Category: Entertainment

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:

 

Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation Donates $5 Million to Aid and Support Global COVID-19 Response

Rihanna (photo via commons.wikipedia.org

Rihanna‘s Clara Lionel Foundation announced yesterday that it will donate $5 million to aid in the global coronavirus response.

The foundation will team up with on-the-ground partners to serve marginalized communities in the United States, Caribbean, and Africa to prepare and protect against the spreading virus. Justine Lucas, Executive Director of the Clara Lionel Foundation, said in a statement, “Never has it been more important or urgent to protect and prepare marginalized and underserved communities–those who will be hit hardest by this pandemic.”

The Clara Lionel Foundation’s partners include Direct Relief, Feeding America, Partners in Health, The World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, the International Rescue Committee, and others.

Funds will support:

• Local food banks serving at-risk communities and the elderly in the United States;

• Acceleration of testing and care in countries like Haiti and Malawi, as well as the mobilization of resources and additional capacity and support for Native communities;

• Protective equipment for frontline health workers and diagnostic labs, the establishment and maintenance of intensive care units, and acceleration of the development of vaccines and other therapies across the globe;

• Healthcare worker training, virus prevention and containment in countries that will be on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response; and,

• Distribution of critical respiratory supplies.

The Clara Lionel Foundation stated on its website that it “believes that one of the most powerful weapons we have against COVID-19 is preparedness. Protecting our frontline health workers and marginalized communities around the world requires getting ahead of it fast and the time to act is now.”

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.”

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

 

 

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.

Neveah Woods, 9, Gets Noticed by Mattel for her Clothing Designs for Barbie Dolls

Naveah Woods (photo via Click On Detroit)

Creative 9-year-old Nevaeh Woods from Detroit decided to make her passion for making clothing for Barbie dolls into a business and her designs have gotten attention of a big name company, according to WDIV Detroit.

Woods started making doll clothes out of whatever she could get her hands on and now her creations are getting noticed by the Barbie Mattel team.

“When I grow up, I want to be a fashion designer,” Neveah said. In a way, according to NewsOne, she already is a fashion designer. She makes clothes for her Barbie dolls out of everyday items like ribbon, socks and scissors.

Her mother, Sha’kvia Woods, watches and encourages her daughter, but they still surprised her.

“I just took pictures of them, so I was really amazed,” Woods said. “I shared it to Facebook and then I got a lot of my friends say make this public and when I made it public it just went viral.”

Her designs caught the attention of Mattel, the maker of Barbie. “Barbie sent me this amazing box, but we don’t know what’s inside it yet. Today we’re going to find out,” Neveah said.

Inside the box were plenty of new Barbies to style.

“It made me feel special because I’m achieving my goal to be a fashion designer and that’s what I really want to do,” Neveah said. “So I can be famous and make stuff and encourage people to follow their dreams.”

Jada Pinkett Smith’s “Red Table Talk” Renewed Through 2022 by Facebook, Gets Spin-Off

Willow Smith, Adrienne Banfield-Norris and Jada Pinkett Smith of “Red Table Talk”

Jada Pinkett Smith‘s “Red Table Talk,” one of the most popular shows on Facebook Watch, will stay exclusively on the platform with new episodes of the talk show streaming through 2022, according to Variety.com. The series features host and executive producer Smith, her daughter Willow Smith and mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris (aka “Gammy”).

In addition, “Red Table Talk” is becoming a franchise: Smith and Westbrook Studios will produce “Red Table Talk: The Estefans,” bringing the trademark red table to Miami and feature Grammy-winning singer Gloria Estefan, her daughter and musician Emily Estefan, and her niece Lili Estefan discussing trending and personal topics with celebrity guests and experts.

To quote Variety:

“Red Table Talk,” which was nominated for a 2019 Daytime Emmy, debuted in May 2018 and has aired 50 episodes on Facebook Watch over two seasons. The show has over 7 million followers on Facebook and spawned a main discussion group with over 600,000 members as well as other group forums. “Red Table Talk” promises candid conversations of current social and cultural issues including race, divorce, domestic violence, sex, fitness and parenting.

“I’m incredibly proud of ‘Red Table Talk’ and thrilled to build upon this franchise with my family and with Gloria, Emily and Lili,” Pinkett Smith said in a statement. “‘Red Table Talk’ has created a space to have open, honest and healing conversations around social and topical issues, and what’s most powerful for me is hearing people’s stories and engaging with our fans in such a tangible way on the Facebook Watch platform. I’m excited to see the Estefans put their spin on the franchise and take it to new places.”