Category: Entertainment Written by Steve Holsey
There are certain titles that belong to certain people, from now into infinity. That is the case whether they are with us or have moved on to the next level. Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul. Bob Marley is the King of Reggae. B.B. King is the King of the Blues. And on it goes.
Donna Summer, who died last week, will always be the Queen of Disco. Her name, in fact, is synonymous with the genre that in essence “ruled” from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s.
Her biggest hits are the very essence of disco, starting with “Love to Love You Baby” (a song that has been described as “orgasmic”) and continuing with, among others, “Last Dance,” “I Feel Love,” “Hot Stuff,” “MacArthur Park,” “Bad Girls” and her surprise duet with Barbra Streisand, “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough).”
However, it would be unfair to put Summer in a “Disco Only” box. She proved on many occasions to be masterful at delivering ballads, be they contemporary or standards. Those performances are to be found on some her albums, most notably “Live and More.”
LADONNA ADRIAN GAINES was born on Dec. 31, 1948 in Boston. Like so many African-American singers, she got her first experience singing in church, although she sought a career in secular music rather than gospel.
She also had acting aspirations. Interestingly, in the latter half of the 1960s she auditioned for what was to become one of the biggest musicals in Broadway history, “Hair,” but lost out to future star Melba Moore.
However, when a cast was assembled for a European version of the show, Summer was offered the part. She accepted and moved to Germany, where she performed in a number of other stage productions as well.
By the mid-1970s, Summer had returned to the states. It was while singing with the hit pop/rock band Three Dog Night that she met two producers who would prove to be essential to the advancement of her career, Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte.
It was they who produced the groundbreaking “Love to Love You Baby,” the first of many. To get the feel of the super-sexy song, Summer envisioned how it would sound if it was being sung by Marilyn Monroe.
ALTHOUGH SHE was firmly established as the Queen of Disco, with no viable challengers, Summer surprised people in 1979 with the danceable but decidely rock-edged “Hot Stuff,” one of several of her singles that reached No. 1 on the national charts. The song, in fact, earned Summer a Grammy in the Best Female Rock Vocal Performance category.
It was a harbinger of things to come because not much more time would pass before the popularity of disco would wane, although “dance music” will always be here.
“The Wanderer” from 1980 sounded unlike anything Summer had ever recorded before (or anyone else for that matter). “Rock/pop” might be the best terminology.
Quincy Jones produced one of Donna Summer’s most outstanding recordings in 1982, “State of Independence.” It was a huge, lavish production, with Summer accompanied by what sounded like a 300-member choir. Its moderate showing on the charts was an indication that it may have been a bit too “artsy” for much of the public and for many radio programmers.
In 1983 Summer had one of her biggest hits, “She Works Hard For The Money,” which reached No. 3 on the national Pop charts and No. 1 on the R&B charts.
In the mid-1980s Sum-mer became a born-again Christian and as such greatly condensed “Love to Love You Baby” in concert, doing just a few lines of the songs and certainly leaving out the moans and groans.
The twice married Summer, mother of three daughters, released an album in 2008 titled “Crayons” that proved that she was very much a contemporary artist rather than an “oldie but goodie.” She also made a guest star appearance on “American Idol” around that time.
The impact of Donna Summer is deeply embedded and, fortunately, her recordings are easily obtained.
Last Updated on Thursday, 24 May 2012 03:23
Category: Entertainment Written by Steve Holsey
There are many indicators that one has “made it big” in the world of show business, but perhaps none more so than the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The famed “celestial” attraction covers 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street, plus a short stretch of Marshfield Way.
Obviously a lot of people have achieved that level of success because as of now there are in excess of 2,400 embedded brass stars, spaced 6 feet apart, representing achievers from various segments of the show business industry. Each star weighs about 300 pounds.
And yes, Detroit is well represented, including such luminaries as the Miracles, the Supremes, Anita Baker, the Four Tops, Aretha Franklin, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Berry Gordy, Della Reese, BeBe & CeCe Winans, Smokey Robinson, the Spinners, Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye. (Pretty heavy on Motown Record Corporation and, hence, Detroit.)
JUST BELOW the name of the honoree is an emblem identifying the category the honoree is being recognized in. There are five: 1) A phonograph record representing music, 2) A television representing broadcast television, 3) A classic film camera representing motion pictures, 4) A radio microphone representing broadcast radio, and 5) Comedy/tragedy masks representing theatre/live performances.
In addition, there is a “special” category recognizing contributions by service organizations, corporate entities, etc.
The idea for a Hollywood Walk of Fame, that functions via the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, originated with E.M. Stuart in 1953, at which time he was president of the organization. To his way of thinking — and there was plenty of agreement — the Walk would be one way to “maintain the glory of a community whose name means glamour and excitement in the four corners of the world.”
In July of 1978, the Hollywood Walk of Fame was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument by the City of Los Angeles. By then it had long been iconic, known all over the world and a consistent tourist attraction for those visiting the Los Angeles area.
After so many decades, of course, there was a lot of wear and tear on the Walk. Much like Detroit’s Fox Theatre, there was a need for restoration. In 2008 the restoration was begun with a hefty price tag in excess of $4 million.
THE FUNDING came from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, a number of concerned government entities, both city and county, and others. A Friends of Walk of Fame” organization was formed.
From time to time there is a certain amount of controversy regarding a Walk of Fame nominee, and the rules have been bent when the Chamber deemed it necessary.
For example, there is no sports category. Nevertheless, boxing legend Muhammad Ali was granted a star after it was decided that sports is a form of live entertainment. Basketball superstar Earvin “Magic” Johnson received a star due to his ownership of the Magic Johnson Theatre chain.
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Walk of Fame Selection Committee receives approximately 200 nominations per year.
There is a substantial cost for the creation and installation of the star ($30,000 at present) when a nomination is approved by the Committee. The fee is in most cases paid for by whatever organization submitted the nominee’s name.
The presentation ceremony is free and open to the public.
Among the well over 100 African Americans with stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame are Harry Belafonte, Destiny’s Child, Michael Jackson, the Nicholas Brothers, Ray Charles, Marian Anderson, Della Reese, Morgan Freeman, Paul Robeson, Cicely Tyson, Jimi Hendrix, the Mills Brothers, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Dee Williams, Eartha Kitt, the Jacksons, Samuel L. Jackson and Nancy Wilson.
Also, Sidney Poitier, Johnny Mathis, Queen Latifah, Nat “King” Cole, James Brown, Forest Whitaker, Patti LaBelle, Sarah Vaughan, Bob Marley, Quincy Jones, Mahalia Jackson, the 5th Dimension, Billy Eckstine, Chuck Berry, Lena Horne, Angela Bassett, Tina Turner, Lionel Hampton, B.B. King, Count Basie, Vanessa Williams, Louis Armstrong and Billy Dee Williams.
Last Updated on Friday, 18 May 2012 18:51
Category: Entertainment Written by Steve Holsey
By now you have probably heard about Brian McKnight’s X-rated sex song, “If You’re Ready to Learn.” Considering the class act he had always been and the songs he has recorded, this comes as a shock. It is difficult to understand the motivation.
The song, about a man telling (and showing) a woman how to use her body is about is explicit as you can get. Believe it or not, he actually says, among many other things, “Let me show you how your p---- works.”
How crude is that? Apparently he thinks it’s funny.
In any event, it comes as no surprise that McKnight has been asked to perform “If You’re Ready to Learn” at the AVN Awards, which is the leading adult entertainment industry awards show.
At last report, McKnight had been declining because he doesn’t plan on performing the song in public.
I have no problem whatsoever with adult entertainment in any form, but there is a time and place for everything.
If you want to hear McKnight talk about the song and sing part of it, go to YouTube and enter “Brian McKnight: If You’re Ready to Learn.” (If it has not been removed by the time this reaches print.)
You are likely to have more than one reaction.
IT HAS BEEN reported that Whitney Houston’s mother, gospel singer and former R&B songstress Cissy Houston, and her ex-husband, Bobby Brown, are both planning to write a book about Whitney.
The hope here is that their motivation is purely altruistic rather than it being a money-making venture. What comes to mind immediately is Jermaine Jackson’s book about his brother, “You Are Not Alone: Michael, Through a Brother’s Eyes,” conveniently using one of Michael’s biggest hits in the title.
It was good to hear Bobby Brown say in a recent TV interview, “I’m not the reason she’s gone. I didn’t get high before I met Whitney. I smoked weed, I drank beer, but I wasn’t the one that got Whitney on drugs.”
I never thought he was. Actually, they were two like-minded people with the same weaknesses (and we all have weaknesses). It wasn’t just love that kept them married for 15 years.
A source very close to the Houston and Warwick families told me that Cissy Houston despised Bobby Brown and “would rather have a root canal than speak to Bobby.”
THE BEST singer and best performer on “American Idol” this season is Joshua Ledet. As I write this, the powerhouse singer from Westlake, Louisiana, who sounds so much like Sam Cooke, is among the Top 5 finalists. It is very hard to believe that he is only 20 years old.
He is my favorite and has gotten my vote every week, but I never vote based on race. It’s about talent and showmanship. (Same for “Dancing With The Stars.”) Some of my choices from past seasons are Bo Bice, Adam Lambert, Clay Aiken, Scotty McCreery and Taylor Hicks, all of whom happened to be White.
On “the Black side” my favorites have included Fantasia Barrino, LaToya London, Melinda Doolittle, Jennifer Hudson and Nikko Smith.
JACKIE JACKSON (did you know that his full name is Sigmund Esco Jackson?) is very excited about the Jacksons tour that makes its way to Detroit on June 23.
“This is a dream come true,” he said. “I can’t believe this is finally happening. There’s nothing like having all the brothers on stage at the same time. And I know that at each concert, Michael’s spirit will be in the house.”
Nice to be optimistic, and we hope he’s right, but can Jackie, Marlon, Jermaine, Tito and Randy draw huge crowds and pull off such a show? It would help if Janet Jackson was part of the tour.
Aretha Franklin would like to have some songs written by Ne-Yo on her upcoming album, her first with super producer Clive Davis in a long time.
BETCHA DIDN’T KNOW...that the version of “Shop Around” by the Miracles that everyone is familiar with is not the original. The group had recorded a slower version that Motown president Berry Gordy Jr. decided to pull off the market. (If you own a copy of the first “Shop Around,” you have a real collector’s item.)
MEMORIES: “I’ve Got Love on My Mind” (Natalie Cole), “Hurts So Good” (Millie Jackson), “Gonna Get Over You” (Sweet Obsession), “I Feel For You” (Chaka Khan), “L-O-V-E (Love)” (Al Green), “I’ll Be in Trouble” (the Temptations), “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home” (Ann Peebles), “Miss You” (the Rolling Stones), “Sweet Soul Music” (Arthur Conley), “Optimistic” (Sounds of Blackness).
BLESSINGS to Andrea Jean Daniels, Chris Buck, Charlotte Buck, Patricia Holsey, Tony Stevenson, Mark McMorris, Rita Griffin, Wade Briggs, Robert Terrell, Pam Woodside, Darren Nichols and Alex Alexander.
WORDS OF THE WEEK, from Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Do something! If it works, do more of it. If it doesn’t, do something else.”
Let the music play!
Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 May 2012 13:04
Category: Entertainment Written by Steve Holsey
Anyone who thinks rationally knows that being a human being far exceeds ethnic heritage, although we live in a society that would have us think otherwise.
Actually, it’s a worldwide problem that has caused all kinds of grief.
But the truth is, you can change many things about your life but your heritage is totally out of your control. Ditto for height, sexuality, aptitude, skin tone, innate skills, etc.
That is why, to my way of thinking, there is no particular reason for swelling up with “pride” because you are Black, White, Asian, Middle Eastern, Irish, Hispanic, gay, straight and on it goes.
These are not choices. They just are what they are.
HOWEVER, that said, it is still interesting how racial “flavors” can be. In many instances people of mixed heritage do not actually look as though they are. They just look like lighter-skinned Black people or whatever the case may be.
Luther Vandross once said in one of his songs that “you can’t tell love what to do.” Well, you can’t tell genes and chromosomes what to do either.
And people far more often than not use the word “biracial,” when, in fact, “multiracial” in most cases would be a better choice of terms. Reason being, how many people are “pure” anything? But we will stick with “biracial” for the sake of this story.
All this came to mind because of “Marley,” the highly praised documentary on Bob Marley that is currently being shown at the Main Art theater. One would never think that the late reggae icon had a White father. (Marley was somewhat lighter than most Jamaicans.)
The assumption is that Black genes are, for whatever reason, basically dominant.
But that is certainly not true in all cases. One example is the famed guitarist Slash (real name: Saul Hudson) from the hard rock band Guns N’ Roses. Born in England, his father is White and his mother is Black. I didn’t know that until fairly recently.
VIN DIESEL is another whose appearance belies his Black/White reality. However, the actor, who specializes in action films, describes himself as “definitely a person of color.”
One of the top female vocal groups of the 1960s was the Ronettes, led by the still-popular Ronnie Spector. She basically looks Hispanic, but in actuality she is from a Puerto Rican mother/African-American father union.
And then there’s Maya Rudolph. There is a tendency to think of her as White, as much for her TV work (“Saturday Night Live”), her films (“Bridesmaids”) and the company she keeps. However, as perhaps most people know, she is the daughter of late African-American songstress Minnie Riperton and her husband, Richard Rudolph, a Ashkenazai Jew.
(Now there’s a word I had never heard before — Ashkenazai. They descended from medieval Jewish communities in Germany.)
Jordin Sparks, who was the winner in season 6 of “American Idol,” is enjoying a career that keeps moving forward. She will star in the soon-to-be-released film “Sparkle.” Detroit’s own Lonette McKee was a star in the original version. Like McKee, Spearks’ mother is White and her father is Black.
Paula Patton, the pretty and talented actress who always seems to have a movie out currently or set for release soon, has an African-American mother and a German-American father. (And the rainbow continues as Patton is married to White R&B singer Robin Thicke.)
THE LIST OF Black celebrities who are of mixed parentage, but do not really look as if they are, is a lengthy one.
Lenny Kravitz, the multi-talented rock-based singer-musician-songwriter, is the son of Black actress Roxie Roker, best remembered as Helen Willis on the long-running sitcom “The Jeffersons,” and Sy Kravitz, of Russian-Jewish descent.
El DeBarge and the other DeBarges, including Chico, is the offspring of a Black mother and a French-Canadian father. (There were 10 kids in the family from Grand Rapids and Detroit!)
Many people have been listening to Faith Evans’ music for years, but few are aware of the fact that her father is White. The same is true of actress Salli Richardson.
OF COURSE, the whole world is aware of the fact that historic President Barack Obama is a product of a biracial union, his mother being White and his father an African. However, nothing about him looks biracial.
Actress Tracee Ellis Ross has an African American mother (you know who she is!) and a Jewish father, as does her sister. The father of her two half brothers was Norwegian.
The legendary Eartha Kitt’s father was White (Dutch or German, reports vary) and her mother African-American and Native American. Sadly, it was from a forced-sex encounter.
The iconic Etta James, who made her transition recently, often claimed that her father was Rudolph Wanderone, better known as the famous professional pool player Minnesota Fats, but that was never proven.
Halle Berry obviously got “the best of both worlds,” so to speak. Recognized worldwide as one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, Berry is from a Black/White union.
Film director/actor Mario Van Peebles was born in Mexico to often controversial screenplay writer, film director and playwright Melvin Van Peebles. It was an African-Amrican/German relationship.
As was stated near the onset of this story, the intent was not to make an “issue” of mixed relationships, but, rather, to put the spotlight on some of the more interesting aspects of them.
And also as stated, being a human being, with its inherent and vast potential, trumps race every time, and that’s a good thing.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 May 2012 13:06
Category: Entertainment Written by Steve Holsey
Dick Clark, the television icon who made his transition last week, once said, “Music is the soundtrack of your life.”
That is as true as the importance of Dick Clark to the history of rock and roll and, by extension, rhythm and blues.
The impact of “American Bandstand” would be impossible to overstate. Without “American Bandstand,” which Dick Clark said he thought of as his fourth child, there would have been no “Soul Train,” not to mention the hundreds of dance-and-entertainment shows that emerged in the 1950s, 1960s and beyond.
Back in the day they were called “dance party” shows, and Detroit had several, including “Swingin’ Time,” “The Real Side,” “Club 1270” and “The Scene.”
NONE OTHER than Don Cornelius, creator and host of “Soul Train,” acknowledged that “American Bandstand” is where it all began, and that Dick Clark “did it first.” Cornelius, of course, added a “soul dimension” to the genre, with “Soul Train” becoming as iconic as “American Bandstand.”
How ironic that Clark and Cornelius would pass in the same year. In a sense it’s like the end of an era, but an era with an impact that reverberates today and will continue to do so into infinity.
And, of course, “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” won’t seem the same without Dick Clark, who began hosting the show of his creation in 1974. (One show of many.) However, in recent years it had been painful to watch and hear Clark, a stroke victim, as he continued to make his midnight cameo appearance to ring in the new year in Times Square.
BUT GETTING back to Dick Clark and “the Bandstand,” there are thousands of anecdotes and lengthy stories about the venerable host and business tycoon who admitted to being a workaholic who wouldn’t have it any other way.
One of those stories involves the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars, a bus tour that traveled extensively, featuring perhaps as many as ten acts. (Clark never traveled by limo or plane; he rode the bus with the artists.)
That was in the 1960s when racism was far more blatant than it is today, all the more so in the South.
On one occasion in a southern city, Clark attempted to check all of the acts into a hotel and was told firmly that he and the White acts could stay there but not the Blacks.
Well, Dick Clark wasn’t having that. He informed hotel management, with equal firmness, that if the Black artists would not be rented rooms, then no one involved with the Caravan, including himself, would be staying there.
That hotel lost what would have been a substantial amount of money.
CLARK WAS among those who championed Black music, and never hesitated to acknowledge the fact it was from Black roots that rock and roll developed. To put it more bluntly, there would be no rock and roll — or rock — without rhythm and blues.
Fats Domino, a regular “American Bandstand” attraction in the early days, stated, “What they’re calling rock and roll is just rhythm and blues. I’ve been playing it all my life.”
While it is true that “American Bandstand” was a very “White” show in the 1950s and early 1960s, aside from the many Black recording artists who apppeared on it, one has to consider the times.
By the mid-1960s things had changed considerably, and there were plenty of Black dancers on the show, many of them regulars. The first Black “super couple” on “American Bandstand” was Famous Hooks and June Strode, still fondly remembered today by “Bandstand” enthusiasts
In the “American Bandstand” dance contest in 1966, featuring dancers from all over the country, a brother and sister couple from Detroit, Lester and Leslie Tipton, won first place. (They were regulars on “Swing-in’ Time.”)
IN THE 1970S, a number of popular dancers from “Soul Train,” including Patricia Davis and Lil’ Joe Chism, began dancing on “American Bandstand” while continuing on “Soul Train.” Don Cornelius was not pleased, but since no one was under contract, the dancers could go where they pleased. And Cornelius had no intention of banning them from “Soul Train” because they were such an important part of the show.
“Soul Train’s” most famous dancer, Damita Jo Freeman, actually left the show completely and subsequently becoming a major attraction on “American Bandstand.”
One would be hard-pressed to name any popular recording artist from 1957 to 1989 who did not make an appearance, or multiple appearances, on “American Bandstand” — rockers, R&B singers, teen idols, vocal groups, crossover country acts, pop artists, etc.
The guest performers included the Jackson 5, Chubby Checker, Madonna, Frankie Valli, Lionel Richie, Grace Jones, Tony Orlando & Dawn, Prince, Sheena Easton, Aretha Franklin, Steely Dan, Marvin Gaye, Roy Orbison, the Spinners, Paul Anka, Three Dog Night, Deniece Williams, Barry Manilow, Natalie Cole and on and on it goes, literally numbering into the thousands.
Clark had a special affinity for Motown and regularly booked artists from the Motown roster, such as the Miracles, Gladys Knight & the Pips, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye and the Supremes.
His personal favorite period, among many, was the disco era of the mid-1970s to the early 1980s because people were dancing and just having a good time. It was a fun atmosphere. In fact, Donna Summer, the queen of disco, was the only performer to ever co-host “American Bandstand” with Dick Clark.
On a personal level, I grew up watching “American Bandstand.” Dick Clark was one of my favorite people, and meeting him in the early ’80s was a special honor that meant a lot to me. He was very cordial, just as I had expected.
Dick Clark was a class act.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 April 2012 14:09
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