An Evening With Daughter Maitland

I put this together so you don’t have to. Margot Bingham signed on for a minor role in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. The second people heard her voice, it was clear her role as Daughter Maitland needed to be expanded. In this first video, “St Louis Blues,” Michael K. Williams as Chalky White is acting as he responded to her voice. That didn’t mean the rest of us didn’t feel the same way. I give you… Daughter Maitland.

Let me know what church you’ll be at Daughter and I’ll be there. “The Old Ship of Zion.”

“River of Jordan.”

“Everybody Loves My Baby.”

“Dream a Little Dream Of Me.”

“I’m Going South.”

HBO should give us a Daughter Maitland concert. Until then, I’ll just have to make do.

The Return of the Mothership: George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic Reunite

George Clinton recently released the first recording under the Parliament label in over 38 years. “Medicaid Fraud Dogg,” contains 23 tracks and is almost two hours long. The first single, “I’m Gon Make U Sick O’ Me,” brings back all the funk you associated with Clinton and features vocals from Scarface and Mudbone.

George Clinton has been in the game for a long time. He led both Parliament and Funkadelic and the name, “Parliament-Funkadelic” became synonymous for whatever combination of performers from the bands was performing. They gave us “The Mothership Connection,” in 1975, “One Nation Under a Groove,” “Flashlight,” in 1978, along with “Atomic Dogg,” in 1982. Clinton went on to collaborate with Prince in later years and was introduced by Prince when inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Parliament-Funkadelic at the time was the largest band ever inducted. And now they’re back!

In addition to the new music, Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic will be among the headliners at the Richmond Jazz Festival, August 9–12, alongside Gladys Knight, The O’jays, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Tony!Toni! Tone!, Brian McKnight, Joss Stone and more. They are currently on a tour which will take them to Belgium, Brussels, France, Norway, and Poland before bringing the funk back home to America.

If you’ve never experienced a P-Funk show. There’s probably no way to explain it to you. Hearing their music is one thing, seeing them live quite another.

“ We love to funk you, Funkenstein
Your funk is the best 
Take my body, give it the mind
To funk with the rest (kiss me on my ego)
Hit me with the one and then
If you like, hit me again
We love to Funk-a-stein”

Dr. Funkenstein — George Clinton — Parliament Funkadelic

Admit It, You Don’t Hate “September” Because Some Random White Person Covered It.

So, Taylor Swift with no promotion released a single which was a cover of Earth Wind & Fire’s “September,” and social media went berserk. It was as if this were the epitome of cultural appropriation and Ms. Swift had committed the ultimate faux pas. The mere concept that she would have the nerve to do a song, which somehow became retroactively the new Black National Anthem, the moment Taylor Swift hit her first note.

There’s a few people not mad at her; Allee Willis, one of the song’s co-writers, gave her seal of approval which probably has nothing to do with the royalties she’ll get paid if the song is a hit. Phillip Bailey, EWF’s lead singer, liked the song, he said, “Music is free like that,” adding, “Ain’t Got Nothing But Love For Ya #freedomin music.”

Taylor Swift first earned the ire of the black community when she won the 2009 VMA’s “Best Female Video Award” which Kanye West promptly snatched and said Beyonce should have won for “Single Ladies” and Swift didn’t deserve it. While Kanye had a point, Taylor Swift became the poster girl for white woman victim hood and every accomplishment she’s had since has the taint of white privilege in the minds of many. The record must reflect she allegedly lied years later about Kanye West’s approving her use of lyrics written by West in another song. Regarding, “September,” Swift changed the lyrics of one line from the original, “the 21st night of September,” to, “the 28th.” Surely she must be hanged for that.

The uproar has been going on for days and I finally got around to listening to the song. It’s not going to be in my play list, I won’t be purchasing or even downloading the song so I can sneak and listen to it when nobody’s looking. But it was a nice, sweet, song, that she sang well. It was slower, used acoustic guitar instead of the EWF horn section, but it was nice.

Musicians have been singing songs that cross culture since the beginning of music. The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Elvis and others sang black music their whole careers. Ray Charles sang a country song or two. Prince did a country song originally written for and performed by Bonnie Raitt (I Can’t Make U Love Me) and nobody seems to mind as long as the money;s straight. Assuming the writer’s get their due, I just don’t see the harm in Taylor Swift doing a version of a song that remains beautiful no matter who sang it. As long as she never touches Frankie Beverly and Maze… we’re good.

Prince: It’s Been Almost Two Years… Seems Like Yesterday

April 21, 2018 will mark the second anniversary of the death of Prince. It still seems like just the other day. I grew up in Minneapolis in the same era as Prince, yet we never crossed paths at that time. He was Northside and I was Southside. I was into athletics and he was music. We had mutual friends. One of my basketball teammates was “Jellybean Johnson” of The Time. Jellybean’s nickname was Buddy Miles then (another famous drummer) and he was always carrying drumsticks beating on things. When teenaged Prince was playing in clubs with his band. My parents weren’t about that life which meant I wasn’t about that life either. We didn’t cross paths.

My first Prince concert was in Jacksonville, FL and he was opening for Ashford & Simpson. The skinny kid with the big ‘fro and black bikini drawers was singing songs like, “Head,” and “When You Were Mine,” from the “Dirty Mind” album. The title track will always be one of my favorites.

“It doesn’t matter where we are

It doesn’t matter who’s around

It doesn’t matter

I just want to lay ya down”

The next time I saw Prince was at a club in St. Paul, MN called, “The Taste.” For those of you that saw “Purple Rain,” it was the club where Apollonia performed with the group Morris Day put together. Prince was sitting alone at a small table and I did what you’re supposed to do when a man wants to be left alone. I let him be. No asking for autographs or declaring what a fan I was. I gave him his space.

A couple years later, the movie, “Purple Rain” came out. Prince mania started then and never really died. My son was born around that time and he heard Prince in his crib instead of lullaby’s. Two of the singles from the album were #1 hits. The album has sold well over 25 million copies and as of a few years ago was the third best-selling album ever. It was the Number One Soundtrack of all time and certified platinum 13-times! My youngest daughter grew up on Prince as well. It may have confused other drivers to see us rocking out to Prince while stopped at a light. That was just the way it was.

“I never meant to cause you any sorrow

I never meant to cause you any pain

I only wanted one time to see you laughing

I only want to see you laughing in the Purple Rain”

The next time I saw him was several years later in Lakeland, FL, I brought someone I was dating, who wanted to walk around the lobby and see who was there rather than watch the show. Then she wanted something to drink… later to eat. I should have known then the relationship wasn’t going to work out. At that concert, Prince performed “Purple Rain” live for the first time in years and but for fortunate timing I might have missed it.

We attended another Prince concert together in Tampa at an arena and I set the ground rules in advance. “I will buy you anything you want to eat or drink before the show starts. If you want something during the show or to go mingle, you’re certainly welcome but I am staying in place and don’t intend to miss a moment of the show.”

I bought my tickets for that show on-line, because I was a member of the NPG Club (New Power Generation), I could buy advance tickets and had excellent seats on the floor, 12 rows from the stage. I was mildly surprised that the majority of fans nearby were white but I knew Prince had an international fan base. It didn’t surprise me when they stood the entire concert, singing along and knowing every word. It did unnerve me when Prince pulled out an obscure song that I, his biggest fan, didn’t know, and they were still standing, singing every word. It was the best concert I attended in my life.

At that time, I was in the novelty merchandising business where Prince affected my life twice. I was in Minneapolis, working at the first Super Bowl held there. A group of us went to a downtown BBQ restaurant which was more like fine dining… but BBQ. The place was owned by Minneapolis Central High School’s former track star Harry Davis who I swear had the largest head I’ve ever seen. I wonder how much faster he could have been if his head was just a bit smaller? Back to Prince, I did what you’re supposed to do when a man is eating food with his friends. I left him alone.

Back in Florida, I worked a small concert in Tampa at the Sun Dome and when we got out (about 1 am) we had to drive to Miami for the Florida Marlins home opener. Spider, Joe, Travers and I piled into my car and I drove. The route took us through Alligator Alley which is the darkest most desolate stretch of Interstate highway I’ve ever encountered. Now and then, someone would wake up and ask if I was okay? I said, “I’m good” and they went back to sleep. It was probably best they slept through, “The Black Album” because they wouldn’t have understood but Prince did what I needed him to do and we got there just fine.

Believe me I have more Prince stories, some not fit to print. I’d really like to hear yours. Please share your Prince story in the comments and pass this along to any true Prince fans you know so they can tell theirs.

“My name is Prince, and I am funky

My name is Prince, the one and only”

R.I.P. Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 — April 21, 2016)

George Cooper (GEO) Shadow Warrior

George Cooper is the first “Shadow Warrior” I’ve personally known before writing about. We attended Fisk University together and knowing his history is important to knowing George. In those days, Fisk had just over 2,000 students. There were those hardly anybody knew and those that knew everybody. George was in the latter category. He had a big afro, was always smiling and was deadly serious about his music, the Jubilee Singers and Black history.

Part of that history is the story of Ella Shepherd. She was born into slavery on Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage Plantation in Nashville, TN in 1851. While she was young, her father was able to buy his own freedom for $1,800. His former master broke a promise to let him buy Ella. It took the threat of her mother saying she’d “take Ella and jump into the river than see her a slave” before she was allowed to be sold to her father for $350. Her mother, still in slavery was taken to Mississippi.

After marrying another slave woman whose freedom he purchased. Simon Sheppard took his family from Nashville, TN to Cincinnati, OH after a race riot in 1856 made it impossible to pay his debts. His family could be seized as assets and sold back into slavery. In Ohio, Ella attended a colored school and began studying music. She was a prodigy and soon had her own piano. A rarity for black children.

After Simon died in 1866, Ella helped support the family by performing at local functions. She was seen by a prominent white music instructor who agreed to provide her advanced training. Ella was his only student of color, entering thru the back door between the hours of 9 and 10 PM.

In 1868, Ella accepted a teaching position at a school near Nashville in Gallatin, TN. She took her meager earnings and entered the “Fisk Free School for Blacks”, which in 1866 became Fisk University. She became the music teacher at Fisk. Becoming the only Black staff member at the school until 1875.

Because of financial difficulties at the school. Fisk’s Treasurer organized a bunch of students to sing for money. After some success locally, George White was given permission to form a group and go on National Tour in 1871. Ella was one of nine students selected for the original Jubilee Singers where she also served as pianist and assistant trainer.

The first tour raised $20,000 which purchased land for the new campus. The Jubilee Singers was often the only source of revenue for the school and their concert tour was extended to seven years. They raised over $150,000 in America and Europe, financing the construction of Jubilee Hall which still serves as a women’s dormitory. Sheppard was the backbone of the Jubilee Singers and later began lecturing throughout the South forming Jubilee choirs. She later found her mother and a sister and brought them to Nashville.

George would not mind that I used part of his story to tell that of Ella Sheppard. Her story is intertwined with his. George Cooper was a Jubilee Singer while at Fisk and toured to some of the same locations as Ella. I hesitated to use the word “was” as George certainly “is” a Jubilee Singer as that’s not something that ever left his soul. He’s active in the Jubilee Singers Alumni (JSA) and part of the JSA Advisory Board. The legacy of Ella Sheppard is strong in George. He once wrote of her, “If not for her, her intellect, her spirit, and her musical genius, Fisk would not have survived. George White started the Singers but Ella Sheppard nurtured the seed and grew it into the powerful force that it became. Those who don’t know of her, I ask that you take some time today and discover a woman who essentially gave birth to American Music. Ella Sheppard-Moore! Fiskites, a TRUER Daughter, there never was!” In 2009, George founded the Ella Sheppard School of Music (ESSOM) in his home town of Chicago.

I’ve neglected to this point to mention George’s accomplishments as a musician. Although he got his start as part of the All-City Choir in Chicago, later joining the Jubilee Singers at Fisk. It’s playing the piano for which he’s better known. His nickname is “Maestro” and his mastery of classical music has taken him all over the world. The world class pianist has recorded for Polygram and Capitol Records and toured with Little Richard, The Isley Brothers, Peabo Bryson, Natalie Cole and his home girl Chaka Khan. He did a series of instructional videos on, “Secrets of the Chopin Etudes.” He’s performed as a solo artist and part of the group of Fiskites R&B band, “Autumn” and heads the GIII Jazz Trio. He’s presently the Director of the Lutheran School Gospel Chorus, is the Assistant Minister of Music for the church he grew up in, St. Mark AME Zion and Minister of Music at the Congregational Church of Park Manor. Like Bo Jackson, George Cooper knows music. But it’s not his playing or singing that makes him a Shadow Warrior… it’s his teaching.

At the school he founded, the Ella Sheppard School of Music, he gives free music lessons to children 2–14. He solicited friends, his church and other sponsors to keep the school going. One friend, Tamera Fair, (a fellow Fiskite) provided space for the school at one of the Premier Child Care locations she owns and said this about George.

“Not often in life do we personally have the chance to meet living angels, living legends. We read about them. Now we “like” and “follow” them. I am in a select class that shares time and space with one, Maestro, George Cooper. Since the moment we met in the yard of Fisk University, I knew Geo was a talent for the times, correction for all time. I had no idea that we would work so closely together in the future. Geo was looking for a home to put his music school. I had far more space than I needed. He agreed to put the school in the building and has provided music lessons to hundreds of children in the west side of Chicago for over eight years. Many of the students have continued their study in music and are following their teacher’s footsteps and becoming accomplished pianists. His passion shows in every note he hits and every lesson he gives to every child he touches. I feel honored to call someone so great, friend!”

Had this been all he’d accomplished, George would have provided a great service but he does so much more. When I knew George he had not yet become Geo (Gee-Oh) so I’m slow to embrace the name but Geo also an Ambassador for the HHW (Henry Hendricks Weddington) School for the Performing Arts. HHW is an open walls school serving children from all over Chicago. They audition for acceptance and get paid for their participation. Geo has been teaching Master Classes, doing arrangements and composing for them for years. I watched a recent video HHW performing one of his arrangements, Njiculela, Es Una Historia, I Am Singing which instantly dispels everything you may have assumed about Chicago if you only read the news. At least 5 of those students have gone on to Fisk University and become Jubilee Singers. In writing this story I found that George was always recruiting for Fisk and the Jubilee Singers… always teaching. George said of his efforts to bring music to youth, “I’ll keep going ‘till my breath runs out!” I won’t wait until then to say thank you!

There are a few things that are the essence of who George is. Chicagoan, musician, Fiskite, Jubilee Singer, a member of Omega Psi Phi, father, teacher and in his own way Historian. One of his arrangements and compositions for HHW was a Black Heroes History Medley. He’s always looking for teachable moments whether talking about music, sports, Fisk or our nation. A true believer that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. George will keep you and the children he comes in contact with informed of their history. For that reason, he’s a Shadow Warrior.

Originally published July 7, 2017

Quincy Jones Spills Half The Tea

Quincy Jones has everybody talking after giving a long ranging interview to Vulture Magazine in which he gave zero fucks and spilled the beans on dozens of people. By name, he dissed; T-Pain, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles who he claimed were “the worst musicians in the world,” Cyndi Lauper, and U-2. And he was just getting started.

He said Marlon Brando was, “the most charming mother fucker you ever met. He’d fuck anything. Anything! He’d fuck a mailbox. James Baldwin. Richard Pryor. Marvin Gaye!” After the article came out, Pryor’s widow, Jennifer Lee Pryor, confirmed Pryor’s friends and family were, “well aware of Richard’s bi-sexuality,” and that the Brando hook-up did occur.

Quincy Jones went on to claim, “he knew who killed JFK,” vaguely claims to have dated Ivanka Trump, and throws her daddy under the bus as, “Limited mentally — a megalomaniac, narcissistic. He says Oprah shouldn’t run for President because she, “doesn’t have the chops.” And she’s his friend.

Quincy dragged most of todays current musicians for not knowing their craft. He did acknowledge the good work of Bruno Mars, Chance the Rapper, and Kendrick Lamar. Right after claiming Michael Jackson stole music and didn’t credit others for their contributions. He didn’t mention his own lawsuit for $10 million against the Jackson estate for unpaid credits and royalties which brings me to the issue of all he didn’t talk about.

Since Quincy is spilling tea, it’s only natural to wonder about the things he wouldn’t or didn’t talk about? He was asked about his friend Bill Cosby who has had claims against him by over 60 women for sexual assault and rape. Jones wouldn’t talk about it. He wouldn’t expound about the “secrets” of Bill and Hillary Clinton. His claim about dating Ivanka Trump by his own description could have been no more than a business dinner? We’d love to hear the whole story.

After outing Marlon Brando and others for their sexual escapades. There are several long-standing rumors about his own attempts to seduce Tupac Shakur, Prince and others. Maybe he should keep a few names out of his mouth if he’s unwilling to discuss his own life.

Jones interview raised as many questions as it answered those that no one was really asking anyway. It was salacious, yet incomplete. How about doing a Part Two where you address all the issues you left hanging in the first place? Where’s the rest of the tea?

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