Memphis, More on “My People/Not My People” and An Evening’s Kiss from Willis Earl Beal

24 Oct

Memphis, More on “My People/Not My People” and  An Evening’s Kiss from Willis Earl Beal

 

Willis Earl Beal

Willis Earl Beal

Memphis, the film, not the place. But it is the place, a film about place, about a young man who goes to Memphis to make a record, but instead discovers that he needs to discover himself, what matters, what doesn’t.  The story told is non-linear, almost non-narrative, and holds a loving gaze toward Memphis as a work of art–it’s music, it’s people, it’s churches, and it’s natural surroundings.  The description given here is more concrete even than the film itself, which my photographer friend Tina said, “flowed like a moving photo book or series of photos – slow vignettes about a very specific place but with lots of detail left out in between. ”

I came to find out about the film, which I saw several weeks ago at the Cable Car Cinema in Providence, by my friend Nate Kelly.  Nate had noticed that the film was directed by a man with the same name as a former roommate he and his then girlfriend, now wife, Cathy, (a super-close friend of mine) had lived with in Prague  during the 1990′s.  Turned out, their Tim Sutton, is the director of Memphis.

 

There was much to be enchanted about in Tim’s film, especially,  it’s star, non-actor and real-life musician, Willis Earl Beal. Beal drew me in with his cool non-chalance, angelic singing voice, and dreamy, philosophical, paper-bag drinking, naturalist seeking-self.  Though the film was about the musician’s journey, there was not much of the main character’s music in the film, as the director intended much of the story to be outside of the frame–to happen off-screen, for us the viewers to imagine.  Sutton did not want to direct something that felt like a music biopic, and with his surreal, Memphis, he succeeded.  The film, which used all local, non-actors, will be shown at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. You can check out the trailer and learn more about Memphis and future screenings of  this unusual, artistic film at www.memphis-film.com.

After the movie, when I learned during the Director’s Talk with the audience, that Willis Earl Beal’s present life oddly enough now mirrors some of the film version’s protagonist’s, I had to look him up 0n-line to learn more about him.  I wanted to now hear him sing.

I learned that Beal is from Chicago, is 32 years-old, and lived in New York for some time looking to break into the recording industry.  He had some mild success, was signed to a record label, but ended up leaving his label–due to a combination of unpreparedness for the trajectory to stardom, frustration with the industry that wanted to label him as this generation’s Robert Johnson, or the next Ed Sheeran, as well as the lack of control over his artistry.  Beal is now living in Olympia, Washington, writing and recording music in his home, on his terms.

I came across this interview video of Beal, produced by the Amsterdam based music platform FaceCulture.   As soon as I started listening to Beal speak, I was blown away because it was right while I was in the middle of working on the Keith Thompson interview.  In our interview I had had a  conversation where I asked Keith to elaborate on what I thought I heard him say about certain segments of the black community being either “my people” or “not my people,” and, well, you’ll just have to watch and see what Beal has to say about his own experiences with the way black men acknowledge one another, and the-way he sees himself and others.  I found Beal, and his views on race and person-hood mesmerizing.  Take a look, and then a listen to Beal singing Evening’s Kiss below.

 

 

Willis Earl Beal Interview by FaceCulture (Part 1)

 

There are two more parts to this interview that you can click on the links here to view.  In Part 2 Beal mentions Michael Jackson, and influences on his development as a singer.

Willis Earl Beal Interview – Part 2
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gj80GDBnp8A

 

Willis Earl Beal Interview – Part 3

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8obRZbP1e5k

 

Here is Beal singing, Evening’s Kiss

SOURCE:

www.memphis-film.com

www.youtube.com

www.faceculture.com

www.cablecarcinema.com

Keith Thompson: The Interview, And The Roadmap Into Black Life (Hint: It’s Not What You Think)

17 Oct

Keith Thompson

Keith Thompson

 

Seems I can’t meet with my new friend, Keith Thompson, without him plying me with little gifts each time I see him. This time it was a [Read more...]

Re-Posting Tribute to Avonte Oquendo, by Vickie

9 Sep

avonte oquendoA friend, Vickie, is a stupendous supporter of WJSS, and by that I mean she retweets every single one of my blog posts, and actually reads them, and comments, and I truly appreciate her for doing so.  Vickie, from my hometown, has a fantastic blog of her own, Taking It A Step At A Time, where she writes about her adventures, and challenges of being a mom to her 23 year-old son, D.C. who has autism.

On her blog, Vickie shares personal stories of [Read more...]

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Aloe Blacc – One Inna, produced by Madlib

7 Sep

Aloe Blacc

Aloe Blacc

 

I’ve posted a few by Aloe Blacc before, but when I heard this come up on Pandora on my walk this past Thursday, my birthday:), I knew I wanted to post it here on WJSS Weekend Sounds.

 Here Aloe is with One Inna, produced by Madlib:

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCE:  www.youtube.com, Aloe Blacc, One Inna, produced by Madlib, posted by Stones Throw

 

photo credit:  www.laweekly.com

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5 – Never Can Say Goodbye

31 Aug

Friday, August 29th was Michael Jackson’s birthday. And, you know me. I’ll always take the opportunity to squeeze something about MJ onto this site.

Here’s one of my favorite tunes of his from his Jackson 5 days:

 

 

 

SOURCE:  www.youtube.com, The Jackson 5, Never Can Say Goodbye, posted by TheSoulKings

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: J. Cole – Be Free (Michael Brown tribute)

24 Aug

Here’s hip-hop artist J. Cole’s heartfelt tribute song he wrote in honor of Michael Brown, the young, black man who was shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

We need to value the lives of black boys and black men.

 

www.youtube.com , J. Cole, Be Free, Tribute song for Michael Brown, posted by PaperChaserDotCom

A Vigil for Michael Brown…And All The Other Young, Black People Whose Lives Were Wrongfully Taken

15 Aug

 

Michael Brown Vigil

Providence, RI Vigil For Michael Brown

I never considered myself political, and I’m not sure I do now–I don’t really understand how politics work, and I haven’t spent time going to political rallies or protesting (except for in the early 90′s I went to my first and only one–to protect the Roe vs. Wade law in Washington D.C.).  I haven’t been a part of organizing against anything,  and don’t even venture into political discussions.  I tell myself, if anything, I’m a humanist, which I’m not sure I even know what people would say is the definition of that is.  My definition is  that I care about all human beings and their right to live a respected, dignified life, with equality and fairness for all people.

Yet, last night I found myself at my first vigil.  It was a vigil to honor [Read more...]

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Mabel Mercer – Once In A Blue Moon

10 Aug

Mabelmercer1As it often happens, I learned about artist Mabel Mercer via social media–this time a posting on Facebook.  The post came from Donald King, former founder/Executive Director of Providence Black Repertory Theater, and now co-founder/owner of Fete, a truly hip and gorgeous live music venue that according to its website is “dedicated to providing innovative music programming to an audience as diverse as New England itself.”

I learned a bit about Mabel Mercer via the website, The Mabel Mercer Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving the legacy of Mabel Mercer, as well as supporting the art of popular song and cabaret.   Ms. Mercer was born in 1900 in Staffordshire, England, and at 14 left her convent school to go with her aunt on tour of the vaudeville and music hall circuit in Britain and Europe.  After the tour, her career in song soon flourished.  She was held in the highest regard in Paris, and throughout much of Europe, and later in New York, where she held court in esteemed hotels like the St. Regis and the Carlyle.  Frank Sinatra was even known to have said that everything he knew about song phrasing he learned from Mabel.

Mabel Mercer was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House from President Reagan in 1983.  She passed away a year later on April 20, 1984.

So, without further ado, here is Mabel Mercer singing Once In A Blue Moon.

 

SOURCES:

 

www.mabelmercerfoundation.org

www.youtube.com, Mabel Mercer, Once In A Blue Moon, posted by MariaLauraIrene

 

Photo Credit:  www.en.wikipedia.org

Building Bridges With Da’African Village: Dance, Drumming and Friendship on Martha’s Vineyard

8 Aug

Serigne "Mara" Diakate, CEO of Da'African Village, myself, my friend, Sheryl Piland

Serigne “Mara” Diakhate, CEO of Da’African Village, myself, my friend, Sheryl Piland, who brought Les Enfants Du Soleil to Martha’s Vineyard

I caught her by surprise, as she set up to sell tickets for A Touch Of Senegal On The Vineyard, outside of the historic Union Chapel on Martha’s Vineyard.  Her, is my old high-school friend, Sheryl Piland– who now lives in LA, and who when I think of her, I can’t help but remember how the year we graduated high school, Sheryl entered and won the Miss Black Teen USA contest, and got to be crowned by, and dance with Michael Jackson on stage, on television! I was thrilled, and proud of her, like many people from our hometowns of Waterbury and Prospect, Connecticut were, but I was jealous, too. You all know how much I loved MJ, and I wanted to be the one up there dancing with him. But I wasn’t black and beautiful like Sheryl, or as confident. I always admired Sheryl for her deep intelligence, and how, even at seventeen, she seemed so self-assured. In my eyes, Sheryl was someone who knew what she wanted, what she stood for, and yet was generous and giving to her friends.

And, so as I rounded the corner of the beautiful chapel, Sheryl spotted me, did a double take, and [Read more...]

Mt. Hope Neighborhood Works To End Youth Violence

23 Jul

On Tuesday, July 21st, I attended the event,  A Call For Community Action at Billy Taylor Park located on the East Side of Providence.   The  gathering was in service of working to end the violence that continues to escalate between the young people  from neighborhoods including Mt. Hope and South Providence–from the West End to the Chad Brown Houses, to Manton Avenue.  There have been ten homicides in Providence this year, including the shooting death last weekend of  [Read more...]