the greatest story ever told. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

FaceBook @ John T. Wills

Like my FaceBook Page

Twitter @ John T. Wills


The Unspoken Truth

3

I celebrate Black History every day – 365 days a year. It has been nearly 400 years since that fateful or should I say infamous day in the year of our Lord 1619. When the first African was dragged onto the shores of this place the slaves called “merica” – nothing has changed for black people! These people were physical slaves, but today most are locked in mental bondage. Sure there are a few black faces in high places but some will say these people are bought and sold by the dominant culture doing nothing the masses of the race. This group still, for the most part, remains in a destitute situation compared to the “Real Americans”. Therefore, through this blog, I write articles specifically designed to be a potent source of empowering knowledge for the enhancement of the minds of mankind.

In today’s world, they tell us that the gay movement is the new civil rights movement and that black people have “overcome.” Like Malcolm told us; we have been, hoodwinked! Black people have yet, in spite of government law, to obtain their rights as a human beings and nothing close to what is called civil rights. It is my sincere wish that black people not continue to fall into the trap of divide and conquer, which has worked so well for so long. Let us understand the phenomenal history and difficult struggles of the African American experience and learn from the mistakes of the past. Our story is the “Greatest Story Ever Told!!!

The legacy of dependency, apathy, and entrenchment of the American social order from its beginning provides clear evidence of those with a diabolical intent to bankrupt the souls of African Americans based on an ideology of supremacy. The remnants of stolen souls exist today within the people of color, who bear the burden of a system that perpetrated, in the name of God, the greatest crime known to man. Hence, from the beginning, people of African descent were intended to be a nation of people living within a nation without a nationality.

This is without question “The Unspoken Truth”. The words herein are intended to empower by educating people through knowledge concerning issues that many blacks continue to face today from the untreated wounds of America’s forefathers. Let us understand through this knowledge-based examination of the African American Diaspora that I simply offer explanations whereby we can look at and understand the root-cause of the asymptomatic behaviors.

Some people call it a conditioning in “certain” communities while others may call it the Willie Lynch Syndrome. Nonetheless, my view is not an excuse, rather an explanation as to why these behaviors were never unlearned and had been passed down from generation to generation. Over my relatively short lifetime, I have been referred to as Colored, Negro, Afro-American, Black, and an African American, which were the polite terms assigned to make known that people of African Descent were not American citizens.

The concept of African Americans being slaves, physically or mentally, is as old as the nation itself, designed to deprive a people of its culture and knowledge through sustained policies of control. To overcome these indignities, we must realize that education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize the forces that breed poverty and despair. Regardless of how much we are held down, it is our responsibility to find a way to get up, even if the system is designed to protect the system.

We must teach and know that “learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is intellectual death, and courage is knowing what’s needed and doing it.” As tenacious beings, we must understand that there is no such thing as an inferior mind. So I say, it’s time for an awakening, if for no other reason than to honor those who sacrificed so much so that we could live life in abundance.

Be brave and remember this: “You only have a minute. Sixty seconds in it. Didn’t choose it, can’t refuse it, it’s up to you to use it. It’s just a tiny little minute but an eternity in it. You can change the world, but first, you must change your mind”. It is time for change and time for a movement! And that is my thought provoking perspective…

Media Kit


A Message For Black Women

1-I have been known to post Thought Provoking Perspectives that evoke controversy, as well as thoughts based on sound reasoning. This post I’m sure will do one or the other. It is not my intent to cast blame or fault; just a thought on a day without women. However, there is blame and fault to be extended to a large part of the black female population. Yesterday there was a huge celebration for women and I saw many black women participating. This was staged and for white women not to address the issues of black woman. I can remember the feminist movement that hoodwinked you; this so-called celebration was akin to that – it has nothing to do with you!

I cannot recall any movement that was organized by white folk that was designed to uplift or benefit you by those folk. I am not sure what would make you think any white women give a damn about you or your condition. If that was the case black people would not be in the condition you are in today. I can remember a time when Big Mama taught lessons to her daughters concerning the profound responsibly a black woman has to the survival of black life, which is to produce and maintain the life she bore. See it is you who nurtures and feeds the family to produce a long life and a decent quality of life for the children you birth.

Most blacks still fall into that deranged thinking that if a white person does it that so should it is good for you! From my perspective, many of our women have fallen into the cultural digression of that strange reality of thinking you should assist with the white woman’s problem. I will not dare speak to your womanhood mainly because I am not qualified to do so. But what I will say that their problems as a whole have nothing to do with you and nor are they interested in solving the issues that plague your life.

If they did we would see them rally around causes like the brutal and senseless police shootings of your black sons and stand up to your current state of affairs. Sadly they don’t! 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…


All Hail The Queen

1The world renowned Diva Aretha Franklin is without question the most profound voice of our time. She is universally considered the Queen of Soul standing head and shoulders above all others. However, she is not only a giant of the soul music genre, but to pop and gospel music as well; more than any other performer, she epitomized soul derived from her gospel-charged roots. The Queen established an astonishing run of hits like “Respect,” “I Never Loved a Man,” “Chain of Fools,” “Baby I Love You,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Think,” “The House That Jack Built,” and so many more great tunes during her career that we love.

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…

Media Kit


The Aftermath Of Integration

1I recently had a conversation with a group of young people, none of which lived during the age of government segregation. Each had strongly convoluted opinions about the era that were not based in fact. This made me think about how much the current world view has changed the reality of black life, as it relates to a historical perspective.

First, white folk never wanted it and chatted go back to Africa at the time. It was never intended to be fair or equal! I am not suggesting that integration should not have happened, but it did have a negative impact on black life and the future of African Americans in many ways. Two prominent ways were in the areas of family and black business.

One thing that happened, for sure was that the black community stopped supporting the businesses in their own communities. After segregation, African Americans flocked to support businesses owned by whites and other groups, causing black restaurants, theaters, insurance companies, banks, etc. to almost disappear. Today, black people spend 95 percent of their income at white-owned businesses. Even though the number of black firms has grown 60.5 percent between 2002 and 2007, they only make up 7 percent of all U.S firms and less than .005 percent of all U.S business receipts.

I took the opportunity to educate these young people that in 1865, just after Emancipation, 476,748 free blacks – 1.5 percent of U.S. population– owned .005 percent of the total wealth of the United States. Today, a full 135 years after the abolition of slavery, 44.5 million African Americans – 14.2 percent of the population — possess a meager 1 percent of the national wealth.

If we look at relationships from 1890 to 1950, black women married at higher rates than white women, despite a consistent shortage of black males due to their higher mortality rate. According to a report released by the Washington DC-based think tank the Urban Institute, the state of the African American family is worse today than it was in the 1960s, four years before President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act.

In 1965, only 8 percent of childbirths in the black community occurred out of wedlock. In 2010, out-of-wedlock childbirths in the black community are at an astonishing 72 percent. Researchers Heather Ross and Isabel Sawhill argue that the marital stability is directly related to the husband’s relative socio-economic standing and the size of the earnings difference between men and women.

Instead of focusing on maintaining black male employment to allow them to provide for their families, Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act with full affirmative action for women. The act benefited mostly white women and created a welfare system that encouraged the removal of the black male from the home. Many black men were also dislodged from their families and pushed into the rapidly expanding prison industrial complex that developed in the wake of rising unemployment.

Since integration, the unemployment rate of black men has been spiraling out of control. In 1954, white men had a zero percent unemployment rate, while African-American men experienced a 4 percent rate. By 2010, it was at 16.7 percent for Black men compared to 7.7 percent for white men. The workforce in 1954 was 79 percent African American. By 2011, that number had decreased to 57 percent. The number of employed black women, however, has increased. In 1954, 43 percent of African American women had jobs. By 2011, 54 percent of black women are job holders.

The Civil Rights Movement pushed for laws that would create a colorblind society, where people would not be restricted from access to education, jobs, voting, travel, public accommodations, or housing because of race. However, the legislation did nothing to eradicate white privilege. Michael K. Brown, professor of politics at University of California Santa Cruz, and co-author of“Whitewashing Race: The Myth of a Color-Blind Society” says in the U.S., “The color of one’s skin still determines success or failure, poverty or affluence, illness or health, prison or college.”

Two percent of all working African Americans work for another African American’s within their own neighborhood. Because of this, professionally trained Black people provide very little economic benefit to the black community. Whereas, prior to integration that number was significantly higher because of segregation people in the black community supported each other to sustain their lives and families.

The Black median household income is about 64 percent that of whites, while the Black median wealth is about 16 percent that of whites. Millions of Black children are being miseducated by people who don’t care about them, and they are unable to compete academically with their peers. At the same time, the criminal justice system has declared war on young Black men with policies such as “stop and frisk” and “three strikes.”

Marcus Garvey warned about this saying:

“Lagging behind in the van of civilization will not prove our higher abilities. Being subservient to the will and caprice of progressive races will not prove anything superior in us. Being satisfied to drink of the dregs from the cup of human progress will not demonstrate our fitness as a people to exist alongside of others, but when of our own initiative we strike out to build industries, governments, and ultimately empires, then and only then will we as a race prove to our Creator and to man in general that we are fit to survive and capable of shaping our own destiny.”

Maybe this proves that once past truths are forgotten, and the myths that are lies are born with an unfounded reality detrimental to all, but those who seek to benefit. As I have often said, “I firmly believe education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize those forces that breed poverty and despair. We can change the world but first, we must change ourselves.” And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

Twitter @JohnTWills

Source: Black Atlanta Star


Did You Know The Origins Of Watch Night Had Nothing To Do With Religion

6I love history mainly because it is like a clock that tells the story of time traveled. However, history and truth are two very different things when compared to the way His-Story tells it. What we have been told is not, in most cases, true at all in any respect. For example, most people have no idea where or why we celebrate most traditions. This is to include the “greatest stories ever told” – Christmas and Easter! The construct of religion drives our thinking as it relates to the direction of our lives.

Regardless of what we are told; our faith causes us to believe. Let me just add that faith is believing true that which is unseen. I only need to remind you of the representation of the deity you probably worship because, in our heart of hearts, we know that this person represented could not have come out of that region of the world where they said he was born. Yet, our faith tells us to believe, and most do without question as to what we are told. I know that made you go hmmm!

Here is another example: This year Americans will celebrate another anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which is another one of those misconceptions of America’s past. The fact is Lincoln did not free anyone with this proclamation. It was issued for and to the Negro’s held in bondage in the Confederacy and not the slaves of the Northern States under his authority. Coming out of this came what has become known as “Watch Night” on New Year’s Eve that follows an African American tradition dating back more than a hundred and fifty years.

The first Watch Night occurred on Dec. 31, 1862, as abolitionists and others waited for word via telegraph, newspaper or word of mouth that the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued. “A lot of it, at least, the initial Watch Night was really celebrated in the newly freed black community. Yet for a people largely held in bondage, freedom is a powerful idea — and that’s what the Watch Night tradition embodies” says Lonnie Bunch, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Most of us don’t know that part of the historical tradition. It has somehow been connected to religion and not its original origin that was the hope of freedom for people of African descent held in bondage. So at midnight, many congregations will pray the old year out and the New Year in asking for God’s blessings. The truth is Watch Night is deeply rooted in the history of blacks in America; it is especially relevant at a time when the community is still struggling with sermons that should be designed to address the progressive and regressive moves we have been through as a people.

I remind you that the proclamation did not free anyone. The document that was supposed to free the slaves was the 13th Amendment, but it did not do that either. However, Lincoln’s goal was accomplished as the proclamation did change the character of the conflict from a war to preserve the union to a war for human liberation. In reality, it was a way to obtain the manpower by using black in what to that point was a losing effort. The cultural bandits have rewritten the truth. You are the holders of the light, and the light is the truth.

It was recorded that an enslaved person had a wonderful reminiscence of the event by saying, “I was on Master Johnson’s plantation and a soldier came, and he took out a little piece of paper and suddenly said we were free”. Now I ask whose plantation are you on! So I suggest that you know what it is you believe because it is more often than not – not true. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

Knowledge is the gift that keeps on giving.


%d bloggers like this: