Category: Gospel/Country

American Legend Aretha Franklin Laid to Rest in Epic Funeral filled with Detroiters and Dignitaries

via ap.com

Today was Aretha Franklin‘s homegoing service at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, MI. Some may have questioned why the Queen of Soul’s ceremony wasn’t held at her father C.L. Franklin‘s New Bethel Baptist Church (she did hold her final viewing there) – perhaps New Bethel just isn’t a big enough space for those attending her ultimate show. Because once again, the Queen sold out the house.

In a send-off equal parts grand and personal, an all-star lineup of speakers and singers included the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, former President Bill Clinton, former first lady Hillary Clinton, professor Michael Eric Dyson, Cicely Tyson, Tyler Perry, Ron Isley, Chaka Khan, Faith Hill, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia, Ariana Grande, Gladys Knight, Shirley Caesar, mayors, senators, members of congress, family and loved ones.

Robinson, the Motown great, remembered first hearing Franklin play piano when he was just 8 and remained close to her for the rest of her life, talking for hours at a time. “You’re so special,” he said, before crooning a few lines from his song “Really Gonna Miss You,” with the line “really gonna be different without you.”

Bill Clinton described himself as an Aretha Franklin “groupie” whom he had loved since college days. He traced her life’s journey, praising her as someone who “lived with courage, not without fear, but overcoming her fears.” He remembered attending her last public performance, at Elton John’s AIDS Foundation benefit in November in New York. She looked “desperately ill” but managed to greet him by standing and saying, “How you doin,’ baby?”

Clinton ended by noting that her career spanned from vinyl records to cellphones. He held the microphone near his iPhone and played a snippet of Franklin’s classic “Think,” the audience clapping along. “It’s the key to freedom!” Clinton said.

Rev. Sharpton received loud cheers when he criticized Donald Trump for saying that the singer “worked for” him as he responded to her death. “She performed for you,” Sharpton said of Franklin, who had sung at Trump-owned venues. “She worked for us.” Dyson took it even further by saying, “She worked above you. She worked beyond you. Get your preposition right!”

Many noted her longtime commitment to civil rights and lasting concern for black people. Her friend Greg Mathis, the award-winning reality show host and retired Michigan judge, recalled his last conversation with her. They talked about the tainted water supply in Flint. “You go up there and sock it to ’em,” she urged Mathis.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced during the service that the city, come Tuesday, would rename the riverfront amphitheater Chene Park to “Aretha Franklin Park” to loud applause.  Michigan Governor Rick Snyder reminded those in attendance that Aretha Franklin’s voice is designated as a natural resource of the state in the 1980s.

Franklin died Aug. 16 at age 76. Her body arrived early in a 1940 Cadillac LaSalle hearse. She wore a shimmering gold dress, with sequined heels — the fourth outfit Franklin was clothed in during a week of events leading up to her funeral.

The casket was carried to the church that also took Franklin’s father, the renowned minister C.L. Franklin, to his and Parks’ final resting place at Woodlawn Cemetery, where the singer will join them. Pink Cadillacs filled the street outside the church, a reference to a Franklin hit from the 1980s, “Freeway of Love.”

Program covers showed a young Franklin, with a slight smile and sunglasses perched on her nose, and the caption “A Celebration Fit For The Queen.” Large bouquets of pink, lavender, yellow and white flowers flanked her casket.

Cristal Franklin, foreground left, hugs Vaughn Franklin as Victorie Franklin, left, and Jordan Franklin look on (photo via independent.co.uk)

Family members, among them granddaughter Victorie Franklin and niece Cristal Franklin, spoke with awe and affection as they remembered a world-famous performer who also loved gossip and kept pictures of loved ones on her piano.

Grandson Jordan directed his remarks directly to Franklin, frequently stopping to fight back tears. “I’m sad today, because I’m losing my friend. But I know the imprint she left on this world can never be removed. You showed the world God’s love, and there’s nothing more honorable.”

To see a large part of the almost eight-hour service, click below:

R.I.P. Artistic Genius and Musical Legend Aretha Franklin, 76, Forever the Queen of Soul

(photo via arethafranklin.net)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to nytimes.com, American singer, pianist, and composer Aretha Franklin died at her home in Detroit surrounded by family and loved ones at the age of 76. The cause was advanced pancreatic cancer. She is survived by her four sons, Ted White Jr., Kecalf Cunningham, Clarence Franklin, and Edward Franklin.

Franklin, who began her unparalleled music career singing at her father Rev. C.L. Franklin‘s New Bethel Baptist Church, became an international superstar and chart-topper in the 1960s with such classic songs as “Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You,” “Chain of Fools,” “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “Respect,” and again in the 1980 and 1990s with “Jump To It,” “Freeway of Love,” “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me,” “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” and “A Rose Is Still A Rose.” Franklin was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, won 18 competitive Grammys across multiple decades, was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1994, recipient of the National Medal of Arts in 1999, and was bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

Aretha was also involved in civil rights activism and philanthropy during her lifetime. Franklin, who Elle Magazine noted had it written into her contract in the 1960s that she would never perform for a segregated audience, was glad that the song “Respect” became linked to feminist and civil-rights movements. She added that the line “you know I’ve got it” has a direct feminist theme. “As women, we do have it,” Franklin said. “We have the power. We are very resourceful. Women absolutely deserve respect. I think women and children and older people are the three least-respected groups in our society.”

According to Vanity Fair, though Franklin didn’t participate in civil disobedience herself, she lent very public support to at least one person who did. In 1970, famous feminist activist, scholar, and a then-avowed member of the Communist Party Angela Davis was arrested at the Howard Johnson Motor Lodge in Midtown Manhattan and incarcerated for 16 months for what were found to be wrongful kidnapping and murder charges. Jet magazine reported that Franklin was ready to cover Davis’s bond, “whether it was $100,000 or $250,000.” Davis was released on bail and cleared of her charges in 1972.

Locally, Aretha donated meals and hotel rooms to Flint residents at the onset of the city’s water crisis, last year she was honored with the dedication of Aretha Franklin Way in Detroit, and worked to renew and revitalize her hometown with projects and concerts.

To read more about Franklin’s life and music, coverage from the Detroit Free Press, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. To witness a touch of her genius, click below:

Spike Lee Gets Rights to Use Unreleased Prince Song in New Film, ‘BlacKkKlansman’

Director Spike Lee attends the after party for the New York premiere of ‘BlacKkKlansman’ (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images) and Prince speaks onstage during The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards at the at the STAPLES Center on February 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

by Kia Morgan-Smith via thegrio.com

While Spike Lee’s upcoming BlacKkKlansman movie has already received critical acclaim ahead of its August 10th release, viewers are in for a treat at the end of the movie when a Prince song plays; something the award-winning director believes was meant to be.

Lee spoke to Rolling Stone about the Prince cover of the Negro spiritual Mary Don’t You Weep” that plays at the end of the movie. Lee said that the song was perhaps a divine sign from the deceased singer.

“I knew that I needed an end-credits song. I’ve become very close with Troy Carter, one of the executives at Spotify [and a Prince estate advisor],” said Lee. “So, I invited Troy to a private screening. And after, he said, ‘Spike, I got the song.’ And that was ‘Mary Don’t You Weep,’ which had been recorded on cassette in the mid-Eighties.”

“Prince wanted me to have that song, I don’t care what nobody says. My brother Prince wanted me to have that song, for this film,” he says emphatically.

“There’s no other explanation to me. This cassette is in the back of the vaults. In Paisley Park. And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, it’s discovered? Nah-ah. That ain’t an accident.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, during the world premiere of BlacKkKlansman at the  Cannes film festival, the audience broke out in applause about a half-dozen times during the movie. And they were so moved by the end of the film, that they clapped for four minutes during the credits and then stood up for a six-minute standing ovation.

Making this feature even more timely and culturally significant is the fact that Lee has decided to release it on August 10th, the one-year anniversary of the Charlottesville, Va., white nationalist rally. Denzel Washington’s son, John David Washington, portrays the movie’s lead character, Ron Stallworth. The movie is based on a true story.

Here’s part of his Rolling Stone interview.

On Jordan Peele’s initial BlacKkKlansman script and what was missing:

“They acquired Ron Stallworth’s book and felt it needed more flava. And that’s what I brought. I was grateful for the opportunity because I had never heard of Stallworth. I didn’t know his story. People say, “That is too unbelievable to be true.” And that’s what makes it such a great story.”

On deciding to include footage from the Charlottesville riots:

“We started shooting in September. When Charlottesville happened, I knew that was going to be the ending. I first needed to ask Ms. Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer, for permission. This is someone whose daughter has been murdered in an American act of terrorism — homegrown, apple-pie, hot-dog, baseball, cotton-candy Americana. Mrs. Bro no longer has a daughter because an American terrorist drove that car down that crowded street. And even people who know that thing is coming, when they see it, it’s like, very quiet.”

On if he saw any of Denzel Washington in John David Washington:

“John David is amazing in this movie. That phrase ‘the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree’ — there’s a reason people say that. He is Denzel Washington’s first son. That’s a big, big burden. But he’s also his own man. I have a history with him. His first film was Malcolm X. At the end of the movie, when the kids say, “My name is Malcolm X!” He’s one of the kids. He was about six years old.”

Source: https://thegrio.com/2018/08/06/spike-lee-nabs-unreleased-prince-song-for-new-movie-blackkklansman/

FEATURE: Rev. Nathaniel Dixon Preaches the Gospel, Jazz Riffs and All

article by Corey Kilgannon via nytimes.com

While a soulful organist welcomed church congregants last Sunday, the Rev. Nathaniel Dixon stood in his office in a natty pinstriped suit, looking more like a hip jazz musician about to hit the bandstand than a pastor preparing to take the pulpit.His office, in St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church in the Marble Hill section of Manhattan, bore signs of both Jesus and jazz. Its walls had framed photographs of Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, and religious literature shared space with saxophones, keyboards and guitars.

After pulling on his white pastor’s robe, Mr. Dixon grabbed a box of saxophone reeds and his microphone.“ Edmar, let’s bring that tenor down, man,” he said to his assistant, Edmar Flores, who carried Mr. Dixon’s tenor saxophone to the sanctuary. As the service heated up, with his band backing him, Mr. Dixon picked up his horn and played from the pulpit.“My Lord, my God — you are my savior,” he sang, his voice swelling up to the church’s majestic rafters. Then he took up his saxophone.

The pastor’s playing style was spare and insistent, reminiscent of one of John Coltrane’s spiritual songs. “People who aren’t used to seeing a preacher playing the saxophone are surprised,” he said. “And when they see I can actually play, they’re more surprised.” As a young jazz musician, Mr. Dixon was seasoned in Harlem clubs, and played with the likes of the guitarist George Benson, the saxophonist Sam Rivers, the pianist Kenny Kirkland and the drummer Chico Hamilton.

Back then, he played bebop. Today, it is mostly GoJa, his name for a blend of gospel and jazz that swings with a spiritually uplifting message.Mr. Dixon said he tried to match one of his songs to his sermon every Sunday. Last Sunday, it was his composition “My Lord, My God,” a lyrical ode that recalls the spiritual style of the saxophonist Pharoah Sanders. The tune helped illustrate a point he was making about the Apostle Thomas’s reaction when called upon by Jesus.“I like Jesus because he calls you out,” Mr. Dixon said, before describing Thomas’s recognition of Jesus as his “eternal God.”“Somebody ought to clap right there,” he told the spare congregation, which included older women in ornate hats and ushers in white outfits.Applause went up and seemed to mingle with the morning sunlight filtering through the stained glass windows.

During the song, Mr. Dixon pointed to members of the band, directing each to perform a solo, then adding through the microphone, “Give the drummer some.”He told the congregation he wrote “My Lord, My God” while sitting in the church alone, “just me and the Lord.”“I like to doodle on the piano,” he said. “That’s where you get a chance to hear God speaking to you.”Mr. Dixon said he grew up in public housing in the Bronx and attended the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan. Struggling to land and keep gigs at jazz clubs in Harlem, like Smalls Paradise and Showman’s, taught him how to fend off other musicians looking to replace him.

“Just because Jesus said to turn the other cheek doesn’t mean you have to let people walk all over you,” he said.The saxophonist Stanley Turrentine taught him to play with no excuses, and the alto player Lou Donaldson helped him choose a better mouthpiece. Connecting with a jazz club audience helped prepare him to connect with a congregation, said Mr. Dixon, who worked nearly 30 years as a teacher and administrator in New York City public schools. At one middle school in the Bronx, he was allowed to keep a cot so he could head there after late-night gigs, he said.

Before retiring from teaching in 2005, he began studying for his ordination as a Methodist minister. He told the congregation on Sunday that he was “happy minding my own business, but God said, ‘I ain’t finished with you yet.’”His latest CD, “Made in New York City: Nat Dixon and Friends,” includes a version of “My Lord, My God,” with vocals by the Rev. Lori Hartman, daughter of the jazz singer Johnny Hartman and herself a pastor, at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Jamaica, Queens.

To read full article, go to: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/07/nyregion/preaching-the-gospel-jazz-riffs-and-all.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_ur_20170409&nl=nytoday&nlid=58278902&ref=headline&_r=0

Gospel Legend Shirley Caesar’s Viral #UNameItChallenge Leads to New Fame, More Charity

Shirley Caesar (photo via defendernetwork.com)
Shirley Caesar (photo via defendernetwork.com)

article by Bil Carpenter via blackenterprise.com

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of DJ Suede, also known as “the Remix God,” sent him a video clip of traditional gospel music legend Pastor Shirley Caesar’s 2007 remake of her 1988 classic “Hold My Mule.” Suede, an Atlanta-based mixer with an Instagram following of almost 100K,  has said that he’ll remix anything. Since his mom was also a big fan of the 11 time Grammy Award-winning artist, he just remixed the song for fun, posting it online with the tag, “Grandma, what are you cooking for Thanksgiving?”

That intoxicating hip-hop music mashup has now become the viral success story of the season. It was even referenced during this year’s American Music Awards telecast, and pushed “Hold My Mule,” a song recorded long before Billboard started compiling gospel song charts, into the No. 1 spot on this week’s Gospel Streaming Songs chart, thanks to over 800,000 streams within the last week. It’s the song’s first time on any national chart.

In the original song, Caesar tells the story of an 86-year-old man named Shouting John, who joined a church that didn’t believe in dancing and speaking in tongues. John was kicked put out of the church for shouting too loudly during the sermon.

He countered his ouster with a testimony that God had blessed him as a farmer.”Look!” he shouted. “I got beans, greens, potatoes, tomatoes, lambs, rams, hogs, dogs, chickens, turkeys, rabbits … you name it!” (See the 5:45 mark in the YouTube video above.) That line became the foundation for Suede’s “You Name It! ” remix.

“It was just a song,” Suede told Big Tigger, on Atlanta’s V103 radio station. Then, on November 13, R&B star Chris Brown reposted the song with his signature choreography with the hastag #UNameItChallenge on his Instagram page. It has since racked up over 2.3 million views on Brown’s page, motivating thousands of people to share it and to answer the challenge with their own video dance responses.

Initially, some observers wondered if the 78-year-old Caesar, who was a hardliner in her younger days about the separation of gospel and mainstream music, would object to the viral video. However, she’s in nearly full support of this new incarnation of it. Continue reading “Gospel Legend Shirley Caesar’s Viral #UNameItChallenge Leads to New Fame, More Charity”

In Case You Missed It: Aretha Franklin Takes the “National Anthem” to Church at Detroit Lions Game

Aretha.  National Anthem.  The Piano.  That Voice.  Game Over.

Viola Davis, Kerry Washington, CeCe Winans Pay Tribute to Cicely Tyson at 2015 Kennedy Center Honors (VIDEO)

Cicely Tyson at the Kennedy Center Honors
Cicely Tyson at the Kennedy Center Honors (PHOTO CREDIT: KRIS CONNOR/GETTY IMAGES)

Legendary actress Cicely Tyson was recognized Tuesday night for her contribution to the performing arts at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors.

Tyson, 91, has had a dynamic career—spanning over 60 years, earning her Academy and SAG award nominations and wins from the Primetime Emmy, Golden Globe and Tony Awards.

On hand to help celebrate her accomplishments were actors Kerry Washington, Viola Davis and Tyler Perry during the 38th annual broadcast.

“Cicely Tyson chose to empower us when we didn’t even know it was possible for us to be empowered,” Perry began his introduction. “For six decades, she has been dilligent in her pursuit to better us all.”

Singer CeCe Winans joined in on the tribute by singing Tyson’s favorite gospel song, “Blessed Assurance.”

Click here to watch the entire show.

article by Lauren Porter via essence.com

Gospel Star Kirk Franklin Apologizes for Homophobia in the Black Church: The Bible Isn’t Written to Attack Gays

Kirk Franklin (photo via bet.com)

The Black church has, for years, been known for not being the biggest supporter of the LGBT community, but today, Kirk Franklin, a respected force in the religious community, has come forward to apologize on their behalf.

“I want to apologize for all of the hurtful and painful things that have been said about people in the church that have been talented and gifted and musical, that we’ve used and we’ve embarrassed… and all this other horrible crap that we’ve done,” he told The Grio. “We have not treated them like people. We’re talking about human beings, men and women that God has created.”

The “I Smile” crooner explained the Bible was not written as an anti-gay work, but rather, the opposite: “The Bible is not a book that’s an attack on gay people,” he said. “It’s not a book written to attack gay people. It is horrible that we have made it where the Bible is a homophobic manual.”

Bringing it all together, Franklin said that he just wants all LGBT-identifying people to know that God is in their corner. “I mean, you want to talk about things that God gets at… pride and jealousy and envy and arrogance,” he said. “But what we also see is God sending his son to save us all, because we were all… straight, gay or whatever, lost and in need of a savior, and there’s room at the cross for all of us.”

article by John Justice via bet.com

TV One to Air All 99 “Unsung” Episodes in 1st-Ever Marathon Leading Up to Landmark 100th Episode Special Hosted by Donnie Simpson

UNSUNG

In a network first, TV One has announced that the network will air all 99 episodes of its entire library of its signature series, “Unsung,” beginning Thanksgiving night, Thursday, Nov. 26 at 8 p.m. ET.

The “epic” six-day marathon will take over TV One, all day and night, leading up to the 100th episode premiere on Tuesday, Dec. 1 at 8 p.m. ET.

Hosted by Donnie Simpson (he inked a multi-year agreement with Radio One – parent company of TV One – earlier this year, bringing the veteran out of retirement), the landmark 100th new episode, “Unsung: Top Ten That Changed The Game,” will feature a countdown of the top 10 most exceptional “Unsung” episodes – impacting profiles that were selected for their representation of the breadth and depth of the series through fan feedback, social engagement and their influence on pop culture.

“Since its conception over seven years ago, ‘Unsung’ has been, hands-down, one of our most loved series,” commented Brad Siegel, TV One’s President. “Music is at the root of black culture and this show continues to celebrate and honor artists vital to those roots and explore stories that continue to shock and amaze our viewers today.”

The marathon and 100th episode will be pushed across TV One’s digital and social landscape with episodic trivia, quizzes and user guesses for the top 10 artists. In addition to the six-day ‘Unsung’ event, themed episodes will air in primetime throughout the marathon, as listed below:

Primetime Episode Themes:

Motown Masters: Thursday, Nov. 26, 8 – 11 p.m. ET

· 8 p.m. ET – David Ruffin

· 9 p.m. ET – Eddie Kendricks

· 10 p.m. ET – Tammi Terrell

Legendary Icons: Friday, Nov. 27, 8 – 12 a.m. ET

· 8 p.m. ET – DeBarge

· 9 p.m. ET – Teena Marie

· 10 p.m. ET – Rick James

· 11 p.m. ET – Ike Turner

Disco Infernos: Saturday, Nov. 28, 8 – 12 a.m. ET

· 8 p.m. ET – Jennifer Holliday

· 9 p.m. ET – Sylvester

· 10 p.m. ET – Nile Rodgers & Chic

· 11 p.m. ET – Rose Royce

R&B Groups: Sunday, Nov. 29, 8 – 12 a.m. ET

· 8 p.m. ET – H-Town

· 9 p.m. ET – Force MDs

· 10 p.m. ET – Hi-Five

· 11 p.m. ET – DeBarge

Hip Hop Classics: Monday, Nov. 30, 8 – 12 a.m. ET

· 8 p.m. ET – Kid N Play

· 9 p.m. ET – Big Daddy Kane

· 10 p.m. ET – DJ Quik

· 11 p.m. ET – Nate Dogg

article by Tambay A. Obenson via ShadowAndAct

Janet Jackson Receives Dance Tribute and Icon Award at 2015 BET Awards

Janet Jackson (l) receives Ultimate Icon Award; Kendrick Lamar opens the BET Awards (photos via Getty Images)
Janet Jackson (l) receives Ultimate Icon Award; Kendrick Lamar (r) opens the 2015 BET Awards (Photos: Getty Images)

Last night, Black Entertainment Television held its 15th annual BET Awards celebration, honoring musical legends Janet Jackson and Smokey Robinson, as well as radio and television personality Tom Joyner with special tributes and awards.  Jason Derulo, Ciara and Tinashe did a tribute in dance to Jackson before she received her Ultimate Icon Award from longtime producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

DSC_2065
Jidenna and Janelle Monae arrive at BET Awards (Photo: Jerome Dorn)

Performances by Alicia Keys, Janelle Monae, Jidenna, Kendrick LamarTyga and Chris Brown, to name a few, also energized the event, and it was no surprise when Best Acting awards went to deserving “Empire” darlings Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson.  To see the full list of winners, read below:

Best New Artist
Sam Smith
Dej Loaf
Fetty Wap
Rae Sremmurd
Tinashe

Best Male Hip-Hop Artist
Kendrick Lamar
J. Cole
Drake
Common
Big Sean
Wale

“Empire” Actor Jussie Smollet (Photo: Jerome Dorn)

Best Female Hip-Hop Artist
Nicki Minaj
Azealia Banks
Tink
Iggy Azalea
Trina
Dej Loaf

Best Actor
Terrence Howard
Anthony Anderson
Idris Elba
Jussie Smollett
Kevin Hart

Best Female R&B/Pop Artist
Beyoncé
Janelle Monáe
Jhené Aiko
Ciara
Rihanna
K. Michelle

SEE ALSO: Janelle Monae and Jidenna Perform ‘Yoga’ and ‘Classic Man’ at 2015 BET Awards

Chris Brown at 2015 BET Awards (Photo credit: Jerome Dorn)
Chris Brown at 2015 BET Awards (Photo: Jerome Dorn)

Best Male R&B/Pop Artist
The Weeknd
John Legend
Trey Songz
Usher
August Alsina
Chris Brown

Best Group
A$AP Mob
Migos
Rae Sremmurd
Rich Gang
Young Money
Jodeci

Continue reading “Janet Jackson Receives Dance Tribute and Icon Award at 2015 BET Awards”