Category: Entertainment Written by Steve Holsey
Based on the previews, I had every reason to believe that I was going to like “Joyful Noise,” but “like” is an understatement. I loved it!
Much praise to all of the actresses and actors, including Queen Latifah (she gives an amazing, award-worthy performance), Dolly Parton, Jeremy Jordan, Keke Palmer, Dexter Darden and Courtney B. Vance.
Kudos also to Jesse L. Martin and no one could ever forget Kirk Franklin’s James Brown flavored performance, complete with fancy footwork.
“Joyful Noise” has a lot of heart, plenty of powerful dramatic scenes, many funny lighthearted moments and, of course, an abundance of great music, some of which will practically elevate you from of your seat.
I left the theater feeling uplifted and satisfied, and what more could you ask from a movie of this type?
NE-YO (real name: Shaffer Smith Jr.) is one of the most talented artists out there today, and he always seems to have something new gong on.
The latest is becoming a Motown artist by way of bringing his Compound Entertainment production company into the Motown complex. In addition, he has been appointed to the position of senior vice president of A&R (artists and repertoire) for Motown.
Ne-Yo’s new allbum will be released this summer, and let’s hope it’s even half as good as “Year of the Gentleman.”
SPEAKING of new ventures, Lionel Richie’s upcoming album, titled “Tuskegee” (he’s from Tuskegee, Alabama), will consist entirely of remakes of his hits sung with many of today’s top country artists, including Kenny Chesney, Shania Twain and Darius Rucker.
The album is set for March 27 release and later there will be a television special.
Actually, this is not Lionel Richie’s first foray into country territory. “Sail On,” the Top 10 hit recorded and written by Richie in 1979 when he was with the Commodores, was essentially a country song.
THE PHRASE “a man of many talents” certainly fits Barack Obama. Very few people even had a clue that the great president can sing. I mean, really sing, as was made evident at a recent fundraiser at the Apollo Theater.
Obama sang a couple of lines from “Let’s Stay Together” and sounded very good, and smooth. (Think of how flattered this was for Al Green!)
Wouldn’t it be something if one day Barack Obama — when he is no longer in office, of course — made an album!
And by the way, Obama’s State of the Union speech was incredible. For him to not be re-elected would be a travesty. Everything is right about the words “four more years!”
AN INFLATED ego is one of the most dangerous things a person can have. It can bring down even the most powerful, no matter how much they have deluded themselves into believing they are invincible.
Add resentment to the mix and it’s poison.
I used to like Tavis Smiley and watching his talk show was frequently on my agenda. But now I watch very seldom and it’s well on its way to becoming “never.”
Smiley’s mean-spirited, unwarranted criticism of President Obama is a complete turnoff. Many people believe it all stems from Obama not attending an event Smiley organized when Obama was a candidate.
And no doubt Smiley is being aided and abetted by his close friend, Dr. Cornel West, who we believe, as we’ve said before, thinks the sun doesn’t rise until he gets up. I would not be surprised if he was expecting to be consulted, directly by the president, every time President Obama made any decision even remotely connected to African Americans.
Of course, each person has a right to their own opinion, and Black people should never allow themselves to be put in a box, suppressing their individuality and free thought.
But even so, I share the “disgust” Tom Joyner and so many others now have for Tavis Smiley and Cornel West.
Joyner has said he is “sooo done with them.” That makes two of us.
BETCHA DIDN’T KNOW…that Marvin Gaye is the drummer on the classic Marvelettes hit “Please Mr. Postman.”
MEMORIES: “Kissing You” (Keith Washington), “Just Because” (Anita Baker), “I Feel Good All Over” (Stephanie Mills), “Spirit of the Boogie” (Kool & the Gang), “She Works Hard For The Money” (Donna Summer), “Young Hearts Run Free” (Candi Staton), “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right” (Luther Ingram), “That’s How Heartaches Are Made” (Baby Washington), “Love Rollercoaster” (the Ohio Players), “Miss You Like Crazy” (Natalie Cole), “We’re In This Love Together” (Al Jarreau).
BLESSINGS to Maxine Michaels, Cliff Russell, Mildred Gaddis, Al Allen, Deborah Smith Pollard, Freddy Anderson, Ed Phillips, Claudreen Jackson, William Staiger, Damon Williams and Donafay Collins.
WORDS OF THE WEEK, from Johnny Carson: “If you are happy in what you are doing, you will have more success than you could possibly have imagined.”
Let the music play!
Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 February 2012 16:46
Category: Entertainment Written by Steve Holsey
I first met actress, singer and acting intructor Lonette McKee way back in the latter part of 1968.
She was an ambitious 15-year-old student at St. Martin Deporres High School and was one of the performers at a week-long show at the Palms Theater called “The Swingin’ Time Revue.” Among the other acts were the Fantastic Four, the Precisions, the Detroit Emeralds and Little Carl Carlton.
The show, basically patterned after the Motortown Revue staged anually at the Fox Theater, was being presented by the local dance show “Swingin’ Time,” which came on six days a week from the studios of CKLW in Windsor, Canada.
Monday through Friday the show was live, on Saturday it was taped earlier in the day and shown that evening. I was a regular on the show and some of the dancers were part of the revue. Hence, the opportunity to meet become friends with Lonette.
McKEE, KNOWN only as “Lonette” at that time, had a record titled “Stop! Don’t Worry About It” on the local M-S label. It was popular in and around Detroit, but I doubt seriously that she ever received any royalties. The follow-up single was “Bluejeans.”
Lonette was the show’s opening act. She would always sing “Stop! (Don’t Worry About It)” and, as proof of her versatility, in some shows she would also sing the standard “Fever.”
We hit it off right way and as a teenager myself, I wrote a story about her in the Michigan Chronicle.
A few years after that, Lonette made the move to Los Angeles, realizing she could only go so far in Detroit.
Another dancer on the show, Oliver Givens, also moved to the West Coast with show business in his heart. But before anything happened for either one of them, they danced together one Saturday on “American Bandstand.”
In a surprisingly short period of time, 1972 to be exact (I told you she was ambitious!), Lonette had landed a regular role on the nationally-viewed weekly comedy series “The Wacky World of Jonathan Winters.” She would sing every week as part of a duo called the Soul Sisters (even though her partner was White).
THAT WAS nice exposure, but McKee’s career was really ignited in 1976 when she landed one of the leading roles in the film “Sparkle,” also starring Irene Cara, Dwan Smith, Philip Michael Thomas and Mary Alice. She was “Sister,” lead singer of a fictional 1950s vocal group.
Her performance was so effective that one would have thought she had years of acting experience.
The movie was a hit. Friends and family back in Detroit were happy for her, and all who attended the special screening were impressed.
We chatted briefly there, but then she said, “Why don’t you come to my room when this is over so we can really talk.”
We did and it was fun.
The paths of yours truly and Lonette McKee didn’t cross again until 1978 at a press party at a downtown Detroit hotel, organized by Warner Bros. Records as a promotion vehicle for her new album, “Words and Music,” which she had hoped would “go Gold.”
Good times again. Oliver Givens was there too. He was working as McKee’s personal assistant.
Soon McKee was on fire. Appearing regularly on the big screen, she was now a s-t-a-r. (But, interestingly, there was sometimes a certain amount of confusion because another popular actress at the time had a similar name — Vonetta McGee.)
McKEE WAS on a roll, one movie or TV show after another, portraying a wide array of characters, each requiring something different from her.
The films include “The Cotton Club” (with Gregory Hines, Richard Gere, Nicolas Cage and Laurence Fishburne), “Round Midnight” (with Dexter Gordon), and “Jungle Fever” (with Wesley Snipes, Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson and Ruby Dee).
Also, “Malcolm X” (with Denzel Washington and Angela Bassett), “Which Way Is Up?” (with Richard Pryor), “Men of Honor” (with Cuba Gooding Jr., Robert De Niro and Glynn Turman) and “He Got Game” (with Denzel Washington), to name a few.
We should mention that in “The Cotton Club” McKee sang a rendition of the classic “Ill Wind” that was stunning.
Then there was her television work. That lengthy list of credits includes “Queen” (a mini-series with Halle Berry, Ann-Margret and Ossie Davis), “Half & Half,” “Miami Vice,” “Amen,” “L.A. Law,” “Third Watch” and “The Women of Brewster Place” (TV movie) among many others.
And let’s not overlook her outstanding performances on the stage, including “Show Boat” (for which she received a Tony nomination) and “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” (a tribute to Billie Holiday).
With Lonette McKee, it has always been about talent and hard work. However, her looks didn’t go unnoticed. In 1995 People magazine included her among “The 50 Most Beautiful People in the World.” And Johnny Carson acknowledged her attractiveness during an appearance on “The Tonight Show.”
Despite all of the accolades and the other frills and thrills of being a working actress and Hollywood celebrity, eventually McKee knew it was time to do something different.
Then too, she has been candid enough to admit that when women get to be “of a certain age,” the roles become fewer and further between (Meryl Streep is one of the few exceptions), all the more so for Black women.
So she packed up and returned to Metro Detroit where she has been heading a production company and conducting an actors workshop as well as a training program for crew members. She came home with a wealth of experience and knowledge that could be shared.
None of this is to suggest that McKee will not be seen on the big screen again. According to the IMDb website, she will portray Noelle, a jazz singer, in a film titled “Deauville” that is currently in pre-production.
One way or another (most likely in many ways) Lonette McKee will always “sparkle.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 February 2012 16:42
Category: Entertainment Written by Steve Holsey
I knew that things had changed, perhaps drastically, in the world of gospel music when I heard the youth choir at a well known church on Woodward Avenue.
Remember “Get Off,” the high-energy party song by the band Foxy that was a No. 1 hit in 1978? Well, the choir performed that song with the same arrangement but, of course, different words!
For example, instead of saying “Get…Get…Get Off!” they sang “Je..Je…Je-sus!”
I kid you not.
ALTHOUGH some gospel artists are much too blatant and obvious in their attempts to reach the secular audience, which, of course, means exposure on R&B radio, it would be absurd to expect gospel to stay the same (some would say become stagnant) while everything else around it is changing.
And let’s not forget that gospel, R&B, jazz and blues are interrelated, born of the Black experience in the United States with roots in Africa. You could say they are cousins, albeit often “distant” cousins.
There has been some interesting experimentation in gospel music throughout the decades.
For example, in 1995 CeCe Winans reintroduced the gospel standard “Blessed Assurance” in a completely different, and unexpected, way on her album “Alone In His Presence.” She performed the song with a straight-up jazz arrangement, and it worked. It gently swings.
One might think that her mother, Delores “Mom” Winans, being from another generation, would not have approved of such a project, but not so. Mrs. Winans was so impressed that she used a similar jazz arrangement on “I Must Tell Jesus,” featured on her “An Affair to Remember” album.
CAN CHOIRS “rock”? The answer is a resounding yes. For a prime example, take a trip back to the 1970s and listen to “I’ll Make It Alright” by the Beautiful Zion Missionary Baptist Choir featured on their self-titled album. The Chicago-based choir went even further with their next single, “Dust Yourself Off and Try It Again.” (Oh my!)
As would be expected, recordings such as these spark controversy. Gospel traditionalists, who are worthy of respect just like most people, feel that making gospel music outside of the mainstream is wrong, even “sinful.”
But the same criticism could be leveled at those who feel they are justified in sitting in the judgment seat, pontificating to anyone who will listen. It seems a certainty that the Creator is far more concerned with the heart than what’s on the outside.
ONE GOSPEL great who has always forged ahead despite criticism from some quarters is Rance Allen. Possessing one of the strongest, most distinctive and most effective voices in the history of gospel music, Allen just keeps singing his heart out.
In the process he has influenced many others. In fact, contemporary gospel megastar Kirk Franklin collaborated with Allen on one occasion.
Ironically, Kirk Franklin started out very much in the traditional gospel realm. Kirk Franklin & the Family soared to the top of the gospel charts and became a mainstay on gospel radio in 1993 with their breakthrough song, “Why We Sing.”
However, before long it became obvious that Franklin had something else, something entirely different, in mind. The Family, including several overweight, very “church-looking” women, were replaced by a younger group of singers.
Called Nu Nation, they moved and grooved, and some of the ladies, with hair flying, looked liked they could have been “Soul Train” dancers.
AS EYEBROWS were being raised, Franklin was not particularly concerned, if at all.
In 1997 he boldly addressed those who felt “gospel had gone too far” by recording a song (with another choir, God’s Property) titled “Stomp” that used the music from Funkadelic’s classic “One Nation Under a Groove.” And for embellishment, he added a cameo rap by Salt of Salt-N-Pepa.
Franklin, also the king of trendy gospel dressers, is definitely not the only gospel artist to be found on the R&B and sometimes Pop charts. Names like Marvin Sapp, Donne McClurkin, Yolanda Adams, Smokie Norful, Mary Mary, BeBe Winans, Karen-Clark Sheard, Ki-erra “Kiki” Sheard (her daughter), Fred Hammond, the Clark Sisters and Vickie Winans are essentially regulars.
Winans and Adams, as well as Dorinda Clark Cole, are among the ladies who represent another difference between today’s gospel and that of years past — they are glamorous, and yes I’ll say it, sexy, whether that was their intention or not.
THE WINANS (Carvin, Michael, Ron and leader Marvin), now disbanded, were an extremely strong force in the development and expansion of contemporary gospel. In 1990 they even worked with R&B/new jack swing producer-writer Teddy Riley, the result being an R&B Top 10 hit, “It’s Time.”
The quartet paved the road for the Winans to become the First Family of Gospel, a title previously held, for a very long time, by the Hawkins. That is, Edwin Hawkins, Walter Hawkins, Tramaine Hawkins and Lynette Hawkins.
But before the Hawkins, there was the Staple Singers, who had been steeped in gospel tradition — that is, the early 1970s when they switched to “message songs.”
To say the least, they were successful, burning up the R&B and Pop charts with, among others, “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself,” both of which are still heard often today.
The Staples got even more adventurous when Curtis Mayfield recruited them 1975 to be the vocalists for the film he had scored, “Let’s Do It Again.”
This was not a “message” song and was certainly far removed from gospel! The No. 1 hit (R&B and Pop), some of the group’s best work, was, let’s face it, about the pleasures of the flesh. “Just makin’ good love” followed by “good sleep in the morning.” (But hey, sex is “of God” too!).
ANOTHER GROUP that was about as mainstream as you can get, the Mighty Clouds of Joy, took a brand new approach to their music and presentation in the mid-1970s. With the powerful Joe Ligon up front, the group found plenty of favor with R&B and dance music lovers with their biggest hit from this period, “Mighty High,” that is still exciting today.
But it has never been a one-way street. Quite a few R&B artists have journeyed into the gospel field. Among those making gospel albums are Jennifer Holliday, Gladys Knight, Reuben Studdard and, of course, Deniece Williams who alternated between gospel and secular albums. And you never know when Aretha Franklin is going to make a gospel album.
Meanwhile, Shirley Murdock, best known for the R&B song “As We Way,” about illicit love, switched over to gospel completely.
What it all boils down to is “do what you feel” and “listen to what moves you.” No need to explain anything.
Contemporary gospel is here to stay, some excesses notwithstanding. But so is traditional gospel. There is plenty of room for Kirk Franklin and Shirley Caesar.
“Spread-the-Word ministry” or “entertainment to make money and excite people”?
It is both and always has been.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 31 January 2012 11:19
Category: Entertainment Written by Steve Holsey
Every two years or so, I feel compelled to call attention to something unusual that only applies to this city.
The overwhelming majority of female vo-calists from Detroit (not necessarily born here) have first names that end with an “A.”
HEARING that Halle Berry has gotten engaged (again) was somewhat disheartening. The beautiful actress has a long history of failed marriages and disastrous relationships, and it can’t always be the guy’s fault. Maybe she should remain single.
In any event, we wish Berry and Spanish/French actor Olivier Martinez well. I first saw him in “Unfaithful” with Richard Gere and Diane Lane. Great performance, great movie.
Congratulations to Boyz II Men on receiving a star of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
One of the embarrassing aspects of rap music is the frequency with which artists engage in feuds — LL Cool J vs. Kool Moe Dee, Lil’ Kim vs. Foxy Brown, Ja Rule vs. 50 Cent, etc. The latest to exchange insults are Drake and Common. You’d think these people would be more mature than that.
IN 1998 Brandy and Monica partnered and landed a smash hit, “The Boy Is Mine,” that remained No. 1 on the national charts for an amazing 13 weeks! The ladies are back in the studio.
They are good friends, but there was a bump in the road the first time around. Brandy wasn’t totally satisfied with how Monica sang some of her lyrics. “I wrote the song so I know it should be sung,” said Brandy.
Later this year work will begin on the development of Jimi Hendrix Park in the legendary rock guitarist/singer’s Seattle hometown.
Love ya, Oprah, but isn’t it kind of vain to have your picture on the cover of your magazine (“O”) every month?
PRINCE IS a favorite of mine — particularly from 1979 to 1987 — but it is always annoying when people “get religion” (Prince is a Jehovah’s Witness) and then skim over their past.
For example, Prince now doesn’t allow anyone to use profanity in his recording studio. If they do, they are required to put $20 into a jar.
That’s interesting considering some of his raunchiest songs, all of which he wrote, including “Jack U Off,” “Sexy M.F.,” “Head,” “Scarlet P---y,” “Horny Toad,” “Sister” (a song about incest), “Erotic City” and “Irresistible Bitch.”
Which is not to say that Prince’s “X” and “triple R” songs didn’t sound good. I still listen to “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” and “Dirty Mind” all the time. But he should refrain from getting preachy, as he has done on several recent albums.
One profanity user visiting Prince’s studio said jokingly yet seriously, “I learned those words from you!”
BETCHA DIDN’T KNOW…that in 1963 Motown recorded a song, written by Smokey Robinson and performed by the Supremes, which had one of the world’s longest titles: “A Breath Taking, First Sight Soul Shaking, One Night Love Making, Next Day Heart Breaking Guy.” The company wisely released it as “A Breath Taking Guy.”
MEMORIES: “Rhythm of the Night” (DeBarge), “Jam Tonight” (Freddie Jackson), “Love Come Down” (Evelyn “Champagne” King), “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” (Daryl Hall & John Oates), “You Give Good Love” (Whitney Houston), “Boogie On Reggae Woman” (Stevie Wonder), “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” (Lou Rawls), “Super Bad” (James Brown), “Hit the Road, Jack” (Ray Charles), “Where Do We Go From Here?” (Stacy Lattisaw and Johnny Gill).
BLESSINGS to Tyrone Mills, Mary Grace Wilbert, Ericka Alexander, Toya Hankins, Andrew Humphrey, Katherine Adams, Carl Carlton, Valerie Lockhart, Kevin Keegan, Gary L. Craig and Duane Davis.
WORDS OF THE WEEK, from Maya Angelou: “Love life. Give it all you’ve got. Life gives back, many times over, what you put into it.”
Let the music play!
Last Updated on Tuesday, 31 January 2012 11:22
Category: Entertainment Written by Steve Holsey
People do what they feel they must. Whatever it is — within reason — works for me, so long as they are not trying to “convert” me.
It was surprising to hear about talented and likable season 7 “American Idol” runner-up David Archuleta leaving show business to devote his time to Mormon missionary work. (He didn’t say it would be indefinitely.)
But he is certainly not the first entertainer to make such a move, or something similar. Vanity (biggest hit: “Nasty Girl”) is a minister today (her real name is Denise Matthews), as are Joe Simon (“The Chokin’ Kind,” “Drowning in the Sea of Love”), Joseph Simmons (“Run” of Run-D.M.C., now known as “Rev. Run”), singer/actress Della Reese, football superstar Roosevelt Grier, Demond Wilson (Lamont on “Sanford and Son”), Dan Mountney (former WDIV/Channel 4 news anchor and reporter), and former sexy singer/actress/dancer Lola Falana, among others.
And then there’s Al Green who became a reverend in 1976, but gradually returned to singing his R&B hits, including “Love and Happiness,” “Let’s Stay Together” and “I’m Still In Love With You.” But he still a pastor, in Memphis.
SO MANY people, yours truly included, feel so much compassion for Valerie Simpson following the August passing of her longtime husband and collaborator, Nick Ashford.
The two were born to be together and their marriage would have no doubt continued on and on.
Those same concerned fans have been wondering how Simpson has dealt with that horrendous blow, what she is doing now and what is in her future.
In response, PBS will air a special titled “An Evening With Valerie Simpson” in February, hosted by “PBS NewsHour” senior correspondent Gwen Ifill.
Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, as a team, are forever etched in our minds.
IT IS ALWAYS special when hot stars of today get together with the great veterans, such as Mary J. Blige and Chaka Khan appearing together on “2011 VH1 Divas Celebrate Soul.” And I recently ran across a picture of Mary Wilson, original member of iconic Supremes, and superstar Beyoncé.
When exploring etymology (hey, I had to look that word up too!), we are informed that the word “fan” — as in supporter — actually evolved from “fanatic” which was introduced into the English language around 1550, meaning “marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion.”
Of course, the word today usually has a “less intense” interpretation.
WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND? — Reader Janice Marcum says Jill Scott, whom she describes as “an excellent singer and performer,” is “real” and “long overdue” for the full level of recognition that she so richly deserves.
But she also believes that Jennifer Hudson, who is “everywhere,” is to a certain extent overrated.
“Others who are just as good are not getting the attention she’s getting,” said Marcum.
When she was the much-liked judge on “American Idol,” Paula Abdul was known for sometimes being a bit “ditzy.”
Apparently not much has changed because on a recent episode of “X Factor” she said to a contestant, “You manifest with abundance in the heart department.” (Wow, talk about awkward sentences!)
Speaking of television, one of the simple pleasures of life for people like me is to change the channel whenever a televangelist appears on the screen. Ditto for dumb reality shows.
BETCHA DIDN’T KNOW…that Ne-Yo’s real name is Shaffer Chimere Smith Jr., and that “Chimere” is an African word that means “God’s deed.”
MEMORIES: “Vision of Love” (Mariah Carey), “He’s So Fine” (the Chiffons), “Just the Way You Are” (Billy Joel), “Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me” (Gladys Knight & the Pips), “Shake You Down” (Gregory Abbott), “All Night Long (All Night)” (Lionel Richie), “Twilight Time” (the Platters), “War” (Edwin Starr), “Disco Lady” (Johnnie Taylor), “I’ll Take You There” (the Staple Singers).
BLESSINGS to William Ross, Cynthia French, Joseph French, Shirleen Fort, Bruce Knight, Michael J. Powell, Diane Perkins, Jo Thompson, Jim Burns and Gisele Caver.
WORDS OF THE WEEK, from Alan Cohen: “The life available to you is far greater than the one you have accepted.”
Let the music play!
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 December 2011 13:00
Digital Daily Signup
Sign up now for the Michigan Chronicle Digital Daily newsletter!