Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Earth, Wind & Fire – That’s The Way Of The Word – Rest In Peace, Maurice White

7 Feb

Maurice White, Earth, Wind & Fire

Maurice White, Earth Wind & Fire

Countless people all over the world expressed their sadness at the passing of Maurice White, 74, founder of Earth, Wind & Fire, this week. I was also sad when I heard the news because EWF was the soundtrack of my youth.

There are many who could expound much more articulately than me about the band, who were simply epic in terms of what they brought to the world–a new sound, a blend of jazz, soul, r & b, funk, and disco, with expert musicianship–all wrapped up in Maurice’s vision of creating an experience that was not just about the music, but a spiritual experience intertwined, or, living as one, with the music.

I know I have many of their albums in a bin in my basement waiting for when I finally get a turntable again.  And I know memories will spill forth when I do listen to them, just like they are this weekend as I play EWF songs on youtube–memories of our high school cheerleaders doing a pom pom routine to Shining Star, dancing in my bedroom to September and Saturday Night, or laying on my bed listening to the  big-picture, universal messages of Maurice White singing songs like Devotion and That’s The Way Of The World.  I’ve also been told that Reasons was the perfect song to make out to while parking, but I wouldn’t know anything about that.  Nor did I ever mimic Philip Bailey singing Reasons while in a car making out with someone.

I don’t have a favorite, because there are so many amazing songs they created, some popular, some more obscure, but I think for today I’ll play That’s The Way Of The World, because it’s a beautiful song with a beautiful message. A child is born…and a gifted musician and artist passes on…that’s the way of the world…

Rest In Peace, Maurice White. Thank you for the gift of music and spirituality as one that you bestowed upon our generation, and of course, generations to come, as your music and your message is timeless.

Readers, please share your favorite EWF songs, memories, and words of tribute in the Comments section below.


www.youtube.com, Earth Wind and Fire, That’s The Way Of The World, posted by Kenneth

photo credit:  www.earthwindandfire.com

Revisiting “Is Poppy A Black American?” During Black History Month

5 Feb

 I first started working on this piece when my older daughter, Leni, was five years old.  At sixteen now, she has a more formed opinion about her mother’s obsession with race relations, and has even written a few posts for me on WJSS.

little sister, Darla, Poppy, and Leni

little sister, Darla, Poppy, and Leni

“Mommy, I have a secret to tell you,” my then, five-year old daughter Leni exclaimed, as we sat eating lunch in a Pennsylvania pub-style restaurant.

We were on a summer road trip, traveling from Tulsa, Oklahoma where we had lived for several years, to my home state of Connecticut. Leni and her little sister Darla were going to visit their grandpa, their “Poppy.”

Cupping her hand over my ear, Leni whispered… [Read more…]

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Macklemore with Jamila Woods and other artists- White Privilege II

31 Jan

White Privilege 2 interview with Jay Smooth

White Privilege 2 interview with Jay Smooth

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis just released their eight-minute song, White Privilege II (Apparently, Macklemore recorded a song White Privilege in 2005), and as expected it is being met with a mix of guarded praise, skepticism, and direct criticism.

It’s definitely complicated.  A white rapper, raps about his own white privilege, his place in wanting to help break down the systems of racism but [Read more…]

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Leon Bridges – Lisa Sawyer

24 Jan

Leon Bridges

Leon Bridges

I have my friend, Keith Thompson, to thank for this weekend’s pick. It’s the lovely, Leon Bridges, with Lisa Sawyer, a song about his mother’s religious conversion.

Bridges, 26, who hails from Fort Worth, Texas, is a soul singer who brings us back in time to the 1960’s. Reminding one of singers like Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, he even dresses like he stepped out of that time period, but Leon Bridges definitely has a voice of his own that is current, dreamy, and oh so true.


Not much more to say, except welcome to dreamland.




www.youtube.com, Leon Bridges, Lisa Sawyer, posted by Vevo

photo credit: www.guardian.com



Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: David Bowie – Changes (and the changes he tried to get MTV to make)

17 Jan

David Bowie

David Bowie

The world lost one of its artistic stars this past week, David Bowie.

I wasn’t honed in on David Bowie when I was a teen because I was so into listening to funk and soul and R & B, but he was in my periphery and I always thought what he was doing was cool.  I wish I could say I was literate in Ziggy Stardust and all of the phases of artistic growth and change that David Bowie morphed into, but alas I was not hip to it. A college friend I had who was really into punk rock and the emerging new wave scene was a big fan, and she introduced more of his work to me.  Of course, when he became more mainstream and his sound more obviously influenced by soul and R & B, I became even more familiar with his work, and connected easily with his crossover hit, Just Dance.

So, while I don’t have the pedigree to declare myself a diehard fan fully in touch with Bowie’s entire catalog of work or person-hood, I admired him as an artist; a visionary, and for his attention to showing how artists of color didn’t have the voice or inclusion in the industry, in particular, in the emerging music video scene on MTV.  Watch this clip, and then enjoy a Bowie classic, Changes.


David Bowie, Changes





Where I’m From: How My Father Shaped My Views on Race And Crossing Color Lines

11 Jan

me and my Dad during my high school days, him with his Jewfro, me with my pencil thin eyebrows and cowl-neck sweater

me and my Dad during my high school days, him with his Jewfro, me with my pencil thin eyebrows and cowl-neck sweater

My dad turned seventy-seven this past weekend.  Happy Birthday, Dad! In your honor, I wanted to take a look back at how you helped shape my views on people, in particular, how I feel you shaped my sisters and my views on connecting across color lines, as we grew up in Waterbury, Connecticut.

My dad, Paul Grossman, was born in Staten Island, New York, and grew up in Brooklyn, before moving to Waterbury when he was in the eighth grade.  A great storyteller, I love to recall his tales of mischief– [Read more…]

WJSS Weekend Sounds: Natalie Cole – I’m Catching Hell

3 Jan

natalie_coleR & B Singer, Natalie Cole, daughter of Nat King Cole, passed away this week at the age of 65.

Remembering Natalie as a significant part of my musical landscape during my teens and twenties, I wanted to honor her passing with a song here.  I couldn’t decide between the joyous and danceable, This Will Be, or I’ve Got Love On My Mind, two of her more recognizable hits, so I decided to play a song that I don’t remember well, but that I’ve seen friends post on social media these past few days.

Like the posthumous duet she created in the early 1990’s with her Dad, Natalie, and her contributions to pop and R & B, will continue to be Unforgettable.

Here’s Natalie with I’m Catching Hell:


www.youtube.com, Natalie Cole, I’m Catching Hell, posted by aimeedus

photo credit:  www.soultracks.com


WJSS: Looking Back on 2015; Wishing To Find Hope

31 Dec

Black Lives MatterAs 2015 draws to a close, I wanted to take a look back at this year’s blog posts and share some highlights from each month. I am of course hoping that you’ll find the posts of interest to you.  I know for me, I thought it would be a good way to see what was going on around me, what I made note of, and recorded.

In January, I saw [Read more…]

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Missy Elliott – WTF

22 Nov

Missy Elliott, WTF video

Missy Elliott, WTF video

She’s back!  Missy Elliott is better than ever in this video, WTF (Where They From).

Missy, Pharrell, killer dance moves, and, wait for it…marionettes! It’s been too long for this woman of great talent and substance, and with over 15 million views on YouTube after two weeks, seems a lot of other people are happy to have Missy on the scene again, too.




www.youtube.com, Missy Elliott, featuring Pharrell Williams, WTF (Where They From), posted by Vevo

Photo Credit:  www.dazeddigital.com

A Reader Responds: Elissa Butson, On Why She’s Attracted To Black Culture

16 Nov

Elissa Butson

Elissa Butson

Last month, I wrote a post that responded to the often asked question of why I am so attracted to black culture and matters of race relations.

I had a few post comments and comments on social media where readers briefly shared their attractions to other races and cultures, including a response from a friend of a Facebook friend, Elissa Butson, who, as a white woman, said that she couldn’t relate to my essay, and that her response to the question would be very different than mine.

After I quickly got over the paranoia that my post had perhaps offended her, and it had reeked of white privilege, I excitedly engaged in a series of FB messages with Elissa.Turns out that her differences were related to her upbringing that didn’t exactly include a home or community life full of references to black culture, or black people, for that matter. Yet, Elissa seemed burning with passion to reflect on her own strong attraction to black culture, to explore the how and the why, just like I continue to do on this journey via Wendy Jane’s Soul Shake.

I love her honesty, the details she uses to capture her family, the time she grew up in, and the white girl coming-of-age explores her love of black culture memories, she vividly shares here.  Here it is: [Read more…]