Category: Seniors

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/

 

Maryland 1st Grader Cavanaugh Bell, 7, Uses $600 of his Savings to Make Covid-19 Care Packages for Seniors

Cavanaugh Bell, 7, of Gaithersburg, Maryland is helping others out of his own savings during the coronavirus outbreak. (Courtesy of “Cool and Dope.” Taken by his mother, Llacey Simmons.)

Anyone, anywhere, at any age, can make a difference if they want. And Seven year-old Maryland child Cavanaugh Bell is doing exactly that.

According to fox5dc.com, young philanthropist Bell spent $600 of his own money, saved up from three Christmases and two birthdays, to create 65 “COVID-19 Carepacks” in addition to 31 hot meals from restaurant Buca Di Beppo, to serve to senior citizens and help local businesses impacted by being closed after Gov. Larry Hogan shut down restaurants Monday.

Cavanaugh filled several shopping carts at Target with food and a bottle of bleach to hand out to seniors. On top of that, he also helped feed 90 students in need on Thursday.

Cavanaugh started a non-profit called “Cool and Dopewith the mission to “eradicate all bullying and youth suicide through political and social action by his 18th birthday on Nov. 20, 2030.”

To read more: https://www.fox5dc.com/news/maryland-boy-uses-600-of-savings-to-make-coronavirus-care-packages-for-seniors-feed-90-students

Russell Wilson and Ciara Pledge to Donate One Million Meals to Food Lifeline and Feeding America in Wake of Pandemic

NFL Quarterback Russell Wilson and Musical Artist Ciara (photo via flickr.com)

According to NBCSports.com, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and singer Ciara have pledged 1 million meals to Food Lifeline and Feeding America in an effort to help keep Americans in need fed in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

To quote the article:

Obviously this worldwide pandemic, coronavirus, is changing the world, second-by-second, minute-by minute. People are losing loved ones, the elderly and the young, people in between. … So what we’ve decided to do is partner with our local food bank in Seattle, Seattle Food Lifeline, and we’re going to donate a million meals and hopefully make a difference,” Wilson said in a video message.

Wilson and Ciara mentioned people losing jobs in the wake of increasing shut down initiatives in an effort to keep the spread of the virus from proliferating an exponential rates. They’ve already seen friends in the area that work for companies such as Alaska Airlines, the Seattle Sounders – where the pair are part owners – and Seattle Children’s Hospital hit with the effects of the virus.

“We want to encourage every out there to join us in whatever way that you can, big or small,” Ciara said. “Everything makes a difference. Everything that we do together makes a difference and together we will conquer this tough time that we’re going through.”

The Feeding America network of food banks “distributes 4.3 billion meals each year through food pantries and meal programs throughout the United States and leads the nation to engage in the fight against hunger.”

The EBONY Foundation Works to Feed Over 650,000 Children and Seniors Weekly During COVID-19 Pandemic, Starts in Detroit

Image of Food Drive (photo via wikipedia.commons.org)

To address the increased need for food assistance during the COVID-19 outbreak amid school closures and social distancing, the EBONY Foundation starting today, wants  community to know “WE GOT YOU” by coordinating the delivery over a million tons of food to community members in need.

This food recovery initiative will start in Detroit serving Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties and the EBONY Foundation seeks to use this model in communities nationwide.

Experts agree that school closures and social distancing will play an important role in limiting the transmission of coronavirus. Families and advocates have concerns about how system-wide closures will impact communities who rely on schools for a range of public services, including providing low-income children with breakfast and lunch, which at times may be the only meal they receive during the day.

The EBONY Foundation has appointed Darryl Anderson of Unique Food Management as the Michigan coalition Chair to coordinate organizations such as Meals on Wheels, Lighthouse, Forgotten Harvest and over dozen food pantries with one common mission – to move over a million tons of food and feed over 650,000 children and seniors weekly during this pandemic. Anderson has over a decade of state and nationwide organizing in food recovery distribution.

National emergencies affect each community differently. For over 75 years the EBONY and JET brand has been at the forefront of championing social justice issues for the Black community. As the quote goes, “When American catches a cold. The Black community catches pneumonia.” Now we have the coronavirus, which has a catastrophic impact on our community, education, economics, and basic health – and EBONY will step up.

“Our families often live in households without food or water at times and now we have this pandemic. Some families rely routinely on food pantries, even in relatively healthy economic times. Some families have no safety nets. school closures would cut off access to some of their only reliable meals. When resources get tight, people without means tend to get squeezed the hardest,” says a spokesperson from the EBONY Foundation.

“The problem is straightforward: Without school, a lot of our communities kids often don’t eat. Close to 30 million children use the National School Lunch Program each year.”

Anderson will be coordinating the EBONY Foundation’s pilot initiative of grab & go breakfast and lunch pickups at the schools as well as negotiating with the school district for school bus deliveries to those that are homebound.

Partnering organizations and schools include: Variety Feeds, Micah 6 Sprout, Baldwin Center, Dream Center, All Saints Church, Pontiac Youth Rec, Meet Up and Eat up, Avondale Elementary and Middle School, and the Waterford Schools.

For more information or to get help coordinating resources in another state, reach out to: wefeedyou@ebonyjet.org and www.ebonyjet.org.

R.I.P. Acclaimed Author Toni Morrison, 88, Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize Winner

Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Toni Morrison, who wrote the acclaimed novels “Beloved,” ”Song of Solomon,” “The Bluest Eye,” “Jazz,” and “Sula” among other works, has passed away at age 88.

According to yahoo.com, publisher Alfred A. Knopf announced that Morrison died Monday night at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Morrison’s family issued a statement through Knopf saying she died after a brief illness.

“Toni Morrison passed away peacefully last night surrounded by family and friends,” the family announced. “The consummate writer who treasured the written word, whether her own, her students or others, she read voraciously and was most at home when writing.”

“Her writing was not just beautiful but meaningful — a challenge to our conscience and a call to greater empathy,” Obama wrote Tuesday on his Facebook page. “She was as good a storyteller, as captivating, in person as she was on the page.”

“Narrative has never been merely entertainment for me,” she said in her Nobel lecture. “It is, I believe, one of the principal ways in which we absorb knowledge.”

The second of four children of a welder and a domestic worker, Morrison was born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, a steel town outside of Cleveland. She was encouraged by her parents to read and to think, and was unimpressed by the white kids in her community.

Recalling how she felt like an “aristocrat,” Morrison believed she was smarter and took it for granted she was wiser. She was an honors student in high school, and attended Howard University because she dreamed of life spent among black intellectuals.

R.I.P. Grammy Award Winner, Legendary Song Stylist and Civil Rights Activist Nancy Wilson, 81

by Jim Farber via nytimes.com

Nancy Wilson, whose skilled and flexible approach to singing provided a key bridge between the sophisticated jazz-pop vocalists of the 1950s and the powerhouse pop-soul singers of the 1960s and ’70s, died on Thursday at her home in Pioneertown, Calif. She was 81.

Her death was confirmed by her manager, Devra Hall Levy, who said Ms. Wilson had been ill for some time; she gave no other details.

In a long and celebrated career, Ms. Wilson performed American standards, jazz ballads, Broadway show tunes, R&B torch songs and middle-of-the-road pop pieces, all delivered with a heightened sense of a song’s narrative.

“I have a gift for telling stories, making them seem larger than life,” she told The Los Angeles Times in 1993. “I love the vignette, the plays within the song.

Some of Ms. Wilson’s best-known recordings told tales of heartbreak, with attitude. A forerunner of the modern female empowerment singer, with the brassy inflections and biting inflections to fuel it, Ms. Wilson could infuse even the saddest song with a sense of strength.

In her canny signature piece from 1960, “Guess Who I Saw Today”(written by Murray Grand and Elisse Boyd), a woman baits her husband by dryly telling him a story in which he turns out to be the central villain. In her 1968 hit, “Face It Girl, It’s Over” (by Francis Stanton and Angelo Badale), Ms. Wilson first seems to throw cold water in the face of a deluded woman who fails to notice that her lover has lost interest in her. Only later does she reveal that she is the benighted woman scorned.

“Face It Girl,” an epic soul blowout, became one of Ms. Wilson’s biggest chart scores, making the Top 30 of Billboard’s pop chart and Top 15 on its R&B list.ing News

Her biggest hit came in 1964, when “(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am”(Jimmy Williams and Larry Harrison), a rapturous R&B ballad delivered with panache, reached No. 11 on Billboard’s pop chart.

Three years later she became one of the few African-Americans of her day to host a TV program, the Emmy-winning “Nancy Wilson Show,” on NBC.

Ms. Wilson released more than 70 albums in a five-decade recording career. She won three Grammy Awards, one for best rhythm and blues recording for the 1964 album “How Glad I Am,” and two for best jazz vocal album, in 2005 and 2007. In 2004, she was honored as a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts. Nancy Wilson’s album “How Glad I Am,” from 1964, won a Grammy Award for best rhythm and blues recording.

For her lifelong work as an advocate of civil rights, which included participating in a Selma to Montgomery, Ala., protest march in 1965, she received an award from the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta in 1993 and an N.A.A.C.P. Hall of Fame Image Award in 1998.

In 2005, she was inducted into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, also in Atlanta.

“As an artist then, taking such a political stand came with professional risks,” she told the blog Jazz Wax in 2010. “But it had to be done.”

Continue reading “R.I.P. Grammy Award Winner, Legendary Song Stylist and Civil Rights Activist Nancy Wilson, 81”

U.S. Armed Forces All-female African American WWII Unit Honored with Monument at Fort Leavenworth

6888th Postal Battalion (photo via radio.com)

by Kaylah Jackson via radio.com

The contributions of over 800 African American women who sorted mail in a segregated unit during WWII were recognized last month in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, with a monument erected in their honor.

“No mail, no morale,” was the motto of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the U.S. Army’s only all-African American and all-female unit during the Second World War.

Often referred to as the “Six-Triple-Eight,” the unit was made of up 824 enlisted and 31 officer women, who were originally from the Women’s Army Corps, Army Service Forces and Army Air Forces.

(Photo courtesy of Women of 6888th)

While many African American nurses served overseas in combat zones, WAC units remained separated and women of color were only allowed to serve overseas depending on the “needs of the Army.” The military faced pressure for African Americans WACs to serve in overseas components and eventually a request for 800 women to serve in the European Theatre was approved.

In 1945, warehouses and Red Cross workers in England became overwhelmed with a backlog of mail and packages addressed to U.S. service members. The hundreds of women who eventually made up the 6888th were selected to train for this exact mission.

Under the direction of Lt. Col Charity Edna Adams, the women traveled to Camp Shanks, New York after enduring boot camp, and eventually arriving in Birmingham, England, in 1945. Upon arrival to Europe, the women were welcome to a dimly lit and rat-infested warehouse with mail stacked to the ceilings.

Of the over 800 servicewomen, five were present at their monument dedication ceremony at Fort Leavenworth.

6888 Battalion Monument (Photo courtesy of George Marcec)

“Servicemen want their mail. That’s a morale booster,” Lena King told KCTV.  Now 95-years-old, then Corporal King worked among other women in the warehouse identifying miswritten pieces of mail and ensuring the men fighting received letters from their loved ones.

By dividing their work in shifts that ran 365 days a week, the women processed an average of 65,000 pieces of mail per shift, clearing the previous six-month backlog of letters in just three months.

(Photo courtesy of George Marcec)

Designed by sculptor Eddie Dixon, the monument features all of the names of the women of the Six-Triple-Eight, a bust of Lt. Col Adams and iconic photos highlighting the unit’s mission.

The monument sits near a series of other historical tributes on Fort Leavenworth. From honoring the first African American West Point graduate to the first African American four-star general, this monument will be another addition highlighting the “firsts” of our nation’s history at war.

Source: https://connectingvets.radio.com/articles/6888th-central-postal-directory-battalion-receives-monument-fort-leavenworth?fbclid=IwAR23Ae4QeZECbojxZvVOyPMVIjURCO9z3Uc4GqS4GPulDlmCwoukLX709mk

Betye Saar, 92, Artist Who Helped Spark Black Women’s Movement Has “Betye Saar: Keepin’ It Clean” Exhibit Opening in NY on November 2

Betye Saar – “Supreme Quality” (Photograph: Kris Walters/Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, CA)

by Nadja Sayej via theguardian.com

In 1972, a black cultural center in Berkeley, California, put out a call for artists to help create an exhibit themed around black heroes. One African American contemporary artist, Betye Saar, answered. She created an artwork from a “mammy” doll and armed it with a rifle.

Betye Saar (photo via dailybruin.com)

According to Angela Davis, a Black Panther activist, the piece by Saar, titled “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima,” sparked the black women’s movement. Now, the artist’s legacy is going on view in New York with “Betye Saar: Keepin’ It Clean,” an exhibit opening on November 2nd at the New York Historical Society, featuring 24 artworks made between 1997 and 2017 from her continuing series incorporating washboards. The exhibit runs until May 27, 2019.

“Saar says that it’s about keeping everything clean, keeping politics clean, keeping your life clean, your actions clean,” said Wendy Ikemoto, the society’s associate curator of American art. “She wants America to clean up its act and a lot of her art has to do with this idea that we haven’t cleaned up our act.”

Saar, 92, was born in Los Angeles and turned to making political art after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. “After his assassination in 1968, her work became explicitly political,” said Ikemoto. “That’s when she started collecting these racist, Jim Crow figurines and incorporated them in her assemblages.”

Betye Saar – “Dark Times” (Photograph: Robert Wedemeyer/Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles)

Saar was part of the black arts movement, the cultural – often literary – arm of the black power movement of the 1960s and 1970s; she was also among so-called second wave feminists. But she still found herself at a crossroads. “The black arts movement was male-dominated and the feminist movement was white-dominated,” Ikemoto said. “Being at the intersection of both movements, she became one of the most prominent black female artists for presenting strong, recognized women who are fighting off the legacy of slavery. I think it did open doors for other artists to follow.”

This traveling exhibit, from the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, shows Saar’s consistent message through her washboard series. “Many of her works tackle the broad issue of revisioning derogatory stereotypes to agents of change, historical change and power,” said Ikemoto. “Many artworks feature descendants of Aunt Jemima and mammy figures armed to face the racist histories of our nation.”

The exhibit includes “Extreme Times Call for Extreme Heroines,” a washboard piece Saar made in 2017 that features a mammy doll holding a pair of guns. The washboards are used in lieu of canvases and are loaded with symbolism.

“The washboard becomes her frame for the art, it’s the star,” said Ikemoto. “It’s the structure of black labor and she is moving it from a space of invisibility to highlight it. She is also using this humble object of hard labor to subvert notions of fine art.”

Each washboard is like a puzzle to be decoded, filled with small details that reference American history. There are Black Panther fists, references to police brutality and phrases from the Harlem renaissance poet Langston Hughes.

There are also references to Memphis, the city where King was assassinated, and to the Congolese slaves who were killed under the Congo Free State. Some washboards include phrases such as “national racism”.

“It’s as if Saar is suggesting how racism is so entrenched in our nation that it has become a national brand,” said Ikemoto. “She takes something that is a sign of oppression and violence, something pejorative and derogatory, and transforms it into something revolutionary.”

Not all of the artworks are on washboards, however. One piece from 1997, “We Was Mostly ’Bout Survival,” is on an ironing board, emblazoned with an image of a British slave ship.

“I think this exhibition is essential right now,” said Ikemoto. “I hope it encourages dialogue about history and our nation today, the racial relations and problems we still need to confront in the 21st century.”

More: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/oct/30/betye-saar-art-exhibit-racism-new-york-historical-society

Cicely Tyson, 93, Will Finally Receive an Academy Award

Cicely Tyson (photo via the wrap.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to vanityfair.com, legendary actor Cicely Tyson is finally getting an Oscar. The 93-year-old, who was nominated for an Academy Award once before in 1973 for her performance in Sounder, has been announced as one of the recipients of this year’s Honorary Oscars. She’ll be recognized alongside publicist Marvin Levy and composer Lalo Schifrin. In addition, producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall will be given the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. The Governors Awards will take place on November 18.

“Choosing the honorees for its awards each year is the happiest of all the Board of Governors’ work,” Academy President John Bailey said in a statement. “And this year, its selection of five iconic artists was made with universal acclaim by the Academy’s 54 spirited governors.”

Tyson, the sole performer among the honorees, has been working in film and television since her career kicked off over six decades ago in 1957, quickly breaking boundaries with performances in projects such as The River Niger, A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But A SandwichFried Green Tomatoes, The Help, the acclaimed miniseries Roots, and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman—a TV movie that would go on to inspire an aspiring thespian named Viola Davis. Davis and Tyson would later work together on How to Get Away with Murder. The awards Tyson has won already run the gamut: a Tony, multiple Emmys, and even a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Like the rest of her fellow awardees, this will be the first Oscar for Tyson.

Tyson was last seen publicly at the funeral of Aretha Franklin, where she performed a spoken wordadaptation of the Paul Laurence Dunbar poem “When Malindy Sings” called “When Aretha Sings.” To see it, click below:

R.I.P. George Walker, 96, Trailblazing American Composer and Pulitzer Prize Winner

Composer George Walker (photo via npr.org)

by Tom Huizenga via npr.com

Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, pianist and educator George Walker has died at the age of 96. Walker’s death was announced to NPR by one of his family members, Karen Schaefer, who said he died Thursday at Mountainside Hospital in Montclair, N.J. after a fall.

Walker’s music was firmly rooted in the modern classical tradition, but also drew from African-American spirituals and jazz. His nearly 100 compositions range broadly, from intricately orchestrated symphonic works and concertos to intimate songs and solo piano pieces.

“His music is always characterized by a great sense of dignity, which is how he always comported himself,” says composer Jeffrey Mumford, who, as a music professor at Lorain County Community College in Ohio, uses examples of Walker’s music in his classes. “His style evolved over the years; his earlier works, some written while still a student, embodied an impressive clarity and elegance.”

Walker was a trailblazing man of “firsts,” and not just because of the Pulitzer. In the year 1945 alone, he was the first African-American pianist to play a recital at New York’s Town Hall, the first black instrumentalist to play solo with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the first black graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

The following year, Walker wrote his first string quartet. In 1990, he revised the second movement into a new piece, Lyric for Strings, which has become his most often-performed work.

In 1996, Walker broke new ground again when he became the first African-American composer to win a Pulitzer Prize for music. Lilacs for voice and orchestra, set to a text by Walt Whitman, is a moving meditation on the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

Continue reading “R.I.P. George Walker, 96, Trailblazing American Composer and Pulitzer Prize Winner”