Category: Commemorations

R.I.P. Grammy Winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Bill Withers, 81

Singer-songwriter Bill Withers (photo via wikipedia.com)

According to Variety.com via Associated Press, Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Bill Withers, whose career in music blossomed in the early ‘70s via a string of highly-personalized hits such as “Lean On Me,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Lovely Day,” and “Use Me,” died from heart complications on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 81. Withers is survived by his wife and two children.

To quote the article:

“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father. A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other,” the family said in a statement to AP. “As private a life as he lived close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world. In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones.”

Withers was 33 years old and working on an aircraft assembly line in 1971 when his first hit, the self-penned, Grammy-winning “Ain’t No Sunshine,” soared up the charts. He quickly followed up that success with a run of hit singles that included “Use Me” and the gospel-soul smash “Lean On Me,” which won a belated Grammy Award as best R&B song in 1987.

While those songs are recognized today as classics, Withers was not able to top the surprise commercial success of his early career. His subdued, introspective, often acoustic-based style grew increasingly at odds with the hard funk and disco of the ‘70s, and disputes with his record labels slowed his production at the height of his popularity. He essentially retired from performing and recording in the mid-‘80s. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.

Withers was born July 4, 1938, in the mining town of Slab Fork, VA. He was afflicted with a stutter from an early age. He enlisted in the Navy at 18, and, as his speech disability receded, he began singing and songwriting. After nine years of service, he was discharged in 1965.

Relocating to Los Angeles, he began performing in local clubs at night while working assembly line jobs in the aviation industry. In 1970, a demo tape he had recorded caught the interest of the well-traveled black record exec Clarence Avant, who signed Withers to his label, Sussex Records.

Withers debut album “Just As I Am” was released in May 1971; Withers is pictured on the cover holding a lunchbox in his hand, for the shot was taken during his lunch break at Burbank’s Weber Aircraft, where he continued to install toilet seats in commercial airplanes.

The collection was the first major hit produced by Booker T. Jones, the former keyboardist for the Memphis instrumental soul act Booker T. & the MG’s, who appeared on the set with former band mates Donald “Duck” Dunn and Al Jackson. Stephen Stills, of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and studio ace Jim Keltner also contributed to the record’s eclectic sound.

The LP contained “Ain’t No Sunshine,” an incantatory two-minute cry of pain that its author said was inspired by a viewing of Blake Edwards’ drama about alcoholism “The Days of Wine and Roses.” The song — released as the B-side of the “Harlem” 45, which was flipped by DJs — soared to No. 3 on the pop chart and No. 6 on the R&B rolls, garnered a Grammy as best R&B song, and pushed “Just As I Am” into the national pop top 40. The album’s moving “Grandma’s Hands” also reached No. 18 on the R&B side.

For his follow-up, Withers recruited four members of the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, a popular L.A. act fronted by singer Charles Wright, to back him and co-produce his sophomore album. “Still Bill” (1972) topped its predecessor, shooting to No. 4 on the pop list and No. 1 on the R&B album chart; the LP was pushed by the massive hit singles “Lean On Me” (No. 1 pop and R&B) and “Use Me” (No. 2 pop, No. 1 R&B). In 1973, Withers wed “Room 222” sitcom star Denise Nicholas, but the marriage lasted only a year.

He made his last appearance in the national top 10 in 1981 with a guest vocal on “Just the Two of Us” (No. 2 pop, No. 3 R&B), a romantic ballad issued on hitmaking saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr.’s album “Winelight.”

After Columbia’s release of “Watching You Watching Me” (No. 143, 1985), Withers stepped away from performing. In later years, he explained his retreat from the stage and the studio, and ultimately from writing, to Alix Sharkey of England’s Telegraph: “That kind of stuff, to me, was a lot more interesting at 35…. I’m not motivated to wanna draw attention to myself or travel all over the place. There was a time for that. When it was done, it was done.”

To hear some of his best music, listen to the Spotify playlist below:

To read more: https://variety.com/2020/music/news/bill-withers-dead-dies-singer-aint-no-sunshine-1234570209/

 

Born On This Day in 1942: Singing Legend and Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin (WATCH and LISTEN)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

GBN would like to take a moment to commemorate the birth of one of the most talented musicians to ever grace planet Earth, Aretha Louise Franklin, on what would have been her 78th birthday.

Although 2020 will offer memorials to the Queen in the form of MGM‘s theatrical movie “Respect” starring Jennifer Hudson and the limited series under National Geographic Channel’s “Genius” banner starring Cynthia Erivo, it’s doubtful either will focus on an oft-overlook aspect of Franklin’s myriad talents: her songwriting.

Above you can watch Aretha performing “Think,” one of her best-known compositions in a clip from “The Blues Brothers,” while below you can listen to fourteen more gems penned by Aretha in a Spotify playlist called The Aretha Franklin Songbook:

 

Ten Years Ago Today: Good Black News Was Founded

Although we as a species are currently going through unprecedented times of hardship and uncertainty as we grapple with a global pandemic, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the creation of Good Black News a decade ago on March 18, 2010.

You can read the detailed story of GBN’s inception and creation here, because what I want to celebrate today more than anything else is you, GBN’s loyal readers and followers, who, in concert with the Good Black News Team, have slowly but steadily built a strong, respectful, and loving community that is willing to celebrate positivity, action, achievement, humor and humanity on a daily basis.

This kind of energy and fellowship is what the world needs more of right now, and we are so happy to have seen it grow and flourish on our dedicated website, goodblacknews.org, as well as across our social media on FacebookTwitter,  Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTubeRSS feed, and LinkedIn.

I will admit to having wanted to do more to celebrate ten years of GBN – offered a proper retrospective of our best stories, the times we’ve been news, big up our Top Fans, announce new plans for expansion, perhaps even throw a party! – but between personal and professional challenges this past year (sick family member, demanding day job), plus the current state of affairs due to coronavirus, these words I’m writing in this moment shall have to suffice.

Thank you for the appreciation you’ve shown GBN the past decade via follows, likes, comments, shares, reblogs, letters and e-mails, as they inspire me daily to keep GBN going.

Good Black News remains a labor of love for me and Lifestyle Editor Lesa Lakin, and we gratefully acknowledge the decade’s extraordinary volunteer contributors (in alphabetical order):  

Rebecca Carpenter, Susan Cartsonis, Dena CrowderJulie Bibb Davis, Alyss Dixson, Dan Evans, Gina Fattore, Julie Fishman, Michael Giltz, Eric Greene, Thaddeus Grimes-Gruczka, Skip Heller, Ashanti Hutcherson, Warren Hutcherson, Fred Johnson, Epiphany Jordan, Fabio KoelschBrenda Lakin, Joyce Lakin, Ray Lancon, John Levinson, Jason Lief, Neeta McCulloch, Hanelle Culpepper Meier, Jeff Meier, Catherine Metcalf, Minsun Park, Tajamika Paxton, Patrick-Ian Polk, Flynn RichardsonRosanna Rossetto, Gabriel Ryder, Terry Samwick, Becky Schonbrun, Susan Shaffer, Kelly SpearsCallie TeitelbaumTeddy TenenbaumArro Verse, Marlon West, and Joshua A.S. Young. 

You are all deeply, greatly appreciated.

Special thanks to Maeve Richardson for re-conceiving and redesigning all the GBN logos and banners across social media, designing the “Got Privilege” art for GBN’s 2016 viral “What I Said When My White Friend Asked For My Black Opinion on White Privilege” essay.

And extra special thanks to friend and best-selling author Terry McMillan for being the inspiration behind it all. P.S. GBN Patron Saint Terry has a new book arriving March 31. Consider checking out It’s Not All Downhill From Here! (amazon link)

Please continue to help us spread GBN by sharing, liking, re-tweeting and commenting, and consider following GBN on the main page, as well as wherever you are on social media.

Please also consider joining our e-mail list via our “Contact Us” tab on goodblacknews.org. We will only use this list to keep you updated on GBN and send you our upcoming weekly e-newsletter (which may finally launch for real for real, as we will soon have a lot more time to focus on it!) — nothing else. And, of course, you may opt out at any time.

Thank you again for your support, and we look forward to providing you with more Good Black News in the coming decade, and beyond!

Warmly,

GBN Founder and Editor-in-Chief Lori Lakin Hutcherson

R.I.P. Jazz Piano Legend McCoy Tyner, 81

McCoy Tyner, a cornerstone of John Coltrane’s groundbreaking 1960s quartet and one of the most influential pianists in jazz history, died on Friday at his home in New Jersey at age 81, according to the New York Times.

His death was announced by a spokesman for the Tyner family. No other details were provided. Mr. Tyner’s survivors include his wife, Aisha; his son, Nurudeen, who is known as Deen; and his brother, Jarvis.

To quote from the article:

Along with Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and only a few others, Mr. Tyner was one of the main expressways of modern jazz piano. Nearly every jazz pianist since Mr. Tyner’s years with Coltrane has had to learn his lessons, whether they ultimately discarded them or not.

Mr. Tyner’s manner was modest, but his sound was rich, percussive and serious, his lyrical improvisations centered by powerful left-hand chords marking the first beat of the bar and the tonal center of the music.

That sound helped create the atmosphere of Coltrane’s music and, to some extent, all jazz in the 1960s. (When you are thinking of Coltrane playing “My Favorite Things” or “A Love Supreme,” you may be thinking of the sound of Mr. Tyner almost as much as that of Coltrane’s saxophone.)

Mr. Tyner did not find immediate success after leaving Coltrane in 1965. But within a decade his fame had caught up with his influence, and he remained one of the leading bandleaders in jazz as well as one of the most revered pianists for the rest of his life.

Alfred McCoy Tyner was born in Philadelphia on Dec. 11, 1938, to Jarvis and Beatrice Tyner, both natives of North Carolina. His father sang in a church quartet and worked for a company that made medicated cream; his mother was a beautician. Mr. Tyner started taking piano lessons at 13, and a year later his mother bought him his first piano, setting it up in her beauty shop.

He grew up during a spectacular period for jazz in Philadelphia. Among the local musicians who would go on to national prominence were the organist Jimmy Smith, the trumpeter Lee Morgan and the pianists Red Garland, Kenny Barron, Ray Bryant and Richie Powell, who lived in an apartment around the corner from the Tyner family house, and whose brother was the pianist Bud Powell, Mr. Tyner’s idol. (Mr. Tyner recalled that once, as a teenager, while practicing in the beauty shop, he looked out the window and saw Powell listening; he eventually invited the master inside to play.)

Just before Coltrane’s death in 1967, Mr. Tyner signed to Blue Note. He quickly delivered “The Real McCoy,” one of his strongest albums, which included his compositions “Passion Dance,” “Search for Peace” and “Blues on the Corner,” all of which he later revisited on record and kept in his live repertoire.

BHM: “The Color Purple” Returns to Movie Theaters on February 23 to Celebrate 35th Anniversary

From “The Color Purple” (photo courtesy J2 Communications)

This year, THE COLOR PURPLE, written by Alice Walker (screenplay by Menno Meyjes), produced by Quincy Jones and directed by Steven Spielberg, celebrates its 35th anniversary.  In honor of the occasion, Fathom Events and TCM are presenting this indelible film in theaters for one special day only: tomorrow, Sunday February 23, 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. (local time) on more than 600 U.S. movie screens.

Based on Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel*, THE COLOR PURPLE introduced movie audiences to Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, both of whom, along with Margaret Avery, were Oscar nominated for their performances.

Their nods were three of the 11 Academy Award nominations for the film, which was also named 1985’s best film at the NAACP Image Awards and by the National Board of Review.

The movie also stars Danny Glover, Adolph Ceasar, Akosua Busia and Rae Dawn Chong in supporting roles.

This presentation is part of the yearlong TCM Big Screen Classics series, and tickets are available now at the Fathom Events website or at participating theater box offices.

*commissions earned on link

 

 

Baroness Valerie Amos Appointed Master of University College at Oxford University in England

Baroness Valerie Amos (photo via Oxford University)

Baroness Valerie Amos has been appointed master of University College at Oxford University in England. When she takes office on August 1, she will be the first woman master of University College and the first Black person to lead any college at Oxford University, according to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

Since 2015, Baroness Amos has served as Director of the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. From 2010 to 2015, Amos served as undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator at the United Nations.

Earlier in her career, Baroness Amos was the first Black woman to sit in the British cabinet as Secretary of State for International Development. She became Leader of the House of Lords and served as the United Kingdom’s High Commissioner to Australia.

Born in Guyana, Amos earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Warwick and a master’s degree in cultural studies from the University of Birmingham. She was given the title of Baroness Amos of Brondesbury in 1997.

Read more: https://www.univ.ox.ac.uk/news/valerie-amos-appointed-new-master/

Students at LeBron James’ I Promise School in Ohio to Receive Free Tuition to Kent State

Photo via Kent.edu

The inaugural class of NBA superstar LeBron JamesI Promise School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, has received some life-changing news, according to CNN.

All 193 students, who are high school juniors, will be receiving free tuition to Kent State University. The students, who were visiting the Kent State campus, erupted in cheers when they were told of the news, while many of their parents, watching from a live feed in a separate room, burst into tears.

Video of the announcement was released on Wednesday by the LeBron James Family Foundation. To see the video on Twitter, click here.

To quote the CNN article:

On Wednesday, James told reporters that his school has a great relationship with Kent State and the University of Akron. When the school opened in 2018, plans were announced to promise free tuition to the University of Akron when the students graduate.

“We have so many options, and I just know that so many kids in my community just don’t have many options,” James said. “So for me to be able to be in a position where I can give these kids options to decide what they want to do with their future, it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done.”

According to a press release, the students will be guaranteed free tuition for four years as well as one year of a free room and meal plan. The students will be eligible for the package as college freshmen for the 2021-2022 academic year. To be eligible, they must be admitted to Kent State, fill out required financial aid forms and have completed a required number of community service hours each semester.

To remain eligible, students need to remain in good academic standing, take part in a required number of community service or volunteer hours and complete a minimum number of credit hours per year.

“We are so pleased to take our partnership with the LeBron James Family Foundation to this next level and welcome these students fully into the Kent State family,” said Kent State President Todd Diacon. “Kent State looks forward to the time when our campus is teeming with I Promise students.”

Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass Statues Installed in Maryland State House

Bronze Statues of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman (via Kingsport Times-News)

During a ceremony Monday night in the Maryland State House, bronze statues of famed abolitionists Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass  (sculpted by Ivan Schwartz of StudioEIS) were unveiled, according to ABC News.

To quote abcnews.go.com:

The life-sized statues were dedicated during a special joint session of the Maryland General Assembly in the Old House Chamber, the room where slavery finally was abolished in the state in 1864.

“A mark of true greatness is shining light on a system of oppression and having the courage to change it,” House Speaker Adrienne Jones, the state’s first Black and first female House speaker, said in prepared remarks. “The statues are a reminder that our laws aren’t always right or just. But there’s always room for improvement.”

While the commissioning of the statues was put in motion more than three years ago, their arrival coincides with new leadership in the state legislature. This is Jones’ first session as speaker, and the first new Senate president in more than three decades was elected by senators last month.

The statues, dedicated during Black History Month, were made to show Tubman and Douglass as they would have appeared in age and dress in 1864.

Both Tubman and Douglass were born on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Tubman escaped from slavery to become a leading abolitionist who helped scores of enslaved people through the Underground Railroad.

Douglass also escaped slavery, and he went on to become an author, speaker, abolitionist and supporter of women’s rights. His autobiography, published in 1845, was a bestseller that helped fuel the abolitionist movement.

The statues aren’t the only recent examples of the state taking steps to reflect its rich Black history.

Last month, a portrait of Verda Welcome, who was elected to the state Senate in 1962, is the first portrait of a black person to adorn the Maryland’s Senate walls. The painting of Welcome replaced one of a white governor who had been on the wall for 115 years.

Maryland also has removed several painful reminders of its past in recent years.

In 2017, the state removed a statue of Roger B. Taney, the U.S. Supreme Court justice and Maryland native who wrote the 1857 Dred Scott decision that upheld slavery and denied citizenship to African Americans.

State officials voted to remove the Taney statue days after a woman was killed in Charlottesville, Virginia. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a man rammed his car through the crowd of people who were there to condemn hundreds of white nationalists who were protesting the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Read more: https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/maryland-unveil-statues-tubman-douglass-capitol-68878494

BHM: Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner – The Forgotten Inventor Who Revolutionized Menstrual Pads

From Vice:

Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner (1912–2006) always had trouble sleeping when she was growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her mother would leave for work in the morning through the squeaky door at the back of their house and the noise would wake Kenner up. “So I said one day, ‘Mom, don’t you think someone could invent a self-oiling door hinge?’” She was only six at the time, but she set about the task with all the seriousness of a born inventor. “I [hurt] my hands trying to make something that, in my mind, would be good for the door,” she said. “After that I dropped it, but never forgot it.”

This pragmatic, do-it-yourself approach defined her inventions for the rest of her life. But while her creations were often geared toward sensible solutions for everyday problems, Kenner could tell from an early age that she had a skill that not many possessed. When her family moved to Washington DC in 1924, Kenner would stalk the halls of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, trying to work out if someone had beaten her to it and led a patent for an invention first. The 12-year-old didn’t find any that had done so.

In 1931 Kenner graduated from high school and earned a place at the prestigious Howard University, but was forced to drop out a year and a half into her course due to financial pressures. She took on odd jobs such as babysitting before landing a position as a federal employee, but she continued tinkering in her spare time. The perennial problem was money; filing a patent was, and is, an expensive business. Today, a basic utility patent can cost several hundred dollars.

By 1957 Kenner had saved enough money to her first ever patent: a belt for sanitary napkins. It was long before the advent of disposable pads, and women were still using cloth pads and rags during their period. Kenner proposed an adjustable belt with an inbuilt, moisture-proof napkin pocket, making it less likely that menstrual blood could leak and stain clothes.

“One day I was contacted by a company that expressed an interest in marketing my idea. I was so jubilant,” she said. “I saw houses, cars, and everything about to come my way.” A company rep drove to Kenner’s house in Washington to meet with their prospective client. “Sorry to say, when they found out I was black, their interest dropped. The representative went back to New York and informed me the company was no longer interested.”

Undeterred, Kenner continued inventing for all her adult life. She eventually filed five patents in total, more than any other African-American woman in history.

Read more: The Forgotten Black Woman Inventor Who Revolutionized Menstrual Pads – VICE

Director Merawi Gerima Wins Awards for Feature Debut “Residue” at 2020 Slamdance Film Festival

Director Merawi Gerima (photo via blackfilm.com)

According to deadline.com, writer/director Merawi Gerima’Residue  won the Audience Award at the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival, as well as receiving an Honorable Mention for the Grand Jury Prize.

First-time feature director Gerima is the son of acclaimed independent filmmaker Haile Gerima (Sanfoka). Merawi Gerima also produced and directed Residue, and his cast includes Obinna Nwachukwu, Dennis Lindsey, Taline Stewart, Jacari Dye, Julian Selman, Melody Tally, Ramon Thompson, and Derron Scott.  

Check out the trailer below:

Residue tells the story of Jay, a young man who arrives home to find his neighborhood gentrified beyond recognition. Demetrius, his childhood best friend, is missing, but none of the remaining black folks trust Jay enough to provide any answers. Jay’s frustration compounds as he also finds himself alienated in the city at large, attacked from all sides. Jay visits his last friend Dion in prison, but leaves feeling powerless and infuriated. One final, chance confrontation results in Jay succumbing to the same forces as did his friends.