Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Rest In Peace Louis Johnson of The Brothers Johnson

24 May

The Brothers Johnson

The Brothers Johnson, Louis (L), George (R)

I loved, loved, loved The Brothers Johnson, and used to dance to their albums all the time in high school.  I am not musically inclined, and never played any instruments, but I still say if I could learn how to play one instrument it would be the base because I’d get to bang out all those funky beats.

Louis Johnson, aka “Thunder Thumbs”, of The Brothers Johnson played those funky beats alongside his brother, guitarist, George “Lightning Licks” during the 70’s and early 80’s, before parting ways to work on separate projects.  Louis was always in high demand to work on other artist’s albums, including George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Michael McDonald, Steve Arrington, and was the bassist on Michael Jackson’s, Billie Jean.  He is also said to be the originator of the slap bass method of playing the instrument where one  ‘slaps’ the strings with the right thumb and ‘pops’ with the right hand fingers, giving a percussive characteristic to a note’s sound.

Sadly, Louis Johnson passed away on May 21st, 2015 at the age of 60.

I have to play two songs of The Brothers Johnson because while the first is I think my favorite, it doesn’t show the fierce funk that Louis was capable of.  So, here is Strawberry Letter 23, followed by Get The Funk Out Ma Face.

Rest In Peace, Thunder Thumbs.

Strawberry Letter 23

Get The Funk Out Ma Face

 

 

SOURCES:

www.wikipedia.com

http://www.learntoplaymusic.com/blog/slap-bass-technique/

Photo credit:  www.wikipedia.com

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds – R.I.P. B.B. King – The Thrill Is Gone

17 May

B.B. King

B.B. King

I can’t claim to be a blues aficionado, but everyone knows B.B. King is one of the greatest blues guitarists and singers of all time.

With all the outpouring of love on social media on Friday at the news of his passing, it’s clear that a big hole is left in the hearts of those who loved B.B., his performances, his connection to his famous guitar, “Lucille,” and his catalog of hits.

Here is the poem I put together on Facebook from my friends’ Status Updates that day, and following, King’s hit, The Thrill Is Gone, because clearly, with his passing, it is. And, as an added bonus, I’m including  a song of B.B.’s that was my friend, and real estate broker/owner extraordinaire, Nelson Taylor’s favorite.

Nelson shared after B.B.’s passing: “I grew up listening to the blues. My father was a rhythm and base player and early in his life played with Steve Miller, Bozz Scaggs and Mike Nesmith. He loved the blues and together we listened to 45s on our jukebox and 8 tracks in the van on weekend hunting trips.  My father and I have rarely seen eye to eye–and in fact I no longer speak with him. But music is one place where we’ve always been kindred. We loved, still love, BB King and saw him live more than a few times. I could never learn playing music from my father and he gave it up long ago. The passing of BB King is a loss for sure. The end of something greater than the life and the music. But I feel so lucky that he lived.”

 

HOW BLUE CAN YOU GET

crazy about
that lucille
consummate musician
the b was a bad…
I attended about
10 of his concerts.
a true legend.
legends don’t die.
they transform…
“my only ambition
is to be one of the
great blues singers
and be recognized.
if frank sinatra can
be tops in his field,
nat king cole in his,
bach and beethoven
and those guys in theirs,
why can’t I be
known for it in blues?”
-bb king told the
new york times magazine
in 1968
thank you, bb, for
giving lucille
her voice
and sharing
your music
for so many years
r.i.p. you were
the true king
the thrill is gone

Contributors:  David Hayes, Hakim Mutlaq, Scott MacKay, Chris Tera, The New York Times (B.B. King quote), Gathering Of The Vibes, Patrick Camp, Ellen Koenig

 

B.B. King, The Thrill Is Gone

 

 

Nelson’s pick:  B.B. King, Sweet Little Angel

SOURCE:

www.youtube.com, The Thrill Is Gone, B.B. King, Live at Montreux, 1993, posted by Eagle Rock,  and Sweet Little Angel, B.B. King, posted by design flaw

Photo Credit:  Zac Taylor TV

 

 

On Being A Brat And Taking A Break From Writing About Race–Easy For a White Girl To Do

15 May

Writer's Block

no such thing as writer’s block.

I’ve been a brat. Not writing. Just ignoring this blog as if it wasn’t my responsibility to keep up with it, thinking, that’s okay, I’ll get back on track

I don’t have any excuses as to why I’m not writing either.  Well, I did recently learn that [Read more…]

WJSS Weekend Sounds – Happy Mother’s Day w/Loving You by Minnie Riperton

10 May

Minnie Riperton

Minnie Riperton

I wanted to choose a song that reflected a mother’s love for her child, and Loving You by Minnie Riperton came to mind.  While Riperton’s angelic voice is singing about an amazingly beautiful “grown-up” kind of love, her chanting of her baby daughter’s name, Maya, (for famed actress and comedienne, Maya Rudolph), at the end of the song made me feel that, like no other, incredible bond, between mother and child.

According to music lore, the song’s melody was created as a [Read more…]

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Parliament – Flash Light

3 May

me and friend Tony Rinaldi at Wilby High Prom, Waterbury, CT, 1979

me and friend Tony Rinaldi at Wilby High Prom, Waterbury, CT, 1979

Maybe it’s because I pulled out my old high school yearbook the other day and found my junior year prom picture, and remembered what I was dancing to back then, and maybe, because like another time when we were all reeling from the Michael Brown, and then the Eric Garner non-indictments, I pulled up Bruno Mars, Uptown Funk, for my weekend pick. I felt like sometimes, in the darkest of times, we all need to just take a breath, and, in the words of the B-52’s, “dance this mess around,” before we can keep moving forward in the quest for true justice and equality for all.

 

 

I’m going back again to the funk well and pulling up a classic Parliament single: Flash Light.  So, take a breather and dance, and then get back to fighting the good fight.  Happy Sunday, Funkateers!

 

 

 

 

___________

SOURCE: www.youtube.com, Flashlight by Parliament, Uploaded by TheOldSchoolMusic, 12/18/09

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds On A Monday Because (There’s No Such Thing As) Writer’s Block

20 Apr

Percy Sledge

Percy Sledge

Two major artists passed away recently: soul singer, Percy Sledge and 80’s r & b singer, Johnny Kemp.

Percy Sledge, who was born in 1940 in Leighton, Alabama, was a hospital orderly when he started singing at local clubs and frat parties at universities.  His epic love ballad, When A Man Loves A Woman, was a tune Sledge said he hummed to himself for years–he said even when he was younger and working the cotton fields–before penning the lyrics during his early singing days.  The song is said to be about his girlfriend at the time leaving him for a modeling career after Sledge was laid off from a construction job.

It was at a frat party performance that he was casually offered the opportunity to record his love ballad at Norala Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama in 1966.  The song was of course a huge hit, and Sledge continued to have a career with follow-up hits like Warm and Tender Love and Tear Me Up, and to tour extensively in Europe and South Africa up until his death last week.

Listen to When A Man Loves A Woman and try not to feel anything.  You can’t, right?

 

Jonny-KempI was shocked to hear of Johnny Kemp’s untimely death several days ago in Jamaica.  Kemp, who is originally from the Bahamas, moved to the States in 1979 with his band, Kinky Fox.  His breakout hit, and definitely his most memorable, was Just Got Paid, which hit #1 on the Billboard Top 100 Chart in 1988.

Just Got Paid came out during my New York City clubbing days, and it was the feel-good dance anthem of the day.  When I revisited the song’s video this past weekend, I realized I loved it then and still do because it totally captures the essence of late-eighties NYC energy, and no matter where you lived, you saw yourself as part of that energy–that feeling of “yeah, I just got paid, it’s Friday, it’s the weekend, and I’m putting on my coolest, sexiest, clubwear–my biggest, dangliest earrings, highest heels that I can still dance in, my black spandex skirt–and grabbing my wallet, and heading out the door to dance, dance, dance.

It is sad that Kemp, 55 this year, mysteriously passed away en route to perform on a cruise ship in Jamaica with Teddy Riley who produced the famous hit.  But, Kemp’s classic hit, and his energetic performance won’t be forgotten.

 

______

Sources:

www.youtube.com

www.wikipedia.com

www.rockhall.com

 

Photo credit, Percy Sledge: www.artspecialday.com

Photo credit, Johnny Kemp:  www.timorworld.com

To Race Together Or Not, That Is The Question..Or Is Knowing Who You Are Talking To The First Question?

20 Mar

race-together-baristaOh boy. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about the new Starbucks #RaceTogether campaign where the printed hashtag written on a coffee cup by your friendly barista aims to spark a conversation on race.

While I’ve seen a few supporters of the initiative on my Facebook feed and on twitter, some just friends, some more famous, like Common and Van Jones, the overwhelming majority of feedback by both black and white people has been [Read more…]

Aw’ C’mon: Or How My Wanting to Cross Color Lines Wasn’t Always Taking Black People’s Concerns Into Consideration

10 Mar

white woman yelling black manAs I read Debby Irving’s Waking Up White, (review here) her account of “waking up” to how her own white privilege, and the greater societal systems created to give white people advantage over people of color, shaped her perceptions of race and the way she interacted across color lines, I couldn’t help but take a look at myself, and the actions and inactions I have made, or not made over the years. [Read more…]

WJSS Weekend Sounds: Readers Select Their Favorite Love Songs

15 Feb

heart-cookieIn honor of Valentine’s Day and the three-year anniversary of Wendy Jane’s Soul Shake, I asked readers to send me their favorite love songs.  I said I’d pick one for today’s Weekend Sounds post.  It sure wasn’t easy. [Read more…]

Reading Debby Irving’s, Waking Up White

13 Feb

In Waking Up White: And Finding Myself In The Story Of Race author Debby Irving gives us a window into her journey of self-discovery, and her new found awareness of how her whiteness had shaped her ability to achieve success,  as well as her perspectives on race, racism and race relations.

Part memoir and part history lesson, Debby begins with her self-described, ultra-white suburban, upper middle-class childhood in Winchester, Massachussetts.  Here she shows us how things said and left unsaid, like her mother’s telling of how the “poor Indians…lovely people who became dangerous when they drank liquor..it ruined them really..” shot down Debby’s enamored view and curiosity of Native Americans that came from visiting a beloved mural at her local library.

Born in the early 1960’s, Debby, shares she came from a strong WASP background, and enjoyed and never really gave much thought to, the entitlement of belonging to exclusive country clubs, attending prestigious private schools, and having access to the network of successful business people, primarily white men in corporate positions of power, who could do favors for her as she grew up and made her way out into the world.  She also had instilled in her the Yankee/WASP attitude and belief system that if you work hard, and pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you can achieve whatever you want in  life.

Becoming conscious in her early twenties when she moved into Boston and sensed for the first time neighborhood racial economic disparities, Debby began working in arts administration, bringing the arts to “inner-city” schools.  She believed she was helping, giving mainly people of color, access to the rich arts experiences people in more affluent white neighborhoods have easy access and exposure to.  Yet, in a haunting scene in her book, while doing work as general manager for First Night Boston, the city’s premiere New Year’s Eve arts celebration, Debby shows us maybe her help wasn’t welcome.  Maybe it was even hurtful.

After one year’s celebration, Debby and the First Night staff gathered a group of families of color to debrief about the initiative to bring more diverse participants to the annual event.  Feeling proud and that the pilot was a success, Debby is stunned and wounded when a black teen answers her questions about whether people had fun. “Man, it was freaky!  I’ve never seen so many white people in my life! I was scared!”

Immediately Debby is forced to look at how her conditioning to not consider how people different from herself might feel being put into an environment that is overwhelmingly white.  She learns it might make them feel uncomfortable and unwelcome, instead of grateful for a white woman’s actions to selflessly give under-served communities access to the arts–something she assumed everyone should want and feel good about.

And that is why Debby’s book is so wonderful, and so important.  Not only does she take the journey of “waking up” to her own whiteness and how that has impacted her interactions with people across racial lines, but she shares it with her readers in a way that is unflinchingly brave and honest.

There were so many places in the book where I said to myself, wow, that is brave she is admitting having what she describes as racialized thoughts, such as realizing how she internalized via family discussions and the media, that black people had an affinity for being great athletes, entertainers, and dancers, and yet doing a double-take in her younger adult years when meeting a black doctor, because there weren’t examples of black people in high-achieving professions in her white circle, or again, in the media.

Most white people wouldn’t want to admit they have these racialized thoughts, especially if it means they think they will be considered racist.  Yet, Debby doesn’t run away from them.  Instead she embraces them and confronts them head on in chapters that reflect upon race versus class, the construction of white superiority, her questioning of why she didn’t “wake up” sooner, concepts of color blindness, re-thinking her own good luck, her Robin Hood syndrome, the matter of diversity training, the culture of niceness, leaving her comfort zone, and transitioning to being a bystander to full engagement in learning and doing racial justice work.

Through learning about black history and the construction of systems of oppression–both invisible and visible, such as the GI Bill, that enabled her family to obtain new, affordable homes, but discriminated against black families, or her access to prestigious social connections, Debby took the call to action.  She enrolled in a class on Racial and Cultural Identity that Debby says blew the lid off and revealed to her how her whole life of not seeing how her race (she thought being white meant you were raceless) set her up for a life of invisible privileges and a clear, easy path of opportunities, while people of color who have suffered centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, urban renewal, inequities in education, housing and business loan discrimination, and more, had many more hurdles and obstacles keeping them from so easily achieving the American Dream.

As someone who started a blog because I became more in tune with my own attraction to black people, black culture, and a hyper-awareness of racial inequities, and who wanted to explore the how and the why of that, and not fear broaching the topic of race with people of color, I have deep admiration and respect for Debby for taking her journey of self-discovery, and for fearlessly and generously sharing it with readers, white, black and brown.  Also as someone who likes to think about race from an experiential point-of-view, rather than academic, I now know that I still need to understand how racial inequities came into being in the first place, to be able to talk about them from a personal point-of-view.  I read books on black history. I read black author’s books on their experiences on what it means to be black.  I stay current on topics of race and culture by reading on-line posts on social media from The Root, For Harriet, HuffPost Black Voices, Colorlines, etc.  I talk with, and listen to black friends, acquaintances and strangers share about their experiences with racism.

Am I perfect in all this?  No.  Do I worry that what I might say may not be politically correct, might come out as sounding racist or patronizing?  Yes.  But, as I hear many black people say when bringing up matters of race with white people, is it more important to worry about being called racist than to worry about committing a racist act, or not working to dismantle racism?  In other words, I need to get over myself, and do my best to not get defensive when approaching the topic of race, or take everything personally when a black person expresses their frustration or anger when it comes to white people’s role in creating structures of racism, and/or idly standing by, unaware of how one’s own white privilege has gotten them to where they sit in life today.  Or even worse, realizing it, and doing nothing about it.

I am inspired that as Debby’s journey unfolded from waking up to learning about the systems of oppression in our American history that afforded her these seemingly invisible privileges, has led her to a place of deep engagement and action.  Debby now works as a racial justice educator who describes her mission on her website as to “educate other white people confused and frustrated by racism and transform anxiety and inaction into empowerment and action, be it for an individual or an organization.”

I am grateful to Debby for writing Waking Up White, because it has given me some tools to delve more deeply into learning about how my own whiteness has shaped my life experience, and for giving me some history lessons on how institutionalized systems of oppression came into being.  As a resource, Debby includes study/discussion questions at the end of each chapter for readers who want to further explore how race has shaped their lives.  At the end of her book, Debby provides further reading and film resources, and ways to become engaged in your community and beyond in the conversation on race, and in racial justice work.   There are notes on individuals and organizations doing work in racial justice, such as the noted white privilege work of anti-racism activist, Peggy McIntosh, a white woman, and the White Privilege Conference, founded by Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr., who is black, and leads a multicultural Diversity Consulting and Research Firm, which strives to “provide a challenging, collaborative, and comprehensive experience to empower and equip individuals to work for equity and justice through self and social transformation.”

Debby’s book, Waking Up White,  gives me the history lessons I need to back up what I talk about when I talk about how white privilege impacts my life, other white people’s lives, and the lives of people of color. Her personal journey gives me the courage to keep moving forward in my own self-discovery, and in my engagement in conversations on race.

You can find out more about Debby Irving and Waking Up White, including speaking engagements, Book Club discussions, as well as resource material on race at www.debbyirving.com