Showing posts with label African American music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label African American music. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Gospel CD mixes

The cover of my Gospel Music double disc mix with artist help from Elisabeth Rene
Back in December of 2010, I spent some time in the eco-village of Lynchdoche near Capetown, South Africa. I volunteered there, hanging out with the kids, pretending I knew something about gardening, and having a blast spending time in a country I had always wanted to visit.

I was in love with the music, fascinated by the history and curious to know the state of a country that was only 16 years (at the time) out of Apartheid.

One of the amazing things I got to do was visit Joya Homes, an "unofficial" orphanage, about an hour away. This orphanage is not supported by the government financially. Instead they have become a Section 21 Non-Profit Organisation, accepting donations.

Lydia Tom had a few kids of her own, but she started to take in other kids that needed help. When I was there, I believe there were about 18 children living with her. They relied on what others gave them. Some of these children where found in trash cans, some of them on doorsteps. Some of them are HIV positive. They were well behaved and sweet as can be.

I gave one of the teenaged boys my shoes and entertained the idea (just for a second) of taking one of the babies home with me, until reason set in. When I got back to California later and celebrated my 31st birthday I asked my friends to donate money that we could send to them. I hope they were able to buy something they needed and/or enjoyed.

In one of the last Joya Home newsletters, there was a request for money to buy Gospel Music CDs and DVDs. I sent an email asking if I could make them some CD mixes of American and South African Gospel music. They answer was yes, so I did. I had a blast making these.

The cover of my Mahalia Jackson CD mix
Because I wrote my Masters Report about American gospel music, I have collected quite a bit from the 60s and 70s, Mahaliah, Sam Cooke, the Dixieland Hummingbirds and more. And of course because I love to collage, I made some covers that I am REALLY proud of, and got to hang with my amazing friend Elisabeth Rene who provided help with lettering and decoration.

I hope the kids like them. Selected song lists found below. As usual, let me know if you'd like me to make you a copy.

The cover for the Soweto Gospel Choir's 2005 Voices from Heaven

Make a Joyful Sound – A Gospel Mix CD 1
1. Come and Go To That Land - Sam Cooke with the Soul Stirrers
2. Amazing Grace - Blind Boys of Alabama
3. Touch Me, Lord Jesus - Angelic Gospel Singers
4. Let's Talk About Jesus - Bells of Joy
5. When the Saints Go Marchin' - In Blind Willie Davis
6. Let Me Lean On You - Brooklyn All-Stars
7. I Won't Be Back - Caravans 
8. Bedside of a Neighbor - Dixie Hummingbirds
9. Swing Down, Chariot Golden - Gate Quartet
10. He's Got the Whole World in His Hands - Mavis Staples
11. Nothing Can Change Me (Since I've Found the Lord) - Pilgrim Travelers
12. Highway to Heaven - Professor Alex Bradford
13. Peace In the Valley - R.H. Harris
14. God Is a Battle Axe - Sallie Martin Singers
15. Rock Me - Sister Rosetta Tharpe
16. Feel Like My Time Ain't Long - Soul Stirrers w/ R.H. Harris
17. Dry Bones - Stars of Faith 
18. Working On a Building - Swan Silvertones
19. This Heart of Mine - Two Gospel Keys
20. Lift Him Up, That's All - Washington Phillips
21. Blind Barnabus - The Golden Gate Quartet
22. Down By The Riverside - Sister Rosetta Tharpe 
23. Oh Happy Day - Edwin Hawkins 
24. We Shall Overcome - SNCC Freedom Singers w/ Pete Seeger

Make a Joyful Sound – A Gospel Mix CD 2
1. Last Mile of the Way - Sam Cooke with the Soul Stirrers
2. Sit Down Servant - The Staple Singers
3. I'm Sealed - Dorothy Love Coates & The Original Gospel Harmonettes
4. What a Friend We Have in Jesus - Aretha Franklin
5. He's Worthy
6. Every Day Will Be Sunday (By And By) - Dorothy Love Coates                                                            and The Original Gospel Harmonettes
7. Swing Down, Sweet Chariot - Spirit of Memphis
8. Wade in the Water - The Staple Singers
9. Steal Away - The Harmonizing Four
10. Let's Go To the Programs - Dixie Hummingbirds
11. Will the Circle Be Unbroken - The Staple Singers
12. I'm Willing - Albertina Walker/Caravans/I. Andrews
13. Move Upstairs - Bessie Griffin & W.H. Brewster
14. Hallelujah - Farifield Four
15. Go Tell It on the Mountain - Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir
16. Christ Is All - The Soul Stirrers
17. You'd Better Get A Move On - Louise McCord
18. Shadrack - Pure Gospel Chorus 19. By and By (part 1) - The Soul Stirrers & R.H. Harris
20. God's Unchanging Hand - Church in Como, Mississippi
21. Samson and Delilah - The Staple Singers
22. Do Your Thing - Marion Gaines Singers

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Outside Lands Fest Day 3 highlights: Italians, Africans, Bluegrass, and STEVIE WONDER

Stevie with one of his insanely hot backup singers.

Another year, another Outside Lands Festival in Golden Gate Park. I (happily, these things are tiring) didn't get there all three days, but was surprised with a VIP ticket to Sunday, which was the BEST day to be there. Two words: STEVIE WONDER.

But first things first. We got there early to see this Italian dude Jovanotti, who was SUPER fun. His fabulously hooky song "Tutto L'Amore Che Ho" was featured on the festival's site and I just had to  see what his deal was.


Turns out this guy can rock a crowd, hard. His energy was infectious, reminding me of Manu Chao, like this video...



Toward the end Jovanotti popped down into the crowd (which was WAY smaller than what he usually plays for in Europe, I'm sure) and sang to us. Not bad for high noon.  I enjoyed seeing the sort of folks who knew who he was, and would get to the festival so early to see him.



"We usually play for three hours" Jovanotti said in the cutest Italian accent, "So we're trying to give you the highlights in forty minutes!


After some fried pickes from the Fabulous Frickle Brothers, we came across Dr. Flotsam's Hell Brew Revue, returning bigger and better than last year. "It's an extraordinary setup, envisioned and handmade by an artist named Mike Shine and his posse of Carny Bastards to evoke a family carnival ambience." (SFWeelkly blog)


And guess who was playing? The Brother's Comatose (a fabulous local bluegrass band)! And I later found out that's where The California Honeydrops and Tumbleweed Wanderers had been playing all weekend, to pretty large crows! I'm glad that local bands got to play for the throngs in such a fun and quirky spot.


Then we caught some of Caveman's brooding set, who I became familiar with after NPR featured them on one of their Tiny Desk Concerts. I love that their guitars are made by one of the band members and I love that dude's outfit. (Yes, I had some fun with the color saturation.)



And then it was onto Amadou & Mariam. The other highlight of the day for me. I've been wanting to see this Malian couple perform live since I first heard about them in grad school. My afropop ensemble covered a couple of their tunes (with varying success, this music is complicated!) And they did not disappoint! 

A totally oversaturated photo of Amadou y Mariam. With those colors I couldn't resist 



And then it was onto Mr. Stevie Wonder. HOLY SHIT. It was all I could have wanted. I mean the dude walked out onto stage with a freaking KEYTAR. He played all the hits, even the corny ones. That's OK Stevie, we'll let that go, because you can do whatever you want. Really WHATEVER you want. You're Stevie Wonder.


He really did whatever he wanted. It was pretty obvious that the band was pretty used to Stevie changing the order of the setlist, calling out keys and songs, and teaching them (Beatles) songs on the fly. Everyone was having a ball.

Aisha Morris, Stevie's daughter is second from the right.
I was particularly mesmerized (as I often am) by his backup singers. Not only were they too hot for words, but Aisha Morris, STEVIE'S DAUGHTER, is one of them. 

I heard that Metallica (who played the night before) was really fun, but I'll catch them next time. Two more artists checked off the bucket list: Stevie and Amadou & Mariam. w00t!

This is a cool photo of the Wine Land's tent. It's just purdy.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

'The Blues Brothers' (playlist!), 'Stand by Me' and Oakland's Paramount Theater

the lobby of the Paramount Theater
The Paramount Theater in Oakland is one of my favorite places to be. Not only is it incredibly gorgeous, I've seen two of my most favorite movies there this summer: 'Stand by Me' and 'the Blues Brothers' FOR FIVE BUCKS!

CLICK TO LISTEN TO MY 'BLUES BROTHERS' SPOTIFY PLAYLIST (or click play at the bottom of this post)

Both of these movies have two of my most favorite soundtracks of all time. So there has been lots of singing. There has also been boo'ing, cheering and lots giggling. There is something so wonderful about seeing a movie that is near and dear to your heart with a room full of people that love it too.

Check it out for yourself! All movies on Friday nights, 8pm, $5.

July 13 - Apollo 13
August 3 - Ghostbusters
August 17 - Close Encounters of the Third Kind
September 7 - An American Werewolf in London
September 28 - The Breakfast Club

I've blogged about this before, but the Paramount also does tours every first and third Saturdays of the month, also for $5. See my slide show here.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

‘The Scottsboro Boys’: a disturbingly entertaining depiction of race in American history

Mr. Bones (Jared Joseph, center) with Willie Roberson (Shavey Brown, left) and Haywood Patterson (Clifton Duncan).
Photo credit: Photo by Henry DiRocco.
There aren’t many ways that A.C.T.’s production of 'The Scottsboro Boys' (now extended until July 22) could make anymore of an impact. I applaud the creators of this show in that it makes you feel very strongly. Calling it provocative is an understatement.

A story about nine African-American teenaged boys who are wrongly accused of raping two young white women in 1931, every single element of 'Scottsboro' is carefully manipulated to make you reflect on your sense of what is right, what is wrong, what is comfortable, what is entertaining and what makes you squirm in your seat.

In the same way Roberto Benigni’s 'Life is Beautiful' layers the Holocaust in singing and dancing, 'Scottsboro' lays lynching, the electric chair, sending innocent children to prison and black-faced minstrelsy over tap dancing, lush vocal harmonies and humor.

READ THE REST OF MY REVIEW ON EXAMINER.COM

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Gospel Brunch in Austin, Texas - my Masters Report


The Shields of Faith perform at Gospel Brunch - Stubbs in Austin, Texas

In 2006, I wrote a 100 page book in partial fulfillment of my Master's Degree in Ethnomusicology (the anthropology of music) about Gospel Brunch in Austin, Texas. It's called "If Church was like this, I'd go Every Sunday". For the last five years, it's been sitting in the University of Texas at Austin's library on a CD (they didn't even make me print it).

About a month ago, I was finally inspired to actually print the thing out. I made two copies: one for me and one for the Austin Public Library. On my visit to Austin, I saw the record, it's officially in the system!

I've also posted it for download if you were so inclined.


My Masters report on official record at the Austin Public Library

Why Gospel Brunch? Every House of Blues across the country has an brunch buffet and gospel show every Sunday morning. And other than a couple other venues (like the Cotton Club in New York) the House of Blues is about it... except in Austin, where there are three every weekend.

Maria's Taco Express Hippie Gospel Church in South Austin

The research for this paper was really fun, every Sunday morning I would head down to one of three spots: Stubb's, Threadgill's (the South Austin location) or Maria's Taco Xpress (the old location). This little Jewish girl would settle into some good food, booze (sometimes) and music about Jesus.

The three venues couldn't be more different. As you can see from the photos, Maria's is full of wonderful dancing hippies and the bands are mostly non-religious bands singing Bob Dylan tunes, traditionals and spiritually themed original songs. Stubb's is more likely to hire Evangelical bands coming from the Salvation Army. Threadgill's was somewhere in the middle. It was fun to compare and contrast the venues.

The Shields of Faith perform at Gospel Brunch at Stubb's

One chapter is about the City of Austin, and why it has grown to be a cultural and liberal oasis in one of the most conservative states in the country. I even got to mention Janis Joplin's brief stint in Austin before she headed to San Francisco.


I wrote a chapter on the history of African American scared music outside of the church. One of the more interesting examples I discussed was how Northern abolitionists used African American spirituals for humanitarian purposes pre-civil war. From the Tuskegee University Choir to Ray Charles changing gospel tunes into secular ones, there is a pattern of African American sacred music being used outside sacred spaces for various purposes. Pairing the music with a brunch buffet on a Sunday morning is no exception.


LZ Love performs at Maria's Taco Xpress

One of the wonderful things about being an ethnomusicologist is talking to people. Through hours of interviews I found out why Austinites would come to these venues on Sunday mornings to listen to religious and sacred music, instead of being at church.


The youngest member of the Shields of Faith

I was curious as to why Evangelical musicians would leave the church and perform in secular venues for beer drinking heathens (my words!) and why non-Christains like myself are so drawn to this music.

One of the more interesting moments of my research was when an 80-year-old reverend told me in an indirect way, that as a non-believer, I was going to hell. But, and I really do say this in most sincere way, he meant it in the nicest way possible (as someone who I saw being genuinely concerned for my soul). It was at that point that the hour long interview ended and we went to a fish fry. It was a relief.


Rose, my favorite Hippie Church dancer at Maria's Taco Xpress.

Just last Sunday, I headed down to Threadgill's for Gospel Brunch. I'm glad to see Gospel Brunch at all three venues is still going strong, and six years later, many of the same bands are still in rotation. The food is good and the music is great. What else could you want on a Sunday morning?

Anyway, if you are at all interested in check out my report, you can download the pdf here, or get a hard copy from the Austin Public Library.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Etta James dies at 73, a goodbye to one of the all time greats

I just like looking at her. She was so unique.

Etta James is, to me, the pinnacle of Soul music. As a singer, she is one of my favorites of all time. She nails the growling as well as the silky smooth. After learning her story and seeing her live she became even more inspiring.




Etta was someone with a rage to live as well as a "rage to survive" (The name of her Autobiography with David Ritz, which I highly recommend). She lived hard and lived surprisingly long for all that she put her body through. As a child she was abused, neglected and passed from one person to another. Her music reflected all this. You can feel it. This was not a person who lacked a story to tell. She didn't lack personality. This is sass in all its glory.

As a woman, she pushed some major boundaries. She was physically relatively large. She had a huge voice that was powerful in its sexuality and passion, something that made mid-century white mainstream America uncomfortable.

As a woman she is inspiring to me, balancing power, passion and femininity. I've realized that I hold most singers to this standard. To me she is perfection. Her music is perfection.



Yes, Etta had demons. And she overcame them, with a little help from friends like the Chess Brothers. While reading "Rage to Survive" I was moved by their relationship. While the biopic "Cadillac Records" capitalized off of this relationship in the Hollywood way, Etta credited Leonard Chess for saving her. For instance she had given him possession to the deed of her home in Compton, so even when she was totally down and out, she still had a place to sleep and had something to call her own.

I know it's cheesy, but this is the song I will be singing at my wedding.



Anyway, I wanted to pay this lovely lady a tribute on the day of her death.

Thank you Etta, for all of your music

For all your pain, for all your joy, your passion

Thank you for sharing that with the world.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Esperanza Spalding: an extraordinary young jazz musician


I first saw Esperanza Spalding open for Dianne Reeves three years ago. All I remember from my crappy seats is a young black woman with huge hair and enormous talent.

Three years later she is still at it, performing for the White House, the youngest professor at Berklee School of Music and already reinventing herself musically with each album and concert tour.

I am enthralled by this woman. She is young, she is of mixed race, she is ridiculously talented and, I'm going to say it, makes a HUGE statement wearing her hair this way. Whatever it is, I dig it and I hope that people are paying attention (especially young women).

(I really hope that SFJAZZ didn't pick this season's image based on her, but then changed the hair just to suit their marketing material, that would seriously bother me.)

Spalding's career has just begun and I think it's obvious that she's here to stay.

READ MY REVIEW OF HER CONCERT AT DAVIES SYMPHONY HALL HERE

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Navigating the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival and a couple band recommendations


Carolyn Wonderland

Every time I look at the line-up of this year's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, I notice another ridiculously awesome name buried in the mix: Patti Smith! Joan Baez! Sharon Jones! Elvis Costello! David Grisman! Trombone Shorty! Gillian Welsh! Ralph Stanley! The Indigo Girls! Conor Oberst! MC Hammer (had to mention)! The list just keeps going and going.

And what? Hardly Strictly is free??? Are you serious?? (Sorry, it's free every year, this 10-year anniversary line-up is just sort of blowing my mind.)

You know what that means: throngs and throngs of people descending on Golden Gate Park. How does one navigate this experience without getting totally frustrated? Golden Gate is not the easiest to get around for masses of people.

My advice: Don’t get overly ambitious about seeing every act you’re excited about. There’s just too much and it's too spread out. Pick one, maybe two a day, and just go with the flow. You’ll end up seeing something amazing that you weren’t expecting. Find a spot and stick with it. The line-up is full of so many amazing musicians that you’re going to see something good, I promise.

READ MORE ABOUT MY PICKS: Carolyn Wonderland, the Carolina Chocolate Drops and the California Honeydrops (suddenly I want candy)!

the Carolina Chocolate Drops

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Art and thievery: a rant - Puccini and Webber

This evening I took my dad to see the last night of Puccini's opera The Girl of the Golden West. It is a love story that takes place in California gold mine country and it’s full of cheese, redemption and tragic love, you know, like most operas.

During the climactic aria "Quello che tacete" in the second act, I spotted what sounded like a short passage of “Music of the Night” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera (“Turn your face away from the garish light of day” for those who care). I noticed that other people in the audience acknowledged it too. The motive came back later as well, and more people got it that time. Sure enough, our evening’s program threw in a little tidbit about this very melody:

“Was Puccini Robbed?” it asks. The story goes on to inform the reader that following Phantom of the Opera’s success in 1986, the Puccini estate filed suit against Webber accusing him of plagiarism and the suit was settled out of court.

Alright, this is a little too much for me. There is a time and place for lawsuits, this is not one of them.

READ THE REST OF MY RANT HERE


I've written about this before with Beyonce's choreography in the video for "Single Ladies."

Sunday, June 27, 2010

'Cadillac Records': a review


I am a huge fan of biopics. It's very exciting to see the lives of real people illuminated in front of you. Knowing too much about the historical reality of their lives can get in the way however. Hollywood, as we all know, likes to "Hollywoodize" biopics: twisting and tweeking the details of lives to make them more interesting to the viewer.

I figure, you have to get over that. But sometimes it's hard.

Take the movie Cadillac Records: a biopic about the legendary rhythm & blues record label Chess Records. The movie stars Adrian Brody as Leonard Chess, Beyonce as Etta James, Cedric the Entertainer as Big Willie Dixon and Mos Def as Chuck Berry. I enjoyed seeing these notorious musicians come to life, but it was really hard for me to get past some of the added Hollywood aspect.

I cannot help but compare this movie to Dream Girls, but the big difference is that Dream Girls was an intact musical before it was ever a movie. And, even though everyone knows that the movie is based on the record label Motown, it's highly fictionalized.

In the film Etta James and Leonard Chess have an adulterous relationship that challenges racial stereotypes and employer/employee boundaries. As far as I know this is a fabrication, and it bothers me. I wonder what Etta herself had to say about it? I DO know that Etta was pissed that Beyonce got to sing "At Last" at Barack Obama's inauguration and not her...

I was also bothered by the character of Leonard Chess and the ABSENCE of his brother, Phil. It was the Chess Brothers that started and ran the label, it wasn't a one-man operation. But alas, Leonard was the more colorful character. He was a crude-mouthed, smart-ass and the role only brought that out in a very minor way.


Rich Cohen's The Record Men is a fabulous recount of the Chess story. Leonard Chess is quoted all over the book and his words are something right out of a Mel Brooks comedy routine.

"How to you celebrate a hit? You go to the bank, schmuck!"

or

"Who knew you could strike it rich with a few schvartzas and a reel-to-reel?

I imagine the producers consciously toned down... scratch that... DELETED the ugly money-grubbing Jewish Stereotype that was Leonard Chess. I guess as a Jewish person I appreciate that, but I still miss the personality.

What I did love about the film was much of what I simply love about the story in general:
  • Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf's frenemies relationship
  • Etta James' dramatic and traumatic life (her autobiography Rage to Survive stresses the fact that she owes Leonard Chess for keeping her alive and keeping her house)
  • Howlin Wolf's devotion to his band (he always made sure they got paid fairly)
  • Leonard Chess' devotion to his musicians (he took care of many of them, heightening his "White Daddy" status)
  • Muddy Water's womanizing
  • How the Rolling Stones loved and respected Muddy Waters like a god.

Chess Records has a fascinating story, and while I don't agree with some of the "Hollywood" type additions, I do feel that the essence of the label is treated fairly and with great respect in the movie Cadillac Records.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Happy International Women's Day: "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it)" and (mostly) Motown Girl Group mash-up

The Ronnettes (not part of Motown): an inspiration to many of the girl groups of today and yesterday

This is a really cute video/audio mash-up featuring Beyonce and Girl Groups of the 60s: The Ronnettes, The Supremes, Tina Turner, Martha and the Vandellas, The Marvellettes and more. The Motown backup track (no idea what it is) surprisingly fits really well with Beyonce's melody.

This mash-up is a great tribute to the girl groups of the 60s and puts Beyonce in the context of the amazing women who came before her.

Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Being critic when you don't like a show, how to review?

If you read this blog in any sort of regular way, you've probably noticed that I gush, a lot, about the different types of music that move me. As a blogger I can write about whatever I want, even with Examiner.com. I scope out the music world and see what's worth sharing with you. I look at the calendar see what looks interesting to me.

Because I'm not being assigned stories by an editor, I usually choose to write about things I already like. Makes sense right? I'm not doing this for a ton of cash (long way off there) so of course I'm going to write about things I will be able to say nice things about. Even if there are elements I don't like, I can usually stress the parts that were good over everything else. Some have called this "sugarcoating," fine, I can live with that.

But what happens when I really can't think of anything nice to say, and I really don't recommend that people go spend their money on it. It's certainly my responsibility to say it, even if I feel bad about it. If I never wrote anything bad ever, why would anyone trust my opinions? I end up feeling bad because the artists usually give me free tickets which even after a year of writing I'm getting used to, but then I feel guilty for saying bad things. Well, this is when being a critic and journalist (a term I'm still getting used to when referring to myself) is all about. So, I say "bring it." I can take it. It's good for me!

So, I just saw this musical called Mahalia: a Gospel Musical over the weekend. It was, well, very disappointing. I mean, I LOVE gospel music. I wrote a freaking 100 page master's report on the topic. I've seen incredible musicals like Crowns and A Color Purple that blew my brain right out of my head (ew).

I would figure that if you cast a singer to portray one of the greatest voices, you would find someone who can really sing. Considering that Oakland has a large African American community, you figure it wouldn't be that hard. How many female gospel singers live a stones throw away from San Francisco?

Anyway, the singing was what I decided to focus on in my review. Other reviewers tore down the acting, the directing and the blocking (yes, it was bad, folks). But I would be very interested to see what you think of my review, even not seeing the show (don't please, save your money). Was I TOO nice? Did I say anything below the belt?

Read my review here

Thanks for reading by the way, I am so lucky to have such awesome fans.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My picks for the SFJAZZ 2010 Season

The SFJAZZ fest is one of the most reliably exciting festivals I've come across in this country. The variety of talent that comes to the Bay Area from across the Bay and across the globe is astounding. When I first picked up the brochure for the 2010 Spring Season, my jaw dropped: Joshua Redman, Bobby McFerrin, Keith Jarrett, Dianne Reeves, Ladysmith Black Mambazo... the list just goes on and on.

There are festivals like the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival where the word "jazz" seems like it's either a guide for picking music or a remnant of another era. SFJAZZ is both. I would say that music in the jazz idiom is in the majority of SFJAZZ performances, but the idea of "jazz" has been stretched to include R&B, Afropop, Fado, Samba and singer-songwriters.

As a lover of international music, innovative musical fusions and straight up good musicality, I wanted to shine my humble spotlight on some of the 2010 SJFAZZ Spring Season's acts that might be a little more obscure and/or interesting.

READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE: my picks include Malian Tinariwen and Salif Keita, South African Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Singer/Songwriter Raul Midon, Saxophonists Joshua Redman and Pharoah Sanders and Kurt Elling and the Basie Band.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, always with good music

Every year we Americans have a three day weekend, perfectly timed three weeks into a new year that is probably already beating us up. This is a day to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, a man who gave his life for freedoms many of us enjoy now in the 21st Century.

Do not be mistaken: this day is also a reminder of how far we still have to go. It doesn't matter your color or creed, we are still all affected by those who have freedoms and those who do not.

If you are in the mood to celebrate this day, there are dozens of events going on around the Bay Area. Most of them will include music, lots of music. Gospel, jazz, R&B, rock and roll. Anything having to do with MLK usually gets me emotional, gospel music does as well. So I'd better get ready for some waterworks.

CLICK HERE FOR A SCHEDULE OF EVENTS IN THE BAY AREA

If you are not in the Bay Area, just do a google search for Martin Luther King and your area and you'll find something. Or check this website.

THE WHITE HOUSE IS CALLING THIS MLK DAY, A DAY OF SERVICE. CLICK HERE FOR IDEAS ON HOW TO GET INVOLVED (there are events listed here associated with helping Haiti)

Mahalia Jackson "We Shall Overcome" - This song was a staple of the civil rights movement, Mahalia worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Evolution of "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going": Jennifer Holliday, Jennifer Hudson and Amber Riley from Glee


"I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" has, since the film version of Dreamgirls become the song for divas. American Idol contestants have sung it, Bianca Ryan has sung it, even the Filipina Divas have sung it (and quite well I might add). If you’ve got a big voice, and you want to show it off, you sing this song. You CAN’T sing this song badly, if you do, everyone will notice.

Last night we had the pleasure of hearing Amber Riley sing "And I'm Telling You" on Glee. Gawd, I love her ("Bust Your Windows"? Yeah!). But before Riley and J-Hud, there was Jennifer Holliday. She is the Godmother of them all. Holliday played Effie in the Tony winning production of Dreamgirls in the early 80s.

When Holliday performs this song, it's more like watching an emotional purging. I've never seen a performance like it before, especially the one below at the Tony Awards. You can see and hear the anguish emanating from her. I really enjoy Hudson and Riley's performances of the song, but both are lacking in the way that Holliday makes you feel her pain. Both Hudson and Riley can sing, no doubt about it, but Holliday really embodies the song when she does it.

Let me also just say, if I've done the math correctly, Holliday was the YOUNGEST of the three when she performed the song: she was 21 or 22. Hudson and Riley were a couple years older.

So, without further ado, I give you Jennifer Holliday at the 1982 Tony Awards. Please skip to 3:30 unless you want to see the scene that leads up to the song. She won a Tony for this performance.





Click here to hear Jennifer Hudson and Amber Riley's performance

Monday, December 7, 2009

Obama on Mel Brooks at the Kennedy Center Honors

Obama said, quoting Mel Brooks in his own words:

"Look at Jewish history, unrelieved lamenting would be intolerable, so out of every ten Jews god designed one to be crazy and amuse the others. By the time I was five I knew I was that one."


Obama commented that most of the best Mel Brooks quotes are unfit to be mentioned at the ceremony. (He must have been talking about, "hey, where the white women at?" Or "excuse me while I whip this out!")

The President also said that he saw Blazing Saddles when he was ten, well under the age limit for the associated rating at the time. You will not convince me that this movie, about a black man taking a leadership position and proving his success with a heroic intelligence, did not leave a lasting impression on the 10-year-old Barack Obama.

There is just something so poignant and beautiful about that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nobody's Token: sketch comedy at its brownest

Nobody's Token is: Robert King, Tanisha T. Long, Keith Cornell and Keisha Zollar

Americans have never really forgotten about race and racism. Individuals in the media try to persuade us that it's getting better here in the United States, but sorry folks, it's still a huge problem. At this moment, turn on your tv, race and racism is at the forefront of the news. Obama shakes it off, dealing with it like the pro we knew he'd be.

Personally, I'd like to see him shake some of these idiots. I'd be happy to do it for him myself.

READ MORE OF MY ARTICLE HERE

The Sould Glo Project: Featuring Improv Sketch Comedy group Nobody's Token

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bessie Smith: the first music video star? - Girls Rock Camp, celebrating women in music


In honor of Girls Rock Camp this week occurring in Oakland this week, I am celebrating women in music, past, present and future.

Today I want to celebrate Bessie Smith, definitely one of the greatest influences on women (and men!) in music today, and possibly the first music video star as well.

But first, let me tell you what's happening at the second day of Girls Rock Camp: the 70 campers or so will learn more of the basics of their chosen instruments, whether it be the bass, turntables, drums, guitar, keys or vocals. The girls will also continue to pick band names and write a song that they will perform for a live audience this Saturday at 2pm at the Oakland Metro Opera House.

After lunch they will learn how to make a zine and participate in a history of women in rock workshop, taught by yours truly. Bessie Smith is the first woman we will talk about and the video we're going to show the campers is part two of St. Louis Blues made in 1929. We want to showcase her powerful voice.

It got me thinking about what this video actually is. I have this way of using youtube just for the audio, but the sometimes the video is just as interesting (or bizarre or hysterical) as the audio itself.




Part I



Part 2

History of Women in Rock for the Bay Area Girls Rock Camp


Welcome to Jennie and Jamie's "History of Women in Rock" workshop for The Bay Area Girls Rock Camp! We will be leading this workshop for the first and second session of camp this year, but this information will be around for you to see when camp is over.

Feel free to watch these videos and click on the links (colored and/or underlined) to learn more about the women that inspire you.

There are so many amazing women who have brought us so much music we couldn't include everyone, but please click on the bottom of this post where it says "comments" and tell us what you think.

Bessie Smith - "St. Louis Blues" (1929) Classic Blues


Big Mama Thornton - "Hound Dog" (1965)
 Rhythm & Blues



Wanda Jackson - "Heart Headed Woman" (1950s) The Queen of Rockabilliy 



Martha and the Vandellas - "Dancing in the Street" (1964) Motown




Tina Turner - "Fool in Love" and "Work Out Fine" Medley (1965) Rhythm & Blues and Rock 



Dolly Parton - "Coat of Many Colors" (1971) Country



Joan Jett - "I Love Rock n Rock" (1983) Rock   - start 1 minute in




Tina Waymouth - Talking Heads "Burning Down the House" & "Life During War Time" (1984) Rock


(Start at 2 minutes)


Sleater Kinney - "You're No Rock n' Roll Fun" Rock (2000)



Queen Latifah - "Ladies First" Listen in the playlist over to the right


Other women by instrument - click on the link to learn more and maybe watch a video

Guitar players

Piano players 

Bass players
Carol Kaye - Studio musician
Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth - "100%"  
D'arcy Wretzky of the Smashing Pumpkins - "Cherub Rock"

Drummers
Maureen "Moe" Tucker of the Velvet Underground - "Fired Up"
Janet Weiss of Sleater Kinney
Gina Schock of the Go Go's "We got the Beat"

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Neat and addicting website: WhoSampled


I came across an addicting website the other day while trying to remember what the name of the song where Fatboy Slim sampled Camille Yarbrough. Turns out it was of course "Praise you" and I found this neat site that puts the two youtube videos right next to each other: WhoSampled: exploring and discussing the DNA of music.

My friend Raya Yarbrough (also a vocalist) is the grand-niece of Camille Yarbrough, who is the vocalist sampled on "Praise You." I heard that Camille made so much money off this sample that she was able to buy a condo in Harlem, where she lives today. Spin Magazine called her the "fore mother of hip hop." Very cool.

This is the original "Take Yo' Praise" from 1975:



This is the hysterical video that WhoSampled uses on their site: I repost it here because it was filmed in front of the Bruin Theater in Westwood, the neighborhood near UCLA in Los Angeles. I grew up about 6 blocks from this theater. Check out these dance moves:



Another video WhoSampled entry I wanted to point out was that of Moby's "Run on" from the album Play. This is my favorite Moby track:

Here's the original four part harmony gospel tune (one of my favorite genres of music, a precursor to motown, do-wop and any vocal harmony group) by Bill Landford & the Landfordaires called "Run On for a Long Time":



Here's Moby's tune "Run On":

I think I like this tune more than most of the others because of the way Moby samples Landford: he samples the whole song. This really hardly ever happens with samples, it's usually little bits played over and over and over (oh, the joys of electronic music). Really Moby just adds an accompanying track to the vocals and I think it really adds to the tune.

Check out the rest of the site, there's more good stuff there.