Category Archives: black music

RIP Hugh Masekela (1939 – 2018)

Hugh Masekela (1939 – 2018)  was a South African musician, composer and singer.

I celebrated Hugh’s 70th birthday nine years ago [1] and pointed to the two compositions of Masekela that are in my top 1000 (“Grazing in the Grass” and “Don’t Go Lose It Baby“).

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.

RIP Sunny Murray (1936 – 2017)

Sunny Murray was an American musician, one of the pioneers of the free jazz style of drumming.

His album Sonny’s Time Now (1965) is in the Top Ten Free Jazz Underground.

On that record Amiri Baraka reads his controversial 1965 poem “Black Art” (above) which features the line “we want poems that kill”, an instance of the aestheticization of violence.

RIP Michael Jackson (1958 – 2009)

Thriller (1982) – Michael Jackson [Amazon.com]

I’ve mentioned Michael Jackson twice[1][2] on this blog, once when I was amazed by his choice of footage in “They Don’t Care About Us[3], 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”.

Jackson was the embodiment of things gone awry as the result of mediated fame in the 20th century, when he was catapulted from child prodigy[4] to natural freak[5].

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.

Shinehead‘s reggae version of “Billie Jean.”

Here he is reincarnated in Shinehead‘s reggae version[6] of “Billie Jean.”[7]. 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[8] .
*Daryl Hall has claimed that Michael Jackson admitted to copying the bassline from “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)[9] in his song “Billie Jean“.

PS. For those of you who miss the Jahsonic old style of haphazard blogging about anything he finds, please check Jahsonic’s microblog[10] at Tumblr.

RIP Huey Long (1904 – 2009)

RIP Huey Long

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvwfLe6sLis]

Huey Long (April 25, 1904June 10, 2009) was an African American singer and musician and the last living member of the Ink Spots.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SZHMySBX_A]

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[1] and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore[2].

RIP Viola Wills (1939 – 2009)

RIP Viola Wills   (1939 – 2009)

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdiHJjq84oI&]

If You Could Read My Mind”  (1980)Viola Wills (December 30, 1939—May 6, 2009) was an American pop singer, best known for her rendition of “If You Could Read My Mind” (1980).

If You Could Read My Mind” is a song by Gordon Lightfoot.  Lightfoot has cited his divorce for inspiring the lyrics.

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.

*Divorce or dissolution of marriage is the ending of a marriage before the death of either spouse. Powerful cinematic divorce allegories include The Brood (1979) and Possession (1981).

Hugh Masekela @70

Hugh Masekela @70

Hugh Masekela (April 4, 1939) is a South African musician known for such songs as “Grazing in the Grass” and the discotheque hit “Don’t Go Lose It Baby“. He was married to Miriam Makeba[1].

 

Hugh Masekela, I Am Not AfraidColonial Man by MasekelaAmericanization of Ooga BoogaTechno BushIntroducing Hedzoleh Soundz

He was one of several African musicians to introduce African music in the west in the 1960s which has been a major factor in the shaping Western popular music.

Always a musical chameleon, Masekela has been classified as Afrobeat, jazz fusion, jazz funk, soul jazz; he even produced an album with drum machines, appropriately titled Techno Bush.

Marvin Gaye @70

Marvin Gaye @70

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVTN5o9Kgu8]

Sexual Healing

Marvin Gaye (April 2 1939April 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)

RIP Manny Oquendo (1931 – 2009)

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWLRljA5g_8&]

Grupo Folklorico Y Experimental Nuevayorquino.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbj-SIoN6EU&]

“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.

RIP Uriel Jones (1934 – 2009)

RIP Uriel Jones (1934 – 2009)

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVFT7i94zQU]

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (1967) by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

Uriel Jones (13 June 1934March 24, 2009) was an African-American musician. Jones was a recording session drummer for Motown Records‘ in-house studio band, The Funk Brothers, during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Jones was first hired by Motown as a fill-in for principal drummer Benny Benjamin; along with Richard “Pistol” Allen, he moved up the line as recordings increased and Benjamin’s health deteriorated. Jones had a hard-hitting, funky sound, best heard on the tracks for the hits “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” – both versions, by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell in 1967 and the 1970 remake by by Diana Ross, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye, “Cloud Nine” by the The Temptations (in which he was augmented by “Spider” Webb), Junior Walker‘s “Home Cookin’,” “I Second That Emotion” by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, “For Once In My Life” by Stevie Wonder, and many more. His influences included Art Blakey. Jones became better known to music fans through his memorable appearance in the feature documentary film, Standing In The Shadows Of Motown.