Category: Entertainment - Original Written by Steve Holsey
John Legend (real name: John Stephens) has clearly found his niche. He has a sound and style that are uniquely his (I love his expressive voice) and his new album, “Love in the Future,” clearly shows him in fine form.
This rather long awaited album is a must for his large and loyal following.
However, when artists primarily, or exclusively, record songs they wrote, there is the possibility of “sameness” sometimes creeping in. The music can be too predictable, at least for some of us. Two other artists who come to mind in that respect are Prince and Kem.
This is not to be considered a putdown of John Legend or his latest offering. Just something for him, and others, to ponder.
THE MARVIN GAYE “Got To Give It Up” controversy notwithstanding, “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke continues to be my favorite song. True, he crosses some “lines” with regard to good taste, but the song is exciting and almost hypnotic. One day I listened to it five times in a row.
I also just purchased Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” album. It’s very good — not a dud to be found anywhere — but this guy seems to be obsessed with songs about sex. He is always singing about the pleasures of the flesh. One would assume that he and his wife, Black actress Paula Patton, are very active.
DUKE FAKIR, the last remaining member of the legendary Four Tops, sure is healthy looking for a man his age. He is 78 and will be 79 in December. He currently sings with Ronnie McNeir, Lawrence Payton Jr. (son of fellow original member Lawrence Payton) and Spike Bonhart, but has said he will retire when he reaches 80.
That would probably be a good idea because the Four Tops consisting entirely of replacements just doesn’t seem right.
By the way, the Four Tops recorded an album with the great Norman Whitfield producing, but there has been an inability to get a record company to release it, but Fakir is not giving up.
PHARRELL WILLIAMS, often just identified as Pharrell, is certainly a man of many talents — record producer, songwriter, rapper, singer, fashion designer, dancer. In one capacity or another he has been affiliated with many artists, in addition to making his own records.
One thing that is nearly impossible to believe is that Pharrell is 40 years old! He looks 17.
SHONDA RHIMES, director-producer and creator of the phenomenally successful TV series “Scandal,” takes issue with those who say the show promotes immorality.
“We’re not making adultery acceptable,” she said. “We’re telling the story of these two characters (‘professional fixer’ Olivia Pope portrayed by Kerry Washington and the president of the United States, Fitzgerald Grant, played by Tony Goldwyn) who very specifically have this kind of relationship. We’re not giving a judgment on it one way or the other.”
There are those who would beg to differ, but that’s life.
Joshua Ledet, top three finalist from season 11 of “American Idol,” has a top-quality heartbreak song oddly titled “Here to Die” that he is trying to get a label deal for. The title is kind of disconcerting, but it’s about the end of a relationship, not about a man actually wanting to depart this earth.
Justin Timberlake, megastar singer and actor, surprised the media and everyone else when he said recently that he would love to play the Riddler in a “Batman” movie. The idea of portraying a “sociopath” intrigues Timberlake.
People often talk about legendary screen star Elizabeth Taylor having been married eight times, but the great jazz, blues and pop songstress Dinah Washington was right up there with her. She was married seven times!
Love this Tina Turner quote: “My legacy is a person who strived for something better and got it.”
BETCHA DIDN’T KNOW…that when Motown changed the Supremes’ name to Diana Ross & the Supremes, Berry Gordy decided to automatically change Martha & the Vandellas to Martha Reeves & the Vandellas because he was sure Reeves would start complaining and he didn’t want to hear it.
MEMORIES: “Don’t Walk Away” (Jade), “Real Love” (Mary J. Blige), “Fight the Power” (the Isley Brothers), “Don’t Let It Go to Your Head” (Jean Carn), “Mighty Love” (the Spinners), “Slip Away” (Clarence Carter), “Careless Whisper” (Wham! featuring George Michael), “Flash Light” (Parliament), “I Feel Good All Over” (Stephanie Mills), “I Wanna Get Next to You” (Rose Royce).
BLESSINGS to Roderick Hairston, Carol Smith Dixon, Ken Coleman, Kim Trent Coleman, Ron Stevenson, Dan Aldridge, Mary Evans, Sylvia Quarles, Montez Miller, John Mason and Aaron Riser.
WORDS OF THE WEEK, from reader Greg Hendricks: “It is a travesty to deny or alter who you are in an attempt to appease people who don’t care about you anyway.”
Let the music play!
Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 September 2013 10:30
Category: Entertainment - Original Written by Steve Holsey
In a manner of speaking, the Detroit Jazz Festival, now in its 34th year, is the crowning glory of summer in the Motor/Music City. It’s about the music, true enough, but that is just part of the story.
The Detroit Jazz Festival is a celebration, a diverse coming together of people — jazz lovers or not — from the city, from the suburbs, from outstate, from out of the country.
Everyone wants to unwind, have a good time listening to the music, mingle, enjoy good food, “people watch,” and perhaps even reflect on the events of the year up to that point as the sweet sounds of jazz waft through the air.
This Labor Day weekend tradition is special — and, yes, something for Detroit to be proud of.
The festival begins on Friday, Aug. 30, and concludes on Monday (Labor Day), Sept. 2. Those who come to downtown Detroit for the festival will be entertained by hundreds of first-rate musicians and vocalists who promise to give the very best they have to offer.
“JAZZ” IS a word heard with great frequency, but what exactly is jazz?
Its roots can be traced back to the earliest days of the 20th century and, like blues, R&B, rock and roll and gospel, it developed in the African-American community.
What these pioneering Black musicians did was combine their African-based music with European form and harmony. As the music continued to develop, it also absorbed elements of rhythm and blues. The music, as would be expected, spread around the world, having a major and enduring influence wherever it was heard.
An array of jazz styles came into being, including bebop, big band swing, Latin jazz, cool jazz (the word “cool” emerged from the jazz world), New Orleans jazz, chamber jazz, avant-garde jazz, soul jazz, ragtime, jazz fusion, smooth jazz and numerous others.
The legendary, iconic bandleader, musician, composer Duke Ellington said simply, “It’s all music.” That is, to be created and enjoyed, not analyzed and debated ad nauseam.
AMONG THE greatest names in jazz history are Ellington, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Betty Carter, Jelly Roll Morton, Count Basie, Dexter Gordon, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Herbie Hancock and Billie Holiday.
Also, Cannonball Adderley, Freddie Hubbard, Lester Young, Dave Brubeck, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Stan Getz, Wes Montgomery, Lionel Hampton, Chick Corea, Wynton Marsalis, Ella Fitzgerald and Ramsey Lewis.
The importance of jazz was illustrated when, in 1987, Congressman John Conyers proposed a bill to the U.S. House of Representatives to define jazz as a unique form of American music.
The bill, which passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, said jazz was “hereby designated as a rare and valuable national American treasure to which we should devote our attention, support and resources to make certain it is preserved, understood and promulgated.”
The Detroit Jazz Festival makes a point of presenting an array of jazz styles, as well as music that is not jazz per se, but can be effectively presented in this setting.
THE DETROIT Jazz Festival, which is presented at no charge, was founded in 1980 by Robert McCabe and the Detroit Renaissance. From that year to 1991 the festival thrived with a connection to Switzerland’s famed Montreux Jazz Festival.
In 1991 a partnership was formed with the Music Hall Center For The Performing Arts, an arrangement that lasted until 2005.
At that point Gretchen Valade, president of Mack Avenue Records and Detroit philanthropist, became a major sponsor with support from the Knight Foundation.
Today, the Detroit Jazz Festival is produced and managed by the Detroit International Jazz Festival Foundation.
The 2013 lineup is as exciting, and as diverse, as any in the past.
The performers include the Dave Murray Big Band featuring Macy Gray, the David Berger Jazz Orchestra, the McCoy Tyner Trio with special guest Savion Glover, the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, Rodney Whitaker, Kirk Whalum, Gary Burton, Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes, Theo Croker, David Liebman, Ravi Coltrane, the New Breed Be Bop Society, the Four Freshman and the Toledo Jazz Orchestra.
Also, Ahmad Jamal, the Alan Broadbent Trio featuring Sheila Jordan, Geri Allen, Bill Frisell, the John Scofield Uberjam, the Joshua Redman Quartet, Jon Faddis, Francisco Mora, Johnny Trudell, Richie Birach, the Yellowjackets, the Detroit Jazz Festival Orchestra, Robert Hurst, the Robert Glasper Experiment and George Bohannon, among many others.
Many high school and college bands will also play.
Danilo Pérez is artist in residence.
The Detroit Jazz Festival also offers Jazz Talk Tent, presented by Chrysler, which “brings greater depth to the music heard at the festival.”
That is in addition to the Jazz Infusion Program, the flagship of the festival’s educational wing created “to help foster the growth of young musicians from the city so they can better compete for college scholarships, pursue careers in music, and continue Detroit’s rich jazz tradition.”
Jazz Week @ Wayne is a workshop conducted in conjunction with the Wayne State University Department of Music.
For more detailed information about the Detroit Jazz Festival, visit detroitjazzfest.com. — SVH
Last Updated on Friday, 30 August 2013 13:45
Category: Entertainment - Original Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
Kanye West and his baby's grandmama, Kris Jenner debuted the first photograph of baby North West to the world, on Jenner's television talk show on Friday, Aug. 23.
Of course, when some of us of a certain age hear North West, we think the Hitchcock classic, North by Northwest, not the daughter of reality show star Kim Kardashian and rapper Kanye West, aka Kimye.
But as promised, the two-month-old doting grandmother introduced the bouncing baby girl to the world Friday, Aug. 23 via her Twitter account. Kim quickly got in on the fun and posted a photo of the adorable babe on Instagram with the simple caption "NORTH."
Kardashian fans have been waiting since North's June birth to get a glimpse of the tot, who's been at home with mom Kardashian for the past few weeks.
West and Kardashian opted not to introduce North to the world by way of one of the Kardashian family’s many reality shows, “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” “Khloe and Lamar,” or Kris Jenner’s new talk show with Terrance
Referencing Kardashian's past relationships with professional athletes, West joked, "I wanted to be with her so bad that I thought about picking up sports."
"I can have people saying that this is going to damage your credibility as an artist or a designer, and I say, 'I don't care, I love this woman,'" he said, adding, "She's my joy, and she brought my new joy into the world. There's no paparazzi and there's no blog comments that's going to take that joy from me."
Speaking about fatherhood, the rapper joked, "I'm supposed to be this musical genius, but I can't work the car seat that well."
West also said becoming a dad has changed his outlook on life.
"After I lost my mother, there were times I felt I would put my life at risk," he said. "I felt like sometimes I didn't have something to live for. Now I have two really special people to live for, a whole family to live for, a whole world to live for."
And to put rumors and speculation to rest regarding selling baby photos, "It's all this talk about baby pictures and can you get paid for the baby picture or do you want to put it on a magazine," West said during the interview with Jenner. "And for me and your daughter we have not attempted to get paid for anything, we have not attempted to put it on a magazine. You just stop all of the noise and I thought it would be really cool on her grandmother's season finale to bring a picture of North."
Last Updated on Friday, 23 August 2013 14:52
Category: Entertainment - Original Written by Steve Holsey
The hottest record in the nation, in both the R&B and pop markets, is the pulsating and catchy “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke. I love it, but there is no denying that it sounds very similar to Marvin Gaye’s classic and still exciting “Got To Give It Up.”
However, the question is whether or not it sounds enough like it to justify a legal challenge. The family of Marvin Gaye is alleging that “Blurred Lines” sounds so much like “Got To Give It Up” that they have reportedly been attempting to claim “ownership” (which would mean collecting a lot of money).
The New York Times said “Blurred Lines” is “influenced heavily” by Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up.”
Thick and co-writers Pharrell Williams and Clifford Harris Jr. have filed a lawsuit to stop this from going any further — that is, counteract any lawsuit from the Gaye family.
Similarities notwithstanding, I think the family of Marvin Gaye should probably back off because it is unlikely they can come out on top in this situation.
Think about it. Cheryl Lynn’s “Got To Be Real” sounds very much like the Emotions’ “Best of My Love,” the Pointer Sisters’ “He’s So Shy” is patterned after the Doobie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes,” and on it goes.
But where is the dividing line between “similar sound” and “outright theft”?
SPEAKING of Robin Thicke, he and actress Paula Patton have been married for eight years and according to all sources are still going strong. (They have a son named Julian.)
Paula and Robin just seem right together, and the fact that he is white and she is black is irrelevant.
Although he has been around for quite some time, I just recently heard about (and heard) gospel singer Joshua Nelson. Among other things, he is known for doing an amazingly accurate channeling of the legendary Mahalia Jackson singing “How I Got Over.”
What sets Nelson apart is that he is Black and of the Jewish faith. He has jokingly referred to himself as “the KKK’s worst nightmare.” Often he sings Jewish hymns but arranges them in Black gospel tradition.
Which brings to mind the fact that India.Arie has an album completed (no release date has been given) titled “Open Door” which features her singing in English and Hebrew. Will her fans go for that? Time will tell, but it is important to be true to one’s self.
KEVIN HART, the popular comedian, like so many people in show business, gets tired of people feeling they have a right to “get all up in” the personal business of entertainers.
He said sarcastically, “It’s people’s opinions. You just take ’em and say, ‘Oh, you’re right. You’re me!”
But Hart caused irritation when he said, “Black women assume they know your life. That’s the funniest thing about Black women.”
You can just imagine the feedback on that!
Rapper Coolio (real name: Artis Ivey) was hot in the mid-’90s with “Gangsta’s Paradise,” which added a rap to Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise” from “Songs in the Key of Life.”
But since then, not much has been from or about Coolio. However, he has taken an interest in being a chef and author and has, in fact, already written a book titled “Cookin’ With Coolio.”
Now he is auctioning off his entire song catalog and will use that money to fund his culinary endeavors.
Well, that’s different.
It’s fine that Forest Whitaker, the great Academy Award-winning actor, has lost all that weight — at least 80 pounds — after becoming a vegetarian, but he sure doesn’t need to lose any additional pounds. In some pictures he looks slightly haggard and some suits appear to be hanging on him, and it’s even more noticeable since he is 6’2”.
Just in case you were wondering where big stars stay when they are appearing in Detroit, very often the answer is MGM Grand Detroit. Of the three casino hotels, the MGM has the edge. As the O’Jays put it in one of their songs, “Got to give the people what they want.”
Since they have been friends for five decades, it is somewhat surprising that Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson have never recorded a song together.
Could Toni Braxton’s “wardrobe malfunction” have been staged? Some suspect that was the case, and she just happened to be wearing a flesh colored body stocking.
BETCHA DIDN’T KNOW…that Maya Angelou’s birth name is Marguerite Ann Johnson.
MEMORIES: “Dancing Machine” (the Jackson 5), “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” (the Gap Band), “Mama Said” (the Shirelles), “Reaching For The Sky” (Peabo Bryson), “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More, Baby” (Barry White), “It Only Takes a Minute” (Tavares), “I Want to Take You Higher” (Sly & the Family Stone), “You Put a Move on My Heart” (Quincy Jones featuring Tamia), “It Takes Two” (Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston), “Kiss and Say Goodbye” (the Manhattans).
BLESSINGS to John Arnold, Robert Kerse, Ivan Cotman, Shirley Beeks, Mary Grace Wilbert, Carl Walton, Liza Walton, Ray Henderson, Sandra Milhouse, Fred Ellis, Andre Smith, Sheila Cockrel, Marva Stafford and J. “Skeek” Munger.
WORDS OF THE WEEK, from Alan Cohen: “No one can ‘complete you’ because you are already complete.”
Let the music play!
Last Updated on Monday, 02 September 2013 10:08
Category: Entertainment - Original Written by Steve Holsey
Millie Jackson, who has been called “the queen of raunchy soul,” among other things, was told by a Detroit reporter that she had just answered a somewhat touchy question with total honestly.
Jackson responded quickly, “That I have always been.”
That’s putting it mildly.
Early on in her long career — she made the national charts for the first time in 1971 — Jackson, who has a wicked, no-subject-off-limits sense of humor, knew she had to do something different to distinguish herself from other female singers, as well as keep her audiences’ attention.
So she began doing lengthy spoken segments that were as hilarious as they were often shocking. For example, no one had ever heard, or has heard since, anything like her raunchy rap on “All the Way Lover,” featured on her best-selling 1977 album “Feelin’ Bitchy.” There is a reason why this particular song has received 25,206 hits on YouTube!
As for the subject matter, let’s just say its about “relationships,” “the shortcomings of men,” “the shortcomings of women” and “a certain type of sexual expression.”
THERE IS no doubt about it: In addition to being a rhythm and blues singer in the purest sense, Millie Jackson is a comedienne. Many of the people in her highly specialized audiences are typically doubled up with laugher when she is doing one of her comedy segments.
But, it has to be noted that she is also very serious about her music, and sings with passion and a fire.
One perfect example of that is one of her three biggest hits, “If You’re Not Back In Love By Monday,” a radically revamped, slowed down version of Merle Haggard’s country hit. The song tells a powerful story and Jackson delivers the lyrics to perfection.
Another splendid example of Millie Jackson the deep soul singer at her best is the second of her top three hits, the unforgettable “Hurts So Good.” It is a classic performance, even though the message is not likely to ever win the approval of women’s rights groups. Still, it is reality.
MILLIE JACKSON was born in Thomson, Georgia, and later moved to Newark, New Jersey. However, by the time she was in her mid-teen she was living in Brooklyn, New York, with one of her aunts.
Jackson landed her first recording contract with MGM Records, but much to her disappointment, nothing of significance happened. But after signing with Spring Records, it was a completely different story, right from the start.
“A Child of God (It’s Hard to Believe)” climbed to No. 22 on the national charts, followed by “Ask Me What You Want,” the third of her three biggest hits that peaked at No. 4. Then came “Breakaway” (No. 16) and “Hurts So Good” (No. 3).
A whole new phase of Millie Jackson’s career began in 1974 when an album titled “Caught Up” was released. The songs, including a remake of Luther Ingram’s “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right,” were about a three-way entanglement and all of the complexities involved. And yes, Jackson did plenty of raps.
That very successful album, not surprisingly, was followed by “Still Caught Up.” After another album (“Free And In Love”), “Feelin’ Bitchy,” one of Jackson’s best albums, was released. In addition to “All the Way Lover” it included such gems as “A Taste of Outside Love,” “You Created a Monster,” “Angel in Your Arms” and the aforementioned “If You’re Not Back In Love By Monday.”
ONE ALBUM for which there was great expectations that were not lived up to was “Royal Rappin’s’,” a collaboration with superstar Isaac Hayes. It was a great idea, but the songs were way too ordinary to make the album outstanding. It needed spice.
There is a part of Millie Jackson’s live show that is hard to believe but absolutely true. The song is “Something You Can Feel” and during it the audacious songstress, shall we say, “gets up close and personal” in the most literal sense with men seated in the front row. (We can’t go into detail!)
And then there is Jackson’s infamous “symphony” song, which delivers a hard-hitting message to her critics in a classical music setting. (Millie Jackson is not a favorite among the Black upper class.) This sort of thing is clearly not for everyone, but even those who hate the song — and their feelings are understandable, all things considered — would have to admit that it is very clever and well done.
It is so very easy to believe Millie Jackson when she says she never sang in church!
In addition to being a singer, songwriter and comedienne, Millie Jackson proved herself to be a successful playwright in the early ’90s. The play, “Young Man, Older Woman,” toured the nation and was a success at every stop.
Millie Jackson is not everyone’s cup of tea, but for four decades she has been doing her unique thing and her impact cannot be denied. She is true to herself, knows what her fans want and gives it to them gladly.
Last Updated on Friday, 23 August 2013 13:52
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