Cecil Taylor was an American pianist and poet. Classically trained, Taylor is generally acknowledged as having been one of the pioneers of free jazz. His music is characterized by an extremely energetic, physical approach, producing complex improvised sounds, frequently involving tone clusters and intricate polyrhythms. His piano technique has been likened to percussion, for example described as “eighty-eight tuned drums” (referring to the number of keys on a standard piano). He has also been described as “like Art Tatum with contemporary-classical leanings”.
Above is “African Secret Society”, a 1974 composition by Masekela, soft, breezy and jazzy (and I love the idea of an African secret society).
Also [above] a recent find I discovered after France Gall’s death, “Umqokozo (Children’s Game Song About A New Red Dress)“, a song French musician Serge Gainsbourg used without credit as “Pauvre Lola” and on which you can hear Masekela playing at 0:55.
I’ve mentioned Michael Jackson twice on this blog, once when I was amazed by his choice of footage in “They Don’t Care About Us“, and once when I did the obituary of James Brown when I mentioned that Brown’s “rapid-footed dancing inspired Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson”.
With more than 100 million albums sold, Thriller (1982) is the bestselling album of all time and is iconic in the history of 20th century popular music, where he is the natural heir to Elvis Presley. Beyond both dying from an abuse of prescription drugs, parallels beween Presley and Jackson are numerous (Graceland/Neverland). Lisa Marie Presley, for a short time married to Jackson in the nineties wrote at the time of Jackson’s death that he knew “exactly how his fate would be played out” and feared his death would echo that of Elvis Presley.
Jackson dies, long live Jackson.
Here he is reincarnated in Shinehead‘s reggae version of “Billie Jean.”. But one of the earliest samples of “Billie Jean” was in 1983, when Italian studio project Clubhouse mixed Steely Dan‘s “Do It Again” (1981) with “Billie Jean” as the “Do It Again Medley with Billie Jean“ .
*Daryl Hall has claimed that Michael Jackson admitted to copying the bassline from “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)“ in his song “Billie Jean“.
RIP Huey Long
The Ink Spots were a popular African American vocal group that helped define the musical genre that led to rhythm & blues and rock and roll, and the subgenre doo-wop. They and the Mills Brothers, another black vocal group of the 1930s and 1940s, gained much acceptance in the white community. They are known for such songs as “If I Didn’t Care“ and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore“.
RIP Viola Wills (1939 – 2009)
The version by Miss Wills came out when I was fifteen. Little did I know the song was by Lightfoot and its theme was divorce*, although my parents were going through a particularly nasty end of marriage. I just loved the song.
Hugh Masekela @70
Marvin Gaye @70
Marvin Gaye (April 2 1939 – April 1 1984) was an African-American singer, songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer who gained international fame as an artist on the Motown record label in the 1960s and 1970s. He is best-known for “Sexual Healing,” a 1982 song and the first hit record to use the Roland TR-8081 for bass.
The lyrics of ‘Sexual Healing” song discussed a man’s aching for finding sexual healing with his woman – hence the title “Sexual Healing“. According to David Ritz, when he interviewed Gaye for an autobiography, he noticed comic book pornography in Marvin’s room and mentioned to the singer that he “needed sexual healing” causing Gaye and Ritz to write the lyrics.1 The famous Roland TR-808 was launched in 1980. At the time it was regarded with little fanfare, as it did not have digitally sampled sounds; drum machines using digital samples were much more popular. In time though, the TR-808, along with its successor, TR-909 (released in 1983), would soon become a fixture of the burgeoning underground dance, techno, and hip hop genres, mainly because of its low cost (relative to that of the Linn machines), and the unique character of its analogue-generated sounds. The TR-808’s sound only became truly desirable in the late 1980s, about five years after the model was discontinued and had become cheaply available on the second hand market.
RIP Manny Oquendo (1931 – 2009)
“Little Sunflower,” Freddie Hubbard original
Manny Oquendo (January 1, 1931 – March 25, 2009) was an American percussionist. His main instrument was the timbales, and was strongly influenced by Cuban drumming. He especially holds interest as the percussionist with own Conjunto Libre and Grupo Folklorico Y Experimental Nuevayorquino. His work can be classified as latin jazz, but he expanded the limits of his own genre by working with such artists as August Darnell and DJ Spooky. He had a worldwide hit with Freddie Hubbard‘s “Little Sunflower” in 1983.
I discovered Manny Oquendo in the 1990s (my disco period) via Mericana Records, which was a sublabel of Salsoul Record. I listened to Grupo Folklorico Y Experimental Nuevayorquino and related groups a zillion times. Brilliant.