Musician Nina Simone passed away in 2003 at 70 years old, but her legacy survives. A 2015 documentary on her life, What Happened, Miss Nina Simone?, received an Oscar nomination and her influence has touched everyone from Lauryn Hill to Mary J. Blige.
Now the icon is receiving a huge honor. Her childhood home in Tryon, North Carolina will be designated a national treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Her home is now a vacant wooden cottage with three rooms and measuring 660-square feet. The house was put on the market in 2016 and was recently purchased by four Black artists to maintain Simone’s legacy. One, Adam Pendleton, said in a press release, “Last year, my fellow artists and I felt an urgent need to rescue Nina Simone’s childhood home—a need sprung from a place of political activism as well as civic duty.” He continued, “A figure like Nina Simone—an African American woman from a small town in North Carolina who became the musical voice of the Civil Rights Movement—is extraordinarily relevant to artists working today. She constantly expressed her commitment to the democratic values our country espouses by demanding that we live up to them. We are honored to partner with the National Trust to further protect her legacy.”
Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in a press release, “Nina Simone’s distinctive voice and social critique in the mid-20th century was unlike anything America had ever heard before. And while her musical and social justice legacy burns bright, her childhood home has been neglected. We’re delighted to work with the home’s new owners and the local community to chart a new future for the property that will honor her tremendous contributions to American society and inspire new generations of artists and activists to engage with her legacy.”
Alicia Keys announced on Wednesday the formation of a music-industry group for female advancement called She Is the Music.
The singer broke the news during her acceptance speech for the Icon Songwriter honor at the National Music Publishers Association’s annual meeting in New York.
“I’ve joined forces with a group of really powerful female executives, songwriters, artists, engineers, producers and publishers to help reshape the industry that we all love by creating real opportunities and a pipeline of talent for other women,” she said. “We’re calling our initiative She Is the Music. We want to create a model for change that effects women across all industries. We deserve the utmost respect, and so many of these women across industries are telling our culture that time is up on double standards, and it is it’s over for pay inequity and colleagues who are at best disrespectful and at the worst unsafe — so it’s over for that.”
Approached by Variety for more details following the ceremony, Keys would only say, “You’ll be hearing about it” and “We just want it to permeate right now.”She spoke at length about the issue in her 10-minute acceptance speech. After thanking the family members, collaborators and executives closest to her, she continued:
“It’s especially meaningful to receive this award right now as a woman in the music industry. (applause) My mama taught me that every year is the year of the woman so I never thought (inaudible), but this year is definitely something else. It’s a powerful year, it’s an empowering year, and it’s the beginning of so many things. And many of us in the music world are working more diligently than ever to showcase and support the work of female songwriters, musicians, engineers, and producers.
“We have to do something because the statistics are brutal,” she continued, citing statistics from a University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism study of Grammy nominees earlier this year. “Of almost 3,000 pop songwriters credited last year only 12% were female, only 3% of the engineers were female, and one of them is Ann [Mincieli, Keys’ regular engineer]. Only 2% of producers are female and one of them is me! Our world is 50-50, and it’s time for our industry to reflect that.
“So this reminds us all to continue to be conscious and present of the diversity we want to see in the workplace, and how we can make it better. So the next time that you get a chance to hire someone, whether it’s the biggest producer or the newest intern, look for a woman — especially a woman of color, a fresh voice, who brings something new to the spectrum. She is the music so give her a shot!
“Songwriters tell our stories, they sing who we are as people — don’t we all want to hear from all of us? My ancestors’ spiritual songs told their stories and gave them strength, and we’re all stronger because of it. And today’s battle for civil rights still draws on the power of protest songs written decades ago by Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Joan Baez, Nina Simone, Buffy St. Marie, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Aretha, Tina, Dolly Parton — picking up that powerful torch and speaking the truth of women and our inner lives. And there are so many people carrying that forward: Mary J., Sia, SZA, Kacey [Musgraves], Solange, Janelle [Monae], H.E.R., and so many more talented female writers are running with that torch today and lifting all of us up.
“And I hope that when we look back on the first part of the 21st century that we as songwriters continue to capture the passions and problems and possibilities of this moment we’re in, so that future generations will know who we are and what really stand for.
“The songwriter is more powerful than any politician and any government because she reaches directly to the people and she uses her talent and skill and puts time in a capsule —ideally a capsule that holds about four minutes of material (laughter) — or if you’re Isaac Hayes about 20 minutes! God bless him too. And if she’s lucky as I’m blessed to be, her words will forever be sealed in our memories and our history and our hearts.
“So I thank you and I’m so grateful for this honor and for your work to continue, so we can all get what we deserve and to be a creative force that makes our hearts sing and makes love the forefront, and shows the world that magic and alchemy is possible every day.”
It’s a topic that Keys also spoke about at Variety’s Power of Women event in April. “We are more on fire than we’ve ever been,” she said, referencing her 2012 hit “Girl on Fire.” “Look at all the action that’s around us: women running for office in record numbers, women banding together in the entertainment industry, women demanding an end to disparity in the music industry like equal representation on the Grammy stage,” she said, referencing the low number of women performers during this year’s show and Recording Academy chief’s comment that women need to “step up” in order to get ahead in the music industry.
“We were told we need to step up. Well, you feel that step up now?”
Chance the Rapper has some major news. The rapper and his new production company, Social Function Productions have reportedly signed on to produce a concert in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics. The concert will reportedly include performances by the legendary Smokey Robinson, Jason Mraz, O.A.R., and more.
Chano announced the news on social media on Thursday (June 14). “I’m happy to announce that my new production company SFP and I are producing the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics here in Chicago,” he wrote, along with an official concert poster.
Chance reportedly announced the launch of his Social Functions Productions company only a few days before the concert news was revealed. It’s unclear of what other projects the company has in the works, but it will likely fuse Chance’s interests in music and philanthropy.
The Special Olympics will officially be held in Seattle on July 1, but the concert will kick off in Chance’s hometown of Chicago on July 21. You can purchase tickets to the concert here.
Ziggy Marley and Paramount Pictures are developing a biopic on his father Bob Marley, the musical legend who brought reggae into the mainstream. Bob Marley died of cancer at the age of 36 but in that short lifetime, he changed the landscape of music, introducing generations to reggae music with such hit songs as Get Up, Stand Up, One LoveNo Woman, No Cry , Could You Be Loved, Buffalo Soldier, Jammin and Redemption Song.
The accomplished Jamaican singer-songwriter, who died in 1981, had a father who was caucasian and because of that found himself discriminated against in his country. Although he rose to great fame and fortune, Bob Marley never forgot where he came from. He remained humble until the end of his life. And the power he achieved in music will never be forgotten.
Ziggy Marley is a successful musician in his own right as well as a producer. Ziggy’s early immersion in music came at 10 years old when he sat in on recording sessions with his Dad.
He also produced the video Bob Marley & The Wailers: Easy Skanking in Boston ’78 and was an executive producer on the documentaries Bob Marley Legend Remixed, Marley, and Marley Africa Roadtrip (the latter for television). He has also guest starred on some TV shows including Charmed and Hawaii Five-O.
Ziggy Marley also won Best Reggae Album at the Grammy’s last year and has won seven other Grammys. He even has a Daytime Emmy under his belt for his original song I Love You Too for the animated children’s series 3rd & Bird. That album also won a Grammy for Best Children’s Album. He’s released 15 albums overall. With his own label Tuff Gong Worldwide, and publishing company Ishti Music, Marley has complete control of his master recordings and publishing. He also he produced the albums Easy Skankin’ in Boston and produced/mixed Exodus 40.
Marley, who is repped by WME, also created the graphic novel Marijuanaman. This May, Marley released his most recent album Rebellion Rises.
If you heard the John Coltrane Quartet live in the early-to-mid-1960s, you were at risk of having your entire understanding of performance rewired. This was a ground-shaking band, an almost physical being, bearing a promise that seemed to reach far beyond music.
The quartet’s relationship to the studio, however, was something different. In the years leading up to “A Love Supreme,” his explosive 1965 magnum opus, Coltrane produced eight albums for Impulse! Records featuring the members of his so-called classic quartet — the bassist Jimmy Garrison, the drummer Elvin Jones and the pianist McCoy Tyner — but only two of those, “Coltrane” and “Crescent,” were earnest studio efforts aimed at distilling the band’s live ethic.
But now that story needs a major footnote.
On Friday, Impulse! will announce the June 29 release of “Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album,” a full set of material recorded by the quartet on a single day in March 1963, then eventually stashed away and lost. The family of Coltrane’s first wife, Juanita Naima Coltrane, recently discovered his personal copy of the recordings, which she had saved, and brought it to the label’s attention.
There are seven tunes on this collection, a well-hewed mix that clearly suggests Coltrane had his sights on creating a full album that day. From the sound of it, this would have been an important one.
“In 1963, all these musicians are reaching some of the heights of their musical powers,” said the saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, John Coltrane’s son, who helped prepare “Both Directions at Once” for release. “On this record, you do get a sense of John with one foot in the past and one foot headed toward his future.”
That’s true — though as Mr. Coltrane was careful to point out, his father always lived in a state of transition. The poet and critic Amiri Barakawrote in 1963 that Coltrane’s career was one of simultaneous “changes, resolutions and transmutations.” As the public came to depend on the grounding wisdom of his saxophone sound in the late 1950s and ’60s, Coltrane kept shifting and expanding it.
By the time he signed with Impulse! in 1961, he had mostly left behind the swift harmonic movement of his earlier work. He was resolutely exploring other elements: drones influenced by North African and Indian music; unbounded and jagged melodic phrasing. One of Coltrane’s earliest biographers, C.O. Simpkins, de
But Coltrane had a funny problem: He was also quite commercially successful, particularly for an improvising musician of such rigor. He had arrived at Impulse! shortly after scoring a megahit with “My Favorite Things,” and the producer Bob Thiele felt obligated to provide a stream of concept-driven and consumer-friendly projects. The other albums he made in 1963 with Coltrane were “Ballads,” “Duke Ellington and John Coltrane” and “John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman.”
Whitewashed from cowboy movies and lore, the African-American contribution to the shaping of the American West was more significant than previously considered, down to tunes black cowboys and laborers sang, which were as familiar as “Home on the Range.”
In researching songs that would become his album Dom Flemons presents Black Cowboys for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the artist learned that musicologist John Lomax recorded the most familiar version of “Home on the Range” from a black cook in San Antonio.
“He transcribes the fellow’s particular way of singing the song and it became the well-known western anthem that we know today,” says Flemons. It was the same with a familiar cattle driving song about a horse, “Goodbye Old Paint.”
The fiddler who Lomax recorded singing that song was white, Flemons says. “But another musician talked about how he learned the song from an ex-slave who worked for his father on the ranch.” It has since been credited to the black cowboy and former slave Charley Willis.
Hearing about the roots of two songs so closely associated with the American West, Flemons says, “started leading me in a musical direction that showed that African-American cowboys were an essential part of the general cowboy song theme.”
From books like Philip Durham’s seminal 1965 The Negro Cowboys, a copy of which he found in his native Arizona, Flemons learned one in four cowboys who helped settle the West were African-Americans, as were some of its biggest personalities, from Nat Love, better known as Deadwood Dick, to Bass Reeves, the first black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi, who many believe was the model for The Lone Ranger.
Flemons wrote an original song about the leading black movie cowboy, Bill Pickett. And he found strong connections to other parts of the African-American experience such as the cowboys who became Pullman Porters and in turn became strong figures in the Civil Rights Movement. “I knew I had to tell a story that was a story of the past, but also point people to a direction to show that there are modern black cowboys that are still out there,” Flemons says.
An Alabama teen was determined to obtain his high school diploma, despite the fact that his family doesn’t have a car. Images of Birmingham, AL teen Corey Patrick walking and taking the bus to his graduation have gone viral, with a few stars promising to buy the determined student new wheels for all of his hard work and dedication to his education.
Speaking to WBRC, Patrick revealed that his mom suggested he take the bus to his commencement since she had no way to get him there. “I told Corey, well the best thing to do is just get on the bus and we will work from there,” said Felicia White, Corey’s mother.
Patrick proceeded to pound the pavement and caught the bus in his graduation cap and gown, with the bus driver snapping photos of the young man that eventually spread all over the internet. His family eventually found a ride and met him at the school. “I had to do what was necessary for me to walk this year,” Patrick said.
His mother revealed that Corey was determined to graduate with his friends after moving to a new neighborhood. “Corey was getting up at 4:30 in the morning and had to be at the bus stop at 5:41 in the morning for the last year. Even when he would get out of school he couldn’t get from that side of town until 5:19 when the bus runs back over there. So he doesn’t make it back this way until about 6:30 or 7 o’clock.”
The Shade Room is now reporting Da Brat, Tyrese and Rickey Smiley have committed to buying the young man a new ride so he’ll never have to worry about making it to an important event again.
For a few short years in the 1970s, no one made funk as raw as Betty Davis did. She sang bluntly about sex on her own terms, demanding satisfaction with feral yowls and rasps, her voice slicing across the grooves that she wrote and honed as her own bandleader and producer. Her stage clothes were shiny, skimpy, futuristic fantasies; her Afro was formidable.
A major label, Island, geared up a big national push for her third album, “Nasty Gal,” in 1975. But mainstream radio didn’t embrace her, and Island rejected her follow-up recordings. Not long afterward, she completely dropped out of public view for decades.
Ms. Davis’s voice now — speaking, not singing — resurfaces in “Betty: They Say I’m Different,” an impressionistic documentary that will have its United States theatrical premiere on Wednesday at the Billie Holiday Theater in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, as part of the Red Bull Music Festival. The film includes glimpses of virtually the only known concert footage of Ms. Davis in her lascivious, head-turning prime, performing at a 1976 French rock festival. The present-day Ms. Davis is shown mostly from behind and heard in voice-over, though there is one poignant close-up of her face.
This month Ms. Davis, 72, gave a rare interview by telephone from her home near Pittsburgh to talk about the film and her music. After years of entreaties from and conversations with its director, Phil Cox, and producer, Damon Smith, she agreed to cooperate on “Betty: They Say I’m Different” because, she said, “I figured it would be better to have them cover me when I was alive than when I was dead.”
Mr. Cox said, via Skype from England, “Betty doesn’t want sympathy, and she’s found her own space now. To me, that is just as interesting as that woman she was in the 1970s. It’s the antithesis of the age we live in, where everybody wants to be on social media all the time.”
Ms. Davis has longtime fans from the ’70s and newer ones who have discovered her in reissues and through hip-hop samples. They have clung to a catalog and a persona that were musically bold, verbally shocking and entirely self-created. Long before the current era of explicit lyrics, Ms. Davis was cackling through songs like “Nasty Gal” — “You said I love you every way but your way/And my way was too dirty for you” — and “He Was a Big Freak,” which boasts, “I used to whip him/I used to beat him/Oh, he used to dig it.” She still won’t reveal who was, or whether there was, a real-life model for songs like those.
“I wrote about love, really, and all the levels of love,” she said. That emphatically included sexuality. “When I was writing about it, nobody was writing about it. But now everybody’s writing about it. It’s like a cliché.”
Ms. Davis was born Betty Mabry in Durham, North Carolina, in 1945, and she grew up there and in Pittsburgh. She headed to New York City in the early 1960s, when she was 17, and enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She supported herself as a model and a club manager; she reveled in the city’s night life, meeting figures like Andy Warhol, Sly Stone, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.
Ever since the sale at Sotheby’s on Wednesday night of “Past Times,” a monumental painting by Kerry James Marshall with a narrative centered on black experiences, many people have been speculating about which collector or museum might have placed the winning $21.1 million bid. The sale was an auction high for Mr. Marshall, and it was widely reported to be the most ever paid for the work of a living African-American artist.
“I know that this work has found a home in a collection with purpose and an eye toward preserving legacy — that of Sean Combs, and that means a lot,” said Mr. Shainman, who has represented Mr. Marshall since his first show at the gallery in 1993.
The dealer said Mr. Combs was introduced to the painter’s work by a friend and sometime musical collaborator, the hip-hop recording artist and record producer Swizz Beatz. Swizz Beatz is also an avid art collector with his wife, Alicia Keys. Mr. Combs viewed the painting at Sotheby’s before the sale.
Imagine if all the themes of an era were compacted in a sensory journey of rhythm, lyrical controversy, props, symbolism, and movement…. well Donald Glover has done it. His latest hit “This is America” is the whole package as it dissects the current state of a mixed nation under the tyrannical boots of discrimination, capitalism, and internalized stratification- and almost all his projects are collaborative, his work reaches volumes as it lets others shine.
One shinning contributor to the projects energy is the video’s choreographer: 23 year-old Sherrie Silver. Having danced for years, the Rwanda-born, England-bred creative initially gained traction for her “Afro-Dance” videos on Youtube, but after Glovers team reached out, her career took on a different weight.
She tells Interview: “The video is full of madness and reflects what’s going on in America and around the world right now. The kids and the choir are supposed to be the happy part of that, so there are two different worlds at the same time. Multiple parts of the video are meant to catch the viewer off-guard, with people smiling and enjoying themselves before it goes dark.”
The themes of this video, are the video- so for Silver it was important to speak to all aspects of Glovers message. By incorporating African dance like the South African ‘Gwara Gwara’, alongside Hip-Hop phenomenons like ‘Shoot’ or ‘Nae Nae’, she succeeds in illuminating the dichotomy of joy and pain- as it related to Pop Culture and its hidden state of affairs.