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.
The Institute of Jazz Studies on the Newark campus of Rutgers University in New Jersey has announced that is has acquired the archives of legendary jazz musician and big band leader Count Basie. The Count Basie Collection includes his pianos, Hammond organ, photos, correspondence, concert programs, business records, housewares and press clippings. Nearly 1,000 artifacts are included in the collection.
Wayne Winborne, executive director of the Institute of Jazz Studies notes that “although the materials cover the entire years of Basie’s lifetime, the collection represents the latter years of Basie’s life and career particularly well, including a large number of accolades, Grammy awards, honorary degrees, and proclamations.”
Count Basie enjoyed a career that spanned more than 60 years and helped to elevate jazz as a serious art form. Count Basie established swing as one of jazz’s predominant styles and solidified the link between jazz and the blues. In 1958, he was the first African American to win a Grammy Award. He went on to earn eight additional Grammys. He died in 1984.
The collection will be available to researchers and the general public in the near future.
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?”
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.”
The U.S. Postal Service today celebrates the life and legacy of Lena Horne as the 41st honoree in the Black Heritage stamp series during a first-day-of-issue ceremony at Peter Norton Symphony Space.
“Today, we honor the 70-year career of a true American legend,” said Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman, who dedicated the stamp. “With this Forever stamp, the Postal Service celebrates a woman who used her platform as a renowned entertainer to become a prolific voice for civil rights advancement and gender equality.”
Joining Stroman to unveil the stamp were Gail Lumet Buckley, an author and Horne’s daughter; Christian Steiner, photographer; and Amy Niles, president and chief executive officer, WBGO Radio.
The stamp art features a photograph of Lena Horne taken by Christian Steiner in the 1980s. Kristen Monthei colorized the original black-and-white photo using a royal blue for the dress, a color Horne frequently wore. Monthei also added a background reminiscent of Horne’s Stormy Weatheralbum, with a few clouds to add texture and to subtly evoke the album title. Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamp. Anyone can share the news of the stamp using the hashtags #LenaHorneForever and #BlackHeritageStamps.
Born in Brooklyn, NY, on June 30, 1917, Horne was a trailblazer in Hollywood for women of color and used her fame to inspire Americans as a dedicated activist for civil rights.
Horne began her career as a dancer at Harlem’s Cotton Club and later became a featured vocalist with touring orchestras. The rampant racial discrimination she encountered from audiences, hotel and venue managers and others was so disconcerting that she stopped touring, and in 1941, she made her move to Hollywood. A year later, she signed a contract with MGM — one of the first long-term contracts with a major Hollywood studio — with the stipulation that she would never be asked to take stereotypical roles then available to black actors. Her most famous movie roles were in Cabin in the Skyand Stormy Weather, both released in 1943.
During World War II, Horne entertained at camps for black servicemen, and after the war worked on behalf of Japanese Americans who were facing discriminatory housing policies. She worked with Eleanor Roosevelt in pressing for anti-lynching legislation. In the 1960s, Horne continued her high-profile work for civil rights, performing at rallies in the South, supporting the work of the National Council for Negro Women, and participating in the 1963 March on Washington.
Horne’s awards and honors include a special Tony Award for her one-woman Broadway show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music; three Grammy Awards; the NAACP Spingarn Medal; and the Actors Equity Paul Robeson Award. She was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient in 1984, and her name is among those on the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.
Customers may purchase the Lena Horne Forever stamp at The Postal Store atusps.com/shop, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724) and at Post Office facilities nationwide. A variety of stamps and collectibles also are available at ebay.com/stamps.
The winners of the 49th NAACP Image Awards were announced last night during the live broadcast from the Pasadena Civic Auditorium which aired on TV One. The two-hour live special was hosted by Anthony Anderson and opened with a powerful moment in support of #TIMESUP featuring Angela Robinson, Kerry Washington, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Laverne Cox, Lena Waithe and Tracee Ellis Ross.
Ava DuVernay was honored as the NAACP Entertainer of the Year. NAACP Chairman Leon W. Russell presented the NAACP Chairman’s Award to William Lucy, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson presented the NAACP President’s Award to Danny Glover and several members of the Memphis Sanitation “I Am A Man” Workers were also in attendance – they were presented with the NAACP Vanguard Award earlier in the week during a press conference at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN.
Gap Band leader Charlie Wilson was honored with the Music Makes a Difference honor which is bestowed upon an individual within the recording industry who has achieved worthwhile success and inspiration for civic engagement, criminal justice, education, economic opportunity, or criminal justice.
“Girls Trip” triumphed as the winner in the Outstanding Motion Picture category, and picked up a second award for its breakout star Tiffany Haddish in the Supporting Actress category.
Jordan Peele‘s horror opus “Get Out” received three awards, including Best Actor honors for lead Daniel Kaluuya, and Best Director and Best Writing wins for Peele. “Black-ish” took home the award for best television series, while host Anderson won Best Actor, Tracee Ellis Ross repeated as Best Actress and Marsai Martin won for Best Supporting Actress in a TV series.
In recording, Bruno Mars took home awards for Outstanding Male Artist, Outstanding Music Video/Visual Album and Outstanding Song – Traditional for “That’s What I Like.” Kendrick Lamar owned the Outstanding Album, Outstanding Song – Contemporary and Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration categories (the latter with Rihanna).
The winners of the 49th NAACP Image Awards in the non-televised categories were announced during a gala dinner celebration that took place Sunday, January 14, 2018, at the Pasadena Conference Center – the event was hosted by The Real’sAdrienne Houghton, Loni Love, Jeannie Mai and Tamera Mowry-Housley.
The NAACP Image Awards is the premiere multicultural awards show. It celebrates the accomplishments of people of color in the fields of television, music, literature and film, and also honors individuals or groups who promote social justice through creative endeavors.
Sonny Rollins, the legendary jazz saxophonist, has made a generous contribution to establish the Sonny Rollins Jazz Ensemble Fund at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio.
Beginning in spring 2018, Oberlin College jazz studies majors may audition for the Oberlin Sonny Rollins Jazz Ensemble. Each student’s candidacy will be considered on the basis of four criteria: an audition for Oberlin’s jazz faculty, evidence of academic achievement, thoughtful response to a question about the place of jazz in the world, and service to humanity.
“Sonny Scholars” must dedicate at least two semesters to performing in the ensemble. They must also complete a winter-term project that embodies Rollins’ spirit of giving.
In explaining the rationale for this aspect of the program, Sonny Rollins said “people are hungry for a reason to live and to be happy. We’re asking these young musicians to look at the big picture, to tap into the universal power of a higher spirit, so they can give people what they need. Giving back to others teaches inner peace and inner spirituality. Everything is going to be open for them if they devote themselves in this way.”
Rollins gift to Oberlin grew out of his friendship with author and musician James McBride, a 1979 graduate of Oberlin College. The gift was made in recognition of the institution’s long legacy of access and social justice advocacy. In particular, Rollins was moved by Oberlin’s place as the first institution of higher learning to adopt a policy to admit students of color and the first to confer degrees to women, and by the contributions of alumni such as Will Marion Cook, a black violinist and composer who graduated in 1888 and who went on to become an important teacher and mentor to Duke Ellington.
Andrea Kalyn, dean of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, stated “that the legendary Sonny Rollins — an artist of truly extraordinary accomplishment, soulfulness, and character — would entrust Oberlin to steward his legacy is the highest honor, and deeply humbling.”
Jay Z led the nominations for the 60th Grammy Awards, annouced on Tuesday morning, with eight. He’s followed by Kendrick Lamar, whose “DAMN.” album scored seven; Bruno Mars with six; and Childish Gambino (aka actor Donald Glover), newcomers SZA and Khalid, and producer No I.D. (who worked on “4:44”) with five each.
The rap icon was the only artist to score nods in the top three categories (record, album, and song of the year) for his 13th studio album, “4:44,” while Mars’ “24K Magic,” and Gambino’s “‘Awaken, My Love!’” each landed two noms in the general field.
Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Andra Day announced the nominees in the four general field categories: best new artist, record of the year, song of the year, and album of the year on “CBS This Morning” at 8:30 a.m. ET/5:30 a.m. PT.
The 60th Grammy Awards will air live from New York’s Madison Square Garden Jan. 28 on CBS.
Here is the full list of nominees for the 60th Grammy Awards:
Record Of The Year:
“Redbone” — Childish Gambino
“Despacito” — Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber
“The Story Of O.J.” — Jay-Z
“HUMBLE.” — Kendrick Lamar
“24K Magic” — Bruno Mars
Della Reese, the husky-voiced singer and actress who spent almost a decade playing a down-to-earth heavenly messenger on the CBS series “Touched by an Angel” and became an ordained minister in real life, died on Sunday night at her home in Encino, Calif. She was 86.
Her death was confirmed by her manager, Lynda Bensky. She did not specify the cause but said that Ms. Reese had diabetes.
Ms. Reese had been under contract to Jubilee Records for three years when, in 1957, she had her first big hit record, the romantic ballad “And That Reminds Me.”
Named the year’s most promising “girl singer” by Billboard, Variety and Cash Box, she was soon making regular appearances on the leading television variety shows of the day. Her biggest hit was “Don’t You Know” — adapted from “Musetta’s Waltz,” an aria from “La Bohème” — which reached No. 2 on the Billboard singles chart in 1959.
But she became best known as an actress, particularly in the sentimental drama series “Touched by an Angel,” which had its premiere in 1994 and evolved into one of prime time’s top-rated shows. It placed in the Nielsen Top 10 from 1996 to 2000, with an average of more than 20 million weekly viewers at one point.
In the show, Ms. Reese, by then in her 60s, was cast as Tess, a stern but loving supervisor of angels who guided a softhearted and less experienced angel, Monica (Roma Downey), in helping humans at crossroads in their lives. The series told reassuring stories of forgiveness and second chances with mild irreverence. (“You get your little angel butt back to the city,” Tess told Monica in one episode.)
Ms. Reese’s religious faith was a major influence in her career. In 1996 she told The Chicago Tribune that she had consulted with God about whether to sign on for “Angel.” “As clearly as I hear you,” she said, “I heard him say: ‘You can do this. I want you to do this, and you can retire in 10 years.’ ”
The series lasted nine years, and she continued to act for another decade after that.