R.I.P Chuck Berry, 90; Musical Legend and Architect of Rock ’n’ Roll

article by Jon Pareles via nytimes.com

Chuck Berry, who with his indelible guitar licks, brash self-confidence and memorable songs about cars, girls and wild dance parties did as much as anyone to define rock ’n’ roll’s potential and attitude in its early years, died on Saturday. He was 90.

The St. Charles County Police Department in Missouri confirmed his death on its Facebook page. The department said it responded to a medical emergency at a home and Mr. Berry was declared dead after lifesaving measures were unsuccessful.

While Elvis Presley was rock’s first pop star and teenage heartthrob, Mr. Berry was its master theorist and conceptual genius, the songwriter who understood what the kids wanted before they knew themselves. With songs like “Johnny B. Goode,” “Maybellene” and “Roll Over Beethoven,” he gave his listeners more than they knew they were getting from jukebox entertainment.

Chuck Berry (photo via nytimes.com)

His guitar lines wired the lean twang of country and the bite of the blues into phrases with both a streamlined trajectory and a long memory. And tucked into the lighthearted, telegraphic narratives that he sang with such clear enunciation was a sly defiance, upending convention to claim the pleasures of the moment. In “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “You Can’t Catch Me,” “Rock n Roll Music” and other songs, Mr. Berry invented rock as a music of teenage wishes fulfilled and good times.  (The Beach Boys reworked his “Sweet Little Sixteen” into “Surfin’ U.S.A.” Mr. Berry sued them and won a songwriting credit.)

Born Charles Edward Anderson Berry on Oct. 18, 1926, in St. Louis, he grew up in a segregated, middle-class neighborhood there, soaking up gospel, blues, and rhythm and blues, along with some country music.He spent three years in reform school after a spree of car thefts and armed robbery.

He received a degree in hairdressing and cosmetology and worked for a time as a beautician; he married Themetta Suggs in 1948 and started a family. By the early 1950s, he was playing guitar and singing blues, pop standards and an occasional country tune with local combos. Shortly after joining Sir John’s Trio, led by the pianist Johnnie Johnson, he reshaped the group’s music and took it over.

From the Texas guitarist T-Bone Walker, Mr. Berry picked up a technique of bending two strings at once that he would rough up and turn into a rock ’n’ roll talisman, the Chuck Berry lick, which would in turn be emulated by the Rolling Stones and countless others. He also recognized the popularity of country music and added some hillbilly twang to his guitar lines. Mr. Berry’s hybrid music, along with his charisma and showmanship, drew white as well as black listeners to the Cosmopolitan Club in St. Louis.

In 1955, Mr. Berry ventured to Chicago and asked one of his idols, the bluesman Muddy Waters, about making records. Waters directed him to the label he recorded for, Chess Records, where one of the owners, Leonard Chess, heard potential in Mr. Berry’s song “Ida Red.”

A variant of an old country song by the same name, “Ida Red” had a 2/4 backbeat with a hillbilly oompah, while Mr. Berry’s lyrics sketched a car chase, the narrator “motorvatin’” after an elusive girl. Mr. Chess renamed the song “Maybellene,” and in a long session on May 21, 1955, Mr. Chess and the bassist Willie Dixon got the band to punch up the rhythm.

“The big beat, cars and young love,” Mr. Chess outlined. “It was a trend and we jumped on it.”

The music was bright and clear, a hard-swinging amalgam of country and blues. More than 60 years later, it still sounds reckless and audacious.

To read full article, go to: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/18/arts/chuck-berry-dead.html

Stevie Wonder to be Honored by ASCAP with Inaugural “Key of Life” Award at “I Create Music” Expo in Los Angeles

Stevie Wonder (photo via hookedoneverything.com)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, announced today that it will honor legendary musician Stevie Wonder with its inaugural “Key of Life” Award at this year’s ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO in Los Angeles, April 13 – 15, where Wonder will also appear in a keynote “I Create Music” session.

The “Key of Life” Award celebrates Wonder’s incomparable, peerless contributions to the world through his music. In the future, the honor will be presented to songwriters and composers who best exemplify his legacy through their commitment to the art form he elevated through his talent, dedication and unparalleled heart.

“Stevie has deservedly been given every award imaginable,” said ASCAP President Paul Williams. “Yet he continues to innovate and elevate the art of songwriting to the point where no honor can truly capture what he means to his creative kin at ASCAP, and to songwriters and music lovers worldwide. This award has been created as a way to honor his singularly inspirational songwriting career and to recognize his spirit in generations to come.”

The 25-time Grammy winner has been an ASCAP member for the better part of five decades, amassing more than 60 Billboard Hot 100 hits during his time with the performing rights organization, including eternal anthems like “Superstition,” “My Cherie Amour,” “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours,” “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” and “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” Wonder received ASCAP’s highest individual prize, the Founders Award, in 1984, and was honored during the organization’s 100th birthday celebrations with a once-in-a-lifetime Centennial Award.

Now in its 12th year, ASCAP’s “I Create Music” EXPO is the United States’ largest conference for songwriters, composers, artists and producers in all music genres. Last year’s conference was the most well attended in EXPO history, attracting 3,000 participants from up-and-comers to GRAMMY winners.

For more information on the ASCAP EXPO and to register for this year’s conference, visit: https://www.ascap.com/expo.

Rihanna Named the 2017 Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year 

Rihanna (photo via news.harvard.edu)

article via Harvard Gazette

Rihanna has been named the 2017 Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year, and is accepting the Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award at a ceremony today. “Rihanna has charitably built a state-of-the-art center for oncology and nuclear medicine to diagnose and treat breast cancer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown, Barbados,” said S. Allen Counter, the Harvard Foundation’s director.

“In 2012, she founded the nonprofit the Clara Lionel Foundation Global Scholarship Program [named for her grandparents] for students attending college in the U.S. from Caribbean countries, and supports the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project, which provides children with access to education in over 60 developing countries, giving priority to girls, and those affected by lack of access to education in the world today. ”

An international musical phenomenon, the Barbados-born singer, actress, and songwriter — whose full name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty — has sold more than 200 million records. The Harvard Foundation recognizes prominent public-spirited leaders each year in honor of the late Rev. Professor Peter J. Gomes.

Past honorees include physician-statistician Hans Rosling; actor James Earl Jones; Nobel Peace Prize Committee chairman Thorbjørn Jagland; U.N. Secretaries General Ban Ki-moon, Kofi Annan, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and Javier Pérez de Cuéllar; gender rights advocate Malala Yousafzai; anti-child-labor spokesman Kailash Satyarthi; tennis player and activist Arthur Ashe; former Health and Human Services Director Louis W. Sullivan; and farmworker rights advocate Dolores Huerta.

To read more: Rihanna named Humanitarian of Year | Harvard Gazette

R.I.P. Clyde Stubblefield, 73, James Brown’s Legendary ‘Funky Drummer’ 

Clyde Stubblefield (photo via nytimes.com)

article by  via nytimes.com

It took only 20 seconds for Clyde Stubblefield to drum his way to immortality. They came near the end of James Brown’s “Funky Drummer,” recorded in a Cincinnati studio in late 1969. Brown counts him in — “1, 2, 3, 4. Hit it!” — and Mr. Stubblefield eases into a cool pattern, part bendy funk and part hard march. It’s calm, slick and precise, and atop it, Brown asks over and over, “Ain’t it funky?”

It was. That brief snippet of percussion excellence became the platonic ideal of a breakbeat, the foundation of hip-hop’s sampling era and a direct through line from the ferocious soul music of the civil rights era to the golden age of history-minded hip-hop of the 1980s and 1990s.

Though Mr. Stubblefield wasn’t enamored of the song — “I didn’t like the song. I still don’t really get off on it,” he told Paste magazine in 2014— its mark became indelible. Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out,” Boogie Down Productions’ “South Bronx,” Sinead O’Connor’s “I Am Stretched on Your Grave,” George Michael’s “Freedom! ’90” and Kenny G’s “G-Bop”: Mr. Stubblefield’s “Funky Drummer” break appeared as a sample in all of those songs, and over a thousand more, from the 1980s to the present day. It made Mr. Stubblefield, who died on Saturday in Madison, Wis., at 73, perhaps the most sampled drummer in history.

The cause was kidney failure, said his manager, Kathie Williams.

Mr. Stubblefield was born on April 18, 1943, and grew up in Chattanooga, Tenn., where he was drawn to the rhythms of local industrial sounds, from factories to trains. “There was a factory there that puffed out air — pop-BOOM, pop-BOOM — hit the mountains and came back as an echo,” he told Isthmus in 2015. “And train tracks — click-clack, click-clack. I listened to all that for six years, playing my drums against it.”

By his late teenage years, he was already playing drums professionally, and he moved to Macon, Ga., after playing with Otis Redding, who hailed from there. There, he performed with local soul acts, and was introduced to Brown by a club owner. Soon, he was flying to join Brown on the road, and became a permanent band member.

He performed with him on and off for about six years, one of two key drummers — the other was John Starks, who was also known as Jabo — playing on the essential James Brown albums of the civil rights era: “Cold Sweat,” “I Got the Feelin’,” “It’s a Mother,” “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud” and “Sex Machine.” He performed at some of Brown’s most important concerts, including at the Boston Garden after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and for United States service members in Vietnam.

His sharp funk provided the anchor on anthems like “Cold Sweat,” “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud,” and “I Got The Feelin’.” Always, his playing was complex but collected — his flourishes between beats were as essential as the beat itself. Brown demanded a lot of his band, and Mr. Stubblefield, with playing that had punch, nimbleness and wet texture, never appeared to be breaking a sweat.

To read full article, go to: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/18/arts/music/clyde-stubblefield-dead.htmlrref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Farts&action=click&contentCollection=arts&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=9&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0

R.I.P. Grammy Award-Winning Jazz, Pop and R&B Vocal Master Al Jarreau

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson

According to the New York TimesAl Jarreau, a versatile vocalist who sold millions of records and won numerous Grammys for his work in jazz, pop and R&B, died on Sunday in Los Angeles. He was 76.  Jarreau is perhaps best known for his 1981 album Breakin’ Away, which contained his highest-charting hit “We’re In This Love Forever,”  He also sang the theme song of the late-1980s television series Moonlighting, and was a performer in the 1985 charity song “We Are the World“.

His death was announced by his manager, Joe Gordon, who said Mr. Jarreau had been hospitalized for exhaustion two weeks ago.

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Al Jarreau (photo via amazon.com)

A preacher’s son, Jarreau started singing in public as a boy but did not begin a full-time musical career until the late 1960s, when he was nearly 30. Before that, he had worked as a psychologist and rehabilitation counselor.

By the 1970s he had become a popular jazz singer, touring extensively and appearing on television.  Critics praised his voice, his improvisational skill and, in particular, his virtuosic ability to produce an array of vocalizations, ranging from delicious nonsense to clicks and growls to quasi-instrumental sounds – a more extended form of the jazz style “scatting.”

To learn more about this masterful singer’s life and career, click here.

Jill Scott Releases New Poetic Card Collection with Hallmark’s Mahogany Brand

Jill Scott (photo via thegrio.com)

article by via thegrio.com

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Hallmark’s Mahogany brand announced that it will be releasing the Jill Scott Collection, a line of new greeting cards with design, sounds and an editorial ‘voice’ from none other than Jill Scott herself.

“The Mahogany brand is genuine, progressive and optimistic – values that are important to me and reflected in my music and poetry, and now, through my card collection,” said Jill Scott. “I was inspired by highlights within my own life – love, marriage, motherhood – in the writing behind these cards, and I am excited to be involved in a project that will give others another way to express their love to the people that matter most to them.”

The collection features 20 cards for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, as well as cards celebrating graduation, friendship, love and support.  “Ms. Scott is more than a singer, songwriter and actress – among other things, she is a busy mom and wife, like many Hallmark shoppers who cherish and celebrate the important relationships in their lives, and this card collection is a reflection of that,” said Philip Polk, Vice President of Multicultural Strategy for Hallmark Cards.

To read more, go to: Jill Scott releases new poetic card collection with Hallmark | theGrio

New Edition Receives Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

New Edition receives Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame (photo via YouTube)

New Edition receives Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame (photo via YouTube)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Today before an enthusiastic crowd of fans, New Edition members Ralph Tresvant, Ronnie DeVoe, Michael Bivens, Ricky Bell, Bobby Brown and Johnny Gill were honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in California, just a day ahead of the premiere of the group’s three-part miniseries The New Edition Story on BET.

Their 35-plus year career has seen multi-platinum album sales as well as hit singles on the R&B and Pop charts such as “Candy Girl,” “Cool It Now,” “Mr. Telephone Man,” “If It Isn’t Love,” “Can You Stand The Rain,” and “N.E. Heartbreak.”  To see a promo of the miniseries in advance of its January 24th debut, click below:

To watch the Walk of Fame ceremony in its totality, click below: